Theresa Schiavo spent more than a decade fighting an eating disorder. As millions recoil in horror at the fact that she died from the removal of a feeding tube, the irony that a woman who was plagued by food should die in that way has been lost. Ms. Schiavo entered her persistent vegetative state, in all likelihood, as a result of a heart attack brought on by her struggle with weight.I am still disgusted at all the attention that the Schiavo case got, especially from liberals. I can't help but feeling that all that attention, energy, and effort could have been spent on more important issues. Of course, the ethical issues surrounding death, dying, and the quality of life are important, but the Schiavo case was a particularly odd one to receive the attention. The right to die is accepted by most, regardless of political or religious affiliations. Furthermore, the one important ethical question of death and dying, euthanasia, that this case could have raised, was almost completely ignored by both sides.
But when beautiful people, dressed in clothes to tiny to fit most Americans, host one program after another in which Terri Schiavo is fashioned as a vulnerable symbol of death by starvation, it is all too easy to miss the fact that Terri Schiavo did her 'starving' twenty years ago.
But Terri's life, and death, could also have been used to raise awareness of another important problem, that of eating disorders. In all the talk of whether Michael Schiavo was to blame, for her PVS, her death, or for not remaining faithful for the 15 years that she remained irreversibly unconscious, Terri's bulimia got lost in the mix. Reporters couldn't even bring themselves to admit that it was the likely cause of her death. They always qualified any reference to the role of her eating disorder in her death with things like, "According to Michael Schiavo, her brain damage was the result of a heart attack suffered due to a potassium imbalance caused by her bulimia." According to Michael Schiavo! As if there weren't a medical history of her disorder. As if he'd come up with the diagnosis all by himself. If you can't bring yourself to admit that an eating disorder had something to do with her death, or even that she had one, then you can't use her death to raise awareness of eating disorders. Instead, her bulimia gets swept under the rug, as eating disorders almost always do. To me, that's just tragic.