Wednesday, February 23, 2005


Light at the end of the tunnel

It's important for people to keep working and praying to save Terri Schiavo, but victory may be in sight. Enough people are starting to learn enough about the case that the media can no longer lie about it with plausible deniability. Judge Greer has issued a stay until Friday, supposedly so he can evaluate Michael's fitness as guardian, but more likely to find a way to cut his losses.

There is still much to be done--the avalanche of support for Terri must continue to build--but I think I am starting to see and appreciate God's plan.

Although, on the immediate horizon, the case is about saving the life of Terri Marie Schiavo (née Schindler), in reality the case goes much deeper. Terri is not the first person to suffer starvation and dehydration at the hands of judges. She is the first whose ability to endure the agony inflicted upon her while refusing to die has prevented her would-be killers from escaping public notice.

It would have been much easier for Terri had the efforts to kill her been stopped sooner. But had that occurred, the revelations that will appear over the next few days or weeks would never have happened.

I am reminded of Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. The biggest point that movie drove home was that Christ's most heroic feet was not giving himself up at Gethsemene, but enduring the agonies that brought him to the cross. It would have been much easier for him to simply give up his spirit beneath the lash or upon the road. He endured, however, because to die prematurely would be to fail his mission.

Terri Schiavo should be hailed as a hero (and I pray not a martyr). It may not seem like a woman who can barely move and hardly speak can do much, but her refusal to die may save more lives than most able-bodied people could ever dream of. Would that all good people could have that level of courage and determination.

Monday, February 21, 2005


Why remove a feeding tube anyway

If a patient is on a ventilator and it is desired to discontinue artificial ventilation, there are reasons to physically remove the ventilator. It's bulky, useless (once its function is discontinued), and its continued presence could interfere with natural breathing.

A gastrostomic tube, however, is not a piece of external equipment to which a patient is connected. Nor does it interfere with "normal" eating. Instead, a g-tube is just a small tube that connects the stomach to the abdominal wall. A second mouth, basically. A funnel or food bag can be connected to it at feeding time, but otherwise it just sits there. Unlike a big bulky ventilator, or even an IV, a gastrosomic tube does not interfere with patient mobility nor with anything else a patient might want to do.

Even if a patient is in end-stage cancer and doesn't want to be fed, a gastrostomic tube cannot not by itself force unwanted food into the patient. If it's necessary to stop feeding a patient, a caregiver can simply decline to put any more food through the tube.

To be sure, there are sometimes good reasons to remove a g-tube:
  1. The tube becomes clogged or infected; in this case, normal protocol would be to remove the old one and install a new one.
  2. The patient regains sufficient ability to take food by mouth that there is no anticipated future need for the feeding tube and its continued presence would do naught but create a risk of future infection.
Discontinuing food and water for a terminal hydration for a terminal patient, however, is not a good reason for removing a g-tube. The tube's continued presence doesn't hurt the patient, and removing the feeding tube represents an unnecessary surgery with no therapeutic benefit.

Why, then, are feeding tubes removed from terminal or supposedly-terminal patients?

Because, to the uninitiated, "removing a feeding tube" sounds much more like letting nature take its course than does "stopping feeding the patient".

Sunday, February 20, 2005


To live and "let die"

In the Middle Ages, respect for human life was lower than it has generally been in modern times. Parents who could not afford children would abandon them in a public square. Sometimes the children would be taken in by someone. Oftentimes they wouldn't. Even with respect for life as low as it was, however, nobody would prevent someone who wanted to take in an abandoned child from doing so.

Michael Schiavo doesn't want to "let Terri die". He wants to ensure that nobody is allowed to take her in and care for her. That is not "passive euthenasia". That is active killing. And unless one believes the word of a man who contradicts himself whenever convenient(*), it is nothing less than murder.

(*) Just a few examples: Michael claimed that he was restricting video/audio of Terri to "protect her privacy", but he had no trouble discussing indelicate aspects of her gynecological exams on national television. He has claimed to want Terri to get better, while refusing to allow her any therapy that might accomplish that. He claims to want to honor his wedding vows and yet he as openly moved in with another woman, fathered children by her, and pledged to marry her. In 2003, he claimed that it was because of the court's will, not his, that Terri's feeding was withheld even though he was the person who sought the order. Is the word of a man such as that credible?

Saturday, February 19, 2005


Open letter to Attorney General Charlie Christ and State's Attorney Bernie McCabe

Your job as Attorney General is to protect the people of Florida from being victimized by criminals.

Michael Schiavo is criminally victimizing his ward Terri, and has been doing so for years. It is your job to stop him.

Perhaps you are embarassed at your failure to have stopped Michael earlier. You are afraid that if you intervene now, facts will come to light that will leave you and your colleagues with egg on your faces; you think that if Terri can just 'disappear', you'll come out untainted.

A few years ago that might have been true.

No longer.

People know that Terri is not a vegetable. People know that her husband Michael has been deliberately and criminally trying to worsen her incapacity so as to justify putting her to death. People know that you have the authority and duty to act. And if you fail to do so, people will know you have innocent blood on your hands.

To be sure, it may be difficult to act now and admit you've been neglectful in the past, but if you become the hero who saves Terri, people will forgive your mistakes. You may find yourself with a little egg on your face, but if you do what's right it won't stick.

