Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Schiavo, RIP II

Here's some of Mark Steyn's column from The Spectator -- the UK's equivalent of the Weekly Standard. Read the whole thing (registration may be required; it's free) after scanning these excerpts:

Fortunately, if you want to execute someone who hasn’t committed a crime, you don’t need to worry with any of this ‘beyond a reasonable doubt’ stuff. If an al-Qa’eda guy got shot up resisting capture in Afghanistan and required a feeding tube and the guards at Guantanamo yanked it out, you’d never hear the end of it from the American Civil Liberties Union and Amnesty International and all the rest. Even given the litigious nature of American society, it still strikes me as remarkable that someone can be literally sued to death, and at the hands of a probate judge. Unlike other condemned prisoners, there’s no hope of a last-minute reprieve from the governor. That’s to say, he did reprieve her, and so did the legislature, and the US Congress and President — and the Florida courts have declared them all irrelevant. So, unlike Death Row, there’s no call from the governor, and no quick painless lethal injection or electrocution or swift clean broken neck from the hangman’s noose, and certainly no last meal. On Tuesday, getting a little impatient with the longest slow-motion public execution in American history, CBS News accidentally posted Mrs Schiavo’s obit on their website complete with vivid details that have yet to occur — the parents at her bedside in the final moments, etc. In this, they seem to be in tune with their viewers: sad business, personal tragedy, no easy answers, prayers are with her family, yada yada, is it over yet?

* * *
I’ve received [] emails along the lines of, "If Terri Schiavo didn’t want this to happen to her, all she had to do under Florida law was make a 'living will'" — one of those documents that says "in the event of a severe disability I do/do not want to be kept alive (delete as applicable)." . . . I’ve received enough that I now send back a form response politely inquiring whether the correspondent has himself made a living will. I’ve yet to receive any answers. But I can’t see why, in a free society, healthy persons in their twenties [Schiavo was 26 when her condition arose -- TKM] should be expected to file legal documents in order to pre-empt a court order mandating their death a decade or two hence.

* * *
One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one . . . Having done away with those kinds of ‘burdens’ at birth, we’re less inclined to tolerate them when they strike in adulthood, as they did in Terri Schiavo’s case.

Steyn mentions the similar case of Robert Wendland, a Californian who rolled his pick-up truck in 1993 and went into a coma, only to revive to a semi-conscious state 16 months later. His wife sought to Schiavo-fy him to death saying he would not have wanted that life; his mother fought to keep him alive. He died of natural causes (pneumonia) and the California Supreme Court later struck down a ruling in favor of the wife (no, the case was not moot due to his death -- it concerned a situation that was "capable of repetition and evading review," which is a legal exception to the "mootness doctrine"). The main difference, Wendland made no statement about what he would like to happen in case of incapacitation; Terri Schiavo ruminated years before her incapacity of not wanting to be sustained, rather thin gruel to support Judge Greer's rulings in favor of her death.

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