March 31, 2006

Terri Schiavo died a year ago.

How is the press marking the anniversary? Some are running with the "living wills" theme. Others are revisiting the husband and parents who fought so hard over her fate. Still others reargue the issues of life and death.


Icepick said...

And still others are bored out of their skulls by the whole thing. Can we just let the poor woman rest in peace?

Ann Althouse said...

Icepick: Well, the husband who sought that outcome has a new book out, so...

Icepick said...

The parents had a book out the day after the husband's book. I think they've been doing dueling publicity tours. Yuck.

CB said...

A year ago, The Onion had the most poignant commentary on the whole issue with the headline, "Terri Schiavo Dies of Embarassment."

Alan said...

Terry Shiavo brought about my distrust of the pro-life movement within the GOP. I had sympathized with the pro-life point-of-view. But never wanted it coded into law...and never thought it would be. But the Terry Shiavo circus made me realize the pro-life movement had far greater control in the GOP than I thought or liked. Now I can barely listen to or read any conservative pundit when they tell me conservatism is pro-life. Eff em. The only reason to vote GOP is the War on Terror. But when I hear a candidate tell me he or she is pro-life I may not even show up to vote. Never mind that few are for limited government anymore. But then how can they be when they're pro-life?

knox said...

ugh, my least favorite controversy ever

Eli Blake said...

The courts decided it. The politicians should never have gotten involved.

People always go on about 'legislating from the bench,' well how about 'edjudicating from the legislature?' Because that is what this was.

Eli Blake said...

And one other comment on the topic:

Thank God for Oregon. My first choice for retirement.

Laura Reynolds said...

The quicker this issue goes away the better, no one looks good.

Lets talk about Natalee Holloway or picnics..

michael farris said...

"how about 'edjudicating from the legislature?'"

adjudicating even.

Smilin' Jack said...

I've never understood why this is such an emotional issue, especially for the left. If she's really a vegetable, then what's the harm in letting the pro-lifers keep her alive? All the talk about what she "would have wanted" is moot...if she's a vegetable, then she doesn't want anything, and doesn't care one way or the other.

Tom C said...

The immense overreach by Frist and J. Bush drove a nice wedge into the Republican party. It solidified Howard Dean's characterization of Republicans as a "white, Christian" party. It is the event you can point to when GW Bush became a lame duck.

Now do you see why libs are so in love with it and want to relive it?

dcwilly said...

Smilin'Jack: so why not desecrate your dead body when you're gone? You'll be dead, so you won't know. Why honor a relative's wishes about how they want their body taken care of when they die? They'll be dead, so they won't care, and the wishes they expressed while alive will be meaningless.

michael farris said...

"The quicker this issue goes away the better, no one looks good."

Translation: This issue makes republicans look bad .... Quick! Over there! Look!

My own completely evil thoughts on this: If it keeps J Bush out of the white house then her years as an unconscious vegetable have not been in vain.

Unknown said...

People really need to research the use of feeding tubes. They were only invented in 1980 or so, and were meant for the most urgent situations.

Now they stick them in all sorts of people who are on the verge of dying, and they extend their lifespans by years, even though the people are completely bedridden, with no prospect of ever enjoying their lives again.

Feeding tubes are fine for a month or so, but there is absolutely nothing wrong with removing them after that time if doctors think the prospect of recovery is zero.

But once the feeding tube is in, it's almost impossible to take it out. That has to change.

It is driving up the costs of medical care considerably and doing nothing to improve the quality of life.

The Commercial Traveller said...

Just a reminder of the radical, extremist position of those who fought along side of the Schindle family:

"when there is doubt as to what a person would want . . . err on the side of life"

Oh my, what zealots. And not to trust and revere and bow down to a judicial oligarchy over the *elected* Florida legislature, the Florida governor, the U.S. Congress, the U.S. Senate, and the President of the U.S.?

To this day and to the end of my life, I will never and can never understand why *we* were the side that got tarred and feathered when all we wanted was the recognition that in the absence of definitive proof of a person's wishes--that you don't kill them.

This anniversary makes me sad. I feel so diminished by the ugliness of it all.

Question: has anyone ever seen a tombstone that failed to memorialize the deceased and instead contained a self-congratulations by the deceased's husband? Just sheer ugliness.

chuck b. said...

c. schweitzer, I didn't vote for the President or any senator or congressman to insert themselves into a matter properly decided by the courts--as it was in the Shiavo matter, over and over again, for many, many years.

