Storming the Hospice

by Kieran Healy on March 24, 2005

Bloggers with more patience than me have been dealing with the tragic story of Terri Schiavo. Lindsay Beyerstein has been especially good. It’s clear that the Republican position on Schiavo is sheer grandstanding and hypocritical to boot. There’s plenty of evidence for this, what with President Bush’s signature on the Texas Futile Care Law and Bill Frist’s statements about Christopher Reeve and his support for harvesting organs from anencephalic children. And never mind the broader policy context where the fiscal means whereby people might support patients in persistent vegetative states—via Medicare and bankruptcy protection—are being hacked away. Now, via DC Media Girl, we have the icing on the cake. Some Fox News Pundit is thinking that Jeb Bush should just authorize a SWAT team to storm the hospice and get Terri Schiavo out:

Just to burnish my reputation as a bomb thrower, I think Jeb Bush should give serious thought to storming the Bastille. By that I mean he should think about telling his cops to go over to Terri Schiavo’s (search) hospice, go inside, put her on a gurney and load her into an ambulance. They could take her to a hospital, revive her, and reattach her feeding tube. … So Jeb, call out the troops, storm the Bastille and tell ‘em I sent you.

It’s our old friend, poetic justice as fairness. Two words, buddy: Elian Gonzalez.

{ 38 comments }

1

Thomas 03.24.05 at 10:31 pm

Is there some suggestion that Medicare/Medicaid isn’t paying the bills here? The government is, isn’t it? And there hasn’t been a move to cut off payments, has there? So, what’s the point? And what’s with the bankruptcy issue? Did a bankruptcy court order the termination of Terri’s care? Is anyone involved in this case bankrupt? No. Hasn’t there been sufficient discussion of the Texas Futile Care Law? Must it be re-hashed here, for Kieran’s comprehension? Is there an argument here? Or just another idiotic attempt at showing some sort of contradiction?

And yet there’s the gall to complain about grandstanding!

2

Sebastian Holsclaw 03.24.05 at 10:35 pm

Medicare is paying? I thought the settlement and her parents were paying.

3

Jon 03.24.05 at 11:07 pm

Medicare is paying? I thought the settlement and her parents were paying.

From news reports, it seems like Medicaid currently is paying some of her expenses, with some of the rest provided by free by her hospice. Eg, a Washington Post story calls her “possibly the highest-profile Medicaid patient.”

4

goesh 03.24.05 at 11:15 pm

A bit off subject, but Rowan over at Uncommon Thought comments on the hoopla and hype and showmanship of Bush & company over a single person, yet not even a peep of expressed sympathy over the massacre at Red Lake. Just a passing comment, but noted and dismaying never-the-less. Georgie rushes back to DC in the dead of the night to sign a bill but can’t tell some poor Natives that he is sorry for their losses.

5

KCinDC 03.24.05 at 11:17 pm

Apparently Thomas and Sebastian are following the standard Republican line that this is entirely about Terri Schiavo and any reference to other people in similar situations is completely irrelevant — as is any suggestion that there should be any consistency or method to our judgments in such cases.

(I guess the preview function is gone again.)

6

Kieran Healy 03.24.05 at 11:36 pm

Thomas, why can I say the Repubs are grandstanding? Easy:

1. Because it makes good TV for Bush to fly back from Crawford to DC, but that doesn’t change the fact that the futile care law Bush signed permits end-of-life decisions of the kind he now pretends to oppose.

2. Because the “diagnoses” and other comments made by Frist, DeLay and the like are disgraceful. It’s obvious they know nothing of Schaivo’s medical history or the determinations of her condition repeatedly made by experts and confirmed in court. Frist does actually know better, as his past arguments about organ transplants show, but he doesn’t care.

3. Because Schaivo is not the only person in the country in this position, sadly. There are many, many families who have to make care decisions for someone in a PVS. It happens all the time. An administration that really gave a damn about its “culture of life” wouldn’t be trying — via proposed Medicare cuts or bankruptcy “reform” — to make it more expensive and risky for families to take care of such people.

4. And because, in their self-righteousness, wingnuts like our Fox News friend are happy to toss aside clear legal procedure, the careful determinations of independent experts, and the personal knowledge of the next-of-kin in order to score a few points.

