Circus

After over a decade of being kept alive with technology — possibly against her will — Terri Schiavo is dead. I’d like to be able to say that she died with dignity but, unfortunately, the legalistic, religious and hypocritical furor surrounding her death left very little room for anything dignified.

I’ve been thinking about how to think about the events surrounding Mrs. Schiavo’s death, which provide quite a bit to ponder. Mainly, I’ve been wondering about who, of all involved, can be considered to be acting morally. One possible way of examining this is to subject the people involved into hypothetical situations and see where it takes you.

Suppose I’m a District Attorney. Based on the suggestion that Mrs. Schiavo requested not to be kept alive artificially, suppose I accuse her family of sustained and repeated torture of their daughter, taking calculated and extreme measures to artificially maintain what I (as DA) call “an unpleasant, hopeless existence” in accordance with their own wishes and opposed to hers.

Granted, this is a hypothetical situation about law, not morality, but let’s see where it takes us. As I see it, the family has only two possible legal defenses against such a charge.

The first defense would be to say that the claim that Mrs. Schiavo requested not to be kept alive artificially is false. Unfortunately for the family, regardless of whether or not you personally believe that Mrs. Schiavo truly wished to avoid being kept alive by machines, the court system believes this past all point of appeal. So, from a legal standpoint, this defense would not keep the family out of jail for torture.

The only other defense the family could mount against a torture charge is that Mrs. Schiavo is not aware enough to register pain or pleasure and, therefore, cannot be truly tortured. Whether or not this defense would keep the family out of jail isn’t that relevant to me. What matters is that, to even mount such a defense, the family would have to embrace the idea that they have been fighting against.

To me, this indicates that the family doesn’t have a legal leg to stand on. Further, it suggests their moral stance is on fairly shaky ground as well.

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One Response to “Circus”

1Bentar Says:

“The first defense would be to say that the claim that Mrs. Schiavo requested not to be kept alive artificially is false. Unfortunately for the family, regardless of whether or not you personally believe that Mrs. Schiavo truly wished to avoid being kept alive by machines, the court system believes this past all point of appeal. So, from a legal standpoint, this defense would not keep the family out of jail for torture.”

I don’t think that really gets to the heart of the matter. The real question is who is telling the truth – Michael Schiavo, or Terri’s family? If, in fact, Terri’s family is telling the truth, that she would have wanted to stay alive under the circumstances, what were they suppose to do? Simply shrug off the fact that all the courts the case has been through were wrong, and give up? I think if they were telling the truth, they would have done exactly what they did. I think they would have ignored the possibility of being thrown in jail for ‘torture’.

But that *still* doesn’t clearly demonstrate who is telling the truth. What does Terri’s family (the Schindlers) have as an alterior motive to try to keep Terri alive? None that I know of. However, Michael Schiavo has the following possible ‘strikes’ against him (in my opinion):

#1 Michael has had a new girlfriend and children by that girlfriend for some years (making his existing wife inconvienent)
#2 Michael, along with the close testimony of (2?) members of his near family are the only ones saying Terri wanted to die. This is nothing more than here-say, not hard fact. Combine that with the fact Terri’s family and other friends clearly stated otherwise, and I think the here-say should have been dismissed entirely.
#3 Michael waited 7+ years to say his wife wanted to die. Additionally there are witnesses who say at the time of Terri’s death Michael implicitly stated he did not know what his wife’s wishes were.
#4 Alledgely, of the $700,000 medical settlement to take case of Terri, only $40,000 or so remains (I think the source for this is AP but I am not sure). Guess where the money comes from to support Terri when the $700,000 runs out….

*NONE* of which is proof Michael lied, simply that he does have possible strong alterior motives for wanting his wife to ‘pass on’. I credit *most* (not all) of the people on the the side of fighting for Terri to live with seeing how extremely lacking Judge Greer was in his fact-finding job – and I don’t think any of them (or myself for that matter) would have any problem with Terri dying, had there been a living will – i.e. her wishes were clearly known and stated.

I simply don’t know what the truth of the matter is. And this doesn’t even begin to open the ‘can of worms’ over whether Terri was in a PVS or not…

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