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Most Americans bristle at GOP meddling in tragic Schiavo case
It was not an easy decision to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, but it was the only decision.

  Richard Amrhine's archive
  E-mail Richard Amrhine
Date published: 4/17/2005


MODERN MEDICAL technology is a mixed blessing. It can create miracles, by keeping someone alive while doctors make repairs and the body heals itself. But it can also keep someone alive who has no reasonable chance of recovery and who might prefer to be allowed to die.

Terri Schiavo's legacy to us all is to make our feelings on the matter clear before we are unable to express them ourselves. That's because the generally accepted and legal practice of allowing the next-of-kin to make that determination, based on what the incapacitated person would have wanted, is under fire from the fringes of the political right--those who are certain they know what's best for all of us.

So put it in writing that you don't want to be kept alive by extraordinary means, if that's how you feel, and make sure it is done properly so there is no legal avenue to go against your wishes.

Issues don't get more emotional than the right to die. In such cases, as with abortion, people who feel a certain way are unlikely to be swayed. Nor can they understand how anyone can take the opposing side.

But unlike the abortion split, the divide over the right to die, based on polls taken as the Schiavo case culminated, isn't even close.

Various public opinion and news organizations found that Americans sided with Schiavo's husband, Michael, on his decision to have the feeding tube removed. As many as 87 percent of Americans would themselves not want to be kept alive if they were in Schiavo's condition, reports an ABC News/Washington Post poll. Broken down by religious preference, Michael Schiavo's decision garnered across-the-board assent, including by Roman Catholics and evangelical Christians.

A poll by CBS News poll also found that 82 percent of Americans objected to the congressional and presidential intrusions in the case.

Those efforts were headed by conservative Republicans who generally object to governmental meddling except when the topic, such as abortion or the right to die, makes meddling okay. In the Schiavo case, the legislation that the conservatives passed simply allowed Schiavo's misguided parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to file new lawsuits in federal court, where their efforts had previously been rebuffed.

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