The Terri Schiavo Saga has been a gut-wrenching experience. Terri passed on to the Great Beyond today, but her story and its implications are still with us, and will be for a long time to come.
And that is a good thing. The issues raised over these last weeks and months need to be talked about.
There are some pertinent points to be made:
· Even if Terri was in a persistent vegetative state, she was not terminally ill.
· Medical professionals disagreed on the severity of her condition.
· It cannot be conclusively proven that she would have preferred to die rather than to live, and that point is the subject of heated debate.
· Her husband should have been relieved of his guardianship responsibilities when he abandoned Terri as his wife and began a relationship with another woman. Her parents or a neutral party should have been appointed to guard her welfare.
· Even though the Congress is not normally involved in individual cases, it is not improper for the Congress to pass laws that address situations such as this one, and in fact that is a proper role for the Congress.
· It seems stupid that when facts are in dispute, such as Terri’s actual medical condition, or when material circumstances change, such as Michael Schiavo’s abandonment of their marriage, that the legal system prevents the admission of new evidence or the ability of interested parties to present information in cases of life and death. Such a situation is not tolerated for convicted murderers, and it is unconscionable for it to have been so in Terri Schiavo’s case.
· There are three co-equal parts of our government. The judiciary is not superior to the others. An Imperial Judiciary is an abomination.
· It makes no sense to condemn someone like Terri Schiavo, who is not suffering, to a death by starvation and dehydration, yet her legal guardian, the legal system of the United States and the state of Florida, did that.
Terri Schiavo is dead. We will never know whether that is what she wanted. All we know is that after several years in her brain damaged condition, after winning malpractice awards of more than $2 million, and after finding another woman to bear his children, her husband and legal guardian ended her therapy, went to court and convinced a state circuit judge that she would rather die than live that way, and then fought and eventually succeeded in ending her life, despite the pleadings of her parents, and thousands of others who believed that it was morally and ethically wrong. The legal system through the judge protected the guardian’s decision from any challenge without determining if there was justifiable cause to re-examine the circumstances of the case, as if the guardian’s decision were somehow inviolable.
If any good comes from this sad failure of our legal system to protect the weakest among us, it will be that perhaps we will be moved to repair that legal system so that it values the life of a disabled person more than it values itself. We will examine the rights of legal guardians, and institute protections that actually work to protect people from the actions of a guardian with a conflict of interest, and we will establish firmly that living imperfectly is a better option than dying miserably.