March 22, 2005
Abuse of Power
Congress interjected itself in the Terri Schiavo case and passed a special law allowing her parents to bring it to federal court.
George W. Bush makes a dramatic flight back to Washington to sign the law even though he can save time by signing it in Texas. Bill Frist makes a snap diagnosis of Terri based on watching a few minutes of video and sacrifices medical ethics for his political agenda. Tom DeLay sanctimoniously grandstands and disseminates falsehoods, attacking Michael Schiavo to further flame the passions of the masses.
Now that Congress didn't get what it wanted from Federal Judge James Whittemore who denied the reinsertion of Terri's feeding tube, Rick Santorum charges him with "judicial tyranny", a truly preposterous charge coming from the member of a body which abuses its power and flaunts its disregard for the law.
The ruling party excuses its opportunism by trumpeting the sanctity of life. What about the sanctity of individual liberties? What about checks and balances and separation of powers? What about limited government and the due process of law?
Terri's mother, Mrs. Schindler said, "There are some congressmen that are trying to stop this bill...Please don't use my daughter's suffering for your own personal agenda". I feel for her and her family, but the very people who supposedly champion their cause are the same people exploiting their suffering. An unsigned one-page memo distributed to Republican Senators makes their intentions clear:
"This is an important moral issue, and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a co-sponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."
The public is not fooled. Polls show we strongly disapprove of this federal intervention and feel that Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain.
The public, by 63 percent-28 percent, supports the removal of Schiavo's feeding tube...70 percent call it inappropriate for Congress to get involved in this way. And by a lopsided 67 percent-19 percent, most think the elected officials trying to keep Schiavo alive are doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or for the principles involved.
When Mr. Bush signed the special Congressional Bill he said, "In cases like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. This presumption is especially critical for those like Terri Schiavo who live at the mercy of others".
Yet in 1999, as Governor of Texas, Mr. Bush signed the Texas Futile Care Law which allows hospitals in the state to discontinue life-sustaining care when they believe it's pointless to continue, even if the patient's family members disagree.
Last Tuesday, six-month old Sun Hudson was the first to die under this law after Texas Children's Hospital took him off life support. The family of sixty eight-year old Spiro Nikolouzos was given the requisite ten-day notice by St. Luke's that they are disconnecting his life support. He too, would have died if another facility did not take him. I don't see Mr. Bush or any members of Congress invoking the sanctity of life in these cases.
In Terri Schiavo's case, there are two things the state courts must determine in the absence of a living will: first, if there is convincing evidence showing the patient's intent and second, if the patient has a reasonable chance of recovery. The case has been exhaustively heard and reviewed by 19 different judges who concluded that those issues were answered satisfactorily by the evidence presented.
All of them sided with Michael Schiavo, still Terri's husband and legal guardian, who maintains that Terri wouldn't want to remain in her present state. I have read about suspicions and accusations hurled at him, all unsubstantiated. If there was any actionable cause against him, the courts would have heard them by now.
Terri is not being murdered or sentenced to death. She's being allowed to die according to her wishes. Removing her feeding tube is the only legal way to honor that. It is doubtful that she will be aware of any pain because her cerebral cortex is basically gone. The eye and facial movements we see are merely reflex movements produced by her brain stem, which is the primitive part of the brain.
Many people choose to discontinue artificial life support in their living wills; if the objection is about the cruelty and inhumanity of this practice, then the solution is to openly discuss more humane ways to end life, not the indefinite extension of life by artificial means.
We have the right to refuse treatment at any stage of illness because the right to our own bodies is sovereign. She, like everyone of us, should not be compelled to submit to every medical means to prolong life, even if the purpose is beneficial.
Like everyone of us, Terri has the right to choose her own fate, both in life and in death. It is time to let this woman die in peace.
Breaking News: CNN has just reported that the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has denied the Schindlers' appeal to overturn the lower court's rejection to have the feeding tube reinserted.
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Wonky Muse is the other Filipino American female political blogger. The sane, liberal one.
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