The Other Self-Righteous Fanatics

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Whatever else the Schiavo case might be, it's a circus of self-righteous certainty. And I'm not just referring to the save-Terri side—the folks who just prompted Cathy to write this:

I don't think the religious right is our own homegrown Taliban, but maybe it's about as close to a Taliban as you can have in modern American society. These are people who really do want the state to enforce their vision of "what God wants."

If anything, the forces of dehydration are even more of a headache. At least the pro-lifers— not all of whom hail from the religious right—know that they're on a moral crusade. Much of the pro-death side pretends that they're neutral bystanders who don't want to "interfere" with a family's private business, even as they actively argue for one side of the family dispute. They say they want to respect the woman's wishes, even as they refer more readily to what they'd want for themselves in such a situation. And they warn gravely of a slippery slope to theocracy, without pausing to wonder whether there are any other slippery slopes to worry about.

It's a conservative Christian, Nancy Valko, who has best expressed why some of us non-conservative non-Christians can't be so blase about pulling Schiavo's feeding tube:

Most people assume that either they or their families will have the right to decide about medical treatment when they become seriously or critically ill. The biggest problem, people are told, is that they or their loved one will be tethered to a machine forever if they do not sign a "living will" or other health care directive. The "right to die" movement has convinced most people and medical personnel that the ability to refuse treatment is one of the most important aspects of medical care to prevent patients and families from needless suffering. Indeed, poll after poll shows that most people say they would rather die than be a "vegetable". And many people automatically assume that they would never want their lives prolonged if they had a terminal illness, were paralyzed or senile, etc. Most people assume that refusing treatment, like assisted suicide (the other goal of the "right to die" movement), means choice and control.

But a funny thing happened on the way to this supposed "right to die" nirvana.

Some families and patients did not "get with the program" and insisted that medical treatment be continued for themselves or their loved ones despite a "hopeless" prognosis and the recommendations of doctors and/or ethicists to stop treatment. Many doctors and ethicists were appalled that their expertise would be challenged and they theorized that such families or patients were unrealistic, "in denial" about the prognosis or were mired in dysfunctional family relationships. (In contrast, families who agree to withdraw treatment are almost always referred to as "loving" and their motives are spared such scrutiny.)

At a 1994 pediatric ethics conference I attended, one participant was even applauded when he suggested that parents who refused to withdraw treatment from their "vegetative" children were being "cruel" and even "abusive" by not "allowing" their children to die. In some cases, doctors and ethicists have even gone to court to force withdrawal of treatment over a family's objections. These ethicists and doctors were stunned when judges were often reluctant to overrule the families.

Yet over the years and unknown to most of the public, many ethicists have still refused to concede the choice of a right to live and instead have developed a new theory that doctors cannot be forced to provide "inappropriate" or "futile" care and treatment to patients deemed "hopeless". This theory has now evolved into "futile care" policies at hospitals in Houston, Des Moines, California and many other areas. Even Catholic hospitals are now becoming involved.

In the July-August 2000 issue of the Catholic Health Association's magazine Health Progress3, Catherine M. Mikus and Reverend Peter Clark—a lawyer and an ethicist—argue that it is "time for a formalized medical futility policy" in Catholic hospitals. Like many such articles in secular ethics journals, the authors refrain from being too specific about what conditions and which patients would be subject to such a policy. The authors concede that even the American Medical Association says that medical futility is a concept that "cannot be meaningfully defined" and is a "subjective judgment" on which there is no widespread agreement.

Mikus and Clark make it clear that they are not talking about treatments that are "harmful, ineffective, or impossible", the traditional concept of medical futility that, of course, is not ethically obligatory. For example, no doctor would honor a family's request for a kidney transplant for a person who is imminently dying. Instead, the authors argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor's and/or ethicist's determination of the "patient's best interest". Ironically, the "right to die" movement was founded on the premise that patients and/or families are the best judges of when it is time to die. Now, however, we are being told that doctors and/or ethicists are really the best judges of when we should die.

Scare-mongering? Maybe. Maybe not. As threatening scenarios go, it looks a lot more plausible than any American Taliban nightmare.

For a libertarian, the crux of the Terri Schiavo case is the woman's own preferences; and of course, her preferences are a matter of dispute. That's why, of all the plug-pulling cases in the country, it's this one that's become so polarizing: Each side can project its own wishes onto a woman who can't speak for herself.

Reasonable people reading the evidence can differ as to what Schiavo would have preferred, but one thing they can't do is declare there's no question about what she wanted 16 years ago. In the last few weeks, alas, reasonable people have sometimes been scarce.

NEXT: Everything Solid Dissolves into Flab (Ex-Mr. Olympia Edition)

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  1. Yes!

    The question for me is not what ultimately happens to this one citizen. I’m interested in better understanding and defining the role of the state.

  2. It’s true that we can’t always know the wishes of an individual. And other than the people who testified, no one knows if it’s true that Terri made her wishes known.

    But that’s why we have legal guardians, to make the decisions for those incapable to make them on their own.

  3. Yup, just projecting my own wished onto the woman.

    It’s not like there’s been any sort of repeatedly-reviewed process that found her husband’s, and best friend’s, testimony far more credible than that of her mother. Or an understanding that husbands are more intimate with their wives than parents are with their adult children, and in a better position to know their wishes.

    Who’s projecting?

  4. “Reasonable people reading the evidence can differ as to what Schiavo would have preferred, but one thing they can’t do is declare there’s no question about what she wanted 16 years ago. In the last few weeks, alas, reasonable people have sometimes been scarce.”

    Sometimes the “there’s two sides to every story!” line is basically a cover for one side, trying to use the specter of balance to make up for a huge evidential deficit of one side. It’s true in the creationism debate, and it’s true here.

    No court can find anything with absolute certainty, but no one who’s actually read the court transcripts (I know, primary research instead of letting a pundit do the thinking! arg!) could seriously argue that the case for Terri’s wishes not to be maintained was weak. Her best friend confirmed it. And her parents side, far from really offerring any alternative account the court could have weighed credibly against, testified under oath that they would not remove care EVEN if Terri had wanted it. They described at great length the brutual proceedures they were willing to take to keep her body alive indefinately.

    The role of the state here was limited to trying to figure out matters of fact. No one has offerred any better alternative. Should the situation have been better resolved by pistols at dawn? Of course not. But lacking any seroius argument on that front, activists are now pushing for laws that restrict or define matters of fact prejudicially for this or that powerful figure.

    As a libertarian, courts are the least of the evils of government. At least in a court, people are allowed present evidence, make a case, make arguments of law. Politicians need not entertain anything other than money or the mob.

  5. I, surprisingly enough, have nothing to say except:

    Well done. Thank you Jesse.

  6. What is the libertarian case if a family refuses to pull the feeding tube from a patient in a persistent vegetative state but soon after runs out of money for the treatment?

    Is the state morally obligated to pay to continue the treatment?

  7. “They described at great length the brutual proceedures they were willing to take to keep her body alive indefinately.”

    I wonder if anyone else finds this sentence ironic or twisted in any way…

  8. Reqarding the actual post:

    This says nothing on who is paying the medical bills. If it is fully paid for by the familiy/patient, then it is obviously up to them. If it is not fully paid for by the individuals, then obviously others will have a voice in the decision.

  9. I’m a little confused. I think the “futile care laws” are already on the books in Texas. I thought the far right are the ones presenting these issues. On the one hand (like in Texas) they argue for stricter “futile care restrictions” that let them deny treatment, I’m guessing to show that they are fiscaly responsible. But then they argue against them, as in the Fla case.

    I do worry about both sides in this, but I thought it was primarily the Republican party that was presenting both arguements, when and where based on what helps them most at that moment.

  10. Jesse, “blase” is a hard concept to sell after 16 years.

    Obviously the whole issue is messy and disturbing–it’s prolonged total mental incapacity and death we are talking about here. But unless we going to make the “slippery slope” our almighty totem here, there has to be a point where enough can be determined to enough. This case has been litigated–and now legislated–to fucking death (ahem).

    You might be able to find a hard case to raise tough questions, but this one is not it, IMO. And I have my money where my mouth is on this one–a Florida Living Will that specifies exactly the same treatment I advocate here (which, hopefully, might expedite things by a decade and a half or so over the facts of this case).

    The preciousness of life is a given for almost all of us here I presume, but making a fetish out of it is perverse at a certain point (and 16 years qualifies in my book). We routinely make decisions as a society that costs thousands, sometimes millions, of lives (as the annoying but occasionally indisputable Nick Kristof has demonstrated, does anybody REALLY believe we couldn’t eliminate most of the millions of deaths from malaria if we cared to?)

    All this case demonstrates is that–miracle of miracles, for those looking for one–Joe Stalin was right about something: A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic. That was the excuse of a mass murderer when uttered by Uncle Joe, but, worse for us, it is the sad reality of our society every day.

  11. The Schiavo case is now officially a circus – Jesse Jackson has gotten on board the pro-tube train: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/7293186/

    Best line from the article:

    “University of South Florida political science professor Susan MacManus said Jackson’s appearance shows that the life-and-death issues surrounding their daughter resonate beyond white, Christian conservatives.”

  12. The law was followed. The law sucks because it failed to protect life above all other rights. The law required the judgement of one person to a sub-maximal standard of proof in order to use state power to produce a mortal result. The multiple reviews were over found facts, not the body of testimony.

    I ask the state be consistent in requirements for acting to promote death: jury of 12, to beyond a reasonable doubt; or a majority of both houses.

  13. Or, preferably, I ask the state to abolish itself.

  14. Who’s projecting?

    Not me, Joe. I don’t know what her wishes are. I know what I think the presumption should be when a patient’s wishes are unclear, but that’s a separate question. I’m happy to hear you have such certainty, though.

    Henry: I’m glad you’ve worked out what you want for yourself. That doesn’t mean that everyone else will want the same thing.

    Plunge: Creationism? Yes, this is just like the debate over creationism. Yup.

    All: I have said what I have said; I have not said what I haven’t said. Don’t assume my position on, say, getting Congress involved from what I’ve written here.

  15. At least the pro-lifers…know that they’re on a moral crusade…(the) pro-death side pretends that they’re neutral bystanders who don’t want to “interfere” with a family’s private business, even as they actively argue for one side of the family dispute…

    So the “pro-deathers” DON’T know they’re on a moral crusade by wanting the government to stay out of private affairs because this could just as easily be them.

    Right.

    And they warn gravely of a slippery slope to theocracy…

    Seems the arguments from the pro-life side have plenty of slippery slopes when they start talking about how allowing terry to die will make it open season on anyone who’s become an inconvenience or an invalid.

