My vacation was considerably soured by the release of the Schiavo autopsy results. Not the report itself: There wasn't much in it that surprised. It was the disgusting spin on the story by some who sought to use the report to further demagogue the story for political and partisan ends. But lest we forget, the federal attempt to have a de novo review of the case was bipartisan. All Democrats in the Senate went along, giving unanimous consent to the legislation. Moreover, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), deserves much credit for his dedicated work in helping pass the legislation. Had one senator refused to consent, the legislation would have died. In the House, about half the Democratic Caucus voted for the bill. This should be a source of pride, not shame, since it sought to protect the life of a defenseless human being. As he so often does, John Leo hit the right note about the autopsy report in his weekly U.S. News and World Report column.
In a new development, Michael Schiavo finally deigned to obey a court order and reveal where Terri is buried. Here is a photo of her tombstone. The inscription says so much to me about the character of Michael Schiavo and the attitudes he apparently shares with many toward people with profound disabilities.
According to the tombstone, Terri departed the world in 1990. No, she suffered a catastrophic injury that caused a profound disability. But she was no less a fully human and precious being because of it.
Second, it is worth recalling that Michael Schiavo didn't tell a medical malpractice jury in 1992 that she was morally equivalent to dead. But then, at the time he wanted a lot of money so he testified that Terri remained his beloved wife to whom he was and would thereafter be devotedly committed. Well, not quite. By then he had already "moved on," as it were. Moreover, he presented expert testimony that Terri would live a normal lifespan. It wasn't until the money was in the bank that Michael Schiavo remembered that Terri would rather be dead than disabled and began seeking that end by withholding antibiotics.
Third, if she is at peace now, which we all fervently hope, the way she was made to die certainly wasn't peaceful.
Finally, the "I kept my promise" line on the tombstone is a cruel and gratuitous dig at Terri's parents the Schindlers, a way of flipping them the bird every time they visit her grave. We shouldn't be surprised. Michael Schiavo frequently treated Terri as if he owned her, to the point that I half thought he would keep her ashes on his mantle as a trophy. It seems to me that this final insult directed at the Schindlers is along those lines.
Terri Schiavo, RIP: Terri is gone, her death a bitter and cruel injustice. But we must move on. So, barring the unforeseen, I will not be commenting further on the details of her case in the future. What is done, is done. What people think, they think, and no further sifting of the ashes or arguing will change minds.
The task now is to create humane policies that protect other profoundly disabled people from suffering Terri's fate and to promote public attitudes that value the full equality and worth of the lives of each and every one of us regardless of disability or illness. I presented some ideas toward these ends recently in the Weekly Standard.
One last point: We are in danger as a society of accepting the odious notion that there is such a thing as a life unworthy of life. True, the advocacy pushing us toward this end isn't generally steeped in the language of hate as it was when we ventured down this path before. But just because the lexicon of the culture of death and bioethics are often steeped in "compassion" and a supposed regard for individual autonomy, doesn't make these emerging attitudes less dangerous or insidious. Or to put it another way, actions speak louder than words.