July 31, 2009
Recently in a Washington Times radio interview, RNC Chairman Michael Steele was expressing his concerns regarding health care reform. He commented that the GOP’s handling of my sister Terri Schiavo is an example of what he fears, stating, “It is inserting itself into the very fabric of the decisions that you make, have to make every single day. It’ll make the Terri Schiavo case look like a walk in the park.”
I understand the point that Michael Steele was trying to make. He was using Terri as an example of what it would mean if the government was to get involved in the decisions of healthcare. However, not only was it a badly chosen comparison, but as a proclaimed pro-lifer, Mr. Steele should be ardently supportive of the actions taken by Congress—Democrats and Republicans—in their attempt to save Terri’s Life.
Perhaps Mr. Steele has fallen victim, along with so many others, to the same media spin that implies Congress was intruding on a “private” matter, rather than applauding them for stepping in to protect a disabled woman who was in the very process of being dehydrated to death.
The act by Congress granted Terri a federal and civil rights claim to be heard in federal court. In fact, these are the same rights we give to those on death row—who die far less brutal and painful deaths. If Ted Bundy or Scott Peterson had a guaranteed federal court review after their cases have been gone through the state courts, then why shouldn’t an innocent disabled woman like Terri be given that same chance?
That is what I find so ironic about Mr. Steele’s remarks and his concern regarding a government-controlled health care system. What happened to Terri is a perfect example of what he and Republicans are now trying to prevent from happening and what so many health care experts are warning us will happen if President Obama gets his way and establishes a system of health care rationing that would inevitable lead to countless premature deaths.
Much has been written warning us about the dangers of Obamacare, but mostly in terms of what it would mean for the elderly and perhaps the chronically ill. Unfortunately, I have not seen any reports of what will happen to those like Terri—the cognitively disabled. However, from what I am reading and what is being proposed for health care reform, I think it is safe to say that those like Terri don’t stand a chance. Especially, if the proposed Independent Medicare Advisory Council (IMAC) is formed that will put bioethicists in charge of who can and cannot receive treatment.
We are in grave danger any time health care decisions are taken out of the hands of individual patients and their families and placed into the hands of government bureaucrats whose decisions are based on cutting costs rather than valuing the dignity and equal worth of every human life.
In fact, many people are entirely unaware of what we have learned through Terri’s Foundation (the foundation my family formed in Terri’s honor to help protect the cognitively injured). We are regularly contacted by families who are in situations pleading with those in authority for treatment for their family members. And much too often they are forced to sit by and watch helplessly as their loved ones dies.
So yes, I do agree with Mr. Steele’s assessment that, “It’ll make the Terri Schiavo case look like a walk in the park.” My fear is that it will make the killing of the cognitively disabled as ordinary and commonplace as purchasing a loaf of bread.
Surely that is not what “hope and change” should be all about.
Bobby Schindler has been the host of “America’s Lifeline” on WGUL in Tampa. He is the brother of Terri Schiavo and has been working with the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, Center for Health Care Ethics in St. Petersburg, Fla. Contact Bobby at [email protected].