  16. Jesse has gone bonkers here. The Forces of Dehydration? The “pro-Death” side?

    Look, bottom line, the decision when to pull the plug, or deny treatment,

    will be made by book keepers and accountants, not

    by doctors and ethicists. Fool.

  17. Having worked with close to a hundred doctors in the past twenty years in medical research and insurance administration all I can say is:

    Most doctors are complete lunatics and extremists! Do we want them to decide when it’s time for you to die?

  18. Jesse: thanks for not responding to the vast portion of my post.

  19. The only thing I’m certain of, Mr. Walker, is that it is none of your, Tom Delay’s, Randall Terry’s, or BillyRay’s goddamn business.

    “I know what I think the presumption should be when a patient’s wishes are unclear…” That you should go arena shopping when each successive route declares your case to be unsupportable?

  20. “I wonder if anyone else finds this sentence ironic or twisted in any way…”

    Okay: you explain how sawing the arms and legs off someone’s body to keep alive a pretty much brain dead individual is anything other than grostesquely insane.

  21. “At least the pro-lifers…know that they’re on a moral crusade.”

    This Force of Dehydration sez, DAMN STRAIGHT I’M ON A MORAL CRUSADE!

    Keep the politicians the hell away from these decisions. Respect the concept of Next of Kin. Recognize that the spouse she chose to share her life with is closer kin than the parents she chose to leave. Recognize the dignity and quality of life and privacy are legitimate ethical imperitives, and stop fetishizing metabolic processes as the definition of personhood.

    Damn right this is a moral crusade.

  22. Old news?
    The parents are selling the list of their supporters to the direct marketing firm.

    http://tinyurl.com/6wvlt

  23. Why not keep these folks alive if their familes wish, but take blood from them each month, and maybe transplant hair or unused organs to help defer the cost of keeping them alive? That way at least they’re helping society as well as burdening it.

  24. Henry: What’s there to respond to? You made a number of points. Some of them I agree with. Most of them weren’t arguments against what I said, or at least they didn’t seem like it to me. I didn’t feel the need to reply.

    Joe, by contrast, likes to respond to things no one has said. I wrote, “Don’t assume my position on, say, getting Congress involved from what I’ve written here.” He replied by suggesting I think “you should go arena shopping when each successive route declares your case to be unsupportable.”

    He also threw in a gratuitous reference to Tom DeLay and Randall Terry. Not sure why. I guess he wants to restoke his moral certainty by reminding himself what icky people are on the other side.

  25. “Plunge: Creationism? Yes, this is just like the debate over creationism. Yup.”

    I explained exactly how it was like it. Simply saying “yeah, it’s exactly like it!” is a slimy way to avoid the comparison. I didn’t say it was exactly like it. For reference sake, the point of the comparison is that presenting an issue like there are two legitimate sides, both with some facts on their side, is often a dishonest appraisal of the situation.

  26. “The law was followed. The law sucks because it failed to protect life above all other rights. The law required the judgement of one person to a sub-maximal standard of proof in order to use state power to produce a mortal result. The multiple reviews were over found facts, not the body of testimony. I ask the state be consistent in requirements for acting to promote death: jury of 12, to beyond a reasonable doubt; or a majority of both houses.”

    And what could be more extreme than that: trying to paint a case about ones personal liberty as a punishment. Refusing medical care = state imposed death penalty!

    Yes, this case was weird because a court had to ultimately establish facts. But no, just because it didn’t find what your ESP told you the outcome should be (“err on the side of life = there is no possible evidence that could convince me, since anyone can always raise some insane objection at any time”), that doesn’t mean that the ruling was in error.

  27. “He also threw in a gratuitous reference to Tom DeLay and Randall Terry. Not sure why. I guess he wants to restoke his moral certainty by reminding himself what icky people are on the other side.”

    The ickyness of the people on the side of state second guessing is the strongest argument against their case that I can imagine – that’s what makes it relevant to bring them up.

    You don’t have any problem with this useful practice when you link to stories about cops or UN officials taking bribes – why is the ickyness of government officials suddenly out of bounds?

  28. Jesse, let me boil it down for you (usually not a problem in your case, so I didn’t anticipate the need to do so here):

    When the fuck is enough enough in this case? As long as there is one existing being related to Ms. Schiavo who says otherwise? Do they have to be related at all?

    There has been a massive OVERDOSE of legal process here to make sure no “blase” actions were taken, if I can borrow your terminology. Other than kowtowing to an overbearing fetish for “life at any cost” (although we otherwise regularly disregard it on a massive scale routinely) coupled with a “slippery slope” paranoia extraordinaire, what more do you want here? What you make you happy, or at least convince you we are not being “blase”?

  29. And, again, forgive my typos–I grew up pre-computer era, when only women were believed to possibly need the ability to type. And it shows.

  30. Jesse: Clearly, you said what people heard, not what you said or did not say.

    plunge: I didn’t say what you heard Jesse not saying. The law was followed, even though I think the “court”, which is one person, is held to a shabby standard. I cannot assess which outcome is more appropriately “punishment”. Why are governments instituted among men? To preserve common law marriage rights?

  31. how about this: fear is clouding the issue for many sides.

    those with disabilities see this as a step towards their eradication by a culture which does not value them.

    anti-abortion folks see this as yet another step forward in the “silent holocaust” and the loss of a publically available wedge issue.

    those on the pro-death side – like myself – are afraid of the implications of the legislature overriding the work of our spouses. and of a religiously-mandated living death.

  32. Jesse Walker,

    Your bias is showing. πŸ™‚

    Note that the main defenders of the Schindlers here have been folks, you know, BillyRay. Also note that on a number of ocassions you have demonstrated absolute ignorance as to the facts of the case. Remember when you stupidly claimed that the only witness who saw her speak of her wish to die was Michael Schiavo? Such claims are a good proxy by which to judge the merits of a poster’s claims.

    plunge,

    From the get go Walker has been arguing that its no big deal if she were simply maintained by her parents; this is a morally obtuse position of course.

    The Pope stated in 2004 that anyone who is in a PVS has a moral duty to stay on the tube; as far as I can tell, this is just the Pope catching up with the Schindler’s sick agenda.

    Honestly, in light of the specious claims of the Schindler’s attorney, I am surprised court ordered sanctions haven’t been brought against him.

    Henry,

    The preciousness of life is a given for almost all of us here I presume…

    Your examples undermine the notion that “life is precious.”

    As to the non-response issue, don’t expect intellectual honesty from Walker.

    madpad,

    Its back to the “your position is amoral if it doesn’t agree with mine” line of argument.

  33. I ask the state be consistent in requirements for acting to promote death: jury of 12, to beyond a reasonable doubt; or a majority of both houses.

    No official number of jurors is required to reach a death penalty claim. As to the “majority of both houses” claim, clearly you don’t get out our individualized judicial system works.

    dhex,

    That is definately where this is headed. Catholic and Protestant groups appear to be getting to the point where anything which keeps you breathing is morally required.

  34. I know what I think the presumption should be when a patient’s wishes are unclear

    Like joe, I don’t want there to be any “presumption” here. Instead, I want for the person’s legal guardian / next of kin to be able to make all the decisions. I think all the furor about lack of clarity regarding what Mrs. Schiavo’s would have wanted has been an unfortunate red herring. The lack of clarity should just be the signal that decision-making is transferred to the legal guardian. I don’t buy that this position is some kind of slippery slope. Legal guardian doesn’t mean “doctor” in the same way it doesn’t mean “congressman”.

  35. “Respect the concept of Next of Kin. Recognize that the spouse [Terri Schiavo] chose to share her life with is closer kin than the parents she chose to leave.”

    Since Michael “chose to leave” his wife for a new woman, then this argument loses some of its force.

    I would have thought that the issue of marital “closeness” between Terri and Michael would not exactly be something the anti-feeding side would wish to bring up. In any event, the Florida courts are claiming to be carrying out Terri’s wishes, not Michael’s.

  36. Ball of Confusion,

    Note that Dynamist in an earlier thread argued that the state has no duty to maintain life support; given that in the vast majority of cases where an individual is in a PVS the state is taking care of them, Dynamist’s “presumption” means little practically speaking.

  37. Gary,

    Preciousness does not equate to “beyond all value”.

    Most people–at least those non-suicidal–value their lives dearly, and those of their loved ones (indeed such may the surest indicia of “love”). What I am trying to extract here is there ever a point in this freaking case when we can say that sense of preciousness has been served?

    This is not directed at Jesse (although perhaps it applies–who knows but him, if even then), but dhex is on to something bring up “fear”; the existensital terror of death (specifically one’s own death) can produce some pretty strange psychological effects. No duh, huh? Hawkers of religion since the beginning of time have known this, and exploited to their advantage. But it can also produce perversity in thought where you least expect it. I think a certain squeamishment over death–or, conversely, over the possibility of a prolonged vegetative existence, a feeling of “buried alive”–is the subtext here.

    Or, I can be full of shit, and everybody is being perfectly rational–who’s to say?

  38. Bonar Law,

    Michael Schiavo started the proceedings prior to hooking up with his girlfriend. This is another fact which has been ignored by the press.

  39. I am delighted by liberals who have suddenly discovered familial privacy, self ownership and autonomy. Perhaps they will apply these principles to home schooling, prostitution, drug use, polygamy, eminent domain and confiscatory taxation.

  40. Plunge: I understood what you were saying. My reply, which I’ll say directly this time rather than relying on sarcasm, is that the evidence is not nearly as slanted in this case as it is in the creationism debate.

    Joe: The ickiness of government officials — by the way, only one of the four people in your list is a government official, but I’ll set that aside — is out of bounds when it’s irrelevant. You wrote, “The only thing I’m certain of, Mr. Walker, is that it is none of your, Tom Delay’s, Randall Terry’s, or BillyRay’s goddamn business.” I’m not sure why I’m on that list, or why you’re not.

    Gary: Since you’re big on intellectual honesty, please go back to the thread where I allegedly “stupidly claimed that the only witness who saw her speak of her wish to die was Michael Schiavo.” In fact, my exact words were “Far as I can tell, there’s no strong evidence of what her wishes were.” Nothing in there about who the purported witnesses were.

    Henry: I didn’t say you were being blase. But there are people on your side who are very blase.

    When is enough enough? I don’t know. It’s not my decision to make. In my ideal world, either (a) Shiavo would have left direct testimony as to her preferences, such as a living will, or (b) her husband, upon giving up on her chances to recover, would have simply divorced her and let her parents carry the burden. (Actually, in my ideal world, she’d still be healthy today. Also, ice cream would be good for you. La di da.)

