Assisited Suicide/Schiavo

A Schiavo Moment

Chuck Todd thinks we've seen this before, and I agree:

When the Terri Schiavo controversy first turned into a full-blown national story — in March 2005 — no one was sure of its political implications. Even some Democrats feared it was a loser for them. But after congressional Republicans and the Bush White House acted to keep the Schiavo alive, despite being in a vegetative state and despite her husband's wishes that her feeding tube be removed, their move backfired. The American public thought they went too far, and it marked the beginning of the end of GOP control over Congress and the White House. Flash forward almost seven years later, and is history repeating itself? Just like with the Schiavo case, we're unclear how the debate over contraception, women's health, and religious liberty will play out. But after the Obama White House initially bungled its contraception rollout and especially after it released its accommodation compromise, there are warning signs this week that the GOP has taken that issue — and other social ones — too far.

One has to wonder just what Republicans are thinking.  The economy is improving, but there is still a lot of recovery ahead.  There's Obamacare.  There's poverty still.  In other words, Obama isn't invincible.

So why is the GOP trying to start a culture war?  It makes no sense, especially when the issue they are picking alienates women, who are 50% of the voters.  Contraception?  Really?  You are going to make that an issue in an election year?  Didn't we resolve that, like 50 years ago?

And how does that work exactly?  "Let's make it harder for women to get birth control.  That'll make us popular!"  Huh?!?

Matt Bors

P.S.  Hey, Slate — I was way ahead of you.

Bush Is Pro-Life? Uh, Not So Much

Remember when Bush cut his vacation short (the only time he did it) to fly back to D.C. in the middle of the night so that he could sign a bill hastily drafted by Congress to save Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state? 

It was a national debate which pitted the pro-life religious right with the pro-death-with-dignity everybody else.

Well — right now — there is a woman in a Texas hospital named Andrea Clark.  Like Schiavo, she is being kept alive by machines.  But whereas Schiavo’s legal guardian and husband wanted Schiavo to die with dignity, Clark’s family and legal guardian are opposed to pulling the plug.

But early next week, the Texas hospital will pull the plug anyway, based on the decision of one single physician, and against the family’s wishes.

How can the hospital get away with this?

It’s all due to something called the Taxas Futile Care Law, signed into law in 1999 by then-Texas-governor George Bush.  Essentially, it allows an ethics committee of a hospital to terminate terminal care even against the wishes of the family and the patientRead more.

Sounds Like A Lifetime Movie

In Boston, an 11-year old girl lies in a coma.  Like Terri Schiavo (remember her?), there is a court battle over whether her ventilator and feeding tubes should be removed.

The twist is that only one person is fighting for the girl’s "right-to-life" — the girl’s father. 

But he’s more than the girl’s father — he’s the guy who beat the girl so severely that she became comatose.  Obviously, if the life support system is withdrawn, and she dies, he will be charged with murder.

The full story is here.

That’s a photo opportunity I want to see: Randell Terry, Bill O’Reilly, and the other right-to-lifers in a mass rally, sharing the stage with a child beater.

Sheehan Bigger Than Schiavo

From Blogometer (a good daily resource by the way):

Each time this week we’ve visited Technorati, the popular blog search engine, the "Top Searches This Hour" feature has placed "Cindy Sheehan" at the very top. At one point this a.m., "Sheehan" was also #5. The Blogometer is trying to remember the last time this happened, but no person or event — not the fight over Terri Schiavo, not the 7/7 bombings — stands out.

Lessons From Schiavo: Even A Living Will Won’t Protect You From The Krazy Kristian Kooks

Under threat of a lawsuit, Pro-Life Wisconsin pulled a news release accusing HospiceCare of murder in removing the feeding tubes of severely injured Marine Staff Sgt. Chad Simon, but the group has not, as requested, issued a public apology or retraction.

***

Simon, 32, of Monona, was injured by a bomb in Iraq in November. The father of a 6-year-old son, Simon never recovered from his war injuries and his family followed the wishes laid out in his living will that he not be kept artificially alive with food and water if he became permanently incapacitated.

On July 20, the Dane County Circuit Court ordered Hospice to follow the directives of Chad’s surrogate decision-maker, wife, Regina Simon.

On Aug. 11, three days after Simon’s funeral, Pro-Life Wisconsin issued a news release condemning the removal of Simon’s feeding tube.

“Sgt. Simon was a victim of two different faces of the culture of death,” Hamill said in the news release. “He was certainly a victim of international terrorism, but he was also a victim of America’s rapidly decaying system of ‘hospice’ care. Sgt. Simon died of dehydration, not from any sort of brain injuries. Sgt. Simon was rendered handicapped by the bomb in Iraq, he was murdered by those who were in charge of his medical care.”

Hospice responded aggressively the next day.

“The content of your press release is per se defamatory and subjects both Pro-Life Wisconsin and Peggy Hamill to legal liability,” Hospice attorney Pitz wrote. “It is readily apparent from the press release that you intentionally have sought to falsely disparage Hospice."

Full story.

Please. Let’s Beat Up Michael Schiavo Some MORE!

Typical republican trick. Look like a fool for your actions so shift the focus onto something else.

Like many on the right, Jeb Bush has much egg on his face about the whole Schiavo matter.  She was in a persistent vegetative state, she was blind, and had half a brain.  Despite what the right-to-useless-lifers stated, Terri Schiavo was never going to become a Rockette dancing on the stage of Radio City Music Hall, or . . . you know . . . talk.  Never.  Never ever.

A decent person would say, “Hey.  Look, I was wrong.  Maybe I wanted so much to think she was coherent that I just saw what I wanted to see.  I guess, in retrospect, I made the situation worse by meddling.”

Not Jeb Bush.  Apparently, he doesn’t have enough Schiavo egg on his face, so now he’s investigating circumstances that are FIFTEEN YEARS old.  And he is asking questions:

Gov. Jeb Bush asked a prosecutor Friday to investigate why Terri Schiavo collapsed 15 years ago, calling into question how long it took her husband to call 911 after he found her.

In a letter faxed to Pinellas-Pasco County State Attorney Bernie McCabe, Bush said Michael Schiavo testified in a 1992 medical malpractice trial that he found his wife collapsed at 5 a.m., and he said in a 2003 television interview that he found her about 4:30 a.m. He called 911 at 5:40 a.m.

“Between 40 and 70 minutes elapsed before the call was made, and I am aware of no explanation for the delay,” Bush wrote.

Jeb, give it a rest.  Supposedly, you have been aware of this matter for years, seeing as how you’ve stuck your big fat nose into it and commented on it repeatedly.  Only NOW are you realizing something “odd” about Terri’s collapse and the 911 call?  The more you try to salvage some dignity, the more you end up looking like a jackass.

Update:  On Larry King (the 2003 television interview described above), Michael Schiavo :

Climbed into bed. Terri said good night to me. Gave me a kiss. She woke up, said good night, gave me a kiss. I gave her a kiss back. I’d say, about 4:30 in the morning, I was, for some reason, getting out of bed and I heard a thud in the hall. I race out there and Terri was laying in the hall. I went down to get her. I thought, Well, maybe she just tripped or whatever. I rolled her over and she was lifeless. And it almost seems like she had this last breath.

So I held her in my arms, and I’m trying to shake her up. I ran over, I called 911. Her brother happened to live in the same complex as we did. I called him. I went back to Terri. And from there, six, seven minutes later, the paramedics…

Now, he says it was “about 4:30” in the morning—a clear indication that he wasn’t sure of the time when speaking to Larry King.  So, let’s make a couple of reasonable assumptions about why Michael Schiavo wasn’t sure, shall we?:

(1) When Michael Schiavo got out of bed that morning, he didn’t look at the clock.  (I got up last night sometime to pee . . . and I have no idea what time it was.  Has that NEVER happened to you?)

(2) Even if he DID look at the clock, he probably wouldn’t have remembered what the clock said, given the horrifying events that were about to occur.

(3) It is even MORE unlikely that he would remember the time more than a decade later when being interviewed on Larry King.

Conclusion: The so-called “40 to 70 minute” gap that Jeb has a hard-on about can be attributed to one thing: Michael Schiavo simply estimated the time wrong.  To him, the fact of “what time it was” was extremely irrelevant to Michael, considering what else was going on.  What was he supposed to do?  Make a log entry?

OH, BY THE WAY:  Speaking of sitting around and doing nothing while tragedy ensues, maybe Jeb should inquire about this:

Mypetgoat

Seeing Is Believing

Epilogue to Terri Schiavo:

"The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain,” he said. “This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.”

[Pinellas-Pasco Medical Examiner Jon] Thogmartin said the autopsy report was based on 274 external and internal body images, and an exhaustive review of Terri Schiavo’s medical records, police reports and social services agency records.

[Source]

Lies

First, a Bush lie:

Bush on the Armstrong Williams payola scandal in a press conference, January 26, 2005:

And we didn’t know about this in the White House . . .

Page 8 footnote of the Inspector General’s Report, Department of Education, concerning the Armstrong Williams payola scandal, released Friday:

"During a meeting between the White House and Department officials on July 13, 2004, pertaining to communications strategy, the Special Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy briefly questioned the Deputy Director of OPA about the status of the Williams’ work request…"

And remember how Michael Schiavo supposedly abused his wife Terri? That was a lie put out by Frist & Co.:

State investigators in Florida have found no clear evidence that Terri Schiavo was denied rehabilitation, neglected or otherwise abused, according to documents released yesterday by the state’s Department of Children and Families.

The agency completed nine reports of abuse accusations made from 2001 to 2004, including neglect of hygiene, denial of dental care, poisoning and physical harm. The accusations, which have been widely reported, focus on Michael Schiavo, the husband of Terri. Ms. Schiavo died on March 31, nearly two weeks after her feeding tube was removed. … Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court, who has presided over the dispute between Ms. Schiavo’s parents and her husband over her care, ordered the agency to make the documents public before Monday. Lawyers for Mr. Schiavo and Ms. Schiavo’s parents did not return calls seeking comment.

Hannity Coaches Interviewees

Can you imagine how the right-wing blogosphere would react if this was Dan Rather (instead to Sean Hannity)?

From the New York Daily News:

Fox News host: Repeat after me

If the conservative guests on Fox News’ "Hannity and Colmes" sound especially on-message, that’s because they’re being coached by the best:

Sean Hannity himself.

On the March 31 installment of the shouting-head show, the guests included two of the late Terri Schiavo‘s former nurses, Trudy Capone and Carla Sauer Iyer, arguing that their patient wasn’t brain-dead.

Between commercials, according to an off-air audiotape obtained by investigative comedian Harry Shearer for last Sunday’s episode of his weekly radio program, "Le Show," Hannity coached the women on exactly how to respond when liberal co-host Alan Colmes cross-examined them.

