After nature

The position of Nat Hentoff in his article about Terri Schiavo is surprisingly tainted by the sensationalism that has surrounded this case. Hentoff does not seem to understand that the issue, which should have remained a private one, is who makes the decision in matters of life and death when our medical system enables life to continue long after nature would have terminated it, and when death with dignity is more important than lingering life. In our country, if it is to remain a democracy, that decision must be made by the individual or guardian, not by the government. To permit anything else is a dangerously slippery slope.

Melissa Heath
Atlanta, Georgia



  • Hardline Catholics Get Their Pope
    by Rema Rahman

  • Last week, Nat Hentoff's "Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder" and Sharon Lerner's "The Schiavo Circus" provoked an unusually large response from readers. A selection of those letters follows.

    No compromise

    I believe Nat Hentoff's article is irresponsible. I do not rely solely on the "misinformation" of the media to form my opinions. After poring through numerous legal briefs concerning this case, I find nothing consistent with Hentoff's charges that due process has been compromised.

    Kevin R. Nelson
    Omaha, Nebraska

    Culture shock

    Nat Hentoff said that the judges should visit Terri Schiavo to make an assessment of her condition. That would be like a neurosurgeon being asked to preside over a court case. That's like Jim Guckert posing as a journalist. I am more than disappointed with Hentoff. I spent 10 years of my life in social work and hospice care, and my heart goes out to those who knew and loved Terri Schiavo. I am not a surgeon and don't pretend to be, but I researched this case extensively. This poor woman wasn't just vegetative; in layman's terms she was "brainless," in that her cerebral cortex had liquefied. For the sake of ethical sanctity, this case had been heard for years, by numerous judges who listened to both sides: Each time they reached the same conclusion.

    People are pulled off life support daily because they are poor—this is documented and true. Innocent people are put to death in prisons—this is documented and true. Our government is cutting programs to the most vulnerable of our population. "Culture of life," my ass; a culture of blaspheming hypocrites is more like it.

    J.P. Abner
    Mussel Shoals, California

    X-tra copies

    I have been following this fiasco for almost five years now. Nat Hentoff's article is the most comprehensive I have found, and I read everything available on the Internet. As a disabled 74-year-old, this type of article rings home for me. I mailed it to everyone on my mailing list with wonderful returns. Some on my list even commented that they were almost ready to agree with the husband's rights, until they read your article and were dumbfounded by the true story. I also printed out copies to distribute to my senior friends. They need to know this info so that they can prepare living wills with witnesses.

    X. Miller
    Houston, Texas

    Disturbed in Frisco

    This is the most disturbing, misinformed rhetoric I have seen to date on this matter. How can Hentoff, who is neither a physician nor a lawyer, proclaim to be knowledgeable regarding both Terri Schiavo's medical condition and the process by which so many state and federal courts have arrived at their collective conclusion?

    Kelley French
    San Francisco, California

    Sonsoles's god

    Hentoff's article is just great. I wish I could disseminate it to the whole world, particularly to the journalists repeating this idiocy of persistent vegetative state. As a doctor, I applaud you. I understand you are an atheist, but you are in the right, and my God will take care of you.

    Sonsoles de Lacalle
    Department of Biomedical Sciences, Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science,
    Los Angeles, California

    Down by common law

    Sharon Lerner's article made me feel sick. Does she have any compassion in her? She rambles on and on about the Bushes getting involved. I say, good, at least some people tried to do something. You people that write these "intelligent" articles never seem bothered by Michael Schiavo's having two kids with a common-law wife. (I doubt Terri Schiavo would have liked that!) He seems like a controlling man to me, you know, the kind that Lerner probably protested against during the women's movement. Enjoy your food and your water and your snobbish ideas.

    Carolyn Higgins
    Duluth, Minnesota

    Their fool support

    As a non-religious conservative Republican, I found Hentoff's convoluted piece on Terri Schiavo to be an excellent example of a journalist writing emotionally on something about which he has not bothered to become educated, apparently. Hentoff decries Judge Greer's decisions because he "has never gone to see her," yet can write with authority about her condition, her responsiveness being "beyond mere reflexes," presumably because he (Hentoff) has gone to see her? He states that "an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists" say she is not in a persistent vegetative state, neglecting to mention that they, also, have never gone to see Terri. He belittles other media as "ignorant" for their coverage because they do not listen to those same individuals, but rather they listen to those who actually have gone to see and test Terri. When a person is unable to eat or drink on her own, it is extraordinary care to provide food and water through a surgically inserted tube, which is a medical procedure! Perhaps some of those arrested should have been allowed to bring her their cups of water. It would have been more humane for her to drown from the water poured down her throat than for her to die a slow death from water deprivation, and her supporters could then have realized what fools they were to believe they knew more than mere doctors.

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