When the Middle is Shut Out

I’ve had no takers yet on the question about the absence of moderate voices in the public media in the Schiavo case.

Here’s what concerns me about the issue. When the quiet, moderate voices of the middle are shut out by the more extreme, theatrical voices of the poles, the national dialogue becomes distorted. That’s what’s happening, in my opinion, in the Schiavo matter.

Those at the extremes have framed the issues surrounding Ms. Schiavo and have set the terms of the debate. The advocates for extreme positions come at us as if there is no middle ground, only absolutes.

When words such as “starvation” and “murder” are used to describe this complex situation our ability to discuss it in a caring and constructive conversation is diminished. End-of-life decisions require considerably more nuanced discussion than these words capture.

We really need to have this discussion because the ability of the medical profession to intervene in processes that in the past would have resulted in death, is expanding. In many instances this is wonderful, life-preserving intervention.

But, in others, it is not. And the struggle we face is how to determine, in each unique situation, what is best for the individual whose life is at stake.

I yearn for this discussion to be conducted on the talk shows, in sound bites and on the pages of the newspapers. The voices of those who have not been heard are those in middle who struggle between the absolutes and are searching for a way through this complicated dilemma. They know it’s not as clear and easy to talk about complex ethical behavior in absolute language.

But as I write this, I don’t think those voices are being heard. As we move forward, I hope the quiet, moderate folks in the middle find their voices and contribute to the discussion.

And, by the way, I’m still looking for comments.

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