Moon of Alabama Brecht quote
March 19, 2005

Brain Dead

What does it say about the brain activity on the hill, when the U.S. Congress needs to subpoenae a brain-dead women and demands her appearance at a hearing?

Not a good joke, I know, but serious: Do people have a right to die?

Posted by b on March 19, 2005 at 9:00 UTC | Permalink


Rude Pundit says it

Now the Congress is involved. And the Republicans want Schiavo brought into the hearing room. What a spectacle that's gonna be. What a fucking horror show. What an embarrassment to this nation. All those righteous members of Congress, weeping because Schiavo can't answer their questions, listening to her machine sounds, the suckings, the gurgles. They called Schiavo before the committee in a little over a week because "it is a federal crime to harm or obstruct a person called to testify before Congress." Another person, another prop. Those fuckers in the GOP know what they're doing: force Democrats to vote against the bowl of jello in front of them and then use that as immunity in elections against charges that the Republicans are eliminating Social Security. What these disgusting, dirt-covered worms won't do to eat the flesh off the body politic.

The only comfort in any of this is that Schiavo won't know a fucking thing that's going on. She is an object, not a subject. She is acted upon. If Bill Frist wanted to test her reflexes by pulling up her gown and raping her in front of the gathered media, she would not care. If Tom DeLay wanted to pick her up and dance her around like a puppet, she would not care. She will never, ever care again. There is only one caring solution. She must die.

Posted by: Cloned Poster | Mar 19 2005 9:21 utc | 1

i can barely believe she would have been invited to testify if she was "brain dead", as exactly that is in contest in this case. but these days it is fair to assume anything and everything when american politicos are involved.

the thing i find apalling about this case is the "right to die" spin. her husband wants her to die because - as many people claim - she is in the state she is because of him in first place. OTOH, her parents want to take care of her. if they want such a thing it is their privilege. i have seen people take care of their comatose daughter and it doesnt strike me as something 'fun' to do but it is still them taking care for their own. there is nothing to be said against this.

the judges who decided to let her die are a disgrace for opting for death instead of life.

i am for letting the parents take care of her all they want.

Posted by: name | Mar 19 2005 10:33 utc | 2

i ask myself 'what would i want for myself, and who would i want to speak for me?' i would never want to live in this condition and i have let this be known to the people i love. presumably her husband is carrying out her wishes. it is not for the state to decide nor her parents. name, would you want to be confined for decades in this condition?

Posted by: annie | Mar 19 2005 16:11 utc | 3

You'd think they'd come up w/ better ideas than starvation.

Posted by: slothrop | Mar 19 2005 16:22 utc | 4

this is such a travesty. it makes me want to puke to see this woman used by politicians...and their actions do seem to me to be a public rape because they "care" so much.

at the same time, there are people who love this woman who have had different relationships with her...if her husband's fervent belief is that he is carrying out her wishes, her wishes apparently don't matter because she never set them down in writing in any legal form.

I can also understand why her parents would feel they have a claim to their wishes versus her husband's claim that he knew her wishes and wants to see them done.

I haven't followed this case closely because it makes me sick.

however, if I were her husband, I would have given custody to her parents. If she's brain dead, how can she know pain? How can she know her wishes are voided because she did not set them down in a legal document?

Yet, if I were her husband and knew how much her parents loved her and were pained to let her go, why couldn't I grant them custody, except for a guilt that I gave up on her when they didn't?

Of course, the parents claim they get some response from her...and who knows, but this seems to be more of a wish on their part than a reality...but who knows...I'm not in the room with her. however, if they want to care for her body indefinitely, surely there was some way to work this through between family members.

The sad thing is that this has gone on as it has.

I've been in a position where I had to confirm a relative's DNR instructions. it's not a pleasant place to be. but I also knew that the cancer would not have granted a long reprieve, if any.

doctors and nurses deal with these situations on a daily basis. shouldn't they be the ones to work this out with a family, rather than grandstanding political hacks?

Posted by: fauxreal | Mar 19 2005 16:47 utc | 5

there is yet another angle to this story which is even harder to swallow. I believe I read that the medical costs to keep Mrs Schiavo alive are coming from Mr Schiavo.

I understand that he must pay and that the state is forcing him to keep his wife "alive".

apart from the moral and ethical issues, there seem to be some economic hard facts.

can anyone enlighten me on this?

Posted by: dan of steele | Mar 19 2005 16:49 utc | 6

Oh, and just a little twist of irony here too. Schiavo means slave in Italian.

