Tuesday, March 29, 2005


A few ironies of the Schiavo case

The University of Miami Ethics Program has a web site setting out this informative time line of the Schiavo case. It's full of interesting factoids, worth checking out if you want to take the trouble to form an opinion on the matter.

A few random thoughts:

A couple of medical malpractice actions were brought on behalf of Terri Schiavo in the early 1990s, in which she was awarded over $1 million. I'm guessing that the great majority of her supporters in Congress, as well as the Bush administrations in the Florida statehouse and the White House would like nothing better than to make such awards unavailable to people like Terri Schiavo in the future, through their "tort reform" efforts.

Terri Schiavo's parents filed multiple legal actions in both federal and state court, seeking review in both the Florida and United States Supreme Courts several times, over a span of seven years. I'm guessing that many of the members of Congress who voted for the "Parents of Terri Schiavo relief bill" to assure them yet another shot at review in federal court have also voted to restrict and cut off exactly this kind of legal maneuvering -- including successive habeas corpus petitions -- on behalf of death row inmates in recent years.

I'd like to know how many of the "sanctity of lifers" who have demonstrated on behalf of prolonging Terri Schiavo's persistent vegetative state also oppose the death penalty. I'm sure there are some people who are principled across the board on these issues, and also oppose the death penalty. I'm guessing: not many.

One of Terri Schiavo's supporters, Richard Alan Meywes of Fairview, N.C., showed his regard for the sanctity of life when, a few days ago, he was arrested for offering $250,000 for the killing of Michael Schiavo and another $50,000 for the death of the Florida judge who originally ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.


I am against the death penalty and I also think it was outrageous to starve Schiavo to death. There, I'm one example.

Also, the death penalty is used for people who are guilty of horrendous crimes. Schiavo's only crime was marrying such a loser. I think it is pretty bad comparison on your part.

I guess I don't understand the rest of your arguments. Because Bush and other Republicans have tried to pass more tort reform and restrict endless appeals, Schiavo's family doesn't deserve these options?

A porcupine could make a better argument. As for Richard Alan Meywes, he was rightly arrested. I hope he goes to jail.
Dude, look at the IRONY.

Of course the Schiavo family deserves to seek the benefits of the tort system. The point about tort reformers is that they really don't care about people like the Schiavo's as living people with needs. It's the tort reformers who are undeserving here -- undeserving of gaining political capital from the Schaivo family tragedy.

I've never claimed to argue as well as a porcupine -- have you ever actually tried to argue with a porcupine? I'd advise against it -- they're good.
Bryan -- One more thing: What you call "a pretty bad comparison" is not as bad as you suggest. In both death penalty cases and the Schiavo case, the legal system is involved in making life or death decisions. There is a very strong interest in a fair and accurate legal process. Putting someone to death who has been wrongfully convicted is worth avoiding. But cutting off successive habeas petitions asserts that the interest in finality and repose in the legal process at some stage outweighs the interest in fairness and accuracy -- even when the petitioner asserts there is "new evidence" casting doubt on the verdict.

That's exactly what the Schindlers did -- they kept asserting there was new evidence showing that Terri would not have wanted her feeding tube pulled.

When you say "Schiavo's only crime was marrying such a loser" you're implying that letting Schiavo die is punishment. But keeping her body alive in a persistent vegetative state is punishment if it was her wish not to live in such circumstances.

If you agree that people have the right to die, then your only objections are either (1) bad factfinding by the court on Terri's actual wishes -- in which case you have to explain why seven years of litigation in federal and state court with three trips all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court is somehow inadequate (and which makes this case very much analogous to post conviction proceedings); or (2) letting someone die by "starving her to death" is cruel because she may experience pain. But there you have another conundrum to explain: many of the same people who wanted to keep Terri's feeding tube from being pulled would also strongly oppose her being given drugs that would make her death less protracted and painful. (See Gonzalez v. Oregon, now pending in the U.S. Supreme Court.)

Finally, your objection might be (3) never under any circumstances should someone's feeding tube be removed, whatever their wishes. Living wills should be void, etc. Clearly many of the protesters in the Schiavo case adhere to that view, and would try to dictate these life or death decisions to me and my loved ones. That I can't accept.
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