March 22, 2005
Federal judge upholds the law

You'd think a headline like the one just above would be pretty banal, but when dealing with the Terri Schiavo case, nothing has been normal. I'm sure Judge Whittemore's ruling won't be the end of it, just as I'm sure that pre-ruling stories which proclaimed him fair and unbiased will be non-operative within the next hour or so.

One thing I want to note from the ruling story before this gets appealed to the Supreme Court, the World Court, and the Pope:

[David Gibbs III, an attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents] argued at a Monday hearing in front of Whittemore that letting Terri Schiavo starve would be "a mortal sin" under her Roman Catholic beliefs and urged quick action: "Terri may die as I speak."

That's not the case, according to Father John Paris, the Walsh Professor of Bioethics at Boston College. If there's one article you should read today, it's this one.

This has nothing to do with the sanctity of life. The Roman Catholic Church has a consistent 400-year-old tradition that I'm sure you are familiar with. It says nobody is obliged to undergo extraordinary means to preserve life.

This is Holy Week, this is when the Catholic community is saying, "We understand that life is not an absolute good and death is not an absolute defeat." The whole story of Easter is about the triumph of eternal life over death. Catholics have never believed that biological life is an end in and of itself. We've been created as a gift from God and are ultimately destined to go back to God. And we've been destined in this life to be involved in relationships. And when the capacity for that life is exhausted, there is no obligation to make officious efforts to sustain it.

This is not new doctrine. Back in 1950, Gerald Kelly, the leading Catholic moral theologian at the time, wrote a marvelous article on the obligation to use artificial means to sustain life. He published it in Theological Studies, the leading Catholic journal. He wrote, "I'm often asked whether you have to use IV feeding to sustain somebody who is in a terminal coma." And he said, "Not only do I believe there is no obligation to do it, I believe that imposing those treatments on that class of patients is wrong. There is no benefit to the patient, there is great expense to the community, and there is enormous tension on the family."

Actually, there's one more article to read as well.

"One thing that God has brought to us is Terri Schiavo, to help elevate the visibility of what is going on in America," Mr. DeLay told a conference organized by the Family Research Council, a conservative Christian group. A recording of the event was provided by the advocacy organization Americans United for Separation of Church and State.

"This is exactly the issue that is going on in America, of attacks against the conservative movement, against me and against many others," Mr. DeLay said.

Because ultimately, everything is about Tom DeLay. Just ask him yourself.

If you want to make your wishes known beforehand and want to make sure that they meet the standards set by the laws in your state, Stina has an exhaustive list of advance directives. For the record, and for any family members who may be reading this, if I were in Terri Schiavo's situation, I'd want to be allowed to die.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on March 22, 2005 to National news | TrackBack

Food and water are extraordinary means?

Those two articles that are the only ones we need to read today actually say that?

My, well, I guess that settles it.

Actually, no it doesn't. Because what the Vatican has said should carry at least as much weight on Roman Catholicism than, say, your BC prof. So maybe the Vatican's thoughts are one more bit of reading to add to your comprehensive reading on this matter, eh? :)

The advice to make your wishes known in writing is very good, however. Had Terri Schiavo done so, this matter would have been much less controversial and folks could blast Tom DeLay on something other than life issues. :)

Posted by: kevin whited on March 22, 2005 10:37 AM

So, are you also saying that every judge who has ruled for Michael Schiavo is wrong? And if so, are you also saying that it is appropriate for Congress to step in when there's a court ruling they don't like? That's some conservative view of due process, I must say.

Posted by: Charles Kuffner on March 22, 2005 10:56 AM

Paying millions to maintain a human vegetable who will never hear, see or respond again... Yes, I think it's a little excessive. This is not a comatose state. This is a woman without a brain. Used as a political pawn.

Posted by: Kimberly on March 22, 2005 11:05 AM

There is a secondary religious element at issue. The church also considers marriage a sacrament. Genesis 24:4 offers the message on marriage saying that we are to "leave our father and mother and cleave to another" forming a new binding relationship in faith. This union places the rights and responsibilities for caring the partner with the spouse...not the parents.

That said, I'm not sure I could or would take the same action that Michael Schiavo. There is a line to me that exists between life support and nourishment. But that is a line that exists at a distance. I haven't experienced the pain or the trials that the family has experienced every day for several years.

And Tom Delay has accomplished something I didn't think possible...he's hit a new low by linking his troubles with any issue of this case.

Posted by: Patrick on March 22, 2005 11:14 AM

The use of the "letting Terri Schiavo starve would be "a mortal sin" under her Roman Catholic beliefs" argument is only the most recent nonsense coming from the mouth's of the attorney for the parents. We've also heard from their attorney that her husband was interested only in the money and that he had once tried to shove her down the stairs. Obviously, there is nothing they will not say in order to avoid the very logical rulings by 19 different judges who have heard these issues before. But, at long last, Ms Schiavo will almost certainly be allowed to die.

Posted by: Dennis on March 22, 2005 12:02 PM

Although this issue has been hashed to death on the blogs, I had an interesting conversation last night that I thought I'd share.

My wife is a 2nd year family practice resident here in Texas and deals with families making these sorts of decisions on a pretty much daily basis when she is on certain hospital rotations.

A half dozen other female residents from her program were over at our house yesterday socializing and they got to talking about the Schiavo case and to a person the sentiment was incredulity and scorn that Congress and the parents and the courts had taken it this far. They were just shaking their heads and saying that the tube should have been pulled years ago.

What makes it surprising is that this assortment of young doctors runs the political spectrum from liberal urban types to devout Baptist pro-life Republican Bush-worshiping types from rural Texas. This bunch of residents has mixed opinions on just about everything else but in this one issue they were completely unanimous in their opinion that the entire Shiavo circus is an incredible farce and an incredible invasion into the affairs of a private family that should have been allowed to deal with the issue in private many years ago.

Posted by: Kent on March 22, 2005 12:10 PM

I wonder how far this would have gotten had Michael Schiavo had not started a relationship with another woman and had two kids with her after his wife ended up in this state.

Posted by: William Hughes on March 22, 2005 1:31 PM

Well, I guarantee it would have gotten nowhere whatsoever if she had been black or Hispanic.

Posted by: Kent on March 22, 2005 4:56 PM