Jewish World Review March 28, 2005 / 17 Adar II, 5765

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Schiavo hysteria | For those of you wondering why the Terri Schiavo story is receiving massive attention, the answer lies deep within the culture war. Terri's sad saga is rooted in the battle over who has the final say on human life: the State or the Creator?

Followers of the secular philosophy believe that the government has the authority to terminate life in the womb and in the hospital. In Texas, for example, a 2003 law gives medical personnel the final say over who receives life-sustaining care and who doesn't. A few weeks ago, 5-month-old Sun Hudson died just seconds after being removed from a hospital ventilator in Houston. His mother desperately fought the hospital's decision, but a Texas medical ethics committee ruled that the baby's lungs were incapable of growing and the condition was irreversible. Baby Sun died in his mother's arms.

People who believe in the Christian philosophy generally reject these manmade life-death decisions. To them, all life is sacred because it comes from a higher power who has the ultimate say about who is born and when they die. Thus, abortion is rejected, as is euthanasia. Christians and others of like mind are convinced that man should not have the power to take life unless it's a matter of self-defense.

This battle between the two philosophies is never going to be settled. Emotions run high on both sides, and Terri Schiavo was the fuse that reignited the brawl. At least the Christian side is focused about it. The Vatican released a statement that supported Mrs. Schiavo's life purely on theological grounds. The secularists are all over the place. They cite legalities, states rights, humane treatment, and on and on.

But what it comes down to is a belief system. Who should control human life? The legal system or a higher power?

For those of us who realize that secularism must be the basis for common law in a democracy, the Schiavo case was especially frustrating. Both sides demagogued the issue, and both sides are full of it. No third party really knows what Terri Schiavo wanted. Her court-appointed guardians in Florida freely testified that her husband, Michael, had ulterior motives in the case. The guardians also testified that Terri's family grew to despise Michael Schiavo, and much of the controversy was born from that hatred.

In a clear-thinking world, the solution to this terrible case would be obvious. Michael Schiavo would have dropped his litigation and allowed Terri's family to care for her. Mr. Schiavo could have made a statement that he tried to carry out his wife's wishes that she not be kept alive by extraordinary means, but for the greater good he would grant her family the right to keep her alive.

What is the downside to that? Who gets hurt with that solution? No one. According to doctors, Terri doesn't feel anything while on the feeding tube. So if the family wants her around in that state — why not? Her family could even raise private funds to pay for Terri's care, thereby taking Medicare out of it.

But reasonable solutions and thought are rare in the battle between the secular and the religious. It is a titanic struggle, and the culture of America hangs in the balance.

I don't know who will ultimately win the struggle. I do know that everyone has lost in the Schiavo case.

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JWR contributor Bill O'Reilly is host of the Fox News show, "The O'Reilly Factor," and author of, most recently, "Who's Looking Out for You?" Comments by clicking here.

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