That’s why they’re grandstanding hypocrites. It’s not complicated. And it won’t go away no matter how many rhetorical questions you ask, or how much you wave your hand and yell “No, _you_ are the one grandstanding!”

7

Thomas 03.25.05 at 12:34 am

Kieran, I wasn’t yelling. But your response is nothing but (another) series of non sequiturs.

Bush’s signature on a Texas bill, without more, doesn’t tell us anything. You haven’t offered more; in particular, you haven’t offered any reason for thinking there’s any connection between the changes wrought by the bill he signed and the Schiavo case.

Your suggestion that Frist knows better because of his monstrous transplant argument is almost too much to believe. Can we take this as your endorsement of using the disabled as resources? How does showing that Frist’s position has changed (or is otherwise inconsistent) tell us anything about DeLay’s position, or about the merits either way?

You don’t have any evidence for your suggestion that Medicare “cuts” or bankruptcy reform have anything to do with care for patients in PVS, do you? Do you even have anecdotes? Nothing? You can do better than that, can’t you? And, not to be too picky, but aren’t you thinking of “cuts” in Medicaid, not Medicare? That would seem more relevant, since it is Medicaid that typically pays for nursing home expenses likely to be incurred by a patient in a PVS.

The legal procedure is clear enough, that’s for sure. But that hasn’t anything to do with the “careful determinations of independent experts.” And, please, be careful with words: Terri Schiavo’s next of kin is not her husband, but her parents (the phrase refers to a blood relationship), and you and the court are the ones insisting that their personal knowledge be thrown aside.

Other than that, we’re enjoying the show.

8

Keith DeRose 03.25.05 at 12:46 am

I saw Mr. Gibson’s rant. Along the same lines, here’s our old pal, Pat Buchanan on Wednesday’s Hardball, ( http://msnbc.msn.com/id/7286474/ )giving advice to both of the Bush boys, but focussing on W:

PAT BUCHANAN: What George Bush ought to do right now is send federal marshals in and pick up Terri Schiavo and put that breathing tube back into her—excuse me, the food and hydration tube back into her, as this is taken up to the United States Supreme Court. He took an oath, Chris, to defend the Constitution of the United States. He has got an obligation, as well as these judges do, to defend that Constitution. And that means to protect this woman‘s life.

MATTHEWS: What happened to the 10th Amendment?

BUCHANAN: Look, the 10th Amendment has been dead as a door nail, Chris.

MATTHEWS: Well, it‘s our Constitution.

BUCHANAN: The point is, the president of the United States—there‘s a woman dying, sentenced to death because she‘s brain-damaged. She‘s committed no crime. She‘s having food and water denied to her. That is a violation of human rights and the president of the United States has an opportunity, as does the governor of Florida, to step in as executives and act.

And from a bit later, we get this, which gets just a little scary:

MATTHEWS: I want Pat to back up what you suggested.

BUCHANAN: Sure.

MATTHEWS: If the president of the United States sends federal marshals into that town down there in Florida.

BUCHANAN: Takes her.

MATTHEWS: Grabs her, put her—takes control of her body, I guess, takes control of her, under what authority?

BUCHANAN: He does it. He‘s a—look, a woman is…

MATTHEWS: Under what authority of the law?

BUCHANAN: I‘m president of the United States. I have got to upheld the Constitution. An American citizen is being put to death by a judge in a wrongful decision. I think it‘s wrong.

Jefferson threw out—he put every—let everybody out of prison. Jefferson said, I‘m not prosecuting anybody under the Alien and Sedition Act. Action, Chris, creates consensus. What do you think Congress would do? They would accept it. The president then should send a law to Congress saying, look, when you have a case where parents, husband and a woman who is simply brain-damaged, we do not put them to death in the United States.

(CROSSTALK)

MATTHEWS: And, in other words, the president can do what he wants to do.

