Lessons of the Schiavo Battle
Terri Schiavo's case drew mail both heartfelt and reasoned, as readers grappled with the question of what constitutes human life and weighed the roles of the U.S. courts, Congress and the presidency. Most objected to politicians' involvement, and many decided to write living wills
I am a Republican and usually a staunch supporter of George W. Bush. But I was aghast at the flagrant political maneuvering over the fate of Terri Schiavo [April 4]. Shame on Bush, Representative Tom DeLay and all those others who wasted their time and our money on this right-to-life charade. Those same politicians are too cowardly to attack at the federal level the real right-to-life issues abortion and the death penalty. I pray for Schiavo's parents and husband. We all have a right to a dignified death without government meddling.
Bernard Joseph Wilson Jr.
Lincoln, Nebraska, U.S.
Schiavo, free of interference, has now peacefully passed through a natural stage of life. Life is precious because it is finite.
Rochester, New York, U.S.
Michael Schiavo abandoned his marriage vows to Terri years ago. Yet our nation's courts gave him the right as her husband to condemn her to a prolonged death. Michael claims that Terri wouldn't have wanted to live as she did for the past 15 years: cared for by her loving family, and apparently without suffering. Can he claim she would have wanted to die over a period of two weeks by starvation and dehydration?
Reine D. Bethany
Hempstead, New York, U.S.
The political hypocrisy in the Schiavo case was appalling. How many of those politicians and "right-to-lifers" who worked themselves into such a lather over this matter have also supported the death penalty or actually signed a death warrant? Those people are obnoxious.
Itasca, Illinois, U.S.
We had police officers standing guard to ensure that a human being died a slow death while her family watched in horror and was powerless to do anything to help. Was this the U.S. in 2005 or a Nazi concentration camp in the 1940s?
Alan W. Garett
Corpus Christi, Texas, U.S.
The death and resurrection of Christ were meant to show us that death has no power, that the soul lives eternally while the body serves only as a container. Removing Schiavo's feeding tube was not cruel or disrespectful of life. On the contrary, the real cruelty was keeping her shell alive and not allowing her to be at peace with God. It is agonizing to have to let go of a loved one, but as God showed us through the sacrifice of his son, it is the greatest love of all to do so.
Cumberland Furnace, Tennessee, U.S.
President Bush's hypocrisy has hit a new high. Here is a man posturing about the right to life and the need to protect the weak while at the same time avidly supporting the death penalty.
TIME's story did not explore the guilt and uncertainty experienced by many who find themselves faced with a terminally ill loved one, especially when they wish an end to that life but are unable to take responsibility for the decision. Their uncertainty could be caused by family members' anecdotal evidence of terminally ill individuals who were expected to die but made a miraculous recovery. It's perfectly human to harbor such hopes, even unrealistic ones. Such events should be brought to the fore even if they are very rare. That can only make a constructive contribution to this debate.
Anwar Suleman Mall
Faculty of Health Sciences
University of Cape Town
I have been working for many years as a nurse in institutions in various parts of Switzerland as well as in the homes of terminally ill patients. Swiss law allows assisted suicide, and I have witnessed many doctors "helping" patients die quietly, peacefully and humanely. Though we must make sure there is no abuse, death with dignity, just like life with dignity, should be each person's right.
Brigitte M. Vollmann
Surely any deliberate act leading to the death of a physically or mentally ill human being is morally wrong, irrespective of the life circumstances of the individual and the benign intention underlying the act. In the case of Schiavo, the immediate cause of death was the withdrawal of nutrients. Allowing her to die that way may have set a dangerous precedent and moved humanity closer to accepting euthanasia.
Some people will do anything in their power to protect the lives of those who desire death with dignity because they are terminally ill or so severely impaired that they cannot eat or even breathe. On the other hand, the same people often do anything in their power to enforce the death penalty. What word other than hypocrisy is appropriate?
It's ironic that so many Americans tore themselves apart over the death of Schiavo but had no qualms about sending thousands of able-bodied young men and women off to Iraq to kill and be killed in a needless war. If those people had spent as much energy trying to keep U.S. service members from killing and getting killed, the war might never have happened.
Terminating Special Interests
In "The Reform Action Figure" [April 4], on California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger's war against the public employees' unions, columnist Joe Klein characterized them as "special interests" protecting their "unaffordable fringe benefits and antiquated work rules." But Klein should have noted that some states made the kind of pension-plan changes favored by the Governor and then switched back to the original plans when it was realized that the changes left retirees without enough to live on. If this issue ever reaches voters, I'm hopeful that Californians will have seen enough Terminator movies to recognize the difference between reform and destruction.
To Schwarzenegger, all interests that are not his own are "special interests." He goes after the benefits of nurses, teachers, fire fighters and cops but never attacks international corporate conglomerates.
Santa Ana, California, U.S.
On the Lookout for Illegals
"Do-It-Yourself Border Patrol" [April 4], on the Minuteman Project, a volunteer effort to watch a stretch of the Arizona border with Mexico, reported that local officials are nervous about the participation of people from out of state. Wouldn't it be wonderful if the officials were that concerned about illegal aliens' breaking into our country? After all, the Minutemen are only doing the job Washington won't do.
Georgetown, Texas, U.S.
If there is an issue on which more voters are in agreement than stopping illegal immigration, what is it? My sympathy is with the people trying to do something. The government's efforts are glacial and overwhelmingly insufficient. Let's go to the next level: close the doors, and put up a no vacancy sign!
Westampton, New Jersey, U.S.
Of Corruption and Poverty
The excerpt from Jeffrey Sachs' book on how to end poverty in developing nations is one of the finest articles you have ever published [March 14]. It gladdens my heart that you focused on a condition that kills millions of people a year. African leaders are indeed greedy and corrupt but with the help of the Western world. How many of our billions of dollars are stashed in Western banks? I urge the IMF and the World Bank to set Africa free by using the stolen money in your banks to pay off Africa 's so-called debts. Africans are blessed by God with abundant human and natural resources, which rich nations can help us harness. Nigeria could feed three other African nations if only we had great democratic leaders with vision and a sense of mission.
The article stressed a lot of interesting ways in which wealthy nations can help poor ones overcome poverty. Nevertheless, I reject the notion that wealthy countries, without gauging their individual situations, should suddenly commit a percentage of their GDP as a means for increasing their help to poor ones. I see an even bigger responsibility of my government toward its own people. The relatively poor in wealthy countries need the help of their government too. I also missed anything about family planning in the article. A lot of the extreme poverty is created by too many children in families without sufficient food and water. Even people who know they have the aids virus don't stop having children. That problem should be addressed. Otherwise, the money the wealthy countries need to give will increase year by year.
Reclaiming the Minefields
Your article on secretary of state Condoleezza Rice included a photo of her with an Afghan girls' soccer team [March 28]. Therein lies a unique and inspiring story. Those girls play soccer on a field that was cleared of land mines with the help of Roots of Peace, a nongovernmental organization (NGO) that raises money from U.S. middle and high school students for that purpose. The State Department works with 50 NGOs to raise money from private sources for land-mine removal, augmenting the nearly $1 billion the U.S. government has contributed since 1993.
Rose M. Likins
Acting Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs
U.S. Department of State