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Eminent Domain Stuff

New London Update (2/24/06)
Coverage of the Rally at New London's City Hall (w/ pics)

Tuesday, April 12, 2005


Terri Schiavo

I received an email last night kindly prodding me to not fall into the short attention span trap that I, from time to time, accuse others of. So I'll ask, what every happened to the Terri Schiavo story?

Typing "Terri Schiavo" into the Google News engine produces any number of recent articles and Op/Ed pieces from around the country, but you'll notice that the national media has generally dropped the story. After all, they've got more important things to bombard us with...like whether Michael Jackson, in addition to being a generally disturbing individual, is or is not a child molester.

Her is the short list of things the bother me about Terri's case now that she has died:

1) A woman was starved to death on the strength of a) her husband's belated recollection, in the absence of any documentation (and in the presence of the official possibility that he may have a conflict of interest (see page 8) in the case), that she would have wanted to be starved to death and b) the diagnosis of a doctor who has a proven track record of, shall we say, imperfection identifying persistent vegetative state (with the emphasis on persistent).

2) Judge Greer's 1998 ruling that Terri's feeding tube could be removed was inconsistent with a previous ruling of his in a very similar case. In that case a man was found to be in a persistent vegetative state and there was a living will indicating that he would not want to be kept alive in that state. His wife asked that she be allowed to keep him alive in order to try alternative therapies and the judge agreed with total disregard for his legally stated wishes.*

3a) Poll after poll indicates that a majority of Americans believe that Congress overstepped its bounds when it tried to intercede. Slanted polling questions aside, the fact is that Congress has power over the courts in a very clear and straightforward manner both through the Judicial Act of 1789 and within the very text of the Constitution itself (and I'm not just making this up). So, Congress certainly does have the right to oversee the Courts and, when they deem it appropriate, to pass laws telling the Courts to shape up or ship out. Unfortunately, the current Congress doesn't have the guts to carry through on that promise (although some at least say the do).

3b) Many of the polling questions include (at least) two inaccuracies. First, polling companies refer to Terri Schiavo being on "life support". While a feeding tube certainly qualifies as such in a literal sense, such a tube is not what the term conjures in the mind. Rather, "life support" makes one think of ventilators, central lines, beeping BP monitors and all that. Misleading is probably the most innocent explanation. The second inaccuracy involved with the polling is the question as to whether or not the government should step in to counteract the courts' decisions and save her life. Does anyone see the problem there? How about the fact that our government (state and federal) is composed of three (count 'em, three) branches. Those would be (in the order in which they are found in the US Constitution): the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial. So, the government was involved in this case way, way before you or I had ever heard of it, let alone before the US Congress stepped in. So why should the Congress, President or even the Governor not have the power to impose a check (or even a balance) on the Judicial branch? As a matter of fact, they have every right to do exactly that (see point 3a).

I suppose I could continue for a while, but I will leave you with on closing thought in anticipation of a counter argument. One might very well say that Michael Schiavo is not a dirtbag who, while siring children with another women and Living in Open Adultry (a misdemeanor of the second degree, by the way), insisted that his wife be killed for the malpractice settlement money. After all, he did try all sorts of medical procedures and therapies for the first few years to, apparently, no avail. It was only after medicine had failed and he saw that there was no hope did he let it be known that Terri would have wanted to die.

To that I would say that had he made no attempt at helping her early on I would have never heard of this case since he would have been stripped of his guardianship for obvious reasons. Further, the simple fact that many/all medical procedures had been tried has absolutely no bearing on this case. There has been a lot of misdirection concerning the important issues. People (cough-the media-cough) have labeled this a "Right to Die" case. Um, no. No one was disputing anyone's right to choose death if suddenly thrust into a PVS. Rather, the true argument was (or should have been) what was Terri's actual wish. From what I can tell, we have only Michael’s word on that subject...and I'm sorry...but even the suggestion of a conflict of interest (i.e., he was going to 3/4s of a million bucks when she died) should have prevented him from making the call. Had he been willing to give up the money, maybe we could have talked...but he didn't.

In the end it's a horribly sad case and I hope for two outcomes. The first is that there should be some sort of retribution against the members of the judicial branch who actively sentenced Terri to death. The second is slightly more upbeat and optimistic...in its own way. That is that I hope each one of you will take this case to heart and do was is necessary to insure that you never put your family in such a horrible situation. So please, make you wishes known in a legal format (living will, durable power of attorney, etc.), tell members of your family.


*I read this last night and lost the url. If anyone has it please send it along.


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