Bring Out Yer Dead!

This is a post by Cindy B, wife of Geoff B:

The Terry Schiavo case seems to be forefront in the media as well as in casual political discussion at the moment. Naturally, someone brought the topic up in my class today, and those who cared to comment (mostly some rather obtuse people to whom it would never occur that others might disagree with them) were appalled that the government would interfere. This woman couldn’t possibly enjoy any kind of decent existence as a vegetable, etc, etc. My gut reaction was to verbally thrash them for their ignorance on several points:

1) The description of this woman as a vegetable. Last I checked vegetables don’t move, open their eyes or smile. In fact, the last carrot or squash I examined failed to move at all.

2) Believing that a man who has been living with (and having kids with) another woman for years has any right to decide as a “husband” that it’s time for Terry to die. Also, they rather callously asserted that her parent’s only reason for keeping her alive was an inability to let go of a child who was already essentially “dead.”

3) Thinking it was humane to starve an innocent and helpless woman to death – a slow and mostly painful 10 to 12 day process that involves the shutdown of several internal organs, eventually leading to cardiac arrest. We are at least humane enough to give a death row inmate a quick death by lethal injection.

4) The indiscriminate acceptance of the major media’s opinion on this case. Most of the major media agree with Michael Schiavo. It’s dangerous to be so uncritical of anything unanimously accepted by all major media sources.

Wanting to avoid a touchy political argument in an inappropriate setting (a Massage Therapy class), I kept my mouth shut. Then on the way home I listened to talk radio, which was dominated by discussions of Terry Schiavo and the federal government’s involvement. I’m 6 months pregnant at the moment, and I couldn’t help thinking that if this were my child, and he had any kind of life at all – even one void of walking and talking – that I couldn’t simply starve him to death in the belief that I was saving him from a fate worse than death. How can I know he’s living a life worse that death? We have no way of knowing just how much Terry sees and understands. Terry is brain damaged, not brain dead. Perhaps she understands only as much as a tiny infant – perhaps more – but we would never think of withholding food from a tiny infant simply because it can’t verbalize or walk.

Think about this. There are several diseases and disorders that affect a person in a similar manner. Terry is unable to feed herself, but her heart beats and her lungs inhale on their own. A stroke patient, for example, may not be able to speak, and may even suffer dysphagia (the inability to swallow) due to paralysis, but we would never consider withholding food from this person. A child with cerebral palsy may not be able to control his muscles well enough to walk or even swallow, and feeding tubes are used to keep him from becoming malnourished, but if a parent stopped feeding that child, it would be considered murder. Then there is Parkinson’s Disease, Huntington’s Disease, MS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease, Muscular Dystrophy, and several other conditions that may impair movement, verbalization and even the ability to swallow, but we don’t simply pull the plug on these individuals. Even the opponents of keeping Terry alive wouldn’t say that people suffering with these diseases deserve to die in order to save them from incomplete or impaired life experiences. The talk in this case has referred over and over again to the Constitution and whether the government has a right to interfere in Michael Schiavo’s decision. However, let’s go back to an earlier document and take a look at the Declaration of Independence. Have we bothered to ask about Terry Schiavo’s unalienable right to life? Should her husband’s marital rights override her basic right to survival?

Then it dawned on me that this must be about convenience. We are coming to a point in our society where caring for the disabled and elderly could be viewed as so inconvenient that their lives no longer have any intrinsic value. I truly believe we will be judged as a society by how well we treat the most infirm among us. We must take care with how we approach this woman’s right to live, because it could be a stepping stone to the high road of civilization, or to the low road of barbarism.

I realized something else. It’s rather disturbing actually. This whole scenario reminds me of a rather sick and twisted scene from Monty Python and the Quest for The Holy Grail. Remember the scene where the mortician is going by with the cart yelling “Bring out your dead! Bring out your dead!”? Then a man comes out with his old father thrown over one shoulder and bargains with the mortician to take him away. All the while the old man is yelling out, ” I’m not dead yet!” Eventually, the mortician whacks him over the head and throws him on the back of the cart with the other corpses. The Terry Schiavo argument is eerily like that — only it’s not funny.

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About Geoff B.

Geoff B graduated from Stanford University (class of 1985) and worked in journalism for several years until about 1992, when he took up his second career in telecommunications sales. He has held many callings in the Church, but his favorite calling is father and husband. Geoff is active in martial arts and loves hiking and skiing. Geoff has five children and lives in Colorado.

124 thoughts on “Bring Out Yer Dead!

  1. Then it dawned on me that this must be about convenience. We are coming to a point in our society where caring for the disabled and elderly could be viewed as so inconvenient that their lives no longer have any intrinsic value.

    Why, yes, it must be. There’s no other conceivable stance, and certainly not one under which people of good conscience might disagree on the matter.

    (I’m sorry, what was that about people to whom it would never occur that others might disagree with them?)

  2. Also from Florida:

    “A convicted sex offender who officials say confessed to the murder of 9-year-old Jessica Marie Lunsford (search) was formally charged Monday with her abduction and death by asphyxiation.

    John Evander Couey (search), 46, was charged with capital murder, battery, kidnapping and sexual battery on a child under the age of 12, according to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office. His arraignment was set for Tuesday.

    Officials say he confessed to kidnapping and killing Jessica after taking a lie-detector test in Georgia. The girl’s body was found early Saturday, more than three weeks after she vanished from her bedroom.”

    Let us assume that he is guilty as charged. This man is a monster. Would the mdia be in favor of starving him to death?

  3. I am very conflicted about this case. I know little about the husband wife relationship that existed between Terry and her husband but I worry about anyone (including parents but especially the government) mandating what I decide with my wife. If they did indeed talk about her not wanting to live if she were ever in this condition I think the government has no place in the debate. Obviously, such a response does not fit this case perfectly as there was no living will–if there had been there would be no issue and Terry would be allowed to die.

    I don’t think any part of this is about convenience as I don’t think this process with terry has been convenient for anyone involved. I am no doctor but what I have read regarding terry’s measured brain activity tends to convince me that she is not living with a quality of life that she would desire to continue living, or even relaize if she is or is not living. But I may be wrong in my analysis of her brain activity as I’m not a doctor and haven’t followed this story extremely closely.

  4. By the way. Thanks for the post, I have been thinking about this case all day as well and appreciate the thoughtful post on the subject.

  5. I don’t know enough to have a strong opinion, but there are a few assumptions worth questioning. Is starving her indeed inhumane? I heard one report on T.V. this morning stating the her brain is damaged so severely that she feels no pain.

    Why assume that keeping her alive is humane? If I could feel the pain of starvation, I suspect I would feel much more pain lying on a bed in her condition. I would consider it humane to allow me to starve in similar circumstances, rather than forcing me to live like that.

  6. Cindy, my gut reaction was to verbally thrash your post for its ignorance on several points.

    1) Last I checked, the video clip shown repeatedly of Mrs. Schiavo has been demonstrated to be only a partial view of her condition. Doctors examining her have repeatedly attested to a persistent vegetative state as defined under Florida law.

    2) Believing that a parent has a greater right than a spouse is an incorrect reading of the applicable law. Moreover, there is some evidence that Michael, as spouse, had better access to know Terry’s intentions than her parents. Michael’s current living status is problematic, I agree, because it suggests a conflict of interest. However, this issue has also been adjudicated and examined by courts over several years.

    3) I agree with you that removal of the feeding tube is a poor way to die.

    4) “Most of the major media agree with Michael Schiavo.” This has not been shown. I would like to see a reference to a single major media source that agrees with Michael Schiavo’s position. I agree, however, that it’s dangerous to be uncritical of anything unanimously accepted by all major media sources — however, this is not the present case.

    With all this said, I identify very strongly with some of the feelings you describe. This is an awful and difficult case, one that has already made bad law. When all is said and done, no one will end up happy with the outcome.

  7. Cindy — In principle, I agree with what you are saying, and indeed, while I’ve been reading the news and listening to the radio talk shows, I have come to the same conclusions. At the same time, something about the situation bothers me.

    Obviously our doctrine teaches us the value of all life, and especially the value of the disabled life. It’s easy for me to see how caring for a disabled child, or a disabled spouse would be a process that would refine one spiritually and emotionally. In addition, I can also see how fostering a spirit of care and respect for the infirm in society is beneficial for all. But this situation with Terry seems uniquely extreme. In spite of the video clips of her smiling and blinking, something about her being kept alive for 15 YEARS in such a brain damaged state seems inhumane and sort of perverse. So I guess I want to know from you and others, what is the point of that? I mean that sincerely. What are the benefits and purposes to keeping someone alive in that state for 15 years? Or is it just that the alternative of starving her to death is so grotesque?

    I’m open to being convinced on this…

  8. Geoff B here. Cindy B may respond on her own later.

    I think many posters are missing the point on this situation, and Chelsea has brought us back to focusing exactly where we should.

    There are literally hundreds of thousands of Americans in situations similar to Terry Schiavo or worse. My grandmother, for example, has severe Alheizer’s and cannot feed herself, walk or apparently remember anybody around her. Except that when I come to visit her she grabs onto my hand with an iron grip. Her eyes light up a bit. So, why does God keep her alive? There is no way she is progressing in the same sense that the rest of us are (how can she progress when she can’t even feed herself or have normal thought processes?) God keeps her alive for US, the people around her. We are being tested on our ability to continue to be compassionate, loving and Christ-like to a person who cannot interact with us anymore.

    Christ has told us very clearly that how we treat the weakest and most defenseless lives around us is a reflection on how we would treat Him.

    So, Terry Schiavo is still alive. Her heart and lungs still function. She has some kind of response when people walk in the room. Why is she still alive 15 years later? Because the people around her still have things to learn. They are being tested on how they respond to innocent, defenseless life. They are learning to either progress and become more Christ-like or to descend and become less Christ-like.

    All of God’s acts have a purpose. We may just not know what they are. Terry Schiavo is still alive, and as long as she is there are things the people around her can learn about life and living.

  9. Geoff,
    An assumption implicit in your response is that God individually decides the fate of everybody’s life: that every death on this earth is actually caused by God (this from your comment that God keeps these people alive). I do not agree with such an assumption. I tend to believe more along the lines of Elder Ballard in Our Search for Happiness that much of the suffering and death in this world is not caused by God.

    I think the ultimate question is how do we deal with our fellow sons and daugthers of God. Does God really want terry to be artificialy kept alive when she is brain dead? I don’t think any of us have the answer to this question. But I do think that there are certain situations where the most humane and often the “right” thing to do is to end a life. I think this is why the Church has exceptions in its abortion stance. As Mormons we are certainly not afraid of the other side of the veil. Preserving life, or a semblence thereof, is not always the greatest good.

