Discussions of Mormons and Mormon life, Book of Mormon issues and evidences, and other Latter-day Saint (LDS) topics.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

(Nearly) My Last Post on Terri

Faithful LDS people and Christians of all denominations can come to opposite conclusions about many events and issues in the world without denying their religious principles and without deserving condemnation from others of their faith. The emotion-packed case of Terri Schiavo is complex and the information people have may differ wildly depending on what sources they trust. Based on exposure to some mainstream sources, for example, it's easy to conclude that meddlesome people are playing games with the law in trying to stop a bereaved husband from ending the senseless suffering of his brain-dead wife who wanted the right to die if she were ever in a hopeless persistent vegetative state. Others who have followed some of the legal details of the case may assume that the courts must have acted in good faith, and see no reason to denounce the professionals in the courts who have to wade through the complex and emotional issues of the case. Yes, differing views can be held in good faith.

Of course, from my perspective (here we go again...), many people who reluctantly accept the notion that the courts have acted with due process and according to high and noble principles of established law believe so, IN MY OPINION, as a result of not having been exposed to the clear and convincing evidence that the courts have grossly misbehaved in this matter, acting in violation of basic principles of justice. As the esteemed and respected (my views) Robert Bork put it in a talk-radio interview I heard the other day, the courts "have acted badly" in many ways. He was quite disturbed at the violation of just principles behind the move to let Terri die. Judge Bork's opinion ought to suggest that just maybe something is wrong. And he is not the only highly respected and professional authority who has raised major questions about the case for killing Terri. For example, it is widely claimed that all reputable meical authorities in this case have established that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state. NOT SO! Please read the news story, "Florida neurologist:
Terri's no vegetable
." There are many other articles of significance at the same site.

It's fine to have different views, but how can you deny the fact that a prominent neurologist has contradicted the common assumption that Terri is just a vegetable? If there is doubt, shouldn't we error on the side of life until the doubt is removed?

I may not post more on this troublesome issue - there are so many other topics begging to be explored, but Terri's case is one that highlights some significant trends and dangers in our society. If we do not speak up for the unborn and the handicapped, if we can allow others to slay someone by just believing that she is brain dead when that is not the case, then we have crossed a terrible threshhold. It's been crossed before, and I don't like where it leads.


Ethan Smith said...

I'm sorry Jeff, but by your logic, if my wife made the same decision for me (as she has my permission to do), she would be a murderer (would have "slayed" me). Unless, of course, I have a living will that lawfully states that I want, then she suddenly would not be a murderer and the morality of the situation is defined by the law. That just seems like a step backwards to me.

On politics... Regardless of how you (or anyone) believes the courts are acting, the activists in this case are the legislatures, not the judges. This is, after all, a government with 3 independant branches. From an LDS perspective, I am much more worried about the government meddling with the legally defined (not just the assumed) private, personal lives of its citizens. That's dangerous.

Anonymous said...

if i decide to murder my wife for no reason though, is that still private and personal? where does one draw the line on saying "oh government can interfere in this case, but not in that one." child abuse, is that personal and private? i think the legislation has every right to define laws for these situations, and should.

if one man wants his wife dead, claiming that's what she asked for but having no proof whatsoever, AND he possibly has other motives for wanting her dead....AND the parents still really really want her alive (if she was a vegetable, why would they do this to their child?) i think the general public is a little bit too much behind the husband in this case, when it shouldn't be. i'm all for people who are experiencing a lot of pain and suffering to be allowed to be disconnected from life support. we do believe in an afterlife and a loving Father in Heaven. but if all hope is not exhausted, and there are some weird aspects to to the case as there are now....why aren't more people concerned? don't we have faith and believe in miracles and priesthood power as well? people should be able to make decisions for THEMSELVES, but having the law dictate when and who can terminate the life of someone else should have strict guidelines. In this case, i'm really worried more people aren't concerned.

Mormanity said...

Ethan, have you asked you asked your wife to stop feeding you if ever become mentally handicapped but NOT in a persistent vegetative state? Most people wouldn't be comfortable with that. The real issue is what is Terri's state? A prominent neurologist found it was not a PVS. Why should she be starved to death?

Guy Murray said...


My last comment on your nearly last post:

1. Assume all facts as you currently believe them to be in the Schiavo case.

2. Assume, however, rather than an oral declaration to Michael and others, that Terri wrote her desires, as Michael Schaivo claims them to be now.