    When is enough enough? It’s gonna come at different times for different people. But as long as her parents are willing to maintain her care — and as long as there’s reasonable doubt as to her own preferences — I don’t think we’ve reached that time yet.

  41. Plunge,
    I was kidding around, so point taken. I guess I’m conflicted over the seemingly contradictory claims that a) it’s torture and cruelty to keep this woman alive in her current state and b) it’s not bad to kill her (or allow her to die, whichever semantic bias you prefer) because she won’t know what’s going on. How can anything, either pulling the tube or keeping her alive, be torture if she doesn’t have a brain to comprehend what’s going on?
    We’re all going to die some day anyways, so it seems that Terry Schaivo is in a weird limbo where her husband (who has a legal right to do so) is choosing whether she will die now or after thirty more years of non-consciousness. My problem is, why not wait it out if someone else is willing to foot the bill? If you’re an athiest, it’s just a matter of allowing some broken machinery to stay in the shop with hope of a fix down the road. If you believe in an afterlife, she’s going to get there either way.

  42. Henry,

    Whether “life is precious” depends on the person. I don’t believe its beyond all value certainly, and whether it is “precious” depends on the nature of the “life” itself.

  43. “The law was followed, even though I think the “court”, which is one person, is held to a shabby standard.”

    “Clear and convincing” and “err on the side of life” is a pretty HIGH standard of evidence.

    “I cannot assess which outcome is more appropriately “punishment”.”

    The reason you might be having that problem is that this was a civil case, in which no punishments were leveled. Trying to pretend that it was a death penalty case is morally obtuse.

    “Why are governments instituted among men? To preserve common law marriage rights?”

    I don’t know what the heck this has to do with anything. Florida doesn’t even have a common law marriage provision.

  44. Bonar Law,
    I would have thought that the issue of marital “closeness” between Terri and Michael would not exactly be something the anti-feeding side would wish to bring up.

    Why not? I would have been perfectly OK with the main thrust of the legal action here being a determination of whether Michael was still legally entitled to be Terri’s guardian. If Terri’s parents had secured her guardianship in court, then I’d be equally OK with them calling the shots. I guess that’s the difference between “anti-feeding” and “anti-government-making-the-decision”.

    In any event, the Florida courts are claiming to be carrying out Terri’s wishes, not Michael’s.

    That is my understanding as well, and I already called it an unfortunate red herring (from my point of view).

  45. “Michael Schiavo started the proceedings prior to hooking up with his girlfriend. This is another fact which has been ignored by the press.”

    My point is this: At no time did any court say, “OK, Michael, you have Terri’s best interests at heart, you make the decision about feeding her.” The trial judge made his own decision as to what Terri’s wishes would have been and ruled based on that, not based on Michael being “closer” to Terri than her parents.

    If this case were to be decided on joe’s proposed criterion – leaving the decision up to whoever is “closer” to Terri – then I should think the decision would be for her parents, not her husband. Whatever may have been the situation at an earlier time, today we can say that Michael has “moved on with his life.” More power to him, but now that Michael has moved on, his supporters can’t now claim he’s “closer” to Terri than her parents.

  46. “My reply, which I’ll say directly this time rather than relying on sarcasm, is that the evidence is not nearly as slanted in this case as it is in the creationism debate.”

    It certainly is not as slanted, but again, that’s avoiding the thrust of the comparison. The comparison is about how the “two sides to every story” trope is a cheap way to conceal or avoid dealing with some pretty major deficits of fact and argument on one side.

    “But as long as her parents are willing to maintain her care — and as long as there’s reasonable doubt as to her own preferences — I don’t think we’ve reached that time yet.”

    Acting in accordance with what people wish matters. If people who expect that their loved ones will respect their wishes not to have their bodies be played with as puppets for all eternity see that as soon as they cannot speak, their wishes are toast… I don’t see how that’s a liberatarian position in the least. People’s bodies become the property of whomever will derive the most enjoyment out of playing with them?

  47. Jesse Walker,

    I’d think we’d all be big on intellectual honesty.

    In response to joe’s equally ignorant claim:

    Joe: The only evidence is her husband’s testimony. That testimony was contradicted by her parents.

    Walker: In other words, there is no strong evidence of what her wishes were.

    In other words, you are both ignorant of the facts of this case and you adopted joe’s statements out of your ignorance. Maybe you ought to read through the entirety of your statements before sticking your foot in your mouth, you fucking fool.

    Here are my responses:

    Gary: Do read the guardian ad litem report.

    Gary: When you do, you’ll find that Mrs. Schiavo made statements to a friend and to her brother-in-law. Boy you sure did swallow the pro-tube crowd’s argument hook, line and sinker.

  48. “Whatever may have been the situation at an earlier time, today we can say that Michael has “moved on with his life.” More power to him, but now that Michael has moved on, his supporters can’t now claim he’s “closer” to Terri than her parents.”

    That’s irrelevant. What’s relevant about his testimony is that he WAS closer during the time when her wishes would have been most important.

  49. Jesse, did it ever occur to you that her husband is sincerely trying to honor her wishes? And that he has the right, as next of kin, to do so? Why would her parent’s wishes override what he apparently knew to be her wishes?

  50. Walker fisked by his own link. Sweet! He he he. πŸ™‚

  51. Excellent post. My view is simple: the evidence is neither clear nor convincing that (1) Terri Schiavo wanted to die if incapacitated, or that (2) her brain was so badly damaged as to preclude any consciousness whatsoever. Both may in fact be true, though I tend to think #1 is not. Even if I did, I fail to see how anyone can be certain enough of both propositions to justify killing a patient whose parents are ready, willing and able to care for her for life.

    By analogy, I support the death penalty for first degree murderers convicted beyond a reasonable doubt. I do not support the death penalty for alleged first degree murderers whose guilt one lone judge found to be “clear and convincing.” That such judgment was later upheld by a string of appellate courts on the basis that his conclusions were not clearly erroneous offers little comfort. Michael Schiavo’s theories – also known as Judge Greer’s “facts” – are not clearly erroneous. The trouble is, it’s not all that clear that they’re right, either.

  52. Todd Fletcher,

    Walker has written all along that he doesn’t why leaving her in her parents’ care is such a big deal. The problem is that this is a big deal.

  53. “(b) her husband, upon giving up on her chances to recover, would have simply divorced her and let her parents carry the burden.”

    Well, other than the fact that this result would have eliminated this pseudo-crisis from our national agenda, I can’t find much to recommend for this alternative. “Here, do what you want with this sack of crap–I’m done.”

    “When is enough enough? It’s gonna come at different times for different people. But as long as her parents are willing to maintain her care — and as long as there’s reasonable doubt as to her own preferences — I don’t think we’ve reached that time yet.”

    I notice your construction address the willingness of the parents–fair enough. Is that a limitation? Would siblings do? Cousins? Strangers? The court has resolved this issue, obviously, and you are a critic–so I think you have responsibility to flesh this out.

    Also, is just “willing” enough? How about able, finacially? Or is this another cost to be socialized? If so, why should we choose the cost of subsidizing “PVS” life over the cost of stopping all those malaria deaths (or hunger, or whatever) of non-PVS life?

    To be fair, these last two paragraphs appear to go beyond the facts of this case (where we just disagree, I guess), but I’m trying to see if there is any point where there can be common ground.

    I had to bring in “common ground” in honor of the OTHER Jesse.

  54. Somebody needs to relax. Maybe relieve some stress by taking a run around Little Round Top and fantasizing about being in the 20th Maine… πŸ˜‰

  55. Xrlq,

    My view is simple: the evidence is neither clear nor convincing that (1) Terri Schiavo wanted to die if incapacitated, or that (2) her brain was so badly damaged as to preclude any consciousness whatsoever. Both may in fact be true, though I tend to think #1 is not. Even if I did, I fail to see how anyone can be certain enough of both propositions to justify killing a patient whose parents are ready, willing and able to care for her for life.

    Could you re-write this statement; its not particularly clear what you mean to say.

    By analogy, I support the death penalty for first degree murderers convicted beyond a reasonable doubt.

    If you knew anything about DP you would know that many, many juries convict even where a reasonable doubt exists. Why? Because their gut feeling is that the person is guilty, and they’ve had that gut feeling since the charge was read to them in voir dire!

    I do not support the death penalty for alleged first degree murderers whose guilt one lone judge found to be “clear and convincing.”

    If you support the current system you do.

    Michael Schiavo’s theories – also known as Judge Greer’s “facts” – are not clearly erroneous.

    Again with the notion that Michael Schiavo was the only witness to testify as to her wish to do die (that’s a fair conclusion I think)!

  56. Angela –

    Liberals? You know this is Reason, right?

  57. Jesse, did it ever occur to you that her husband is sincerely trying to honor her wishes?

    Of course it has. My post is an argument for uncertainty, and against moral fanatics like Randall Terry and Gary Gunnels. My position, to the extent that I have one, is one designed to minimize the consequences of mistakes.

    Maybe you ought to read through the entirety of your statements before sticking your foot in your mouth, you fucking fool.

    Gary, ordinarily I wouldn’t dignify this sort of shit, but since you’re challenging my honesty I’ll point out the obvious. If you read the statements in context, here’s what you get:

    Jesse: “Far as I can tell, there’s no strong evidence of what her wishes were.”

    Joe: Makes a point that he believes is a counterargument.

    Jesse: Repeats original comment, only with “In other words” in the place of “Far as I can tell.” The obvious meaning is that Joe’s statement isn’t an counterargument at all.

    Now, did I know how many alleged witnesses there were? Actually, I didn’t. And while I’m more up to speed on the case now, I don’t pretend to have a thorough knowledge of it. But I did not claim that Michael Schiavo was the only witness. Joe did. I let the claim pass in silence.

  58. Henry: Yes, I think if someone else wanted to take custody of the body, that’s fine. Assuming we aren’t talking about some creepy necrophiliac…

    And no, I don’t think the costs should be socialized.

  59. “That’s irrelevant. What’s relevant about his testimony is that he WAS closer during the time when her wishes would have been most important.”

    Are we discussing the credibility of Michael as a witness to Terri’s wishes, or about Michael’s qualifications (on grounds of closeness) to make decisions on Terri’s behalf?

  60. thoreau,

    Stress? Fisking Walker is fun. πŸ™‚

    Henry,

    I notice your construction address the willingness of the parents–fair enough. Is that a limitation? Would siblings do? Cousins? Strangers? The court has resolved this issue, obviously, and you are a critic–so I think you have responsibility to flesh this out.

    Merely because someone wants to support you doesn’t end the question. If she didn’t want to be supported, as Michael Schiavo and two other witnesses have stated, then their efforts to support her are morally repugnant and, in a word, are selfish. They certainly aren’t taking in mind the desires of the individual.

