Patterico's Pontifications


Two Interesting Opinions on the Schiavo Case

Filed under: Civil Liberties,Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:23 pm

Two interesting takes on the Terri Schiavo case:

The first is titled Bigotry and the Murder of Terri Schiavo, by Joe Ford:

The reason for this public support of removal from ordinary sustenance, I believe, is not that most people understand or care about Terri Schiavo. Like many others with disabilities, I believe that the American public, to one degree or another, holds that disabled people are better off dead. To put it in a simpler way, many Americans are bigots. A close examination of the facts of the Schiavo case reveals not a case of difficult decisions but a basic test of this country’s decency.

I’m not sure I would have put it this way. I think the words “murder” and “bigotry” are extreme — especially when I take into account the opinions of so many well-meaning (and some not-so-well-meaning) people who have commented on this blog.

Still, I’m not going to be too critical of Ford. He has personal experiences that are relevant — some doctor once tried to kill him because of an anticipated disability.

Go read his piece. It’s very well-written and thought-provoking. (Via Power Line.)

The second piece I want to highlight is titled The Other Self-Righteous Fanatics, by (believe it or not) Julian Sanchez Jesse Walker:

Much of the pro-death side pretends that they’re neutral bystanders who don’t want to “interfere” with a family’s private business, even as they actively argue for one side of the family dispute. They say they want to respect the woman’s wishes, even as [they] refer more readily to what they’d want for themselves in such a situation. And they warn gravely of a slippery slope to theocracy, without pausing to wonder whether there are any other slippery slopes to worry about.

(Via Xrlq.)

Amen, brother. Sanchez makes a good argument that current trends may not value individual interests. Libertarians, take note.

13 Responses to “Two Interesting Opinions on the Schiavo Case”

  1. […] y already believes to some degree that it is acceptable to murder disabled people.

    (Via Patterico via Powerline.)

    [0 […]

    MediaCulpa Blog (1893f5)

  2. If there is a slippery slope, it isn’t to theocracy it’s to a curious blend called Stalino-Fascism! We’ll get there sure enough through judicial bias and bigotry.

    Mescalero (830204)

  3. Not dead yet
    Here’s an absolutely devestating piece in the Harvard Crimson from a Cerebal Palsy patient whose doctor at one point thought his life wasn’t worth living and removed his endotracheal tube. “Bigotry and the Murder of Terri Schiavo” by Joe Ford…

    Carpe Bonum (3016bf)

  4. Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder by Nat Hentoff
    If you haven’t read it yet, check out Nat Hentoff’s piece.
    She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of rad…

    Myopic Zeal (739a0c)

  5. Somehow everyone has missed the root of this whole sordid story. Based on information I have seen it looks like Mr. Schiavo’s lawyer George Felos bled Terri Schiavo’s money dry. Since the money he moved to pull the plug.

    Also, Felos may have an ownership interest in the Hospice.

    Chris A. (9fdf88)

  6. According to the page I get, the post is by Jesse Walker, not Julian Sanchez

    Stephen M. St. Onge (15e0d0)

  7. I’m just one liberal, but if one’s take on the Schiavo situation is that her interests should be the number one thing and that the Florida courts’ decision on that point should stand, then one wouldn’t be the sort of person described in these passages, right?

    That is, if you believe that the courts have adequately addressed the central issue of Terri’s wishes, then you don’t necessarily believe “that disabled people are better off dead,” or that your own end-of-life wishes should be projected onto the Schiavo case.

    Note for the quick-to-disagree: note the “If ___, then ____” structure of that last sentence; that means you can address the validity of the statement as a whole independent of your agreement with either premise.

    Lance McCord (660d59)

  8. Lance, yes, I’m very familiar with the if-then construction. However, you clearly mean more than that; there would be no point to your construction at all if you were to follow by saying “and of course, since I disbelieve the premise, the consequent is of completely indetermined veracity.”

    I think it pretty obvious to everyone here that you do believe that “the courts have adequately addressed the central issue of Terri’s wishes,” and you think your cute circumlocution gives you plausible deniability. So let’s look at that premise — as even you must be aware that if the “if” part of an if-then is false, then we can say nothing whatsoever about the truth or falsity of the “then” part.

    1. Michael Schiavo testified that Terri once said to him that she would not want to live if she were in a coma.

    2. Scott, Michael’s older brother, and Michael’s sister in law Joan (Scott’s wife?), said she had had “similar conversations” with them.

    3. One of Terri’s friends, Diane Meyer, testified that Schiavo had reacted violently to a cruel joke Meyer told in 1981 about Karen Ann Quinlan being a “favorite vegetable;” Terri admonished Meyer (according to the latter) that Quinlan should not have been taken off a respirator, saying “where there’s life, there’s hope.”

    As starving a bodily-healthy woman to death is rather more drastic than turning off a respirator, and since, in the Quinlan case, the parents were united in their decision, it follows that if Terri thought even the Quinlan case was wrong she would conclude that what her husband wanted to do in her own case, against the wishes of all other class-I family members, was even worse.

    (As an aside, Quinlan refused to die even after being taken off the respirator in 1976; she lived nine more years, dying in 1985.)

