Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Erring on the side of life

I don't really know what to make of the whole Terri Schiavo battle because I don't know enough of the particulars. Did she tell her husband she would want to die in these circumstances or didn't she? Is he an adulterous sleazebag who just wants the life insurance money, or does he have her interests at heart? I don't know, so I'm glad I'm not the one who has to decide. I do know, however, that if I were in Terri's shoes, I'd want the tube removed. In fact, I'm working on a living will to say just that so that my family will never have to fight over what to do should this happen to me.

I have to admit that I'm confused by the conservative Christian stance here. I understand why Christians would be against euthanasia. I certainly am. But I'm not sure why a Christian, who presumably believes in a glorious afterlife with God, would want to artificially prolong a life here when the higher functions of the brain are gone. Do they really think it's better to lie in bed not able to think or feel or be than to move on to the next life just because we have the technology to do so? And yeah, I know there is disagreement about whether or not she's in a "persistent vegetative state," but I find it hard to believe that she isn't. If she hasn't recovered after 15 years, then how likely is it that tomorrow will be the day? Miracles can happen, but they can happen with or without the aid of technology and it seems cruel to me to use the technology just on the off chance that there might be a miracle.

The whole thing feels to me like her family is in a 15-year-long state of grief wherein they won't move to the final stage, acceptance, and their supporters are helping them stay stuck in that place.

I don't know that in this one particular case removing the tube is the right thing to do. But if it's ever me, please remove the tube, let me be alive with God instead of the living dead here, and let my family grieve and move on. That's how I would define "erring on the side of life."

6 Comments:

At 4:41 PM, Blogger BobW said...

You correctly point out something often overlooked here. In a profound sense, this is not about Terri. She gains eternal life with God sooner or later, one way or another. So, if there is a tragedy here, (and I believe there is), its victim is not Terri but those who must sit in judgment on whether her life will go on or not.
The immediate problem here is that a feeding tube is not considered an "extraordinary measure;" and its use is certainly not confined to cases like Terri's. It is a means of providing nourishment to those who for the present cannot eat and drink as we do. I'd say it's at the very least open to question that it becomes "artificial" simply because it does not involve tableware and feeding through the mouth.
Such reading as I've done suggests that the predominant Christian view is that we need not keep people permanently on ventilators, or resort to drastic procedures with no real chance of success. We are not called on to delay death where it is imminent. This is "passive euthenasia." We are, in fact, "letting nature take its course." But when we choose to remove a feeding tube already in place, we have gone to "active euthenasia." There's no doubt, after all, that absent Michael's authority to order this as Terri's guardian, removing the tube would have been basis for a First Degree Murder charge.
Court after court has had a better chance than I to look at the facts here; and I remain convinced that court after court has missed the boat. Terri's alleged statement of her wishes is the rankest hearsay backed, so far as I know, by no witness other than Michael. We'd do well in these cases to set the burden of proof at "clear and convincing evidence," not a mere "preponderance."

To my mind, that Michael has taken up with another woman and that they have had children creates a conflict of interest. The simple fact that his relationship MIGHT lead him to reach decisions based on anything other than Terri's best interests should have been, at some point, sufficient for a judge to terminate his authority and put it in the hands of someone without an agenda or, failing that, the Schindlers.

As to whether or not Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," only Terri knows. But there is disagreement among reasonable people, layfolk and expert, based on observable fact. Both whether she is "vegetative" and, if so, whether that condition is untreatable and permanent. These people should be heard. It is entirely possible that what was impossible in 1995 or 2000 is not just possible but feasible in 2005.
There are rare times and places when courts should review the facts in a case already decided. This is one. It's sad-but-true that no death row inmate's last-resort appeal would've shot through the federal judiciary the way Terri's case did last week. If it were, we'd have seen many an innocent person executed when the DNA evidence was there to prove that innocence.

If you're like me, you have a certain soft spot for Pontius Pilate. As Friday became Sunday, I like to think he came to see the Truth in Whose presence he'd been standing. Let's hope that when Terri dons her crown, we're motivated to take a good, hard look at how her case was handled; and to see we do a great deal better next time.
Regards,
Bob

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger BobW said...

You correctly point out something often overlooked here. In a profound sense, this is not about Terri. She gains eternal life with God sooner or later, one way or another. So, if there is a tragedy here, (and I believe there is), its victim is not Terri but those who must sit in judgment on whether her life will go on or not.
The immediate problem here is that a feeding tube is not considered an "extraordinary measure;" and its use is certainly not confined to cases like Terri's. It is a means of providing nourishment to those who for the present cannot eat and drink as we do. I'd say it's at the very least open to question that it becomes "artificial" simply because it does not involve tableware and feeding through the mouth.
Such reading as I've done suggests that the predominant Christian view is that we need not keep people permanently on ventilators, or resort to drastic procedures with no real chance of success. We are not called on to delay death where it is imminent. This is "passive euthenasia." We are, in fact, "letting nature take its course." But when we choose to remove a feeding tube already in place, we have gone to "active euthenasia." There's no doubt, after all, that absent Michael's authority to order this as Terri's guardian, removing the tube would have been basis for a First Degree Murder charge.
Court after court has had a better chance than I to look at the facts here; and I remain convinced that court after court has missed the boat. Terri's alleged statement of her wishes is the rankest hearsay backed, so far as I know, by no witness other than Michael. We'd do well in these cases to set the burden of proof at "clear and convincing evidence," not a mere "preponderance."

