Monday, March 21, 2005

COM: Living

I have been posting comments on several other blogs (i.e., BurntOrange Report, WildSects) about Terri Schiavo (once again in a now failed attempt to let other bloggers devote themselves to the blogging on some of these issues, while i post at a removed distance). But some things just won't go away and i feel a need to just toss out devil's advocacy (sorry about that) on some things.

I still don't fully know what to think about this case -- i think more than anything right now i'm hoping (in a desperate act of optimism for our society) that there really aren't so many agendas at play, so many people grandstanding for financial, religious, political or other ugly reasons. Indeed what i'd hope for is that "real" bioethics debates occur in the future, involving "real" neuroscientists and bioethicists, and that something precise be codified to avoid making victims (of whatever -- violence, disease, genetics, wrecks, bulimia, good intentions, whatever) and their families become objects of public voyeurism (which means to me "unwanted scrutiny of private affairs").

On the political end, i cannot help but wonder about the grandstanding of Tom DeLay. If not for the "Futile Care Act" in Texas, essentially the same questions would surround the death of Sun Hudson in Houston. The biggest similarity (IMHO) between his and the Schiavo case is that distraught parents were trying to save hopeless cases. The biggest difference? There was no spouse as primary guardian (although both cases had reverted to court order). So where was Tom on that? I don't know if the Hudsons lived in his district, but they were at least in his backyard . . .

And as i've posted elsewhere, so much of the debate has centered on Terri Schiavo's husband's declaration that this was her wish. And much made of her lack of a living will for good reason. And yet a certain shrill faction that is its own worst enemy continues to couch this in terms of her suffering and starving. I have to wonder where they'd be if she had left a living will? Would they still be there shouting about suffering and starving? And if so, why aren't they doing that in the thousands of other cases that are ongoing in our country? Just a question that seems focused on motive.

Having said that, i want to point out that i know there are thousands of folks following this case whose hearts (and judgments) are in the right place. They honestly care.

I have been through this (i won't post on that here, as it would invite voyeurism of some folks who do not want it). The best i can say at this point, is, with empathy, there are simply some things that you know, you know you know, and you fight against, and battle for, and your brain and heart don't want to connect. And that's why this issue hits home, and is hard for me to know what to think about, even though i know that i know what's right.

[and for the record i realize the difference in the assisted breathing in the Hudson case as well, but find it moot -- assistance is assistance]

Update: i now find that
Wild Sects has posted along a similar line . . .

And some notes from
Mark A.R. Kleiman

And here's some lengthy, more thorough, and provocative pieces (which i may or may not agree with but appreciate the background):

Lean Left -- Futile Treatment, The Right to Decline . . .

From Obsidian Wings (hilzoy) --
Terri Schiavo and this update

And from HealthLawProf -- analysis of the Hudson case

And a
Schiavo blogswarm at Majikthise

I am updating this post with the information i posted in later postings so as to archive all in one place.

From March 21, 2005
Hmm . . . aren't Congress and that certain shrill faction who are their own worst enemy acting as activist judges themselves here (and without even being judges?)

From March 22, 2005
The case went to a federal judge and he said no too. What now? Appeals?

Update: Yep, 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

Update 2: Another important read from the
Columbia Journalism Review.

And another from
Salon (advertising wait involved). And from Dahlia Lithwick on Jurisprudence at

From March 23, 2005
11th Circuit rejects 2-1.

Appeal to 11th Circuit full panel rejects 10-2. Florida Court rejects renewed attempt by Jeb Bush.

Supreme Court next to rule.

What's left after that?

Stories from: DailyKos
And background from The New England Journal of Medicine:
by Timothy E Quill

by George J. Annas

And commentary from Molly Ivins and Pandagon

From March 25, 2005
At New Donkey is a nice commentary on life distinctions in the Schiavo case.

I want to reiterate here (and as i've done on several other blogs): this is a politico-religious stand being made by a group that seems to have found new boldness in the Bush "mandate" -- a new light at the end of their theocratical aspirations tunnel.

While it's being couched in "right-to-life" terms, they only have standing at all because of the lack of a living will, and the subsequent use of the courts to impart a decision about whether or not life support should be withdrawn in an instance where there is familial disagreement.

If the issue really IS about the right to life: a) would those same folks be raising this stink in this very case IF there was a living will?; and if so, B) why aren't they doing so in the many other cases around the nation where the same issue is being played out?

Various sites report that either/both 35,000 other cases in the U.S. fall under this same general cloud, and/or up to 4,000 cases at any one time are undergoing routine disconnection from life support. However you parse those numbers they are significant, and yet where are the angry people if indeed this is about the "right to life".

By logic of the going argument, of which no one else seems to have any problem with the contradiction, IF there is a living will somehow the issue of the "cruelty/barbarism" of the starvation/dehydration routine seems to simply disappear.

