A CASE OF BAD PAPERWORK - Complications Ensue
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Wednesday, March 30, 2005

It's frustrating to watch the Schiavo case unfold in the newspapers, because people seem to be drawing moral conclusions from a case that is really about what the facts are.

The facts in question are: did or did not Terry Schiavo want to be kept alive by artificial means if there was no hope of her recovery, and does she have a hope of recovery. Only her husband knows for sure if she did or did not tell him she didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means, and only doctors who have examined her can have a meaningful opinion about whether she has a hope of recovery.

I don't think anyone thinks she should be allowed to die if there were a hope of recovery. And I don't think more than a small minority think she should be kept alive without hope of recovery if she asked not to be.

For my part, I wonder why people who believe in Heaven are so anxious to keep Terry Schiavo from going there. And I wonder how people who object to stem cell research because it's messing with God's domain can insist on keeping someone alive whom God, in the absence of a feeding tube, would allow to die.

And I wonder how people who usually think the federal government should stay out of morality are now trying to get the federal government's mitts on a state case.

But the morality of the case is not really in question. We're just arguing about the facts, and none of us know them.

NOTE: Trev, always good for an intelligent rebuttal, points out in the comments that her parents might also have a good sense of what Terry Schiavo did or didn't want, and that her husband may have a conflict of interest. But still, it's a question of fact. She did or did not want to be kept alive by extraordinary means. Whether a husband or a mother is a better guardian is a matter of custom and law. None of these things really touch on a moral question. It seems to be in the gray area of how much you should err on the side of caution in case when law and court-adjudicated fact point in the direction of death. Arguing about stem cell research addresses a philosophical/spiritual/moral point -- when does life begin? When does human life begin? Is there a difference? It seems crazy that we're spending so much effort on a case which is about facts we can't really know.

1 Comments:

Alex,

I like how you're always willing to jump into the thick of battle...

"Only her husband knows for sure if she did or did not tell him she didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means, and only doctors who have examined her can have a meaningful opinion about whether she has a hope of recovery."

I think you've hit on the key issue here for me. Regardless of how you feel about the "right to die," I don't think you can say "only her husband knows for sure." I know that my family (and remember it is her parents and siblings that were fighting in the courts with Michael Schiavo before the government intervened on their side) knows as much about my wishes in this area as my wife. And considering that you have three or four of them saying one thing and Michael saying another--I'd tend to go with the parents.

Even if you disagree with that, there is an additional, bigger problem. To whit, Michael Schiavo is conflicted as her guardian. He has a whole 'nother family: two kids and a girlfriend. I'm not knocking Michael--if my wife were in a coma for 15 years, I'd probably have a girlfriend too (sorry honey if you're reading this ;-))... But, given this situation, the legal presumption that Michael has his wife's best interest at heart (over say her parents) is, I think refuted or at least put in doubt.

Now, let me just say that you may be right: that Terri told Michael, what he said she told him, but no-one but Michael knows that for sure, and I don't believe anybody (be it a criminal in a capital case or someone like Terri) should face death based on only one, possibly conflicted (or in the case of the DP, possibly predjudiced witness) person's say-so.

By Anonymous Trev, at 11:42 AM  

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