"Just say, ‘I’m here to tell what I saw,’" Hannity can be heard instructing his guests. "No matter what the question, ‘I’m here to tell you what I saw. I’m here to tell you what I saw.’"

Hannity adds helpfully: "Say, ‘I’m not going to be distracted by silliness.’ How’s that? Does that help you? Look into that camera. Look at me when I’m talking."

On the air, Iyer performs beautifully. "I don’t have any opinions or judgments. I was there," she declares

After the segment ends, Hannity gushes off the air to the nurses: "We got the points out. It’s hard, this isn’t easy. But you did great, both of you. Thank you, guys. Those nurses are powerful, aren’t they?"

On his radio show, Shearer injected: "Yeah, especially when they do what you tell ’em to do. Very powerful when they follow instructions from the host!"

A Fox News flack didn’t respond to Lowdown’s detailed message yesterday.

UPDATE: Audio available here.

End of the PowerLine

Ezra Klein says it so perfectly that I quote him in full:

With the Schiavo memos proven to be from a Republican source and Powerline not apologizing for their truthless innuendo and slander, it’s time to break out the popcorn and see if Big Trunk and Hindrocket can clear the shark. Odds are on massive carnage, but they might just end up laughing stocks. For that, see August Pollack on "Powerline-was-completely-fucking-wrong-gate" (Best. Gate. Ever.). It’s not just that they have no shame, it’s that they once met shame on a street, beat the shit out of him, rolled him up in a carpet, and threw him off a bridge. And don’t even ask me about the nightmare they put truth through. To paraphrase Marv in Sin City, after what they did to poor honesty, hell must have seemed like heaven.

Powerline, we must begin to understand, has no fucking idea what they’re talking about at any given moment. Once upon a time, some GOP operative sent by the Ghost of Nixon got something right for them in the Free Republic comments section, and ever since then the homo-erotically named bloggers over there have thought his success their own and tried to get a bunch of other Important Stories About Treasonous Democrats right too. But they don’t. Reading their site is like watching a blind child in a dog park — you keep trying to warn him not to step in the piles of shit, but you’re never able to get there quite quick enough. They want to make a point on Carter and end up calling him a traitor — ooh, all over your shoe! They want to attack the AP but end up proving themselves utterly ignorant of how cameras workdamn, you got it on your sock! They try to accuse Democrats of faking the Schiavo memo until an aide to current Republican Senator and Bush’s former HUD Secretary Mel Martinez — Agh, it’s all over you!

They get nothing right. Their fact-checking skills are atrocious. They neither report nor call experts, it’s just whatever they invented twenty seconds ago. Watching them work is like attending a high school debate match in the impromptu event. Arguments are created on the fly, accuracy is unimportant so long as the product accuses the "MSM" or Democrats of some cardinal sin that’ll leave Powerline’s sycophantic readers moaning with the exquisite pleasure that comes only from having one’s biases expertly stroked. The plausibility of their claims ranges from pathetic to laughable (has Big Trunk debated PZ Myers on the biological uncertainty of evolution yet?) and their traffic and credibility is entirely predicated on the work someone else did, success they’ve been totally unable to replicate. They have failed.

So enough’s enough — can we please stop taking them seriously? They’ve exhausted their purpose, which was proving that the blogosphere isn’t self-correcting and, in fact, offers rich rewards to opportunists with a polygamous relationship to the truth. Powerline’s not useful anymore. They’re not funny, like Glenn, or intellectually interesting, like Tacitus (old school Tacitus, anyway), or rhetorically talented, like Sullivan. They’re just there, hopping up and down and begging someone to take their latest theory — thought up seven seconds ago on the can — seriously. Don’t oblige them.

Schiavo Memo Silliness

Here’s the story, roughly, in a nutshell:

March 20:  The Washington Post reports about how the Republicans are using the Schiavo story for political gain, citing a one-page memo obtained by ABC News:

An unsigned one-page memo, distributed to Republican senators, said the debate over Schiavo would appeal to the party’s base, or core, supporters. The memo singled out Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), who is up for reelection next year and is potentially vulnerable in a state President Bush won last year.

"This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue," said the memo, which was reported by ABC News and later given to The Washington Post. "This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats."

March 21:  Right-wing blogosphere goes ballistic.  Powerline, named best blog of the year by Time magazine (presumably for its work on the "Dan Rather" memo) asks, "Is This The Biggest Hoax Since The Sixty Minutes Story"?  You can almost hear the wishful thinking in the question itself — "Oh, yes, pleeeease let it be a big hoax" think the Powerline jerks.

And sure enough, they simply cannot believe that the memo is true, although they have no reason to challenge its authenticity (other than their suspicion):

Based on the fragments from the memo that were reported by the Post, I question its authenticity. It does not sound like something written by a conservative; it sounds like a liberal fantasy of how conservatives talk. What conservative would write that the case of a woman condemned to death by starvation is "a great political issue"?

And so began the meme that the Schiavo memo was actually a Democratic-authored "dirty trick" designed to make Republicans look bad, with the mainstream media as a willing accomplice or naive partner in the scandal.

Late March:  Michelle Malkin writes about the memo "controversy" several times.  You may wonder what made it a "controversy".  The answer is "nothing".  But that’s how wingnuts operate.  They try to make a scandal where none exists, knowing that the mere accusations alone can carry weight.  (It’s called McCarthyism, by the way).  Michelle, among others, wonders why the mainstream media isn’t answering questions about the "fishy" memo, like who are their sources, etc.  She blogs about it at least once a day, letting everyone know that "The. Heat. Is. On."

April 1:  Michelle Moron Magalang Malkin writes about admitting errors, and wishes that the Washington Post would admit their errors with respect to the "fishy" Schiavo memo:

I suspect that no one at the Post or ABC News still believes the amateurish, unsigned, misspelled memo was circulated by Republican Party leaders. We may never know whether the memo was the handywork of a Republican staffer or a Democrat dirty trickster or an outside interloper . . .

Nonetheless, the damage has been done. The memo has been cited hundreds of times to support the argument that Republicans’ decision to intervene in the Schiavo case was politically motivated. And neither ABC News nor the Post has admitted any wrongdoing.

The Post can continue to mischaracterize its coverage. It can stonewall, perhaps hoping that its critics will get bored and give up. Or it can own up to its errors.

Truth be told, it wasn’t the memo that made everybody think that Republicans were making political hay out of the Schiavo saga.  It was the fact that the Republican-led Congress passed laws pertaining to Schiavo that made everybody think they were making political hay out of the Schiavo saga.  But whatever.

April 6:  Guess who wrote the "fishy" Schiavo memo?  A Republican staffer (just as the original Post story said) — actually "legal counsel" — for Sen. Martinez of Florida — a guy by the name of Brian Darling — owned up to being the source of the memo.  He admitted it (and then resigned).  Will Michelle and the others step up to the plate and admit that thier speculations were bogus? 

April 7Nope.    Michelle writes:

After John Hinderaker at Power Line first started asking necessary questions about the reporting on the memo, many on the Right jumped to conclusions that the memo was "fake" or a "dirty trick." I concur that those who made such claims should issue clear retractions and corrections. And I urge those bloggers and pundits to do so.

But contrary to what the left-wing gloaters who have not bothered to follow the story until last night are writing, I have never made such claims…

Correct, so far as I can tell. What she did do was spend a week calling it "fishy" and linking to all those people she now says should retract.

And now she is joining others (again) in complaining about minor inconsistencies within the reporting of the story of the memo, totally ignoring the fact that it has now been shown that the memo was written by a Republican and distributed by Republicans! 

Essentially, their argument now goes like this: Even if the memo is real, the mainstream media couldn’t have been sure it was real when they reported it, so they’re still a bunch of lying liberal SOBs. 

All this wingnut backtracking and embarrassing attempts to restore their own cred has prompted this 100% correct viewpoint from TBogg:

Admit you were wrong and then shut the fuck up for awhile.

More from Gilliard here. And Kos here. And Kevin Drum feels the same way I do.

Let’s be clear here. Hindrocket and the other two stooges at Power Line made their reputation, such as it is, on the Rather memo, a supposedly fake memo refering to an actual event: Bush went AWOL. But in their eyes the fact that the memo was fishy meant that the process was more important then that inconvenient historical fact. Today we see that the notion that Mike Allen didn’t have all of his facts complete and carved in stone regarding a evolving story means that the reality that it was a Republican memo is irrelevant.

Maybe these three knuckleheads should use the same line of reasoning when it comes to adding up 9/11 + weapons of Mass destruction that don’t exist = invade Iraq.

More on Americablog.

Pollack gives the "scandal" its new name: PowerLine-Was-Completely-Fucking-Wrong-Gate

World Nut Daily Journalism

This is funny.

The conservative "journalism" website WorldNetDaily has posted a story here about CBS’s plan to make a Terri Schiavo made-for-TV movie:

CBS is rushing a Terri Schiavo TV movie into production so that it can air the biopic during the May ratings sweeps.

[…]

CBS’ Terri story reportedly will feature "Felicity" star Keri Russell to star as America’s tragic heroine and Dean Cain of "Lois and Clark" as the husband who relentlessly seeks an end to her life.

Now please look at how the story was originally reported here on the Defamer blog:

Today, CBS has announced plans to rush a Schiavo biopic to air during May sweeps, with Keri Russell to star as America’s tragic heroine and Dean Cain as the husband who wants to let her die in peace.

Notice how "as the husband who wants to let her die in peace" (Defamer blog) becomes "as the husband who relentlessly seeks an end to her life" (WND).  Nice lilttle language flip-flop.

But there’s one more thing: it isn’t true!  There is no Keri Russell-Dean Cain TV movie about Terri Schiavo.  The Defamer blog post was apparently an April Fool’s Day gag, which WorldNutDaily (with its high journalistic standards) swallowed (and edited) hook, line and sinker.

Heh.

More Rightwing Self-loathing

At Alan Keye’s Renew America site, they aren’t mincing words:

Dear President Bush,

As a lifelong Republican and staunch supporter of you and your policies, I feel compelled to write to you today, during this Easter season of life and liberty from sin and death, where we all come together to experience the transcendent joy which traditionally marks the anniversary of our Lord Jesus Christ’s passion, death and resurrection.

However, with great sadness and in stark contrast to the joyous atmosphere which traditionally permeates the collective soul of our nation in springtime, here today we stand together instead to watch one of our own, Terri Schiavo, starve to death at the very hands of the people who claim to be her fellow Americans, indeed, those same individuals who swore oaths to be her protectors and defenders.

"One of our own"?  What does he mean by that?  Are all wingers brain dead?  Or on a feeding tube?  Or what?

Well, it goes on like that for a while, but it soon gets incredibly shrill.

