An Infuriating Case From Italy9 February, 2009
One frequent apologetic which shows up in conversation is the blatant canard that religion does no harm. I’ll pause here for a moment so we can consider Jerusalem, Carcassone, Magdeburg, and Salonika (among thousands of cities and towns). For those who prefer outrages on a personal level, remember Terry Schiavo? And today’s politicians much prefer tragedies one at a time. They can toss a bone to the radical religious right voters.
Over in Italy, Eluana Englaro, a young woman who has been in a coma for 17 years following a car accident, has now become the focus of a constitutional crisis created by the Prime Minister and the Vatican. Following a decade-long court battle, her father, in accordance with her wishes, has asked the doctors to remove the feeding tube.
The conservative Prime Minister and media magnate (he controls about half of Italy’s broadcasting), Silvio Berlusconi, after consultation with the Vatican, has signed a decree ordering that doctors keep her body breathing. “On issuing the emergency decree, Berlusconi declared: “This is murder. I would be failing to rescue her. I’m not a Pontius Pilate.” The decree does not single out this case, however; it states that “food and water cannot be suspended for any patient depending upon them.”
The President, Giorgio Napolitano has refused to add his signature to the decree. However, if Parliament ratifies it, it will become law. Overruling the court and the wishes of the family.
But wait. It gets worse. Much worse.
In issuing the decree, Berlisconi added further ‘justification’ to his absurdity by stating that she was “in the condition to have babies.” In the condition to have babies? You have got to be fucking kidding me!
Seventeen years in a coma. The court agreed that there was virtually no chance she would come out of the coma. The doctors said the same. Now a right-wing fruitcake asshole politician decides she should remain alive because her reproductive organs are still extant and functioning.
There are so many things wrong with this that I have trouble figuring out where to begin. But I’ll try (you knew I would, right?).
- Would her body be able to take the physical strain after 17 years in a comatose state? (I seriously doubt it, though I am not a doctor)
- Can a comatose woman give her consent to sexual activity? Since she cannot, would not that be considered rape? (A mentally incapacitated person cannot make a legal decision therefore any sexual activity committed on her person would be rape (in my non-lawyer opinion))
- Is Berlisconi stating that a woman’s only reason for existence is her vagina and womb? (Fits right in with the current level of radically conservative religious thought in the world today)
- If a seven-year-old girl is severely injured in an accident, would Berlisconi let her die because she is not “in a condition to have babies”? Once Eluana reaches menopause, will it suddenly become acceptable to remove the feeding tubes? (With the reasoning used by Bersiconi, a woman’s ability to have babies is the deciding factor)
- Why is the Prime Minister of a secular democracy, a part of the European Union, consulting with the Vatican regarding the care of an Italian citizen? (I’m guessing it is to court enough religious votes to continue his fifteen-year hold on the Prime Minister-ship of Italy)
(If anyone has different answers for these, go for it. I would love some different opinions.)
Now, correct me if I am wrong, but isn’t ‘getting government off peoples back’ a sacred tenet of the modern conservative movement? Why then are conservatives so quick to interfere in family decisions — abortion, birth control, the right to die with dignity, and homosexuality? Why this interference with private life? Or is conservatism only obsessed with getting the government out of the wayoff of the backs of private industry so that private industry and the wealthy can rape the world and only use sex and death as political weapons to get votes?
Thought experiment: Suppose a large, wealthy industrial combination was releasing a low grade poison into the drinking water of a small town. Suppose that this poison caused an extremely high percentage of pregnancies to end in miscarriage. Suppose a religious conservative politician learned of this problem. Would said politician (a) immediately move heaven and earth to end the pollution, compensate the victims and find the best medical care possible or (b) whine about how sad the situation is but claim that any action against the industry would cost jobs and hurt the town even more and let the situation continue; or (vice PhillyChief) (c) Express sorrow over the miscarriages but deny any connection to the company by denying the release of the poison. If the act was proven, then deny the degree of it (the quantity and/or length of time doing it). Finally, point out the role of the industry in the area, perhaps with a suggestion that if not for the industry, no one would be able to feed, clothe or house any babies anyway.
The radical religious right is only concerned with sexuality and death on an individual basis. Infringing upon the rights of private citizens in such cases is not just acceptable to a religious politician, it is necessary. If sex and death involves the powerful people and industries, it suddenly becomes hands off. Interfering in the lives of sovereign citizens allows a radical religious politician the chance to make a statement of ‘faith’ to his or her constituency without endangering the ones from whom the money flows.
Update (09FEB09, 1730): Eluana Englaro has passed away with dignity. Of course, the asshats on the right are using her death to make political hay. Or political hate.