  61. Now, did I know how many alleged witnesses there were? Actually, I didn’t. And while I’m more up to speed on the case now, I don’t pretend to have a thorough knowledge of it. But I did not claim that Michael Schiavo was the only witness. Joe did. I let the claim pass in silence.

    *Chuckle* You are a liar and an idiot and I have no use for you.

  62. another aspect of the fear issue is one of duty. each side (husband and parents) feel they are doing right by the woman. neither is in a position to back down.

  63. “Jesse, did it ever occur to you that her husband is sincerely trying to honor her wishes?

    Of course it has. My post is an argument for uncertainty, and against moral fanatics like Randall Terry and Gary Gunnels. My position, to the extent that I have one, is one designed to minimize the consequences of mistakes.”

    I don’t see an answer to the question here.

  64. Todd: The answer was “Of course it has.” I think it completely possible that the husband is trying to honor her wishes. I also think it possible that he isn’t.

    OK?

  65. Jesse Walker,

    Now, did I know how many alleged witnesses there were? Actually, I didn’t. And while I’m more up to speed on the case now, I don’t pretend to have a thorough knowledge of it. But I did not claim that Michael Schiavo was the only witness. Joe did. I let the claim pass in silence.

    How very Clintonesque of you. πŸ™‚ You not only did not try to rebut it, you used it as a means to support your claim that there was no “strong evidence” regarding her wishes. You clearly adopted joe’s claim. End of story.

    As to you being up to speed, I doubt that is the case.

  66. Gary:

    If you weren’t a bipolar goon whose only experinece with other humans is through your computer I would come over there and kick your ass.

  67. OK, Jesse, I appreciate your answers. Sorry it took a while. Now I know where you are coming from (which makes it clearer that our disagreement is more fundamental, but that’s life, as we non-PVSers sometimes say).

    Gary, I am presuming that Jesse just rejects the court’s conclusion on your point (i.e. her intent). I don’t.

  68. Jesse Walker,

    What, pray reveal, makes me a “moral fanatic”?

    Todd Fletcher,

    Don’t expect an answer.

  69. Jesse Walker’s Older and Dumber Brother,

    You mean the Walker’s breed them dumber than Jesse? Those folks are sick.

  70. I’ve lost too much work time to this thread already, but I’ll make one last comment for now.

    Gary, when I responded to Joe, I had no idea whether his claim was true or false. I did not claim that it was true, and I did not claim that it was false. I claimed that it did not rebut what I had written, and that it in fact reinforced it.

    What I did know at the time is that we don’t have any direct testimony from Terri Schiavo as to what her wishes were. That’s as true now as it was then, and it’s what drives my perspective on this issue.

    As for what makes you a moral fanatic — well, that’s what the post at the beginning of this thread is about. Self-righteous certainty isn’t pretty, even in a commenter whose contributions I usually enjoy.

  71. Henry,

    Jesse is ignorant of the case itself; that’s why his statements about what the court has or has not done aren’t anymore insightful than what BillyRay might write. He should read the GAL report (from 2003) before he comments further.

  72. It don’t get much media play but Jesse Jackson is a Pro-Lifer, which goes a long way toward explaining him showing up at Terri’s hospice. I’m not making that up either.

    Also LOL at Jesse’s older and somewhat dumber brother…………funny stuff, indeed.

  73. stop being such a fuck, gary.

  74. Jesse Walker,

    Gary, when I responded to Joe, I had no idea whether his claim was true or false. I did not claim that it was true, and I did not claim that it was false. I claimed that it did not rebut what I had written, and that it in fact reinforced it.

    And by claiming such you adopted it as true. In a contract you’d be more than likely bound by those terms. Perhaps I have been thinking in legalistic terms too long.

    Self-righteous certainty isn’t pretty, even in a commenter whose contributions I usually enjoy.

    Hey, I have strong opinions, and unlike BillyRay, I am more than willing to back them up with hard evidence. Of course if that makes me a fanatic, then it makes me a fanatic against a lot of shit, like collectivism and statism.

    As to what one enjoys, well, I generally enjoy your comments as well. But here, on this matter, we part company.

  75. Thankfully some of Reason’s writers can think and express themselves clearly.

  76. dhex,

    Grow a cerebral cortex. As to fucking, well, I like to do that. πŸ™‚

    TWC,

    You mean he is “pro-life” and race-baiter?

  77. “Now, did I know how many alleged witnesses there were? Actually, I didn’t. And while I’m more up to speed on the case now, I don’t pretend to have a thorough knowledge of it. But I did not claim that Michael Schiavo was the only witness. Joe did. I let the claim pass in silence.”

    I think this is a pretty telling admission. Walker has declared that his position here is based on the “uncertainty” of the case. But in light of the above he pretty clearly made that judgement before he knew the basic facts of the court case. That belies any claim to some sort of reasonable “erring on the side of life” position, because if he was willing to declare that maintaining life was the right answer in abscence of any real knowledge of the facts, then this isn’t a pragmatic position based on evidence, but a dogmatic position formed prior to them. He might claim that now that he knows more about the facts they don’t change his position, but most people are in most cases unlikely to change their positions in light of new facts if they were willing to come to their original position without them.

  78. Eddie Tor:

    Not hardly. Few of the regular Hit and Run posters are libertarians (save for their urge to yank Schiavo’s tube) and only about the 3.75 of the Reason staffers even remotely resemble libertarians. It makes my head hurt.

    I am amused by all in the “pro-death” camp who have suddenly discovered how intrusive the state is. They really don’t believe their own rhetoric but merely want irk the Christers. It’s no skin off anyone’s ass if the parents are paying for Schiavo’s health care. If she can’t feel anything as nearly everyone agrees, what the hell should it matter to complete strangers if the tube had stayed in. As for Greer and his ability to discern Schiavo’s desires, the standard law school evidence class can be among the most difficult as we have an adversarial system not a fact finding system. “Hearsay” and its exceptions are entirely arbitrary.

  79. plunge,

    You are essentially right. And they call me a fanatic. πŸ™‚
    _____________________________________________

    My last comment on this matter are via the words of Robert Browning (whether it posts correctly will be interesting to see):

    The Bishop Orders His Tomb

    Vanity, saith the preacher, vanity!
    Draw round my bed: is Anselm keeping back?
    Nephews – sons mine . . . ah God, I know not! Well–
    She, men would have to be your mother once,
    5 Old Gandolf envied me, so fair she was!
    What’s done is done, and she is dead beside,
    Dead long ago, and I am Bishop since,
    And as she died so must we die ourselves,
    And thence ye may perceive the world’s a dream.
    10 Life, how and what is it? As here I lie
    In this state-chamber, dying by degrees,
    Hours and long hours in the dead night, I ask
    “Do I live, am I dead?” Peace, peace seems all.
    Saint Praxed’s ever was the church for peace;
    15 And so, about this tomb of mine. I fought
    With tooth and nail to save my niche, ye know:
    –Old Gandolf cozened me, despite my care;
    Shrewd was that snatch from out the corner South
    He graced his carrion with, God curse the same!
    20 Yet still my niche is not so cramped but thence
    One sees the pulpit o’ the epistle-side,
    And somewhat of the choir, those silent seats,
    And up into the aery dome where live
    The angels, and a sunbeam’s sure to lurk:
    25 And I shall fill my slab of basalt there,
    And ‘neath my tabernacle take my rest,
    With those nine columns round me, two and two,
    The odd one at my feet where Anselm stands:
    Peach-blossom marble all, the rare, the ripe
    30 As fresh-poured red wine of a mighty pulse.
    –Old Gandolf with his paltry onion-stone,
    Put me where I may look at him! True peach,
    Rosy and flawless: how I earned the prize!
    Draw close: that conflagration of my church
    35 –What then? So much was saved if aught were missed!
    My sons, ye would not be my death? Go dig
    The white-grape vineyard where the oil-press stood,
    Drop water gently till the surface sink,
    And if ye find . . . Ah God, I know not, I! …
    40 Bedded in store of rotten fig-leaves soft,
    And corded up in a tight olive-frail,
    Some lump, ah God, of lapis lazuli,
    Big as a Jew’s head cut off at the nape,
    Blue as a vein o’er the Madonna’s breast …
    45 Sons, all have I bequeathed you, villas, all,
    That brave Frascati villa with its bath,
    So, let the blue lump poise between my knees,
    Like God the Father’s globe on both His hands
    Ye worship in the Jesu Church so gay,
    50 For Gandolf shall not choose but see and burst!
    Swift as a weaver’s shuttle fleet our years:
    Man goeth to the grave, and where is he?
    Did I say basalt for my slab, sons? Black–
    ‘Twas ever antique-black I meant! How else
    55 Shall ye contrast my frieze to come beneath?
    The bas-relief in bronze ye promised me,
    Those Pans and Nymphs ye wot of, and perchance
    Some tripod, thyrsus, with a vase or so,
    The Saviour at his sermon on the mount,
    60 Saint Praxed in a glory, and one Pan
    Ready to twitch the Nymph’s last garment off,
    And Moses with the tables . . . but I know
    Ye mark me not! What do they whisper thee,
    Child of my bowels, Anselm? Ah, ye hope
    65 To revel down my villas while I gasp
    Bricked o’er with beggar’s mouldy travertine
    Which Gandolf from his tomb-top chuckles at!
    Nay, boys, ye love me–all of jasper, then!
    ‘Tis jasper ye stand pledged to, lest I grieve.
    70 My bath must needs be left behind, alas!
    One block, pure green as a pistachio-nut,
    There’s plenty jasper somewhere in the world–
    And have I not Saint Praxed’s ear to pray
    Horses for ye, and brown Greek manuscripts,
    75 And mistresses with great smooth marbly limbs?
    –That’s if ye carve my epitaph aright,
    Choice Latin, picked phrase, Tully’s every word,
    No gaudy ware like Gandolf’s second line–
    Tully, my masters? Ulpian serves his need!
    80 And then how I shall lie through centuries,
    And hear the blessed mutter of the mass,
    And see God made and eaten all day long,
    And feel the steady candle-flame, and taste
    Good strong thick stupefying incense-smoke!
    85 For as I lie here, hours of the dead night,
    Dying in state and by such slow degrees,
    I fold my arms as if they clasped a crook,
    And stretch my feet forth straight as stone can point,
    And let the bedclothes, for a mortcloth, drop
    90 Into great laps and folds of sculptor’s-work:
    And as yon tapers dwindle, and strange thoughts
    Grow, with a certain humming in my ears,
    About the life before I lived this life,
    And this life too, popes, cardinals and priests,
    95 Saint Praxed at his sermon on the mount,
    Your tall pale mother with her talking eyes,
    And new-found agate urns as fresh as day,
    And marble’s language, Latin pure, discreet,
    –Aha, ELUCESCEBAT quoth our friend?
    100 No Tully, said I, Ulpian at the best!
    Evil and brief hath been my pilgrimage.
    All lapis, all, sons! Else I give the Pope
    My villas! Will ye ever eat my heart?
    Ever your eyes were as a lizard’s quick,
    105 They glitter like your mother’s for my soul,
    Or ye would heighten my impoverished frieze,
    Piece out its starved design, and fill my vase
    With grapes, and add a vizor and a Term,
    And to the tripod ye would tie a lynx
    110 That in his struggle throws the thyrsus down,
    To comfort me on my entablature
    Whereon I am to lie till I must ask
    “Do I live, am I dead?” There, leave me, there!
    For ye have stabbed me with ingratitude
    115 To death–ye wish it–God, ye wish it! Stone–
    Gritstone, a-crumble! Clammy squares which sweat
    As if the corpse they keep were oozing through–
    And no more lapis to delight the world!
    Well, go! I bless ye. Fewer tapers there,
    120 But in a row: and, going, turn your backs
    –Ay, like departing altar-ministrants,
    And leave me in my church, the church for peace,
    That I may watch at leisure if he leers–
    Old Gandolf, at me, from his onion-stone,
    125 As still he envied me, so fair she was!