Posted by: dan of steele | Mar 19 2005 16:50 utc | 7

With regards to Ms. Schaivo and as sad as this is tragedy is, IT HAPPENS FUCKING EVERYDAY TO THE NAMELESS POOR! This is nothing but an emotional distraction to keep the sheep ON A STRING, by our Paymasters.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 19 2005 18:03 utc | 8


there was an article posted at rense today saying that she wants to live.

i concur with slothrop who posted after you. there was somebody in the states offering assistance for suicide, and there is a person in switzerland in this line of business. and of course, the most effective administrators of assisted death have always been the nurses who kill these patients out of compassion and do it without pain and silently (and illegally) and at great risk to themselves. i wonder what happened in this case that nobody took the initiative. could it be that she is not "that" kind of patient if one looks at it thru the eyes of a nurse ?

if she wants to die, let her but have the husband show her will to this effect. if not, let her parents have her and the costs. i doubt that they would want to take care of her if she was brain dead. the decision of the judge is disgusting in extremis, same as that populist congressperson. really, this is the stereotype populism i used to associate with the roman imperial parliament or the parliaments of 19th century latin american ex-colonies filled with former the colonial masters.

Posted by: name | Mar 19 2005 18:04 utc | 9

you really are quite blunt Uncle $cam!

I looked at the freeper response and remarkably they are all full of passion for Mrs Schiavo, to the point of offering to pay for her medical bills, (oddly enough, no one mentioned having actually given money).

This is the same group of people who cheered the Marines for killing wounded prisoners and call for the killings of journalists and others who have opinions different than those of the rightwing radio talk shows.

It really is hard for me to understand how people can be so shallow.

Posted by: dan of steele | Mar 19 2005 18:27 utc | 10

One diminished handicapped person is used and abused to that pols, law-makers, medicos, judges, authorities, proximal persons etc. can pontificate about something ‘important’, raise ‘fundamental’ issues, and thereby polarise attention on themselves, appear in the media, be seen to be involved, in the limelight - maybe even get votes one day for one position or another, or gather funds, prestige, visibility. All parties egged on by the media... What a story!

Disgusting. Vile. Utterly despicable.

Here, she would have been made a ward of the State years ago and anyone coming round for info, interviews, judicial crap (such as divorce), or anything at all would have been met by grinning male nurses with an attitude , backed up by private security (nurses are not allowed guns or baseball bats) or State police if necessary.

I feel very strongly about these things.

Right Scam, absolutely. Like Michael Jackson’s pedophilia (or not) it gives the news content to present - those ‘personal stories’, horrifying and sad sagas that serve as sophisticated substitutes for village gossip (the famous who fall, the dying who triumph, the sexy who go bad..), uninformed opinions, reference to law books / procedures with thousands of pages, garbled and incomprehensible, judges having a field day, the taking of sides, endless discussion, confusion...

While the poor, the Iraqis, others, well, fill it in..

Posted by: Blackie | Mar 19 2005 21:09 utc | 11

Back to the issue with personal experience:
Case 1:
My dad was 76 with a history of 35 years of diabetis (after 8 years of war and war prisoner and rebuilding a business and a house).

He was terminally ill - everybody knew and could see it. I asked the doctors (after consulting with by sister, brother and mom who agreed) to stop the dialysis when he became unconscious. We did want to take him home so he could die in the souronding he built and lived in.

They did not agree - he was filling (and paying) their station I guess - I didn´t really fight them. He died three weeks later without ever regaining consciousness again and without leaving that terrible hospital athmosphere.

Case 2:
A grant aunt of mine is 99 by now. Two years ago she asked me help her to terminate her life. She has a heart pacer that keeps her alive. She wants it gone so she can die. She says - she is recognizing that she has nothing more to say, nothing more to learn and that she is sick of just being there and useless. She retales her life stories four times a day and in some enlighted moments recognizes that anybody she knows has heard these stories fifty time over and does not care anymore. She feels useless and in a way she is, in another way she is not.

I wish for her to die soon and peaceful. But I will not help her in this state. I wish I would have helped my dad more forcefully.

Posted by: b | Mar 19 2005 22:01 utc | 12

There is a proper time for Congress to debate the proper decision making process for maintaining Ms. Schiavo's heartbeat. That time is AFTER they have appropriated the funds to pay for the medical bills for EVERY AMERICAN WHO WILL BE KILLED OR BANKRUPTED by the Pirates of the Medical Industry.

Oh, and, obviously AFTER they've allocated the funds to keep every American w/a fully functioning brain living in a home & eating 3 meals/day.

Then, one discusses the ethical fine points of maintaining the heartbeat of Terry Schiavo.

On 2nd thought, fully funding the SEC, Amtrak........etc. should come first. Then there's funding foreign "aid"...........................

