Friday, March 25, 2005

An Open Letter To The Bush Brothers: Erring On The Side Of Life

In the photo from the Tucson Citizen, Jill Gwinn, 52, and her 13-year-old niece, are detained in connection with an egg-throwing incident outside Tucson Convention Center. The two were cited by police. Posted by Hello

Would that life were like the shadow cast by a wall or a tree, but it is like the shadow of a bird in flight.

---The Talmud

In other words, apart from the known and the unknown, what else is there?

---Harold Pinter

A hundred thousand words are flowers in the sky
a single mind and body is moonlight on the water
once the cunning ends and information stops
at that moment there is no place for thought.

---Han-Shan Te-Ch'ing

Hey Guys!

I don't know what it is about George, but everywhere I go the dude shows up. Buddy, my trip to Tucson this week was supposed to be strictly pleasure---and mostly it was!---but the whole place got knocked out of joint, which is typical for your "events", by your decision to have one of your "conversations" with us. We all remember how much you love Ohio and all the times you breezed through last fall. The one time I actually tried to catch a glimpse in Parkersburg, West Virginia, you left orders to greet me with a helmeted, black-uniformed, fully-armed SWAT team ( ). Well, I got the hint---so this time I checked my appointment book first---and, sure enough, I was not among the 1500 specially invited "guests" with whom you insisted on being surrounded at the Tucson Convention Center Monday ( ). Let's see, is that taxpayer money that pays for Presidential appearances?

So I spent Monday out in the Sonoran Desert. Wonderful wildflowers in bloom, and I think a golden eagle was calling up in those mountains. But I heard you 2 interrupted your other affairs to take an interest in the tragic Terri Shiavo case. It's certainly understandable because the whole country is talking about it...and the media covers little else. Jeb, I understand your government even extended your strong arm of custody her way to get rid of that husband ( ). Certainly the Christian Conservative thing to do, sanctity of marriage and all! And George, you told us in Tucson that " extraordinary circumstances like this, it is wise to always err on the side of life" ( ). I presume that's Life as in pro-life.

Of course boys, from your dossiers on war, interrogation of "suspects", and killing folks on death row, you lead the way in the political expediency of pro-life. (Interesting editorial in today's Forth Worth paper, George, about the 152 people executed in Texas while you were governor .) But I notice in the whole, difficult debate about the Shiavo case, one element has yet to be mentioned by anybody. Money. Surely a good person would cringe, especially during Holy Week, at the mention of cash in the argument---but its reality does emerge for someone who's been through any kind of significant medical procedure. I remember when we had to remind your father what shopping for a loaf of bread is like, so I know you haven't had to dirty your hands in your upbringing like the rest of us. When I noted to my doctor that recent X-rays she prescribed cost $2000, she said, "But the insurance pays for it." Yeah, and I have work-related insurance---so why do I even read the bills...except for the part that says, "You owe $10"?

My wife and I are in very large health insurance groups. I never was in a hospital until last year, and have paid a share of my health benefits through most of my 45 years of work experience. But this last year, various treatments for me have amassed colossal bills. I envision my attempts to continue to live have affected the potential income of colleagues in the Athens City Schools. I have concern about that and want them to know it. Were I in a smaller work situation, there is no doubt that fellow employees would be aware of my need for their help through our insurance plan. Employers sometimes try to get rid of staff who have chronic claims. Perhaps the Bush boys and their supporters don't need to think about these everyday needs, but I do have to.

I don't know anything about Michael Shiavo's insurance or monetary situation. I have no idea what 15 years of Terri's kind of care has cost---or if this issue even enters in. Boys, it's another angle on this I'm thinking about. Eighteen years ago next month, the issue entered my father's mind. I know it because he said so in his suicide note. I wrote the story about this a while back, and you may read it here~~~ . In a nutshell, my father faced a situation of increasing total care for his wife of 50 years. They were lifelong Republicans. At the time there was no insurance compensation for Alzheimer's, because the only diagnosis allowable involved an autopsy. I won't go into the details of his options and help offered by family right now, but I need to tell you ultimately it came down to seeing his savings and estate vanish in a flash. To prevent that (and leave a legacy for their grandchildren, he wrote) they carried out a secret suicide pact.