    4. A former co-worker of Michael’s, Trudy Capone, testified in an affidavit that “Michael confided in me all the time about Terri … He said to me many times that he had no idea what her wishes were.” (A woman Michael dated in 1991 — a year after Terri’s accident — told the Schindler’s the same thing, but would not sign an affidavit; make of that last what you will, but I won’t give it a separate number, since she didn’t swear under oath.)

    In other words, we have Michael, his brother, and his sister in law saying that Terri made offhand remarks to them that she wouldn’t want to live if she were “in a coma;” we have a close friend of Terri’s saying she made an offhand remark that people like Quinlan should not be allowed to die; and we have a co-worker of Michael’s saying he admitted he did not know what Terri’s wishes actually were.

    That is ambiguous, to say the least. Judge Greer resolved the problem by dismissing Meyer’s testimony on the grounds that, since Quinlan “died in 1975,” the conversation could not have occurred (in fact, Quinlan died only after the conversation was said to occur; the judge was simply wrong on the facts). And he likewise dismissed the testimony of Capone, though I’m not sure on what grounds (presumably not simply her last name).

    This left him free to decide she wanted to die, since all the testimony he saw fit to believe said she wanted to die. Perhaps, Lance, you believe this is an unmuddied, cut and dried example of a court sifting fact from controversy — but I think it a dubious example of a judge only hearing what he wants to hear.


    Dafydd (df2f54)

  9. To me it is very simple. Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. And I don’t mean as you would have others do unto you if you had a brain injury, just plain do unto others as you would have others do unto you. If you don’t want to be starved to death, don’t starve others.

    And as for what Terri wanted, regardless of the disputes over whether she preferred to die rather than be disabled, I feel virtually certain that she did not actively wish to die of starvation and deyhdration.

    I do not think that every life must be preserved at all costs and against a person’s wishes. However, if we are going to allow people to choose to die, we ought to offer them a humane death. If the judge and the husband were so completely convinced that Terri wished to die, and after 8 years of litigation they were able to determine that she should die, how many more days in court would it have taken to procure a humane and painless end? It is gruesome to contemplate that the last loving act of a husband is to eagerly embrace the wife’s death by dehydration.

    Finally, I am very disturbed at the thought that people of very moderate intelligence (lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats) are making decisions about the quality of life of brain-impaired persons. Many years ago, a person with a flat-line EEG was considered to have such such inadequate brain function that it was acceptable to allow them to die. Now, a person with wakefullness, open eyes, a body responsive to stimuli is considered to have such inadequate brain function that it is not only acceptable but required for them to die. It appears that the line is creeping upward to the point that I wonder how long it will take for inadequate brain function to be defined as anything less than the person making the evaluation? If I was to decide who should live or die by the adequacy of their brain function, about 99% of humanity would not make it, as there are that many people whose brains function less adequately than mine.

    I certainly am not worried for myself, but I do not know how to protect my autistic child from people who want to make artificial boundaries of
    adequate brain function. Today it is the ability to swallow, if tomorrow it is coherence, or the ability to use syntax, or the ability to purchase a newspaper at a grocery store, then my son may be legally declared to be better off dead.

    I would like to think that I would never allow such a thing to happen, but I look at Terri Schiavo’s mother and I see someone completely
    at the mercy of a situation that is insanely out of control, such that the government has decreed that her daughter must be starved to death to
    preserve the rule of law. She is trying so desperately to convince people that her daughter is aware and responsive. What will I do when I have to convince someone that the single-word utterances of my son do indeed indicate wants and needs and awareness and communication? When legions of neurologists who have never seen him want to go on TV and opine that these are just random guttural utterances having no meaning?

    I have exhausted my thesaurus over the last two weeks. I have no more words to describe the barbarity, the insanity, the unreality, the
    complete inhumanity of what is being visited on this poor woman.

    Making someone die of thirst is wrong. Nothing can make it right.


    Teri (afca91)

  10. Finally, I am very disturbed at the thought that people of very moderate intelligence (lawyers, politicians, bureaucrats) are making decisions about the quality of life of brain-impaired persons.

    Great! As a lawyer — and therefore a person of very moderate intelligence — I agree!

    Patterico (756436)

  11. Courts should not be in the business of settling scientific controversies. They have about the same chance of getting it right as the grade-schoolers who had a new bunny in the class. One said, “Is it a boy or a girl bunny?” Another said – “Let’s vote.”
    They at least had a 50/50 chance of getting it right.
    On second thought – I don’t think the courts would do even that good.

    Boman (65b072)

  12. Way to miss the point, Dafydd.

    Patterico’s post presented two quotes critiquing positions supposedly held by some who support the outcome in the Schiavo case. I hoped to make the point that there’s at least one coherent position supporting that outcome that is distinct from the positions complained of above.

    I wasn’t after plausible deniability when I called your attention to the conditional nature of my statement. I believe the “if.” I was hoping to discourage people from dodging my main point by arguing with my hypothesis. Sorry this was lost on you.

    Lance McCord (e9a274)

  13. Patterico, I wanted to add something like “present company excepted” but it was kind of out of character with the rest of my rant. 😉

    Thanks for understanding.

    Teri (ef21eb)

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