The Talking Dog

March 20, 2005, When the Wrong People try to do the Wrong Thing for the Right Reason

This is where we are, when people whom I have made it the point of this blog to oppose politically get together to do something universally opposed by people whom I suppose I have supported (and probably opposed by many if not most of my remaining readers) do something I have to admire, even if I kind of wish that they wouldn't do it: Congress is planning a special session to enact a special bill for Terri Schiavo. The legislation, which my guess is will be signed at some point today (if it hasn't already) would create special federal court jurisdiction in Florida, so presumably a federal court there could order a feeding tube reinstated.

Evidently, the reason that Terri Schiavo was sentenced to a slow, agonizing death by the courts of Florida has to do with a Florida law that allows anecddotal evidence of her wish to be put down in the event she entered a vegetative state, which her (financially interested) husband Michael Schiavo testified was her reaction to a movie about a woman in a coma ("I don't want to be kept alive like that".)

Which brings me to this quote from an excellent blogger on "the other side", whom, for reasons involving disagreeing with her on almost everything, I never do. But Jane Galt has it right:

What is so morally imperative about finishing this woman off in a rather painful and unpleasant way, that congressional opposition to it makes you physically ill? I thought liberals prided themselves on the protection of the weak . . . being in a vegetative state is about as helpless as one can get. Or is it only the protection of the weak who aren't politically inconvenient? Someone, please, explain to me the coherent political philosophy that not only allows, but apparently, requires removing this woman's life support.

And there you have it. Jane Galt and I are actually in agreement that permitting Congressional intervention in individual cases is probably far more dangerous than it is helpful (and for that reason alone, is probably not all that good an idea here). But why does some theoretical tie-in to abortion rights mean that "liberals"-- and worse yet, "feminist" liberals-- are the great champions of Michael Schiavo and his famous philosophy of "kill the bitch" (he has been quoted as saying that, albeit presumably in moments of distress)?

(Peggy Noonan, for example, questions what the problem is for Republicans, seeing as they have absolute power over all branches of government, if they really wanted to save this woman. I would guess that even the Republicans recognize the possible "special pleader" problem, and may not want to open that door. Although, frankly, given the power the President seems to have taken it upon himself to have, why not declare Ms. Schiavo an enemy combatant, and order the staff of the brig in South Carolina to restore her feeding tube? For "this one", he'll use signing a private bill... But I digress...)

My hope is that this case sheds some sanity on a critical issue: we are being extraordinarily nonchalant with human life here. Yes, Ms. Schiavo's condition (not quite comatose, but not quite conscious either) is unpleasant to look at for many. But, strangely, the despised Republicans are trying, at least, to do the right thing here (albeit in a dangerous and crazy way that we will doubtless all regret, and they will as well; think "special pleaders" of all kinds). The right to abortion never meant that if the emergent fetus were alive and viable, it had to be killed. Is that what liberals are fighting for? Is this the sole remaining reason for the continued existence of the Democratic Party (given that after the ANWR vote it's certainly not the environment and after the bankruptcy bill it's certaintly not the interests of working and desperate people)?

My guess is that the Schiavo circus will drag on awhile, before the United States Supreme Court decides that it was improper for Congress to have interjected itself in an already decided state court matter (as the Florida Supreme Court did with a similar state law). And then, the plug will be pulled then, and with vigils everywhere, Ms. Schiavo will expire.

And the big question will be so deferred, but must still be asked: what kind of human beings are we, if killing this woman seems to be our core principle?


I love your site and often agree with your view. But not here. Please take a closer look at the facts of this case.
1) Ms. Schaivo expressed these wishes, not just to her husband, but to three people on different occasions.
2) Her brain has actually liquified. Yes, no more cerebral cortex, just spinal fluid. When she had a brain, she said she would not want to live like this.
3) At age 25 I doubt she ever thought (as most that age) that she would need a living will anytime soon. Most people get them if at all, when facing surgery.
4) You should read the guardian ad litem's report, the man that her parents support for the job: her husband took exceptional care of her, convinced for years she might recover. He even sought experimental treatment for her in California. He turned down an offer for $1 million to turn her over to her parents. Why? They have said that if she developed diabetes with this, they would keep her alive as they cut off her limbs. They said they would do it even if she had a living will or if it were proved (as it already is) that she has no brain. Most of their "medical experts" have never seen the patient or her MRI, just looked at the (edited) video. The poor girl is already gone -- just a shell remains behind.
5. You should focus on the bill here in Texas that GW signed allowing hospitals to cut off treatment against the family's wishes if the patient is going to die anyway and (more important!) they cannot pay.

Posted by djmm at March 20, 2005 2:11 PM

This brain dead shit must be highly contagious. Even dogs are getting it now.

Posted by Dick Durata at March 20, 2005 2:57 PM

You are off base on this. There is a CAT scan on the net, and even to a layman, it shows massive damage. The cerebral cortex is gone. And without that there is no consciousness and no suffering in any reasonable sense. She checked out 15 years ago.

There have been multiple court proceedings over the years, so her husbands judgments and motivations have had some scrutiny. He may be financially interested, but common sense says he can make better use of the proceeds of her estate than spending it on a charade.

Posted by Roger Bigod at March 20, 2005 8:11 PM

killing this woman is not our core principle. rule of law is.

Posted by mazzy at March 20, 2005 11:16 PM

Self-determination. The right to refuse medical treatment. The right for someone to make medical decisions for a spouse who is no longer competent.

If Tom DeLay wanted to control this woman's destiny, he should have married her.

Posted by Andrew Plotkin at March 21, 2005 2:31 PM

Kinds words above. Makes you think.
I appreciate the sincere reflections.
Lots of room for honest opinion.
Lots of respect for the other side.
Really, well done.

Posted by John Drutura at March 21, 2005 3:38 PM

I really don't think Democrats were involved at all until the Republicans tried to destroy the separation of powers using Mrs. Schiavo as a prop. Certainly, I don't wish to judge the wishes of her parents. But their willingness to use corrupt crackpot testimony and be used by corrupt crackpot politicians certainly inclines me toward thinking the husband's judgment is sounder.

Posted by Social Scientist at March 23, 2005 1:06 PM