Friday, March 18, 2005

Activity on the Schaivo Front

The latest move in the Schaivo saga is that the Senate has issued a subpoena for both Terri and Michael Schaivo to appear to testify before the Senate. The thinking is that such a subpoena would prevent the tube removal and prolong Terri's life.

I just shake my head in disbelief. This is not pro-life. If half the energy that has been expended here was expended in a legitimate pro-life social justice cause, some real good stuff would be happening.

In reading the post this morning, I saw a quote by Bill Frist, MD, Senate Leader who proclaimed that Terri does not have PVS because he watched the video tape. That is nonsense. Bill Frist, as well as any other responsible doctor, will always tell you that you cannot diagnose anything without the facts. This same video has been the excuse for countless others who claim with confidence that Terri is conscious because the saw her on that video tape. This is disingenious at best. It is well known and established that PVS patients appear to be conscious but are not.

The court system has gone through this case with a fine tooth comb. It's been up and down the ladder. Even the Florida Bishops Conference and Bishop Lynch has made it clear that at the end of the day, Michael Schaivo may remove the tube and only him knows if he meets the subjective and personal threshold of burden of care.

The alarm with which pro-lifers are taking this case rings hollow to me. There is so much crap that goes on in this world, in our communities everyday: stuff that would make you cringe to your toes twice over. Things like abject poverty, rape, abuse, starvation, health calamities, homelessness, etc. Why don't we see this type of rage on behalf of those issues every now and then? We don't because those are not important issues. Rather, the Schaivo case is a great case that brings the requisiste publicity to make a point.

BTW, what happened to the vaunted principle of subsidiarity?

Anyway, the Washington Post had an editorial on this that I agree with:

The Schiavo Case
Friday, March 18, 2005; Page A22

CONGRESS DOES NOT generally smile these days on the power of the federal courts to review alleged constitutional errors by state courts. In 1996 it imposed significant procedural barriers for inmates who want their claims examined -- even inmates who might face execution and those who might be innocent. The idea was that the national government should defer to state courts and not seek to micromanage their justice systems -- even in matters of life and death. Except, apparently, in the case of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state whom the Florida courts, after careful consideration, decided would not want to live under such circumstances. With Ms. Schiavo's feeding tube scheduled to be removed today, Congress sprang into action to pass legislation granting the federal courts the power to review the state court judgments that would let her die. (The Florida legislature is, for the second time, also acting to force her to continue living.) On Wednesday night the House of Representatives passed a bill to let "an incapacitated person" -- or someone who cares about him or her -- go to federal court whenever a state court "authorizes or directs the withholding or withdrawal of food" and when there is no undisputed living will. The Senate passed a narrower bill yesterday that would deal with Ms. Schiavo's case alone -- allowing her parents, who wish to keep her alive, a shot at the federal courts.

Both bills make a mockery of the professed conservative devotion to the sovereignty of states and the integrity of their courts. There is no great constitutional question to litigate here. Nonetheless, the broader House bill would create endless opportunities to involve the federal courts in heart-rending end-of-life struggles within families. And the Senate bill is nothing more than a warrantless intervention by the national legislature in a specific case that -- no matter how much members might dislike the result -- is no business of Congress. Yet Virginia Sen. George Allen (R) declared in a statement yesterday that he supports federal court review because, whatever the courts may have said, "when I see the videotapes of Terry Schiavo, it is clear she is conscious and has feelings."

The message to state courts is that they can do as they will with accused criminals and rely on federal law to shield them from review, but Congress will pull out the stops to overturn rulings -- however local -- that members don't like. That's not how the federal system is supposed to work.


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