The Profound Effect of Terri's Death on America

The death of Terri Schiavo has had a profound effect on America: that is the subject of this evening's "Talking Points Memo" and also the aim of our reporting this evening.

Most of us have already said prayers for Terri Schiavo (search) and the people who love her. We hope the bitterness between Michael Schiavo (search) and the Schindler family will now be put aside, but we doubt that will happen.

In just a few moments, we'll examine the charge that Mr. Schiavo kept Terri's brother and sister from her bedside while she died but that's the kind of bad blood that's still in play.

Now all over America, people have chosen sides, which is your right to do. "Talking Points" hopes that you base your opinion on provable facts, not speculation and emotion. New scientific poll by FOX News/Opinion Dynamics indicates the following.

When asked what removing the feeding tube was, 54 percent of Americans said it was an act of mercy. Twenty-nine percent believe it was murder. And 18 percent could not answer the question.

If you were in Terri's place, would you want the feeding tube removed? Sixty-one percent say yes. The tube to stay in? Twenty-four percent.

Could Terri have improved over time? Twenty-three percent believe she would have improved over time. Sixty percent say no improvement. Sixteen percent are not sure.

Who would you choose as Terri's guardian? Forty-six percent say Michael Schiavo. Forty-thee percent — almost a dead heat — say her parents.

And do you believe Terri told her husband she did not want to live under those circumstances? Forty-three percent say they believe she did tell him that. Twenty-five percent do not believe it. Thirty-two percent are not sure.

So, what happens now? Well, there will be an autopsy. And the results will be heavily scrutinized by the state of Florida. A lot of people have a lot to lose if Terri's brain is found functional in any way. So don't expect the autopsy results anytime soon.

Then Terri will be cremated because Michael Schiavo legally makes that call. His decision to deny her a Catholic funeral will, again, make him look bad. We hope Mr. Schiavo reconsiders and allows the funeral mass. Then Terri can be cremated as allowed by Catholic law.

As "Talking Points" said early on in the case, there aren't any winners here. Everybody is lost in one way or another. But the implications for America are very important. And tonight, we will analyze those implications using straight talk and common sense.

And that's "The Memo."

The Most Ridiculous Item of the Day

Time now for "Most Ridiculous Item of the Day"...

I want to send a big thank you to Mary Dirstein who teaches reading to seventh graders at the Camick school in Huntington, West Virginia.

Mary has incorporated "The O'Reilly Factor for Kids" into her curriculum, giving her students some perspective as well as some reading skills.

Also this week, the publishing industry magazine "Publishers Weekly (search)" put out its best-selling books for 2004, and "The Factor for Kids" was number eight even though the book came out in October. We only had three months. We'd been out all year, we might have beaten "Lemony Snicket." What is it with this "Lemony Snicket?" To beat him might have been ridiculous. I don't even know what that is...