  10. This is Cindy B.

    There are a few things being said here that are inaccurate.

    First of all, I never said the parents have more rights than the husband. I said their motives were being questioned and treated as biased. However, aren’t her husband’s motives also biased considering his current status with another woman? Should we believe his sole voice that she didn’t want to be kept alive artificially when there is no other witness nor a living will to corroborate his statement. If this were a criminal case it would be called hearsay and not allowed into evidence. Therefore, criminals seem to receive more rights that Terry is receiving at this moment.

    Second, Terry is not brain dead, she is brain damaged. Brain dead means a lack of brain activity. Obviously, if her heart is beating and she is breathing there is brain activity. A doctor may say she is in a “vegetative state” according to Florida Law, but since when are laws infallable, and shouldn’t we, as citizens, question the laws that we live by in order to make them better? Let’s also keep in mind that the description of her condition is not unanimously agreed upon by doctors.

    Third, the whole notion of euthanasia is nowhere to be found in the scriptures. God doesn’t cause death, I agree, but he certainly doesn’t condone us forcing the issue on innocent and helpless individuals.

    Fourth, any assumption that keeping her alive is inhumane because we are keeping her in something that is only a “semblence” of life is a pretty strong assumption on our part. I’d rather err on the side of life rather than death. Terry, if she is truly suffering, can bring about her own end. People die all the time by simply giving up. Ask anyone who has worked in a nursing home.

    Fifth, if you believe the major media doesn’t agree with the husband need only to look at how often the parent’s side of this story has been told versus the husband’s. The LA Times called the actions of congress in passing the Terry Schiavo law last night a “Stalinist” action in overriding the Judiciary. Excuse me, but the Judiciary is supposed to be the weakest of the three branches of government, and didn’t Stalin cause the death by starvation of some 30,000,000 Russians? Pretty strong language considering all the congress did was give the Federal courts jurisdiction to take a look at this case. Sounds like they are coming down pretty strongly in favor of letting her die if they don’t even want the federal court involved.

  11. What is happening here does not, in my opinion, rise to the level of Euthanasia. It is a matter of respecting Terry’s wishes, which according to her husband would have been to refuse medical treatment- a dubious claim which I feel is not supported by enough evidence to put it into action. I think Terry should be kept alive, but not because removing the feeding tube is akin to Euthanasia. I think she should be kept alive because where there is any doubt about what the individual wants we should err on the side of life.

    What if Terry would have herself been competent enough to refuse medical treatment? Refusing medical treatment is not the same thing as suicide- it means letting life take its natural course. Her husband claims that this is what she wanted- to be able to refuse medical treatment in her condition. In this country, there is a constitutional right for anyone to refuse medical treatment and that makes sense- we would not want to force people under the knife or force them to accept things into their bodies that they don’t want. Think Parker Jensen. Modern medicine has made dying a much more prolonged experience than it used to be.

    The problem is that Terry did not leave a written directive which laid out her personal desires, so nobody knows for sure what she wants. It’s just like the Cruzan case in Missouri some 20 years ago. Cruzan did not leave a written will, and her parents claimed that Nancy had expressed the desire when she was competent to not have medical treatment if she were ever in a persistent vegetative state (PVS), as Schiavo is now. Missouri statute required that he prove Cruzan’s desire to not have a feeding tube by clear and convincing evidence, to protect Cruzan. He was unable to do so, and he appealed Missouri’s tough standard all the way to the Supreme Court, who upheld it. However, the case was remanded to consider additional evidence, and in the end the court ruled that the evidence presented rose to the level of clear and convincing evidence, and the feeding tube was ordered removed. Nancy Cruzan suffered a slow death by starvation, and her father sat there and held her hand as she died. It was a horrible experience.

    Later on, Mr. Cruzan regretted having fought so hard to have Nancy’s feeding tube removed. He went into such a state of despair that he eventually hung himself. It was a disaster.

    Since modern medicine has mucked things up somewhat, I definitely think we should err on the side of life in these matters. Who can tell when the spirit leaves man? I can’t. In my health law and bioethics class, we debated about when life actually ends- when are we actually dead? We can have reflexes and responses just like Terry exhibits but be using so little of our brain that we are actually, for all intents and purposes, dead. But as Latter-day Saints, we believe that the body is the temple for the spirit. I guess we would say that as long as the Spirit remains in the body, the body remains alive. Where there is a doubt as to whether the spirit is in the body, I think the Lord would require us to err on the side of life in decisions such as that in the Schiavo case.

    I don’t think this is a case of true euthanasia, but I do think that Terry’s estranged husband ought to be more cautious about throwing away something that seems to be alive. I think he will be held responsible for what he has done.

    One more note: it scares me that the federal government intervenes this way, but I guess it was a necessary evil. If the federal government can intervene in medical care, which has always been regulated by state law, then what’s to stop it from forcing every kid to have vaccinations (even for Hep B!) rather than just strongly suggesting it? But in this case, I really don’t know what else could be done. Let’s hope the federal judge rules soon to re-insert the tube.

    OK- was that long enough?

  12. Geoff said: Why is she still alive 15 years later? Because the people around her still have things to learn.

    I disagree. I think she is alive solely because she has a feeding tube in her stomach. Not because people have things to learn. But people can USE it as a learning experience, and they should. But we shouldn’t confuse the CAUSE of her being alive with what we can decide to DO with that fact. The cause is really no more than medical intervention. 100 years ago, she would have died 15 years previously.

  13. I think the problem is that this is one specific case that is messy, messy, messy, yet both sides are treating it as though this is a battle for the heart and soul of America.

    It seems to me that liberals, still stinging from the loss of the election are hoping this can make up for it, while conservatives are more concerned about a man who is a husband in name only and stands to earn close to a million bucks if his “wife” dies.

    But I may be reading it wrong.

    I still think Michael is too tainted (by money as well as his live-in girlfriend) to be trusted to make a decision for his “wife.”

  14. I agree with you Jordan. Absent a written will, everyone should be kept alive unless the family agrees on my outcome.

    Here’s written instructions for Matt Evans; please present this to a court if it’s ever pertinent: if I’m unable to make a medical decision for myself, and my wife is living with and bearing the children of another man and wants me to die, and my mom, dad, brothers and sisters all want me to live, let me live.

  15. As Jordan mentioned, many of the ethical problems in medicine are recent developments, which tells me that this is more a problem of allocation of resources, than of convenience.

    If I were ever in the unfortunate position of Terry Schiavo, I would definitely not want one extra dollar spent on preserving me, whether for fifteen days or fifteen years. Let the money saved be spent, for example, on clean drinking water in some third world country, or health insurance for an inner city child.

    If I had a wife, I would definitely want her to get on with her life.

    And I would be very dismayed if the Federal Government thought it had any business interfering.

  16. Let me say up front that I don’t know the details of the case, and honestly aren’t too interested in them. I trust the courts to make the right decision. The fact that all chances in Florida court failed suggest that the husband had a pretty good case. The cynic in me thinks that Federalizing it is primarily a political move, not an ethical one. Although I certainly recognize that the “life at any cost” people honestly and sincerely think anything like this is wrong.

    Having said that though the case scares the heck out of me. I don’t have a living will – I keep procrastinating. And were I in the woman’s case I’d want to die. I’d want my wife to remarry or have a relationship with someone to sustain her and take care of the kids. Yet I really worry if that would happen. It really makes me want to get things down in writings. So everyone – if you hear I’m in a coma – I WANT TO DIE! Let me get to the spirit world in peace. Don’t leave me in some halfway state.

    Regarding the “appearance” of being semi-conscious. NPR had an interview with some doctors who said that sort of thing is natural. We tend to “read into” behavior what we want things to be. We do the same with animals and a lot of other such things. I tend to trust the doctors in this. Not because doctors are perfect. Far from it. But it seems that wishful thinking isn’t the way to go.

    I think Bill’s comment is quite apt too. How much money is spent on keeping people alive thorough these extreme measures? (By extreme I mean something that requires doctors and a hospital) The fact is that as our medical technology advances we’re going to *have* to start rationing it. And that means coming up against all our instincts as humans along with the hyppocratic oath. Sometimes just because you *can* do something doesn’t mean you should.

  17. “I still think Michael is too tainted (by money as well as his live-in girlfriend) to be trusted to make a decision for his ‘wife.'”

    I actually agree with you on this point, Ivan. However, for better or worse (or perhaps for better and for worse, marriage law has not been written so as to make the legal privileges confirmed upon spouses to be contingent upon fidelity. I’d personally be very interested and sympathetic to any argument which challenged Michael’s position in this case that actually got at that issue of responsibility. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how it can be done. As the law currently stands, all roads lead back to Schiavo’s medical condition and Michael’s legally uncontestable pronouncement regarding it (from the Washington Post: “But to convince the courts that Michael Schiavo is acting in bad faith as her guardian would require a federal court to reach a finding on the medical evidence that is different from the state court’s”). And I’m sorry, but the medical “evidence” that she is not, in fact, in what has been diagnosed as a PVS is more hoped-for than real.

    The complexities of this case remind why I think it is so important for the pro-life movement to be about more than the moment of birth and the moment of death. An inability to act in a comprehensive way towards life leads to a warped emphasis on hard cases like these. (But I’ve made that point here.)

  18. Russell –

    that is the one sticking point – the Doctors pronouncement on Terri’s state.

    However, I also wonder about the overall cultural “moment” – with Doctors in the Netherlands engaging in infant euthenasia. It seems often euthenasia in Europe is done because the Doctors want to move on before the family – and I don’t trust Doctors to always err on the side of life.

    I wish I had Clark’s faith that “rationing” of medical care (which I agree may wind up becoming inevitable) would always be done ethically. But I’m afraid once we get there, poor people who might survive will get the plug pulled, while the rich will get every last stop pulled out for them.

    But that’s a whole nother topic.

  19. It is unfortuante that rather important issues regarding life and death are being decided in this case. By all measures, there is a lot of evidence that the husband isn’t a nice guy. And I think that is biasing how we look at it. (Perhaps appropriately, perhaps not – I don’t know how much to trust all the stories about the husband)

  20. Nicely put, Cindy. Don’t let all the few death mongers among us get you down. It’s funny how the liberals who are most likely to thump their chest about letting others live and let live (at any rate, they seem least likely to wear leather) are always the most anxious to kill people who don’t act like they do.