To my mind, that Michael has taken up with another woman and that they have had children creates a conflict of interest. The simple fact that his relationship MIGHT lead him to reach decisions based on anything other than Terri's best interests should have been, at some point, sufficient for a judge to terminate his authority and put it in the hands of someone without an agenda or, failing that, the Schindlers.

As to whether or not Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," only Terri knows. But there is disagreement among reasonable people, layfolk and expert, based on observable fact. Both whether she is "vegetative" and, if so, whether that condition is untreatable and permanent. These people should be heard. It is entirely possible that what was impossible in 1995 or 2000 is not just possible but feasible in 2005.
There are rare times and places when courts should review the facts in a case already decided. This is one. It's sad-but-true that no death row inmate's last-resort appeal would've shot through the federal judiciary the way Terri's case did last week. If it were, we'd have seen many an innocent person executed when the DNA evidence was there to prove that innocence.

If you're like me, you have a certain soft spot for Pontius Pilate. As Friday became Sunday, I like to think he came to see the Truth in Whose presence he'd been standing. Let's hope that when Terri dons her crown, we're motivated to take a good, hard look at how her case was handled; and to see we do a great deal better next time.
Regards,
Bob

 
At 4:43 PM, Blogger BobW said...

You correctly point out something often overlooked here. In a profound sense, this is not about Terri. She gains eternal life with God sooner or later, one way or another. So, if there is a tragedy here, (and I believe there is), its victim is not Terri but those who must sit in judgment on whether her life will go on or not.
The immediate problem here is that a feeding tube is not considered an "extraordinary measure;" and its use is certainly not confined to cases like Terri's. It is a means of providing nourishment to those who for the present cannot eat and drink as we do. I'd say it's at the very least open to question that it becomes "artificial" simply because it does not involve tableware and feeding through the mouth.
Such reading as I've done suggests that the predominant Christian view is that we need not keep people permanently on ventilators, or resort to drastic procedures with no real chance of success. We are not called on to delay death where it is imminent. This is "passive euthenasia." We are, in fact, "letting nature take its course." But when we choose to remove a feeding tube already in place, we have gone to "active euthenasia." There's no doubt, after all, that absent Michael's authority to order this as Terri's guardian, removing the tube would have been basis for a First Degree Murder charge.
Court after court has had a better chance than I to look at the facts here; and I remain convinced that court after court has missed the boat. Terri's alleged statement of her wishes is the rankest hearsay backed, so far as I know, by no witness other than Michael. We'd do well in these cases to set the burden of proof at "clear and convincing evidence," not a mere "preponderance."

To my mind, that Michael has taken up with another woman and that they have had children creates a conflict of interest. The simple fact that his relationship MIGHT lead him to reach decisions based on anything other than Terri's best interests should have been, at some point, sufficient for a judge to terminate his authority and put it in the hands of someone without an agenda or, failing that, the Schindlers.

As to whether or not Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state," only Terri knows. But there is disagreement among reasonable people, layfolk and expert, based on observable fact. Both whether she is "vegetative" and, if so, whether that condition is untreatable and permanent. These people should be heard. It is entirely possible that what was impossible in 1995 or 2000 is not just possible but feasible in 2005.
There are rare times and places when courts should review the facts in a case already decided. This is one. It's sad-but-true that no death row inmate's last-resort appeal would've shot through the federal judiciary the way Terri's case did last week. If it were, we'd have seen many an innocent person executed when the DNA evidence was there to prove that innocence.

If you're like me, you have a certain soft spot for Pontius Pilate. As Friday became Sunday, I like to think he came to see the Truth in Whose presence he'd been standing. Let's hope that when Terri dons her crown, we're motivated to take a good, hard look at how her case was handled; and to see we do a great deal better next time.
Regards,
Bob

 
At 8:44 PM, Blogger catholic_girl said...

That's exactly how I feel -- it's so hard to know the truth in this case, since the mudslinging has been going on for so long, but I feel like at its heart it's about people who love someone deeply and want to do what's best for her. Do they still have her best interests at heart? I'm not sure. It's been a long fight, and I don't know that Terri herself is truly at the center of it anymore. But I agree that it's puzzling that Christians would want to keep her trapped in that body, knowing where (if reports of her faith are accurate) she's probably headed when she leaves it. That doesn't mean life isn't valuable -- just that it's not the HIGHEST value in every situation.

 
At 8:20 PM, Anonymous the_methotaku said...

I posted my thoughts on the Schivo case on my own blog. Basically, I aggree with you that the case is complex and that weather or not a feeding tube is a medical device or a utensil is arguable, but think that Terry's parents loose by default because they dragged a whole menagerie of right-wing nutjobs into a private family dispute.

 
At 11:23 PM, Blogger the-unintentional-blogger said...

I haven't really followed the story all that closely, but here's my thinking. I don't think this would even BE a story if it wasn't for the allegations about the husband. From what little I've seen, there's alot to question about his motive and ethics. And I think the reaction of the "Christian Right" is brought on by the evidence that her husband Michael might not be acting in her best interests. If the parents and her husband both agreed that it was appropriate to remove the feeding tube, I'm relatively sure you would not have heard such a big comotion about it. I'm sure it happens somewhere almost every day.

With the evidence looking like Michael was a bit of a scum bag, I understand those who want to keep her alive and asked the courts to err on the side of life. Legally, unfortunatly, I don't think the parents had a case, so ultimately I think the courts did right. I just wish Michael would have divorced her and give up his right to want to end her life.

 

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