Sunday, April 03, 2005


It’s Sunday and it seems an appropriate time to reflect on two deaths that were very much in the news this week.

The first was the unfortunate Terri Schiavo. This was the tragic case of an individual in a persistent vegetative state and caught in a bitter Right-to-Life vs. Right-to-Die legal war of attrition fought between her parents and husband respectively. The battle seemed to escalate into a massive display of polarized, political grandstanding. I won’t bore you by reiterating the details again; this has already been done by just about every news organization on the planet who subjected us to an interminable display of images that showed the Ms. Schiavo in the most humiliating circumstances. Now, even after her death the legal wrangling continues. Two aspects of this case seem remarkable:

First, the irony of the situation. The poor woman’s condition was brought on by a heart attack associated with bulimia. After being kept alive by means of a feeding tube for 15 years she was ultimately starved to death when it was removed. Second, it seems to me that the views propagated by the various protagonists each claiming the moral high ground are secondary to a more fundamental and humane principal: what Ms Schiavo and others in a similarly afflicted state should be afforded is the Right-to-Dignity.

The Pope’s passing yesterday took no one by surprise and following the details of his clinical condition became almost macabre voyeurism. By the time of his passing we were all fully acquainted with the status of his Parkinson’s disease, intubation and urinary tract infection. Oh, and his feeding tube. Anyway he is now at peace after considerable suffering. As a lapsed protestant agnostic with Buddhist tendencies I cannot overly mourn his passing. He was doubtless charismatic and travelled tirelessly to propagate the mission of the Catholic church. While I applaud his efforts to promote world peace, I can’t agree with his views on sexual morality. Theologically he was an arch-conservative and his refusal to condone condom usage has been a huge impediment in the fight against AIDS. The Roman Catholic church is reeling from scandals regarding closet paedophiles and has deep divisions regarding the role of women. In my not so humble opinion it seems high time for some progressive thinking and actions. There are supposedly half a billion women worldwide who follow Catholicism and it seems only logical that their sexual and reproductive health should not be dictated by a geriatric white male abstinent (I hesitate to say “virgin”). I wonder what odds Ladbrokes is giving on the election of a female Pope…?

And in any circumstances, feeding tubes, whether inserted or removed, are A BAD THING!


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