    And how ’bout that comment by The Only True and Living Nathan? What better evidence could we have that he’s in a totally vegetative state?

  21. Hmm. Sister B. writes: ” It’s dangerous to be so uncritical of anything unanimously accepted by all major media sources.”

    Anything? Really?

    Well, all major media sources are saying that George W. Bush is the President. And that Washington, D.C. is the capitol. And that we declared war on Iraq last year. . .

  22. Nice work, Kaimi. Your comment demonstrates a very interesting fact; viz., if you’re determined enough to interpret someone’s words such that they cannot possibly make sense, then you will generally succeed.

  23. Besides, even if Kaimi says it, Washington, D.C. is not the capitol.

  24. I have mixed emotions about this. I was told the reason she is brain damaged is because her husband beat her. Brings a whole new dynamic to the situation, if it’s true.

    I don’t understand why he doesn’t just divorce her and let her parent have the responsibility. What does he care now?

    On the other hand, I don’t think I would want to live for years like that. I’m sure I wouldn’t. My husband and I both have living wills and have made it clear to each other. That is not how I want to live.

    And lastly, can’t they give her morphine for her pain? I realize that she can’t tell them she’s in pain, but there has to be some sort of reasonable dose, assuming that the courts don’t reverse this decision.

    Very sad situation. And this is going to sound cold, but most of the country wouldn’t even hear about this case, except maybe in passing mention, except the media is hungry for news. I guess that a mixed good thing in this case, or maybe God wants us to examine it, but honestly, if an earthquake hit tomorrow, nobody would know if or whether Terri Schiavo lived or died. How many others have died without anybody throwing a fit because Bill Clinton admitting lying under oath, or a plane crashed into the Twin Towers? This can’t be the first case like this.

  25. Geoff B here. Lots of very interesting comments. My wife and I were discussing last night the phenomenon of the “nit-picky commenter.” What we meant by this is that somebody like my wife will take several hours putting together a long, thoughtful post and then people will pick around its edges rather than take on the central thrust of the comment. Good examples are #1 and #22. What’s the purpose of nit-picking like this? Does it add anything at all to the debate?

  26. And one last point before heading to the gym: nobody has yet taken on one of the central thrusts of Cindy B’s post, which is: if you justify killing Terry Schiavo because she is in a “vegetative state,” what do you do about the hundreds of thousands of other people out there who are in states even worse than she? What about the people with Alzheimer’s, for example, who can’t feed themselves, or the severely mentally retarded? Law has to be based on some principle. If it is OK for a man who is living with another woman and has had kids with another woman to decide that his “wife” can be killed, then who gets to decide whether the hundreds of thousands of other innocent incapacitated people can be killed? This is an extremely important point and justifies all of the attention this issue is getting from the state and federal governments, including the president.

    My position on this is pretty clear: unless the person has clearly said in a written will that they should be killed, it is right for the government to intervene to keep them alive, just as it is right for the government to intervene to protect all innocent life. Hearsay doesn’t count, and it shouldn’t count in this case.

  27. Cindy, excellent, marvelous post! And I second Arturo’s comment:
    “Nicely put, Cindy. Don’t let all the few death mongers among us get you down.”
    Thanks for your courageous (if unpopular!) stand!

  28. Folks, look at what they do in Texas- Under the 1999 law, doctors with the support of a hospital ethics committee, can overrule the wishes of family members and terminate life-support measures if they believe further care would be futile.

    gee, who signed that law? Governor Goerge W. Bush. Do you really think that any of this grandstanding going on in Congress has anything to do with the sanctity of life?

  29. Scott, if we reject politicians’ actions on the basis that they are self serving, they’d have very little to do indeed (hmmm, that sounds like a really good idea). Should it bother supporters of welfare socialism that most politicians who support it are simply buying votes when they pass legislation to distribute other people’s wealth? Do such supporters really believe all the tired speeches about children who would starve if their parents actually had to work for a living? The great thing about our political system is that it ensures a confluence of interests between the many different participating parties. As a consequence, they often seek the same goal for different reasons.

    At any rate, if the outcome of this debate and legislation is to protect a valuable life, then yes, Scott this is about the sanctity of life–regardless of the motivation of those sponsoring it.

    That said, the most pernicious brand of demagoguery is the kind cynically accuses others of demagoguery.

  30. And how ’bout that comment by The Only True and Living Nathan? What better evidence could we have that he’s in a totally vegetative state?

    Arturo, your comments scarcely recommend your cognitive skills. Is suggesting that people of good will can disagree somehow repulsive to you? Does the implicatio that convenience is the only possible motivating factor not seem fully as dismissive as the attitude Cindy bewails?

    Oh, wait — I agree that Terri should be allowed to die, so I must be one of those convenience-motivated barbarians, and thus my opinion isn’t worthy of respect or consideration.

    Bite me.

  31. And Geoff,

    I don’t think I’m nitpicking around the edge. It seemed to me that your wife (who I’m certain is a wonderful person, and I’m fine having differences of opinion with her) seems as determined to disallow opposing viewpoints as the people she complains about, by dismissing their motivation as callow, selfish, and convenience-based. Is this nit-picking around the edges? It seemed to me to be one of the central points of the post, about how this single case is an indicator of the downfall of modern society.

    Forget it, folks. I’m happy to have seemly debates over hard questions and grey areas of ethics, but I have no desire to be shot down by the Millennial Star Ministry of Orthodoxy. I hope your ironbound moral certainty keeps you warm. I’m outta here.

  32. Like earlier posts have said, I don’t feel like I will ever know enough about the situation to be confident in either side of the debate. I don’t believe the media is reporting the facts of the case, nor indeed could they. I smell “spin” from both sides of the debate. I think the media hysteria over this case has grown large enough that (ironically) it is now feeding itself. It further disturbs me that such a major proportion of national discourse has remained focused on this case for such a long time.

    If it were me, I would not want to be kept alive as a mass of autonomic responses. I don’t know, however, if Terry’s consciousness is indeed anything more than this or not, and neither does any of the other media pundits, talk show participants, editorial writers, or politicians. Not even Terry’s parents, husband, or doctors really know for sure, but they are the only people on the planet who can even approach being qualified enough to make a decision in Terry’s behalf.

    It really disturbs me how the government is involved in the case. I can understand the judicial branch mediating the disagreement between husband and parents according to law, but not the involvement of the legislative and executive branches. Hurriedly passing new legislation, issuing executive orders and subpoenas? Passionate appeals from people who are not involved have been given both allow Terry to die and to save her life.

    This is insane and perverse. Exploiting this unfortunate situation for political gain is sick and wrong. Prolonging this national invasion of Terry’s privacy is wrong. Prostituting Terry’s situation for the benefit of one “cause” or another is wrong. Holding Terry’s situation up for scrutiny, debate, even ridicule, objectifies her and is wrong.

    Indeed, even those who are clamoring to “save her life”, in the very act of appealing to her humanity and intrinsic right to life, have dehumanized and humiliated her. Whether she passes from this life peacefully or not, sooner or later, naturally or as the result of the actions of society, it does not matter. Terry has been robbed of any hope of dignity in death, and this nation of voyeurs are the robbers.

    Very scary.

    This very personal and private decision should be left to her guardians and care-givers, and God will judge their motives appropriately.

  33. Ah, Nathan, come back. Times and Seasons is whacked out, anyway. Bite me, what an apropo phrase. I always think of Lisa Marie Presley when I hear it telling the world to bite me when Barbara Walters (that right?) asked her about her marriage to Michael Jackson. I say it quite regularly in my iconoclastic journey through church activity.

    You know, back to the subject, wills, Cindy? It is easier to contemplate my own death in this light, hell, no need to even think about it, let me go if I am in that shape. But maybe if it was my daughter or son, not so easy. When my son drowned, I was told that it was a blessing because he would have been severely brain damaged. That was cold comfort. I didn’t care. Now, 31 years later, I think, maybe that’s true, but I still miss that little body.

    And I don’t think we should try to hard to fit tightly into the subject matter. It is from the exploration that I learn and grow, the introduction of new ideas the original poster never even thought about.

  34. David and Cindy both had a good point that I don’t think anyone else has picked up on (sorry if you did and I missed it). We don’t treat convicted rapists and killers this way. They are given every chance to prove their innocence (in Terri’s case, her competence)–something which costs the taxpayer millions each year. But that’s the price we pay for living in a reasonably humane system. Imagine if we slowly starved prisoners in Guantanomo Bay over the period of a few weeks. Can you imagine the uproar?

    The Schnidlers (her parents) have offered to take over her care, pay for it, take all responsibility for her and Michael Schiavo has declined. They have also insisted that there are further medical tests that Terri has been denied. That and the fact that Michael Schiavo has been living with another woman and will get a million bucks when his wife dies are pretty suspicious to me.

    But leave that aside–this is a human life! What gives us the right to kill her, and that’s exactly what it is. I’m queasy about the death penalty, but at least that’s for those convicted of murder. Doesn’t life mean anything anymore?

  35. The Only True and Living Nathan: Arturo, your comments scarcely recommend your cognitive skills. Is suggesting that people of good will can disagree somehow repulsive to you? Does the implication that convenience is the only possible motivating factor not seem fully as dismissive as the attitude Cindy bewails?

    You’re very funny, and I’m glad to see that you can answer barb with barb. Even so, I found your post #1 to be caustic and unseemly. My intent was to answer it in kind. When you’re done impersonating neil lebute, I’ll be happy to give you another change to start taking it as well as you dish it out.

  36. OK, folks, let’s settle down here.

    For what it’s worth, this M* permablogger thinks that Nathan’s comment #1 points out a legitimate problem with Cindy’s post, although it could have been worded a bit more charitably. However, the post itself is worded very strongly, and invites strong responses in return.

  37. Also for what it’s worth, regarding the question of who should decide, this morning on Imus Bob Scheiffer or Craig Crawford (can’t remember who) mentioned that in Texas, this situation would be taken care of by a law signed by then Gov. Bush which states that in cases where a married person incapacitated and unable to make decisions concerning the exercise of the right to die, if the spouse and the doctors agree that withholding extraordinary measures is an appropriate course of action that that decision should stand.

  38. Perhaps I should have been more clear in my comment. Cindy B. is using “major media acceptance” as a point of evidence in her argument. She is saying “because the media believe it is true, we should doubt it.”

    Putting aside the question of whether the media actually has an opinion on this case (a factual assertion which has been contested in other comments), I think that the argument “because the media believe it is true, we should doubt it” is an obviously fallacious premise.

