This is one of those times.
According to this article in The Tennessean, in 1988, just after Tom DeLay had been reelected to his third term in Congress, his 65-year-old father, Charles, suffered an accident that left him brain damaged. DeLay’s family agreed not to connect their father to life support because, and this is a direct quote from DeLay’s 81-year-old mother, Maxine DeLay:
"There was no point to even really talking about it. Tom knew, we all knew, his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way. He would have been a vegetable. Tom went along with the family decision.”Yet DeLay’s staff claims that this situation is different from what Terri Schiavo is going through. Indeed, DeLay has termed Michael Schiavo’s attempts to have his wife removed from life support “barbarity.”
But exactly how is it different from the DeLay family’s decision? The only way Tom DeLay can justify his recent actions in Congress is by insisting that while his father had no hope of recovery, Terri does.
But after fifteen years, eight of which were spent seeking every treatment imaginable, when exactly does he, or anybody else, expect Terri to recover? The best medical opinion has stated time after time that, at this point, any recovery of brain function or consciousness is impossible.
The truth is that every time Tom DeLay or Randall Terry or any of the others claim that Terri could recover or that she is able to communicate her wishes, they undercut their own credibility.
First of all, none of their claims are true and every time they have to deny the truth, they lose their best argument. In this case, by claiming that she has any awareness, they are giving credence to the common sense thesis that if she was truly in a vegetative state, it would be ok to remove the feeding tube.
All that needs to be done, then, is to prove that she indeed is in such a state to win the argument. Their best shot, really, was arguing that it didn’t’ matter what her state of awareness was because life is precious regardless of its condition. Once they switched the terms of the argument to denying Terri’s true state, they were admitting that the quality of the life did indeed matter and that if, in fact, Terri was truly in a persistent vegetative state, terminating the feeding tube might be all right, after all.
At least, we now know that the DeLays thought so for their father. How could it be less true for Terri and her husband? The only difference was that the DeLays faced the sad and harsh reality that the Schindlers can’t bring themselves to admit yet. Which is that Terri is as much a vegetable today as Charles DeLay was back in 1988.
Just as the DeLays had the right to honor their father’s wishes in privacy, the House Majority Leader should have the decency to allow Michael Schiavo to do the same for his wife without interference from Congress. And without grandstanding and trying to pass new laws that will torment other families facing similar circumstances in the future.