Monday, October 27, 2003

That's not what dignity looks like.

I count seven fluffy entries in a row. How about some meat? I've been thinking about Terri Schiavo lately. If you don't know, Terri Schiavo is a 39-year-old woman in Florida who has been in a coma for the past nineteen years (timeline). Her body continues to function, sustained by a feeding tube, but doctors say she has no hope of regaining consciousness. Her husband has been trying since 1998 to have the feeding tube removed -- one may assume that he wants some closure, to become a legal widower, and resume his life. After five years of working through the Florida courts, he succeeded in obtaining an order to remove the tube on October 15. The tube was removed, and Terri was to be allowed to die. In the meantime, however, the Florida House of Representatives decided that they knew better than the courts, and gave Governor Jeb Bush the authority to overturn the court's decision, which he promptly did. Last, week, they put the tube back, six days after removing it. There's a lot of craziness floating around this story. A few the issues I've noticed: Delusional parents.
Although Terri's husband wants to let her die, her parents do not. They apparently hold the delusional belief that Terri is going to be just fine.
At a press conference, Bob and Mary Schindler repeated previous statements that they believe their daughter can respond to them when they visit. They dispute statements by doctors who say she is in a "persistent vegetative state," and they criticized media organizations for what they see as bias.
It's really very sad. The parents also have a web site, with heartbreaking and pathetic captions to photographs like "Terri responds happily to her mother's affection."
Rule of law out the window.
Read the editorial I linked about the Florida House. Here it is again. The point of it is that the courts know best, and ought to be making the tough calls, and the legislature just strong-armed its way in because it didn't like what the courts were doing.
Really bad arguments.
The following quotations are from an editorial by Judie Brown, president of the American Life League. The nonblockquoted observations, rebuttals, and sarcastic comments are from a blog entry by Jonathan Ichikawa, graduate student at Brown University.
In a court of law, the burden of proof rests with the prosecution. They must be able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the accused actually did commit a crime. In the case of a severely disabled woman whose starvation death was ordered by a Florida judge, the court of law has not determined her guilt or innocence, because she committed no crime. The court has preferred to arrogantly deem it compassionate to put her out of her alleged misery by sanctioning an act of murder.
Congratulations, Ms. Brown, you've managed to correctly understand that this is not a criminal trial. I don't even have to explain why this wouldn't be murder.
But in the case of Terri Schiavo, who is not terminally ill, and was not near death until the starvation process began, it has been ruled that her life is not worthy to be lived. Thus others were willing to impose on her a slow, agonizing death by starvation.
On this one I have to admit that I haven't heard all the details, but my understanding is that in cases like this, suffering is not an issue. There will be no agonizing on Terri's part, either because she has no brain activity and therefore no conscious experience at all, or because they'll be treating her with pain kills. I'm disappointed in the media for not making it easier to find out what her exact physical status is -- anyone know more than I do?
That is murder according to the natural law; but according to the Florida judicial system, it is an exercise in compassion. So much for human justice!
One man's so much for human justice is another man's so much for "the natural law"!
The sad reality is ... that Florida's Catholic bishops have been virtually silent. [They] said the Church could not make a decision regarding whether Terri Schiavo should be starved to death. These bishops urged that more time be given prior to Terri's imposed death by starvation so that "greater certainty as to her true condition" could be reached. How much more certainty does one need that a living, breathing human being will die if he or she is denied access to food and water?
The bishops, one can only assume, have apparently made the genuinely enlighted realization that quality of life is a determining factor in a life's worth. Unlike you, Ms. Brown, the bishops recognize the possibility of subtle and complicated issues that go far beyond "life good, death bad".
As the moments continued to pass, and the very life ebbed out of this lovely young woman at the center of this storm of controversy, one could only wonder what it really means to be innocent until proven guilty.
Ok, maybe I was wrong. I might have exaggerated a little when I suggested that you understood that this was not a criminal trial.
This story makes me sad, and the reactions to it I've discussed make me frustrated.

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