Interviews

'The God Squad' on the Schiavo Saga

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," Mar. 31, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Back of the Book" segment tonight, there's no question America lacks for religious leadership on a grand scale. There are only a handful of clerics who command national attention these days.

Two of those comprise the God Squad, Rabbi Marc Gellman and Father Tom Hartman, syndicated columnists who join us now from Long Island.

I mentioned this, Father, in the beginning of the program. I was kind of distressed when some of these people who were supporting Terri Schiavo's right to live were telling people they were going to burn in hell if they disagreed.

The poll that we have shows most Americans think that the feeding tube removal was an act of mercy.

So what do you tell somebody who disagrees with the orthodoxy that maybe Terri Schiavo is better off, you know, where she is right now?

FATHER TOM HARTMAN, "THE GOD SQUAD" CO-HOST: Well, I believe she is better off where she is now. Ever since I was a little boy I was taught by my parents that we live in this world and we frequently have to suffer, but then we're going to go to God's world and that's going to be a lot better.

Recently my family experienced this. My dad for a year was in the hospital. His right leg was frozen. And over the course of the year it took a lot out of all of us, including my dad.

But we knew that maybe this was his point where he would and we would have a chance to say certain things to each other and then prepare him for the next world. He is better off.

O'REILLY: All right. But should I feel guilty, not I personally, but anybody who says the right-to-lifers were wrong, this was way blown out of proportion. Terri Schiavo sat there for 15 years with no response, and the courts did the right thing in removing it? Would that be a bad thing to think?

HARTMAN: Well, I think a lot of people today would say that you feed animals. You feed children. You feed people who are in hospitals. Why not feed this young lady?

O'REILLY: All right. So you would encourage that line of thought.

How about you, Rabbi? Is somebody saying to you, you know, "I feel relieved that Terri Schiavo — I think the courts did the right thing?"

RABBI MARC GELLMAN, "THE GOD SQUAD" CO-HOST: Well, I don't think there's any reason to feel badly about a woman who's been freed from a horrible and debilitating illness, a disability, really.

But the problem is, Bill, that there's two ways to be freed from such a state. One is to let nature take its course and to remove obstacles to death, and the other is to actively end the person's life. ' Now this isn't just theory. In this case it's a very human, personal thing that many of our families have to struggle with. The question here is, is feeding, is hydration, food and water, even administered through a feeding tube, is that something that is part of our normal love and care for a dying person, or is that like a heart/lung machine or a respirator?

O'REILLY: Well, after 15 years it's certainly extraordinary, but I'm not going to go further than that.

Was Michael Schiavo wrong here, Rabbi? If you counseled Michael Schiavo would you have said to him, "Let your wife live"?

GELLMAN: Absolutely I would. First of all, he's gone on with his life. He has another family. He has two children. And there's the presence of loving people who want to take care of their daughter.

O'REILLY: All right. So you would say hold back, hold back, go on with your life. Let the Schindler family do what they want to do.

How about you, father? Would you have advised him to do that?

HARTMAN: Definitely. We should be good to people who are dying, because they're getting ready to meet God. He didn't put forth his best, in my estimation.

O'REILLY: What if he said to you, "Father, you have no right to say that. My wife told me she didn't want to live under these circumstances"?

HARTMAN: Well, then it seems to me as though why did it take him seven years to discover that in his mind?

O'REILLY: You would have questioned him closely on his motivation and why things unfolded the way they did?

HARTMAN: Yes.

O'REILLY: You would not have believed him like the ACLU did right off the bat?

HARTMAN: No, I wouldn't.

GELLMAN: Bill, there's a...

O'REILLY: Go ahead, Rabbi.

GELLMAN: That's the connection that I think is really at the heart of the disagreement here. It isn't just a question of who has the right. It's what's right and wrong here.

And the connection to the abortion question is so obvious...

O'REILLY: We don't know that.

GELLMAN: And that is here was — well, wait. But here it is. Here's a woman who had an alternative, that someone was willing to care for her. In the case of a fetus with adoption there's an alternative.

O'REILLY: Absolutely.

GELLMAN: Someone's willing to care. So that's where the connection goes.

O'REILLY: We said this here from the very beginning: no downside to allowing that family to care for that woman, period.

Gentlemen, thanks very much. Always a pleasure to talk with you guys.

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