At least the anti-abortion right-to-lifers picket any number of clinics and individuals they can find. How many hospices are being picketed?

Granted that many of these cases involve disconnecting a respirator which results in fairly rapid death, still a number of others do not. And in Terri Schiavo's case would not. So, faction, if there WAS a living will would you be so incensed? And if so, you better gear up for the many others out there once Schiavo passes on.

You know the answer as well as i do. And because of that, there is no conclusion other than this is about making a shrill public exhibition.

This is about a Bush brother's ability to make headlines, about TV cameras, and about political aspirations -- it is not and never was about any "right to life".

Having said that, i want to make clear that i know full well that there are indeed many people, of good heart and faith, for whom this really is a right to life issue. Nevertheless, have those same people been out protesting elsewhere or did they just jump on this bandwagon.

If you'll read my other short posts on this subject you'll note that i am personally unsettled by this case. However, i am not unsettled about the political hay being made, and the great damage being done to two families, and the quality of debate about bioethics in this country, not to mention the continued destruction of the constitution.

Commentary from Bull Moose and Maureen Dowd

Thanks to Wild Sects

Then, check this:
Sadly, even now we fail to see what lead us to this point. Many well-meaning people mistakenly believe this issue is about the “right-to-die.” But at its core, the Schiavo case is not about bioethics, living wills, or medial choices.


Well, this comment at Evangelical Outpost(!) says it's about bigamy and the sanctity of marriage . . . hmmm.

From March 26, 2005
Some acceptance CNN

Is it possible this (New York Times)
had something to dowith this? (Los Angeles Times)

Billmon at Whiskey Bar in an eloquent discourse on exactly what i've been saying all along.



Kevin Drum -- HOLY COW!

More on that from Steve Gilliard who has blogged extensively on the issue

Lean Left

Some random thoughts and pictures . . .There's something about the government ignoring the law. As in Jeb sending state police to do a kidnapping (that's too strong a word really but i can't come up with something more neutral that decribes the defiant aspect of it). And if he/they have gone to that extent why back down? (Actually i suspect the courtesy call, one cop to another, was an inside effort avoid a crisis, and a well called one -- but why do we have to leave it to law enforcement to keep chief executives in check?)The only parallel i can come up with is the national guard aiding integration efforts in the south in the 60s.Some feeling that any minute, should any of these overt government-rebelling-against-government actions actually succeed, that we'd be looking at an imminent implosion of government as we know it.In the face of the anarchy of the governor, how could any case against the "trespassers" who stepped across a line to symbolically take water to Schiavo stand up in court. An inkling that the gay marriage tiff was the instigating factor in all this, and that in the end analysis it may have been productive.And anyone else wonder about the message sent by Terri Schiavo's condition being brought about by bulimia, itself self-starvation.There is too much irony here to assimilate.Speaking of which, Hesiod at American Street notes that in arguments before Judge Greer lawyers argued that stem cell research might eventually lead to a cure for Schiavo. (head scratch, dull questioning sigh, begins to sink in . . .).

From March 27, 2005
Schindlers resigned MSNBC

From March 29, 2005
from MSNBC: Original doctor on CT scan
an extensive discussion at Respectful of Otters
from Keith Olbermann

From March 30, 2005
From the New York Times, hard words from an Appeals Circuit judge over the Administration and Legislature's attempts to intervene in the Schiavo case. And not just any judge, but one with a strongly conservative history, and one who was appointed by Bush Senior.

Robert Friedman of the St. Petersburg Times (that's in Florida dudes) lays out the perfect Living Will to prevent a Living Hell.An excerpt:

* I want my case to be turned into a circus by losers and crackpots from around the country who hope to bring meaning to their empty lives by investing the same transient emotion in me that they once reserved for Laci Peterson, Chandra Levy and that little girl who got stuck in a well.

* I want to be placed in a hospice where protesters can gather to bring further grief and disruption to the lives of dozens of dying patients and families whose stories are sadder than my own.

* I want total strangers - oily politicians, maudlin news anchors, ersatz friars and all other hangers-on - to start calling me "Bobby," as if they had known me since childhood.

Read the rest here.

From March 31, 2005
Family forgiveness from CNN
Battle not over from MSNBC

While i have posted vigorously on the silliness of the circus, i have always felt conflicted internally (as i posted in my original notes on this), felt grief for both families, and i welled up at news of her actual death this morning.

I continue to feel anger at the hangers-on, the exploiters, the hypocrites, the professional camera-seekers, the hate-mongers, and the surrogate gods (see Mark. A.R. Kleiman via Kevin Drum).

Nevertheless, there is relief that she is gone, for her sake, and for the family's (every side). I am most particularly grateful for the forgiveness and humility of the Schindler family in the aftermath. Perhaps their priestly "spokesmen" and other bullhorns could learn some grace and class from them.

This is certainly not the end of the acrimony, but . . .

it's time to move on . . .


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