Skip to comments.Schiavo case deserves less-reckless handling
Posted on 11/01/2003 11:04:56 AM PST by Future Useless Eater
Saturday, Nov 01, 2003
In this week's latest development in the Terri Schiavo case, attorneys for husband Michael Schiavo filed a brief challenging the constitutionality of "Terri's Law," the hurriedly enacted state measure empowering Gov. Jeb Bush to keep the severely brain-damaged woman alive. Now the case is perhaps the most visible, bitterly contentious and exhaustively protracted right-to-die drama since Karen Ann Quinlan's in 1978. It exemplifies the personal, medical, legal, political, ethical and religious components that make end-of-life decisions so complicated.
The problem is in the first instance a family disagreement, more emotional in nature than medical or legal. The issue is, in part, the claims of blood relatives in conflict with those of the spouse. The distrust between Michael and the parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, is profound and produces different interpretations of Terri's condition. While the Schindlers believe it is realistic to continue rehab procedures, Michael thinks such efforts are futile and that it is against Terri's wishes to remain on life support in what appears to be a persistent vegetative state.
The Schindlers and Terri's brother and sister have made videos in which Terri appears to be smiling, moaning, responding to her mother's speech and even following a balloon with her eyes. They are "cautiously optimistic" concerning her recovery. Most neurologists, however, judge such facial expressions to be involuntary and not real evidence of thinking or experiencing on the part of the patient. Apparently most physicians think successful rehabilitation is unlikely.
State laws and courts tend to grant the spouse the authority to make life-and-death decisions. Michael Schiavo had such authority from Florida courts, authority now effectively removed by the Florida Legislature.
The bill is constitutionally questionable, but that has not been a problem for the majority of our legislators of late. Legislative restraint is not a predominant attribute of either the House or the Senate, although the Senate often comes closer to being a truly deliberative body. Terri's feeding tube was removed by court order. So the Legislature actually is trying to undo judicial action. Some Florida legislators believe the bill blatantly violates the separation of the executive and legal branches. So do a number of legal scholars.
Politically the bill apparently was initiated by the joint efforts of Bush and House Speaker Johnnie Byrd. Bush is on record as siding with the Schindlers. One spin is that Bush asked Byrd to take up the bill during the special session on economic development, another that the idea was really Byrd's from the beginning. Byrd certainly is willing to take credit for the action.
Please note, finally, that conservative Christians were influential in getting the bill passed. Randall Terry, founder of Operation Rescue and veteran antiabortion demonstrator, played a prominent role in behalf of the Schindlers. He officiated at prayer vigils outside Terri Schiavo's hospice and publicly demonized Michael Schiavo. He warned that if Bush did not halt the death, he could be compared to Pontius Pilate. One hopes that the politicians did not cynically vote for the bill, counting on the courts to reject it as unconstitutional, all as a way of currying favor with the religious right.
So here we are. Senate President Jim King, while passing out application forms for living wills, said, "I really do hope that we've done the right thing." Two observations:
* If the Legislature did the right thing, it was in spite of not having time to engage in thoughtful analysis and careful deliberation.
* Those who are absolutely certain they know all the answers in this case simply are not acquainted with the complexity of the issues.
Playing God ain't no bed of roses.
Leo Sandon is Distinguished Teaching Professor emeritus of religion and American studies at Florida State.
E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org
There is a great deal more info HERE: Professor Appointed to Probe Schiavo Case, regarding her 'Jeb Bush ordered' new Guardian Ad Litem appointment, and why Terri is not comatose, and not in 'permanant vegetative state', but is actually being murdered by her husband. - a MUST read!
Her doctor wrote:
Vocalizing when prone in P.T.[physical therapy, she] Occasionally will say "STOP" to nursing during procedures.
I'm not sure that "right-to-die" is the best way to charachterize this case.
Well, DUH!!!!! When the judiciary is completely out of control, somebody's got to do it!
Ain't it the truth? So maybe you be acquainting yourself with more of the facts instead spewing your ignorant opinion about the authority of the legislature or lack thereof?
"Playing God ain't no bed of roses."
Yeah, well, I guess you should know.
This contradicts the notion that Terri should be killed only in honor of her supposed wish.
The "right to die" is all about what the spouse wants now?
I hope you know that when you respond to quotes in an article posted by a Freeper, you are responding to the AUTHOR of the article, and not to the actual freeper (me).