3. What result?

Mamabear said...

Actually I just posed a comment on this over at Feminist Mormon Housewives. Take a gander and if you like you can use it over here.

Anonymous said...

The prominent neurologist who said (without examining Terri) that it wasn't a persistent vegetative state was William Post Cheshire. If you Google him, you will find most of the pages that come up on him have to do with his religious activities. Could his religious beliefs be affecting his opinion? The neurologists appointed by the court ALL said she was in a vegetative state. The only other one that didn't was one hired by the Schindlers who thinks that by using a hyperbaric chamber you can grow back people's brains and has a clinic that charges stroke patients large sums for treating them - way out fringe idea. But, after 15 years, and lots of "therapy", even flying her to California to try out experimental therapies (contrary to what the Schindlers have said), she still can't do anything useful even feed herself.
Yes, my advance directive to my wife says that if I am in this state, whether it is called PVS or not, NO FEEDING TUBE! A feeding tube is medical therapy. It requires surgery to put it in. It is really no different than a respirator. Is food more basic than air for life?
Have a look at Terri's CT scan. There is hardly any brain left. Would anybody in their right mind want to be stuck in a body with this brain for DECADES?
Incidentally, I am a neurologist.

Corey said...

For me, this whole situation with Terri is a lot simpler than everyone is making it out to be:

1. Who should have the right to decide the fate of a loved one if there is any question as to the loved one's wishes, the spouse or the parents? In my opinion, once two people have entered into a marriage contract, the spouse has that right. I believe this is scriptural.

2. If there is the possibility the spouse committed abuse or some other crime, let the spouse be convicted in a court of law. Then the spouse's right to decide the fate of their loved one can be rightfully revoked and given to the loved one's parents.

In the Terri case, her husband has never been convicted of any crime against her in a court of law. And there has been ample time to convict him if he were guilty.

Her wishes were never declared "on paper." Therefore, the spouse should have the right decide her fate. Let God be the judge if he did the best he could to carry out her wishes.

I have been confused for a while why so many people are up in arms over the courts siding with the husband in this case. The courts have simply upheld what I believe to be a very important principle, that the marriage contract is serious business and the rights of the spouse should be protected.

I would never want my parents' or anyone else's wishes regarding me to be given precedence over my wife's. I love my parents, but they don't know all of the facts and they don't know me as well as my wife does. My wife and I share feelings and desires with each other we would never share with anyone else.

I'm happy the courts have upheld the marriage contract.


Fraggle said...

Don't forget that the judicary are part of the government too. The government have been meddling for a long time.

To answer Guy's hypothetical, if Terri had written her wishes in a legal form (and they dealt with the state in which she now is). Then, from a legal standpoint, there is no argument. She has the right to refuse treatment and a written document exercises that right. Even though I'd disagree with her choice, it is *her* choice.

However, the proxy right to decide treatment for a family member (when there is no clear prior instruction) is not absolute (and for good reason), which is why Mr. Schiavo had to go to the courts in the first place. The greater threat to the life of a disabled person does not primarily come from doctors, but from family members who are tired of caring for them. As someone degrades and become mentally incapacitated, it would be all too easy to say that they wanted to refuse treatment when in fact they did not.

[quote]A feeding tube is medical therapy. It requires surgery to put it in. It is really no different than a respirator.[/quote]

There's a fundamental difference between a feeding tube and a respirator. You use a respirator when the lungs do not function by themselves. A feeding tube however, is used when the digestive system works fine, but the patient lacks the motor control to get the food there to be digested.

[quote]Is food more basic than air for life?[/quote] Nope, but by your logic, it would be much better to suffocate the patient. 'Twould be much quicker, no?

[quote]she still can't do anything useful even feed herself.[/quote] And thus the root of the problem is revealed: The arrogance by which we declare someone's life to not be worth living. That's a decision only the patient themselves can make . In the event that the patient is not competent and their wishes are unclear, the overriding question is this: Is it worse to live when you'd rather die, or to die when you'd rather live?

[quote]Would anybody in their right mind want to be stuck in a body with this brain for DECADES?[/quote] (raises hand) I'll do it. Impugn my mental state at your leisure, I suppose!

But there again, the mindset is revealed. You can't imagine anyone wanting to live like that, so you assume everyone in that state wants to die. It's a dangerous assumption to be making.