9

Keith DeRose 03.25.05 at 12:53 am

If that’s the kind of advice Buchanan gave to Nixon back in the day, that can explain a few things…

10

Jon H 03.25.05 at 1:45 am

thomas writes: “Bush’s signature on a Texas bill, without more, doesn’t tell us anything. You haven’t offered more; in particular, you haven’t offered any reason for thinking there’s any connection between the changes wrought by the bill he signed and the Schiavo case.”

It’s quite clear.

Bush signed a bill that lets Texas hospitals kill patients like Terry Schiavo when the patient’s caregivers run out of money. Turn em off. Pull out the feeding tube.

Ergo, by his own actions, it is clear that his true position is that the culture of life comes a distant second to the culture of cash.

Were the preservation of life truly his guiding principle, he would have signed a bill that required continued treatment and provided funding for the care of the indigent.

11

Katherine 03.25.05 at 2:31 am

She is not being executed. That is wrong on so many levels. Since when is the U.S. right so completely unable to differentiate between:

–acts and omissions
–government and private action

12

bad Jim 03.25.05 at 5:00 am

It’s interesting that the consensus opinion, at least in the U.S., is to let her die. Her survival is an unintended triumph of technology, the practical implications of which a great many of us have had to consider, over and over, as our parents and aquaintances dwindle away.

13

abb1 03.25.05 at 5:07 am

I like this story – from the political angle. I think the Democrats played it just right. This is going to hunt the Repubs for years now, every time a hospital wants to disconnect someone from life-supprt for not paying the bill, or Medicate/Medicare wants to stop paying for untreatable conditions, like MS – sanctimonious Republican pigs are going to take a well deserved beating.

14

Jack 03.25.05 at 5:10 am

Thomas, have you read the links? For example on the connection between futile care and the Schiavo case the idea is pretty obvious. The law, signed by Bush and prevalent in DeLay’s home state would allow exactly the action in dispute in the Schiavo case. The relevance of that observation seems pretty obvious but in any case is made in quite detailed fashion in the link provided. Do you think there is a major difference between the two situations that is being missed? Since Kieran has actually made an effort on tis point would you mind either being explicit about what Kieran has omitted to do, or preferably point out what actually reveals that President Bush has not in fact taken the extraordinary measure of passing a law in the middle of the night to overturn the ruling of a state court because he believes it breaches a principle that is breached in exactly the same way in a law that he and his chief supporter in this allowed in their own state?

Also I realise that Crooked Timber is a very good blog but in what sense is Kieran’s interest in the matter equivalent to the behaviour of the US legislature and executive in this case?

Finally, according to the BBC this morning, the vigorous medical intervention to help the pope is causing consternation in catholic circles because the pope has been an advocate of allowing nature to take its course. That would suggest that even the catholic Church would not have a problem with withdrawing food in the Schiavo case.

15

DJW 03.25.05 at 5:38 am

This is the latest in a series of events in which the left is largely a bystander without much real interest: Waco (face it, there aren’t many FBI agents who vote Democratic), Lewinsky, Elian Gonzales, heck, even gay marriage was — and still is — a weak backburner issue for most liberals.

The wonder that is the Republican party today manages to take both sides in all of these issues, with half the party’s faithful voting against their own best interests, and the party still holds together. They grandstand on the flashy side of an issue (Schiavo) while letting the accute, vital issue for millions (fixing Medicare) quietly starve from inattention.

The Democrats desperately need to start beating a message reminding voters of Republican hypocrasy. In 2006, the Democrats have got to offer a candidate in every congressional district, and equipt them with a platform that rivals the “Contract on America” for clarity and appeal.

16

Anderson 03.25.05 at 8:58 am

Kieran’s reference to Elian Gonzalez is a bit cryptic, but do the Repubs think their stance on EG was a failure? The Cuban-American votes they garnered probably helped them take FL twice (the first time with a little help). They may see Schiavo the same way.

Frankly, none of the “outraged conservatives” is going to vote for Howard Dean or Hillary Clinton in 2008. So I see little political cost. The Schiavo case continues Rove’s 2004 strategy: to hell with the middle, let’s firm up the base. All that the Average Voter will remember in 3 years is that those nice Republicans didn’t want that lady in Florida to die.

17

james 03.25.05 at 9:31 am

I do not have a side on this issue but would like to point out some inconstancies.

