Thursday, March 24, 2005

Fools Rush In

John O'Sullivan of the Chicago Sun Times answers the top arguments for killing Terri Schiavo. So for the "Kill Terri" crowd, this is for you:
1. This is decision is traditionally -- and rightly -- left to the spouse. Such a tradition is reasonable, but it is surely open to question when a spouse has something to gain, either financially or psychologically, from the death of someone. Mr. Schiavo's motives may be entirely decent, but his wife's death might well be an unconscious psychological relief for him more than her. Besides, his status as a spouse is surely itself open to question when he has been living with someone else for several years. Bringing other relatives into the decision is more than reasonable -- it is necessary in such dubious cases.

2. This is a matter for the states rather than the feds. The Florida judge seems to have ignored some relevant medical evidence that would have pointed toward feeding Ms. Schiavo. For instance, she has not been given an MRI, and some of the doctors consulted believe she has a chance of partial recovery. And if there is the slightest chance of her recovery, surely she should be given it. When southern juries failed to convict the plain murderers of black Americans and civil rights workers, the feds intervened to protect the civil rights of the deceased. How much more reasonable it is to protect the civil rights of the still-not deceased Terri Schiavo from the questionable decisions of the judge.

3. Republicans are exploiting this sad case for partisan reasons. If that is so, there is a ready solution which many Democrats have already grasped and acted upon: namely, to prevent such exploitation by supporting the legislation to grant Ms. Schiavo a stay of execution.

4. Congress has better and more urgent things to do such as tackling global warming, etc. This is perhaps the most repellent argument of all. What is better or more urgent than saving an innocent person from an unjust death inflicted by ourselves? We used to think it was one of the glories of the Anglo-American political and legal system that it would take time out from such things as global energy regulation to ensure "let right be done" in an individual case. In the Archer-Shee case in Edwardian Britain -- brilliantly dramatized by Terence Rattigan and faithfully filmed by David Mamet as "The Winslow Boy" -- Parliament spent precious time debating whether a boy had been wrongly expelled from a naval school for allegedly stealing a five shilling postal order. Congress' attempt to save Schiavo illustrates the same profoundly decent set of priorities in a much more important matter.

As for me: Ditto what he said.

As for Charles Krauthammer:
Let's be clear about her condition. She is not dead. If she were brain-dead, we would be talking about harvesting her organs. She is a living, breathing human being. Some people have called her a vegetable. Apart from the term being disgusting, how do they know? How can we be sure of the complete absence of any consciousness, any awareness, any anything "inside" this person?

The crucial issue in deciding whether one would want to intervene to keep her alive is whether there is, as one bioethicist put it to me, "anyone home." Her parents, who see her often, believe that there is. The husband maintains that there is no one home. (But then again he has another home, making his judgment somewhat suspect.) The husband has not allowed a lot of medical testing in the past few years. I have tried to find out what her neurological condition actually is. But the evidence is sketchy, old and conflicting. The Florida court found that most of her cerebral cortex is gone. But "most" does not mean all. There may be some cortex functioning. The severely retarded or brain-damaged can have some consciousness. And we do not go around euthanizing the minimally conscious in the back wards of mental hospitals on the grounds that their lives are not worth living. (emphasis mine)

Remember guys, that's how Hitler got started. Oh, what a slippery slope we are falling down.

(Both links via RCP)