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John Simkin

Terri Schiavo and Christian Fundamentalism

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Tim mentioned earlier that Mr. Shiavo hasn't done enough for Terry, but it is my understanding that in the first seven years after her accident, Mr. Shiavo did everything possible, including training as a nurse so he could care for her. From all that I have read or heard, the attacks on Shiavo have been unsubstansiated. All in all, the question at hand should be why did the US congress and president decide that they needed to go against everything America's founding fathers worked for and create one law for one case?

Some great commentary can be found on MSNBC.com in Johnathan Alter's article, Take a look in the mirror. If you get a chance to read it you might be amazed at the amount of hypocracy practiced by my countries leaders on this one issue. Then again, you might not.

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Our government had no business getting involved. I have a legally constituted ban on using any life support apparatus such as was the case with Terri keep me alive should I reach that state in my life. Peace in death I say.

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Mr Marvin,

Questions for you re your living will:

If you are not in a persistent vegetative state but cannot feed yourself (perhaps only temporarily) does your living will state you should not be fed artificially but should instead to allowed to STARVE TO DEATH? Somehow I do not think so.

Let me assume your living will stipulates no life support system (including simple feeding) only IF you are in a persistent vegatative state or otherwise brain dead. What if doctors disagree on the diagnosis? Would you not want the best available tests done to determine which doctors are correct? I would assume that you and any other person with a living will would want that determination made.

Congess intervened because it was clear there was a conflict between reputable physicians and there should be a fresh look at the case. But the judiciary, in its infinite wisdom, thumbed its nose at Congress and refused the de novo review. I believe it was that famous Englishman, Charles Dickens who said: "The law is an ass." Well, without characterizing any individual member of the judiciary, it is rather clear that the "law" here produced an assinine result: permitting the killing of a human life when there was a clear division between reputable neurologists and the best available objective tests that could have resolved the conflict were not done. It is possible the autoposy MAY be able to determine whether Terri was indeed in a persistent vegetative state. What if the autoposy determines she was not in persistent vegetative state? What will Judge Greer and the members of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals say then? "Oops! We goofed." A little too late, I am afraid.

It was a tragic day in America when the judicial system, despite the clear will of Congess-both political parties, allowed a human being to be starved to death without the best available tests.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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When Michael Schiavo ordered that Terri's brother not be allowed in the room to watch the death of the woman Michael had ordered starved to death, he justified it because he said that Terri deserved that her last moments be "peaceful". In that comment, he admitted he knew Terri was capable of conscious thought, of knowing what was going on in her environment!

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Dr Cyril Wecht is well known to (and respected by, I believe) members of the JFK research community. I just heard Dr. Wecht on the Sean Hanity TV show stating that the numerous fractures to Terri Schiavo showed on an x-ray one year after she was hospitalized definitely indicated trauma and there could be no other possible explanation of the genesis for such numerous fractures. He further stated that it was highly unlikely that the fractures could have occured during the rehabilitation procedures performed on Terri after she collapsed, which was the explanation Michael Schiavo had offered for the injuries. Of course, Dr. Wecht did not accuse Michael of spousal abuse but he did almost curtly dismiss the only explanation Michael ever offered for how she received those injuries.

Food for thought anyway.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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I have been following this debate from Canada and what I don't understand is, if Terri didn't have any tests performed on her why is it that we were shown (on the CBC news) her brain scan, next to the scan of a healthy person? Frankly there didn't seem to be much of her brain left!

I can't help thinking that her death should be a blessing to her parents in the long term. At least now they have the opportunity to grieve for their daughter instead of clinging onto a hope that seems fairly baseless.

Rowena

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Mr Marvin,

Questions for you re your living will:

If you are not in a persistent vegetative state but cannot feed yourself (perhaps only temporarily) does your living will state you should not be fed artificially but should instead to allowed to STARVE TO DEATH? Somehow I do not think so.

Let me assume your living will stipulates no life support system (including simple feeding) only IF you are in a persistent vegatative state or otherwise brain dead. What if doctors disagree on the diagnosis? Would you not want the best available tests done to determine which doctors are correct? I would assume that you and any other person with a living will would want that determination made.

============

Tim: I will quote from my "Health Care Proxy" "I, Daniel Marvin hereby appoint Katherine A. Marvin [address followed] as my health care agent to make any and all health care decisions for me, except to the extent that I state otherwise. This proxy shall take effect only when and if I become unable to make my own health care decisions." I went on to appoint one of my daughters a "Alternate Agent" and I state that "this proxy shall remain in effect indefinetly." I specify that "I do not desire life-sustaining medication or mechanical (tubes) when recovery so as to lead a useful life outside the confines of a hospital or bed-ridden occupancy in a rehabilitation center is not deemed likely by my proxy and my proxy alone."

