Remember Terri Schiavo
March 31, 2005
Terri Schiavo has left this life for a better one....Thankfully. But what a legacy she has left behind. Seldom have we seen such feverish activity to save the life of a single person...or to kill her.
Regardless of where your beliefs fall on this case...and doubtless there are few "undecideds" out there, Schiavo has set precedent that should concern each and every one of us. Previously, a Health Care Advance Directive, aka a "Living Will",
(in Texas known as a "Directive to Physicians") had to be in writing, sworn to by the individual in question, and signed by TWO witnesses who were not related to the individual. (and would not receive ANYTHING from his/her estate).
Now the U.S. Supreme Court has tacitly approved an alleged ORAL directive, "remembered" many years later by an estranged "spouse" who is living with another person with whom he has fathered children, and which is disputed by other witnesses. And of course, who will receive EVERYTHING in her estate. If this doesn't concern you, let me ask one question. How many of you have, or will have, an estranged spouse, child or sibling? Now do you see the danger?
Now are you concerned? We should be...each and every one of us.
Additionally, the Court has determined that "the application of life-sustaining procedures which serve only to prolong the moment of death" (and in which death is "imminent whether or not life-sustaining procedures are utilized") now includes food and water. Basic nourishment! So how many people are included in this new definition of the terminally ill? i.e. who can't feed themselves? At some point in our lives the answer is each and every one of us.
I am NOT opposed to having a Medical Directive. I've had one properly signed, attested and notarized since 1987. (I do not wish to be hobbled on the HOME-stretch in this race called life). The above language came directly out of it. But what I've never considered is that needing a drink of water fit within the definitions...or that someone wanting to inherit what I leave behind could order that I not receive that drink.
Does it bother anyone else that the method of death in this case would constitute "cruel and unusual punishment" in a criminal case? I doubt that there is a court in this land that would REFUSE to step in and immediately halt a criminal's execution under these exact same facts. What state would even attempt to execute a criminal by refusing him/her food and water? Depriving even an animal of food and water (regardless of its condition) will net a person jail time in most states!
Make no mistake about it. No matter your opinion on Schiavo, a threshold has been crossed. Pandora's box has been opened and we may suffer many unforeseen consequences because of it. I fear for myself, my children and especially for my grandchildren.
I was talking with Tim Hoy (SREC Dist 9) about Schiavo the other evening at the ARC meeting. He said something that struck me as profound. It was along the lines of 'out of great tragedies come great responses'. (I paraphrased that, sorry Tim). He further pointed out that but for the tragic events of 9-11, and America's response, Afghanistan would not be free of the Taliban, Iraq would not be free of Sadam, Kadhafi would still be threatening the lives of Americans, Osama would not be on the run. He makes a tremendous point.
So what will be the response throughout American? What great reaction will Schiavo produce? Will "Remember Terri Schiavo" become the next great rallying cry? Will my concerns noted above become reality? Will you face a water deprived execution at the hands of a "loved one"? 13 days without a drink....
I'd write more, but I'm suddenly feeling thirsty....
Judge Paul Enlow
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