There was a lot that I disagreed with or found problematic when the country five years ago was debating whether to allow this severely disabled woman to live or die. But the biggest offense was that no family member or care giver was allowed to spend time with Schiavo as she died. As a human being, she deserved–at the very least–personal care. If medical care was not an option, then someone should have been allowed to hold her hand and put water on her lips. Few things could be more undignified than the court ruling that forbade people from giving basic care.
The episode … opens with a fictional school play, Terri Schiavo: The Musical. In it, Terri is depicted as having been hooked up to every conceivable machine, a total lie since all she needed to remain alive was food and water delivered through a tube. But the facts this case have been continually misstated from the beginning, so that is nothing new.
But what is novel–and truly beneath contempt, not only because it mocks and degrades Terri, but also, everyone now living with serious cognitive impairments–are the lyrics. “Michael Schiavo” says, “She’s a vegetable,” and the chorus responds, “We hate vegetables!” to which the audience breaks up in laughter. Later she is depicted as having “mashed potato brains,” which are poured into a bowl, and being “the most expensive plant you’ll ever see.”
I continue to find it astounding that our culture makes arguments–portrayed so sympathetically in the media–for allowing people, assisted by doctors, to kill themselves. Yet the same culture refuses to provide care, basic human care for one another. Fear of requiring such care, according to studies, is what drives people to ask to be killed. Perhaps these dehumanizing portrayals of people in need of care are one reason why patients would prefer to take their own lives rather than require care from others?