You had all of our support. Our loyalty was boundless. Our hopes and expectations in your leadership were limitless — until now. Support, loyalty, hope, expectation — these now lie in shattered pieces on the ground. Do you realize what you have done? Can you comprehend the magnitude of destruction? How many more will follow Terri to the grave before God is ready to receive them now that the gates of hell have been unleashed?

Fuck me!  The gates of hell have been unleashed?  Excuse me.  I just soiled myself.  I am soooooo not prepared for this.  I thought it might happen, but — you know — I thought it might be because of wars or whatever.  Not hospices.

You had the opportunity to become a truly great president. This opportunity rested in the palm of your hand. Yet, you chose to throw it away, for it was inseparably linked to the precious life of Terri Schiavo. Your greatness, along with the respect that we had for you, now lies in the grave with her.

History will not place your marble bust along side those of Washington and Lincoln, who heroically and by demonstrable faith led our nation through very dark and dangerous times into safety and prosperity to become "one nation under God." Such an honor is not befitting men in authority who betray oath, trust and loyalty as you and others have done.

"One nation under God" was put into the Pledge of Allegience in the mid-1950’s — a while after Washington and Lincoln — but I get your point.

No Mr. President, your bust will be placed next to that of Pontius Pilate where, like him, you, too, will be provided a marble wash basin to forever rest in front of your image.

I recall that Pilate "washed his hands" of Jesus (that’s where that phrase comes from, in fact) using a basin.  I just don’t recall that Pilate was forced to look at a sink for the rest of his life.

Mr. President, history will record that at the moment of Terri Schiavo’s death, you did not eliminate Saddam Hussein — you became him.

Paul Rasavage

Sounds like Paul is unhappy.  Of course, I have a clue as to why, and it may have nothing to do with Terri Schiavo, or the president.  The clue rests in his bio:

Paul is also founder of the Serenellians, a Catholic apostolate that ministers to individuals who desire to break free of their addiction to pornography . . .

Paul, a life without porn is a life without pictures and movies of naked people having sex with each other.  Yeah, I mean — everything in moderation — but . . . you know.  Get real.

Now That Terri’s Dead . . .

Amy Sullivan asks the one question that I would like answered:

A cradle Baptist, I was taught in the church that while we were not to hasten death, neither were we to postpone or fear it. The ending of a life was sad for those who remained, but a joyous event for the one who died. As one of my friends put it this week, If all of these folks believe Terri Schiavo was a Christian, shouldn’t they want her to slip from this life to be embraced by the arms of God? I understand that this is a particular kind of religious belief, not shared by all, but it is a belief to which most of the leaders you’ve seen on tv over the past few weeks subscribe. And yet the implication of their fight has been that death is something to be held at bay using all available means, that any quality of life is better than what may come next.

Schiavo’s Body Is Dead

RIP, finally.

UPDATE:  The response from the right-wing blogosphere — full of death poems and scripture, not to mention wailing and gnashing of teeth — was a little TOO predictable, don’t you think?

UPDATE #2:  I take that back.  I was just home for lunch and caught about 20 minutes of the cable news networks.  Man, do they want this story to live.  They won’t give it up.  The typical broadcast went like this:

"Well, Terri Schiavo died this morning, but the controversy is sure to rage for days and weeks.  The fallout is political, legal, religious, and medical.  And we’ll be talking with the experts for days and weeks and months to come.  We LOVE this story!  Not even her death can stop us!  Bwaaaa-haha-haha!  We’ll continue to suck at this cow’s teat until there’s nothing left to suck!!!!"

UPDATE #3:  No, I take that take-back back.  The MOST fucked response isn’t from the media, but from the right-wing, as I originally said.  Huge wingnuttery this time in the form of Tom Delay, who took the opportunity to make threats against judges, doctors, and private citizens like Michael Schiavo:

Mrs. Schiavo’s death is a moral poverty and a legal tragedy. This loss happened because our legal system did not protect the people who need protection most, and that will change. The time will come for the men responsible for this to answer for their behavior, but not today. Today we grieve, we pray, and we hope to God this fate never befalls another. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schindlers and with Terri Schiavo’s friends in this time of deep sorrow.

Runner-up in wingnuttery response goes to James Dobson who, according to Atrios:

is on CNN bitching about the courts going against "the will of the people" (ignoring the fact that, in this situation, the courts are clearly with the people). And, after his basic culture of life whine, he brought up the example of how people are overwhelmingly in support of "executing minors" and those dastardly courts won’t let it happen.

Religious Right Represents One Small Part of Spectrum

Barbara O’Brien has a must-read over at The American Street.  To quote the best parts is an injustice to the whole thing, but I reluctantly will selectively quote and summarize anyhow:

Right now Michael Schiavo and his supporters are hoping an autopsy of Terri Schiavo’s brain will eventually settle the matter of her persistent vegetative state beyond a shadow of a doubt. It would, in a rational world. But we know what’s really going to happen, don’t we? Release of the autopsy results will just touch off a new round of conspiracy theories. The coronor might as well not bother.

2004_dd_religiousright Barbara then takes on the false premise of Edward Feser, who wrote the following into his essay "How to Mix Religion and Politics": The question is whether religious arguments should have the same standing in public life as secular arguments, and the answer is that there is no good reason they should not.

This is a dishonest framing of the debate, Barbara argues, adding:

[T]he implication is that liberals want religion to be kept so entirely private it is never seen in public, and that opinions influenced by religion may not be considered in debates on public policy. And this is a lie.

However, I am not inclined to have my religious practices enshrined in law so that everyone in America is forced to practice them, nor do I think decisions such as the disposition of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube be made based on my understanding of life and death. I don’t feel an urge to march around demanding that everyone in America accept my religious beliefs as the only legitmate religious beliefs.

Exactly.  And then she delivers the coup de grace:

I have no problem at all with religious people, members of the clergy, even, coming forward to advocate changes in law and public policy. But their arguments have to stand or fall on their own merits. If their argument consists of waving a Bible in my face and yelling about what God wants, I am not persuaded. I respect any rational, factually based arguments about public policy, including religious ones. The problem is that these days religious people in the public sphere rarely make rational, factually based arguments. Too often they’re not even making good theologically based arguments.

The emphasis in the last paragraph is mine.

It’s an excellant post, especially for those in the Religious Right who want to understand, rather than beat down, those who feel and believe differently than them.  And there are many many many.  As Barbara says:

There are many sects and denominations in this nation whose doctrines and practices differ a great deal from that of the Religious Right. Unitarians, Quakers, Reformed Jews, Eastern Orthodox, etc. etc. etc. all have long and deep roots in American history, yet they are often out of agreement with the Religious Right. And I am personally aquainted with politically liberal evangelicals. However, these days liberal evangelicals are keeping their heads down and not speaking out much, lest they draw the tender concern of their politically conservative brethren, which is getting dangerous these days.

It’s time for the Religious Right to let go of their stranglehold on Jesus, and it’s time for these other religions, and people who adhere to them, to stop being bullied.

Maybe now that Falwell’s voice will be silenced soon….

Onward Christian Soldiers (Torturers, Rapists…)

Billmon has the goods on one of them:

The legal battle over the life of Terri Schiavo may have ended, but a thick, fervent crowd remains in the makeshift encampment outside the Woodside Hospice House here . . .

No, we’re not going to go home," said Bill Tierney, a young daughter at his side. "Terri is not dead until she’s dead" . . .

Mr. Tierney, a former military intelligence officer in Iraq who works as a translator and investigator for private companies, cried as he talked about watching the Schiavo spectacle on television and feeling the utter need to be at the hospice.

New York Times
Protesters With Hearts on Sleeves and Anger on Signs
March 28, 2005

Bill Tierney . . . had just returned from eight months working as an interrogator for US forces in Baghdad, and had come to talk, on the record, about torture.

”The Brits came up with an expression – wog,” Tierney said. ”That stands for Wily Oriental Gentleman. There’s a lot of wiliness in that part of the world.”. . .

After explaining his various psychological tactics to the audience, interrogator Bill Tierney (a private contractor working with the Army) said, ”I tried to be nuanced and culturally aware. But the suspects didn’t break.”

Suddenly Tierney’s temper rose. ”They did not break!” he shouted. ”I’m here to win. I’m here so our civilization beats theirs! Now what are you willing to do to win?” he asked, pointing to a woman in the front row. ”You are the interrogators, you are the ones who have to get the information from the Iraqis. What do you do? That word ‘torture’. You immediately think, ‘That’s not me.’ But are we litigating this war or fighting it?” . . .

Asked about Abu Ghraib, Tierney said that for an interrogator, ”sadism is always right over the hill. You have to admit it. Don’t fool yourself – there is a part of you that will say, ‘This is fun.’

Boston Globe
Spy world
February 13, 2005

And the Kos folks have the goods on another one (via Pandagon):

Yes, it turns out that good Christian hero Scott Heldreth who let his 10-year-old get arrested at the Terri Schiavo protests is a registered sex offender in Florida, as thoughtcriminal at DailyKos has discovered.

Heldreth claims his conversion to Jeebus happened after he was tossed in jail for raping a minor. Now he thinks globally, not locally–instead of taking away a woman’s right to choose on a one by one basis, he’s working to take it away from us all.

Schiavo’s Parents Sell Donor List — Conservatives Will Get More Spam

"The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups," the New York Times reports.

"Privacy experts said the sale of the list was legal and even predictable, if ghoulish."

So, your daughter is being "killied" and what do you do?  Sell donor lists to private companies so that they can spam the people who contributed to saving your daughter’s life.

Ghoulish indeed.

Meanwhile, I thought I would throw a blurry graphic at you:

Poll2

Wolcott’s Suggestion

It’s a good one, too . . .

Here’s something the cable news outfits could do that would rilly rilly rilly be useful, given that they got all those cameras down there in Florida and all.

Just for the kooky hell of it, why don’t they provide us with one wide shot or overview of the protestors and vigil-holders in Pinellas Park just so we can see how big the gathering is? Is it a big, swelling group, or is it like the jubilant Iraqis surrounding Hussein’s razed statue, a seeming mass revealed in long wideout as a motley get-together? And what is the ratio of Schiavo deathwatchers to media deathwatchers? Are there as many reporters there as sign-holders, or what?

Ten bucks says I already know the answers, which are (in order) "A motley get-together", "Roughly four-to-one", and "Depends on the time of day, but there are more onlookers and reporters than actual protesters".

How To Make A Schiavo Protester’s Head Explode

Wait until they start to complaining about all the judges out there who (supposedly) are conspiring to "kill" Terri, nod your head in strong agreement, and then pull out your Bible.  Open to Deuteronomy 1:16 and read:

Then I commanded your judges at that time, saying, "Hear the cases between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother or the stranger who is with him.

