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*Looking after Terri’s or Michael’s interests? The circumstances of Terri’s collapse would be hard on any spouse. But Michael’s behavior led commentator Deroy Murdock to observe with generous understatement: “Michael Schiavo has not been a model husband.”
He said-she said controversies are notoriously difficult to resolve. But Terri’s family questions Michael’s motives. He has essentially remarried and had children with his new “wife.” He failed to use Terri’s malpractice judgment to fund rehabilitative care for her, despite opinions by some doctors that it could be effective. Her family also cites concerns about Terri’s collapse and Michael’s allegedly violent nature.
Indeed, in a deposition two years ago nurse Carla Iyer, with nothing apparently at stake in the case, reported that Michael asked: “Can’t you do anything to accelerate her death?” Iyer said he went on to query: “When is that bitch going to die?”
Michael’s treatment of his in-laws suggests that he has something to hide. He has sought to prevent them from visiting and restricted their access to information about her treatment.
*Federal-state conflicts. Traditionally, the Republican Party has advocated federalism, giving states maximum autonomy to decide issues within their borders. Toward that end, during the Clinton years the Republican Congress restricted federal death penalty appeals from state courts.
Yet the emergency legislation grants the federal district court in central Florida jurisdiction over any case involving Terri “relating to the withholding or withdrawal of food, fluids, or medical treatment necessary to sustain her life.” The provision is limited — by its terms it neither creates new rights nor addresses assisted suicide. But it allows national jurists to conduct a de novo review of both the facts and law and to trump the Florida courts.
*Republican grandstanding. Undoubtedly, many Republican politicians believe that an injustice has been done to Terri and her family. Yet they are not above using the issue for political advantage.
A memo distributed to Republican Senators — the GOP leadership denies authorship — characterized the case as “a great political issue,” especially useful in winning support from conservative Christians. It “is a tough issue for Democrats” exulted the memo writer. The bill was expected to pose particular problems for Florida’s Sen. Bill Nelson.
*What will federal judges do? Lawsuits have ranged up and down Florida courts for years. The federal fight could be equally bitter.
The first fight is over reinserting the feeding tube until the case is decided. Terri’s parents are seeking a hearing on their claim that removing the feeding tube violates her rights. Michael will push to void the law as unconstitutional, with possible grounds ranging from equal protection to federalism to separation of powers to Terri’s right to die.
Naturally, the losing party inevitably will appeal. As has happened in Florida.
SO THE SCHIAVO CASE ISN’T likely to be decided any time soon. There’s probably been a serious miscarriage of justice at the state level. But that bad decision has resulted from the normal operation of the rule of law.
Thus, as a matter of principle — principle normally embraced by Republican legislators and presidents — the national government should stay out of the case. Setting a precedent by intervening in such a personal legal dispute will encourage Congress to overturn other state judgments, threatening good as well as bad decisions. The result could be far more harm than good.
Perhaps the reform most needed is to fix the Florida courts. They seem to have badly mishandled the Schiavo case. Their activist, even dishonest, decisions run back to the 2000 election and the earlier tobacco litigation.
But there is a simple way to end legal wrangling in the case. Turn Terri’s care over to her parents. Give them the remains of the malpractice proceeds to treat Terri as seems best.
This action would allow Michael to rebut criticism, perhaps unfair, of his motives and behavior. He could get on with his life, presumably with a divorce to free him to marry again.
There’s nothing simple about the case of Terri Schiavo. Unfortunately, the interruption of her young, vibrant life will remain a tragedy no matter what happens next.
A man of faith in a godless age is hitting Americans where it hurts.
Mr. and Mrs. American Spectator Reader, let P.J. O’Rourke talk sense to your kids.
In Britain, defending your property can get you life.
The debacle of this president’s administration is both a cause and a symptom of the decline of American values. Unless Congress impeaches him, that decline will go on unchecked. An eminent jurist surveys the damage and assesses the chances for the recovery of our culture.
It won’t take long for conservatives to scratch this presidential wannabe off their 2008 scorecard.
The American Christmas, like the songs that celebrate it, makes room for everybody under the rainbow. Is that why so many people seem to be hostile to it?
Was the President done in by the economy, or by the politics of the economy?