    As I tried to point out in my previous comment, the media often agrees on points because those points are correct.

    This is not to say that the media gets everything right. It is simply to point out that Sister B.’s premise as asserted — “because the media believe it is true, we should doubt it” — is overbroad and tends to lead to unsustainable conclusions.

  39. Kaimi,

    My problem is that media conveys only those points which make a good tag line, whether they are correct or not, or represent the whole, boring truth or not.

    Generally, with many different media sources competing and cross-checking with each other, people can usually have some reasonable confidence that the truthfulness and/or completeness of their news is reliable.

    In the Schiavo case, however, my confidence in the veracity-index has dropped to nothing. I don’t think the media is, or indeed can any longer, report the complete story. I don’t know the full story behind the husband, behind the parents, or behind the doctors, but adding more reporters or commentors to the mix only confuses and obsures the truth. When the talking heads get involved, from media, politics, even the entertainment industry, they only make everything worse.

    I don’t think any of us can make reliable claims about the credibility or motives of the husband, the parents, or the medical experts who have pontificated for both sides, because we would only be repeating second hand information that we heard on the radio or read on the internet. If any of you know Michael Schiavo personally, then I stand corrected.

    If someone wants to discuss a generic, hypothetical case about right-to-life/right-to-die issues in a Gospel context, then I am all for it. But for Terry’s sake, I don’t want to discuss, or even hear about the sordid details of her ordeal any longer. Frankly, I was a little disappointed when I logged on this morning to M* to see the Schiavo topic brought up even here.

    I don’t have any first-hand experience from which to compare, but all of this media sensationalism makes me wonder if I now know what it feels like to be a rapist. And folks, it doesn’t feel good.

    Let’s not speculate about the muddy “facts” – the rumors, gossip and hearsay – of Terry Schiavo.

    BTW, Kaimi, what IS going on over at T&S?

  40. Jim, I have to agree with you– this very politically charged debate is far from our stated topic areas. Slap on the hand to us.

  41. What is going on at T & S?

    Well, we had some server issues. They are (hopefully) behind us for the moment. Some posts and comments (from between Friday and Monday) are in server limbo until we get access again to the database that crashed, at which point we’ll restore them.

    Anyway, that’s the story. (Unless your “what is going on” query was refering to the comment meltdown on the Schiavo threads. . . ).

  42. Jim, I always enjoy your posts, and I usually agree with them. I agree with you 100 percent that the media circus around this is obscuring many of the facts. This is one of the points that Cindy B is trying to make. But I would submit that this case is extremely important and worth discussing on M* — not for its prurience but for its salience as a larger issue. Who gets to decide when people die? This is indeed extremely relevant. Do 80-year-old husbands get to decide that their 78-year-old wives with Alzheimer’s should be allowed to expire? And when exactly should that expiration take place, when they lose the ability to talk or the ability to go to the bathroom? What about parents with severely retarded children? Do they get to let them expire when they get tired of taking care of them after five tough years?

    People in favor of letting Terry Schiavo die don’t have good answers to these questions, whereas many of us who support keeping her alive have an extremely consistent position, which is: it is the job of the government to protect the innocent. Terry Schiavo should be keep alive, and it is appropriate for the government to intervene and do this just as it is appropriate for the police (“the government”) to intervene when a thug is mugging somebody. As I said before, the only time such a killing should be justifiable is when there is a living will indicating the wishes of the person to be killed if they are in a “permanent vegetative state.”

    So, those of you who support the now probably inevitable death of Terry Schiavo, what is your answer on these other issues? Who gets to decide who expires and when?

  43. Geoff, one possible reason people on the other side don’t have good answers to your questions just might be the phrasing of your questions: “And when exactly should that murder take place, when they lose the ability to talk or the ability to go to the bathroom? . . . Do they get to kill them when they get tired of taking care of them after five tough years?” (my emphasis).

    Are you honestly interested in discussing these issues, using loaded terms like that? How does your usage aid the conversation, may I ask?

  44. Ryan, fair enough. I have changed my post to different language. Let’s see if we get any responses addressing these issues.

  45. To reiterate Total-Nathan’s point:

    This is a very hard case.

    There are at least three thorny conceptual areas to deal with:

    1. Right to life / right to die questions.
    2. Federal law / state law / judiciary role and legialtive role questions.
    3. Evidentiary questions. What did she say to who, when? What is her physical condition? etc.

    There are no clear, cut-and-dry answers to these questions.

    I don’t have an opinion, one way or another. Any opinion would have to be based on a careful reading of the evidence, and I don’t have the time or inclination to pore over the factual details of the case for hours.

    But I am disturbed by the broad assertions that anyone who supports Mr. Schiavo must be about convenience or selfishness or whatever.

    It seems quite possible to me that people on either side of the debate have weighed the issues and arrived at a reasonable conclusion. This seems to be a case with enough ambiguity and uncertainty that reasonable people could disagree.

    And given that possibility, I find it disappointing to see such an effort to demonize anyone who disagrees.

    So, repeat after me:

    “I believe that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube [insert your position: should or should not] be restored. I understand that there are people who disagree with me about what might be the correct result. They may disagree over the evidence in the case, over the legitimacy of a right to live or die, or over the proper roles of federal and state government actors. I have arrived at my position through careful consideration of the evidence, and I will grant my opponents the courtesy of assuming that they have arrived at their position through careful consideration as well.”

  46. By the way, Kaimi, you get kudos for addressing the heart of this issue in a very interesting way on T&S today.

  47. Kaimi,

    When I go to, I am redirected to an “account suspended” page at You seemed to indicate that your server issues were behind you, so maybe you are not aware that some people are not able to access the site.

    Of course, I guess it is possible that you blocked my IP because you are tired of my silly, moronic, self-absorbed posts, in which case…

    Bite me.


    I don’t know if Terry should be kept alive or not. I will not speculate on her specific case, because I have zero confidence in my “facts”.

    However, speaking for myself, if I was in a permanent vegetative state, I would prefer that my family let me go.

    The possibility of rehabilitation does not have any bearing for me, because a life – whether “fruitful and productive” or not – is still a life. Furthermore, I do not think that the government should attempt to apply any test for quality of life in order to determine whether someone should live or die.

    This, however, is what society frequently asks doctors, care-givers, or guardians to do. I think the government should protect the rights of these parties to make decisions in behalf of incapable individuals, as well.

    In some cases, the decisions of these invested parties are disputed, and so the courts get involved. This is a sad scenario, and makes me wonder where we can find the wisdom of Solomon. Ultimately, if the guardians and care-givers can not come to a consensus, then the decision of the court with jurisdiction – ostensibly made by impartial judges under the guidance of the law – should be final. As I said, a test for quality of life should not be made, but perhaps only a judgment made for which of the disputing parties is truly motivated by the best interests of the incapacitated individual (which is exactly what Solomon did, after all).

    Let me repeat, in my opinion, the best interest of the individual may include a release from the pain, shame, or other burdens of this life.

    As a related manner, I think it is interesting that the government’s role in protecting life does not necessarily extend to ensuring that every individual in society enjoys a comparable quality of life. Now, if we want to change that, then I hope that when the government delivers my new Ferrari Testarossa, they will take care that it is either dark blue or black. White is just too hard to keep clean, and red sports cars are lightning rods for speeding tickets.

  48. Jim R.,

    That’s our patented “righteousness filter” at work. (Just kidding).

    I wasn’t aware that some people were still experiencing this problem.

    It’s caused by the dynamics of DNS propagation. I’m sure that many of the computer whizzes around here could explain it better, but basically there are DNS tables that tell your browser where to go when you type .

    We moved servers last Thursday. We changed the DNS, so that it pointed to rather than to . The account on the new server did not work well, because we used too many server resources. As a result, it was suspended. So, we pointed the DNS back to .

    DNS propagation is the process where your different computer locations update their tables. Some propagate faster than others. I was under the impression that the new address was fully propagated. But maybe it’s not, in which case, I apologize, hopefully it will propagated onto your computer network soon.

    I don’t know if there are other tricks. You might try closing the browser and opening a new browser window, perhaps that will help. (Will it, Bryce / Clark /Grasshopper / Ebenezer?).

  49. Cindy B here.

    For the record, my point about major media is this…as responsible citizens we need to look at every side, not just a side that is sympathetic to a particular issue, but also the side of those opposed to it, because we all tend to gloss over facts that don’t support our argument. Major media, as you can ask my former journalist husband, is, for good or for bad, biased. Denying it doesn’t change the fact that they are generally all biased in the same general direction. Label it liberal bias or whatever you like. The label doesn’t matter, the bias exists. So, if you see total agreement, maybe you should look around to see what facts you’re missing.

    Some interesting things just came out in an interview with one of Terry’s former nurses at the hospice. She was fired for going to the police, she says, because she went into Terry’s room right after Michael left her (after being alone with her behind closed doors for 20 minutes) and found her sweating profusely, lethargic and crying uncontrollably. She found a partially concealed bottle of insulin in the trash can and needle marks on Terry’s body. She said she believed he had tried at that time to cause her death by insulin overdose. She reported this to the police and was fired for reporting it. She and another nurse who was apparently also fired for feeding Terry by mouth through a baby bottle against Mr. Schiavo’s wishes to keep her only on a feeding tube (apparently she could, in fact, swallow without aspirating and quite enjoyed the food) both said Terry could smile and, yes folks, verbalize! She said words like “Mommy”, “Hi”, and “Pain” (when she was suffering from menstrual cramps). Signs of some higher brain function perhaps? They also reported that he asked several times in front of nursing staff, “Is that b*#$! dead yet?” (Sound bites of all of this interview were played on Rush Limbaugh today).

    Now, as for Michael, I’m as curious as others seem to be as to why he didn’t simply divorce her years ago, since he had obviously moved on emotionally. Could it be because he stood to lose a rather large inheritance in the event of her death? Somehow I doubt it was because he had Terry’s ultimate best wishes at heart.

    I guess the real question should be, can we trust his motives since he is apparently the sole witness to Terry’s reported desire not to live this way?

  50. Cindy B. again.

    Also, let’s clarify that she’s in a “persistant” vegitative state, not “permanent.” I think there is some difference between the two. So little is known of the workings of the human brain at this point, we have no way of knowing if it’s truly permanent. People have come out of comas after 20 years. Miracles happen.

  51. I posted this idea over at T&S, but I thought I would drop it into this discussion as well.

    When someone describes another as a “vegetable” I would posit that most people take that to mean “like a vegetable” and are completely unaware of the very technical definitions used by medical professionals and adapted into law.

