Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Terri Schiavo: Judicial Murder
by Nat Hentoff, March 29th, 2005 (The Village Voice)

"For all the world to see, a 41-year-old woman, who has committed no crime, will die of dehydration and starvation in the longest public execution in American history.

She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.

Among many other violations of her due process rights, Terri Schiavo has never been allowed by the primary judge in her case—Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, whose conclusions have been robotically upheld by all the courts above him—to have her own lawyer represent her...

...In February, Florida's Department of Children and Families presented Judge Greer with a 34-page document listing charges of neglect, abuse, and exploitation of Terri by her husband, with a request for 60 days to fully investigate the charges. Judge Greer, soon to remove Terri's feeding tube for the third time, rejected the 60-day extension. (The media have ignored these charges, and much of what follows in this article.)...

Terri Schiavo has never had an MRI or a PET scan, nor a thorough neurological examination. Republican Senate leader Bill Frist, a specialist in heart-lung transplant surgery, has, as The New York Times reported on March 23, "certified [in his practice] that patients were brain dead so that their organs could be transplanted." He is not just "playing doctor" on this case.

During a speech on the Senate floor on March 17, Frist, speaking of Judge Greer's denial of a request for new testing and examinations of Terri, said reasonably, "I would think you would want a complete neurological exam" before determining she must die.

Frist added: "The attorneys for Terri's parents have submitted 33 affidavits from doctors and other medical professionals,all of whom say that Terri should be re-evaluated."

In death penalty cases, defense counsel for retarded and otherwise mentally disabled clients submit extensive medical tests. Ignoring the absence of complete neurological exams, supporters of the deadly decisions by Judge Greer and the trail of appellate jurists keep reminding us how extensive the litigation in this case has been, 19 judges in six courts is the mantra. And more have been added. So too in many death penalty cases, but increasingly, close to execution, inmates have been saved by DNA...." ( Complete article found here. )

This article by Nat Hentoff is significant because Hentoff is writing from a left wing political perspective, and as an avowed atheist. Also in today's news, Jessie Jackson has expressed support for keeping Terri alive. My more or less conservative brain may want to view Jackson's involvement as opportunistic, but I'm not so sure such is the case.

What is significant is that the issues surrounding the Terri Schiavo case are cutting across the political and ideological spectrum. It's not just a bunch of wacko right wing lunatics objecting to the Neo-Nazi death mentality that is behind what is taking place. What have we come to when a hospice, which can and often does serve a good and useful function in a community, has one of it's rooms turned into a government sanctioned death camp?

There are two issues involved in this case; two questions that have not at all been satisfactorily answered. What were Terri Schaivo's own wishes regarding the prospect of her continuing existence in a vegetative state? The answer to that question is not clearly known beyond a reasonable doubt, and in such a case, the presumption should be to continue her life.

The second question is this. Is she actually medically speaking, in such a vegetative state? There is much debate about that among medical people familiar with the case. Once again the presumption should and ought to be in favor of life. What kind of judicial system is it that can not see these fundamental presumptions. Presumptions for life are given to convicted murderers, (and rightly so), but not to Terri Schaivo.

May Almighty God have mercy on us....

~ The Billy Goat ~

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