From other sources, it appears that there is a lower legal burden of proof needed to “pull the plug” compared with determining an inheritance. The husbands say so is not enough, legally, to determine how her money is distributed after her death. It is enough to claim she wanted the pug pulled. This really needs to be ironed out for future issues.

The husband needs her dead so he can get married in the Catholic Church. Others have come forward and offered to pay for her medical care, so money is not the issue.

If her brain is as gone as doctors say, isn’t she already dead? A standard needs to be set.

18

P ONeill 03.25.05 at 9:37 am

Just to help out on the question of who’s paying for her care, this from the WSJ:

Another Tough Issue Schiavo Case
Brings Forth: Who Pays for Care?

By SARAH LUECK
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
March 24, 2005; Page A4
….
For at least two years, the hospice caring for Ms. Schiavo has covered most costs, said Deborah Bushnell, an attorney who represents Ms. Schiavo’s husband, Michael. Medicaid, the federal-state program for the poor and disabled, covers Ms. Schiavo’s prescription medications.

Ms. Schiavo, who has severe brain damage, also is eligible for Medicare. The federal program provides health coverage to people who are disabled for more than two years. But The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast, the Largo, Fla.-based parent corporation of the facility where Ms. Schiavo resides, made an “internal decision” not to bill the government programs for her care, Ms. Bushnell said.

In part, the hospice was responding to Ms. Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, who objected to their daughter being on government assistance, Ms. Bushnell said. The parents said a medical-malpractice settlement of more than $1 million that Mr. Schiavo received should be used for her medical care, not spent on legal fees in the court battle over whether Ms. Schiavo should be kept alive.

An attorney for the Schindlers didn’t return a request to comment. Louise Cleary, a spokeswoman for the hospice, said she couldn’t comment on a specific patient, citing privacy rules. She said the hospice, a nonprofit corporation with several facilities, provided $9.5 million worth of free care to 1,800 patients in the fiscal year ended Sept. 30.

Under Medicaid, Ms. Schiavo receives painkillers for cramps and medications associated with feeding tubes, Ms. Bushnell said. The monthly cost “probably doesn’t exceed a couple hundred dollars,” she said. Ms. Schiavo is in Florida Medicaid’s “medically needy” program, Ms. Bushnell said. The program, which covers about 35,000 people in the state, is for people with high health costs who don’t meet the usual Medicaid income requirements.

Ms. Schiavo’s attorneys set up what is called a special-needs trust to help her qualify for Medicaid. The trusts, permitted under federal law, allow disabled people under age 65 to qualify for Medicaid even if their assets exceed the normal limits. After death of the patient, the state can recoup Medicaid costs from the trust.

In recent years, as Florida has faced budget problems, the medically needy program has been targeted for cutbacks at various times by lawmakers and Gov. Jeb Bush. In March, Gov. Bush proposed restoring funding to the program. Both Gov. Bush and his brother President Bush have said Medicaid rules allowing people to transfer or hide assets ought to be more restrictive, though they haven’t commented publicly on the type of trust Ms. Schiavo has.

If the Schindlers prevail in the court appeal and Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube is replaced, she could stay alive for many years. The hospice, when deciding to pay most of Ms. Schiavo’s bills, “thought it was going to be short term,” Ms. Bushnell said. If Ms. Schiavo’s feeding tube is hooked up again, donated care is unlikely, she said. “She’s going to be on the government dole,” Ms. Bushnell said.

19

Katherine 03.25.05 at 10:22 am

“The husband needs her dead so he can get married in the Catholic Church.”

He’s not even Catholic.

In determining inheritance, there is a default rule of intestate succession. So the equivalent would be, in the absence of a living will, her husband decides, period, end of a story. The evidentiary burden is higher.

This “living will” thing is going to force thousands of family to go through this–most people in PVS are young & it’s the result of an easting disorder or an accident without a warning. 25 year olds don’t have living wills. They sure as hell didn’t in 1990; I’m not sure living wills even had any legal force back then.

As far as “hearsay”: it falls within a recognized hearsay exception to the rules of evidence. Even if it weren’t, it could be admitted as “not offered for the truth of the matter asserted”–proof that she said it to that person. And it’s obviously going to be the only form of non-written evidence available from an incapacitated person–meaning, in many cases, the only evidence at all.