"You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small as well as the great; you shall not be afraid in any man’s presence, for the judgment is God’s."

Then watch their jaws drop and heads explode.

A Terri Schiavo FAQ

THE FOLLOWING IS LIFTED VERBATIM FROM FOOTBALL FANS FOR TRUTH, WHO DID THE WORK SO I DON’T HAVE TO:

Confused about the differing stories in the Schiavo case? Wondering about who to believe? Here’s some answers to common questions. I strongly recommend Abstract Appeal’s Terry Schiavo’s Information Page as an unbiased source of information from a Florida lawyer who has been blogging the case since mid-2003.

Why should anyone be allowed to kill Terri Schiavo?

If Terri Schiavo is "killed" by the removal of feeding tubes, then Florida law and many other state laws allow "killing", and people are "killed" by the state every day. Many people do believe that removal of nutrition is murder, which is a perfectly legitimate belief. But Terri Schiavo’s case is no different from numerous other cases of patients who are removed from artificial nutrition every year–many times at the request of guardians who stand to benefit financially from the patient’s death.

Why will Terri Schiavo be allowed to die by dehydration?

It’s not a pleasant thought, but it’s Florida law.

In 1999, in response to a Florida Supreme Court ruling, the Florida legislature updated its "end of life" statutes, which were first put into place in 1990. The House and Senate voted unanimously in support of a number of changes to the text. One of those changes added to the list of "life-prolonging procedure": including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function. (Cite in Florida Supreme Court ruling, 1999 changes here.)

Governor Jeb Bush signed the bill in June of that year.

So in 1999, the entire Florida legislative and executive branch voted for a law that authorized the withdrawal of sustenance to a PVS patient at the request of an appointed guardian or a licensed social worker, in the event that no interested relative was available.

The 1999 bill wasn’t unusual in any way and is consistent with many other states–in fact, it is considered a model for state law. Withdrawing sustenance is standard procedure for PVS and comatose patients, even though they can’t speak for themselves. The St. Petersburg Times covered a few local cases that occurred in March alone.

Shouldn’t Terri Schiavo be entitled to due process?

Terri Schiavo has received far more due process than any other PVS patient in history.

Her guardian’s performance has been reviewed three times. A full trial was held to determine her end-of-life wishes, and the ruling upheld by the appellate court. A full trial was held on whether or not she was in a persistent vegetative state, and whether or not any treatment would improve her condition; the judge ruled that she was in a persistent vegetative state and that no treatment held out a reasonable hope of recovery. The appellate court reviewed all the evidence (viewing all the video footage) and stated that if it held a de novo trial it would come to the same conclusion, and upheld the ruling. The Florida Supreme Court has denied review on both trials.

The federal courts have been petitioned since 2004, and have consistently refused involvement, up to and including the Supreme Court.

Why is Michael Schiavo allowed to order the removal of his wife’s feeding tube?

Michael Schiavo didn’t order the removal of his wife’s feeding tube. From the Second District Court of Appeals decision:

In this case, however, Michael Schiavo has not been allowed to make a decision to disconnect life-support. The Schindlers have not been allowed to make a decision to maintain life-support. Each party in this case, absent their disagreement, might have been a suitable surrogate decision-maker for Theresa. Because Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers could not agree on the proper decision and the inheritance issue created the appearance of conflict, Michael Schiavo, as the guardian of Theresa, invoked the trial court’s jurisdiction to allow the trial court to serve as the surrogate decision-maker.

Judge Greer’s February 22 decision ordered Michael Schiavo to cause his wife’s feeding tube to be removed.

Michael Schiavo certainly set this process in motion by asking the court to decide what Terri would have wanted and testifying that she told him she wouldn’t want to live in these circumstances. But he is not the one making the decision. (See Abstract Appeal for another take.)

Doesn’t Michael Schiavo have a financial interest in his wife’s death?

At the time of the petition, a little over $700,000 remained in Terri Schiavo’s trust. Reports from both sides vary on the amount left, but everyone agrees that the amount is minimal, most of it spent on authorized legal expenses. Michael Schiavo had no control over the trust fund.

Moreover, guardians are usually close relatives, and often stand to benefit from the death of their ward. Judge Greer addressed this fact in his original decision, pointing out that the Schindlers had the same financial interest in removing him as ward, since the $700,000 would then come to them. They would be under no obligation to keep Terri alive once they had control. So either one of the parties could have been acting out of financial motives. Or, as is more likely the case, neither are.

Michael Schiavo offered to give the $700,000 to charity to assure the parents that he wasn’t acting out of financial motives. The parents turned it down. He has also turned down at least one offer of $1 million to turn over guardianship to Terri Schiavo’s parents (his lawyers put other offers as high as $10 million). Any suggestion that Michael Schiavo is acting out of greed seems unlikely in light of these facts. (See Abstract Appeal for another take.)

Why is Michael Schiavo denying his wife care?

Three guardians ad litem, Richard Pearse, Jay Wolfson and John Pecarek, have reported on Terri Schiavo’s care. (Pecarek’s report is not available online; Pearse’s report; Wolfson’s report)

Pecarek reviewed Michael Schiavo’s guardianship in 1994 when the Schindlers attempted to remove Terri from Schiavo’s care. Pecarek found no reason to do so. Wolfson on Pecarek’s report:

"His report, issued 1 March 1994, found no inappropriate actions and indicated that Michael had been very attentive to Theresa."

Wolfson on the guardian hearing in general:

"Proceedings concluded that there was no basis for the removal of Michael Schiavo. Further, it was determined that he had been very aggressive and attentive in the care of Theresa. His demanding concern for her well-being and meticulous care by the nursing home earned him the characterization by the administrator as ‘a nursing home administrator’s nightmare’. It is notable that through more than thirteen years after Theresa’s collapse, she has never had a bedsore."

In 1998, Pearse confirmed that Terri Schiavo was well cared for, also mentioning that she "received regular therapy."

What about Michael Schiavo’s failure to treat Terri’s urinary tract infection?

From Jay Wolfson’s report:

"…Michael, in consultation with Theresa’s treating physician, elected not to treat the infection and simultaneously imposed a ‘do not resuscitate’ order should Theresa experience cardiac arrest. When the nursing facility initiated an intervention to challenge this decision, Michael cancelled the orders. Following the incident involving the infection, Theresa was transferred to another skilled nursing facility."

"Michael’s decision not to treat was based on discussions and consultation with Theresa’s doctor, and was predicated on his reasoned believe that there was no longer any hope for Theresa’s recovery."

Recall that Michael Schiavo’s guardianship was reviewed three times after this decision not to treat, and all three reviews concluded that his care was exemplary.

Shouldn’t an MRI be done to confirm the diagnosis?

Five physicians, including one independent expert and two physicians selected by the Schindlers, examined Terri Schiavo in 2002. If an MRI had been necessary, the two Schindler physicians could have ordered one. An MRI was only requested in one of the last appeals, basing it on a new Neurology article, fMRI reveals large-scale network activation in minimally conscious patients and the 17 doctor affidavits (see below).

Judge Greer’s response categorically lists all the problems with the request. To summarize, the Neurology article involves "minimally conscious" patients, whereas Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, the 17 doctors based their opinion on the video shorts (see below), and Terri Schiavo has implants that would have to be removed by brain surgery before an MRI could be performed.

In reading the 17 affidavits (before they were taken offline at Terri’s Fight), I noted that those who recommended an MRI said only that it "might" be helpful. Not one expressed surprise that an MRI had not been performed or asserted that this was standard medical practice.

Is there some doubt as to her diagnosis?

Her two guardians ad litem, Richard Pearse and Jay Wolfson, have said unequivocally, after hours of evaluation and discussion with medical experts, that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state.

In 2002, the Schindlers had their chance to prove in court that Terri was not in a persistent vegetative state. While the appellate court had only ordered Judge Greer to determine if new treatment methods would work, he also chose to reaffirm the PVS diagnosis. The Schindlers chose two doctors; Michael Schiavo chose two. The judge appointed a fifth.

The independent doctor agreed with Schiavo’s two doctors that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. The Schindler doctors asserted that she was not. They based this finding on Terri Schiavo’s interaction with her mother, her ability to track a balloon, and so on. Judge Greer’s opinion indicates that he "carefully viewed" all the videotapes. He counted up the times that Dr. Hammesfahr (one of the Schindler doctors) gave Terri Schiavo a command (105), asked her a question (61), how many times her mother gave her a command (6), or asked a question (11). In all these cases, he observed: "The court saw few actions that could be considered responsive to either those commands or those questions. " The appellate court confirmed this by viewing the tapes again.

The two Schindler doctors proposed their own therapeutic treatment that could possibly improve Terri’s chances. They could point to no case studies documenting their success, and they agreed that current science didn’t offer much hope. In both cases, their suggested treatment plans were, to put it kindly, experimental.

In other words, when the Schindlers had their best shot to challenge Terri Schiavo’s diagnosis and rehabilitation, they offered two unproven, experimental therapies. Either they couldn’t get any better, or they wasted an important opportunity.

What about the videotape?

The videotape segments that stirred up so much attention, the ones that are on TV all the time, show Terri Schiavo talking to her mother and apparently responding. These clips were culled and edited from four hours of videotaped footage of Terri Schiavo. The judge and the appellate court viewed all the footage; see the question above for the results.

No one has challenged the statement that the clips were edited from a much longer tape, and no one has challenged Judge Greer’s assessment of the longer tape.

What about the 17 doctors who say she should be retested?

The doctors who wrote affidavits, by their own admission, have not examined Terri Schiavo and base their opinion on the short videotape. Most of them have not examined her records. Some of them are plugging their own new therapy; at least two are plugging the same therapy that the two Schindler physicians suggested and that the judge rejected as insufficient.

What about the nurse who says that Michael Schiavo tried to kill her with insulin, neglected her, and denied her all care?

Carla Iyer’s affidavit states that Terri Schiavo spoke regularly, laughed and expressed pain, that her chart comments to this effect were whited out by other staff members, that she called the Schindlers to give them progress reports that Michael forbade, that Michael Schiavo was eager for his wife to die and poisoned her with insulin, that a nurse at the facility was complicit in Schiavo’s abuse, and that she reported this activity to the police and was fired for her pains.

She came forward to report this in late 2003; the Schindlers tried to get a new trial based in part on her affidavit. Judge Greer’s response to her charges:

"Ms. Iyer details what amounts to a 15-month cover-up which would include the staff of [the] Convalescent Center, the Guardian of the Person, the Guardian ad Litem, the medical professionals, the police and, believe it or not, Mr. and Mrs. Schindler. Her affidavit clearly states that she would ‘call them (Mr. and Mrs. Schindler) anyway because I thought they should know about their daughter’…..Neither in the testimony nor in the medical records is there support for these affidavits as they purport to detail activities and responses of Terri Schiavo. It is impossible to believe that Mr. and Mrs. Schindler would not have subpoenaed Ms. Iyer for the January 2000 evidentiary hearing had she contacted them as she alleges."