    Given the dichotomy between the medical definition of Persistent Vegetative State and the popular conception of Persistent Vegetative State, we should ask which definition Mrs. Schiavo had in mind when she supposedly indicated what to do if she were ever to enter that state.

    I can imagine a situation where an individual who is not familiar with what medical professionals consider a “vegetative state” might leave instructions, even written instructions, to withhold extraordinary intervention if he or she were ever to become a “vegetable” and have a completely different understanding of what they had agreed to than the medical and legal professionals who would be making the determination.

    It seems likely to me that unless the individual explicitly indicates in their statement that they are familiar with and accept the medical definition of PVS we must assume that they meant the folk definition of “vegetable.”

    Laws are made for men of ordinary understanding, and should therefore be construed by the ordinary rules of common sense. Their meaning is not to be sought for in metaphysical subtleties, which may make anything mean everything or nothing, at pleasure.” — Thomas Jefferson

  52. I think judging medical cases on the bases of “a miracle might happen” to be unwise. Certainly we should always pray for miracles. But we shouldn’t set policy based on the assumption they’ll happen.

  53. Oh… well… righteousness filter…. that explains a lot.

    I figured it was a DNS problem, but not knowing that you had attempted to change physical servers, I did not have sufficient reason to conclude as such. Incidentally, I accessed the site from home normally on Sunday. It has only been since yesterday that I have seen the DNS problem. Does this coincide with your roll-back?

    Changing or re-opening browsers will not have any effect. DNS is all “out there”, on the Internet, and an individual’s personal computer is completely at the mercy of the Matrix (that is, unless, your computer is also a DNS server, but alas, mine is not).

    If you are interested, I may have high-volume server space for you (not free, unfortunately, but very cheap).

    And now, back to the topic at hand…

    Cindy suggests that the mainstream media has a liberal bias. I won’t agree or disagree with that, only to suggest an alternative bias along a different dimension than liberal-conservative. I think the mainstream media has a sensationalist bias – in other words, news stories have a latent spin which serves to help sell more advertising.

    Cindy continues with much of the same type of information that I object to, which is second-hand hearsay and rumor. There is every reason to believe that the fired nurse and the “partially concealed” bottle of insulin story has been spun.

    Did the reporter who facilitated this gossip being pushed out to the airwaves bother to check whether increased levels of insulin could be detected in Terry’s blood, or hospital records to see if they corroborate the nurse’s story, or whether Terry suffered any medical set back around the time this nurse claims to have been fired?

    If we want to discuss, for example, what Persistent Vegetative State means, particularly within the context of the Gospel, then I’m all for it. But, I will continue to try and be a detractor from any conversation that feeds off of the Schiavo Media Monster.

  54. Geoff (re #45):

    When my husband started his medical training, I was really shocked at how often he had to make precisely the kinds of decisions you’re talking about: which patients should live longer or die sooner, what “quality of life” outcome was appropriate for each patient, how always-scarce resources should be allocated, whose life was worth living. Those of us outside the medical profession find these questions frightening and appalling–I know I certainly do!–but physicians make these kinds of decisions *every day.* In fact, this is one of the things they’re trained to do. The warrant “Only God should control the granting and revoking of life” seems to undergird many of the arguments in favor of delaying Schiavo’s death–but this warrant is manifestly violated hundreds of times every day in hospitals around the world.

    If you’re interested in a thoughtful and very readable personal treatment of these issues from a physician’s point of view, I’d very highly recommend Atul Gawande’s fine book “Complications.”

  55. It is hearsay.
    But so is Michael Schiavo’s claim she didn’t want to live this way. That’s the point.

  56. Yes… the whole thing is hearsay.

    And a judge has ruled on it. More than one, in fact.

    The Terry Schiavo question, for me, is finished. The *issues* that this whole messy situation has susggested, however, have not been put to bed, and I am happy to discuss those issues.

    Let’s focus on those issues in a more academic way, and not get caught up like tabloid-bloggers, in the spurious and unverified (and largely unverifiable) “facts” surrounding poor Ms. Schiavo.

  57. Wow, this is getting ugly!

    My point:

    #1 As for the rumors about why Terri is in a PVS, they are totally untrue. Doctors believe the stoppage of her heart was caused by a drop of potassium related to extreme dieting (i.e. anorexia).

    #2 Terri’s husband spent four years seeking out other medical opinions before finally agreeing that she is brain dead. By the way, 18 court ordered physical evaluations agreed as well.

    #3 The $1 million settlement has been spent almost completely on Terri’s care and the ongoing court battle. Terri’s husband will gain nothing finacially by her death.

    #4 Most medical doctors will tell you that smiling, tears, and other “reactions” Terri is having are related to reflexes and not consiousness. Everything above the lower brain functions for Terri are completely mush.

    #5 About Terri’s husband “shacking up” with the mother of his children: After 15 years, what do we expect him to do. He was a young man when his wife DIED. He can only marry his common-law wife by divorcing Terri, therefore nulling his rights to decide her care. If he didn’t care about Terri’s wishes, he would have divorced and gotten on with his life.

    #6 Removal of nutrition and hydration is not supposed to be a painful way to die. Those who have almost starved or been dehydrated to death tell that they felt no pain. Doctors claim she will slip into a coma in a couple days (that is if she was consious, she would.)

    I expect this kind of debate by Catholics, but I’m suprised at in the Mormon community. I thought we believed that this life wasn’t the end, and therefore, that we revere life without considering death the enemy. I know plenty of great Mormon people and even leaders who have made the agonizing decision to let life go because the spirit had moved on. I also know the church does not condemn abortion in cases of a doomed baby or danger to the life of the mother. I also find it interesting of government leaders who claim that the government is too intrusive in citizen’s lives. The same leaders claim that the states should decide such things are pushing the federal government into this family and medical matter.

    It’s been 15 years since Terri died. Let her go.

  58. Did any of you see the movie “Awakenings“? Or maybe you read the book it was based on?

    I would think that more people would cite it in relation to this situation.

  59. To copy a link to some information that I just noticed, and posted in a comment at T & S, on legal background of the case —

    I just noticed a law blog discussing the case. It has an extensive timeline and discussion of the legal history. It’s at .

    According to that blog – and I don’t know myself whether this legal analysis is good or not, but it sounds plausible and if true, interesting – Michael Schiavo does not have the authority to decide one way or the other. Rather, the trial court is making the decisions, based on testimony from different parties including Michael Schiavo. To quote:

    Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life-prolonging measures for Terri.

    As Terri’s husband, Michael has been her guardian and her surrogate decision-maker. By 1998, though – eight years after the trauma that produced Terri’s situation – Michael and Terri’s parents disagreed over the proper course for her.

    Rather than make the decision himself, Michael followed a procedure permitted by Florida courts by which a surrogate such as Michael can petition a court, asking the court to act as the ward’s surrogate and determine what the ward would decide to do. Michael did this, and based on statements Terri made to him and others, he took the position that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures. The Schindlers took the position that Terri would continue life-prolonging measures. Under this procedure, the trial court becomes the surrogate decision-maker, and that is what happened in this case.

    The trial court in this case held a trial on the dispute. Both sides were given opportunities to present their views and the evidence supporting those views. Afterwards, the trial court determined that, even applying the “clear and convincing evidence” standard – the highest burden of proof used in civil cases – the evidence showed that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures.

  60. re: post #6.

    Hm…why then does the NYT only post a picture of a protestor who is in favor of Schiavo dying? And a picture of a woman being arrested for trying to give Schiavo water?

    If pictures say a 1000 words…

  61. re: post #60:

    serious: When will the real question get answered re: LDS beliefs/how “mormons” should feel about Terri’s case?

    Where (in the world) is Terri’s Spirit?

    Possible answers:
    1. Hanging out with God sad that her Parents are suffering needlessly.
    2. Trapped in her body, praying to die so she can move on.
    3. Confused, like a newborn baby, with her spirit unable, for some reason, to control the body the way it used to.
    4. [insert your answer here…]

    tongue in cheek: Surprised that Mormons are concerned? Why? Unlike Catholics, Mormons support the Death Penalty, so this does seem contradictory, but…

  62. re: post #61

    The “Awakenings” people would not classify as brain dead. They were able to have some basic function, albeit in a catatonic state.

    re: post #64

    I have no idea where Terri’s spirit is. My feeling is that a brain dead person is not here but has moved on. In a medical ethics class I took we tried to find the point of death by recognizing the first point of life, and vice-versa. The kind of brain activity required to be considered “brain-alive” is present just weeks after gestation. If applied, this gives more credence to the pro-life movement. However, it also supports the euthanasia movement. When those higher functions have been persistently gone, so is the person.

    By the way, I wasn’t suprised that Mormons are concerned about this matter. I think we should be concerned with all kinds of things in the world. Rather, I am suprised that there were so many posts about preserving life at all costs among Mormons. I still believe in a life after this one.

    I also have hope that if something this terrible were to happen to someone in my family, that the government would let this be a private matter between my family and the doctor’s advice.

  63. Heather: i think the government is letting it be a private family matter…except that in this case, the ‘family’ is divided…

  64. I think quite a few people (I am one of them), who see the Terry Schiavo case as a symbolic representation of an issue which will loom larger and larger in the future. As the population ages, and as medical science is able to artificially prolong life further and further, who makes the decisions as to who should live and who should die?

    Slippery slope if you will. But we have seen first trimester abortion inexorably move toward and then arrive at infanticide, and wonder when it will be that the burden of caring for so many old people will push the limits on what our culture will consider a “worthwhile” life. How long before those who are terminally ill are viewed as expendable. How will we get from “here” to “there”?

    Step by step.

  65. Thank you, Heather, for some injecting some intelligence into the debate.

    18 court evaluations, folks. 18+ times the courts have looked beyond the “liberal media” (feh) and dealt with facts. No spin by family, no desperate hopes seemingly confirmed by random grunts.

    As to the length of time that has passed, had Terri’s wishes (as determined by numerous courts) been followed, Michael would have been able to marry the woman he now has children with years ago. I find it unfair for anyone to condemn this man for moving on when her family is the reason Terri is still around today. Michael deserves happiness too, and Terri can no longer feel joy nor pain.

    I also find it extremely hypocritical for those who run around wearing “sanctity of marriage” as their badge of honor to now turn back around and question Michael’s right to make this decision. Even if you don’t believe the claim that Terri would not have wanted to be this way, the decision absent her express consent was his to make and none other. I do not doubt the choice was heart-wrenching for him, but if Terri’s wishes had been obeyed years ago none of us would ever have heard of Terri Schaivo.