  80. gary: hence the problems with what’s referred to as “internet wang” in some corners of the world.

    angela: the very real question to be raised is what if the husband is right and he abandons her to that living death? that’s worthy of contempt.

  81. You know, I thought I was done with this topic, but one last thing strikes me: what is the source of this enormous contempt for the judicial system, simply becasue it reached a result (it looks like) that some of you don’t like? I mean, Jesus, this isn’t some fucking kangaroo court proceeding–it has been beaten to fucking death for years, up and down the appeals latter repeatedly, and even had an unprecedented (and probably unconstitutional) grant of federal jurisdiction fabricated for it. What the fuck more do you want? Don’t you think if all your great, convincing (to you–with your mind already made up) arguments and citations to the record had any real validity, raising even a plausible doubt, that SOME court would have stepped in? Christ, the 11th COA is the second or third most conservative COA and they just shitcanned it, en banc, too, with a craven Congress just begging them to step in.

    As near as I can tell for some of you, the rule of law is great–when it gives you the result you want. Otherwise, fuck it, resort to ad hominem attacks on the judge, generalized quasi-populist attacks on the system, pointlessly obvious digressions on the possible shortcomings affecting all humans (including–duh–judges), whatever.

    The degree to which this case has been litigated resembles nothing less than most extreme death row appeal cases, which I’m sure many of the you same people decry as an abuse of the system.

    Talk about oxen being gored….

  82. Excellent post, Jesse.

    This reminds me of a line in a recent Dilbert cartoon: “I listed both the pros and the cons; people are so conditioned to take sides that they interpreted that as hating it.”

    This post seems to be functioning as a Rorschach test. The most strident reactions seem to be coming from people who interpret any recognition of nuance or uncertainty as a hidden agenda for the other side.

    As for myself, I seriously doubt the agitprop on both sides that attributes base motives to either Michael Schiavo (his financial motivations or alleged spousal abuse) or the Schindlers (their “sick agenda”). Frankly, I suspect that both husband and parents have been focusing their lives on this battle for so long that they’ve forgotten where Terri Schiavo’s interests and wishes leave off and their own agendas begin. But I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of either.

    I tend to agree with Jesse that the courts should have erred on the side of caution, given the willingness of the parents to provide financial support and the uncertainty over Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes. I also, however, share the “Dehydration Party’s” utter revulsion at the self-serving grandstanders like Frist and Delay who inserted themselves into the issue.

    As the Adventus blog recently commented, Tom Delay should be asking himself, very carefully, exactly what Michael Schiavo did to make himself a public figure. Delay’s scurrilous and utterly despicable remarks are enough to leave him without a pot to piss in, should Schiavo decide to see him in court. I recently saw a quote from Delay referring to Schiavo’s attorney as “the face of evil,” or some such thing. One of the lowest points of this whole circus has got to be hearing a repulsive and putrid *thing* like Tom Delay referring to anybody else in those terms.

    I am not comfortable with judging Schiavo’s or the Schindlers’ motives, but I have absolutely no such reservation about Delay. I’d bet a month’s pay he’s never done anything in his life for noble motives. Despite all his Jesus-shouting in front of audiences stupid enough to be taken in by it, I’ll bet he’s got a Satanic altar concealed in the back of his office. What a fucking creep.

  83. BTW, I obviously forgot to change my name back from Barney Fife after a recent gag post. Oops.

  84. “Not hardly. Few of the regular Hit and Run posters are libertarians (save for their urge to yank Schiavo’s tube) and only about the 3.75 of the Reason staffers even remotely resemble libertarians. It makes my head hurt.”

    Interesting observation

  85. Oh yeah Angela, the posters here applaud the government when it takes some guy?s ?blighted? house in the name of eminent domain. And we love the Secure Flight system. Oh and don?t forget the IRS, probably the favoritest government agency after the FCC, FDA, DEA and DOE. Clearly, the entire staff doesn?t live up to the libertarian ideals and Julian needs to return his decoder ring and his Staff of Libertarianism (+1 vs. gov?t employees). Maybe Reason just needs some blue tinted druids and ferret owners on the staff.

  86. Barney Fife, BATF,

    Yes, because someone reacts negatively to bullshit, that automatically means that the bullshit is true. Not quite.

    …the Schindlers (their “sick agenda”).

    To state that their claims re: keeping the body of alive of Terri are sick isn’t agitprop. They indeed made those claims. They are on record making those claims. That I find them sick is my position on the matter. So, how, pray reveal, is my position propagandistic?

    But I have no reason to doubt the sincerity of either.

    When have I doubted the sincerity of the Schindler’s? I haven’t. I nevertheless find their position sick; its a fetish for a lump of cells resembling a human being.

    I tend to agree with Jesse that the courts should have erred on the side of caution, given the willingness of the parents to provide financial support and the uncertainty over Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes.

    Jesse’s is a silly outcome-determinative position.

  87. Reasonable people reading the evidence can differ as to what Schiavo would have preferred…

    The problem is that I have as yet to meet a person (here or in real life) who agrees with the Schindlers and at the same time read the evidence. What I do find is folks like Dynamist and Jesse Walker who made up their mind before hand.

  88. “This post seems to be functioning as a Rorschach test. The most strident reactions seem to be coming from people who interpret any recognition of nuance or uncertainty as a hidden agenda for the other side.”

    Hidden agenda? It’s not hidden: Walker states his agenda outright.

    “I tend to agree with Jesse that the courts should have erred on the side of caution”

    You guys say this, but since this belief seemed to have been formed before you even heard what evidence the courts had to consider in the first place, what this really seems to mean is that you do not accept that oral evidence is EVER sufficient to establish ones wishes in such matters, which is a position contradicted by Florida law (and even Supreme Court rulings).

    In other words this “err on the…” stuff is dressed up to sound like fairminded pragamatic rhetoric, but it’s in the end not so open to evidence or discussion after all.

  89. Gary Gunnels,

    “Yes, because someone reacts negatively to bullshit, that automatically means that the bullshit is true.”

    You’ve obviously applied the same critical reading skills to my comment that you did to Jesse’s post.

    “What I do find is folks like Dynamist and Jesse Walker who made up their mind before hand.”

    No further comment is necessary.

  90. I’d like weigh in from the, er, “pro-death” side of the barricades, in response to Gary Gunnels’ charge of intellectual dishonesty against Jesse.

    Gary, you say that Terri Schiavo’s brother-in-law and “a friend” corroborated Michael’s testimony that she didn’t want to be kept alive by a feeding tube.

    The friend in question is married to another brother of Michael Schiavo’s. In other words, she is a member of the Schiavo family and not exactly an unbiased party — though she and Terri apparently were close friends.

    That’s a relevant fact that deserves full disclosure. If we demand accuracy from the other side, we’d better demand it from our own, too.

    As for the larger issue raised by Jesse: I think it’s a legitimate point. As I said in my post, I do think this is a case (and issue) on which men and women of good will can disagree. What bothers me is the fanaticism, and I really don’t see an equivalent fanaticism, right now, on the other side. (Though George Felos does seem to be something of a nut job.) I don’t think it’s particularly monstrous for doctors to disapprove of parents who insist on keeping their child “alive” in a vegetative state indefinitely, or insist on aggressive, and excruciating, life-saving measures to extend the life of a terminally ill child. Obviously, if people are coerced into giving consent to “pulling the plug,” that’s wrong. But I also think that we simply can’t discuss these issue without acknowledging the fact that right now the costs of health care are to a large extent socialized. (If they weren’t, the issue of whether to artificially maintain the life of a vegetative patient who will never recover would become moot once the money ran out.)

  91. Kevin Carson,

    You’ve obviously simply ignored my quite valid criticism.

    Yes, no further comment necessary; Walker made up his mind before he knew much of anything about the case; that seemed true to me last when I started educating myself on the case instead of just going with a gut reaction.

    Cathy Young,

    Gary, you say that Terri Schiavo’s brother-in-law and “a friend” corroborated Michael’s testimony that she didn’t want to be kept alive by a feeding tube.

    On one occassion, yes. On other occassions I have mentioned that she was related by marraige. Indeed, on numerous occassions I have detailed much of what the GAL discusses (which Walker has apparently thought too tedious to read) in an effort to teach the ignorant about the case itself.

    That’s a relevant fact that deserves full disclosure.

    And I have given it full disclosure at varying times. The heart of the problem of course is Walker’s unwillingness to read the GAL (which I have asked him and others to read – begged in fact). If you are depending on MSNBC to teach you about what has happened in this case, then you are going to be hopelessly lost.

    As I said in my post, I do think this is a case (and issue) on which men and women of good will can disagree.

    And as I have stated, those who agree with the Schindler’s have invariably in my experience failed to teach themselves about the facts at hand. If they would just come out and say – as the Pope has – that one has a moral duty to keep the tube in when someone is in a PVS I can more readily understand that (even if I find it repugnant).

    (Though George Felos does seem to be something of a nut job.)

    A good attorney can be a nutjob. People compartmentalize things.

    The monetary issue gets us back to Dynamists statements.

  92. I’ll say one thing though. If you are old with a big inheritance and are in Florida – get a living will.

    I have very little respect for the legal system left.

