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The Terri Shiavo case; an emotional, legal and economic quagmire.

By sleepin'dawg ·
Like most I've followed the playing out of Terri Shiavo's last days on television and front pages and am surprised at the elevated height of emotions engendered. I am also surprised that, considering the wide scope of topics posted to TR that no one has seen fit to bring this forth as a topic of discussion. I will reserve my comments for a later posting but have now decided to put the proverbial ball in play. I feel this may become as interesting a discussion as any we've had here and I have included the accompanying article as a starting point to get things underway.

Date: April 1, 2005 3:57 PM

Her death ends one contentious battle but could have a wider impact as the US grapples with end-of-life issues.

By Linda Feldmann and Warren Richey, Staff writers of The Christian Science Monitor

WASHINGTON - The passing of Terri Schiavo ends one of the most protracted and high-profile right-to-die cases in American history. But beyond the personal tragedy it represents, the case also adds fuel to an array of unresolved legal and political issues and sets the stage for contentious national debate for years to come.

Already, the case of the brain-damaged Florida woman - who died Thursday after 15 years in what doctors called a persistent vegetative state and almost 13 days after her feeding tube was removed - has spurred some states to accelerate legislation aimed at preventing the kind of intrafamily conflict that kept Mrs. Schiavo in legal limbo for seven years.

The US Congress is also ready to take a fresh look at end-of-life issues, even after polls showed many Americans opposed the intervention of Congress and President Bush into the Schiavo case last month. Members of Congress from both parties, some spurred by right-to-life sentiments, others by advocates for the disabled, say the question of who makes decisions in disputed right-to-die cases is worth another look on Capitol Hill.

On a personal level, the legal tug-of-war over Schiavo has forced Americans to confront the unthinkable by vividly illustrating the importance of a living will.

Part of the culture war
At heart, the Schiavo case represents the latest skirmish in the nation's culture war, already heated over abortion, gay marriage, and stem-cell research. Social conservatives have long sought to tip the balance on these issues through appointment of conservative judges - and, analysts say, one direct effect of Schiavo could be to inflame passions even more than expected over a US Supreme Court vacancy that could come soon. The high court declined to take up the Schiavo case three times within the past two weeks.

"The most significant aspect of [the Schiavo case] is that it's likely a stage-setter for a huge conflagration over the first Supreme Court nominee," says Marshall Wittmann, a senior fellow at the Democratic Leadership Council and former Christian Coalition official.

But the most surprising aspect of the case, Mr. Wittmann adds, is that it brought to light the simmering tensions within the Republican coalition between the limited-government activists and religious conservatives. High-profile economic conservatives such as Grover Norquist and Stephen Moore, who usually support President Bush and the congressional Republican leadership, criticized their unorthodox move to turn what is normally a state issue over to the federal courts in the Schiavo case.

On the day of Schiavo's death, however, Bush remained undeterred. "The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak," he said. "In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favor of life."

Negative public reaction to Congress's intervention may nevertheless deter similar attempts to federalize a case like this in the future, analysts say.

"A good number of those who cast votes last time are going to be frightened the next time," says Douglas Kmiec, a constitutional law professor at Pepperdine Law School who is critical of the federal intervention in the Schiavo case. "The polling data is telling them that most people are not all on one side or at least not on their side. So they will be gun-shy."

Role of guardians at stake
While many Americans are opposed to government intervention in what they view as private medical decisions dealing with end-of-life issues, the Schiavo case has also raised concerns about the power of guardians and judges to end someone's life even when a patient's wishes remain a matter of dispute among family members.

Florida state law requires that evidence of an individual's desire to cut off hydration and nutrition must be "clear and convincing." But some legal analysts say such a standard alone is not enough to head off concerns about spouses and guardians who may have financial or other personal motives to end nutrition or other life-support. In such cases, these analysts say, judges should be required to make specific findings dealing with each issue, including the credibility of guardians and spouses, future treatment prospects, and whether earlier casual statements by an individual who is now in a persistent vegetative state were well-informed and specific enough to justify a decision years later by a spouse and/or judge to end that person's life.

Ultimately the goal of pro-life activists is to establish as a matter of constitutional law that government has an affirmative obligation to protect life. In contrast, death-with-dignity supporters emphasize the existing and well-established constitutional right to decline unwanted medical treatment and be free from government intrusion into the most private aspects of their lives.

Analysts are divided over whether Congress will continue to take actions that favor the pro-life side in this broad debate. While some political observers have criticized the congressional action in the Schiavo case as being politically motivated, others stress that broad support for the measure among both Republicans and Democrats suggests many politicians were acting out of conscience.