    Perhaps the best thing that has come from this is the awareness of having a living will. I’m putting mine together this week. What Terri’s family has put Michael through is appalling and I’m going to make sure there’s no question as to my desires.

  66. There seems to be a tendency here to assume that extreme measures are being used to keep Terry Schiavo alive. Am I alone in thinking that providing food and water to someone is not an extreme measure? If I decided to stop feeding myself, I’d likely end up under observation and force fed (admittedly, over the staunch objections of certain perma-bloggers at T&S).

    Nor can we seriously consider a court decision to have settled the moral issue at stake. The courts are as routinely wrong as any other arm of government, only with more disastrous consequences (their pronouncements are uniquely categorical and precedent setting; tax law changes every year—how often does Row v. Wade change?). The US Supreme Court upheld the Edmund-Tucker act. More recently, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit reversed District Court Judge William Osteen’s ruling which vacated the EPA’s findings that second hand smoke is harmful (a rare oasis of reason in the desert of judicial rulings). One could easily get the impression that the US Judiciary was fast becoming the backdoor oligarchy of liberal America. The only other time courts have cared this much about mental capacity was when they could use it to block the death penalty.

    But really, if Terry Schiavo is going to have to starve to death, can’t they at least give her phentermine to make the hunger more manageable?

  67. List ambiguity lead to misunderstanding, in the preceding comment I mean to indicate that Osteen’s ruling is a rare oasis of reason in the desert of judicial rulings—notits reversal by the Fourth Circuit Court.

  68. Arturo, you may be alone (although probably not, given some of the wild comments in this thread) in characterizing the situation as one in which a person can be brain damaged and incapacitated for fifteen years in a hospital bed, yet their survival is dependent not on any of the wonders of modern medicine, but by the simple provision of food and water (although, admittedly, this must be done by means of an unusual device of some kind.)

    It is interesting to note that Ms. Schiavo’s greatest self-proclaimed champions in the Congress are the same people who voted to cut the Medicaid that pays for her
    medications, and to limit recovery in the kind of malpractice lawsuit that generated the money which has been financing her care.

  69. Eric, if it weren’t for programs like Medicare (along with the current regulations surrounding medical insurance) that effectively eliminate price competition, people might actually be able to pay for medical expenses out of pocket and increases in technology would bring costs down instead of raising them (like it does and always has in every other known example). Elective surgery is the only type of medical activity where the price is going down. Guess why.

    Even so, the medicare/malpractice issue does not present any kind of paradox or contradiction. People can have strong feelings about whether Schiavo should live and disagree about how to pay for her. After all, if they aren’t removing her feeding tube because it’s too expensive (nor would they).

  70. It’s because you were thinking of Monty Python’s pet halibut, named Eric.

  71. AT,

    I’m actually in favor of the spending cuts — just not the sanctimonious grandstanding and meddling, and the crocodile tears.

  72. This very personal and private decision should be left to her guardians and care-givers, and God will judge their motives appropriately.

    As my father pointed out the other night on the phone (yeah yeah at 36 I still listen to my parents…) when we marry, we cleave to that person, and NOT our parents. We become as one flesh, and the fact of the matter is that Michael Schiavo as Terri’s husband has the right to make legal decisions on her behalf. Even life and death decisions. The fact that her parents gave her life does NOT automatically give them the right to intervene in the legal relationship between a husband and wife, especially since she was not a minor upon marriage or when her current medical condition came about. As her husband, he is entitled to personal revelation when making decisions on her behalf, and he will be responsible solely to Heavenly Father if he fails to heed that revelation, whatever it may be. We are in no position to determine whether he is making the correct choice–he has the right to do so, the courts have upheld that right, and if he misuses it, he can discuss that with Heavenly Father in detail later. All of us are similarly entitled to personal revelation in these PERSONAL matters, and for applying it once we receive an answer.

    On a secular note, if it’s unfair to allow someone to die who apparently expressed a clear wish not to live under these conditions, then it’s equally unfair to execute someone who wishes to live but happens to have committed a capital offense. And if we can’t decide whether Terri is “alive” or not, then we also can’t determine at what point a fetus is “alive” and therefore cannot justify ANY sort of abortion. So in one neat move, this issue has called both the death penalty AND legal abortion into question. Maybe they both SHOULD be questioned, but the fact is that this case has some potentially broad legal implications beyond the “right to die”, because if no-one has a right to die, then EVERYONE has a right to live. Everyone.

  73. Scratch “Zell Miller” (he’s from Georgia). I meant Bob Graham. At any rate, I seem to be getting all my names wrong today. Jim Richens, can you explain my use of the name Zell using Monty Python?

  74. 1. “I expect this kind of debate by Catholics, but I’m suprised at in the Mormon community. I thought we believed that this life wasn’t the end, and therefore, that we revere life without considering death the enemy.”

    Many of my friends who are Catholics believe that this life isn’t the end. Most of them, in fact. Well, all of them, really. Turns out they have this belief in what they call the ‘immortal soul’ and ‘heaven’ and ‘God’. I was really shocked.

    2. Thank you, Arturo Toscanini, “for some injecting some intelligence into the debate.” I have also wondered what exactly is so invasive about giving someone food and water.

    3. To the “sanctity of marriage means killing your spouse” crowd: I think you’re misunderstanding the legal context here. The law in Florida does not in fact recognize a complete right by spouses to pull the plug. Instead, a judge is ordering the plug pulled because he has decided that is what Terri herself would have wanted.

  75. David Rodger:

    Agreed. I think you will be unsurprised that NPR programs locally have focused on the immense “burden” of caring for the disabled & elderly…and the “stress” this puts upon the caregivers. Sounds like step 1 towards “writing-off” life like corporations “write-off” their debts & accounting scandals.

  76. Adam Greenwood: Thank you, Arturo Toscanini, “for some injecting some intelligence into the debate.”

    Are you even allowed to do this? Seriously, thanks for the kind words.

    If anyone’s interested, my actual opinions (which I have not thus far elaborated) are as follows:

    First, I agree with Cindy B. that the extent to which people are buying into conventional wisdom in this case is nothing short of astonishing. I’m not talking about reasoned positions, but the reflexive parroting of humane death platitudes as advanced by “objective” news programs. (Kaimi seems determined to make Cindy B.’s choice of words into an impassable barrier to understanding her position, but surely this is disingenuous.)

    Second, Congress has constitutional authority to expand Federal Court jurisdictions, but bringing Federal judges into the equation is not wise. Congress’s involvement was a bad idea.

    Third, Mr. Schiavo surrendered his right to determine his wife’s fate (and forfeited the sanctity of his marriage) when he moved in with a replacement and she started bearing him children. Some here claim extenuating circumstances. But even granting his exception, I don’t think many people find it reasonable to allow as a rule that adulterous husbands decide the fate of their wives. (Where are the feminists on this one?)

    Fourth, (as I’ve stated before) feeding and hydrating alone are not extreme measures. It is, however, medical treatment, the starting and stopping of which requires the permission of either the person obtaining it or their next of kin. Thus, the question of continued treatment is a legitimate one.

    Fifth, I think that the correct choice is to keep her alive. That said, it’s not up to me.

    Fifth, I think that this is neither a “fundamental right to life” nor a “fundamental right to die” issue. I think it is a matter of who decides Ms. Schiavo’s fate. Our choices are (a) doctors, (b) government, (c) parents, and (d) husbands. Since the feeding and hydrating are not extreme, and since we have a next of kin, we don’t need doctors or governments to decide whether Ms. Schiavo continues to receive treatment. The question is, “Who is the next of kin?” And the courts must decide between the parents and the husband. I think that the courts have chosen incorrectly. They should have sided with the parents, because of the reason that I lay out in the third point above.

    Sixth, if Ms. Schiavo were gay, then her lesbian lover would have no say in the matter, Ms. Schiavo would still have her feeding tube, and there would be no controversy.

  77. You have not addressed point #5 in Heather’s comment 60. I don’t see how anyone commenting from afar can possibly exclude it as at least as plausible an explanation as any other based on anything other that their own prejudice.

  78. Arturo,

    Mr. Schiavo is not exactly “determining his wife’s fate.” Four years ago, he asked a court to determine what her likely wishes were. The state court, not Mr. Schiavo, is acting as Terri’s proxy. And the court, after hearing testimony from a number of witnesses, decided that she would have wanted the tube removed.

    The perception that he is now making a decision on this, or that he could suddenly say “I change my mind, so put the tube back in” is not legally correct. The state court decision is what is currently driving the removal of the feeding tube.

  79. Kaimi, I’m not certain whether you mean to disagree with my point or clarify it, but I don’t see where I say anything that shares the, “perception that [Mr. Schiavo] is now making a decision on this, or that he could suddenly say ‘I change my mind, so put the tube back in.’” A judge has ordered that under threat of imprisonment no one may feed or give water to Ms. Schiavo, and you’ve missed my point if you take me to deny this. My point is that (in this case) the court’s involvement in deciding either way is a miscarriage of justice. (After all, most political science questions are not about what decision gets made, but about who makes a decision.)

    Bill, I believe I addressed Heather’s issue #5 (from comment #60) head-on in my third point when I said, “But even granting [Mr. Schiavo’s] exception, I don’t think many people find it reasonable to allow as a rule that adulterous husbands decide the fate of their wives.” But I’ll go further here by saying that, as a rule, husbands who have done things for which courts generally grant fault-based divorces (felons, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc) should have no say in the medical treatment of their wives (and vice versa).

  80. “But I’ll go further here by saying that, as a rule, husbands who have done things for which courts generally grant fault-based divorces (felons, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc) should have no say in the medical treatment of their wives (and vice versa). “

    Great point Arturo.

  81. You know, it’s too late for this, but hypothetically, do you think it could have been possible for the guardian ad litem, or her parents to have petitioned for divorce from her husband? Proxy divorce? There were certainly grounds.

  82. Arturo,

    You suggest:

    I’ll go further here by saying that, as a rule, husbands who have done things for which courts generally grant fault-based divorces (felons, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc) should have no say in the medical treatment of their wives (and vice versa).

    That strikes me as a bad legal rule. There may be individual cases in which a spouse doesn’t appear to have his/her spouse’s best interest in mind. But your rule seems to throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    After all, a number of people remain with their spouse following adultery, felony, whatever else. If it doesn’t bother the spouse, then why should it mean an inability to participate in medical care decisions?