Tim, it was as pure and simple as that - dated and signed by two witnesses on 5 August 2002 in Cazenovia, New York.

That is the way I feel. Each should have his or her own decision on this matter.

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Marvin, the language you quote is from what is called a health care power of attorney, or a durable power of attorney. For people who want to exercise such options, it is a worthwhile document.

By way of background, the common law about ANY power of attorney was that it was revoked automatically upon the legal incompetence of the maker. In the seventies many states passed laws to reverse this common law principle, thus permitting power of attorneys, for health care or for financial matters, to survive the incompetence of the maker. I do not know for certain but I suspect that all states now allow "durable" power of attorneys.

IMO it is worthwhile for all individuals to have estate plans with at least power of attorneys for health care. Without such powers of attorneys physicians will normally listen to the recommendations of the closest living relative in any event. But what if there is a conflict? What if the spouse has predeceased and the children disagree?

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Eleanor Smith, confined to a wheel-chair after a childhood bout with polio, who is a self-described "liberal, agnostic lesbian, was quoted (as a result of the Schiavo case: "I would rater have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member."

James Taranto wrote in the April 1, 2005 Wall Street Journal: "Liberalism once championed the interests of society's most vulnerable members. Today it increasingly champions their 'right to die.' No one should be surprised if this affects their decisions as they exercise their right to vote."

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Eleanor Smith, confined to a wheel-chair after a childhood bout with polio, who is a self-described "liberal, agnostic lesbian, was quoted (as a result of the Schiavo case: "I would rater have a right-wing Christian decide my fate than an ACLU member."

George Galloway, probably the UK’s most left-wing MP, has also come out in support of Terri Schiavo’s parents. He, like others on the left, has complained about the way Terri has been allowed to die. This is a different issue from the one I initially raised. My intention was to expose the hypocrisy of the Christian fundamentalists. They claim they are interested in preserving life but they are highly selective about the lives they want to save.

As I pointed out in my first posting (something that Tim has chosen to ignore):

"This of course has nothing to do with the “right to life”. Last week in Texas a 8 year old boy died after his feeding tube was removed because his parents could not afford treatment. The religious right appeared to be uninterested in this case. Why? Because this raises issues like the importance of wealth over life chances. In Europe we already have had this debate and we have chosen the route of socialized medicine. That of course, has been rejected by the right in America. Therefore they can only make a fuss about someone who has got a good insurance policy. It has of course nothing to do with morality."

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John, it is interesting to learn that George Galloway came out in favor of the Schindler family's position. As I stated several times, the issue of fundamental fairness and due process before deciding when to kill someone ought not be based on politcal ideology and liberals, or left-wingers, who have traditionally fought for the rights of the poor, the disabled, etc should have supported the Schindler family position, as many of them did.

Everyone ought to be able to agree that before a decision is made that someone is brain dead, the most up-to-date diagnostic tests should be performed. And if there is a dispute between medical doctors concerning the patient's condition, other doctors should be consulted. The other day I heard on television Dr. Barbara Healey, the well-respected former head of the National Institute of Health, and she was decrying the medical procedures employed in the Schiavo case. She suggested the medical board of neurology could have been requested to name one or two independent experts not associated with either side to review the case.

The judicial problem is that Congress clearly wanted the federal court system to conduct a de novo review of the case. Instead, the federal courts just simply rubber-stamped what Judge Greer had decided. Now, appellate courts normally grant great deference to the "findings of fact" of the trial court and will not disturb those findings unless they are clearly wrong. So when Judge Greer had evidence from several neurologists, some of which said Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and some of which said she as not, he may have been entitled to accept as "fact" the opinion of the neurologists stating she was in a persistent vegetative state. In this sense his decision may not have been reversible error. But Congress wanted the federl court to start all over, perhaps hear new evidence, etc., without giving deference to the decision of Judge Greer. The refusal of the federal court system to honor the clear, bipartisan wishes of Congress is what has so many people upset.

