|Terri a victim to an error in the law
||[Mar. 31st, 2005|03:18 am]
Well, it looks like the Schiavo case is drawing to a close. She's fought hard, but she doesn't have more than a few days. It doesn't look like anyone is going to do anything to stop the madness. I'm not entirely sure why this has effected me the way it has, or why it makes me so sad, given that I obviously don't know her personally, but it does nonetheless. Guess I'm a little bit more sensitive than I give myself credit for :P. So, that said, here's my thoughts:
1) Moral/Religious side:
To me, this side is brilliantly clear. No one knows for certain what her wish was. Her husband says death, her family and many close friends say it would be life. Given that, I think morally and religiously there is no question that life is the proper choice. And before you go down the quality of life road, know that I personally believe there is great value to human life, in and of itself. I think the "better dead than disabled" line of thought is utter nonsense. To me, there is a value to life that is separate from one's cognitive ability, separate from one's physical ability. Further, I believe in miracles. Stuff happens. Technology advances. Here we have a woman who was NOT dying and NOT in pain. Her wishes are unclear. Even if you buy the PVS diagnosis (which im still not sure I do), given the foregoing, I cannot think of any argument that would persuade me from the belief that the moral / religious thing to do is to let her live.
2) Legal side:
So, we have 1. Now what? Blame the courts? As much as I'd like to I don't think we can. While I firmly agree with Judge Wilson's dissent from the 11th Circuit's opinions, and I do think there was a legally valid way around this problem, I can also see where the majority is coming from. I do think the federal courts failed to follow the statute passed, as a de novo hearing was never really held. But its debatable whether said statute was constitutional, only because it applied only to her. As for the state court, I'm unconvinced all was well, as there seems to be a lot of fishy stuff that went on. But frankly, I don't know enough to make a truly educated judgment. So basically, all I can say is the courts are constrained to apply the law. So here, in my mind, we have a case where the law is wrong:
-- The law is too absolute as to guardianship - sure, spouse may be default, but what about potential conflicts of interest.
-- The law for cases like this should, in my mind, be as follows:
No incapacitated patient shall have food and hydration removed, however provided, unless -
1) there is a living will, advanced medical directive, or similar document that indicates such should be withdrawn in the patient's circumstance;
2) there is a duly executed durable power of attorney appointing a surrogate health care decision maker, and said surrogate indicates food and hydration should be withdrawn; or
3) the patient's immediate family has reached a consensus that the patient would wish food and hydration removed in this circumstance.
For the purposes of this section, immediate family includes the patient's spouse, children, parents, brothers, and sisters. If none of these survive, the standard guardianship rules shall apply.
If this was the law, then the courts would have reached the "moral" result. But that is not the law, at least not yet. So while people love to lambast the courts, and I agree to some extent they deserve it (as Jesse Jackson said, law untempered by mercy is cruel; law tempered by mercy provides an abiding and lasting justice - I seldom agree with him, but I do here), people should really be angry at the legislature for not acting to change the law - and do it properly, not in a narrow manner applying only to this case.
And as to anyone who says "if you can't trust your spouse then..." - I must say, that is an idealistic argument. I agree marriage should be forever. But I also know the practical reality - a reality that tells us spouses FREQUENTLY do not have the best interests of their partner in mind. We would all like to think we marry our soulmates - and many of us do. But many do not. Call me pessimistic, but shit happens. People get prenups for a reason :-P. The fact someone is a person's spouse is never, in my mind, the final word on whether or not it is they who should have complete and utter control over medical decisions. Given this reality, the law above is even more relevant.
Finally, let me add that I'm not convinced Michael is an evil or horrible person - likely just misguided in taking his wife's casual utterance as gospel. Of course, I'm not convinced he's doing this from the goodness of his heart either. I'm not sure what's going on, but I don't know that its fair to blast him personally without knowing the facts. Similarly, I don't think Judge Greer is evil. The fact he was pushed out of his church is quite simply awful. At best, he applied the current law as he had to. At worst he made some errors of judgment and was worn down by this case. Too much of this case has focused on the players and too little on Terri, the poor innocent woman about to starve to death in a hospice on the basis of an oral utterance. She will continue to be in my prayers. I've shed a tear or two over this already and I have no doubt I'll shed a tear (or a few) when the inevitable occurs.