The Right Coast

March 20, 2005
Terri Schiavo
By Tom Smith

I have not been following this controversy very closely, but you don't have to look at it very hard to sense something funky going on. I hope the federal legislation that would move the case to federal court does pass.

Here are some questions worth asking. Would Mr. Schaivo benefit from a life insurance policy if Terri dies? That certainly seems relevant. Given that he is for practical purposes married to another woman now, isn't it odd to allow him to exercise the legal powers of a husband over his incapacitated wife? Even if the Florida laws of guardianship technically allow this, it hardly seems equitable, especially if the parents stand ready to speak for Terri, and do not suffer a conflict of interest. On the other hand, if Terri's parents want her to be kept alive, are they prepared to pay for it, or do they want her husband to pay for her care? Something an independent court could do, and I hope would do, would be to inquire who is really, all facts and circumstances considered, in the best position to represent the interests of the comatose woman. It might be her parents, her husband, or a guardian ad litem.

On the politics of this, I think the Democrats are once again getting it way wrong. They may think they are standing up for the right to die with dignity, but it comes across as, oh boy! A vulnerable, compromised human non-person! Can we kill it?! Please?! Pretty please?! Planned parenthood also needs some remedial PR work. They really should want to avoid the whole Zis zing ees not human! Nine! Eeet must be liquidated! At vunce! schtick. I can't be the only person they are creeping out. If I were flacking for them, the first thing I would explain is that the slippery slope is a bad thing; you don't want to go down it. When people say, first you're killing fetuses, next you'll be killing people in comas, you should not reply, "yes, isn't it wonderful!" Ditto for the Democrats' line that the Republicans are interfering in a sacred family matter. When the blood relatives are for keeping the woman (brain-dead though she may be) alive, and the "family" consists of a "husband" who is living with his girlfriend and his children by her, allegedly on the proceeds of the malpractice settlement of his wife's case, your facts for not interfering with the "family's" decision are not too good. This matter just begs to be put in front of some non-hack, life tenure jurist. Maybe they have some in Florida.

This would all be so much easier if Janet Reno were still AG. We could just send in a SWAT team, ship Terri off to Cuba (where they would know what to do with her), and be done with it. I wonder how little what's-his-name is doing. Probably chopping cane for the fatherland, wondering what shoes would feel like.

Finally, I would like to go on record that, should I be in the hospital acting like a vegatable, before starving me to death, please offer me a stiff scotch. That might arouse me. If that doesn't work, my lovely wife Jeanne can decide what to do, unless she is living with some other guy, in which case all bets are off, especially if the guy is a dermatologist or some other over-compensated sort. I don't want to be starved to death. I hate dieting. If nobody has the stones to snuff me out, then they can just deal with me. I want to be cremated and my ashes scattered (if allowable under RC law), otherwise buried in a paper bag, in the mountains of central Idaho, northeast of McCall, close to the Payette River or one of its tributary streams. But please, nowhere near Florida.

MY RESPONSE to Steve Strum is, no, I don't generally favor forum shopping, but I think what seeems to be going on here, or might be, if you believe the rumors, is that a hinky state judge has got a bee in his bonnet, such that he is determined to pull the tubes on a woman who might actually be alive. Let's just say my view of the Florida state judiciary has not recovered from Election 2000. I'm not saying federal judges should be brought in every time a state judge appears to be making a hash of things. But I'm not going to get upset here, given that federal judges intervene to keep convicted killers alive all the time. And this is being done at the express command of Congress. This seems to me a case in which Congress can legitimately act.

As far as I know, Terry S. hasn't killed anybody. I suppose if she had, she'd be getting more support from the ACLU right now. In fact, maybe that's an angle. Put out a story that Terry actually once had a love child, but killed it, knowing that being unwanted, it would be better off dead. Presto, chango, she's sympathetic after all. BTW I read somewhere (and I'm too lazy to look for it now) that Terry S. has never even had a full neurological exam, with an MRI or a CAT scan. Can that be true? Good heavens, I took my son to get an MRI over the weekend because his knee hurts. Is Florida Canada or something? Apparently above when I refered to her as "brain dead," I was wrong. So if she's not brain dead, what is she? Would she feel pain being starved to death? It seems someone ought to weigh that against the oral testimony of her sorta husband that she would not want to be kept alive. I mean, really. You can't enforce an oral contract for more than $500 worth of widgets without a writing. You would think the mere "yup, that's what she said" of a former (in equity) husband would not be enough to terminate the spouse. And another thing. What are the feminists thinking on this one? O, right, I know. If this incovenient woman is not disposed of, that could somehow someday lead to some regulation of the sacred right of abortion. But, given that you can come up with, and any of us who went to college have heard it done, a feminist account of just about anything, how wearing socks is part of the patriarchal conspiracy or whatever, you would think that a husband trying to kill his wife in order to get the insurance money on her so he can carry on with another woman, would at least cross the mind of the average feminist as a plausible hypothesis. You would think you could say "Killing your wife is a feminist issue!" But no. It's all just,"next thing you know, they'll be trying to say we cain't kill fetuses!"

STILL more information here. This blog seems elaborately balanced. I don't pretend to know what the real story is here. But I do think the right to die people are creepy, and if it is not about money, then I don't see why Michael Schiavo is fighting so hard to have Terri killed. If there was some reason to think she was suffering, that would be different. But if his view is that she really is the mental equivalent of an eggplant, and her parents desparately want to keep caring for her, then what is the harm, besides financial, in allowing her to live? Reviewing the history of the litigation, though, I can see why Judge Whittemore (sp?) implied he was unlikely to change the result. Every issue seems to have been thoroughly litigated. I suppose it is possible that Michael really believes she is dead already and what is going on now is just an offense to her dignity, but that still seems a hard line to take under the circumstances. One thing that strikes me as odd is that no reporter seems to have found out whether there is an insurance policy at stake, what Michael's financial condition is, and so on. And if he buys a new Corvette after Terri buys it, we'll never find that out either, any more than we know what Elian is up to. He has declined to answer questions about insurance. And it also looks like there is no way to make that a legal issue, at this point. What a mess.