removing the "mis" from information

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Why the Terri Schiavo case is Important

It appears that a large number of commentators view the Terri Schiavo case as merely a right-to-life vs. right-to-die case. I believe they are missing the big picture.

There are four major issues involved in this case, not just one; and these are four of the most important political issues in America today. These are what I perceive to be the major issues, and the questions presented by them:

1) The right to life

- Does any part of the government have the right to order a citizen who has been convicted of no crime put to death? From where does this authority originate?

- In the absence of a living will, what should be the assumption - that a person would desire to live, or desire to die?

- Under what conditions should the government allow a citizen to commit suicide, alone or assisted?

- Under what conditions should medical professionals be empowered to decide to prepare for a person's death, and should this ever be permitted for a non-terminal patient? Who decides, and are there any restrictions on the chooser's discretion? In the case of preparing for a patient's death, what means of ending a life are appropriate?

2) The runaway judiciary

- Will the judiciary be permitted to continue to choose which laws it wishes to follow, and which it may choose to ignore?

- Why is there more judicial protection for a convicted death-row inmate than a patient who is deemed to be a candidate for euthanasia?

- Should the judiciary be able to ignore the combined will of the other two branches of government?

- Will legislatures ever consider using the power of impeachment that is the proper check upon the judiciary? If not, who will hold judges accountable for fulfilling their oaths of office? If no one, haven't we then effectively cast off the Constitution as the law of the land, replacing it solely with the discretion of the judiciary?

- Can we continue to claim to be under the rule of law, when the rules are more dependent on which judge is making the decision than on the content and intent of the law?

- Why was a stay pending de novo review of this case considered unreasonable by several different federal courts, despite the fact that failing to issue such a stay rendered the law meaningless?

3) Corruption

- How many conflicts of interest may there be before it is no longer proper to extend the benefit of doubt?

- Should a judge be able to accept a campaign contribution from a lawyer who brings cases before his court?

- Why did every single avenue of relief available to the Schindler family go through the same exact courtroom - doesn't this practice empower corruption?

- Why did Pinellas County DA Bernie McCabe twice shut down investigations into foul play in this case?

- Who ordered that the local police enforce Judge Greer's order, rather than submit to the authority of the state of Florida, and under what statute is such an order legal?

- Were Terri Schivo's medical charts altered as is claimed by three of her professional caregivers?

- Whose responsibility is it to investigate and determine the truth of these questions, and to what extent do the answers matter?

4) The meaning of marriage

- What is a marriage, under the law?

- Can a person claim the privileges of marriage while living in open adultery? While having children with another partner?

- If the answer to the previous two questions is yes, for what reason is the marriage relationship privileged under the law?

- To what extent does a marriage empower a person to make choices for their spouse - should a husband be free to choose to terminate a wife who cannot speak for herself, or vice-versa?

- To what extent does the reasonable suspicion of one spouse imposing its will on the other through violence abrogate the privileges of such a relationship?

There are so many open and difficult-to-answer questions in this case that it should come as no surprise to anyone why this has become one of the most contentious issues of our time, indeed as some say, this generations Roe v. Wade.

There are other questions that have been posed that I can answer right now, with certainty:

Why is the federal government butting into an issue that has been the exclusive business of a state? Doesn't this violate the principle of federalism?

This argument has been oft recited by those who would be comfortable with putting Terri Schiavo to death. To this argument I answer: because of the fundamental inalienable right to life which is explicitly named among the reasons for founding this nation. If this right is not sufficient cause for the federal government to step in, then on what basis does the federal government prohibit the states from legalizing slavery, or racial segregation? Can any other right be guaranteed without an absolute right to live?

If one were to follow the federalism argument to its logical conclusion, then at some point one is asking "Why do we maintain a Union?" Why are we united states, rather than independent, autonomous states?

I find this a most craven time to expound the virtues of federalism. I am a strong federalist myself, yet somehow when articulating matters that should truly concern a federalist - such as the anticonstitutionality of the War on Drugs, or the failures of our public education system - these newfound "federalists" line up squarely on the side of federal control.

Didn't the legal process run its course? Hasn't Terri Schiavo been given due process, and isn't the current situation simply the result of that judicial process?

To this I can simply say, yes, the legal process ran its course, just as it did in Dred Scott. In other words, the judiciary is not infallible and inalienable rights should not be surrendered merely because the judiciary has rendered its judgement otherwise. The result in this case is prima facie evidence of grave deficiencies in our judicial process; rather than rushing to confirm the result out of respect for law, the result should be considered a red light warning us that the process is badly broken.

When an innocent citizen for no reasons other than her disability and the desire of her husband to see her dead can be put to death by a means that would be universally considered a "cruel and unusual" 8th Amendment violation if applied to a convicted criminal, the justice system is not producing the justice it exists to provide to us.

What if Terri Schiavo wants to die?

To this, I answer that there is no proof, or even reasonably credible evidence that she wants to die. Given that there is grave doubt as to her wishes, the only civilized answer is to err by assuming that she wants to live. Otherwise, it's open season on disabled people - the moment they cannot speak for themselves, it becomes legal to kill them.

