Office of the Press Secretary
March 17, 2005
President's Statement on Terri Schiavo
"The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected - and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities".
This is a short post and a personal one about a public issue of ethics, both medical and legal. It is about the civilized ability of the horribly damaged person to seek their own cessation or their closest representative to make the decision for them. Until today I had not paid a lot of attention to the Terri Schiavo case. It was merely another piece of "Pro-Life" nonsense from a basically evil place like Tampa. But today I read my electronic copy of the Miami Herald and found a poor woman, brain dead or suffering FOR 15 YEARS in my dear - but not humane - Florida.
In April I make another trip to the excellent Baptist Hospital in Miami. They have kept me alive far beyond my expectation (or that of my New York cardiologists') when I became ill over 10 years ago. Yet, one day, the medications and machines and surgeries will not solve the still terminal problem of congestive heart failure. That is why this is a personal note. I died in 1994 in the hospital in New York. The fine staff did their thing and brought me back.
Was I happy about that? Not at first. Death had been so peaceful. There was no body to be poked with tubes and needles, no electronic monitors, smells, beeping, waving lines, no oxygen tubes. Coming back was just that. A return. If the six members of the resuscitation team had not looked so expectant and then so proud of themselves; I might not have thanked them for their efforts. Or, perhaps said, "You are all wondering why I called you together?", laughed heartily and probably checked out again.
OK. Now I am pleased with over ten years of extra explorations and pictures and affections. Life has it positive notes. But I was never a vegetable. I was never brain damaged or brain dead. There is a difference. I was not forced by politics to live or half-live in a limbo between worlds.