    By the way- there is going to be an autopsy. And if she is anything less than PVT – the doctors who examined her and declared her PVT should have their licenses pulled.

  93. “By the way- there is going to be an autopsy. And if she is anything less than PVT – the doctors who examined her and declared her PVT should have their licenses pulled.”

    First of all, it’s PVS. Second of all, PVS is not diagnosed by any particular brain pathology, because all sorts of different things can go wrong with the brain to cause PVS. The autopsy won’t reveal much more than we already know: she has massive atrophy of the cereb. cortex. That’s HIGHLY consistent with PVS, without needing to know any more. Knowing more is, of course, always nice, but in this case there’s little reason to think that an autopsy will resolve anything for anyone.

  94. plunge,

    Its likely that Michael Schiavo is trying to ward off any attacks on him by having the autopsy done.

  95. Gary: I’ve read the GAL. Please stop assuming that I haven’t.

    Plunge: Yes, my view of what the law should be is not the same as the courts’ view of what the law should be. Duh.

  96. “Yes, my view of what the law should be is not the same as the courts’ view of what the law should be. Duh.”

    But your view was formed, by your own admission, before you either knew what the law was or what the facts of the case were. It’s only after you demonstrated that you are willing to make this call indepedant of particular facts or understanding of the relevant laws that you have said that you disagree with the court’s particular findings or that you find the facts insufficient (despite the fact that there is wide legal agreement on what is sufficient, both in the Florida courts and federal courts).

    If someone tells me that they believe something on faith, and then later after looking into the evidence starts claiming the evidence supports their position as well, how seriously should I take their later arguments that they are pragmatists working case by case from the facts?

  97. Again: if you claim that your position is that we should err on the side of life in THIS case, then what is your position on oral testimony of ones wishes period? In contrast to the Florida SC’s rulings on the constitution of florida as well as the federal SC’s ruling in Cruzan, are you saying that oral testimony is never sufficient to establish someone’s wishes?

    Given that you were willing to say we should “err on the side of life” before you even knew the particulars of the case, that’s certianly the way it seems. Such disinterest in the particulars implies that “err on the side of life” really means “never allow anyone’s oral wishes to count for anything in such cases.”

  98. Plunge: You write as though I didn’t know anything when I made those comments last week. But I knew from press accounts that her alleged wishes are a matter of contested hearsay, and that was the basis for what was, if I recollect correctly, the one opinion on this case that I publicly expressed before today.

    I know more about that contested hearsay now, but the fact that it’s contested hearsay hasn’t changed.

  99. Oh yeah Angela, the posters here applaud the government when it takes some guy?s ?blighted? house in the name of eminent domain. And we love the Secure Flight system. Oh and don?t forget the IRS, probably the favoritest government agency after the FCC, FDA, DEA and DOE. Clearly, the entire staff doesn?t live up to the libertarian ideals and Julian needs to return his decoder ring and his Staff of Libertarianism (+1 vs. gov?t employees). Maybe Reason just needs some blue tinted druids and ferret owners on the staff.

    Mo, that was beautiful!

  100. So then your position is if oral testimony is ever contested by anyone, we must always find that it is insufficient, no matter the credibility or the particulars of the case?

    Heck, why hold trials at all under that stanard? It’s like that Kids in the Hall sketch where a horrified judge finds out that criminals all say they are innocent and so dismisses the cases and chastises the prosecutor for bringing the cases to trial.

  101. But I knew from press accounts that her alleged wishes are a matter of contested hearsay, and that was the basis for what was, if I recollect correctly, the one opinion on this case that I publicly expressed before today.

    Honestly, Jesse, how do you know any of this? And please, be careful with the terms you use. “Hearsay” is a technical term in court and is strictly defined (or didn’t you see the hundreds of posts on that topic?). If Terri says to Mike that she’d rather not live like that, and Mike repeats that in court, it is not hearsay. If Terri told Mike who told me that she said she’d rather not live like that, it would be hearsay if I repeated it in court. It’s all about whether the statement was uttered firsthand, not whether it can be proven beyond a scintilla of doubt.

    You appear to be struggling to mask your bias with the cloak of reasonable doubt, and as thoughtful as that is, while the evidence is contested, labelling it “hearsay” is erroneous.

  102. Joe,

    It’s not like there’s been any sort of repeatedly-reviewed process that found her husband’s, and best friend’s, testimony far more credible than that of her mother.

    Read the court documents – only testimonoy accepted by Judge Greer was that of Michael Schiavo, Schiavo’s brother and that brother’s wife.

  103. To merge this with another thread, I want to second the recommendation made in another thread:

    Terry Schiavo for US Senate!

    She won’t be able to vote for tax increases, she won’t be able to pursue pork, her speeches will be at least as intelligible as those given by Strom Thurmond in his final years, and she won’t be able to write any laws with 1500+ pages.

    Sounds good to me.

  104. Cdunlea: You’re right, I shouldn’t use “hearsay” to describe the husband’s testimony. Apologies.

    As for my various biases, I think I’m being upfront about them.

    Plunge: “Ever contested by anyone”? Including random strangers off the street? Well, no, I wouldn’t say that.

    I suspect that we might be able to draw a line somewhere between this case and the reductio ad Kids in the Hall.

  105. thoreau,
    Not to mention, she has more of a functioning mind than Jim “One of Saddam’s Sons” Bunning.

  106. Ouch Mo! Big burn on Julian out of nowhere!

    I’m still wondering what happens if and/or when the right to live until natural death takes over is applied to people who can’t pay. Right now, if I go into an ER, even if I tell them I can’t pay and never will be able to, they are still required to do whatever is possible to save my life. Will the Hospital be required to live up to a similar burden under these circumstances? If it goes to Medicare to pay for, will the State be able to push for deplugifying Persistent Vegetative State contestant A?

  107. If it goes to Medicare to pay for, will the State be able to push for deplugifying Persistent Vegetative State contestant A?

    I brought up a similar issue with somebody who wants the plug pulled. She was complaining about how the religious right is using the government to intrude in medical decisions in this case. I asked if she’s still a fan of having the government pay for health care. She became angry and said that the government should pay for the care but stay out of the decisions. I observed that nothing is really that simple, and she basically said that I must want people to die.

    The irony is so rich on so many levels. Whatever you might think of the issue at hand, and however consistent her position might be (or might not be) if the nuances are sorted out, the switch in rhetoric was amusing. “Keep the government out of medical matters!…..no, wait we need government health care….but no government interference!”

    (Before a leftist jumps in and explains how the position may be logical, my point is about the rhetoric, not the underlying logic of her position.)

  108. Wait, a serious post under this alias? We can’t have that!!!!

    Terry Schiavo for Congress!!!!

    Ah, I feel so much sillier now… πŸ˜‰

  109. The testimony as to Terri’s wishes sure seems like hearsay to me.

    From the report of Guardian ad Litem Jay Wolfson:

    “The hearings and testimony before the trial court leading to the decision to discontinue
    artificial life support included admitted hearsay from Theresa’s brother-in-law (Michael
    Schiavo’s brother) and his wife (Michael’s Schiavo’s sister-in-law) along with testimony
    from Michael.

    “The testimony of these parties referenced specific conversations in which Theresa
    commented about her desire never to be placed on artificial life support. The testimony reflected conversations at or proximate to funerals of close family members who had
    been on artificial life support. The context and content of the testimony, while hearsay,
    was deemed credible and consistent and was used by the court as a supporting bases for
    its decision to discontinue artificial life support.”

  110. Cathy Young says:

    “What bothers me is the fanaticism, and I really don’t see an equivalent fanaticism, right now, on the other side. (Though George Felos does seem to be something of a nut job.)”

    I believe that Felos’ nut-jobbism places him clearly into the “fanatic” category. He thinks one of his “right-to-die” clients used spiritual/telepathic means to convey her wish to depart this life. If that doesn’t make him a “fanatic” for the right to die, then what would?

    Nor is Felos simply a fringe demonstrator hanging around the hospice waving a right-to-die placard. He is a central figure on the tube-pulling side. Even if every other person in the tube-pulling faction was as calm and irenic as (say) a Hit and Run poster, Felos’s fanaticism would still stand out.

  111. as calm and irenic as (say) a Hit and Run poster

    I’m not irenic!

  112. I know you’re not irenic; I was being ironic.

  113. Wow, I’m still dumbfounded that the those shifting the legal shit for a kernel of corn still think they can do a better job of it than (literally) dozens of judges in at least six different courts, who had the “benefit” of arguments and/or briefs of counsel to highlight every material issue (not just the ones they chose to bring to the table, like here). Amazing what some can believe when they are convinced they know “the truth” to start with. Time to call Johnny Cochran, I guess.

    Uh….nevermind.

  114. Bulletin!

    Can the hearsay–we’ve got direct evidence of her intentions!

    http://durrrrr.blogspot.com/

  115. The hospice where Mrs. Schiavo resides, has stated that she is not being supported by government funds, but by the hospice itself. As someone who works in hospice, I can tell you that a diagnosis of a PVS would in and of itself, not qualify a patient to be certified as terminally ill under either the Medicaid or Medicaid benefit. Presumably she is supported with a combination of operating surpluses and mixed donor funds. Medicare certified hospices are required, as a condition of their certification, to provide care for patients deemed “indigent,” i.e., ineligible for any gov’t benefit, and without personal resources. Were she transferred to a nursing home, she would not need a terminal diagnosis and would qualify for a long-term Medicaid benefit.

    So her care is already supported privately. Her parents want her care, and presumably the cost of her care, transferred to them.

    For those arguing that the entity paying the costs decides her fate, can the hospice be forced to transfer her care to her parents?

  116. And the testimony of Diane Meyer, Terri’s girlfriend, was discounted because of a mistake by Greer, which he will not admit:

    http://wnd.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=43142

  117. Bonar’s Law, I think you misinterpretted my comment about her husband being closer to her – probably my fault, please let me clarify.

    I’m not claiming that he is closer to her NOW than her parents are, just that he (and her best friend) were closer to her at the time that mattered – when she was able to express her wishes. This made their testimony far more credible than that of her parents. It is also this greater credibility, not some right over her life and death, that makes his position as Next of Kin important to respect.

    Jesse, I shouldn’t have popped off so obnoxiously. You raise two important, valid points – that there are bad bastards on both sides of any issue, and that there is a lack of prudence that is sometimes displayed by some right to die activists. In my defense, I had trouble hearing you over the DeLay/Bush/Terry chorus shrieking “murderer, murderer, adulterer!” In all seriousness, though, setting up those who hold to a philosophical position that you find to be a few degrees off as the equivalent of the libelous, riot-inducing, death-threatening, coup-talking pigs Cathy Young calls out is just asking for it.

