Bulletin: Fundies don't cotton to euthanasia

If you oppose Terri Schiavo's death by starvation and dehydration, you may be a fundamentalist -- at least according to an opinion-laden report this morning by Megan O'Matz of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. O'Matz, like many other journalists, refers to Schiavo's case as one of a right to die, as if we all know that Terri Schiavo would choose to die as her husband would have her die. Here's the graph in which O'Matz drops the F bomb:

A predominantly African-American church that is unusual for its alignment with Christian conservatives, the [Worldwide Christian Center in Pompano Beach] is part of a vocal and influential circle of fundamentalists waging a fierce political battle to keep Schiavo alive.

Then there are these rhetorical choices:

Its members, and those of other South Florida churches, have inundated legislators in Tallahassee and Washington with calls and e-mails since Friday, when Schiavo's feeding tube was removed by court order at the request of her husband, Michael Schiavo, who says she never wanted to live in a persistent vegetative state.

Whether she's actually living in a persistent vegetative state is a matter of considerable debate.

Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and its social justice arm, the Center for Reclaiming America, are at the center of efforts to keep Schiavo alive. The center spearheaded a massive grassroots lobbying effort last week, urging its supporters and other so-called "pro-family" groups to call and e-mail state senators who defeated a bill that would have stopped the tube's removal.

Life lesson to would-be polemicists: If you want to convey your disapproval, use the double-barreled method of a sneer quote preceded by the phrase so-called. Even mouth-breathers will understand your hollered point.

But the most troubling passage comes here:

Like most national discourses that involve abortion or euthanasia, the drama unfolding around Schiavo is full of passion, vitriol, half-truths and untruths.

At the Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church in Fort Lauderdale, the Rev. D. James Kennedy, the church's senior minister and a nationally known evangelical leader, told parishioners Sunday that he read that Schiavo can eat and swallow food and water on her own, without the aid of feeding tubes, "but the judge will not allow it."

Some in the congregation gasped.

After the service, church leaders said Kennedy was ensconced in his office preparing for another sermon and was not available for further comment.

The claim that Schiavo can swallow is "an outrageous thing to say," Bill Allen, professor of bioethics, law and medical professionalism at the University of Florida, said in an interview Sunday. Schiavo has had swallowing tests in recent years and has been found not to be able to swallow, he said.

Kennedy's concern is not new, and CNN reported similar remarks by David Gibbs, the attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, on March 18:

In addition, Gibbs said he filed a petition in federal court in the Middle District of Florida. The petition asks the court to review the state court process, he said.

"Terri is not terminal," he said. "If we feed Terri . . . she will live another 30 to 40 years."

He described Schiavo as "responsive" although he acknowledged she functions at the level of a 6- to 11-month-old child. She recognizes her family, he said. "She teases. She plays. She smiles. She tries to talk." Schiavo also can breathe and swallow on her own, he said.

Asked why, if she can swallow, a feeding tube is necessary, Gibbs said he has inquired whether Schiavo could receive food by mouth, and "courts in Florida have said no. The order is to stop all food and water."

World magazine, in this report, describes the Catch-22 in which Terri Schiavo lives, for now. And it makes clear that, if swallow tests have occurred in recent years -- to use O'Matz's broad paraphrase -- recent must be understood as more than five years ago:

Over the past two weeks, the Schindlers have rained paperwork on the court. They charged that the judge made an evidentiary error in a crucial earlier ruling, appealed for new medical tests, asked to file a petition for divorce on their daughter's behalf, and requested that if her feeding tube is removed, their daughter be orally fed and hydrated.

Judge Greer denied every motion, including the feeding request. This though at least two health-care workers in 2003 filed affidavits saying they had given Ms. Schiavo ice water and small spoonfuls of Jello while they cared for her at a nursing home in the late 1990s. In 2000, three doctors filed affidavits saying Ms. Schiavo could swallow on her own. [A sidebar timeline in World elaborates: "Feb. 2000: Circuit Court Judge George Greer rules to remove Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube. Three doctors file affidavits saying Ms. Schiavo can swallow, but the judge denies requests for swallowing tests."]

Mr. Weldon, who is a physician, characterized Judge Greer's oral-feeding denial as "an outrage," while Stephen Drake of the Illinois-based anti-euthanasia group Not Dead Yet said the ruling "fits in with Greer's pattern," and noted that the judge's order regarding March 18 doesn't just allow the removal of Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube, it orders removal. "This whole issue has been horribly distorted into a question of who should be the decision-maker about her life. The real question is, what are Terri Schiavo's rights under the law? In the absence of any compelling evidence to the contrary, the presumption should be that she should continue to get food and water."

Mr. Schiavo has allowed only tube-feeding and has refused repeatedly to allow doctors to administer "swallow tests" to determine whether Ms. Schiavo can eat and drink. The circular sound of that -- Mr. Schiavo's confining of his wife to a feeding tube, but contending that she wouldn't want to live that way -- mirrors the circular rut in which the case has crawled through the Florida courts.

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