I'm not offended. I knew what you meant, but others would not have understood.
(p.s. the author's email was in the article... you can tell him directly, but I think if you read the whole thing carefully, he's on 'our side'. He sounds like a recent convert, who just came around grudgingly to realize Terri is not a tomato)
Well, of COURSE I know that. I assumed that you knew I knew that. I know you're one of the good guys!
Sorry if you misunderstood.
The problem is this, IMHO....to stop "extraordinary" measures requires written instructions from the patient.
Absent this, there needs to be a consensus opinion that faciliating death is what the patient would want.
Both the written instructions and consensus are missing in Terri's case.
How would anyone want the State to choose death over life under these legal conditions?
For Christians, even supposed wishes, written or otherwise, might be considered a form of suicide. Playing with our own fate seems to me to be possilbly taking things from God's hands. Just a thought.
Exactly the point.
Even if Terri had a written "living will" stating she would rather die than live in a handicapped state, such wishes could not be respected by law.
The right to life is an unalienable right. Since unalienable means "incapable of being surrendered or transferred," a person cannot terminate his own right to live. So long as America stands on its foundation of unalienable, God-given rights, there can be no right to suicide. Sadly, abortion has numbed the American conscience against the absolute protection of rights and life.
One disturbing thing about the Terri Schiavo case is that it goes beyond even the "right to die," and uses the same language to order a handicapped woman to death. This shows the inevitable consequence of the right to die, when that "right" becomes a order.
No person can have that kind of power, not even over himself.
Florida Law does not require written instructions if there is "clear and compelling evidence". This allowance is not an unreasonable one for legislators to have made--after all, a videotape of someone expressing a desire to have someone discontinue feeding would not be "written" but could still be considered "clear and compelling". The problem is that Judge George Greer is willing to consider vague and contested hearsay as "clear and compelling" evidence.
Perhaps legislators need to add a few explicit provisions:
In the latter case, it seems unconstitutional to me. Thanks for pointing that out.
Florida law...and the rest of the 49 states... should.
How can anything less in questions of life or death be acceptable?
No it is not!
Sure they can, because it is their choice regarding medical treatment. It's a choice just the same as any decision made regarding other goods and services offered in the marketplace. It involves Free will and is a gift from God, just as life is. There is no one that has the right to interfere with those decisions.
"For Christians, even supposed wishes, written or otherwise, might be considered a form of suicide. Playing with our own fate seems to me to be possilbly taking things from God's hands."
It is not suicide, it is the refusal to partake of the goods and services someone else is pushing. It's an exercise in Free will. Free will is a gift from God, just as life is. He does not interfere with it either before , or after death in these matters. Just as God honors a persons decisions, based on the reasons given, so should everyone else.
Suicide is killing yourself on purpose, when you would not otherwise die, or have to rely on the constant care of technologically competent others and their machines to live.
Leo Sandon is Distinguished Teaching Professor
Seems to me that a Distinguished Teaching Professor could learn to use better English.
BTW, have you noticed the keywords. There are a couple there that are mocking the Terri supporters. Such class, choosing to fight the fight behind a curtain!!
There are certain circumstances where written instructions would not be practical, but where the will of a person not to be sustained is made clear beyond any reasonable doubt. There should be some legal procedure to deal with such cases. If judges could be relied upon to exercise reasonable judgement, this issue wouldn't be a problem; as it is, I think legislators need to be a little bit more explicit about what things may be acceptable and what things are not.
Among other things, if someone has left written instructions that they do not wish to be fed by G-tube, but they are verbally requesting otherwise, should the written instructions take precedence? Or should there be some means of accepting oral statements in such a case?
Indeed. My point is that Terri's case doesn't so much show a problem in the law, so much as it shows a problem with a lawless judiciary. Even if the law had required "right-to-die" wishes to be "written", all that would have meant would be that Michael would have had to crudely forge something. Given a suitably cooperative judge like Greer, even a note which was obviously written in Michael's handwriting could have sufficed; if Greer declared it authentic and ignored any evidence to the contrary, the situation would be even worse for Terri than it is now.
No, it is contrary to American justice to kill the disabled, even with their consent prior to becoming disabled. Otherwise, we would have to concede one of the following two things:
Regarding point number two, if all persons hold equal rights, and we grant the disabled the right to be terminated at their wish, all persons must be allowed that right. Society would have to accept a universal right to suicide.
