Tuesday, March 29, 2005

Only One Issue

I’ve talked to some folks recently who are concerned about the Schiavo case but honestly believe the issues are so complex that they can’t come to a firm conclusion on the issue.

I can certainly understand and respect the desire to react deliberately rather than jumping on the evangelical crusade du juor. But at root, the questions in this case really are not that complicated. We simply need to clear away the obstructions so we can see clearly.

Yes, there is all sorts of competing evidence on both sides. One doctor contradicts another, and it’s difficult to know whom to believe. One person says Michael loved his wife, another says they were going to get divorced. Lots of issues, lots of questions. Add a bunch of lawyers and procedural issues, and you end up with a case that could be seen as impossibly complex.

But it’s really not. All the rest of the fog detracts from the singular, main issue: Did Terri Schiavo express a desire to die in these circumstances?

That’s it—the whole enchilada. Until that question is answered affirmatively, her medical condition is irrelevant. As Jan LaRue, chief counsel for Concerned Women for America told me in an interview today, if Terri left behind no instructions, it does not legally matter even if she IS still in a “persistent vegetative state.” She must be kept alive.

The evidence that Terri “wanted to die” comes from one person: her husband, who didn’t remember her wishes until after he won a large malpractice lawsuit seven years after her injury, and who lives with another woman with whom he has two children. If you think his testimony is suspect, then Terri’s medical condition doesn’t matter. It’s a sidetrack. All the rest is a haze diverting you from that one crucial question.

We would never send a convict to the electric chair on such flimsy “evidence.” Yet, as liberal Nat Hentoff points out in a spectacular piece in the Village Voice, Terri has never even been allowed to have an attorney represent her interests. So where’s that “bastion of the Bill of Rights” (as Hentoff derisively calls them), the ACLU?

As it stands, Terri will be dead in a few hours based on the testimony of one questionable witness.

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