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Tuesday, March 29, 2005

The Food Police

Steven Landsburg gives the Schiavo controversy a libertarian/economics spin in today's Slate (it was bound to happen eventually). The take away? Since Terri appears to have no consciousness, she can have no choice in what happens to her. But then Michael Schiavo also has no arguable use for the body any longer. So who is he, exactly, to prevent others who want to enjoy Terri and feed her from doing so? Put it that way and suddenly he becomes Dalton McSchiavo telling people what they can and cannot enjoy doing, simply because he believes he knows what's best.

Yeah, it's a stretch.

Posted by Kevin Libin on March 29, 2005 | Permalink

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Comments

maybe the argument itslef is a stretch, but it does point to an interesting question.

If Michael S. and other right-to-diers really belive Terri is brain dead, why do they care so much about whether her feeding tube is removed or not? If they are correct about he mental state, then it really shouldn't make any difference to her.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-03-29 9:44:03 PM


Why would immoral Libertarians give a shit about Terri????

Except to make money off her parents. You know, "neocon Libertarian" organizations like GE capital that makes money off the sick in nursing homes.

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-30 12:03:21 AM


To Joe Green: From those of us who can't see inside your head. Explain your reasoning. You rant and rave with the presumption that those of us who read the "Shotgun" know exactly what you are talking about. We don't. Prove that you are not a lunatic. Your labels are meaningless

Posted by: Jack | 2005-03-30 12:12:43 AM


Except it did indeed matter to her.

At least that's what Michael Schiavo claims - and those claims have been accepted by the court. The claim is that she said she didn't want to be kept alive artificially.

As I understand it, *that's* exactly the main point of the "right-to-diers" as you call them. That having expressed a desire (again, I won't comment on the grounds for that belief, though I'll note that the courts have bought it) to die, to keep her alive on the grounds that "it doesn't matter to her" makes a mockery of her earlier choice.

Posted by: Craig B | 2005-03-30 12:16:34 AM


When did feeding someone become keeping them alive "artificially"? Is feeding someone who is unable to feed him or herself keeping him or her alive artificially? If so, there are a lot of babies, quadrapalegics and stroke victims out there being kept alive artificially. Should they be worried?

Posted by: Occam's Carbuncle | 2005-03-30 7:14:41 AM


"Except it did indeed matter to her.

At least that's what Michael Schiavo claims - and those claims have been accepted by the court. The claim is that she said she didn't want to be kept alive artificially."

Sure. But I mean something more than that. If she is already brain dead as is claimed by some, what difference does a few more weeks of keeping her fed make in the grand scheme of things? I mean, why not review the case to make sure all the judments regarding her capacities/desires have been correct rather than continuing to starve her? After all, after 15 years its hard to see why a few more weeks makes any difference.

Now, to return to your point - I think you're right that we need to respect certain wishes of people who end up in vegtitative conditions, but I also think we need to be careful how we speak about it. For example, it seems pretty absurd to talk about the right to die on the one hand and at the same time claim that the person is already dead. In fact, I have yet to see a convincing argument that dead people have rights at all.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-03-30 7:42:54 AM


Jack the Libertarian and least popular leader in Canada wrote:

"Prove that you are not a lunatic. Your labels are meaningless"

I do not prove "negative propositions". My statement was that "neocons" are a tiny minority out to damage Canada, its people, its economy, and its culture.

I have proven beyond doubt that Brian Mulroney, the "neocon" champion, was involved up to his armpits together with George Bush Sr. in illegal business activity inside Canada where they both sat as directors of Archers Daniels Midland, a company charged and convicted of criminal price fixing.

What is there in that Jack, that you do not understand?

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-30 8:22:23 AM


Michael Schiavo's claims may have been accepted in court, but a lot of other question marks have been raised about his character. Questions that even extend to reports that his abuse of Terri may have been responsible for her heart attack and subsequent decline. I notice he is mad keen to whisk her off to the crematorium when she passes.

He has a lot to gain from her death, and when he says "she would have wanted it" I am extremely skeptical. I gather Terri was a devout catholic. This starvation regimen flies in the face of church doctrine, and is nothing less than a mortal sin. For a young woman of faith, coming as she did from a devout Roman Catholic family, it would seem out of character to sign up for an act that places her beyond the pale of the Church's grace.

A while back I posted a round-up of religious opinion on the Terri case, and the condemnation of this court authorized killing came from all world faiths. Jewish opinion, especially orthodox, views it as a crime against "higher law" and an abnegation of moral duty. So the RC's aren't alone in condemning it.

Whatever way this thing goes ... the process has brought shame on us all.

God rest her soul.

Posted by: raskolnikov | 2005-03-30 8:39:55 AM


raskolnikov wrote:

"Whatever way this thing goes ... the process has brought shame on us all.

