Newsweek columnist and McLaughlin Group pundit Clift combines a journalist’s account of the political circus surrounding Terri Schiavo’s death with the personal story of the death of her husband, Tom Brazaitis.
During the last two weeks of March 2005, both lay dying, the cancer-ridden Brazaitis quietly at home, the brain-damaged Schiavo in a Florida hospice center surrounded by fervid demonstrators and swarming media. Clift organizes their stories in the form of a diary, but each day’s entry is not limited to the events of that day. She provides ample background to the Schiavo case, giving a capsule history of the right to refuse medical treatment. She presents forthright portraits of Schiavo’s family members—her parents, who wanted her kept alive, and her husband, who wanted her to be allowed to die—who had been fighting for years over who should decide her fate. The author gives even more attention to the politicians and the pro-life and disability-rights figures who insisted that she be kept alive, and the judge who ruled repeatedly on her right to die. The Schiavo case, writes Clift, was the center of an “extraordinary clash…between the religious right aided and abetted by the full force of the federal government and the U.S. judiciary in the person of Judge Greer.” Drawing on transcripts from the McLaughlin Group, the author offers her own opinions on the politics of the situation, taking to task President George Bush, Governor Jab Bush and the Republicans in Congress. Meanwhile, her beloved husband was dying at home, his brain and bones invaded by cancer that had spread from his kidney, his care shared by Clift and hospice workers. Some readers may be offended by what could be viewed as an invasion of his privacy as the author includes unpleasant details of the physical and mental deterioration of a dying man. An epilogue contains roughly a dozen of Brazaitis’s graceful, rueful columns for the Cleveland Plain Dealer about his struggle with cancer from July 1999 to January 2004.
A powerful mix of opinion, reporting and poignant recollection.