Friday, March 25, 2005

Sending Back the Fishsticks

Captain Fishsticks sailed into port today after recovering from a bout of scurvy. We welcome his return with the enthusiasm of a cheap Amsterdam prostitute on the return of a heavily-crewed fish boat with a fresh load of herring. Or something.

Anyway, Craig “Captain Fishticks” Westover decided to delve into the obscure news story surrounding the case of Terri Schiavo upon his return.

I hugely respect Craig. And he makes many good points in his post. Yet he devotes part of it to specifically disagreeing with me over statements I made here. And I’m happy to answer his challenges. (Read the rest of his post before diving into this part. He has some context one ought to understand before proceding into these arguments.)

First, Craig challenges the Constitutionality of the law passed to specifically allow Terri Schiavo’s parents to appeal their case to federal court.

Bottom line, Congress had no authority to issue special legislation.

(I mentioned the part about reading the rest of his post right? So if you didn’t, don’t blame me for getting lost in what follows.)

Three federal courts. Zero rulings challenging the constitutionality of the law, Craig. And as Hugh Hewitt has pointed out:

The first such complaint is that the federal government has no role in such matters. This will be news to the United States Supreme Court, which in 1990 decided the case of Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dept. of Health , 497 U.S. 261, (1990).

Not persuasive to one appealing to principle, I admit. Two wrongs don’t make a right of course. But we can at least agree that this removes the groundbreaking “unprecedented” element of the reaction.

But this isn’t the heart of Craig’s objection in any case. That comes in the next three points countering statements made here:

First -- yes, he is the only family member that wants Terri’s life ended (“killed” if you prefer; I don’t). He is also the only one with the legal authority and the sacramental authority granted by marriage to make the decision. If everyone in the family wanted her “killed” and he alone were holding out, would it change the morality or the legality of the situation? It would not.

A cop-out Craig. In almost any other situation Michael Schiavo’s condition of living with another woman with whom he has fathered two children would be admitted as evidence that he had abandoned his “sacramental authority.” (And for the record, according to my own faith, there is no sacramental authority that would ever entitle anyone to starve anyone else to death, ever. This is the same faith Michael Schiavo claims, incidentally. But I admit, our faith has no weight in the law of the land. I leave it to others to decide what weight it deserves in public opinion regarding this case.).

And Craig, preferring to use a term other than “killed” is a cop-out too. She wasn’t dying. She wasn’t even in pain. Despite this, some judge ordered people to stop allowing her food and water. Only in the most legalistic sense can this possibly be construed as anything other than killing her. Assert she doesn’t feel it. Assert she can’t comprehend it. Whatever. But she’s being killed as sure as depriving you of food and water would be killing you.

So we're left with legal authority. So let's strip it down further. Should one person be legally entitled to kill some other innocent person? It's not a dictatorship here. What do you think? I'm a "no freaking way," kind of guy. Is there a "Yes, provided the motives are pure" lobby? "Yes, as long as those killed have no ability to object?" Where do we draw the line here?

Second -- “Ask yourself this question: Should guardians be granted the authority to decide whether their wards live or die?” I am going to assume “within the constraints of law,” answer yes and re-ask “If not the guardians, then who?” Who is qualified to define the moral lines between withholding food and a do-not-resuscitate order? Or no order at all?

Not “no order at all” Craig. No guessing. If you don’t know for certain, err on the side of life. Wards are not the property of their protectors. They’re human lives with rights as inalienable from their “sovereign” as those you claim from your own government. If they don’t even have the right to life, that’s an admission they have no real rights at all. I reject that notion.

Third -- the difference between capital punishment and the Schiavo case is that no one, even by an act of breaking the law, consents to the state the power to take his life (which as discussed above is the authority consented to the state by allowing it to interfere in a spousal decision). The sacrament of marriage -- where two individuals leave their birth families to form their own union -- is a consensual agreement. One may disagree that Michael Schiavo is fulfilling his end of the bargain, but again, there is One more competent than I (or Congress) to judge that.

Woah, Craig. Now you’re scaring me. There is nothing in my marriage vow that says anything about giving my wife the right to snuff me out if I can’t voice an opinion on the matter. And let this post please surface in court some day if I’m indisposed and she tries to do so (To my wife: sorry about not doing the dishes last night.).

Not only is there nothing strictly legal allowing her such a privilege. There is no tradition that marital vows imply such a thing. There is simply the imperative of the moment that prefers to assume a euthanasia imperative. Which is a freaking radical change, Craig. And not something anyone ought to take as lightly as you seem to in this case.


Anonymous gigi said...

For the first 5 years after Terrys
heart attack the family worked to gether..when Her husband finally came to the conclusion there was no hope, the parents started fighting him.
The Congress had ample time to get a law passed that would have prevented a feeding tube from being removed with out a written consent by the patient...they chose to not get 10 years later they want to be saviors. Give me A Break !!

12:07 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

Hey gigi,

I don't put truth on a timetable. As far as I'm concerned, a good decision delayed by 15 years is better than a wrong decision that takes only 3 years. Perhaps we disagree.

12:15 AM  
Anonymous gigi said...

What about the second part of my comment..? Isn't it a little hypocritical for congress to have waited 9 or 10 years, when all they had to do is pass a law preventing
a feeding tube from being removed with out written consent of the patient.
They only became involved when Tom Delay decided to pander to the religious right for political purposes.

9:46 AM  
Blogger Doug said...

I've got no problem with that attitude, gigi. As long as you agree Terri shouldn't be punished for the sin of Congressional laziness.

I was frustrated that the Senate refused to consider the broader question, and forced the House to compromise by resricting language to the Schiavo case alone. Which means if nothing is done, this entire issue could be repeated in the next such case. And then I think we'd both be outraged over the way Congress has handled the issue.

9:57 AM  
Anonymous gigi said...

I don't think Terry is being punished.
If the religious right believes in a all loving God, then she is going to a better place. I cannot understand why they fight to keep someone alive that has no quality of life, rather then joining God in heaven.
For now it is just political.
They will never change the law, because it would be ruled unconstitutional.

1:30 PM  
Blogger Doug said...


Addressed here. And just so you don't think I calling anyone "evil" for simply disagreeing, see here.

1:41 PM  
Anonymous gigi said...

I have been around too many years too be convinced that Tom DeLay and the Bushes waited 10 years to all of a sudden become compassionately concerned. I believe the memo that was circulated, and I think it has backfired. I can respect your opinions, at least you can discuss with out resorting to name calling.

Happy Easter!

5:32 PM  

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