Schiavo Rule keeps Democrat majority solid in Senate

December 17, 2006 | By | Reply More

Recent reports are that South Dakota Senator Tim Johnson is recovering from a life-threatening episode of bleeding in the brain.  That is good news, indeed.  It remains to be seen, however, how well he will function cognitively in the coming months. 

Johnson suffered a brain hemorrhage last Wednesday caused by bleeding in his brain. Doctors at the George Washington University hospital in D.C. caution that it’s too early for a long term prognosis, but they are calling Senator Tim Johnson’s surgery a success.

The Senator’s staff is saying that his doctors are happy with his progress because he’s responding to voices and reaching for and holding his wife’s hand.

I initially read the above report with extremely cautious optimism.  Republicans everywhere also have Senator Johnson’s health on their mind.  They are no doubt getting ready to argue that Johnson won’t be able to carry out his duties, thus requiring the Republican South Dakota Governor to appoint a new Senator.

But, when determining whether Senator Johnson is well enough to continue on as a Senator, Republicans need to keep in mind the Terri Schiavo rule.  Here’s the rule:  as long as a human body is breathing it is alive and worthy of full respect as a human being.  This is true, even if 70 percent of cortical cells—critical to the functioning of the cortex— are completely destroyed.  It is true even if high-tech machines pump and oxygenate his blood.

Republicans also need to keep in mind the plight of South Dakota senator, Karl Mundt, a Republican, who

suffered a stroke while in office. Mundt continued to serve until the end of his term in January 1973, although he was unable to attend Senate sessions and was stripped of his committee assignments by the Senate Republican Conference in 1972.

Truly, I hope that Senator Johnson continues his recovery and that he regains his cognitive function.

In the meantime, I hope we don’t hear anything from Republicans about how much cognitive function Johnson needs in order to continue serving as Senator.  We also need to keep in mind the palpable lack of mental functioning of the many neocons who instigated a needless war, a per se diagnosis of mental incapacity, in my opinion.  Yet they continue to serve.

The Schiavo rule, as I interpret it, says that if he’s breathing, even if totally dependent on complicated machines, and even if he has no intellectual functioning, he’s fully human.  The Schiavo Rule is grounded in the principle that functionality has no relevance to whether a body built on human DNA is entitled to society’s resources (in the case of Terri Schiavo, those resources were expensive medical resources that could have saved the lives of others who might have been brought back to human functionality).  The Schiavo Rule is that you are either minimally alive and thus fully entitled to be recogized as a human being or you are completely dead.  If you’re not the latter, you’re the former.

If there’s any doubt, of course, we could have Democrat-leaning doctor diagnose Senator Johnson by simply viewing a videotape of him. 

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Category: American Culture, Health, Politics

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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