Marlowe's Shade

Monday, March 14, 2005

George P Bush weighs in on Terri Schiavo

George P Bush simply says what we all already knew. It's nice to know he's a good guy.
Barring some kind of miracle, the forced starvation of Terri Schiavo will begin Friday. Her husband, Michael, will finally have the right to remove the feeding tube that has kept the brain-damaged Florida woman alive for 15 years. And the rest of us will have to come to terms with the fact that a court has allowed a faithless husband to kill his helpless, inconvenient wife, despite the best efforts of her parents and Florida's elected leaders to save her.

Terri was only 26 when she had a heart attack, with resulting oxygen loss that severely damaged her brain. Over the next two months, she recovered from her comatose state but did not regain her consciousness. Doctors say she is in a "persistent vegetative state" – yet she falls asleep at night and wakes every morning. She makes noises that express happiness and sadness. She can follow movements with her eyes and react to stimuli. Her nurses have sworn affidavits affirming that she can communicate with them.

At the conclusion of a medical malpractice lawsuit, a jury in 1992 awarded Michael $300,000 for himself and $750,000 to provide for Terri's care for the rest of her natural life, as he promised to do. Not long after he put the money in the bank, Michael began denying Terri medical treatment, refusing, for example, to allow a nursing facility to treat an infection she had developed. Michael has also refused to allow physicians to provide rehabilitative care for his wife, even though experts like world-renowned neuroscientist Dr. William Hammesfahr have stated that they treat patients with conditions worse than Terri's daily with success. Michael withdrew his wife from any external stimuli by placing her in hospice care usually reserved for the terminally ill.

In 1998, when he began legal efforts to withdraw nutrition and hydration from Terri so she would die, Michael suddenly "remembered" that Terri had informed him before her injury that she didn't want to be kept alive "on anything artificial." Though the Florida courts considered hearsay the evidence from Michael regarding Terri's thoughts concerning euthanasia, they have disregarded other statements, such as Terri's nurse who heard Michael say, "When is she going to die?"

They have ignored testimony from a court-appointed guardian calling into question Michael's motives, such as the fact that he stood to inherit anything remaining from the malpractice award in the event of Terri's demise. The courts have also ignored testimony from one of Michael's former girlfriends, who can demonstrate that Michael and Terri never discussed her thoughts and desires concerning her current physical state.

The sordid fact that Michael has been living for years with his girlfriend, and has two children with her, has not moved the courts. Michael, by the way, could divorce Terri and leave her willing parents to care for her. However, Terri cannot divorce Michael, who has been found by the courts to have the right to end her life.

The courts have not found with "clear and convincing evidence" that Terri would have wanted what the courts will allow this Friday. Rather than render rulings based on their interpretation of laws drafted by the state Legislature, Florida courts have engaged in "judge-made" law. Under a curious interpretation of privacy rights, this case lends more weight to the will of a man who is likely to gain financially from Terri's death rather than provide adequate due process to those who have no voice to speak for themselves.

American society is about to enter dangerous territory, in which the slow-motion killing of a woman by her faithless husband will have been sanctioned by the court. After Terri's death, where will we draw the line between one's right to privacy and another's right to life? Are our legislatures to have no say in the matter?

It is inconvenient to Michael Schiavo and to the Florida courts that Terri Schiavo continues to live and that her parents won't relent and let her die of thirst and starvation. If Mr. Schiavo prevails, then every person whose life is considered of negligible quality by a court or a legal guardian could be condemned. There is more at stake here than the fate of one solitary woman. After this Friday, it becomes possible that, in this country, if the unwanted and the weak are simply too burdensome to us as individuals, that the right to rid ourselves of inconvenient lives will be our courts' guiding principle.
ayahuasca vine 3:20 PM
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