God rest her soul."

If you are an American, then indeed you are right that it has brought shame upon your country and your legal system. It is important to acknowledge and confess our sins.

I pray for Terri, and I contemplate how God's Divine Purpose has been served through the life of this Florida woman who has made His Glory shine forth so brightly, even when she lacked the earthly consciousness to grasp it. God always works through such modest people.

May He grant her rest and peace at the end of her earthly journey.

Wicked and Satanic Spirits have possessed America's Soul. Jesus said that these will only come out with prayer.

Amen.


Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-30 9:40:30 AM


"...I also think we need to be careful how we speak about it. For example, it seems pretty absurd to talk about the right to die on the one hand and at the same time claim that the person is already dead. In fact, I have yet to see a convincing argument that dead people have rights at all."

Absolutely. Thankfully, in law (and I know the same goes in medicine) we are *extremely* careful about our terminology and our reasoning when it comes to issues involving death and dying.

The fact that this doesn't leak over into the media, or into your typical shrieking match of a blog, or your typical attention-seeking politician or cleric, is no fault of the doctors or lawyers who are themselves extremely intellectually careful when talking about death.

As for the rights of the dead, traditionally in common law countries deceased persons do not have standing in a court of law, and therefore while they have rights during their lifetime, and their estate continues to have the right to enforce claims against wrongs committed during a person's lifetime, once a person is deceased you cannot wrong them.

That, for instance, is why lawsuits for wrongful death are typically instituted in the name of one or more of the next of kin (or sometimes the estate, I think, but I'm not too sure) rather than the person themselves.

To assert that Terri Schiavo was "dead" already, I think, is not strictly correct from a traditional common-law point of view. That view equated edath with brain death. But brain death is the irreversible cessation of *all* neurological function - including those neuro functions that Schiavo still enjoys.

Finally, a comment was made about feeding tubes not being an "artificial" method of keeping someone alive. Unlike normal individuals who cannot feed themselves due to impaired motor function, Terri Schiavo or someone in her condition cannot swallow for herself. The artifice in her case is complete - the food is introduced directly into the digestive system through the nose. That may make a difference for some, perhaps not for others. It is certainly considered medical intervention and therefore can only be done if it is not contrary to a patient's wishes.

Posted by: Craig B | 2005-03-30 11:46:34 AM


Thanks for the good summary Craig.

As your argument makes clear Terri is not brain dead - she is disabled. It seems to me that if we let people decide to kill others (or themselves) because they're disabled we strip morality of any defensible foundation.

Posted by: Pat C | 2005-03-30 2:08:52 PM


Craig wrote:

"Absolutely. Thankfully, in law (and I know the same goes in medicine) we are *extremely* careful about our terminology and our reasoning when it comes to issues involving death and dying."

I am sorry Craig, but I do not believe that Canadian lawyers, who remain superior to American lawyers, but never-the-less are careless with the truth and with the evidence in Court.

The facts are that Canadian Courts and Canadian lawyers and Canadian prosecutors that were also lawyers were extremely careless with the facts, with the truth and with the law in the case of David Milgaard for example, who spent 23 years in prison for a murder he did not commit and which was later proven in Court conclusively when the real killer was apprehended and his guilt established beyond doubt with DNA evidence.

What is terribly wrong with Canadian lawyers, and to a lesser extent with Canadian doctors is the "god syndrome". Instead of following the example of Canadian airline pilots and recognizing that they are human, prone to error, and who then devise procedures to catch mistakes and limit the consequences of errors, These "god like" quasi-professionals pretend that they never make mistakes. Even if it means that innocent men like David Milgaard spends 23 years in jail for their mistakes.

Craig, tell you what. Find some new customers for your snake oil.

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-30 3:14:55 PM


Oops!

The last post, this paragraph should read:

"I am sorry Craig, but I do believe that Canadian lawyers, who remain superior to American lawyers, but never-the-less are careless with the truth and with the evidence in Court."

See what I mean about human beings being prone to error. Remove the word "not" and you get an entire different meaning.

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-30 3:26:58 PM


Pat C said, "If they are correct about he mental state, then it really shouldn't make any difference to her."

I think the issue for the "right-to-die" folks has something to do with dignity. An extreme example: I'm sure Mussolini did not want his dead body to lie in a ditch and be spit/peed upon...even though in his mental state, it shouldn't make any difference.

As for the extra month not making a difference, I think they'd say the decision is made: they shouldn't have to present the case again.

Frankly, I find it unconvincing, but this is my best effort to understand their mindset.