I don't think Michael Shiavo is facing anything like this kind of dilemma for himself, but there are increasing numbers of aging couples in this nation who do face it. Jeb 'n George, you're right: it is a complex case with serious issues. I think everyone's life becomes one, sooner or matter what simplicity we strive for. You guys have stepped up to the plate and put your beliefs on the line. But I don't see clearly what they really are. I wonder how open you are to theological "conversations." Your governments certainly reek of religious dogma, but on this Good Friday what is it about erring "on the side of life" that seems so mandatory? Can you imagine standing on the strength of love?

Happy Easter,


jazzolog said...

Into thy hands, O Lord, we commend thy servant, Terri, our dear sister, as into the hands of a faithful Creator and most merciful Savior, beseeching thee that she may be precious in thy sight. Wash her, we pray thee, in the blood of that immaculate Lamb that was slain to take away the sins of the world; that, whatsoever defilements she may have contracted in the midst of this earthly life being purged and done away, she may be presented pure and without spot before thee; through the merits of Jesus Christ thine only Son our Lord. Amen.

---The Book of Common Prayer, p. 488

jazzolog said...

St. Petersburg Times

Living will is the best revenge
By ROBERT FRIEDMAN, Perspective Editor
Published March 27, 2005


Like many of you, I have been compelled by recent events to prepare a more detailed advance directive dealing with end-of-life issues. Here's what mine says:

* In the event I lapse into a persistent vegetative state, I want medical authorities to resort to extraordinary means to prolong my hellish semiexistence. Fifteen years wouldn't be long enough for me.

* I want my wife and my parents to compound their misery by engaging in a bitter and protracted feud that depletes their emotions and their bank accounts.

* I want my wife to ruin the rest of her life by maintaining an interminable vigil at my bedside. I'd be really jealous if she waited less than a decade to start dating again or otherwise rebuilding a semblance of a normal life.

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want those crackpots to spread vicious lies about my wife.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want the people who attach themselves to my case because of their deep devotion to the sanctity of life to make death threats against any judges, elected officials or health care professionals who disagree with them.

* I want the medical geniuses and philosopher kings who populate the Florida Legislature to ignore me for more than a decade and then turn my case into a forum for weeks of politically calculated bloviation.

* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.

* I'm not insisting on this as part of my directive, but it would be nice if Congress passed a "Bobby's Law" that applied only to me and ignored the medical needs of tens of millions of other Americans without adequate health coverage.

* Even if the "Bobby's Law" idea doesn't work out, I want Congress - especially all those self-described conservatives who claim to believe in "less government and more freedom" - to trample on the decisions of doctors, judges and other experts who actually know something about my case. And I want members of Congress to launch into an extended debate that gives them another excuse to avoid pesky issues such as national security and the economy.

* In particular, I want House Majority Leader Tom DeLay to use my case as an opportunity to divert the country's attention from the mounting political and legal troubles stemming from his slimy misbehavior.

* And I want Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist to make a mockery of his Harvard medical degree by misrepresenting the details of my case in ways that might give a boost to his 2008 presidential campaign.

* I want Frist and the rest of the world to judge my medical condition on the basis of a snippet of dated and demeaning videotape that should have remained private.

* Because I think I would retain my sense of humor even in a persistent vegetative state, I'd want President Bush - the same guy who publicly mocked Karla Faye Tucker when signing off on her death warrant as governor of Texas - to claim he was intervening in my case because it is always best "to err on the side of life."

* I want the state Department of Children and Families to step in at the last moment to take responsibility for my well-being, because nothing bad could ever happen to anyone under DCF's care.

* And because Gov. Jeb Bush is the smartest and most righteous human being on the face of the Earth, I want any and all of the aforementioned directives to be disregarded if the governor happens to disagree with them. If he says he knows what's best for me, I won't be in any position to argue.

Robert Friedman is editor of Perspective. He can be reached at

© Copyright 2003 St. Petersburg Times.