I'm sure by now everyone has heard about Terri Schaivo. She has been diagnosed to be in a persistive vegetative state by court-appointed doctors. Her parents dispute this finding, and want to continue to give her therapy and keep her plugged into a feeding tube. Her husband wants to pull the feeding tube. Both sides argue about what they believe Terri wants. There isn't a clear answer, but the court determined that her husband's view should prevail. From what I understand, in the initial court case where this was determined a lot of key facts which later became available were not presented.
Given our trial system, this poses a significant problem for Terri's parents. Appeals typically aren't just hearing the same case over again - you need to show that the initial court really messed up bad, and often you need to show that they were completely unreasonable in their judgment. Even if all of these other facts had been known (and maybe they were - I'm working with an assumption here, but it's a well-educated assumption and I'm pretty sure that it's correct), would the first court have ruled differently? It's tough to prove that, and so Terri's parents are at a significant disadvantage.
The thing I want to throw out for now - because I need to keep this quick and get back to homework - (oh, I could go on an on about this Schaivo topic, but I'm hoping to get a discussion going here, and that'll have to be the way for this topic) - is this. It's a quote I've seen in several articles, from the decision by the appellate level judges who refused the request of Terri's parents to have the tube re-inserted. (I've taken this excerpt from an AP article):
"There is no denying the absolute tragedy that has befallen Mrs. Schiavo," Judges Ed Carnes and Frank M. Hull said in the 2-1 decision by the 11th circuit panel. "We all have our own family, our own loved ones, and our own children. However, we are called upon to make a collective, objective decision."
Other, similar quotes, reflect that the judges must make a decision on the "legal" merits of the case - basically they're saying that their hands are tied by the legal system.
I have an enormous problem with this. How is it any different than Pilate washing his hands of Christ? Or judges in Nazi Germany sentencing Jews to death?
I'll grant that in this case there is a question about who truly has Terri's best interests at stake - the parents or the husband - and so in that regard the offense is not so terrible as Pilate or the Nazi judges, but the parallel still exists.
There are times when we expect those in a position of power, i.e. our judicial branch, to transcend the limitations of our system. We have a system for a reason, and the vast majority of times it will get things right. But there are exceptions, such as this situation, where people need to break from the mold to make the right determination.
This is to say nothing of the content of the decision. I think it is important that this case be reheard, and for that to happen Terri's life needs to be continued. The judges seem to agree. They point to the tragedy of the situation, and then let us all know that there isn't anything they can do. I call bullshit.
I think I may write this idea out more explicitly and eloquently in the future (maybe not, we'll see). But I'm hoping this gets some discussion going. Please do respond with any thought or question. Ok, go:
Sent shivers down my spine, body's aching all the time