Sunday, March 20, 2005

On Terri Schiavo. . .

First of all, if you have the patience to set aside your emotions for a minute and look at this amazing case through the law's eyes, go here.

It is the biggest news of the weekend, and I feel that I should comment. In fact, I have done such on my brother's site, where he posted on Friday night about this case. I responded, was rebuked (kindly), and again responded. But as I really looked into the case (through the website linked to above), I realized that even my understanding of the case as I was making my comments was not nearly complete. So here I will hope to put things clearly. . .or at least as clearly as things can be for me.

First and foremost, I have to ask the question: what would Terri do? If she had known 16 years ago that she was soon to be left in the state that she is now in (and has been in for 15 years), what would she have directed her loved ones to do? Of course, we don't know what she would have done. And that's where the "problem" begins.

This case is not about what the parents want to do to Terri, or what the husband wants to do to Terri--it's about what Terri would want to do to Terri. And of course the answer to that is open to debate--a debate that has even resulted in judicial involvement.

And when the judiciary got involved (in the form of the case being heard by a Judge Greer), they heard arguments presented by both sides. And then the judiciary got involved again to determine if Terri's condition was actually PVS (persistent vegetative state). Experts from both sides of the aisle were heard in that case also, and both sides presented their arguments to their own satisfaction.

The result of all this: the judiciary has ruled (in opposite order) that Terri is in a PVS; and that had she been able to address her condition herself, she would not have sought to use the measures currently in place to keep her alive. Those were the court's decisions, and those decisions have been upheld on appeal.

So now it comes back to Michael, Terri's husband. What does he do? Well, first it must be known that for the last several years, he has thought that Terri would not want to be the recipient of the measures that are in place. ALL HE HAS DONE IS ACT IN THE MANNER THAT HE THINKS TERRI WOULD HAVE WANTED. And while there may be an ulterior motive for his choice (the rumors fly like crazy that there's a money angle involved), there is NO EVIDENCE that Mr. Schiavo does not have Terri's interests--or at least her wishes--at the helm for the course he has chosen. That is why he does not seek divorce, or any other means to give guardianship of Terri to her family or to anyone else--he doesn't think that they
have HER wishes in mind. And the fact is that no EVIDENCE consists to the contrary--only wild innuendo.

What it has come down to: Terri currently does not have a feeding tube in her (as of Friday). Without the tube, she will die of starvation in 10 to 14 days. There are actions aplenty to change this state, and even the President is expected to move in a manner that returns the tube to Terri. But none of that has happened yet; as of this posting Terri is basically sentenced to death.

How do I feel about all this? Well, I am torn. First of all, I cannot possibly know what Terri would have wanted to do in this case. Ultimately, getting an outcome that is closest to her unknown wishes is what I hope is done--and who is to say that she would have wanted to have continued this long in a PVS, much less to continue in that state? In fact, the courts have determined otherwise, and her closest companion in life believes otherwise, so I am inclined to follow those determinations.

But this manner of death seems to be inhumane--even if not for Terri, then for all those who have fought for her life. I don't know what exact kind of "pain" she will feel, but I imagine that this is not the manner in which she would choose to expire simply because her loved ones will be absolutely devastated to watch her waste away. In short, I can't imagine that the current plan would be acceptable to her.

So what next? Can the question be changed so that it's not "would Terri like to be kept alive in this manner?" to "would Terri choose to have her life ended this way?"

I do know this much: I don't think that even the President is going to be able to save her. Not for the long term, at least.


Blogger Michael said...

Rational, logical, with the appropriate emphasis on the law, as best we understand it. I think I would have an easier time looking at it this way if not for the second part of your post. I got to that point a few days ago of trying to picture this manner of death. . .and that was the tipping point. I imagine that pictures will begin to trickle out over the next few days of an emaciated woman, and who can say what will happen after that?

3:22 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

As to the law, what does it exist for? Clearly, one of its functions is to act as protection for those who have no way to protect themselves--the ultimate expression of the rebuke of "might makes right." I wonder what parallel universe we've crossed over into where the "rights" of the system trump the rights of those it is designed to protect.

3:28 AM  
Blogger John said...

Neat question in response #2. All I can say is this: the law(s) at play at the heart of this matter have been challenged and upheld. While the result in this case may not be what the writers of the laws intended, the laws as they exist today leave a place for such developments. Really, the way to get around this is to have the state change it's law--Gov Bush was on the right trail but the specific legislation was faulty. I wonder why FL hasn't tried another law that met the requirements failed in the first try with Terri's law?

AND LEST WE FORGET: we do not know that Terri would've wanted to continue life in this manner. You speak of protections--the protection is to the RIGHTS of the person rather than to the LIFE of the person. (one of those rights, clearly, is the right to live--but another "right" is the right to choose not to receive medical treatment) Terri's rights have been left in place; it just so happens that they are being represented by a person (and now a court) that thinks she would choose against the treatments necessary to keep her alive.

How ironic that this real, life-and-death case has become (legally speaking) more about state's rights and the sanctity of separation of powers than about life.

6:11 AM  

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