How can the judge take Michael Schiavo’s word for Terri Schiavo’s wishes?

He didn’t just take Michael Schiavo’s word for it. Judge Greer accepted Richard Pearse’s GAL recommendation that Michael Schiavo’s unsupported word would not be enough to establish clear and convincing evidence. He accepted two other witnesses (both Schiavo siblings) who recalled Terri Schiavo’s comments on the Nancy Cruzan case. Two of Terri Schiavo’s friends reported Terri’s opinion about Karen Quinlan, but the judge rejected one as not credible (testimony changed between deposition and trial) and both as irrelevant, as Terri made the observations when she was a teenager.

Judges accept a spouse’s word in these situations all the time, often with no other support.

Why did Judge Greer dismiss the GALs?

Richard Pearse, the first GAL, determined that Michael Schiavo’s "credibility is adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the ward’s sole heir at law in the event of her death while still married to him".

Michael Schiavo asked that Pearse be dismissed for bias because he failed to mention that Schiavo had committed to donate all his inheritance to charity, or observe that the Schindlers had a similar financial bias. Jay Wolfson’s report noted that it was a "well-pleaded case for bias".

The judge discharged Mr. Pearse but did not disregard his findings. Judge Greer does mention that "Mr. Pearse readily agreed that he has feelings and viewpoints regarding the withdrawal of feeding and hydration tubes and that he did not so advise the court prior to his appointment", which suggests that Pearse had other conflicts.

He dismissed Jay Wolfson, according to Wolfson himself, because " once the Florida Supreme Court struck down Terri’s Law his efforts were moot. "

Why is Michael Schiavo still allowed to make decisions for his wife when he abused her/hasn’t been faithful to her?

Judge Greer ruled that the abuse issue was irrelevant, and there’s no definitive ruling on whether or not Michael Schiavo abused his wife. As to whether or the abuse caused Terri Schiavo’s condition, most experts think it most likely that she had a heart attack brought on by her bulimia. Matt at Abstract Appeal reminds everyone of the malpractice lawsuit:

"The significance of the medical malpractice lawsuit can be seen in a few ways. A jury agreed that bulimia caused Terri’s collapse. The defendants were her doctors — one might think that they, of all people, would have been able to show that Terri had been beaten or strangled if that was what had occurred."

Michael Schiavo has had relationships with other women, and is engaged to a woman with whom he had two children. However, all the investigators have uniformly praised Michael Schiavo’s care of his wife. From Judge Greer’s original opinion ruling that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube must be removed:

"It is also interesting to note that Mr. Chiavo continues to be the most regular visitor to his wife even though he is criticized for wanting to remove her life support. Dr. Gambone even noted that close attention to detail has resulted in her excellent physical condition and that Petitioner is very involved."

So you’re on Michael Schiavo’s side?

I’m on the side of the law. The law defines a procedure. Michael Schiavo, the Schindlers, and the courts all followed that procedure. I don’t support intervention because the Schindlers and others didn’t get the outcome they wanted. I wouldn’t support Michael Schiavo if the positions were reversed.

For the record, I’m agnostic on the right to die. My public policy position is that many people clearly want the option, and the states should ensure that they have that right, while still protecting those who can’t speak for themselves. My personal position is that my family can make whatever decision they think best, should I not be able to decide for myself. I don’t know that I could ever withdraw nutrition from a loved one, and can’t imagine promising to do so.

To determine your position, I offer up a few hypotheticals:

  1. Assume all facts are the same, but Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers agree that the feeding tube should be removed.
  2. Assume all facts are the same, the Schindlers oppose the feeding tube removal, but Terri Schiavo left a detailed living will that specified she would want the feeding tube removed if she were in a persistent vegetative state.
  3. Assume that Michael Schiavo has remained completely faithful to his wife all these years, but still testifies that she told him she would want to die in these circumstances, and the Schindlers still oppose him.

If your opinion switches from opposition to support in these hypotheticals, then your opposition is based on the circumstances in this case. So ask yourself: do you really think that you know more about the case from the media coverage and court documents than the judges who actually reviewed all the evidence? It’s one thing to acknowledge that the judicial system has the occasional flaw; it’s quite another to say that over a dozen judges have actively ignored evidence that proves Michael Schiavo wants to end his wife’s life on a whim.

If you still oppose the removal of the feeding tube in these hypotheticals, then you presumably oppose all decisions of this nature. However, the courts have applied the law as it is currently written. Why not work to change the laws, rather than believe, despite all the review, that Terri Schiavo has been denied due process or is the victim of activist pro-death judges?

Congress has chosen to spend a huge amount of time intervening in one case, thus implicitly devaluing every other person who has died in these identical circumstances, and for no other reason than they don’t like the Florida court’s decision.

“Why wasn’t letting Schiavo die a Christian option, too?”

It’s a damn fine question, asked by (among many others) the Rev. Frederick Schmidt, an Episcopal priest and theologian at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, according to this wonderful article in the St. Petersburg Times:

"I think the religious right is captive to a medical, scientific description of life that equates merely to survival," said Schmidt, director of spiritual life and formation at SMU’s Perkins Graduate School of Theology.

"But Christians can say no, life is broader than that . . . and to let someone go under these circumstances is perfectly appropriate."

He and other scholars say the religious, moral argument in the Schiavo case was largely one-sided. Though polls show a strong majority of mainline Protestants disapproved of Congress’ actions, they and their religious leaders allowed conservative Christians to carry the debate, as they’ve done with embryonic stem cell research and gay marriage.

It’s more than academic. Just as conservatives realized 20 years ago they could not afford to sequester themselves from public affairs, moderates risk becoming culturally and politically irrelevant if they withdraw.

Evangelical Christians "have become the moral edge in the country, because there’s no one else articulating a moral religious view," said Dr. Robert Blendon, professor of health policy and political analysis at Harvard University.

"Something has happened to the moderate, mainstream Protestant church. They should be arguing this is a moral issue, and there is another side."

The dispute over Schiavo has been cast in terms of the religious versus the secular. But that’s an artificial line, "because most Americans want some sort of moral religious perspective in their lives," he said.

The moral judgments that help us decide when life begins help us decide when life ends. The Catholic church teaches that life begins at conception; it used to teach that life began at quickening, some 40 days into pregnancy. Are we dead when our brain no longer functions? Or only when our heart stops?

"Science can never adjudicate the boundary between life and death," said Dr. Barbara Koenig, a medical anthropologist and former head of the Center for Biomedical Ethics at Stanford University. "That is fundamentally a social assessment."

It doesn’t help that many of the terms – brain death, coma, persistent vegetative state – are largely subjective. "People think these are real states that exist in nature, and we can somehow magically measure them using machines," Koenig said. "No, no, no. It’s extremely difficult."

So let’s celebrate the end of Terri’s tortured life this Easter, as we should celebrate the end of ALL torture.

Terri and the GOP

Finally finally finally it looks like Terri Schiavo is going to slip quietly into the great beyond, as she wished.  As I would wish for myself.  As most would wish for themselves.  By refusing to give the Schindlers yet another bite at yet another apple, repeating the same arguments already heard, the “little Eichmans” (as wackos on the Christian right are calling Terri supporters these days) of the United States Supreme Court have followed in the shoes of the “little Eichmans” of the Eleventh Circuit, and the “little Eichman” of the Florida federal district court, not to mention the “little Eichmans” of the Florida state judicial system, not to mention the newly-minted “little Eichmans” of the Florida legislature who refused to pass a law giving Jeb Bush (no little Eichman, he) power to take Terri Schiavo into custody.

Meanwhile, some on the right of the political spectrum are taking a rare and introspective look at their party.  Instapundit openly wonders about a “conservative crackup” in light of its “fair-weather federalism”, and another conservative blogger of note, John Cole, blatently proclaims the death of modern conservatism

Seeing this political cannibalism coming from the right (rather than the left) warms me.  And I am reminded of days many many years ago when, at the age of ten (as I was becoming poltically aware), I watched a Republican party self-implode with disgust at President Nixon and Watergate. 

Seems like it was only weeks ago when Bush was boasting of his mandate, doesn’t it?  Kind of hard to make that statement now, when his approval is at an all-time low, and approval of Republicans in Congress is at its lowest since they seized congressional power.

Whether any or all of this sticks remains to be seen, so . . . no victory dances.  But this certainly has played well for the left — even in the short term — who really can’t take much credit in bringing the downfall about.  As we have always said, the Republicans want power and control of your bedroom, not to mention your soul, and will do everything and anything to get it.  We weren’t lying, folks.  And the GOP politicians, by stepping on the principles which the Republican party was rebuilt, have proven themselves to be more blatently power-hungry and freedom-of-choice-disrespecting than most Republicans can stomach.

Dr. Cheshire Cat

Jeb Bush has found a neurologist who claims that Terri Schiavo’s diagnosis ha been wrong all these years.  He claims that Terri, rather than being in a "persistent vegetative state", is actually in what the medical profession calls a "minimal conscious state".

That doctor’s name is Dr. Cheshire.  Let’s take a look at him, shall we?

Perhaps one place to look is a poem he wrote entitled Exit Ramp.  It appears in a magazine called Ethics & Medicine.  And what is Ethics & Medicine magazine?  Why, it bills itself as a magazine for "guidance to a perplexed world from the Judeo-Christian worldview". 

Uh-oh.  I see there this is going. 

Anyway, here is an excerpt from Dr. Cheshire’s "Exit Ramp":

And if a noble benefit
Is gained by choking respiration
Then why withhold from those unfit
To voice their fatal last petition?

Such killing fast degenerates,
Despite concern for patients’ best,
Into a plot that terminates
Without explicit prerequest.

And exercise of “right to die,”
If done with regularity,
Would drive the expectation high
That suicide is one’s duty.

The notion of a right to die
In reason finds approval nil,
From such a harsh judicial lie
Would obligate doctors to kill.

Okay.  So it is pretty clear that we know this Dr. Cheshire’s bias even before looking at his evidence.  But what is his evidence that Terri is in a "minimally conscious state"?

Let’s look closely at the key quote from Dr. Cheshire’s affidavit:

"Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior," he wrote, "yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her."

(Source)

That’s medical evidence?  Gee, there are no compelling evidence of conscious awareness, but he gets the distinct sense that she is aware of things around her?

You know what? I get the distinct sense that Dr. Cheshire is letting his personal bias interfere with his medical objectivity.  Perhaps he sees dead people, too.  In any event, well-meaning as he might be, he clearly cannot be taken seriously when his "medical" evidence is nothing more than a sixth sense, goosebumps, hairs on the back of his neck, gut feelings, and intuition.