Furthermore, I do not even find a duly authorized living will to be sufficient to answer this question in a similar case. Had Christopher Reeve been asked whether he wanted to live paralyzed and grievously injured, he may have very well answered while healthy, "no I would not". However, after the injury, there is no doubt that he wanted to live, with every fiber of his being. There is no way to know for sure how one would feel after sustaining a grievous injury. Some may well find themselves quite surprised to learn that they do in fact want to go on living whatever life is still available to them, although they may now boast otherwise. In the case of a brain injury, the very injury itself, or the experience of the injury, may change the person so deeply that they become a new person.

What a nightmare it would be, to find that one wants to live, only to be condemned to euthanasia by a misapprehension of one's former self!

And for all of us, what a nightmare it will be, if we accept the euthanasia of Terri Schiavo, when this case becomes a precedent for industrialized euthanasia of the elderly, infirm, and helpless. Roe v. Wade was about one woman's rights, and inside of a decade there were fetus-killing factories all over America destroying human babies by the millions. No one should have any reason to be surprised when HMOs and government bureaucrats move to euthanize lives they deem unfit for living to keep our current pseudosocialized health care industry financially solvent.


  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 2:28:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The courts have decided. Respect Michael and Terri's rights. I respect the sanctity of life and the sanctity of their marriage, and I believe they are sovereign from government interference. Again, 33 judges have decided. You're wrong on this issue, bub.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 2:50:00 PM, Blogger thoughtomator said…

    I addressed the marriage point above, but I'll repeat for your benefit:

    If we are to accept that a man living in open adultery, with two children by another woman, still retains the privileges of marriage to the extent that he has the right to have her euthanized, then what is the purpose of marriage and what interest does our society have in extending any privileges at all to such a relationship?

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 3:06:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Such "adultery" is baseless opinion. You know nothing of this situation. It's a private family matter between a man and his wife.

    If we conservatives are to respect the institution of marriage, we sure are doing a piss-poor job of it.

    Hopefully she dies soon so you can jump off the bandwagon like a good RINO.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 3:13:00 PM, Blogger thoughtomator said…

    It's not private at all. It's a matter of public record that this man has been living in open adultery with the woman he calls his fiance, since 1995. His own public testimony explicitly admits to that. The two children are also part of the public record, and not a figment of anybody's imagination.

    If we are going to call such an arrangement a marriage, it is no wonder we are having a rough time defending it.

    By the way, I am not a Republican, nor do I want to be, as I've explained in previous blog entries. But I am a conservative, one whose political opinion is informed by an understanding of the fundamental principles on which this nation is based. A simple re-reading of the Declaration of Independence will go a long way towards understanding my rejection of the courts' decisions.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 3:51:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Well done, thoughtomator ... and before Dred Scott, Jefferson wrote:

    My construction of the Constitution . . . is that each department (of the three branches of government) is truly independent of the others, and has an equal right to decide for itself what is the meaning of the Constitution in the cases submitted to its action.

    The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves in their own sphere of action, but for Legislature & Executive also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 4:43:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Adultery is about sex. Sex is a private matter. Furthermore, it is not relevant in this case. Terri Schiavo wanted to die, and now she is getting her wish. Or are Scalia, Thomas, and 33 other Christian conservative judges wrong?

    Give it up. A week after she dies and you'll be on your next tirade. She will be forgotten.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 5:01:00 PM, Blogger thoughtomator said…

    Sex is most definitely not a private matter when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. It is not a private matter when it comes to rape, or child molestation, either. Adultery is also against Florida law.

    If you are up for a more historical refutation and a little bit of reading, consider well that the channeling of sexual activity into the marriage relationship is arguably the basis of modern Western civilization.

    I don't believe she will be forgotten. I think this case will in the future be considered the modern equivalent of Dred Scott. Once again, one human being is considered by a court to be the property of another human being, to dispose of as he sees fit. That should be chilling to anyone who believes in human liberty.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 5:04:00 PM, Blogger thoughtomator said…

    To address the ignorant comment on the judges, you would do well to be aware that the only judge that ruled on what could be established as the fact of the case was Judge Greer. All other judges involved ruled on procedural appeals only. Furthermore, few if any of those judges can be considered conservative - many were appointed by Clinton - and we have no opinion on the record from either Scalia or Thomas.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 5:39:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Judge Greer is a good Christian Republican. He has studied this case for 15 years. The conservative Supreme Court has denied the Schindler's baseless claims 5 times.

    It's time to let it go. Even Chimpy McSmirksalot and Tom "I murdered my father" DeLay have abandoned the issue. Exploiting Terri is a non-starter for us process conservatives. Look at the polls.

  • At Sunday, March 27, 2005 6:05:00 PM, Blogger thoughtomator said…

    "Chimpy McSmirksalot"?

    After a comment like that I would be a fool to consider you a conservative of any sort.

    I apologize for mistaking your posts for honest inquiry. I now understand that even for a personal blog allowing anonymous comments is an invitation to mischief. Thank you for lowering my opinion of humanity.


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