In the long run, any political fallout over Schiavo is hard to predict. But it's possible, say Wittmann and others, that the Schiavo case - specifically, the unusual intervention of Congress in a family matter - could contribute to unease among moderate suburbanites who vote Republican on the economy and national security but are less comfortable with religious conservatives' dominance of the party on social issues. And at a time of narrow Republican control in Washington, every vote matters.

For the Democrats, the Schiavo case also presented no clear partisan advantage. "If you look carefully, you see that everyone is divided by the issue one way or another," says Jim Guth, a political scientist at Furman University in Greenville, S.C. "The very fact that the Democrats in both houses had such a hard time reacting to this - some went along with the Republican bill that passed, some opposed, others refrained from voting - suggests this is not an easy issue to discern exactly where long-term or short-term political advantage lies."

Like the embryonic stem-cell issue - on which some strong abortion foes, such as Sen. Orrin Hatch (R) of Utah, favor expanded federal funding for research - positions on end-of-life issues often don't break neatly along the same lines as those on abortion and gay marriage.

"There's a lot of debate on the evangelical side of the religious spectrum on these [end-of-life] issues," says Professor Guth. "I don't think anyone has settled into final positions on these yet. Some leaders on the religious right have, but among their constituency there's a lot more division on this than there is on abortion."

So there we are. On what side of the question do you come down???


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It boggles the mind...

by Jessie In reply to The Terri Shiavo case; an ...

Controversy, thy name is Religion.

As a fairly religious person myself, I can't see how especially anyone who believes in the here-after, as I'm sure the right-to-lifer's do, can prefer a living death to allowing someone to be welcomed into the arms of their heavenly father.

However, it should NEVER have gotten this far... This was at MOST an issue for the local courts, and NEVER the government. In most states, I believe the spouse does have the right to decide whether or not to continue life support. God forbid the government should ever come down and tell me I can't remove life-support from my husband's persistently vegetative body.

It may be time for me to put my right to bear arms to good use.

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This wasn't about religion

by amcol In reply to It boggles the mind...

This was all political agenda pushing. Each side seized on an opportunity to piggyback onto a media feeding frenzy and gain access to an international forum in order to put their own viewpoints front and center.

That's what makes this whole thing so sad. We're talking about a human being here, and a family. That got totally lost. All these self righteous groups, whichever side they were on, cared less about Terry Schiavo, the Schiavo family, and the Schindler family than they did about just arguing the issue and using Terry Schiavo as their battering ram. I know that sounds cynical, because I'm sure there were plenty of people who sincerely cared about whether and how this poor woman lived or died. Too bad this was allowed to become yet another polarizing issue played out in the media.

We all point fingers at what continues to go on in the Middle East and can't understand how ostensibly intelligent people can allow their religious beliefs to be subverted into violence, hatred, and political turmoil. I'm not sure I see too much difference in the way this situation played out here.

Politics and religion don't mix well. It's too bad that no society across the spectrum of human history has ever shown any ability to figure out how to keep the two apart.

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It was the Schindler family that used the media.

by deepsand In reply to This wasn't about religio ...

Terry's family used every resource available to try to advance their cause, including the media, as well as both the Florida and US legislatures.

Such is indicative of a great diviseness within the family itself. Those experienced in such matters will point out that a crisis such the perception of an iminent death of a family member will tend to bring such problems to the forefront.

The Republican leadership saw in this what they believed to be an opportunity to advance their agenda with the aid of a willing supplicant. Their miscalculation was is believing that they did indeed speak for the majority in this country.

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by Salamander In reply to It boggles the mind...

I agree. The government should never have gotten involved in a decision that legally belonged to Michael Schaivo. That's part of the point of having a pick somebody who has your best interests in mind, and the law recognizes the primacy of this relationship. This should have been a private matter.

However, this situation was drawn out by special interest groups. I saw on the news that the Schindlers' legal fees had been bankrolled by right-to-life special interest groups. It's about an agenda, a convenient platform for government to shoehorn itself into citizens' personal lives by making judgments about a "culture of life."

That concerns me. The idea that Congress and the feds are severely unhappy with the judiciary for not falling into line raises questions of the basis on which new judicial nominees will be selected. The courts were not intended to be beholden to a party...they are to be separate, and they did their job. We should be worried about our system of checks and balances.

What also concerns me is that Congress apparently has nothing better to do with its time than involve itself in this matter...and doping in professional baseball. Aargh. I read that they're contemplating investigating football next. I would think that they can find more important issues to involve themselves with. Like, um, terrorism. Or identity theft. Or Social Security.

