Compassion Fatigue

Mahablog hits the nail on the head:

This is going to sound very cold, I realize, but it's the honest truth: I was reading the umpteenth news story quoting poor Mrs. Schindler pleading for somebody to step in and "save" her daughter, and a wave of pure, unadulterated annoyance swept over me. I suspect I am not alone.

The Schindlers have had the Florida governor and legislature at their disposal for the past several years, and now the United States Congress and the President have taken unprecedented steps to intervene in their little family drama. Today the Schindlers are shopping federal courts to find one that will give them what they want. I don't watch much television news, but I bet the Schindlers are on somewhere on cable nearly 24/7.

I don't know what percentage of Americans have watched a hospitalized love one die, or what percentage have dealt with heartbreaking questions about DNR orders, life support, organ transplants, etc. I suspect that a whopping majority of people over the age of 40 have been there and done that. And, nearly always, these decisions are made quietly and privately. It doesn't occur to most people to make a federal case out of their grief.

How many of these Americans are looking at the Schindlers and thinking, who the hell do you think you are? How many are thinking, I loved my baby, my child, my wife, my father just as much, but I could let them go without setting the whole country in an uproar.
Indeed. And with 87% of the American populace wanting to be put out of their misery were they in the same position as Terri (and I tend to believe that most of the remaining 13% don’t fully comprehend what her situation actually is), most probably feel little compassion for the Schindlers, and a great amount for Terri (and her husband, Michael). The Schindlers, you might reasonably suspect, have lost the plot, and are not acting out of anything but self-interest at this point. And you’d be right (as noted by Emma at the American Street):
One of the most enlightening documents is the Guardian Ad Litem report that had to be filed under Florida’s Terri’s law(which was later found unconstitutional). Several sections spoke to the Schindler’s motivations. Here’s the most horrifying:

Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition, and trail testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state.

My sympathies for the Schindlers dried up right about here, out of fear, I think. Or horror. They would keep a mindless, limbless husk in a bed, because it would make them feel joy?
That’s some seriously fucked up shit right there. (I’d like to say something more eloquent, but my brain is only capable of its basest animal reaction to that gruesome revelation, I’m afraid.)

Terri doesn’t need saving anymore; the Schindlers do. Although I fear they are as far beyond help as is their daughter.

(Associated reading: Digby on the very real possibility that this is an example of “‘conservative’ people who want to control their children's lives long past the time they are legally and morally allowed to do so.”)

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