Last week, Senator Joe Lieberman (CT) was asked by a New York Times reporter what he thought of Michael Schiavo, husband of the late Terri Schiavo, campaigning for Ned Lamont. Lieberman replied, it was time “for politicians to let Terri Schiavo rest in peace.” It was as callous as his suggestion that a rape victim be turned down for emergency contraception, despite the defense of Senator Boxer (CA) that Sen. Lieberman was misunderstood.
Speechless. It left me speechless when I read that, remembering that Lieberman could not stop talking about Mrs. Schiavo when his ideology blinded him to the reality of her medical condition, and kept him on every talk show seemingly nonstop discussing her case.
At that time, I was serving as Executive Director of the Death with Dignity National Center, the organization that drafted, passed, defended and promotes Oregon's landmark Death with Dignity law. We were asked on several ocassions to comment on the Schiavo case, and to be very candid, it was not an easy fit. Oregon's law advocates for terminally-ill patients, capable of communicating health care decisions and has a rigorous set of safe-guards to protect patient, family, physician and pharmacist. Absent her clear authority expressed in an advance directive, the case, pitting family against family, was tragic in every respect and served to highlight the importance of improving communications about end of life wishes while one is able, not knowing what accident might befall any of us at some future moment, no matter our relative health.
But there was never any doubt, in most people's mind, that the absolute worst thing anyone could advocate would be for a state legislature, a governor, the congress or the president to step into a patient's bedside and pretend to know better based on the understanable emotional pleas of her parents. Those who value ideology over reality, in the persons of Preists for Life, Operation Rescue and Operation Save America, manipulated the media and her case for their political, publicity and fundraising gain, and Senator Joe Lieberman was not at all shy about using that case to get on televison then.
Now, with polls showing the public outraged at the handling of that case, and he in an unexpected nail-biter of a primary, Lieberman decides politicians should let her rest-in-peace. Take a look at this from a column by Ronald Bailey in Reason, written one year after Mrs. Schiavo died.
This week an ABC News poll shows that 64 percent of the American public believes removing Schiavo's feeding tube was the right thing to do. Remember that cynical Republican memo about what "good politics" the Schiavo case was? The new poll finds 61 percent of evangelical white Protestants and 73 percent of white Catholics agree that removing the tube was the right decision. Perhaps the ghoulish politicians who meddled in this private family tragedy have miscalculated and will be punished by the voters in November 2006. One can only hope.
Terri Schiavo rests in peace. Its the politicians who used her for publicity that may not be resting as peacefully now. Senator Lieberman my pull off a victory next Tuesday, it looks to be close. But the hypocrisy of his statement about Michael Schiavo's appearance on behalf of Ned Lamont is reason enough to question his integrity.