I wrote my thoughts about the Terri Schiavo case back in May, 2004. I still feel essentially the same way: Terri’s husband should have the final say in her case. He is the one she chose to spend her life with, making him the one person she chose to represent her if she became incapacitated. And she did.
I don’t think our Congress should step in on a case-by-case basis when it doesn’t like a state court ruling, just to send that particular case to federal court. And I don’t think our president should rearrange his travel plans to sign the custom-made bill into law, which is what President Bush has done. That seems like the ultimate misuse of government power to me. It doesn’t help that partisanship is coming into play or that the president’s brother has been vocal about his personal position on this case and has himself been shot down trying to circumvent legal due process.
That said, I’m also sticking with my previous story that Michael Schiavo gives me the creeps. When Karen Ann Quinlan’s parents famously sought to remove her from artificial life support, they turned off a ventilator, which was doing most of her breathing for her. They didn’t remove her feeding tube. They left the feeding tube in after Karen showed she could breathe on her own. They didn’t want to kill her; they just didn’t want her to be artificially alive with no hope of recovery. Terri Schiavo isn’t artificially alive, though she seems to have no hope of recovery.
I don’t know too many parents who would choose to let their child starve to death. I do know that if you kept all nutrition from me for a few weeks, I’d die, too. So I guess I don’t see food as a medical intervention, no matter how it’s delivered into the body. At a minimum, we probably ought to provide nutrition to someone who can breathe on her own, no matter what her brain scans say, if she didn’t explicitly say that she also meant “feeding tubes” in the general verbal statement of “I don’t want to live like that, hooked up to all those tubes and machines.” [That’s not an exact quote, but that was the gist of it and about the level of detail, I believe.]
Again, I think Congress is wrong for stepping in. I think that Michael Schiavo has the right to determine his wife’s fate, only because according to Florida law, he does. A verbal statement of one’s wishes is all that’s required, and the Florida courts have found time and again that Terri said what her husband says she said. I have no idea why — with all the legal wrangling that has gone on in Florida over the past decade — the Florida legislature has not simply changed the law to stipulate that a written statement is required before someone can remove a feeding tube from a patient. That change would resolve this case once and for all, wouldn’t it? Or maybe they have and I’m just missing something.
If you have nothing better to do, you can read the 2003 Florida ruling that gave Michael Schiavo full control over his wife’s destiny. Essentially, two other people corroborated Michael’s story about what Terri said. Of course, they both have “Schiavo” for a last name.
Two people also contradicted Michael’s story. Their testimony was deemed not reliable by the judge. Terri’s mother’s testimony was not considered in the ruling because the judge decided Terri made the statements when she was about 12 years old. Her friend’s testimony was deemed unreliable because the judge thought the friend used the wrong verb tense. [Seriously. See page 5 of the court ruling.]
Who can blame Terri Schiavo’s parents for using every avenue available to them, including our Congress? I’d be doing the same thing. I don’t know that I could ever remove a feeding tube from one of my children, no matter how bad their condition was. And I sure would want my feelings in the matter to count, even if I had no legal rights. Removing the tube just goes against the basic job description: parents give life to their children and nurture them. We don’t withhold food [except for dessert, when they haven’t eaten their peas]. We don’t send them into a two- or three-week, slow dehydrating death, even if there’s no hope for any type of recovery. At least I don’t think I could.
Michael Schiavo is now the father of two young children. Why doesn’t he understand where Terri’s parents are coming from? He still has not one kind or understanding word to say about them. For the life of me, I can’t comprehend how, now that he’s a parent, he can still remove someone else’s child’s feeding tube against their wishes. I’d like to believe he really is being true to Terri and is carrying out her instructions. But he’s just so sure that she meant it was okay to starve her body when she said she wouldn’t want to live hooked up to machines. Has he ever had a moment of doubt? To hear him, it appears not — he seems to have no qualms about this decision at all. Like I said before, the guy gives me the creeps.
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