    Under your rule, a husband goes in to the ER with his wife. The doctor says, “sorry, you have a felony on your record, so you’ll have no part in any medical treatment of her.”

    Husband: But that was for a minor theft, forty years ago! I served my time, and we’ve been married long since, we’ve had kids and grandkids. She’s supported me and I’ve supported her. I know what she wants for medical care. I’m her _husband_!

    Doctor: Sorry, sir. We’ll try to contact any of her other relatives.

    Husband: Her only other relative is a brother in Des Moines who she hasn’t talked to for ten years!

    Doctor: Well, we’ll check to see what he wants done. Or we’ll have a court appoint a guardian ad litem. We can’t listen to you, because we categorically exclude felons from making any decisions about medical care.

  83. Kaimi, the scenario you describe will never occur (but have you ever considered writing a screenplay?). Doctors are not concerned with determining the legal validity of next of kin claims. For example, if an ex-husband presents himself as an husband and nobody disputes him, the doctor is not at fault for failing to check family court records. The question of legitimacy need only arise when there is a dispute over the desired course of action. In resolving such cases, courts must be concerned with actual authority, not apparent authority.

    annegb, you bring up an interesting angle. Are there any divorce lawyers out there know whether a divorce can be imposed on Mr. Schiavo in the same way that he has imposed medical treatment on Ms. Schiavo?

  84. Arturo: you are avoiding the issue. You proposed a legal regime (not allowing “husbands who have done things for which courts generally grant fault-based divorces (felons, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc)” any say in medical decisions of spouses). Kaimi demonstrated that such a regime leads to untenable results. I am waiting for a response from you that adds a limiting principle allowing for the result you want in Schiavo and cutting out the untenable results Kaimi has pointed to.

    I wonder if such a limiting principle exists. I find it hard to imagine that a good rule of law can be generated from allowing the government to examine the ins and outs of your private marital relationship before coming to conculsions re your ability to advocate for your spouse. I’m not sure this is something we want the government doing. Alas, my statement is also probably so over-encompassiing that Kaimi will demonstrate that it also leads to untenable results. However, I would be interested in Arturo’s response, none the less.

  85. Kaimi’s “untenable results” are irrelevant. My point is that anything that would allow a divorce with cause (as opposed to a no-fault divorce) should preclude next of kin status. I mentioned felons as an example, because several states allow certain felonies to be cause for divorce. If some state’s law empowers courts to grant divorces with cause in the event of 40 year old minor thefts, then this is a flaw in the family law. It has no bearing on my proposal.

    Moreover, we are specifically discussing this in the context of how to decide court disputes over who is the next of kin. When it comes to making decisions on the fly, doctors are already empowered with the necessary leeway (as Rosalynde pointed out). When it comes to deciding these things in court, doctors need only act on findings of fact (as they do when they disqualify a next of kin because they are divorced), so that questions of alcoholism need not concern them. At any rate, deciding the reasonable probability of a divorce with cause is no less sticky than trying to ascertain someone’s intent in the absence of decisive evidence.

  86. But Arturo you’re stil, just snarking around the edges of Kaimi’s hypo. Let’s say instead that we have a wife on a feeding tube (etc. etc.) and a husband who robbed a grocery store (armed robbery)the prior week to help pay for his wife’s mounting health costs and a brother in Iowa neither has spoken with in 10 years and the wife hated (as only other relative). Under your rule the courts must allow the Iowa brother to decide the fate of the wife instead of the husband. Seems rather untenable to me.

    By the way, you’re right it is no less sticky than a court deciding a divorce, which is why civilized states (blantly referring here to sunny California) have no-fault divorces. (but that is a side note).

  87. There are no edges here, HL. Kaimi’s hypo is simply irrelevant.

    For starters, you have already tacitly discarded Kaimi’s example (which involved doctors), since we are involving a judge or jury (in this case, to determine guilt of armed robbery). Even so, once your husband is convicted (thereby providing a fact that the doctor can act on), he loses his status, and the doctor obtains authorization from someone else. There is nothing absurd or strange about a doctor changing in mid treatment who he accepts authorization from. It happens all the time; e.g., when someone awakes from a coma or when someone is located who had hitherto been unreachable.

    And when arguing in court, it never ends up being as cut and dry as your example or Kaimi’s example implies. If a women had recently left her husband and was living with her brother, the husband would still be the next of kin (under existing rules and my proposed rule). But the brother may be successful in contesting this if he were able to convince a court that divorce was immanent.

    Nevertheless, there is no procedural scheme that can guarantee that a next of kin (whether parent, child, husband, sibling, uncle, or cousin) does not hate the person he is responsible for. We could construct hypotheticals until the cows come in and invent scenarios wherein Lex Luther ends up deciding Superman’s fate. My point is that generally speaking, if a spouse has done something that would justify a divorce with cause, then it is best for that spouse not to make the decision. Moreover, this is generally true enough that (exceptions notwithstanding) it is worthwhile to make it a procedural option available to courts. At any rate, the lesson of your example is if you are somebody’s next of kin, then you had better live clean.

    I should also add that my original six points advocates spousal preclusion from next of kin status solely in reference to active adultery, and this is strong enough to support my analysis. Thus, the validity of the six points is entirely independent of the perceived strength of the ramified spouse preclusion rule.

  88. Still, under your rule the husband in my hypo who stole to support his Schiavo-like wife’s health care costs is now precluded by the judge in deciding his wife’s fate and the judge must now rely on the Iowa brother both hate and more importantly have not spoken to in 10 years. Under your scheme the judge must dismiss the husband who is in a far better position to know and act on the wishes of his spouse than is the Iowa brother. Your procedural rule leads to some silly results. And the idea that the public policy lesson is that next of kins should lead clean lives is rather perposterous. Sure, if we were living during the Millennial reign of the Lord such a law (enforcing clean living in order for you to have next of kin rights) might make sense. But in our imperfect world we would have a major mess if next of kin status passed from one immoral family member to the next finally landing on some sixth cousin once removed who happens to be a priest (and a clean one at that). I wish everyone lived moral lives as well but morality alone is simply not a good policy tool for deciding how families should be run and when governments can step in.

    States adopt no-fault divorce for that very reason. It becomes very intrusive to have a court wade into the nitty gritty of your family life and make moral determinations about the spouses. You have strong incentives to air as much dirty laundry as possible, which isn’t a very sound public policy stance.

  89. Once again, thank you for ‘some injecting some intelligence’

    I note that from my own experience with hospitals no one ever asks for proof of relationship from parents and spouses. If the bills are being paid and no one is complaining, they just assume that whoever’s coming in with the patient can be consulted with. No reason they shouldn’t. Who is entitled to make decisions really doesn’t become an issue until the patient becomes incapable and there’s some controversy about who gets to decide and what the decision ought to be.

  90. Yes, no-fault divorce has certainly turned out to be an unqualified good.

    And yes, your strained sixth-cousin hypotheticals are certainly much more compelling than the real life Schiavo miscarriage of justice in your preferred system, let alone the hypotheticals that could be thought of under it (a husband tries to kill his wife, a felony. He fails but puts her into a persistent vegetative state. After being sentenced to life in jail, should he still be the one empowered to make decisions as to when to pull the plug?)

  91. Additionally I don’t see how adultery per se automatically precludes you from being in a position to make the best decision for your spouse in situations like the Schiavo case. I don’t know all the dirty details of the Schiavo marriage/audltery etc. (nor do I want to). But why should adultery automatically preclude you. I don’t see a compellinmg underlying policy reason. Many spouses choose to stay with spouses who have been unfaithful, the church encourages us to stay with a spouse who has had an audltery problem and work things out. If a spouse is willing to work with an audlterous spouse to put a marriage back together, why should we allow the government to come in and make such a personal decision about the marriage relationship (that audltery precludes you from making decisions for your spouse) that the spouse him or herself would not even make.

    What would be the upside of having such an intrusive judiciary? In fault dovorce proceedings the spouse has initiated the enquiry and demonstrated that he/she wants the judiciary to base decisions on her or his private life (as the spouse has to enter the info as evidence). In next of kin determinations, in most scenarios, neither spouse would want such details in evidence or sanction the judiciary to delve in such a way into their private life. Thus, the perverse incentive rears its head. Suppose a parent or brother wants the money entitled to the next of kin. Your policy creates an incentive for such a family member to dig up as much dirt (or fabricate dirt) on the surviving spouse as possible for monetary gains. It seems your policy creates the exact problem you seek to avoid (people making decisions for others when they have clear conflicts of interest).

  92. Of course the husband would likely be precluded—he would be a felon. That is the entire point, HL. You keep insisting that the ramified spouse preclusion rule will result in some less-than-optimal outcomes, but every such rule will result in some less-than-optimal outcomes. In fact, it is an essential characteristic of procedural justice that it results in some less-than-optimal outcomes, and in this sense all possible procedural approaches to justice (aka “due process”) throw the baby out with the bath water.

    I am simply suggesting that my rule will not have as many less-than-optimal outcomes, not that it will have none at all. But in any case, the judge always has leeway. And even states with no-fault divorce laws still have regular divorce laws on the books.

  93. Adam G.
    I have not proposed an alternative system, nor have I argued that the current Schiavo case is decided under a “good” or “better” system. I have simply pointed out that Arturo’s alternate system is just as bad or worse than the current system he wishes to replace.

    My system would not lead to the hypothetical you propose because I have not proposed an alternative system.

    And yes certainly no-fault divorcer has been a very mixed bag but it has gotten the courts out of our bedrooms, which I think is a good result.

  94. Arturo,
    You keep skipping over the most important point: how does the fact that the husband is a felon etc. have any bearing per se on whether the husband is in the best position to make decisions for his spouse? You say all options would result in less than optimal outcomes but in proposing a new system you have the burden to show that the new system is in some way better than the current system. You propose that immoral living is a better indicator of how well people make decisions for others than is a marriage covenant. I find that hard to believe and even harder for a judge to discern. Not only does your proposal involve an alternate system that I am not convinced is at all better but it also proposes a system that is more expensive because it is more difficult for a judge to discern (exisitng marriage v. somehow uncovering instances of immoral living).

    P.s. I hope my comments have not been overly snarky, I am simply very intrigued by your 6 Point proposal and thought it merited further discussion.

  95. Basically, the idea is that there is a strong positive correlation between being a husband who does things that allow a divorce with cause and being an unfit husband. And I do not think that an unfit husband can be relied upon to have his wife’s best interests at heart.