  118. Um, the problem with this thread is, I DIDN’T claim that Mr. Schiavo was the only person to testify that she expressed her wishes about treatment. I referred explicitly to her best friend in my first post. None of my other posts even suggested otherwise. You can reread them if you’d like.

  119. “What bothers me is the fanaticism, and I really don’t see an equivalent fanaticism, right now, on the other side.”

    Who are you, and what have you done with the REAL Cathy Young?

  120. It’s not like there’s been any sort of repeatedly-reviewed process that found her husband’s, and best friend’s, testimony far more credible than that of her mother.

    Sorry, the above read to me like the best friend’s (Diane Meyer) testimony supported the husband’s, which in fact it directly contradicts (but was dismissed by Greer because he has a problem with dates). My bad if I read your post wrong.

  121. Wow, I learned a new word, today! Thanks, Bonar Law! Thanks, dictionary.reference.com!

    Irenic – “Promoting peace; conciliatory.”

  122. Gary, perhaps you ought to read the first Guardian Ad Litem report, the one by Pearse, the one that pointed out that Schiavo had a lack of credibility. Perhaps you ought to read the Wolfson GAL report, which recommends a swallowing test which was never conducted.

    Somehow, these other witnesses magically forgot to come forward — and Schiavo’s attorney failed to present them — until after that report came out. And of course, their testimony was irrelevant, as it had to do with people on life support, which she is not.

    I’m with Jesse on this one: if there were really clear and convincing evidence, go ahead and pull the plug. But various contradictory testimony about what her wishes were do not clear and convincing make. And in the absence of that clarity, why not err on the side of keeping her alive when there are people willing to care for her?

    I think Schiavo’s parents are wrong as a factual matter — that she’s a permanent vegetable. But if they’re willing to keep her anyway, why should his wishes be controlling?

    This is not a “courts can’t make decisions if there is contradictory oral testimony.” This is a “courts can’t make the decision to remove feeding from a patient if the only evidence is contradictory oral testimony.” Normal civil cases are decided on a preponderance of the evidence standard, but these sorts require “clear and convincing.”

    (Contrary to what some, such as Joe and Henry, think, the evaluation of the facts has not been done repeatedly by different courts. Appellate courts do not review findings of fact, generally speaking.)

  123. David, I never said “the evaluation of the facts’ has been done repeatedly–facts are not reviewed de novo at the appelate level, no kidding.
    But the trial court’s findings of fact MUST be supported by the record, or any appellate court can toss them (the findings). That happens all the time. And in the adversarial system, that record is created by the work of respective counsel in the trial court action. And if the trial court errs in admitting (or failing to admit) any relevant evidence to that record, then that ruling (which is a determination of law) is reviewable de novo by the trial court. Again, happens all the time

    In short, the legal process has worked EXACTLY as it was supposed to, except the trial court reached a result that some people don’t like. This proceeding has been reviewed, ad nauseum, for reversible error (which, given the irreversible issue at stake, is likely to be any even arguably material error)–and nobody wearing a robe has found one (yet), just our armchair (re)litigators here at H&R.

    My amazement continues….

  124. Here is a good reply to the question, “Why not let her parents care for her.”

    I’ve refrained from saying anything negative about the Schindlers but I’m starting to think that these are very sick people. At a hearing, they actually testified that they would derive “joy” from their daughters presence even if she was completely unaware of her surroundings and even if keeping her (or rather, her body) alive required amputating all of her limbs and subjecting her to massive heart surgery.

    That’s ghoulish. Sorry, but there is no other word.

    I sure as hell wouldn’t want anyone I loved to be in the care of these people.

  125. From one of the footnotes in the Wolfson report:

    “Of the Schindlers, there has evolved the unfortunate *and inaccurate* [emphasis added] perception that they will ‘keep Theresa alive at any and all costs’ even if that were to result in her limbs being amputated and additional, complex surgical and medical interventions being performed, and even if Theresa had expressly indicated her intention not to be so maintained. During the course of the GAL’s investigation, the Schindlers allow that this is not accurate, and that they never intended to imply a gruesome maintenance of Theresa at all costs. . . .

    “The Schindlers and the Schiavos are normal, decent people who have found themselves within the
    construct of an exceptional circumstance which none of them, indeed, few reasonable and normal people could have imagined. As a consequence of this circumstance, extensive urban mythology has created toxic clouds, causing the parties and others to behave in ways that may not, in the order of things, serve the best interests of the ward [Terri].”

  126. I get the impression that these horrific hypotheticals come from questions asked in cross-examination by one of Michael’s lawyers (I’m guessing Felos) with the specific purpose of trapping the Schindlers. Thus, it’s hardly any wonder that Wolfson didn’t put much store by the Schindlers’ responses to these questions.

  127. Thanks BL, for providing those footnotes from the Wolfson report.

  128. Joe: “I’m not claiming that he is closer to her NOW than her parents are, just that he (and her best friend) were closer to her at the time that mattered – when she was able to express her wishes. This made their testimony far more credible than that of her parents. It is also this greater credibility, not some right over her life and death, that makes his position as Next of Kin important to respect.”

    Ah, I’m sorry I misunderstood your point.

    I’m still interested in the delay between the alleged conversation between Michael and Terri and Michael’s disclosure of the conversation. If the conversation took place (which is what Judge Greer found), then it follows that Michael was misleading the malpractice jury. At the very least, he “did not volunteer information” to that jury, as a former President might have put it. The malpractice jury would certainly have been interested to know that Terri would have wanted life support (including food) terminated if her condition proved irreversible. The jury didn’t learn about this; instead it heard Michael describe how he wanted to take care of Terri indefinitely, with no mention of pulling the tube before the end of her natural lifespan. This may have affected the jury’s assessment of damages – “he’s going to need a lot of money to take care of Terri for such a long time!”

    If the doctors Michael sued hadn’t agreed to a settlement after the malpractice trial, they might have been able to reopen the proceedings in light of the new evidence. “The jury was misled, you Honor – it turns out that Terri wanted to be unplugged once it’s determined her condition is irreversible. I think a downward adjustment in the damage award is called for!”

  129. I don’t see why all the debate. Absent direct wishes of Terri Schiavo it is her guardian’s decision. Her husband is her guardian.

    The parents challenged the guardianship and lost the challenge. There was no evidence that Michael Schiavo was not acting in the best interests of his wife. Michael Schiavo has been accused of being an abuser and a murderer by so many people but yet the courts can not find any proof that he is acting in any other interest than that of his wife.

    So again, if you take all the emotion out of it, what exactly are we debating?

    I don’t think you can treat this case as a one off incident. Guardianship gives someone the authority to make those decisions alone (as long as they are acting in the best interests of the ward). If you allow the guardians legal standing to be discarded simply because of some kind of personal ideal then you open the door for more and more of these cases. It shouldn’t matter if its parents, or cousins or whatever. UNLESS YOU CAN PROVE THAT THE GUARDIAN IS NOT ACTING IN THE BEST WISHES OF THE WARD, this should have been resolved long ago.

    And the whole why doesn’t he divorce her argument is a joke. It is because of the bond between him and his wife and the respect for her wishes that he isn’t walking away. If Micaeal were really such a bad person would he put himself out there and take this kind of heat? Would YOU??
    I wouldn’t. If I was more concerned with simply starting my new life I’d say goodbye and good-riddance.

    The only truly questionable things around this case are the motives of the players who don’t seem to want to accept the rule of law

  130. Just saw this thread, don’t know how the hell I could have overlooked it before.

    YES, YES, YES, Jesse Walker. This is what I’ve been saying, and the “regulars” around here have been ranting against, for the most part, since this whole shootin’ match started.

    Well Done, Sir.

  131. Except I’ll add a note that I don’t think was touched on here: EVEN IF the woman had left something concrete such as a living will to signify her wishes, this whole mess was brought on by bulemia, a self-abusive condition with both physical and psychological components. Was she even competent before her complete cardiovascular collapse to make rational decisions about her own life, death or states in between?

    A judge might think so, but I continue to have grave doubts.

    Sometimes the safest and most rational course of action is to maintain the status quo, which, in this case, would have been to maintain hydration and feeding. If the girl is truly brain-dead, then it can’t hurt her any. If she’s not, and there is some hope, her lack of communicative ability argues for leaving options open rather than closing them out.

    In this case, I don’t think ANYBODY got it right.

  132. And the whole why doesn’t he divorce her argument is a joke. It is because of the bond between him and his wife and the respect for her wishes that he isn’t walking away. If Micaeal were really such a bad person would he put himself out there and take this kind of heat? Would YOU??

    This is an excellent point. Her family has offered to relieve him of all responsibility in this matter. Why not just wash his hands of it? Let’s look at the possible reasons:

    1) The malpractice settlement money: The biggest problem with this theory is that he has supposedly offered to donate what remains of it to charity rather than keep it. So that motive seems unlikely. (And this is all contingent on my particular understanding of the facts. If somebody has info to the contrary please tell me.)

    2) He wants to kill her for his own evil reasons. The most popular theory is that if she gets therapy and recovers the ability to communicate she might reveal something incriminating about him, most likely that her injury was the result of him assaulting her rather than a natural illness.

    The problem with this theory is that there was a malpractice trial against the doctors who treated her. While I’m not exactly filled with confidence in our legal system, I think that the defendants in that case would have had a strong incentive to bring forth evidence of assault if it existed. And since the doctors in that case had examined her, they’d be in a position to testify to injuries inflicted by a person if there were such evidence.

    So that leaves us with…
    3) He truly loves her and truly believes that she would want the feeding tube removed. Now, he may very well be 100% wrong about her wishes (that’s a separate subject), but as long as we’re talking about motives this is the only one that makes sense.

    Of course, everything I’ve said is contingent on certain facts, and new info could always contradict my understanding, but that’s the best I can come up with concerning his motives based on the credible evidence that I’ve heard.

  133. Incidentally, my brother in law has Downs Syndrome. He is 28, and his aging, hypodchondriatic, down-home Baptist mother is is sole guardian. She often says things like: “I sometimes wish the good Lord would just take us both.”

    T.J. is legally incompetent to make decisions on his own. He is mostly incommunicative about his feelings, that is, if you ask him what is bothering him – if he’s in pain, how he feels, etc., he can’t or won’t give an answer most of the time.

    He is also, through constant exposure to his mother, so hyper-religious that he often states that he can’t wait to go to Heaven.

    So, would my mother-in-law be correct to grant his wish by witholding food and water?