"Judicial oligarchy"? Really? Sounds kinda snarky. Souinds kinda angry. Sounds like the voice of someone I want to keep a wide berth from.

As I see it, "[Y]our side" got tarred and feathered because it stuck its nose where it didn't belong.

The Commercial Traveller said...

chuck b.--

And certainly you sound reasonable and judicious by comparison. I've been roundly censured indeed.

chuck b. said...

Again with the snarky.

I argued in good faith.

Anonymous said...

Michael Farris has been on fire lately! I love his arrogant jerk schtick!

Jerk schtick. That's funny. It sounds gay and German. German gayness is funny.

chuck b. said...

French gayness is funny too. Or at least, equivocal French gayness a la Michel on Gilmore Girls. Much more funny than la Terri Shiavo.

(pls pretend I included the proper accent mark over "a" in "a la". thanks.)

michael farris said...

"To this day and to the end of my life, I will never and can never understand why *we* were the side that got tarred and feathered when all we wanted was the recognition that in the absence of definitive proof of a person's wishes--that you don't kill them."

Most people, I believe, would prefer that if they were ever in that (Ms. Schiavo's) position that their spouse be able to make the (possibly wrong) decision on their behalf.

Aside from that, the context was that the courts were doing exactly what they should.

Your side, not liking the legal decisions decided that aggressive ajudication from the legislature was in order.

If you don't like 'legislating from the bench', then don't try reversing the process and expect to win any hearts and minds.

The Commercial Traveller said...

Mr. Farris commented: "Most people, I believe, would prefer that if they were ever in that (Ms. Schiavo's) position that their spouse be able to make the (possibly wrong) decision on their behalf."

But that isn't Florida law! The Florida law did not say that the spouse had the right to decide whether his/her husband/wife should die or not.

The Florida law says that, in the absence of a living will, explicit evidence must be provided as to what a person wanted. Michael Schiavo testified in the malpractice trial that Terri would want to live. The money came through and he *suddenly* remembered that she said she didn't want to lie that way.

Contrary to how the media described our position and the way, quite frankly, people just doing a driving by look at the case were capable of understanding--we were not asking the legislatures or the court to decide for Terri Schiavo.

Here is what we are asking (and please, if you don't believe me, do research on the primary documents for yourself):

• that the courts be asked to do a "de novo" review of the Schiavo case to see if Judge Greer's findings of the facts of the case were correct or not, that is, for some other judge that Greer to look over the evidence to see if there was clear and convincing evidence that Terri would want to die

Here are some misconceptions about the case that almost EVERYONE I've ever talked to about it has:

• Dozens of other judges affirmed Judge Greer's ruling. They affirmed that no legal errors were made in coming to the ruling. They never commented on the facts of the case. Ann could probably explain this better than I can, but it's the idea that appellate courts rule on matter of law, not fact.

• That we wacko religious zealots were out to force Terri Schiavo to live against her will. You know, the irony is that probably many if not most of those who supported Schiavo agreed that we wouldn't want to live that way, but felt that the danger of killing someone without proof of their wishes was a dangerous precedent. If there was any proof that Terri wanted to die, I wouldn't have been involved, that's for sure.

• That Florida law gave the right to decide to the husband and we religious wackos were trying to come in between a husband and a wife. Again, that's not Florida law. If it was, again, the controversy wouldn't have existed. If that is, indeed, as Mr. Farris contends, where most people think the decision should lie, then have the law say that. But it didn't.

Look, you can think anything you want about me, with or without foundation or proof. I don't care. But, again, understand the real case of Terri Schiavo--not the one that was projected (largely because I think people projected their own circumstances onto the Schiavo case--and didn't look at it as a thing in itself). I was trying to uphold the rule of law, not decide the case based on what I would *personally* want.

I know, such a zealot.

michael farris said...

"Here is what we are asking(...):
• that the courts be asked to do a "de novo" review of the Schiavo case to see if Judge Greer's findings of the facts of the case were correct or not, ...
• Dozens of other judges affirmed Judge Greer's ruling... They affirmed that no legal errors were made in coming to the ruling..."

So (summing up) a judge made a ruling and a number of other judges upheld that ruling. Sounds like the system was working! Why involve the legislature?

The Commercial Traveller said...

Let me use a hypothetical:

Someone is convicted of a capital crime and sentenced to die by lethal injection.

All the appeals courts affirm that the convicted was given "due process" and thus there were no "reversible errors."

Let's say that people like me looked at the case and found that many of the factual claims in the case were misrepresented and that there are facts that indicate innocence.