Between here & there it's the stuff of a Chaplin satire.

Posted by: jj | Mar 19 2005 22:57 utc | 13

But on 2nd thought, when these architects of the new War on Women speak of "Right to Life", think of Terry Schiavo. It's too much to say that she is their image of the Perfect Woman, but she's not far away from it either, and a helluva lot closer to it than any woman who expects to be the subject of her own life, rather than the object of their decisions & desires, ever will be.

Posted by: jj | Mar 19 2005 23:04 utc | 14

delay & co -- has their pornography no limits - their sense of decency has completely dissapeared

Posted by: remembereringgiap | Mar 20 2005 1:16 utc | 15

Dan: I'll be my usual cynical me here, once again.
The Inuits of old knew that the survival of the tribe was what mattered above all. They also knew they had limited resources that shouldn't be wasted, if the tribe was to survive the harsh winter. When elder Inuits became too weak and impotent, they simple left the clan and went alone on the ice sheet, so that they wouldn't be a burden on the tribe, because they couldn't help it in any possible way.
I suppose it'd be of very much bad taste to mention that the insane amounts of money and resources that have been *wasted* on this farce, both in healthcare and in lawyers/courts/Congress, to "save" a single already dead person would have been enough to actually save hundreds if not thousands of poor 3rd world children who died from actual starvation.

Posted by: CluelessJoe | Mar 20 2005 1:29 utc | 16

...enough to actually save hundreds if not thousands of poor 3rd world children who died from actual starvation.

By third world children you mean America's,third world children right?

The percentage of Alabama public school students living in poverty has crossed the 50 percent mark for the first time, according to the state education officials.

Posted by: Uncle $cam | Mar 20 2005 3:14 utc | 17

Why should a body without consciousness be kept alive? I do hope no-one would ever do something like this to me. This whole topic of Schiavo, makes me wonder if it has mainly, besides being a powerplay, to do with the fear of death and an obssession with food.

I have been allowed to be present, with quite a few persons while they were dying, each situation a precious gift to me. Death in my opinion is nothing to be feared - only the dying, especially with people around who do not want to let you go.

The other thing, when you are severely sick or dying the entire metabolism is slowing down, an thus the body can not digest the food well. Food can actually become a burden. Most sick or dying people therefore reject food. But unfortunatelly we are forcing food on them. There is no hunger, they do not need energy do be active. Towards the end, some even start to reject water. Animals do the same thing, they withdraw and stop eating. Somehow we have lost the knowledge of how to die peacefully.

Posted by: Fran | Mar 20 2005 7:27 utc | 18


George Bush signed the law which allows the hospitals to make this decision:

A patient's inability to pay for medical care combined with a prognosis that renders further care futile are two reasons a hospital might suggest cutting off life support, the chief medical officer at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital said Monday.

Bush Changing Schedule to Return to Washington to Sign Emergency Legislation on Schiavo Case

CRAWFORD, Texas -- President Bush is changing his schedule to return to the White House on Sunday to be in place to sign emergency legislation that would shift the case of a brain-damaged Florida woman to federal courts, the White House said Saturday.

And don't tell me he cares.

Posted by: Fran | Mar 20 2005 7:50 utc | 19

And guess what will be the big topic on the talkshows today - definitely not the anniversery of the beginning of the Iraq war!

Posted by: Fran | Mar 20 2005 7:52 utc | 20

Billmon also has a Brain Dead post.

Posted by: b | Mar 20 2005 8:59 utc | 21


Posted by: Fran | Mar 20 2005 9:50 utc | 22

While there is a very ethically complex and emotionally difficult issue to discuss here, the hypocrisy derby features this horse:

"Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside U.S." GWB - "(yawn) - I gots me a buncha brush to clear this month"

"Doctors to Allow Dead Woman to Die" - GWB: "Well, fire up Air Force One!"

And as everyone has pointed out, all the starving humans, uninsured Americans, and 100,000-plus dead in Iraq.

"Culture of Life" (TM) *

(*not available in some areas)

Posted by: OkieByAccident | Mar 20 2005 17:34 utc | 23

What about the constitutional implications?

The courts have said let her die. Now Congress overrules the state courts and puts it to federal courts. Isn´t this a powergrab by Congress?

Posted by: b | Mar 20 2005 18:16 utc | 24

Yes, b, you're exactly right. Courts in Florida have found that Michael Schiavo is well within his rights as her husband to see that her wishes are carried out. They have also found that he is, in fact, trying to carry out her wishes, as several other friends have testified that she didn't wish to be kept alive under these circumstances.

It's amazing to me that the Republicans don't see the inherent hypocrisy in asking the federal government to trump the state's decision--especially when the US Supreme Court has decided not to hear the case.