UPDATE:  Seems Dr. Cheshire isn’t very well respected, or known, in the medical community.  Read this from Dr. Elizabeth Whalen, founder of the American Council on Science and Health (and a lifelong Republican):

While we at American Council on Science and Health have been determined to remain on the sidelines of the raging national debate about the fate of Terri Schiavo (this is largely a legal and ethical issue, not a scientific one), we cannot remain silent about the outrageous misrepresentation of scientific facts about this case that has been occurring in the past ten days.

The medical reality of Ms. Schiavo’s case is this: She has been in what is medically referred to as a "permanent vegetative state" for the past 15 years, ever since her heart temporarily stopped (probably due to the severe effects of an eating disorder), depriving her brain of oxygen. Brain scans indicate that her cerebral cortex ceased functioning — probably just after she experienced cardiac arrest in 1990. Ms. Schiavo’s CAT scan shows massive shrinking of the brain, and her EEG is flat. Physicians confirm that there is no electrical activity coming from her brain. While the family video repeatedly shown on television suggests otherwise, her non-functioning cortex precludes cognition, including any ability to interact or communicate with people or show any signs of awareness. Dozens of experts over the years who have examined Ms. Schiavo agree that there is no hope of her recovering — even though her body, face and eyes (if she is given food and hydration) might continue to move for decades to come.

Those are the harsh facts.

Yesterday, there was another public challenge to Ms. Schiavo’s well-established diagnosis: Florida governor Jeb Bush announced that a "very renowned neurologist," Dr. William Cheshire, had concluded that Terri had been misdiagnosed and that she was really only in a state of "minimal consciousness" rather than a persistent vegetative state. He used this "new diagnosis" to argue that "this new information raises serious concerns and warrants immediate action."

As it turns out, Dr. Cheshire is not "renowned" as a neurologist — his limited publications focus on areas including headache pain and his opposition to stem cell research. Dr. Cheshire never conducted a physical examination of Ms. Schiavo, nor did he do neurological tests. Dr. Cheshire is director of biotech ethics at the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity, a nonprofit group founded by "more than a dozen leading Christian bioethicists." Everyone is free to be guided by a personal agenda — and it is clear that Dr. Cheshire has his.

Let’s call tripe when tripe is served. All of us are entitled to our own personal views on the Schiavo case, what her fate should be, and who should make decisions for her. But all of us should be united in rejecting politically-generated junk science.

ZZZzzzzzzingggg!!!!

Full Eleventh Circuit To Terri’s Parents: No

Another victory for Terri in a 24 hour span.  The vote was 10-2.  And this is a conservative appellate court.

I feel bad for the parents, but hopefully all these NEW courts going against them will help them to come to grips with reality.

UPDATE:  It’s not clear from the press reports whether the full appellate court affirmed the appellate panel’s decision, or merely refused to open the case up to the full appellate court.  I THINK it is the latter.  Although truthfully, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference.  The next stop is the Supreme Court either way.

Speaking of which, this is what Scalia wrote in his Cruzan concurrence (Cruzan was the 1990 right-to-die case involving another young woman on life-supporting machinery, and whether or not to pull the plug, so to speak):

While I agree with the Court’s analysis today, and therefore join in its opinion, I would have preferred that we announce, clearly and promptly, that the federal courts have no business in this field; that American law has always accorded the State the power to prevent, by force if necessary, suicide – including suicide by refusing to take appropriate measures necessary to preserve one’s life; that the point at which life becomes “worthless,” and the point at which the means necessary to preserve it become “extraordinary” or “inappropriate,” are neither set forth in the Constitution nor known to the nine Justices of this Court any better than they are known to nine people picked at random from the Kansas City telephone directory. . . .

That doesn’t bode well for Schiavo’s parents.

Schiavo Latest

Actually, there is remarkably little to say.  The debate rages on, and the debate about the debate rages on.  Meanwhile, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals panel affirmed the lower court’s decision to replace the feeding tube, and the Schindlers are now appealing to the full panel of the 11th Circuit.  The next stop after that, and probably the last one as fas as the courts are concerned, is the U.S. Supreme Court. 

Most think that SCOTUS will not touch this matter, since they have refused to hear it three times.  I am unsure.  It is a LITTLE different this time because this comes to SCOTUS based on a very unique and unconstututional law passed by Congress only a few days ago — the Terri Schiavo Act.  The U.S. Supreme Court might have something to say about a law made for only one person, as well as some of the issues of federalism — i.e., Congress can’t effectively overturn a state court judgment made pursuant to state laws.

Meanwhile, the political fallout against Republicans in Congress grows:

"My party is demonstrating that they are for states’ rights unless they don’t like what states are doing… There are going to be repercussions from this vote. There are a number of people who feel that the government is getting involved in their personal lives in a way that scares them."

— Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT), quoted by the New York Times, on the congressional vote to intervene in the medical care of Terri Schiavo.

Sing it, Christopher, Republican from Connecticut!

Not being a Republican, it’s hard for me to say . . . but I think certain Republicans have hijacked the GOP.  Check this out:

2000 Republican Platform: "Medical decision-making should be in the hands of physicians and their patients."

2004 Republican Platform: "We must attack the root causes of high health care costs by… putting patients and doctors in charge of medical decisions."

Wow.  Talk about a flip-flop.

And here’s another nice bit of hypocrisy: Republican (and heart doctor) Bill Frist (who diagnosed Terri based on a video) wrote a book in 1989 called Transplant where he advocated changing the definition of "brain dead" to include anencephalic babies. Anencephalic babies are in the same state as Terri Schiavo except that she suffered a physical trauma that put her into a vegetative state while the anencephalic babies are born that way. Read more here.

Anyway, there’s a lot of good editorials and commentary out there, but they are all starting to say the same thing.  If there’s one that encapsulates my sentiments, it woud be this one from Molly Ivans.

And the nutjob editorial award goes to Cal Thomas, who argues that we libruls allow Terri Schiavo to be killed, because it is "part of a flow" which ultimately will include killing off the elderly so that Social Security will remain solvent.

And the so-called "Christians" at Renew America are sharpening their knives and looking at Jeb Bush.  Apparently, they expect Jeb to call out the National Guard and force that tube back into Terri’s body, dammit!!

Revoke Frist’s Medical License

Via The Left Coaster:

Liberal Oasis provides today’s action item: help revoke Bill Frist’s medical license for gross dereliction of duty. Remember that Bill Clinton was stripped of his ability to practice law because he lied under oath. Well, Bill Frist has definitely betrayed his medical oath.

Now once again, he has violated his pledge to “be honest in all professional interactions,” “advance scientific knowledge” and “maintain a commitment to medical education” by claiming to make a superior diagnosis than Terri Schiavo’s doctors by watching a few video clips.

…To file an ethics complaint, download the [official Nashville Academy of Medicine grievance form], follow the directions, have it notarized, and return it to the address at the bottom of the form.

Feel free to roll all of Frist’s ethical violations into one comprehensive complaint.

What a great idea. Holding a Republican accountable to his oath.

It’s your turn now.

Kristian Krazies Have a New Target

Late last night (early this morning), Justice James Whittemore denied the Schindlers’ temporary emergency motion to reinsert the feeding tube (his well-reasoned opinion, in PDF format, is here.

From the Miami Herald (subscription required):

Pity James D. Whittemore, next in line for unholy defamation via e-mail, eternal damnation through the Internet and vilification by postcard. Not to mention death threats from those who claim insight into God’s own hit list.

***

The judge [Greer] has two deputies in tow wherever he goes in public, assigned to keep God’s self-appointed messengers from killing him.

Judge Greer will now cede such fringe benefits to Judge Whittemore, who had the case dumped on his head Monday when Congress decided to federalize the issue. Judge Whittemore, when medical reasoning and legal decisions inevitably clash with religious theology, will also get the crazies as a bonus.

The federal judge will preside over a family tragedy that has been usurped by meanness and confrontation and a showing of the power — the considerable power — of the religious right.

***

But the outlandish seems to have become incredibly effective when spread through the Internet. Republicans have rallied and Democrats have ducked. And the Schiavo bill flew through Congress as if the cyber campaign were the stuff of a national consensus.

***

But when the crazies crank up the volume, the voices of a sober majority get lost in the tumult.

I’ll say!

Tom Delay Lies

From Tapped:

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay said this yesterday about Terri Schiavo:

"She talks and she laughs and she expresses likes and discomforts," he said Sunday evening. "It won’t take a miracle to help Terri Schiavo. It will only take the medical care and therapy that patients require."

For those keeping score at home, that statement is a straight-up, non-fungible, unambiguous, and utterly unconscionable lie.

James Madison on Schiavo

"Bills of attainder, ex post facto laws, and laws impairing the obligations of contracts, are contrary to the first principles of the social compact, and to every principle of sound legislation. … The sober people of America are weary of the fluctuating policy which has directed the public councils.  They have seen with regret and indignation that sudden changes and legislative interferences, in cases affecting personal rights, become jobs in the hands of enterprising and influential speculators, and snares to the more-industrious and less-informed part of the community."  James Madison, Federalist Number 44, 1788.

This is why the Constitution forbids bills of attainder (laws directed at a single person or group of people, like the recent law directed solely at Terri Schiavo and nobody else), as well as expost facto laws. 

Congress’s Schiavo law is unconstitutional.  Of course, most of the GOP Congressmen know this (or have been informed of this), but remember: this is about politicals — not about morality, and certainly not about law.

The full text of the Act is below (courtesy of Findlaw).

Backfire

Gopgang The GOP majority stuck its nose into the Schiavo/Schindler family’s private affair, thinking they could score political points.  And they will reap some benefit from the religious right (who, I suggest, the GOP already have in their hip pocket.

But as the Christian Science Monitor poll at the right shows, most Americans have a problem with Congressional "meddling".

UPDATE:  This ABC poll is even more revealing:

Should Feeding Tube Be Removed?
Support Oppose
Non-evangelical 77% 18
Evangelical 46 44
Catholics 63 26
Liberals 68 24
Moderates 69 22
Conservatives 54 40
Democrats 65 25
Independents 63 28
Republicans 61 34
Conservative Reps. 55 40

But here’s the REAL slam-dunk.  Regardless of their preference on the Schiavo case, about two-thirds of conservatives and evangelicals alike call congressional intervention inappropriate. And majorities in both groups, as in others, are skeptical of the motivations of the political leaders seeking to extend Schiavo’s life.


Should Federal Government Intervene?
Support Oppose
Non-evangelical 26% 71
Evangelical 44 50
Catholics 38 56
Liberals 34 62
Moderates 29 67
Conservatives 48 49
Democrats 34 63
Independents 31 61
Republicans 39 58
Conservative Reps. 41 57

Game, set, match.  GOP loses.

