Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

“Awakenings:” Fighting Schiavo Revisionist History and Standing Against Dehydrations


I have a piece in the current Weekly Standard about the "food and fluids" controversy, an issue I have repeatedly considered. I hit several notes in the article. I challenge the falsehood that the federal bill to save Terri Schiavo's life was purely a Republican enterprise. Not true, it was a bill that was supported broadly by both parties. Indeed, as I report:
This myth has become a staple of the Democratic presidential campaign, despite the fact that the denigrated legislation was enacted in almost record time by one of the most bipartisan congressional margins seen during the Bush presidency. Indeed, passage in the Senate required unanimous consent, which means any senator--including presidential candidates Hillary Clinton, John Edwards, Joe Biden, and Chris Dodd (but not Barack Obama, who was not yet in the Senate)--could have stopped the bill in its tracks by simply saying no. None did so. Just as they voted for the Iraq war and later opposed it when it became unpopular, these Democrats pretend they were not essential players in the federal effort to save Schiavo's life. (The bill also received support from about 40 percent of House Democrats.)
I also spend some time detailing two recent cases of the unexpected awakenings, e.g., Jesse Ramirez and Haleigh Poutre, that barely prevented their slow deaths by dehydration. And I remind readers of the hopeful experimental treatments that have apparently awakened people who were unconscious. But these developments barely penetrate the public consciousness.

I close with a call to those who know that dehydrating these helpless people is wrong to take heart and recommit themselves to the cause of saving lives:
A serious cultural consequence of the Terri Schiavo drama has been the devaluation of the weakest among us into a disposable and exploitable caste. But it is not too late to reverse the tide. Jesse Ramirez, Haleigh Poutre, and the groundbreaking research into the treatment of serious brain injury are powerful reminders that where there is life, there is hope. Those who understand that all persons, regardless of capacity, deserve to be treated as beloved members of the human family have good reason to shake off the Schiavo rout and return to the fray.


Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review