It's a power grab by Congress and the President--although it should hardly come as a surprise these days.

Posted by: ides | Mar 21 2005 1:36 utc | 25

Bernhard, Terri Schiavo is not "brain dead." Brain death is a defined term in law, meaning no brain activity whatsoever. (See, e.g., A brain-dead person has no reflex activity, cannot breathe without mechanical assistance, does not move. In law, a brain-dead person is truly dead, even though heartbeat and respiration can be maintained by mechanical means. To the lay person, a brain-dead person appears to be at the very doorstep of death. It is relatively easy for the lay person to accept that a brain-dead person is actually dead.

By contrast, Terri Schiavo is in what is called a persistent vegetative state. (See, e.g., Persons in this condition can exhibit many different behaviors, including "grinding their teeth, swallowing, smiling, shedding tears, grunting, moaning, or screaming without any apparent external stimulus. They are unresponsive to external stimuli, except, possibly, pain stimuli." There is no dispute that Terri Schiavo is, in the eyes of the law, alive. This is why the situation is framed as one involving the right to die, or to refuse treatment, rather than as concerning the definition of death. In addition, it is very difficult for the lay person to accept that a person in this state is completely unaware, or that there is no possibility of recovery.

Before commenting further on Schiavo you might want to read more deeply, perhaps starting with the Wikipedia article."

Posted by: jr | Mar 21 2005 20:18 utc | 26


You are right and I do know the difference between cerebrum activity and brain stem activity. I should probably have made a longer post to discuss the case, but the case was not what I did want to discuss. My question was Do people have a right to die? A question most people will not answer.

Anyhow: Google News search for brain dead right now says Results 1 - 10 of about 4,220 for brain dead. Maybe I am not alone in naming the issue this way.

Posted by: b | Mar 21 2005 21:03 utc | 27


There are also some other folks who didn´t really go into the details:

Like other Republican lawmakers championing Schiavo's bill, DeLay often suggests she is alert and potentially treatable.

"She talks and she laughs and she expresses likes and discomforts," he said Sunday evening. "It won't take a miracle to help Terri Schiavo. It will only take the medical care and therapy that patients require."

Political heft behind bill: DeLay

Now this is not a reference for me. As said - my question is on a different issue.

Posted by: b | Mar 21 2005 21:30 utc | 28

You are not alone, and like you many people are having difficulty understanding the legal issues due to improper usage of terms. A person who is brain-dead is a corpse. The body can be harvested for transplant parts but otherwise it goes into the ground.

Whatever else Schiavo is, she is not a corpse. Philosophers and theologians can debate whether she is alive, but in law that question is clearly answered in the affirmative. If you disagree with this conclusion, consider your reaction to the notion of sending her to a crematorium in her current state.

Neither does this matter concern "the right to die" as that expression is best understood. There are into two very different categories that are often confused but are conceptually quite distinct. One is the right to refuse treatment. The other is the right to commit assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness.

A conscious and competent person's right to commit assisted suicide in the case of terminal illness is hotly contested. My understanding is that doctor-assisted suicide is permissible in Holland. In the US only Oregon recognizes a form of this right. This is what is usually referred to as "the right to die" and it is not recognized in Florida. It typically arises in the context of consideration of the right of the doctor to assist, because a patient who wishes to commit suicide without assistance need not be concerned with legal rights. However, one could imagine a person expressing a desire to be euthanized in case of catastrophic injury. If Schiavo had expressed such a desire, that desire would not be honored, and anyone who attempted to honor it would be prosecuted for murder.

In contrast, the right to refuse medical treatment even for fatal illness is a generally accepted right that any conscious and competent person can assert. (People do it on religious grounds from time to time, and die quietly without exciting comment in the national press.) In the event a person has lost consciousness and physicians have concluded he or she will not recover, the right to refuse medical treatment via a "living will" or other expression of intent prior to the event is well-accepted almost everywhere in the United States, including Florida. The issues regarding Schiavo are (1) whether she actually expressed her desire to exercise this right and (2) whether she is in fact in the throes of a terminal illness from which she will with certainty never regain consciousness. The Florida courts have answered "yes" to both questions. But courts are not infallible, not even after lengthy and repetitive proceedings. A person's rejection of the accuracy of a judicial proceeding-- even one you happen to agree with-- is not necessarily a sign that that person is demented or evil. Further, although removal of a feeding tube is generally accepted as being the withdrawal of medical treatment not the administration of euthanasia, you can see how that issue as well might give some people pause.

Posted by: jr | Mar 21 2005 22:22 utc | 29

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