  134. “Except I’ll add a note that I don’t think was touched on here: EVEN IF the woman had left something concrete such as a living will to signify her wishes, this whole mess was brought on by bulemia, a self-abusive condition with both physical and psychological components. Was she even competent before her complete cardiovascular collapse to make rational decisions about her own life, death or states in between?

    A judge might think so, but I continue to have grave doubts.”

    Don’t worry, this logical extension of the Christer position has already been argued, along with the further extension that “how can we REALLY know what somebody wants when they’ve gone into a PVS; they might THINK they know before it happens, but when it actually befalls them, perhaps their wishes would be different.” And so on. The monomaniacal life fetishists, most of whom are so assured of the wonders of the great beyond, will spin any bullshit it takes to keep us here on earth.

    Have fun with your “grave doubts” (coming from you, not a pun I bet) up there in Iowa.

  135. Emmetropia, thanks for the info. However, I don’t think that anyone was advocating that the entity that pays gets to decide, though. I just was just curious as to the situation of the poor right-to-lifer. Given the fact that it’s against the law to discriminate based on income, would the State be required to pay for the upkeep of PVS sufferers should they desire to remain living until natural death takes over, even if they can’t afford to pay? I personally am somewhat ambivalent about saying that they can choose whether or not to pull the plug, because giving the government another area where they can play dog and exert life and death power over people doesn’t seem like a particularly good idea.

  136. clarityInIowa,

    If T.J. were being kept alive by artificial means and had no prognosis for any type of meaningful recovery, then yes the mother-in-law would be correct.

    Your analogy is a bad one though. Comparing a child whose is physically able to survive on its own (without artificial means) to someone whose body can not survive on its own are not analogous. Furthermore I think it would be a tough case to make that witholding food/water from T.J would be in his best interests.

    I don’t believe anyone would argue or is advocating that the mentally handicapped should have nutrition withheld either.

    Guardianship has this condition that you must be acting in the best interest of the ward. Guardianship doesnt give you the right to just off someone. And that is more than just a minor distinction.

  137. thoreau,

    I believe Mike Schiavo spent several years aggressively pursuing treatments before he gave up. Not exactly consistent with speculation that he has a vested interest in killing her off either for the money or to cover up his role in her injury.

  138. “I don’t see why all the debate. Absent direct wishes of Terri Schiavo it is her guardian’s decision. Her husband is her guardian.”

    That’s an eloquent argument, but it’s not the basis for the action of the Florida courts. I’m repeating myself, but here is a passage from the state appeals court’s first opinion:

    “In this case, however, Michael Schiavo has not been allowed to make a decision to disconnect life-support. The Schindlers have not been allowed to make a decision to maintain life-support. Each party in this case, absent their disagreement, might have been a suitable surrogate decision-maker for Theresa. Because Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers could not agree on the proper decision and the inheritance issue created the appearance of conflict, Michael Schiavo, as the guardian of Theresa, invoked the trial court’s jurisdiction to allow the trial court to serve as the surrogate decision-maker.”

  139. I will presume that the Florida courts have correctly interpreted state law regarding guardianship. This may or may not be a fair presumption – remember that it’s the *Florida* courts we’re talking about here – but I’ll assume their interpretation is the right one.

    That doesn’t answer the question, is this the way the law *ought* to be?

    Michael hasn’t tried to use his powers as guardian to decide end-of-life issues, asking the courts to resolve these issues instead. Still, a guardian has a lot of power over his ward. Should a guy in his position be guardian over his wife?

    It’s not a question of whether Michael’s personal motivations are pure. The reason the law ought to avoid conflicts of interest is to avoid situations where we have to examine someone’s subjective motivations and test them for purity. A judge who owns lots of stock in Microsoft might be subjectively pure and perfectly able to give an impartial decision in a lawsuit against Microsoft, but we still don’t let him do it, because his personal motives are irrelevant. There’s a conflict of interest there that poses a *risk* of bias, and that’s what the law should be concerned about, and that’s why a suit against Microsoft should be heard by a judge without stock in the company. There’s a *risk* a judge with Microsoft stock will unfairly tilt towards Microsoft (or tilt *against* Microsoft in an attempt to bend over backwards against his own interests).

    Or imagine if the Schiavo case were being heard by a judge who was president for the Society to Keep Every Disabled Person on a Feeding Tube. Would the anti-tube forces be content with assurances that the judge could put aside his conflicts of interest and decide the case based on the law? No, we would be hearing about conflict of interest, and rightly so.

    There’s a conflict of interest with having Michael Schiavo be his wife’s guardian. There’s a conflict of interest for him to be trying to run the affairs of two families at once: His wife on the one hand, and his girlfriend and kids on the other hand. The law would recognize this conflict if he actually divorced his wife and married his girlfriend. Just because he hasn’t formalized his current domestic situation doesn’t mean the conflict of interest isn’t just as acute.

    If we think it’s feasible for a guy to run two families at the same time, why not have government-recognized polygamy? Then he could be married to both of them! Unless we have some form of legal recognition of polygamy, it’s fair to ask this guy to choose between his legal wife and his *de facto* wife. He should be asked to decide to care for one or the other, but not both. If he wants to care for his *de facto* wife, then someone else should take over the care of his disabled, *de jure* wife.

    It’s perfectly possible that he’s making superhuman efforts to be fair to both his legal wife and his *de facto* wife, just as it’s possible for a judge to be fair to Microsoft despite owning the company’s stock. The law shouldn’t be based on these possibilities, but on the effort to avoid conflicts of interest.

  140. Maybe it’s time for the US to move toward euthanasia in extreme cases. I think part of the problem with the Schiavo case is the mode of death–starvation over a long period of time. That’s hard to swallow. But everyone dies, euthanasia can be quick and humane.

  141. Mar 31, 10:40 AM EST
    Schiavo Dies 13 Days After Tube Removed

    By MIKE SCHNEIDER
    Associated Press Writer

    PINELLAS PARK, Fla. (AP) — Terri Schiavo, the severely brain-damaged woman whose final years tethered to a feeding tube sparked a bitter feud over her fate that divided a family and a nation, died Thursday. AP Story

    Well. I hope Michael S. wasn’t a lying son-of-a-bitch.

    Kevin

  142. Henry – “And so on. The monomaniacal life fetishists, most of whom are so assured of the wonders of the great beyond, will spin any bullshit it takes to keep us here on earth.”

    Hmmm, that’s an interesting characterization. “Life fetishist?” Are you serious? I don’t think decisions about life and death should be reduced to the level of mere peccadillo, and I suspect, were this a private conversation and not a public forum, you wouldn’t be that cavalier yourself. Whether you agree with them or not, you are dealing with peoples’ core beliefs and values. Reciprocity and self-interest, if nothing else, argues for treating those beliefs and values with a certain amount of respect – at least outwardly. That is, assuming you ever want anyone else to take yours seriously.

    But having said that, I think you mischaracterized my point. I don’t get your reference to a “Christer position,” but if you mean a religious viewpoint, that is not what I am arguing. I am arguing what appears to me actually as a Libertarian position from Terri Schiavo’s point of view – as her will is the only one that really matters in this case. In order to go along with the show of hands of other people that she really did want to die, you have to accept the following propositions:

    1. That she did indeed express clear wishes in this matter to people close to her.
    2. That that expression was well-considered, thoughtful, not in any way cavalier and off-hand, as in “Oh, I just wanna die.” How many young women go through phases of that type? Or young men for that matter.
    3. That she was in a rational frame of mind, in no way delusional or mentally impaired.

    From my understanding of the facts of the case, and of my first-hand experience with bulemic young women, I MIGHT go along with number one, but #2 and #3 are murky propositions at best, hardly supportive of taking final, irrevocable action.

    I just heard that the whole discussion has become mercifully moot at last.

  143. Okay, so now the husk has expired. Who wants to guess how many more weeks of this bullshit we will have to listen to before it finally goes away?

  144. 1. There was no evidence that Michael Schiavo was not acting in the best interests of his wife.

    Actually, there was. The Pearse GAL report suggests that he wouldn’t let her infection be treated before finally relenting and allowing it to be done. Unless, of course, one thinks that letting her die is in her best interests — but that rather puts the cart before the horse.

    2. I believe Mike Schiavo spent several years aggressively pursuing treatments before he gave up. Not exactly consistent with speculation that he has a vested interest in killing her off either for the money or to cover up his role in her injury.

    As I understand the timeline, that is incorrect. Those treatments were BEFORE the settlement of the lawsuit. He basically gave up right after the lawsuit.

    3. The monomaniacal life fetishists, most of whom are so assured of the wonders of the great beyond, will spin any bullshit it takes to keep us here on earth.

    I think Henry makes Jesse’s point about there being equal self-righteousness on both sides. (“Life fetishists”? I’m not an expert on fetishes — but I would think that if there are any things that might be considered worth fetishizing, life would be high up there on the list.)

    Most people on both sides are sad about the events; read Henry’s posts, and you see someone cheerleading for her death.

  145. “Okay: you explain how sawing the arms and legs off someone’s body to keep alive a pretty much brain dead individual is anything other than grostesquely insane.”

    “Pretty much” brain dead, you say? Sounds like “mostly dead,” and as we all know, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and completely dead. Mostly dead is partly alive.”

    As for the supposed evidence that Michael was only carrying out Terri’s wishes: Unless there’s something in the transcript that I haven’t seen, the testimony was that she didn’t want to be kept “artificially alive,” but those statements only arose in the context of people being kept alive by respirators (such as Michael’s grandmother or Karen Ann Quinlan before her parents won at the New Jersey Supreme Court). I haven’t heard anything to indicate she ever said she’d want to be starved and dehydrated to death.

    There’s a big difference between the two, as Karen Ann Quinlan’s parents recognized. They fought long and hard to get the right to disconnect her from her respirator, but once that was done and — mirabily dictu — she failed to die, they refused to stop feeding and hydrating her, regarding that as quite a different matter from “artificial life support.” Maybe Judge Greer regards food and water and artificial life support, but the relevant question is not what the judge thinks but what Terri Schiavo thought. He was pretty cavalier when he held that Terri’s statement that she didn’t want to be hooked up “to a machine” meant she didn’t want to be fed artificially.

    (In any case, I’m not sure what meaning the term “artificial” has in the context of food and water anyway. Given that none of us photosynthesizes, I’d guess that any procedure that puts food into our stomach — abdominal feeding tube, nasogastric feeding tube, spoon feeding by a caregiver, or self-feeding — would be one brought about by human agency and thus would be “artificial.” And except for the water vapor that we absorb as a result of the involuntary, natural process of breathing, I’d guess that all of our hydration is similarly “artificial,” that is, resulting from human agency.)

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