Almost two thousand years ago, a Roman governor thought he could wash his hands of an innocent man's blood when he handed him over to a mob for execution. That blood never came clean, and it never will. You have the power and duty to act to save an innocent woman from a cruel and barbaric execution. Don't be a Pontius Pilate.


The essence of liberalism

"Everything is relative"

Destroying beauty will make everything else less ugly. Destroying goodness will make everything else less bad. Destroying light will make the darkness less dark.

Liberals understand those things. Conservatives refuse to accept them.

Friday, February 18, 2005


Who do you believe?

Suppose a person claims to have a Rembrandt painting. A published snapshot of the painting reveals that it looks amazingly like an iMac®, complete with the Apple® logo. Three experts hired by the person claim the painting is genuine; two other experts not hired by the owner claim it is fake, as do a dozen other experts who have not examined the painting but have seen the photo.

Whose judgement of the painting's veracity should be considered more credible--the majority of those who examined the painting itself (who, by a 3-2 margin, claim it genuine), or those who merely saw the photograph (and who say that the photograph, while blurry, is sufficient to show that the painting is clearly a fake).

A photograph of a painting can never provide sufficient evidence to prove its veracity, but can provide plenty of evidence to prove its falsehood.

Michael Schiavo claims that his doctors provide clear and unambiguous evidence that his wife is in a permanent vegetative state. He claims that other doctors who merely examined video of Terri (he's only allowed two doctors not hired by him to examine Terri personally) are in no position to accurately diagnose her. If, however, the video clearly shows behavior which is inconsistent with Florida's definition of "persistent vegetative state", which is more credible: the doctors who say that, or the doctors who pretend the videos don't show what they clearly do?


More on Terri Schiavo

I just added the Terri blogroll at the left. I pray that enough people will find out about Terri over the next few days that politicians and officials in Florida will overcome resistance and act to save Terri. Michael Schiavo and his lawyer George Felos claim it's disgraceful that this has gone on for so long. I agree, but not for the same reason. What is disgraceful is that Michael, Felos, and Judge George Greer were not removed from Terri's life ages ago, since all three people want nothing more than to see her put to death.

Others have posted in various places various statutes relating to protective custody and various other options Jeb Bush might have. I, unfortunately, lack the legal expertise to know which of these options are in fact allowable under uncontradicted statutes, and which ones are legally feasible, but I would hope some of them would be possible and effective.

To my mind, though, one option which should be valid even if others fail would be to send in someone to ensure that bona fide efforts are made to give Terri food and water orally, by a doctor not affiliated with Michael Schiavo. If Terri can take food and water orally, all legal pretense for her starvation vanishes. Further, even if the means by which she was given food and water was proven to be illegal, it would be rather difficult for a court to argue that the state should not accept the proof obtained thereby that she was able to accept it. Indeed, an argument could probably be made under the necessity statutes that the action wasn't illegal. If someone who was capable of receiving food and water orally would have been fatally starved to death in the absense of such action, the necessity of saving that person's life would justify the action taken to do so.

Finally, another thing I would like to see would be if Jeb Bush could have the appropriate people suggest that Terri's condition is sufficiently suspicious that, if she were killed, it would mandate an autopsy. Michael certainly does not want an autopsy, but one might hope that suggesting that he wouldn't be able to avoid one might change his plans. If Michael would run the risk of an autopsy leading to murder charges, he might decide that he'd rather face attempted murder charges instead.

Thursday, February 17, 2005


Open letter to Governor Jeb Bush of Florida

Dear Governor Bush,

As you are well aware, Michael Schiavo, his lawyer George Felos, and Judge George Greer are planning to fatally starve Terri Schindler Schiavo starting Tuesady February 22. I would hope that in addition to using your powers as executive to intervene, you could address the legislature and the public and make clear a few things that need to be said.

There are a number of politicians and government officials for whom it would be very embarassing if Terri were ever found not to be in a genuinely vegetative state. Having previously supported her death by starvation, they don't feel that they could justify themselves if it were discovered they'd tried to sentence an innocent woman to death. It would be most convenient for those politicians if Terri could simply disappear.

A few year ago, they might have gotten their wish.

Not anymore.

With the advent of blogs and other 'alternative media', too many people know the truth about Terri's case for it to ever be swept under the rug. Those who refuse to help Terri for fear of getting egg on their face will end up with blood on their hands, and it won't wash off.

Some politicians will try to justify their actions on the basis that they're doing "what Terri wants", or that they don't want to come between a husband and his wife. It stretches credulity, however, to suggest that anyone would want to be denied such basic care as having their teeth cleaned, or having their muscles exercised to prevent contracture. And suggesting that a man who has openly professed his desire to marry another woman should have any authority over his wife is to make a mockery of marriage.

If Terri is handed over to her parents, and if her condition improves under her care, those who earlier tried to kill her may end up with egg on their face, but it won't stick too badly. After all, the goal of Terri's supporters isn't to punish people who naively supported her starvation, but rather to save her life. But if Greer et al. are allowed to kill Terri, those who supported their efforts will bear forever the stain of her innocent blood.

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