Mike Schiavo Quote Of The Day

"Instead of worrying about my wife, who was granted her wishes by the state courts the past seven years, they should worry about the pedophiles killing young girls," [Michael] Schiavo said, referring to a local case. "Why doesn’t Congress worry about people not having health insurance? Or the budget? Let’s talk about all the children who don’t have homes."

"To make comments that Terri would want to live, how do they know?" Schiavo said of the members of Congress who want to keep his wife alive.

"Have they ever met her?" Schiavo said. "What color are her eyes? What’s her middle name? What’s her favorite color? They don’t have any clue who Terri is. They should all be ashamed of themselves."

Yup.  You tell ’em.

You know, they were playing excerpts from the Congressional debates on NPR today — and almost politician who spoke in favor of the "Save Terri" bill mispronounced her last name, calling her Terri "Shee-ay-vo" or "Shee-ah-vo". 

But those who opposed the bill usually pronounced her last name correctly ("Shy-vo").  Apparently, they took the time to inform themselves.

Says a lot, don’t it?

The Marketing of Terri Schiavo

This is the "urgent message" sent out by Randell Terry:

Dear Friend,

It is unthinkable… like some dark scenario in a horror movie… but true. An innocent, disabled woman is now being starved to death. Her food and water were suspended on Friday afternoon. […]

Even if Congress does pass a bill and President Bush signs it, it will only put Terri’s case into Federal jurisdiction. Our struggle to save Terri will begin anew.

If you can help us keep up the fight, Just Go Here Now. 

At the minute we are sending this e-mail to you, Terri is starving to death. […]

Give as generous a gift as you can in this historic battle to save Terri’s life.

We have to pay for email campaigns, meeting rooms, for a bus, for food, press releases, and a host of other items needed to create a firestorm of protest and outrage on Terri’s behalf. The buses alone are $1000 each for each day. […]

Friend, every action we can take on Terri’s behalf is worth the effort. A nation is judged by how it treats its weakest and most defenseless members. Each of us needs to love Terri, as we love ourselves. That means we do all we can to save her life. […]

Sincerely,

Randall Terry, President Society for Truth and Justice

William Greene, President RightMarch.com

If you click "go there now," you come to a group called RightMarch, which was formed in March 2003 in order to counter MoveOn.org’s "attacks on President Bush and his conservative policies".  It is a "conservative organization dedicated to giving hundreds of thousands of hardworking, patriotic Americans across the country a strong collective voice in the political process."  The group does this by placing ads;  providing email forms and online petitions that people can send to elected officials;  and by soliciting funds.  They are a 501 organization, so "your contribution is NOT tax-deductible."

What does that have to do with Terri Schiavo?  Nothing.  But they are happy to use her to raise money.

Starving to Death? The Calculated Inflammatory Rhetoric of the Christian Right

As one might expect, the American Journal of Bioethics is following the Schiavo case closely. 

One recent bioethicist/commentator took to task those who like to insult the hospice industry, under the false assumption that caring nurses and doctors would allow Terri Schiavo to experience pain and discomfort.  She writes:

One of the more disturbing aspects of the political rhetoric is the hyperbole of the politicians and the Schindlers (Terri’s parents) talking about how Michael is intent on “starving” Terri to death, as if she were a person who was totally healthy and fully functional. Is it possible that none of these persons have ever witnessed a hospice death? And hospice organizations have explained time and time again that someone at the end-of-life doesn’t experience thirst and hunger in the same fashion that healthy individuals do. The language the politicians and the Schindlers are using is intended to provoke and inflame.

What also puzzles me is that these devout Christians seem to be ignoring the fact that, according to the Christian doctrine, death is not the ultimate evil, but eternal damnation is; to allow Terri to die would be to allow her to join with God in eternal life. Perhaps the Schindlers and the politicians don’t really believe in an afterlife? But this case is no longer about Terri’s wishes, or her husband attempting to honor her wishes, or a family dispute. It has become a political battle reflecting the torn state of the nation, about “being right and looking good” and who has control.

Linda Glenn (emphasis added).

And then there is this from the New York Times:

To many people, death by removing a feeding tube brings to mind the agony of starvation. But medical experts say that the process of dying that begins when food and fluids cease is relatively straightforward, and can cause little discomfort.

"From the data that is available, it is not a horrific thing at all," said Dr. Linda Emanuel, the founder of the Education for Physicians in End-of-Life Care Project at Northwestern University.

In fact, declining food and water is a common way that terminally ill patients end their lives, because it is less painful than violent suicide and requires no help from doctors.

Terri Schiavo, who is in a persistent vegetative state, is "probably not experiencing anything at all subjectively," said Dr. Emanuel, and so the question of discomfort, from a scientific point of view, is not in dispute.

So before we “assume” that Terri will suffer and starve, let’s make sure that is, in fact, true.  After all, if you claim to care about her, don’t we at least owe it to become well-informed ABOUT her fate?

GOP Rapes Terri

It does.  There is no better way to say it.  Republican politicians don’t care about HER — but about their agenda and Election Day 2006.  In fact, they are so concerned about getting re-elected that they will trod over a dying woman, a dead child, and their own values.  Doubt me?  Read on.

First of all, let’s read a little from bioethicist Art Caplan, who sets the stage:

Ever since the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed a respirator to be removed from Karen Ann Quinlan and the U.S. Supreme Court declared that feeding tubes are medical treatments just like respirators, heart-lung machines, dialysis and antibiotics, it has been crystal clear in U.S. law and medical ethics that those who cannot speak can have their feeding tubes stopped.  The authority to make that decision has fallen to those closest to the person who cannot make their own views known. First come husbands or wives, then adult children, then parents and other relatives.

That is why Michael Schiavo, despite all the hatred that is now directed against him, has the right to decide his wife’s fate. The decision about Terri’s life does not belong to the U.S. Congress, President Bush, Rep. Tom Delay of Texas, Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida Legislature, clerics in Rome, self-proclaimed disability activists, Operation Rescue founder Randall Terry, conservative commentators, bioethicists or Terri’s parents. The decision is Michael’s and Michael’s alone.

Remember the recent debate about gay marriage and the sanctity of the bond between husband and wife? Nearly all of those now trying to push their views forward about what should be done with Terri Schiavo told us that marriage is a sacred trust between a man and a woman. Well, if that is what marriage means then it is very clear who should be making the medical decisions for Terri — her husband.

But, isn’t it true that tough questions have been raised about whether he has her best interests at heart? They have. But, these charges against Michael Schiavo have been heard in court again and again and again. And no court has found them persuasive.

Okay.  So, as a result of the Quinlan matter, we have rules in place now.  Rules which are called "laws".  The laws have been followed.  The courts have decided.

Does this stop the GOP?  No.  As I write this, the GOP-led Congress is meeting to write an emergency bill, something unprecedented.  Why is the bill unprecedented?  Here’s the long term impact of the bill, as explained by Andy Cohen:

Anytime Congress doesn’t like the result in a particular case, it could swoop in and call a “do-over,” which is essentially what this legislation represents. And this from a Congress that has for a decade or so tried to keep all sorts of citizens — including disabled employees — out of federal court. If this law is declared valid, no decision in any state court in the country will be immune from Congressional second-guessing. It would throw out of whack the entire concept of separation of powers. The constitutional law expert Tribe calls it “trial by legislation” and he is right.

Now, the good news is that this "Schiavo bill" is unconstitutional (since it upsets the constitutional separation of powers), and the courts will no doubt conclude so.  The bad news is that it will take years, probably, for the courts to make that decision (assuming the law is passed).  And the GOP, many of whom already know this is an unconstitutional law, can still vote for in favor of it, and blame the judiciary later on when the law gets struck down.  That way they can score political points.  Meanwhile, the wishes of Terri will be thwarted yet again.

Think I am being too cynical?  I’m not.  A GOP memo specifically urged Republicans to vote in favor of the "Schiavo bill".  Not because it is the "right" or "moral" thing to do.  Not because the GOP "values life" or whatever.  No.  They wanted Republicans to vote for the bill because "the pro-life base will be excited…” and “This is a great political issue… this is a tough issue for Democrats".  (Read more about the memo here).

Okay.  So I’ve established that the GOP is using the Schiavo case to score political points.  But the outrage really lies in this:

Suppose I told you that there is a state law out there which permits a hospital to take a child off of life support even if it is against the wishes of the parent.  Under this law, if the parent is unable to pay for continued life support, the hospital can decide to pull the plug on a terminally ill patient.

If such a law existed, don’t you think the right-to-lifers would be up in arms about it?

Well, such a law exists.  In Texas.  And guess who signed it into law?  That’s right — the governor of Texas at the time, George W. Bush.  The law that Bush signed is known as the Texas Futile Care Law.

Don’t believe me? Read this story about a baby named Sun Hudson:

The baby wore a cute blue outfit with a teddy bear covering his bottom. The 17-pound, 6-month-old boy wiggled with eyes open and smacked his lips, according to his mother.

Then at 2 p.m. today, a medical staffer at Texas Children’s Hospital gently removed the breathing tube that had kept Sun Hudson alive since his Sept. 25 birth. Cradled by his mother, he took a few breaths, and died.

“I talked to him, I told him that I loved him. Inside of me, my son is still alive,” Wanda Hudson told reporters afterward. “This hospital was considered a miracle hospital. When it came to my son, they gave up in six months …. They made a terrible mistake.”

Sun’s death marks the first time a hospital has been allowed by a U.S. judge to discontinue an infant’s life-sustaining care against a parent’s wishes, according to bioethical experts.

That was only a few days ago.

What does President Bush—or the GOP for that matter—have to say about Sun Hudson’s death?  Nothing.  Probably because it was Bush’s law which allowed Sun’s life to come to an end.

And where were the right-to-lifers in Sun’s case?  [Cricket’s chirping].

Where’s the outrage?  Could it be because Sun was a poor black child of a poor black woman?

This is all very telling, for it reveals the motivation behind the GOP efforts to re-insert the feeding tube in Terri.  It’s not about concern for life, because the GOP was conspicuously absent in Sun Hudson’s case (among others).  It is about winning elections.

By the way, for those still unsure about Terri’s condition, the CAT scan on the left is Terri’s brain.  The dark blue areas represent THE ABSENCE of brain matter — instead, it is just fluid.  On the right is a normal brain. (Source)

Terri

Understand that we are not talking here about damaged parts of her brain.  We are talking about ABSENCE of brain matter.

For God’s sakes, let her die in peace.

UPDATE:  The GOP may be wrong about this, politically as well as morally.  Even a Fox News poll shows that most Americans think Terri ought to have her tube removed.

Those Of Us Who Read Liberal Blogs

Digby says:

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo’s care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schivos because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don’t read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.