20

Paul Deignan 03.25.05 at 11:40 am

You must be kidding.

The post you referred to was absolutely and profoundly (not smart).

OK, at least I know something better now about the “thinking” over here.

21

Anderson 03.25.05 at 11:42 am

Iirc, the hearsay rule seems to be a peculiarity of Anglo-American common law, not one of those principles brought by Moses from the mount. So it’s not a subject for moral indignation.

Judge Greer’s “clear and convincing” finding seems odd until you read his opinion, where you learn that the Schindlers, contrary to their tearful appearances on TV nowadays, came off as really, really not persuasive at all.

22

seth edenbaum 03.25.05 at 12:38 pm

What nobody seems to mention is that if we agree as rational adults that the woman who was Terri Schiavo is gone, then both her husband and her parents are fighting over a ghost. Why not let her body remain under her parent’s care? Whatever she once wanted is irrelevant. She no longer exists to have any feeling about the matter one way or the other.

The result here is that liberal defense of reason, rationality and common sense becomes nothing more than a cold defense of law as law. Meanwhile the pro life factions look at a what they see as a smiling face with open eyes.

Liberals are defending the ‘selfish’ theology of Schiovo’s husband and social and religious conservatives and cynical rethugs (not the same thing) are defending the ‘selfless’ theology of her parents. Rational or not, progressives do not see through the fog of their own condescension.

23

Keith DeRose 03.25.05 at 1:23 pm

What nobody seems to mention is that if we agree as rational adults that the woman who was Terri Schiavo is gone, then both her husband and her parents are fighting over a ghost. Why not let her body remain under her parent’s care? Whatever she once wanted is irrelevant.

Upon reflection, I think most would disagree with your claim that the wishes of the dead-and-gone are irrelevant. If I’m worried about dying soon, I might express various wishes to my wife. For example, I might tell her I’d like her to give this-and-that papers, which I’m more-or-less finished writing, to some philosophical friends of mine to see if they might get them published, but not to do anything with some other paper. If my friends try to persuade my wife to also give them that other paper for attempted publication, presumably my wish that that one not see the light of day should be worth something here — and something quite substantial. What I wish isn’t the only consideration: There are possible situations in which it would be right for my wife to go against my wishes, even in a matter so personal to me. But, despite the fact that I’d be dead and gone, and so not capable of being made happier or sadder by any decision, my wishes seem to be worth quite a lot.

I sometimes think that, even if it would go against his wife’s wishes and even if he knows this to be so, it would be better for Michael S to just let the parents have their way here. In other moods, I think it’s better for him to stick up for TS’s wishes. That’s a tough issue, and I just don’t know enough about the situation for my judgment to be worth anything here. But, whether or not it might get outweighed by other considerations, what TS wished is surely a relevant, and at least somewhat weighty, consideration here, even if she is, for the current purposes, completely gone.

24

james 03.25.05 at 1:59 pm

Katherine – The woman he wants to marry is Catholic.

25

seth edenbaum 03.25.05 at 1:59 pm

You’ve changed the subject.
We are discussing the wishes of a person about their own body, a thing that as reasonable and rational people etc. we understand as amounting to little more than a lump of flesh (if one’s cerebral cortex has turned to mush.)

A life’s work may live on, but for a secular humanist one’s ass does not, and is not therefore a very important part of a legacy. Michael Schiavo may be right as a matter of law and principle but for many people defending him is defending his metaphysical argument.

He needs to get this ghost out of his life. His late wife’s parents want the ghost to stay in theirs. In the name of principle and of logic you have chosen sides in a religious argument.

And I’m still surprised that this argument is about wheter or not to starve the body rather than stop it from functioning. The reliance on the passive voice -and act- is grotesque.

26

Jon H 03.25.05 at 4:43 pm

Seth, would you hold that position if Schiavo’s parents wanted to use her as a marionette, moved by strings in a pro-life puppet show touring the country? I mean, using her as a literal puppet, with genuine strings, on a stage, before audiences of children.

