A Schiavo parallel


Mark Steyn writes in the Spectator (free registration required) about a case from California in the 1990s which was very similar to Terri Schiavo's case:

[Robert Wendland] was injured in an automobile accident in 1993 and went into a coma. Under state law, he could have been starved to death at any time had his wife requested the removal of his feeding tube. But Rose Wendland was busy with this and that, as one is, and assumed there was no particular urgency.

Then one day, a year later, Robert woke up. He wasn’t exactly his old self, but he could catch and throw a ball and wheel his chair up and down the hospital corridors, and both activities gave him pleasure. Nevertheless Mrs Wendland decided that she now wished to exercise her right to have him dehydrated to death. Her justification was that, while the actual living Robert — the Robert of the mid-1990s — might enjoy a simple life of ball-catching and chair-rolling, the old Robert — the pre-1993 Robert — would have considered it a crashing bore and would have wanted no part of it.

She nearly got her way. But someone at the hospital tipped off Mr Wendland’s mother and set off a protracted legal struggle in which — despite all the obstacles the California system could throw in her path — the elderly Florence Wendland was eventually successful in preventing her son being put down.

You can find more about Robert Wendland's case here.

Steyn says there's a large portion of the populace who just don't want to think about situations like this and comfort themselves that the Schiavo case is nothing special -- tragic, yes, but it happens every day. They take some comfort in the media assurances that all the legal processes were followed. He equates it to a child sticking his fingers in his ears and singing "la-la-la, I can't hear you."

Michelle Malkin called Steyn's column, "hands down, the best piece written on the case. Ever." I'd agree, for this next paragraph alone, especially the last sentence (emphasis added):

One consequence of abortion is that, in designating new life as a matter of ‘choice’, it created a culture where it’s now routine to make judgments about which lives are worth it and which aren’t. Down’s Syndrome? Abort. Cleft palate? Abort. Chinese girl? Abort. It’s foolish to think you can raise entire populations — not to mention generations of doctors — to make self-interested judgments about who lives and who doesn’t and expect them to remain confined to three trimesters. The ‘right to choose’ is now being extended beyond the womb: the step from convenience euthanasia to compulsory euthanasia is a short one. Until a year or two back, I spent a lot of my summer Saturdays manning the historical society booth at the flea markets on the town common, and I passed many a pleasant quarter-hour or so chit-chatting with elderly ladies leading some now middle-aged simpleton child around. Both parties seemed to enjoy the occasion. The child is no doubt a ‘burden’: he was born because he just was; there was no ‘choice’ about it in those days. Having done away with those kinds of ‘burdens’ at birth, we’re less inclined to tolerate them when they strike in adulthood, as they did in Terri Schiavo’s case.

Elsewhere, Don Danz looks at the legal issues surrounding "what Terri would have wanted":

One of the primary problems in discussing Terri's case is that many people simply have the issues confused which, not surprisingly, results in inappropriate conclusions. I've heard and read a hundred times, "Well, I wouldn't want to live that way." People who express this are stating a personal fact that is wholly irrelevant to Terri's situation. It's best to just walk away as logical discussion is not likely to follow. The primary issue is what did Terri want and what should be done when there is no objective evidence of her desires?

There was no written evidence of what Terri wanted to be done in her situation or in any similar situation. Five people testified as to Terri's verbally expressed desires: Terri's mom and one of Terri's friends who said she would want to live and Michael, Michael's brother and Michael's sister-in-law who said she wouldn't want to keep on living. Some people find her mother and friend more credible, while other people are more inclined to believe Michael's brother and sister-in-law. Personally, I think it's a wash between the four of them, which leaves us with Michael. ...

Now for just a little legalese. The standard which the courts must determine whether Terri expressed her desire to have her feeding tube removed is by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is the highest burden in a civil case. It means that, even if everyone agreed that it was more probable than not that Terri would want her feeding tube pulled, the court still could not order removal. Only if the evidence was clear and convincing that such were her express wishes, would it be proper to allow her to die in that manner.

It is my contention and that of many conservatives that under the clear and convincing standard, looking at the case as a whole, and being cognizant of the very narrow primary issue, there is insufficient evidence to support the pulling of Terri's feeding tube and allowing her to die.

Dan says he's not finished with this entry, so we'll check back.

The Penitent Blogger is annoyed with a Fox News interview about the autopsy, and the claim that it will be able to determine whether Terri could have recovered:

Of course, what was NOT discussed during these interviews was whether discontinuation of all rehabilitative therapy at the insistence of Michael Schiavo, would have contributed to Terri's state debilitating to the point where recovery would have, in time, become impossible.

Why, in the minds of the judiciary, the doctors and much of the public, was it more desirable to deny Terri adequate care, let her die, perform an autopsy and then state, "oh well, she was too far gone; she would have never recovered?" Why was is not more desirable to let Terri live a bit longer, perform full neurological testing, resume the therapy she should have had throughout these many years, and come to more definitive conclusions at a later time? Why jump headfirst off the bridge of death rather than stretch out the safety net of life?

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on April 2, 2005 2:26 PM.

The aftermath of the Schiavo case was the previous entry in this blog.

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