Battling life and death, the choice of responsibility

Terri Schiavo was only 26 years old when she irreversibly collapsed from a devastating heart attack that propelled her into the darkness of a permanent vegetative state. Fifteen years later, Schiavo, whose cerebral cortex has become almost nonexistent since her fatal collapse, has been artificially kept alive with a feeding tube against her own will, according to her husband Michael Schiavo.

The past decade has been punctuated by bitter legal disputes between Schiavo's legitimate guardian, her husband Michael Schiavo, who insists that his wife expressed the wish to die with dignity, and Schiavo's hopeful parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who maintain that their daughter is a devout Christian would not want to take her own life.

The breakdown of their relationship initiated in 1993, when Michael Schiavo was awarded more than $1 million in a malpractice judgment, and coincidentally shortly after, announced his decision to let Terri die. Ever since, Schiavo's efforts have been perceived with suspicion, often believed to be driven by lucrative interests. However, these doubts have been shown to be unfounded, since Schiavo has spent most of these funds on medical care and legal suits, under judge supervision.

After years of tedious legal battles, and medical investigations, Michael Schiavo proved that his wife had no chance to ever recover and exhausted her wish to die peacefully on March 18, after a Florida District Court finally allowed the withdrawal of her feeding tube to take effect.

Over the weekend that followed the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, however, the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives stepped in and rushed to pass a measure empowering the federal courts to overturn the Florida decision.

President Bush immediately signed the bill on Monday, therefore making it a law that could not only propel Schiavo back into a spiritually ghostly existence, but also allow Federal Courts to intervene with private family matters, and medical decisions best left to patients and loved ones.

The Schiavo's case has become highly politicized as it gives politicians the opportunity to appeal to their respective electorate through their involvement in the pro-life or pro-choice controversy.

"It's outrageous that our politicians use this case to further their own agenda, hiding it all behind pious righteousness," said James Stramel, a Santa Monica College philosophy teacher, whose lectures focus on ethics.

Even though countless similar cases have existed in the past, the Schiavo's case has been blown out of proportion as a result of its intense media coverage. "The case got so much attention because of the bitter battle between the husband and the parents. It brings an element of drama- It's another Jerry Springer reality show," said Stramel.

What should have remained a painful family tragedy has become a symbol of national debate dividing ultra-conservative anti-abortion advocates, and on the other side of the political spectrum, liberal democrats.

One can understand the hope and faith that can drive Schiavo's parents to fight for their daughter's survival in spite of her vegetative existence. Nonetheless, the interference of religious values on politics seems improper.

"It's unconstitutional. This is a violation of the separation of Church and State. It's like teaching creationism in schools," said 18-year-old Gaily Ezer, member of SMC Progressive Alliance club.

According to ABC news poll conducted last Sunday, 70 percent of Americans believe Congress' intervention was inappropriate.

At the SMC Republicans club meeting, most students also seemed to disapprove of President Bush's involvement in the case. " I don't think our government should go out of its way to rewrite rules and make new laws... It's just disrespecting people's will," said club member Adam Sands.