Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Terry Schiavo - a tragedy but appropriate decisions by judges

What matters. I can't argue the desire of someone I've never met to either choose to "die with dignity" or "fight for another day". Either presentation is a slanted one engineered to engender support and cast aspersions at its antithesis. I can't speak to why Michael Schiavo chooses to not simply divorce Terri Schiavo and let her parents work to sustain her life indefinitely with machines or whatever methodology might present itself until they've both died (whereupon the responsibility will presumably fall to her siblings and eventually the government). That's his choice. What I think I can speak to intelligently is that each state has custodial laws. Florida's laws allow for the closest living relation to make appropriate choices in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated and does not leave a living will. Fault Michael Schiavo for his choices is you want but don't fault the courts. The President's and Republican's manueverings to pass a law that would open up the proceedings to the Federal Courts system was a ploy to pander to their conservative constituents; being a conservative constituent I found it base and offensive. The one redeeming factor in this is that when the Federal judges had the case laid before them they adjudicated it not based on popular opinion nor on political pressure from the right but based on the merits of the case. They applied the same criteria to this case as to any other judgement or appeal. None of the federal judges said that the Schindlers (Terri Schiavo's parents) didn't have a case. They said that based on the case that the Schindlers laid forth they didn't have a winnable case. They didn't win based on the merit of the arguments that they chose. Terri Schiavo has been on a respirator for almost 15 years (at the time of this writing). There have been legal decisions for years that upheld the right of Terri Schiavo's closest, living relation to make decisions for her. To me its tragic that this person was struck with such an affliction that she has to live in this state. That's tragic. What isn't tragic is that her husband who took a vow and would have followed it to its conclusion years ago has been confounded by court case after court case, appeal after appeal and now even seen new legislation created solely to remove his right to choose for his spouse even when years of legal review have upheld his right. Now I'm not saying I would make the same decision he has; I just don't know how long I would stand by watching my wife not able to live without the aid of machines and knowing that in 15 years nothing . . . NOTHING has been developed that gives me a glimmer of hope that she would ever respond to me or anyone else who knows her and cares for her. Regardless of what I'd do in a hypothetical situation, Michael Schiavo is living in a real situation and every law that has been tested either in Florida courts or in Federal courts has upheld his right and responsibility to make decisions for his wife. I don't think any of the judges whose decisions I've read seem activistic; rather they seem to be making their decisions based on the same criteria that have been used for decades regarding life choices when an individual can't make choices for himself. These laws have been tested and appear to be well delineated.

Let me reiterate: this post isn't about supporting euthanasia nor "right to die." It is about recognizing that the fights that the family has fought and lost repeatedly over 15 years are centered on who has the right to make decisions for Terri Schiavo since she can't decide or declare her decisions for herself.

Thanks for reading,


No comments: