Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Protecting Your Civil Liberties

Judge Won't Order Schiavo Tube Reinserted

The ACLU, of course, applauds the decision:
Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union (news - web sites) of Florida, praised the ruling: "What this judge did is protect the freedom of people to make their own end-of-life decisions without the intrusion of politicians."
But Terri Schiavo didn't make her own "end-of-life" decision. It's her putative husband's decision, not hers.

UPDATE: Timing is everything. Terri Schiavo suffered the heart attack that brought on her "persistent vegitative state" in 1990. She received "continuing neurological testing, and regular and aggressive speech/occupational therapy through 1994." Why did Michael Schiavo wait until May 1998 before petitioning a court for the removal of his wife's feeding tube?

And on what basis did Judge George W. Greer in February 2000 decide that Terri Schiavo would have chosen to have her feeding tube removed? He made a god-like decision to kill Terri Schiavo, pursuant to Michael Schiavo's petition. His decision was predicated not on Terri Schiavo's expressed wishes -- which are undocumented -- but on his view that Terri Schiavo cannot be healed.

A month later, as if to prove himself right, Judge Greer refused to allow "swallowing tests" on Terri Schiavo. Then, in April 2001, he refused to entertain testimony from a former girlfriend of Michael Schiavo that he had lied about Terri Schiavo’s wishes. Why? Because the testimony would have been "untimely." Judge Greer had already made up his mind to kill Terri Schiavo, you see.

UPDATE II: Donald Sensing (One Hand Clapping) has a post about Judge Andrew Napolitano's take on the case:
[Napolitano] said that the relevant transcripts, which he has examined, reveal that the Florida courts ruled that it was Terri's actual desire, based on testimony by Michael Schiavo and others, all of whom were cross-examined, that she had legitimately expressed a desire not to be kept alive in the medical condition she came into....

Napolitano didn't discuss the fact the Florida law allowed for acceptance in this case of hearsay testimony that Terri had expressed a desire not to be kept alive in her present condition.
Hearsay testimony. How convenient. The next steps down this slippery slope will go something like this:

1. A family will petition a court to end the life of an aged parent who is sentient but in declining health.

2. The family will produce as evidence for their petition a sociological study on a par with Kenneth Clark's phony "doll test," on which the Supreme Court relied in Brown v. Board of Education (1954). The study will "prove" that persons over the age of 80 have a death-wish.

3. A court will approve the petition.

4. The court's decision will become a controlling precedent.

5. Say "goodnight," Gracie.

FINAL UPDATE: Yankee from Mississippi, in a post titled "This Is All I'll Say," says it best:
I think that with the current structure of the law, there is no legitimate way to save [Terri Schiavo's] life. And by legitimate, I mean any way that would not seriously call into question the competency and institutional credibility of our justice system. Whether or not this should be the law is, of course, an entirely different matter. Perhaps once everyone is done fighting for and over this poor woman, they will get down to actually solving the problem, one way or the other.
The way to solve the problem, in my opinion, is to enact a "presumption of life" amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment would require documentary evidence of a person's wish to die when the alternative is life on a feeding tube or respirator. The amendment would authorize Congress to specify, by law, a simple and legally binding testatmentary form that could be executed in the presence of impartial witnesses. A properly executed form would be uncontestable.