The Right Coast

March 24, 2005
Rare wisdom
By Tom Smith

This is the wisest thing I've read on the Terri S affair. I do think some on the right, such as the lovely Anne Coulter (lovely but sometimes insane), are going off the track turning this into a judges gone wild issue. I think it better illustrates how an average judge can get things wrong, even if that is clear only in hindsight, and then those mistakes can ripple outward. In retrospect, it seems like it was a mistake to give Terri's guardianship to her husband, given the poisonous relationship between him and her parents. And the parents aren't faultless in this either, perhaps. But it is just too obvious that it is unsupportably cruel to her parents not to let them take custody of their helpless child at this point, given that they want her and her husband does not. People speculate about her husband's character, but his actions rather speak for themselves. He seems to be using his control over Terri's fate as a way to even the score with the in-laws he now hates. Or that looks like a plausible theory anyway. Something else not much commented on is what this tells us about laws like Florida's. Statutes which attempt to apply the last wishes of a now permanently incapacitated person seem deeply flawed. I don't think much of this sort of hypothetical autonomy reasoning. I mean, who cares, really, what Terri might have said about wanting or not wanting to be kept alive, especially if it wasn't in a considered way. Especially if the evidence is weak, it should be trumped by what is in the best interests of the person now. If that had been the law Florida judge Greer was applying, perhaps he would have made the parents guardians. Also, legislatures should not just favor spouses over parents by default in deciding who is to be a guardian. We don't live in a cleave to your husband or wife world anymore. Parents and blood siblings are much better choices, I would bet, for looking out for one's interests than spouses where the marriage has been brief and there are no children.

As to the politics, I am happy to let the Democrats hove to the line that Republicans irrationally favor life, are soft and sentimental about things like dying daughters, don't understand brain science and when people need to be put down, and use the terms person, baby, life, kill and wrong, far too freely. Yes, Kerry was scary for a while, but we have to learn to trust the Democrats on these things.