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Theresa Marie Schiavo died today. How some can see this as a "victory," I don't understand. Unfortunately, the issues surrounding her death are a lot like the abortion issue, in that most people have very strongly held beliefs which are not easily swayed by short little snippets of argument. And, for reasons I don't entirely understand, the fight over Terri's life became divided along political lines with the left fighting to kill her, or as they would argue "let her die," and the right fighting to keep her alive. Discussion of the issues is complicated by the fact that most people, including myself, do not know all the facts of the case. Given that lack of information, one would think that people would err on the side of letting someone live. But, bizarrely...grotesquely...the left rallied around efforts to kill Terri.
One of the primary problems in discussing Terri's case is that many people simply have the issues confused which, not surprisingly, results in inappropriate conclusions. I've heard and read a hundred times, "Well, I wouldn't want to live that way." People who express this are stating a personal fact that is wholly irrelevant to Terri's situation. It's best to just walk away as logical discussion is not likely to follow. The primary issue is what did Terri want and what should be done when there is no objective evidence of her desires?
There was no written evidence of what Terri wanted to be done in her situation or in any similar situation. Five people testified as to Terri's verbally expressed desires: Terri's mom and one of Terri's friends who said she would want to live and Michael, Michael's brother and Michael's sister-in-law who said she wouldn't want to keep on living. Some people find her mother and friend more credible, while other people are more inclined to believe Michael's brother and sister-in-law. Personally, I think it's a wash between the four of them, which leaves us with Michael.
Terri and Michael were married in 1984 when Terri was just nineteen. How many people reading this would want the person they were dating/married to when they were nineteen to decide their fate when they were forty-one? In 1990, when Terri is twenty-six, she suffered a heart attack which deprived her brain of oxygen. Michael argued that the heart attack was caused by a potassium imbalance brought about by bulimia which doctors failed to diagnose.
Now presumably at this time, Michael was well aware of Terri's desires not live in the condition she was in. But, there is one absolute fact that any plaintiff or attorney knows: if you are going to sue someone, you will get a lot more money on behalf of a person who needs a lifetime of therapy and medical support than you will for a corpse. Jury verdicts are many times greater if you injure someone who is going to suffer a lifetime of disability than if you simply kill someone. Whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant, it's just a fact.
So, Michael kept his mouth shut about any desire of Terri to have her feeding tube pulled and instead testified about the lifetime of medical care and therapy Terri needed. As a result, in 1992, Terri was awarded $250,000 in a settlement with one of her physicians. A jury awarded more than a million dollars against another physician which was later settled with about $300,000 going directly to Michael and about $750,000 being put in a trust fund specifically for Terri Schiavo's medical care.
However, despite a million dollars in the bank for Terri's medical care, Michael never authorized and, in fact actively prohibited, Terri from receiving any physical therapy or basic medical care. In 1994, Michael wouldn't allow treatment of a urinary tract infection and sometime around 1995 he even put an end to Terri's teeth being cleaned. A lot of sites have long lists of many items of basic care and simple humanity which Michael deprived Terri and which I've not seen refuted anywhere.
Then, in 1998, Michael asked the court to authorize the removal of Terri's feeding tube presumably after having just remembered that Terri had clearly expressed to him before her injury her desire not to live the way she had been for the last eight years.
Finally, we get back to the real issue. Before she was injured, did Terri express her desires and were those desires to have a feeding tube removed despite not being terminal and not requiring any other "life support"? Remember, what you or I would want is not relevant. And, try and stay logical for a moment...what Terri would have wanted, but did not express, is also irrelevant. The only thing that counts, the only issue, is what did Terri actually state were her desires?
With the less-than-credible witnesses tied at two to two, it all comes down to Michael. Also, consider that Michael has since found another love with whom he has two children. I actually don't at all fault him for moving on, but you can't have it both ways. You can't move on with your life and still make life determining decisions for your prior spouse. That just makes no sense.
Now for just a little legalese. The standard which the courts must determine whether Terri expressed her desire to have her feeding tube removed is by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is the highest burden in a civil case. It means that, even if everyone agreed that it was more probable than not that Terri would want her feeding tube pulled, the court still could not order removal. Only if the evidence was clear and convincing that such were her express wishes, would it be proper to allow her to die in that manner.
It is my contention and that of many conservatives that under the clear and convincing standard, looking at the case as a whole, and being cognizant of the very narrow primary issue, there is insufficient evidence to support the pulling of Terri's feeding tube and allowing her to die.
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The University of Illinois Fighting Illini men's basketball team just won a close one in overtime over Arizona. Here is the graphic I was going to post (which may still appear in the near future given how they played tonight) when the Illini were down 15 with four minutes to play. Illinois now plays Louiville next Saturday in the Final Four tournament, and then hopefully one more game Monday, April 4th.
This week at the office included a rainbow (actually a double-rainbow but the second one was too faint to be seen with a mere camera phone pic), wild turkeys that flew in for a visit, a car accident and pear trees in bloom:
Future Illini star Drew, watching some hoops and practicing his slam dunk celebration:
Drew, shown here with Chief Illiniwek, and daddy are bummed right now as the Illini lost to Ohio State today on their last regular season game of the year which put an end to their perfect undefeated season.
Oh well, better now than during the big dance.
I've got fifty..."five zero"...Gmail invites. If anybody wants one, for any reason, post a comment with your name and email address that you want me to send the invite to. Even if you don't want to use Gmail for your email, I suggest at least trying it out...you might get hooked.