Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Quick Hits--UPDATED

All about Terri Schiavo, as you might imagine:

1) This weekend, I heard the proposed "exit strategy" for poor Terri described as murder. I hasten to disagree, strictly in a legal sense. "Murder" implies wrongfulness, and that just doesn't exist here. If it can be proven (beyond a reasonable doubt) at some point in the future that Michael Schiavo's intentions are less than commendable, than he may very well have to face a murder rap. Or at least a "contempt" charge for his testimony in the hearing that Judge Greer held. BUT UNTIL THAT PROOF EXISTS, this is not a wrongful death. Tragic, gutwrenching and totally avoidable, yes; wrongful, no.

(As an aside, if Terri expires for any reason that is preventable with the treatment she was receiving as recently as last week, I would not be surprised if Michael has civil action initiated on him.)

2) Some have quipped that the manner of death currently facing Terri is "cruel and unusual". . .the problem is that no protections exist against such TREATMENT. The 8th amendment affords protections against cruel and unusual PUNISHMENTS--and over two centuries of case law, almost every decision has dealt with the rights of the incarcerated or those not "civilly" free (my phrase that has its roots in historical decisions). Not much in the way of nursing home problems, health care decisions. . .and situations such as Terri's.

And by-the-bye, IF prolonged life in a vegetative state actually IS against Terri's wishes, then what the Schindler family is proposing to do IS cruel and unusual also. The problem here stems from the fact that WE DON'T KNOW WHAT TERRI WOULD WANT TO HAVE DONE TO HER LIFE!

3) It is easy to create an impassioned defense in the name of Terri's life. It is simple to see that a) she is alive; b) the measures that are taken to keep her alive are not overly dramatic; and c) that there are people willing to care for her, even in her "state". It is not so easy to create a defense for her husband's stance.

But that doesn't make it wrong.

First, no one can PROVE that he is acting improperly in accordance with what TERRI WOULD HAVE WANTED DONE. And lets not forget--what we're looking for here is a resolution MOST LIKELY to be the same one that Terri would have chosen.

Secondly, how ticked off would you be if our living will (if you have one, which you ABSOLUTELY SHOULD) were contested by ANY PARTY. I would like to think if I ended up in a PVS that my wishes, as expressed either to my loved ones or in writing, would not be challenged by anyone, even family members who might wish a different fate for me. To be honest with you, my family's agenda doesn't mean squat--MY will is the focus of debates such as this. And I have yet to hear--in fact, the argument has yet to be made compellingly--that Michael is not acting in accordance with Terri's wishes.

Thirdly, and I hate to say this but it's got to be said: this is about more than one life. At this point, this issue is about how our government proceeds in the face of challenging situations. While there are clearly times when the Federal Government needs to exercise its oversight of the state's responsibilities, there has been no evidence submitted that either: a) Florida's laws are unconstitutional, incomplete, or otherwise lacking with regards to the rights they extend to the state's citizens; or b) that Michael has acted outside the reach of those state laws. While the law in Florida--and possibly in other states--may need to be CHANGED to reflect the current mindset of the citizenry, there are procedures in place to do that. Those procedures are not, nor should they be, a federal law designed for one-time use that calls into question (or totally overrules) other fully-legal statutes of that state's laws.

And for the record: it's always about more than one life. While it is easy to decry these proceedings as harmful to Terri's LIFE (not her WILL or her RIGHTS, mind you--just her life), government has a responsibility to act in a manner most appropriate for ALL of its citizens. As such, there is no such thing as a non-precedent-setting piece of legislation. And the precedents set yesterday are, as I have detailed before, NOT the kind that I believe should be set.

UPDATED to change an inadvertent wording error in paragraph one.


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