  96. I thought that might be your basic thrust. But this leads to the situation where a judge would either in the current system say: is there a legal marital relationship, if yes than boom and done (though I realize that is not exactly the situation with the Schiavos, where he asked the court to be the guardian) or (in your system) the judge must ask 1. is there a legal marital relationship, if yes he continues to 2. has the husband ever done anything that if his wife had filed for divorce would lead to a fault divorce. If yes, than the judge begins searching for another next of kin. That system seems to have many problems:

    1. since when do judges make divorce or even quasi-divorce decisions without the consent of at least one spouse (in your system he makes the decision with the consent of neither). In your system you are basically allowing the judge to divorce the couple (as he is disinheriting the husband) without either spouse having requested the judiciary enquire into a divorce. That seems very intrusive.

    2. this new system would be far more expensive and less clear. Usually when we allow the judiciary to use a regime that is more expensive we do so for the trade-off of a more accurate decision. Here we move to a more expensive regime with a less accurate answer (a judge discerning whether a husband has ever conducted himself in a way that makes him an “unfit” husband would be a very muddy undertaking)

    3. your base line moves from marriage equals good grounds for one person to make a decision for another–to–immorality makes good grounds for a person not to be able to make a decision for another. Between the first and the second (becuase between the two systems the judiciary is being forced to choose one short hand over the other) I would choose the first. Marriage seems a lot better bright line short hand than immorality.

  97. I think you’re wildly misinterpreting Arturo Toscanini.

    1) He’s not proposing that courts make the decision in the first instance, he’s proposing that next-of-kin do. Which means that the courts will only get involved if there is some dispute about who the next of kin are. Which means that the court will not have to go hunting for next-of-kin. They’ll be right there, in camera.

    2) He’s not proposing that the judge be required to make affirmative inquiries into whether the husband had done something to disrupt the marriage vows, be it adultery, abuse, or whatever the law was in that state. Usually things like this function as affirmative defenses, meaning that once the husband demonstrated he was the husband, the other parties would have the burden of proving that the husband had committed felonies of a certain type or whatever.

    3) Arturo Toscanini is not proposing that the judge order the parties to be divorced once he decides that the errant husband should not be the one making the decisions. This is something you’ve pulled from thin air.

    Additionally, your claim that you’re not arguing for a system is risible. Arturo Toscanini thinks the husband should make decisions unless he’s done something that would be legal grounds for divorce. You think the husband should make decisions, period. This is a system. So the hypothetical applies. Why should the husband who tried to kill his wife be the one who decides what kind of medical care she should get?

  98. Adam (105),

    I do feel particularly wild today–thank you for noticing.

    1. re 3 above, I did not say “the judge order the parties to be divorced once he decides that the errant husband should not be the one making the decisions”–that is something _you_ “pulled from thin air.” I argued that judges should not make “quasi-divorce decisions without the consent of at least one spouse.” Here you are disinheriting a spouse of his marital legal rights: a functional divorce of sorts. Should courts be given such power: to end marriages without consent under circumstances where we currently only allow marriage to be ended with the consent of the married parties.

    2. I’m glad I gave you a good laugh Adam. But the fact remains: I have not proposed an alternate system. I am simply comparing the current system to the present system and requiring the proponent of the new system to show how it is superior to the current. Unfortunately for you and your very intersting hypo I have not proposed a system that gives spouses ultimate power as 1. I have not proposed a system and 2. under my understanding the current system does not allow spouses complete authority.

    3. Whether affirmative or not the judge must arbitrate the morality of the parties involved instead of relying on the existence of a legal marriage as the base line. That becomes very messy as I discussed above.

    4. My point re next of kin is that I assumed Arturo would extend his morality test to all next of kin applicants. If that is not what he meant I am sorry for misinterpreting. But that raises a second issue: why do we care more about the morality of the husband than other family members. Is there an assumption that other family members love/value/honor the person more? If so, why? And should we assume such a thing or just the opposite?

    While I find Arturo’s system intriguing, I think the basic issue is that once we allow courts to begin morality inquests to such an extent when deciding questions of inheritance etc. we enter a very problematic, expensive, and murky legal system. I do not have the answers as to the Schiavo case, especially since I don’t even know all the facts. That there is such a commotion would tend to support the fact that the current system is not working well. But I don’t think the alternative given is the fix, unfortunetly.

    Well, I have to finish up work, so I’m signing off this exchange. Thanks

    P.S. Arturo, what’s up with the Care Bears (I don’t think Arturo Toscanini even lived ling enough to witness the advent of Care Bears šŸ™‚ )

  99. Regarding the Care Bears: It comes from a rude comment once made to Neil Labute (the sometime Mormon playwright and filmmaker) on Times & Seasons. The ensuing exchange with Neil Labute got its author put into the T&S moderation queue. And since T&S is pretty heavy-handed about controlling content, they would often edit my comments—for reasons only Mormons can understand, they are particularly thin-skinned about my use of the term chicks. At any rate, shortly before they banned me altogether, one of their perma-bloggers changed some of my comments to remove the vowels (rendering them unintelligible) and link to the Care Bears web site. Apparently, they thought this was clever, and who am I to disagree?

  100. Adam, Arturo,

    There is a well-worn legal canon that “hard cases make bad law.” This is because it is often that case that, in trying to fix some hard individual case, legal rulemakers adopt unwise rules with overbroad, unforeseen consequences.

    Arturo looked at the Schiavo case and said “we should adopt a rule (his term, not mine) excluding fault-divorce-eligible spouses from medical decisionmaking.”

    I pointed out that that rule would have foreseeable, negative consequences. Arturo’s reaction was to suggest I go into fiction writing. All I can say is I’m damn glad he’s not a legislator or anyone in a position to enact any actual legislation or legal rules.

    Arturo, your rule is a catchy idea, but as framed, is is way, way overbroad. It could potentially be made useful, but you would need to add some limitations to it. Otherwise, you would run into all sorts of problems, as HL and I have pointed out. We’re not being crazy conjecturalists, we’re pointing out obvious ways in which Arturo’s proposed rule would create problems. That’s a normal part of analysis of a proposed legal rule, and I’m surprised, Adam, that you seem to be suggesting otherwise.

    Arturo’s rule, just to recap was:

    I’ll go further here by saying that, as a rule, husbands who have done things for which courts generally grant fault-based divorces (felons, alcoholics, abusers, adulterers, etc) should have no say in the medical treatment of their wives (and vice versa).

    He didn’t say only at court levels, he didn’t limit the principle at all, he said “no say in the medical treatment.”

  101. Adam,

    1. You’re injecting all sorts of reasonable balancing factors yourself into the original proposal. I’m all for reasonable balancing factors, and if Arturo is submitting a modified proposal (which is unclear), it may address some of my concerns. I continue to think that the original proposal was very overbroad.

    2. Just wondering about other consequences. Here are a few others to wonder about:

    a. If the law is that a felon has no say in the medical treatment of a spouse, is it likely that companies will then begin to predicate family insurance on non-felon status? Would this have the effect of making it more difficult for felons’ families to be medically insured?

    b. What about children? Should a felon also have no say in children’s medical care? (Why should s/he have a say in children’s care if not spouse’s?) Where does this leave us if a single parent is a felon, or if both parents in a two parent household are felons? Who will make the decisions regarding children’s care? The state?

  102. “Additionally I don’t see how adultery per se automatically precludes you from being in a position to make the best decision for your spouse in situations like the Schiavo case. I don’t know all the dirty details of the Schiavo marriage/adultery etc. (nor do I want to). But why should adultery automatically preclude you. I don’t see a compelling underlying policy reason. Many spouses choose to stay with spouses who have been unfaithful, the church encourages us to stay with a spouse who has had an adultery problem and work things out. If a spouse is willing to work with an adulterous spouse to put a marriage back together, why should we allow the government to come in and make such a personal decision about the marriage relationship (that adultery precludes you from making decisions for your spouse) that the spouse him or herself would not even make.”

    Ok You don’t think that someone would get a divorce if their spouse moved in with and had children with someone else? Do you honestly think that Terry, or any other women, would still be with this man. The Church also does not encourage us to stay in the relationship if it continues to be emotionally, spiritually, physically or sexually abusive. I think LIVING with someone else and having CHILDREN with them would constitute continual and harmful abuse!
    In regards to a few other posts . . . If he felt the need to continue on with his life he should have sought a divorce. The church is pretty clear on the need for a divorce before even dating. Just because you are separated does not mean it is a free for all. Whether the “separation” is your will or from extenuating circumstances.

  103. Actually, that last comment by me (#112) was snide, Kaimi, and I apologize.

    My response to your hypothetical was actually taht it wasn’t relevant. I think that HL’s arguments prompted me to make a reasonable case for this. I cannot speak for Adam, nor do I wish to take anything away from him, but I do not see him as “injecting all sorts of reasonable balancing factors.” I think that he provides a thaughtful and sympathetic interpretation of my position. I’ve implied this before, but I think that your skills of charitable interpretation are generally lacking.

    And good point, WoodNY.

  104. I’m glad you thought the Care Bear links were clever. I got a real kick out of them myself (still do) but even at the time I was hard pressed to say why.

    Good point, WoodNY.

    As you can no doubt surmise, Kaimi, I’m try to avoid reasonable balancing factors when possible. Don’t see that I’ve injected any here. Just restated AT’s position that the courts should only get into who was the next-of-kin if there was a dispute, on the theory that repetition leads to comprehension.

  105. Kaimi, Arturo, et al.

    There is an LDS-themed play about a man who divorces his severely disabled spouse. Margaret Blair Young wrote it and talks about it in the Dec. 1997 Sunstone. When they were getting ready to put it on at BYU, a professor objected that the man’s behavior was unrealistic for an LDS father. In fact, it was a true story from Young’s family. The play was called “Dear Stone.” She says in the article that a book was forthcoming, but I can’t find it anywhere.

  106. Nathan Mark Smith

    This play sounds like a good example. I think it says a lot (not in a good way) about the husband that he would divorce his severely disabled spouse. I kind of agree with the professor but having said that, he did divorced her instead of breaking covenants and making house with another women. I think it would be a hard decision to make but there is a right way to go about it if you want to “MOVE ON”.

  107. Single women of the world, brace yourself! Michael Schiavo is now a bachelor.

    That’s right, Terry Schiavo is dead. This ends the suspense and makes it official: She beat the Pope by dying first. But in fairness to Terry, the competition wasn’t quite fair–the Pope still has his feeding tube.

  108. Be forewarned (as I wasn’t) that the comments posted on the above “blog” are extremely vulgar.

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