I might add Gravatarthat those of us who read liberal blogs know that the only POSSIBLE treatment in the future for people like Terri is one which will allow for regeneration of brain cells. Such medical breakthroughs — while a long way off — can only come about as a result of stem cell research, the very thing opposed by the supposed "Christians" now praying for Terri on the misguided belief that she will get better with therapy.

Schiavo Protesters

050318_schaivo_hmed_1110ph2Look at the picture on the left of people opposed to the Schiavo tube removal.  This is the kind of protest that, if done by the liberals, would have the right wingers rolling in the aisles, making fun.

But I think it is a perfectly fine protest — after all, they got their pictures taken, which means they got their message out.  That’s what protests are designed to do.

The problem is . . . I don’t get quite understand what their message is.  What does the tape with the word "life" symbolize?  Why is the tape over their mouths?  Are they trying to say "we are not allowed to talk about life"?  Or does having a life prevents them from exercising their First Amendment right to speech?   And what does that have to do with Schiavo? 

Maybe it has something to do with being unable to eat.  But then, certainly, "death" would be a better word to use, rather than "life".

Oh, well.  It’s a powerful message.  Too bad it is an ambiguous one.

Yet Even More on Terri

Right winger Neil Boortz has the courage to see what this is is about, and he ain’t afraid to say it:

At the center of the Terri Schiavo tragedy is America’s anti-abortion movement.  Notice, please, the presence of Randall Terry.  The fact is that the anti-abortion movement has seized Terri Schiavo … figuratively kidnapped her .. and they intend to use this woman to further their anti-abortion agenda.  They will entomb the soul of Terri Schiavo  in her now-useless body as long as it suits their agenda. 

The language of those who would continue the imprisonment of Terri Schiavo is odd, if not amusing.  She’s referred to as disabled, in a coma or just brain damaged.  She is not "disabled" in the normal context of the word.  Her body is, for all practical purposes, dead … being kept alive solely through extraordinary artificial means.   She’s not in a coma.  People recover from comas.  Her condition is diagnosed as a "persistent vegetative state."   There is no medical record of someone  recovering from a persistent vegetative state.  This is not a state of brain damage.  It is, for all practical purposes, brain death. 

The absurdities of this case would be funny if they weren’t so pathetic.  Terri’s family said last year that they wanted to take her to the mall, and for other field trips.  Of course, those trips never happened; just as Terri will never testify before a congressional committee.  We also have the blatant attempts to turn the attention away from Terri’s condition and to her husband.  His crime?  He says, and the courts have agreed, that he is merely carrying out wishes expressed to him by his wife.  Listen to the Schiavo family and you will hear that her husband her condition was caused by a beating at the hands of her husband.  It wasn’t.  You’ll hear that her husband stands to rack up huge piles of money as soon as Terri dies.  He won’t. 

Now put yourself in this position. You’re watching TV with your spouse one night and see a show about someone on life support. You tell your husband or wife that you don’t want to ever be in that state, and would they please pull the plug should you ever become incapacitated. However, you don’t write it down, and apparently don’t tell your parents. Tragedy strikes, and only your spouse knows your true wishes. Should your spouse be ignored in favor of your parents who want to keep you alive at all costs?

Michael Schiavo has turned down $10 million to terminate his rights in this case. He says he just wants to do what Terry wanted. Who’s right? Doesn’t the spouse come before the parents in any marriage? Time for everybody to write down what their wishes are, so this doesn’t happen to you.

I’m sure that there is no shortage of people who think that I’m possessed by some evil spirit.  No.  I’m just sad that Terri’s spirit or soul .. whatever you want to call it … is trapped in this useless body.  Her parents’ love has clouded their judgment.  This can be understood and excused.  What can’t be excused is the cruelty of the so-called "right to life" movement that will allow this woman to continue to suffer s long as their own needs are met.

Now, a question.  How many of you can honestly say that you would like to be kept alive, for 20, 40, 50 years or more like this? If you wouldn’t want this for yourself, why do so many of you work so hard to force this reality on Terri Schiavo?  Oh .. I forgot.  You’re pro-life.  Well isn’t that special.

Isn’t It Ironic, Don’t You Think?

One of the most ironic statements about the Terri Schiavo case can be found in one of Judge Greer’s opinions:

Perhaps one of the few  agreements between these experts is that stem cell research is currently at the experimental stage and is years away from being accepted either medically or politically. It would not appear from the testimony that this is a viable treatment option at this time.

Too bad.  If only the "pro-life" people who want Terri to live would allow stem cell research so that she COULD live, they might have a better argument.

Meanwhile, Tom at Corrante is far more blunt:

If these folks really cared about life, they wouldn’t have all so blithely signed on to this disaster in Iraq that has probably already killed more than 100,000 people, including more than 1,500 American soldiers.

More Thoughts on Terri

Okay.  I wanted to write a lengthy response to Professor Volokh’s bombshell in which he advocates torture (you’re never going to get on the Supreme Court that way, Eugene!), but I guess I better focus more on Terri Schiavo since — I’m told — my analysis of the case was rather amateurish and undetailed.

To which I plead guilty.

Guilty with an explanation.  The Schiavo case has over a decade of factual evidence, much of which is disputed by the parties directly involved.  On top of that, there is a lot of DISinformation being put out by proponents of both sides.  And if that is not bad enough, there are ethical issues which spill over into the realm of religion, philosophy, etc. . . . and that always gets people’s dander up.

My interest in Schiavo is not simply whether she should live horribly or die with dignity.  It is about the process by which we decide, rather than the decision itself.

So here I go.

One of the reasons that civilized countries have legal systems is to establish repose.  In other words, we have to get on with our lives (or perhaps, in cases like Terri’s, our deaths) and a legal system is civilized society’s way of resolving disputes so that the wheels may turn.

As a lawyer — and every lawyer will tell you the same thing — I see clients who are so convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong, even though the other side is equally so convinced that they are right and you are wrong.  And obviously, both cannot be right.  Be we have to make a decision, and that’s what courts are for.  That’s how it works.  Otherwise, we end up like the characters in ST’s "Let This Be Your Last Battlefield", destined to spend eternity in a neverending struggle.

Now, to be sure, the legal system is flawed.  O.J. gets away (probably) with murder, and so on.  I won’t deny it.  But it is the only system we have, and nobody has yet to come up with a better one.

Both sides in the Schiavo debate have had full and complete access to the courts.  In fact, more than enough access.  They have opportunity after opportunity to have their evidence heard.  And reheard and reheard.  The battle of the experts has been played over and over and over and over again.  And the various judges and courts have made their decisions.  The process has been played out:

There have been at least 11 applications to the Florida Court of Appeal in this case resulting in four published decisions; four applications to the Florida Supreme Court with one published decision (Bush v. Schiavo); three lawsuits in federal district court; three applications to the U.S. Supreme Court and nearly untold motions in the trial court. (Source)

And while many may feel that the courts have decided wrongly, it is folly to say that the courts were unaware of the evidence presented by both sides. 

So, even though I am pretty well-read on Schiavo, I don’t claim (as the Terri-torturers seem to do) to be omniscient about every aspect.  And unlike them, I think I do have the high ground of objectivivity, if only because I recognize that I am NOT omniscient; i.e., I am NOT in her head.  Nor do I pretend to be.  I am also more objective because I do not cloak myself solely in "evidence" that points to the outcome which I would desire in the first place.

So while reasonable people unconnected with Schiavo can, based on what they have read, still debate about consciousness and vegetative states and rehabilitation possibilities and allegations of abuse and yada yada yada, there is one thing that is most certainly undisputed: the courts have been through these arguments before time and time again

And unless there is a specific allegation that the various judges and commissions and other factfinders are all "on the take", I have to believe that they weighed the evidence — all of it — impartially and reasonably. 

And the ruling is to let Terry’s life end with dignity.

So that day has come.  The arguments have all been made and heard, and the Johnny-Come-Latelys to the Schiavo case — many (on both sides) who have their own political agenda — should just pack their bags and go home.  Terri’s wishes won out, you lost.  It’s time to restore some dignity to her, and that can only happen when the circus leaves town. 

That includes the clowns in Congress (you know, the Republicans who used to think the federal government should keep away from states’ rights), who shouldn’t be sticking their nose in this issue in the first place (unless they intend to do it in EVERY case, which is not within their mandate).

UPDATE: My girl Majikthise has a good roundup of Terri myths here.  It’s a good balance to the well-financed special interest groups who put out misinformation in furtherance of their own (anti-choice) agenda.  Follow her links, too. 

Abstract Appeal also has a pretty neutral site, with plenty of links to source documents from the courts.

MORE UPDATE:  I think Atrios has the correct final word:

Living Wills
Just go write them, now. That is all.

Terri Schiavo News Wrap-up

Today is the day that Terri Schiavo is to have her feeding tube removed and to have a dignified death.

But, you know how busybody some people are.  Even though they don’t know her, or claim to know her, or claim to know what Terri would have wanted, the conservative we-know-better-than-you-because-God-tells-us-we’re-right assholes are doing all they can to make sure Terri’s suffering continues.  You know, because life is precious even if you are unaware of that you are alive and will never be aware of it.

Having exhausted the legal battles, the Terri-torturers would now abuse the judicial system by handing out subpoenae.  Not there is any legitimate legal reason to do this.  It’s merely using the judicial process for the sole purpose of causing delay.  By the way, if I tried something like that, I would be sanctioned.

Why Jeff Gannon Is A Moron

What JeffJim GannonGuckert would have asked the President, if he could have gotten a day pass to the last White House press briefing:

Today’s Briefing Question

While I am on hiatus from the White House briefing room, I’m going to post the question I would have asked had I been there.  It will be interesting to see if anyone else asks it.

March 11, 2005

"Terri Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman in Florida is due to be starved to death now that a judge will allow her husband to remove the feeding tube that has been keeping her alive. The President’s brother, Gov. Jeb Bush has been trying to prevent this from happening.  The President has the absolute power to grant pardons.  Will he intervene to save Terri Schiavo from what is essentially a death sentence?"

So if we say that a "mercy killing" is like a "death sentence", then it follows — legally — that the President can pardon her?

Bwwwwaaaaaaahaaahaaahaaahaaahaa!!!  What an ultra-maroon!!!

Spamming God

Mel Gibson wants us to "hammer God with prayers and hammer him hard." (Source).  All this to keep Terry Schiavo alive.  Now, I have many thoughts on the Schiavo case, but that’s for another day. 

My point here is that I don’t think we should be "hammering God" with prayers, the way Viagra companies hammer me with ads for penis assistance . . . or the way consumer advocacy groups target their Congressman. 

I just don’t think He works that way.  I don’t think He responds to massively organized pleas, and prayer spams.  In fact, He might find the act of being "hammered" rather annoying.