3/24/2005

Schiavo and the Shameless

From Joe Conason in the NY Observer:
...George W. Bush rose from his bed the other night to sign the bill that provides a special privilege of federal legal appeal solely to Ms. Schiavo's parents. For dramatic effect, he had rushed back to the capital from Texas. Perhaps he didn't want to sign that awful legislation in his home state, thus recalling another law he signed as Governor in 1999. That Texas statute permits hospitals to withdraw critical care in certain cases, despite the most vehement objections of family members. It established a bureaucratic process that can doom such patients even if, unlike Ms. Schiavo, they are fully capable of speech, thought and feeling. And under that statute, Ms. Schiavo's husband Michael would have been designated as her "surrogate." With her doctors concurring, Mr. Schiavo would have been able to discontinue her life support - without enduring federal interference. When Mr. Bush signed that earlier bill, he was trying to save money for the Texas Hospitals Association, of course. Although he claims to honor a "culture of life" and would spare nothing in defense of innocent humanity, the harsher truth is that keeping people alive when their brains and organs can no longer function is extremely expensive. Presented with an easily exploited symbol like Ms. Schiavo, the President and his Congressional allies will pretend that money is no object. Yet they are hardly inclined to spend whatever might be needed to preserve every single human life for as long as possible. Instead, the Republicans consistently prefer to relieve the suffering of their wealthiest constituents. Consider the new budget crafted by Mr. DeLay and his minions, in which they proposed to cut as much as $20 billion from Medicaid, the health-insurance program for the nation's poorest citizens. The House budget could deprive more than a million children of basic medical care, while providing still more tax breaks for people whose luxuries include the most advanced medical attention on the planet. These pious politicians don't really care about defending human life. If they did, they would immediately enact and fund a national health-insurance program - to protect the 18,000 Americans who now die every year for lack of essential care.

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