Schiavo Hysteria

My cost/benefit analysis of becoming totally hysterical over the Terry Schiavo case:

Costs: Makes it nearly impossible to have a meaningful discussion about the moral question of euthanasia, a nuanced, complex issue and one of the important unresolved contemporary ethical debates.

Benefits (for some): Gives conservative politicians an excuse for grandstanding, creates another divisive wedge issue, and deflects attention from flailing privatization plans, ethics scandals, Medicaid cu… — Terry Schiavo!! Terry Schiavo!!

Case in point: over at The Corner (the National Review’s blog), Kate O’Beirne lashes out at the “phonies and frauds who represent modern feminism” (and also happen to disagree with her about Schiavo). O’Beirne’s inaccurate description of the case: “At the behest of her husband who has ‘moved on’ with his life, a young woman will be killed. Not allowed to die — but killed just as you or I would be if we were denied food and water.”


No. The actual debate is this: Schiavo’s doctors say she is in a “’persistent vegetative state,’ meaning damage to her cerebral cortex has made her incapable of emotion, memory or thought.” Schiavo’s husband says she told him on several occassions that she didn’t want to live in such a state. Schiavo’s parents want her to live because they “believe she responds to them” and because they disagree with the practice of euthanasia. Partisan hysteria shouldn’t block us from addressing the vexing moral questions tangled up in this case.