Monday, March 21, 2005

One Additional Schiavo Thought

There's an old saying among lawyers that "hard cases make bad law." We rarely see a case like the Schiavo mess, and when we do it seems to bring out the worst in everyone involved-- judges, lawyers, journalists, commentators.

Honestly, this is a terribly hard case. No one really knows what Terry Schiavo would want. But if she is killed, what precedent does that set? Once it's settled that others can decide for Terry what quality of life she would want (or the quality of life society finds acceptable for her) just how slippery does that slope become? What other lives will we decide are not worth preserving, and how will we draw the line?

Pro-euthanasia types will shake their heads and say those are questions only an alarmist would ask.

I respond: Answer the questions.

UPDATE: Peggy Noonan offers her usual thoughtful views. So does James Q. Wilson (link requires subscription). Here is an excerpt from Wilson's piece:

[The] moral imperative should be that medical care cannot be withheld from a person who is not brain dead and who is not at risk for dying from an untreatable disease in the near future. To do otherwise makes us recall Nazi Germany where retarded people and those with serious disabilities were "euthanized" (that is, killed). We hear around the country echoes of this view in the demands that doctors be allowed to participate, as they do in Oregon, in physician-assisted suicide, whereby doctors can end the life of patients who request death and have less than six months to live. This policy endorses the right of a person to end his or her life with medical help. It is justified by the alleged success of this policy in the Netherlands.

But it has not been a success in the Netherlands. In that country there have been well over 1,000 doctor-induced deaths among patients who had not requested death, and in a large fraction of those cases the patients were sufficiently competent to have made the request had they wished.

This is not a matter of crazy religious zealots refusing to see reality. There are real issues here.


Anonymous Anonymous said... 

Posted by GC

Monday, March 21, 2005 11:39:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lowell, after reading the GAL report prepared for Gov. Bush in '03, these are my answers as I see them. Please be kind, I am not an attorney.

"But if she is killed, what precedent does that set?"

None. Florida law was sufficient to deal with the situation as it occured before it became muddled by numerous actions attempting to thwart it.

"Once it's settled that others can decide for Terry what quality of life she would want (or the quality of life society finds acceptable for her) just how slippery does that slope become?"

It doesn't change. The court already ruled on the clarity of Terry's unwritten but well known wishes. I think, the real mistake is injecting 'society's' wishes into what should have remained a personal matter. To me this is akin to the decline of the rule of contract in our own law.

"What other lives will we decide are not worth preserving, and how will we draw the line"

I cannot answer this question. I am not bestowed with the power to judge. In my opinion, this is best left un-codeified so it can be dealt with individually, by families. If that had remained the case with Terry, we wouldn't have the problem we have now. 

Posted by Matthew Peek

Monday, March 21, 2005 5:17:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hedgehog: I don't see this as a hard case. Ms. Schiavo's not brain dead, there are people willing to take care of her, there's no dispositive writing, and the judge is withdrawing nutrition and hydration, not artificial support of a vital system. Err on the side of saving the life, not taking it. Jeesh, that's not hard!
p.s. heard you on Hugh Hewitt today -- insightful comments! 

Posted by Steve Lambert

Monday, March 21, 2005 6:26:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I find it compelling that the Congress has an “oversight” function that applies to the courts. It’s been argued that the Constitutional protections of life, have been flouted by the courts, specifically, Judge Greer in this case.

Judge Greer, relying heavily upon the testimony of witnesses who actively pursue a “right to die” agenda, has given Michael Schiavo complete power over Terri’s life, including power to block definitive testing to determine the extent of brain damage and now removal of her feeding tube.

This judge has defied the elected representatives of the State of Florida State, the governor of Florida, and the Congress of the United States and their subpoena powers, insisting upon his jurisdiction and rulings. Important evidence of physical abuse has been suppressed, and claims of therapeutic progress toward rehabilitation have been ignored.

The judge has been backed in his application of the law by appellate judges, but he has blocked or ignored any investigation of the facts in the case beyond what is involved in his own court. Now, under his authority, Terri Schiavo is to be brutally starved to death; deprived of food and water to sustain normal bodily functions, not “life support.”

This “legal homicide” is what prompted the Congress to step in once more to reaffirm her rights to a fair trial. It’s time the pubic take off the blinders and recognize the extent of abuse that is allowed to occur when judicial arrogance remains unchecked.

Posted by RLG

Tuesday, March 22, 2005 1:49:00 AM  

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