Posted by: Pete E | 2005-03-30 6:32:32 PM


All this is a little bit questionable, but I guess it's gone through a lot of courts, and that's that. What baffles me is Michael Schiavo insistence to let the parents have here even after she's dead. Makes it seem very suspicious unless he's just being very vindictive.

I think were going to be hearing about this for a long time. The one good thing is the mandatory autopsy.

Posted by: rob | 2005-03-30 7:47:44 PM


I must say it's nice to have a conversation on this topic that remains civil! (Joe Green excepted, and as a website operator myself I can't *believe* his IP isn't yet banned.)

Anyway...

Pat said :

"As your argument makes clear Terri is not brain dead - she is disabled. It seems to me that if we let people decide to kill others (or themselves) because they're disabled we strip morality of any defensible foundation."

We have to be careful here. Terri isn't being "killed because she's disabled". That's an entirely inaccurate portrayal. Terri Schiavo, as I understand it, is in a persistent vegetative state. She has no higher brain functioning, and will never regain any higher brain functioning. Of any kind whatsoever. To call her "disabled" is pretty much like saying a slice of heart muscle kept alive in a nutrient bath is "disabled". By "higher brain functioning", I mean any function whatsoever at a level any higher than the hindbrain activity that maintains the body's homeostasis. In other words, the only reason she's not brain dead (and therefore legally dead) is that the most primitive part of her brain is still sending out signals to keep her various systems and organs functioning enough to keep her alive.

I won't get into the semantics of ceasing medical intervention as "killing" (though I think that's not an appropriate way of looking at it, others think it is, so we'll let that lie). But if there is any reason for ceasing medical intervention, it's because she herself wished that it should be so. (And in this case, because a competent court of law determined that this was the case).

You might not like suicide in even its most mildest form. I can respect that, certainly! But we need to understand that that is what is happening here - someone is exercising her right to refuse the medical intervention that is necessary to prolong her life.

Like others, I'm a little ambivalent about the grounds on which the determination of her living will was made. But neither I nor (I would wager) anyone else here has a fraction of the ability to make this decision that the court (now courts) have.

Posted by: Craig B | 2005-03-30 8:10:54 PM


I can't believe I'm responding to this, but Joe Green said:

"What is terribly wrong with Canadian lawyers, and to a lesser extent with Canadian doctors is the "god syndrome". Instead of following the example of Canadian airline pilots and recognizing that they are human, prone to error, and who then devise procedures to catch mistakes and limit the consequences of errors, These "god like" quasi-professionals pretend that they never make mistakes. Even if it means that innocent men like David Milgaard spends 23 years in jail for their mistakes."

Oddly enough, through the good offices of (gasp!) a number of motivated and dedicated *lawyers*, David Milgaard was granted a second trial, his conviction was overturned, and he was granted a generous compensation package for his ordeal. None of which would have happened without the dedication of his lawyers.

The legal system (not all of it the work of lawyers, mind you) has a large number of checks and balances within it to ensure that mistakes are challenged, their impact is minimized, and serious ones corrected. Such venerable institutions as adversarial trial, criminal conviction by unanimous jury verdict, the notion of "reasonable doubt", the existence of Courts of Appeal, and so forth.

It's true that lawyers, because of their need to zealously defend their client's interests, must often take positions that appear intransigently opposed to the admission of error. That system in the grand scheme of things helps to *avoid* error by ensuring that no one person's blindness (wilful or otherwise) can allow error to triumph unchallenged.

I'm afraid that at the end of the day, the "God Syndrome" is much more easily found among self-appointed and unwelcome crusaders in the blogopshere, than within our country's Law Societies.

Posted by: Craig B | 2005-03-30 8:21:59 PM


Craig wrote:

"Oddly enough, through the good offices of (gasp!) a number of motivated and dedicated *lawyers*, David Milgaard was granted a second trial, his conviction was overturned, and he was granted a generous compensation package for his ordeal. None of which would have happened without the dedication of his lawyers."

In the perverse calculus that lawyers use, you are trying to paint a picture that somehow the lawyers were the good guys. Milgaard spent 23 years in jail for a crime he did not commit - that is the bottom line. The fact that the Courts subsequently compensated him for wrongful imprisonment and paid a large settlement does not hide the fact that a significant amount of this money went to pay "legal fees" and that what little that he was left with hardly covered his lost time that was taken from him by a flawed process, a flawed "profession" and a "tainted" Court.

And of course, please do not forget that its not the Crown Prosecutors, or the Defence lawyers or the Judges that screwed up in this case that get to pay the costs of this fiasco personally, rather its the taxpayers of Canada that get to pick up the tab.

Rather like the case with Stockwell Day and Ezra Lavant going around libeling people.

What are you looking for Craig, a pat on the back for a lousy job by the "profession" in the first place?

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-31 12:20:45 AM



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