Or maybe they could just move to Nevada and pimp her out at the Mustang Ranch.

27

seth edenbaum 03.25.05 at 7:19 pm

Do I have to respond that this shit?
We’re talking about the woman’s parents.

28

winna 03.25.05 at 8:08 pm

This is not merely a ‘cold logical’ issue.

This is a fight over whether or not a woman’s wishes are valid about what she wanted to happen to her over what her parents want. This is about who ultimately ‘owns’ your body.

The parents want the body of their daughter to continue to exist without her animating it, in contradiction to her stated wishes. How is that a cold issue about logic?

29

Brett Bellmore 03.26.05 at 8:19 am

“She is not being executed. That is wrong on so many levels. Since when is the U.S. right so completely unable to differentiate between:
—acts and omissions—government and private action.”

Not feeding her: An omission.

Arresting anybody who tries to feed her: Definately an act.

So, quite aside from the merits of the case, (Based on what I’ve heard, I’d probably pull the plug, too.) your distinction fails. The only reason it fails to be an “execution” is that there’s no person there to execute.

Yes, Kieran, I’ve heard of Elian. Trying to save a life, making sure a kid gets shipped off to chop sugar cane in a police state… Yes, yes, I see the obvious parallels, who could miss them?

30

monica v 03.26.05 at 8:19 am

“He needs to get this ghost out of his life. His late wife’s parents want the ghost to stay in theirs.”

How about what Terry herself needs, what she would have wanted for herself, her own life, her own body? The border between life and death is not just about a lump of flesh to be kept alive or left to die, it’s also about things like dignity and respect for the person that is in that situation. She’s not anybody’s property. She wasn’t a child when she fell ill, she was a grown woman.

If they cared for her and respected her as a person before she fell ill, then it’s possible both her husband and her parents are in equal good faith, and that they both think they are expressing what would have been her wishes, they just happen to have the opposite idea of those wishes, so it’s hard to tell her wishes from theirs. That is the big problem in “taking sides” here. How do we know for sure what she would have wanted. You can’t say that is irrelevant, it’s exactly the heart of the matter.

Focusing on what the parents want and what the husband wants, as if she wasn’t there, only someone the husband is supposed to forget about and the parents allowed to ‘own’, as if she was an object and the controversy about property of that object, that I don’t understand. I don’t see what’s religious and respectful about framing it like that really.

And I am not saying I don’t sympathise with the parents, however their wishes have been exploited politically. I do. I cannot imagine what it is like, to have to give up all hope of recovery and accept your daughter is gone. I can see why they don’t want to do that. But I don’t think it does them any justice either, to speak of their desire to keep her alive as a matter of ownership.

31

monica v 03.26.05 at 8:31 am

Of course, that notion of the issue as one of ownership is exactly what’s wrong with the ad-hoc legislation and all the political exploitation of the case… But I don’t think it’s that cynical for her parents. And the fact she’s “not there” anymore in terms of consciousness does not make her any less of a person with the right to have her dignity preserved. That’s what I think is more important than biological life, especially from a religious point of view…

32

Uncle Kvetch 03.26.05 at 11:04 am

Arresting anybody who tries to feed her: Definately an act.

My understanding is that they’re arresting people who apparently believe that they can feed her orally. Given the fact that she is unable to swallow, the bread & water that said people wanted to feed to her would probably kill her. Which leads me to believe that arresting said people makes perfect sense. But I could be wrong about that.

33

Uncle Kvetch 03.26.05 at 11:14 am

Brett, the more I think about this the more I’m frankly astonished by your position. Are you actually arguing that people who attempt to impose medical “care” on a total stranger, over the wishes of that person’s legal guardian, despite the judgment of that person’s doctors, despite the law–are you suggesting that we should be solicitous of these people? If you were forced to make a difficult decision about maintaining life support for a family member, would you welcome a group of religious zealots into the hospital so they could override your wishes and the advice of your doctors?

This entire “discussion” grows more surreal by the day.

34

seth edenbaum 03.26.05 at 11:32 am

The state is defending the decision of one person who wants this thing- a body- to die against the wishes of others who want this thing to live. Schiavo has the legal right to make the choice but in the absence of a living will we may wonder why he won’t let her parents take responsibility.
The law is a blunt instrument. Why defend it as if it were a scalpel?