Now, if you agree with Justice Scalia that "innocence is not a bar to be executed" and that the only role in appeal is to review the technical (not factual) elements of the crime, then the criminal should be executed--not matter how much doubt or factual question there was in the original trial.

However, legislatures frequently require courts do "de novo" reviews of death penalty cases--that is, to do more than certify that "no errors" were made in the original trial, but rather to review the *facts* of the case to see if the original verdict was in error.

What we were asking for Terri Schiavo was the SAME RIGHT that death row inmates get: the right to have the *facts* of the case reviewed.

You ask, quite reasonably, why if the courts certified Judge Greer's decision we then decided to go the legislatures. The answer is: to have them request a review not just of the technical aspects of the case, but the *facts* of the case.

All of this is fairly routine in death penalty cases. And it was my belief that Terri Schiavo's life deserved that much consideration. Now, if you think requesting "de novo" reviews of death penalty cases is an inappropriate request than certainly requesting it in Schiavo's case would also be inappropriate and your position would be perfectly consiistent. But, if you think death penalty cases sometimes deserve that right, I can't see why Terri didn't deserve it as well.

I can't speak to all who advocated on behalf of Terri Schiavo and her parents, but if the courts did a "de novo" review of the case and found the same as Greer, I would have been less concerned with the terrible implications of it.

But, I looked at the original trial transcripts and said to myself "if any other judge would have been sitting there--there's no way he would have found *clear and convincing evidence* of Terri Schiavo wanted to die."

Notice: I'm NOT saying that she wouldn't have wanted to die. Maybe she did. I'll go further: she might well have *wanted* to die in that situation. But, "might have" isn't what the Florida law says is enough to actually kill her and it shouldn't, in my view, be the standard.

I go back to what I think is the humble, safest position: when in doubt, err on the side of life (either in euthanasia or the death penalty). To be branded an extremist based on advocating that statement simply boggles my mind. I can't even imagine a more bland, non-controversial statement. Um, maybe, "I like puppies"?

Maybe all of you are right and I'm just too skidish about taking lives. Maybe I've read and internalized GItta Sereny's _Into that Darkness_ too much and I just need to get with the majority on this.

michael farris said...

C. Schweitzer: I really have no interest in dredging up the details of the case. You asked why public opinion was against those trying to maintain the late Mrs. Schiavo in the condition she was in and I've tried to show why I think that is.

Summing up: 1) people saw the parents as trying to interfere in a decision best made by her husband (who appeared to most people to be acting in accordance with what he saw as her wishes) 2) people saw politicians becoming involved in the case as a distasteful spectacle, and really didn't like watching them as they tried to interfere in the judicial process.

I can see how you might think that's unfair. I can understand that you think people were wrong and short-sighted and looking in the wrong places. But those are separate problems from why public opinion was what it was in that case.

The Commercial Traveller said...

I guess we didn't win the soundbite war.

The problem for me is that everyone made a decision about the situation based all the wrong information. And people still don't understand the case, yet continue to make judgments about it based on what THEY would want rather than what the law said.

John in Nashville said...

C. Schweitzer: "fairly routine" de novo judicial review of facts evincing guilt in death penalty cases? In which American jurisdiction(s)?

The Commercial Traveller said...

john in nashville: I didn't say that the granting of de novo reviews was routine, but rather that the requests were fairly routine. I was addressing the belief some people seem to have that somehow the request of a de novo review was such a spectacular extreme assault on the courts by us religious extremist wackos.

In terms of legal practice, they are quite common requests.

Laura Reynolds said...

Michael Farris said...
"The quicker this issue goes away the better, no one looks good."
Translation: This issue makes republicans look bad .... Quick! Over there! Look!

Michael: I said no one looks good, you read politics into that. Let me repeat NO ONE looks good. I'm speaking English, I don't need a translation. If I meant something else I would have said it.

michael farris said...

"I said no one looks good, you read politics into that."

It became such a political issue that no comment on it could not be political (including the wish for it to 'go away').

I agree that no side in this looked like angels, but one side definitely looked worse (in majority opinion) and forgetting about what happened (or wanting the issue to 'go away') ultimately helps that side, which is not something I'm really interested in doing.

Laura Reynolds said...

Well I probably would feel the same way were I in your position. But as the republicans found out with Clinton, just harping on some one else's "negatives", although it may feel good, is not a winning formula. Fortunately you have other ammunition, although you lack a good shooter.