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That's a good question Dawg

by Oz_Media In reply to The Terri Shiavo case; an ...

And one that I have no answer for myself. At one time I may have been VERY sure and confident in making a decision but now I see things differentlt it is impossible to say.

I had a most horrendous accident with a fire truck in '89 and it left me in a coma for a little over 6 weeks. I then just all of a sudden awoke or came to, at first thought my brother was santa claus and my friend had drowned (thinking I'd driven off a bridge). But I soon regained MOST of my faculties (I cannot claim complete sanity because some of you have read my posts now), I had to learn how to write again (got really good at Calligraphy at one time) how to walk in a straight line etc. But have since passed years of technical training, learned networking etc. So I guess I am not totally brain dead after all.

The reason I say this is because when I was in a coma, the doctor actually admitted little hope I would ever come to without severe brain damage and if I did I would most likely be paralyzed. My mother sat beside my bed for 45 days on a shift with my mother and sister and I evenetually just woke up one day.

They had been instructed on how to deal with the loss of a family member, had been shown all of the 'options' available and given VERY little hope.

I am not a very religious person, I accept everyones right to religion and respect their individual choices, no matter what religion they have chosen, i believe EVERY living person needs faith, whether in a religion or just the excitement of being alive.

But the other view of this I have is that IF I had been on life support and then my family had made a choice for me to pass. I can't say that I would have even known it anyway.

When I was 'out' I don't remember meeting God or seeing relatives or a white light or any sort of after-life experience, even though initially I was practically dead, but when I 'came to' I found that things sure looked good to me, trees were practically shining bright green and everything looked surreal. I could see the mountains from my window and sat there in awe for days.

Anyhow, blah, blah, blah...My point is, as you can tell by my inconclusive rambling, I wouldn't have known if I hadn't become concious again. My family MAY have been burdened forever, they may have always wondered if I would be better off dead, who knows?

If they had let me die, it may have been harder or easier for them in the long run but no different for me as I would have never known.

So I guess I HAVE reached some sort of conclusion, that it would be up to the parents or family to qualify such a decision I suppose?

I certainly wouldn't condone a church, state, province or judge to make such a decision.

For those who are religious, wouldn't it be best to leave your god's work to those who have loved, nurtured or cared for the person all of their life?

Sorry for the long haul Dawg, but like I said "Good question" got me pondering. :)

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Interesting and not that much of a "haul" all things considered.

by sleepin'dawg In reply to That's a good question Da ...

I can understand where you are coming from on this and it reinforces my thoughts of having a living will to eliminate the potential moral dilemmas that families and loved ones must have in situations like this.


Sick joke for today; I give it being a scoot rider myself: What do they call motorcyclists in the ER???

Organ donors!!! ]:)

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I don't really street ride anymore

by Oz_Media In reply to Interesting and not that ...

I have two Yamaha dual purpose bikes, and they both have BASIC insurance on them, so I can get from logging road or campsite to the store and back without moving the motorhome, and for a fraction of the price, but 99.9% is off road only. I don't trust people enough to ride around them anymore, I watched my best friend lose a foot when he was t-boned by a drunk, LONG befor ethe streets were as busy as they are now. Even though it's pretty good here (better nayway), no way I'd street ride on the mainland anymore.

I can get my own butt there but don't trust others around me to not kill me en route.

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Yeah!!! Just because I'm paranoid doesn't mean they're not out to get me.

by sleepin'dawg In reply to I don't really street rid ...

Not much off road opportunities around here. When I'm riding it's like my head is on a 360 degree rotating swivel. I view any car within 200 yards as if it were driven by a homicidal maniac with a specific mission to get me killed. So far, that tactic has kept me accident free for almost 50 years but conditions seem to be worsening. I may yet give it up because of the risks and pressure from friends and family.


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A Dare

by Oz_Media In reply to Yeah!!! Just because I'm ...

You seem to be out this way for your summer fishing, why don't you fly your bike out and try booting around Richmond one day. Now THAT'S a dare!

I wouldn't even drive my truck through Richmond, and anyone from around the Lower Mainland would agree wholly I am sure. Most people just avoid it now.

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Drive in DITCHMOND?!?!?!

by Jaqui In reply to A Dare

are you nuts?!?!?!?!
I won't even walk in the middle of a building there!
way to many teenaged / drunken / rednecked fools on the road.
( purposely avoiding the whole significant chinese population in that city, all with 3 cars per household, cause I know that it's only those that can't wrap thier minds around red = stop + green = go that get the bad rep for them )

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