It strikes me more and more that it’s those whom Brain Leiter would call say have specialized knowledge who do not understand the issues. Specialization is a filtering device. It seems to me a formal one.

35

monica v 03.26.05 at 1:13 pm

“in the absence of a living will we may wonder why he won’t let her parents take responsibility.”

It goes both ways. We may also wonder why her parents won’t let him take responsibility, why won’t they accept he is the legal guardian, why won’t they accept he may have no ulterior motives for his position except carry out her own wishes. I cannot know if it’s like that, but then I cannot know if her parents’ wishes to keep her in that state forever are completely devoid of any other motives.

We may think the worst or best of either parties here, it doesn’t change the situation one bit.

Why should it be less of a problem to grant the parents the final say in the matter? Because she’s now “a thing” so keeping her alive looks less problematic? But the point is, that person that now has become a thing maybe wouldn’t have wanted to be reduced to a thing for years and years… So both decisions are going to be blunt. None of them is as easy as tossing around “a thing”.

Yes, the law is a blunt instrument, it always is when there is litigation. Even without a will, it would have been better if the husband and parents had never gone to court and simply found themselves in agreement on one or the other option. They didn’t, and that’s what is so difficult here. I don’t understand why the assumption that the husband should just give up is any less blunt than the judges’ decisions so far.

36

monica v 03.26.05 at 1:50 pm

Besides, the parents don’t see her as a “thing”. They see her as a person, with a soul that will live on; they see her as still being there in some way; they see her as a daughter they cannot let go; they see her physical life as sacred and worthy of preserving even in an artificial unconscious state. The husband also sees her as a person, whose wishes he wants respected.

At least that’s the story as we know from outside and that’s what’s been recognised by all judges, speculations aside.

So clearly the two parties don’t see it as a simple decision over “a thing”, otherwise they’d have found an agreement long before… They are both saying they’re speaking in her best interests as a human being. But, blunt as it is, only one has that legal right, so it really shouldn’t matter what his motivations are, just like it shouldn’t really matter what her parents motivations are to fight his decision.

That scalpel was handed to the judges when the whole court saga started. They must have known bringing in the courts was only going to make it more painful for everyone.

37

raj 03.27.05 at 9:30 am

It strikes me as rather pointless to re-hash the legal merits of the Schiavo case. They have been fully litigated through the Florida courts, through numerous appeals. The FL courts made a determination as to what Mrs. Schiavo would apparently have wanted regarding her continued care, and have applied it. The details of the litigation have been extensively described at the web site Abstract Appeal http://www.abstractappeal.com/ In addition to a detailed time-line, the site contains links to copies of the various court documents and official reports. The site is maintained by a Florida lawyer who, as far as can be determined, has no ax to grind for either side of the issue. The courts essentially determined that continuing the care to which she had previously been subjected was contrary to her expressed wishes, and ordered that it be discontinued. It strikes me as being the height of arrogance for someone to suggest that his wishes–that the care be continued–should substitute for her’s.

Some here and elsewhere have raised the issue that the testimony at the trial regarding Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes were merely “hearsay”. The site that I pointed to has a post that discusses it.

One thing that is fairly evident is that organizations that are aligned with the “religious right” are using the Schiavo case in their fund-raising. In other words, they’re trying to make money off it. The longer that they can keep some machinery of her body functioning, the richer they’ll be. That’s the long and the short of it. For them, it’s all about money.

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Harald Korneliussen 03.29.05 at 6:36 am

“It’s interesting that the consensus opinion, at least in the U.S., is to let her die.” -Bad Jim

For me as a liberal european it’s interesting as well, as well as scary. In Norway, and I think in most countries that have a comprehensive public health care system, the decision to continue or abandon medical treatment is taken by medical professionals, not relatives (although they have a say) and certainly not judges. In either case, giving nourishment is not considered medical treatment.

I suppose this shows a difference between “liberal” and “social” varieties of left. In leftist Norway, we use large sums of goverment money to keep the severely, permanently handicapped as happy as they can reasonably be in their state.

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