The point I made earlier was that such a right to suicide cannot exist so long as the right to life is considered unalienable. Unalienable rights cannot be surrendered or transferred. This means, paradoxically, that unalienable rights restrain our freedom, in that they prohibit the surrender of our rights. Following this logic, there can be no right to suicide under the American creed.
So yes, you could go out in the marketplace and hire somebody to kill you, Dr. Kevorkian-style, but realize that such a choice cannot be accepted in American society for everyone else's protection.
You are exaggerating. This is about killing people, it's about refusing med services. The fact is I've done that more than once. I'm obviously not dead as I was told I would be and I'm also not crippled as I was assured I would be. I've also refused it on occasion in my daughter's case. She is fine and never was in danger as the docs claimed. In fact in all docs really had to offer is lifelong crippling injury, by allowing their intervention.
You see in the end all the docs have to offer in these cases considered here is a suspention of life in some unnatural stage of death. Some people don't want to be suspended in the middle of dying. That is the essence of the topic and it does not include killing disabled folks.
Read Father Murphy's testimony." It will give you the proper perspective and the relevant scenario.
Denying any person food and water both orally and by gastrototomy (note that Michael has explicitly blocked any efforts at oral feeding/hydration for Terri) will kill them. Not 50% of the time, not 95% of the time, but 100% of the time.
Should we release from prison all those who have been accused of fatally starving their children, on the basis that they didn't kill them--they merely "let them die"?
Some people quit eating when they're dying. The only way to get them to eat is to force it and that's wrong. Folks honoring a dying man's wishes that everyone else just leave him alone is good. It's the right thing to do.
" and by gastrototomy"
Gastrotomy is a recent life support invention. I happen to live 20 east of the old fort Crawford where gastrotomy was discovered during the war of 1812, I think. I forgot the exact account, but it's at the Ft. Crawford medical museum.
"(note that Michael ..."
The topic was general, I was not addressing any specific case. If the person doesn't want med services, or any "help", then everyone else is obliged to honor the request.
I think the rehabilitation issue is a red herring. What I mean is that Terri has a right to life whether or not she can be "rehabilitated".
I wish you were right. Unfortunately, my post #31 is no exaggeration. This is a right-to-die, euthanasia case. It is not about medical choices, it is about killing a person.
Terri is a handicapped individual whose only dependency is food (like the rest of us). There is no proof that she wants to die, other than her husband's word, which is compromised by his severe conflict of interest.
You say this is about medical choice. Since Terri has no ability to make medical decisions, I can only assume you feel the husband has absolute power over his wife's care, even to the point of forcibly ending her life. The only medical choice here is Michael Schiavo's choice to have his wife killed. He could just as easily keep her alive, to the joy of her parents, and marry the woman he's been living with. Instead, he is seeking to end Terri's life.
Terri is not terminally ill. Remember, her only dependency is food. Her husband wants to withhold that necessity of life in order to cause her death.
My assertion is that no person can lawfully make that decision for another person.
My other assertion is that no person can lawfully make that decision for himself.
As I stated previously, even if Terri had specified in writing or recording a desire to be killed rather than live mentally handicapped, society should not honor that wish. To allow that right would mean that handicapped people have less protection under law. Either that, or it would mean that all persons have the right to suicide, even if they are healthy. Such a thing cannot be permitted under the American concept of justice and rights.
This is an entirely different issue than simply refusing medical care. In fact, I support you in making your own medical decisions, provided this does not mean supporting a right to intentionally commit suicide. I think we should put our lives in God's hands, and let the Lord take us as He sees fit.
I wish you well.
No it is not. The insertion of a feeding tube is medical care.
" In fact, I support you in making your own medical decisions, provided this does not mean supporting a right to intentionally commit suicide."
I have an absolute right to refuse medical care period. That goes for anyone. My right doesn't depend on your blessing, or your exaggerated and misguided view of what suicide is. Evidently you didn't resd Father Murphy's testimony.
" I think we should put our lives in God's hands, and let the Lord take us as He sees fit."
No you really don't. You're determined to dictate what God want's and force it. If you were really interested in God's thoughts on the matter, you'd be concerned about His gift and the concept of Free will and consider your attempt to usurp that will.
" Unfortunately, my post #31 is no exaggeration. This is a right-to-die, euthanasia case. It is not about medical choices, it is about killing a person."
