1. Terri Schiavo.

She killed herself when her bulimic behavior led to a persistent and, in time, irreversible persistent vegetative state.

2. Michael Schiavo.

He removed the artificial feeding system that either kept Ms. Schiavo’s body alive, or prolonged her death, depending upon one’s perspective. He deserves conditional public sympathy.

3. The Schindlers and the religious right

Instead of arguing their case based on traditional bioethics and convincing lawmakers to amend Florida law, the Schindlers and the religious right took the low road: They publicly distorted Terri’s medical condition, waged a campaign of character assassination against Michael Schiavo, and sought out the same "activist judges" that the far right had been accusing of lawlessness.

But numerous judges and courts adhered strictly to the law and the U.S. Constitution. The religious right’s political campaign was, it turns out, based upon fundamental falsehoods that alienated the public.

No doubt the Schindlers’ actions were motivated by love. But because they and the religious right transformed loving motives into hateful and deceptive actions, my sympathy for them is also conditional.

4. The nation’s refusal to address health care

Along with private insurers’ premiums paid by millions of policyholders across Florida and the nation, Medicaid helped keep Ms. Schiavo’s body artificially alive for 15 years at tremendous public cost. It is a program mired in financial crisis. Neither the president nor Congress are willing to budget responsibly, nor is anyone willing to say exactly who should live — or die — at public expense.

We will never know for certain whether Ms. Schiavo would have wanted her nearly mindless body, lacking most of the cerebral cortex, to be artificially fed for 15 years at tremendous public expense while other people — lacking Medicaid, insurance payouts, and political friends — died.

We do know what factors killed Ms. Schiavo — or allowed her to die naturally. If anyone is to be "blamed," it is, well, everyone.

OK, folks, have at it. Share your rants, or your links to bloggers who are more thoughtful than I.

Addendum: Wayne Besen commented March 27 on the religious right’s exploitation of the Schindlers and Schiavos. Randy Thomas ranted (his own word) March 18 on behalf of the religious right — XGW coverage of that is here.

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