I think you are wrong that the Christian right is highly selective about the lives they want to save. The Christian right believes are life is important. A distinction can be drawn between Catholics who, due to their belief in the sanctity of life, oppose capital punishment, and Protestant evangelicals who often support capital punishment. I do not believe it is inconsistent to, for instance oppose abortion (which Christian conservatives see as the taking of innocent human lives) but support the death penalty for persons who have committed heinous crimes. (That does not mean, however, that there are not other reasons to oppose the death penalty, e.g. the possibility of errors that allow innocent people to be convicted.)

With respect to the boy from Texas, I do not know all of the facts of that case. It is my understanding that that case was different because the boy required extraordinary medical procedures to survive: i.e., unlike Terri who only required artificial feeding. There is difficulty in that case because clearly the boy was not old enough to make a medical decision to reject extraordinary measures to save his life. Most people would not say it is immoral to refuse extraordinary medical procedures. I do not know what the position of the family members were. Were the extraordinary medical procedures refused or withdrawn over the objection of the family members? I am sure that many, many people who supported Terri Schiavo were. like me, unaware of the facts of the Texas case. It seems unfair to use that isolated case to say the Christian right is hypocritical. That is like saying that attorneys for the Innocence Project are hypocrites because they cannot be undertaking reviews of every single person on death row.

I am certain that every member of the so-called Christian right would object to the denial of basic feeding (nutrition and hydration) to ANY patient, regardless of his or her age, race, religious background, political affiliation, etc., who was NOT in great pain and who had NOT clearly indicated a desire to refuse such feeding if in a medical state from which recovery seemed remote.

Finally, for those interested, the Christian Medical and Dental Association has published a form for a health care directive that seems quite comprehensive. Here is a link to the web-site:

http://www.cmawashington.org

(Go to Advance Directive Kit then Advance Directive For Health Care, which is in pdf format.)

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Tim, Thanks for your comment. My attorney is pleased with the form and content and tells me it meets all New York State requirements if and when I am incapacitated. It is best, of course, if you totally trust your spouse! We have shared the name Marvin for 49 years come 10 Oct 05. Take care.

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John wrote:

George Galloway, probably the UK’s most left-wing MP, has also come out in support of Terri Schiavo’s parents. He, like others on the left, has complained about the way Terri has been allowed to die. This is a different issue from the one I initially raised.

Apropos to John's comment are the following excerpts from a column by Deroy Murdock, a New York-based syndicated columnist with the Scripps Howard News Service, written before her death"

One need not belong to the Religious Right or the Religious Left to think Terri Schiavo should be renourished, rehydrated, and allowed to live. I am a Deist. I believe God is or was like Johnny Planetseed. He created the universe, walked away, and ain't coming back. My view is that there are numerous reasons why the nonreligious and even nonbelievers should side with Terri's parents' wishes to keep her here on Earth among the living.

The key issue is consent. If it were clear that Terri Schiavo truly wanted to perish, her right to die should be inviolable, in my opinion. But absent consent, an individual's right to die swiftly devolves into another person's right to kill.

He quotes Ralph Nader: "It's one thing to have consent when the patient is overwhelmed with ventilators, and dialysis, and heart pumps, but it's quite another when there are non-heroic ministrations — in this case simply a feeding and water tube — and not having explicit consent or even credible consent — in ending her life."

Nader calls this situation "court-imposed homicide." He continues: "There are police in her room 24 hours a day, and if her mother would come and dab her parched lips with a moist sponge, her mother would be arrested and taken away. That's how barbaric the local scene has become. And that introduces a coarseness throughout our society that is totally preventable, uncalled for, and inappropriate under the rule of law."

Second, it is a travesty that Michael Schiavo remains Terri's guardian. Unlike, say, Nancy Reagan who faithfully and lovingly stood beside Ronald Reagan as he plunged deeper into the abyss of Alzheimer's Syndrome before dying last June 5, Michael Schiavo found another woman. He adulterously moved in and fathered two children with her. He now is in a common-law marriage with her. In essense, he's a bigamist. This is a four-alarm conflict of interest. Schiavo should have lost his legal standing in this case the second his common-law marriage commenced.

Then there is the troubling matter of a bone scan Dr. W. Campbell Walker conducted on Terri on March 5, 1991. Dr. Michael Baden, former New York City medical examiner, reviewed it and discussed it with Fox News Channel's Greta Van Sustern on October 24, 2003. As Dr. Baden said, "the bone scan describes her having a head injury...and head injury can lead to the 'vegetative state' that Mrs. Schiavo is in now." The 1991 scan "does show evidence that there are other injuries, other bone fractures that are in a healing stage [in 1991]." Baden believed those wounds could have resulted from "some kind of trauma. The trauma could be from an auto accident, the trauma could be from a fall, or the trauma could be from some kind of beating that she obtained from somebody somewhere." He added: "It's something that should have been investigated in 1991."

