Salon readers weigh in on the Terri Schiavo controversy.

By Salon Staff
Published March 22, 2005 9:00AM (EST)

[Read the coverage of the Schiavo case in War Room, "When Public Opinion Doesn't Matter," by Eric Boehlert, and Scott Rosenberg's blog.]

I live, in the words of Miami Herald columnist Jim DeFede, in the persistent vegetative state known as Florida. My family and friends and I have watched the Schiavo case mushroom over the past few years into a cause célèbre for front-page Christians. Since the Republicans have made this hapless woman a political football for their own ends (Jeb in '08? To distract people from DeLay's ethics scandal?), let me take this opportunity to urge everyone to go to their lawyers and make a living will, an advance directive -- whatever it takes to keep the right-wing Republicans out of your personal business at the end of your life.

If you do this, you not only protect your wishes, but will also achieve the ultimate irony: making the Republicans' favorite whipping boy -- the lawyers -- richer.

-- Sheila Fyfe

I do not believe it would have made any difference if Terri Schiavo had signed a living will. I believe that her parents and their supporters would be arguing that her signature was forged or involuntary, or she would have changed her mind if she realized that the pope did not approve. They might argue that she is not in a condition covered by the living will, no matter how many doctors and judges have found otherwise. As long as anybody has any doubts, nothing else seems to matter.

-- Joyce McClintock

Scary as it is to find myself on the same side of an issue as Tom DeLay, I do not think Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be pulled. Food and water are basic care, not extraordinary means. Withholding them is not the same as taking out a ventilator or stopping medical treatment. One might as well argue that since starving her to death is slow and painful, the doctor or nurse should get a gun and shoot her. Wouldn't that be more humane?

Her situation is terrible, but starving her to death is a big step down a slippery slope. Is her situation that much different from some elderly people spending their remaining days in nursing-home beds?

I don't like the way Congress is stepping into and exploiting this situation, but I can't believe that starving someone to death is legal, either.

-- Margaret Esmonde

So, do I have this straight? The Christian right is for the sanctity of marriage unless a brain-dead woman's parents want her to be force-fed. Conservatives are for state's rights unless they want Congress to pander to their base by interfering in a private, family matter. The president is biased on the side of life unless he's determining the fate of a death-row inmate.

-- Ann Anderson

Mr. Bush pontificates about strengthening marriage by banning gay unions. Yet, in the Schiavo case, he flip-flops, advocating a position that weakens marriage by taking away spousal rights and giving those rights to federal judges and elderly parents.

It gives me the willies having such a senseless man as president. I suppose it's the great weakness of democracy: If everyone votes, then you're putting average input, average knowledge, and average decision-making abilities into the equation, and you get a very average result: George Bush.

-- David Tillman

The Terri Schiavo controversy is an example of form vs. substance when it comes to politics and religion.

This case is about letting a dead woman die and respecting her choice to not endure a living death. It's about whether an individual gets to choose his or her own fate or have to endure politicians using the law for personal political opportunity. If people of faith and politicians really wanted to pass lifesaving legislation, they wouldn't be meeting at midnight to interfere with the death of a single individual. Instead, they would be increasing Medicare and Medicaid so that the lives of thousands poor people and old people could be saved. The difference between form and substance here is the difference between really doing something to better humanity and just pretending you're doing something to better humanity.

-- Marc Perkel

In the scuffle for everyone to get what will satisfy their own agenda by "fighting for Terri Schiavo's life," one person is being ignored: Terri Schiavo.

If you have seen pictures of this once vibrant young woman, so obsessed with her appearance that an eating disorder brought her to her current state, it is easy to believe Michael Schiavo when he says it would be against her wishes to force her to remain for decades in her present state. While the religious right sees this as life, many, if not most, in Terri Schiavo's position would consider it hell on earth.

I pray to God that in the event some medical catastrophe befalls me and I am not only unable to physically function, but also unable to think or speak or be aware of my own life, the government doesn't step in and condemn me to decades of lying in my own filth until someone changes me while what is left of me deteriorates into organic furniture. I would hope my kids would fight like hell for my dignity, and to let me leave a pointless and sad earthly existence to go onto what may or may not be next, preserving their memories of who I really was.

In the media, the fact that Schiavo's parents "believe she can be rehabilitated" is being regularly cited with equal or more weight than the scientific evaluation used by doctors who say she is simply not there anymore -- cognitively or emotionally -- and never will be. Despite our slide back into the Scopes Monkeyland of religious beliefs over scientific evidence, brain scans aren't hocus-pocus. This woman is disabled or in a coma -- she is a physical shell whose spirit and relative being escaped long ago.

The religious right purports to believe that "the Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away." By interfering with Terri Schiavo's body being taken away, our conservative leaders are attempting to fill God's shoes. I hope they are also circulating a sign-up sheet to spend the next 40 years sitting by her bedside keeping her company while they wait for her to come back and thank them for prolonging her nightmare and turning her into a sideshow for conservative zealots.

-- Nita Martin

I wish that the GOP were nearly so concerned about the other hungry people in America: the children of the working poor, the jobless, even the children of some of our National Guard and Reserve troops in Iraq, for crying out loud!

-- Ruth Adar

It should be plain to even the most imbecilic conservative that Michael Schiavo considers his wife to be dead. He should therefore be granted an immediate divorce and absolved of all current and future financial liability for Terri Schiavo. Then, Terri's parents, the various churches involved, and the other taxpayers of the state of Florida can fork over the money for the hospital bed, the nursing staff, the feeding tubes and the endless physical therapy sessions. Maybe after 50 years of this, someone will begin to understand that the term "persistent vegetative state" really means "abandon all hope of recovery."

-- Thomas Knoedler

Salon Staff

MORE FROM Salon Staff

Related Topics ------------------------------------------