The consequences of the Terri Schiavo case

(Note: this will be my first, last, and only posting on the Terri Schiavo story.)

First, everyone — and I mean everyone — ought to go here and download a living will, as I have, and get it filled out and filed as soon as possible.

Secondly, I think it is critical to note that every single thing that happened in the Schiavo case happened within the letter of the law.

By law, people can refuse medical treatment such as she was receiving.
By law, they can do that directly, or through a prepared document.
By law, when a person is incompetent to make such decisions on their own behalf, and has not made prior arrangements, that power passes to their next of kin.
By law, a spouse is considered “next of kin.”
By law, in the absence of a spouse, that power passes to any adult children.
By law, in their absence, the power then — and only then — passes to the parents.
By law, Michael Schiavo was Terri Schiavo’s spouse right up until her death.
By law, Michael Schiavo had the right to order the discontinuance of her feeding tube and any other medical care.
And by law, her parents had absolutely no legal standing in that matter.

If you are appalled by the way the law worked in this case, and are convinced that the law was wrong, then you have every moral obligation to change that law. The people who make the law — the legislatures of the several states — are, in theory, accountable to the people through elections. Get your legislators to change the law.

But exactly what laws do you want changed, and how? If you think the Schiavos (correction: Schindlers — thanks, Puppet) should have been given custody of Terri, you need to change the very nature of marriage itself. You need to grant parents the right to initiate a divorce proceeding against the explicit wishes of one party and without the cooperation of the other — do you really want that to be possible? And do you really want to weaken the bonds of marriage that tie two people together?

It’s a truism in legal circles that tough cases lead to bad laws. And this is one of the toughest. Those who are calling for wholesale shakeups of some of the most fundamental components of our society today aren’t thinking things through enough. It’s one of the reasons why laws passed in regards to a single person or situation are such a bad idea.

In the end, the Terri Schiavo case might end up causing far more violence to the institution of marriage than that feared by the religious right when they were horrified at the thought of thousands of gays racing up the aisle.

And I can’t imagine anyone would want that to be their legacy.


(And no, I am STILL not taking sides on the matter. I’m simply analyzing the potential consequences of some of the proposed actions of one side.)

(Update: 5/2/05, 3:30 p.m. — I’m closing comments on this thread. It’s degenerated into petty personal bickering, and that’s EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid.)

"When in doubt, go for the fart joke"
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  1. Steady Earl April 1, 2005
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