"This whole claim that Michael somehow abused Terri is totally false," Mr. Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, said last May. "It was considered by the court at a hearing and rejected."

So who tells the truth here? If federal judges had obeyed the law Congress passed and President Bush signed on March 21, a de novo review might have explored these allegations, as well as medical questions, such as the fact that Terri never was given an MRI and has not been re-diagnosed with modern equipment. (Michael Schiavo repeatedly has blocked this, too). Instead, in an institutional Bronx cheer, federal courts from Tampa to Washington, D.C. defied the explicit intent of the legislative and executive branches, refused to examine these matters, and green-lighted Terri's ongoing starvation.

"We have watched as this woman, whose only crime is that she is disabled, is tortured to death by judges, all the way to the Supreme Court," columnist Nat Hentoff complains in the March 29 Village Voice. Hentoff, who calls himself "an atheist," clearly is sickened by Terri's mistreatment, which he calls "the longest public execution in American history."

"There are issues in this case that well-meaning and intelligent people on both sides can disagree with and have to think seriously about," says Ed Hudgins, executive director of the Objectivist Center. He describes himself as "an atheist and a humanist in the Aristotelian tradition." He adds: "I hope this case focuses people's attention on the importance of living life and flourishing while you have it, and on getting everything you can out of this wonderful condition we call conscious life."

For non-believers, this case has little to do with God. One need not be religious to side with Mr. and Mrs. Schindler.

I fear that the mere presence of giant crucifixes, priests dressed like Medieval friars, people praying with outstretched arms — as important, meaningful, and admirable as all that may be — has shuttered the hearts and minds of many secular people and nonbelievers who might sympathize with Terri Schiavo, were her supporters clad in black turtlenecks and equipped with decaf lattes and I-pods brimming with techno-trance music. As best they can be ascertained, the facts of this case show that, even for those of us who only like churches for their architecture, Terri's fight is our fight, too.

I think the last paragraph is significant. I think the fact that Terri's parents were Catholic right-to-lifers and that both Catholics and evangelical Christians rallied to her parents did at first cause many to see it only as a religious issue when there were many other issues involved that involved no religious undertones. One very significant issue as discussed by Murdock was the issue of consent. As he stated, if her consent to termination of feeding had not in fact been given, what we witnessed was a court-sanctioned killing. This issue, of course, had nothing to do with one's religious beliefs, or lack thereof, or one's position on the abortion issue.

One interesting issue of course is Michael's involvement with another woman. Given Terri's condition and the time that had elapsed that may be understandable but it does illustrate that circumstances can alter the love of a spouse but do not usually alter the love of parents. One suggestion for persons drafting health care power of attorneys would be to require consent by several relatives (perhaps the spouse, a parent and a sibling, with the consent of two out of three required to terminate life support systems). I have seen this done in other cases.

Edited by Tim Gratz

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Here follows the final paragraph of a weekly column written by a Canadian Minister in our regional paper. In it he argues for the sanctity of life, puts forward the arguement that it is a little bit rich for one of "the most violent societes on this planet" who consider it a right to carry arms to be getting all noble about this particular case and concludes with the following

"What is really at issue in the Terri Schiavo case is not the sacredness of life at all but a fear of death. Her parent's desperate pleas to keep their daughter alive seem to be motivated out of grief; they are unable to let their daughter die. Her mother sums it up when she said "She is my life".

Although Chrstianity values life, biological life is not the totality of human existance. For Christians, death is not the end of a life but a new stage and new beginning. The fear of losing a loved one is natural and understandable but ultimately selfish. Terri Shaivo has nothing to live for but everything to die for. If we believe that upon death she wll pass into God's presence then why would anyone argue that a vegetative state is better than communion with God?"

It strikes me that this whole situation is not about Terri and what she would want, but what her relatives, the church and politicians can get out of it.

Terri's parents don't want to let their little girl go.

Terri's husband wants to move on with his life.

The Church and politicians want to score points.

None of us can possibly know what Terri would want, we can only guess based on what we would want and what we consider to be the right thing to do.

I personally would want to be put out of my misery and as a result of this whole debate am going to have that put in writing. It would be bad enough having my parents pitted against my husband, but to have complete strangers acting like they have a stake in me - please!

Rowena

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