The last few weeks of news have been filled with the saga of Terri Schiavo, that of her family, and of the bitter issue that divides us as a nation: How we choose to die.
I’d said little about this case in particular other than in private to the sidekick, family, and friends because I think that my position on issues involving an individual’s rights are pretty clear. As a Libertarian, and a general follower of what I believe to be conservatism, government has no business being involved in this matter. Let alone the House of Representatives, the Senate, the Governor of Florida, or the President of the United States.
Regardless of one may think of Michael Shiavo’s motives or desires – the law is the law is the law.
A trial court, having weighed the evidence, ruled that Ms. Schiavo would not have wanted to live in this condition. Trial courts are the finders of fact. Once they have decided, the appeals are about matters of law. And those courts – state and federal – at every level – have consistently ruled against her parents.
The harsh bitter reality of this situation is that Florida law reigns supreme in this case – and that law was followed.
We could stand around and debate emotion, theology, politics, or whatever poison of your choice. None of that matters. I’ll choose to believe that he pursued this course of action because he truly believed that this is what his wife would have wanted. I’d fight like hell to do the same.
While I am not a lawyer, I believe on the surface that the law passed by Congress to allow this case to be heard in the federal courts would not hold constitutional scrutiny. I just can’t remember reading that part of the Constitution which allows Congress to get involved in a case like this. It was a severe overreaching based an emotional appeal rather than any fact or understanding of the law.
It’s a shame. What should be a private matter between members of her family and their doctors is now on the national stage. It’s not what I would want for my family.
There’s a level of hypocrisy in this that I also find troubling, and one that I did not consider until this morning while waiting to board my flight for Los Angeles. It’s the religious right and the anti-abortion/pro-list movement that does not want her feeding tube to be removed – they would prefer that she live on. But that’s the same group that would prevent a person’s doctor from relieving them from a painful death outlawing the ability for a physician to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs.
I do believe in the days ahead that we’ll see more conversation about the end of our days. We’ll see more living wills put into place. In fact, in talking with my parents last night, they have already printed out the forms and are having those discussions together. I hope that in the years ahead we see more laws like Oregon’s assisted suicide law which, under a tightly controlled set of circumstances, allows a doctor to prescribe a lethal dose of drugs to a terminally ill patient.
If we do indeed have a right to privacy, as the Supreme Court has ruled in Griswold and Roe, then isn’t the extension of that right the ability to have the death of our choice?
I believe it is. Hopefully, that’s the lesson that we’ll take away from all of this.