My first post to you was in general, not about this specific case. You are wrong about RTD and euthanasia. This is about killing the person though. The central points in this case are that there is no clear indication of what Terri's will is and the docs lied to cover up the fact that she can indicate what her will really is. She's not in PVS as the said, she's aware , conscious, responsive and appears to be generally happy. This is a simple conspiracy to violate her rights. A conspiacy fed by money.
"Terri is not terminally ill.
She was unnaturally suspended at some point during her death. A death that normally comes within minutes, for a case such as hers. It is entirely reasonable that some folks don't want to be suspended in such a state.
I've been privy to about 30 cases like this. Most folks have a spouse that really considers their wishes. In the abscence of a spouse, they chose someone they trusted to act as proxy. That means they chose someone that would fight all attempts by others to violate their will. In these cases though, those that wished to violate their will were told to leave by the one refusing treatment, bith before and after they regained consciousness. The appearances of "conflicts of interest" appeared in those cases too. They were not real considerations though, because the patient's rights and will were always the guiding rule.
spunkets: "No it is not. The insertion of a feeding tube is medical care."
Yes, a feeding tube is medical care, but there is no proof Terri ever refused that medical care. There is no evidence Terri wants to die!
In the absence of that evidence, you cannot claim this is a case about medical choice. Terri has made no choice, and her estranged husband has too great a conflict of interest to make life-and-death decisions in her behalf.
Even without that conflict of interest, Michael Schiavo still would have no right to kill his wife. Further, even if Terri could request it, she would have no right to kill herself. There is no right to suicide. She is not near death, and is not terminally ill. All she needs is food. At this time, she requires special help to eat, but that does not diminish her right to live.
Suicide is the willful killing of self when, without that action, you would otherwise live. Murder and homicide are the same, only done by others to you. Both imply an interference with the will of God. God alone has the right to choose who lives and who dies. Even death by intentional starvation would qualify as suicide/murder/homicide, since it goes against the laws of nature that God has set in place for our survival.
You speak as though there was something wrong with Terri being snatched from the jaws of death. No doubt she was, as you said, "unnaturally suspended at some point during death." Yes, without medical intervention, she would have died on the floor of her house. The medics undoubtedly saved her life. Since then, she has been supplied with a feeding tube. You are absolutely right that the feeding tube is keeping her alive. Without food, anyone would die.
To follow the logic of your thesis (that death should not be unnaturally suspended), human intervention should not save someone who is dying. No effort should be made to resuscitate heart attack victims. Drowning victims should be left to drown. The Heimlich maneuver should never be employed. Paraplegics should die. Burn victims should not be saved. The course of all events leading to death should continue without human intervention.
But under the laws of the land, this would be negligent homicide. Under the laws, each person is assumed to hold the responsibility to preserve the life of others. Why is this? Because of our Judeo-Christian ethic of respect for life; because that person dying has the same unalienable right to life as yourself, and God will hold us accountable if we choose not to preserve that life.
To quote Dr. Daniel Eisenberg, a teacher of medical ethics, It is not within our moral jurisdiction to decide what quality of life is not worth living and therefore unworthy of treatment. (http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/f-news/1013422/posts)
Again, that decision belongs to God alone. When He wants to take Terri, no amount of human intervention can ultimately prevent His will.
spunkets: I have an absolute right to refuse medical care period.
Now, you see, that is a different matter than debating the life of Terri Schiavo. You are in a position to choose. She is not.
Incidentally, your link to Father Murphys testimony does not work, so I had to find it cached on google. Father Murphy stated that a Catholic is not required to have a medical treatment if it is burdensome or useless. He then cited an example of a elderly woman who was dying of pneumonia who had "useless" medical intervention that only kept her alive for a few more weeks. To say that applies to Terri is apples and oranges. Terri is not terminally ill. There is no evidence of her wishes. The court unlawfully ordered Terris death. She would have died an artificial death by having the necessities of life intentionally withheld.
Notice also that Father Murphy used the term not required to have medical treatment. On the flip-side, that would mean he believes a Catholic is required against his will to have certain treatment when it is deemed useful by an expert. I would assume he would be against the right of the Jensen family to refuse chemotherapy. I believe in medical choice. Unlike Father Murphy, I would defend the Jensen familys right to refuse chemotherapy. Under most circumstances, no one is "required" to have any specific medical treatment when they are seeking an alternative.