Wednesday, March 23, 2005

On Schiavo

My father opines below that the Schiavo case is one of "judicial murder."

As much as I hate to disagree with my father, I think he's wrong here. The Schiavo case is a horrible tragedy, and one that unfortunately has become politicized.

The issue of whether Terry Schiavo wants to be kept alive is an issue that has been examined thoroughly by the courts, and that's the sole issue. The courts have repeatedly found that she does not wish to be kept alive. Yes, there are published reports of, as my father notes, nefarious acts by Mr. Schiavo, allegations that this all about money, and so forth. But the courts found that evidence, such as it is, not to be compelling. I cannot see how we can substitute our judgment in this case, based as it is on information gleaned from 3rd hand reports in the media, for that of several courts, including a Federal District Court judge and, this morning, a Federal Court of Appeals.

Yes, I am disturbed that this is an issue of removing a feeding tube. Certainly, that's something more morally problematic than the removal of a respirator. Jewish law views the two differently, and, to my understanding, permits the removal of a respirator but not a feeding tube. But, thankfully, in this case, it's not my decision to substitute Jewish law or my moral concepts for those of Terry Schiavo. If the right to life means anything, it includes the right to decide how it ends. The courts have found that Terry Schiavo has made this decision, and as such, that decision should be respected.

To the extent this tragedy can have any positives, perhaps it will increase the use of living wills and health care proxies. I have a living will and a health care proxy which spells out what I want if, G-d forbid, I should ever be in a persistent vegetative state. I urge everyone to have one made up, to avoid being the subject of a politicized battle. Make your wishes clear now, so that a court doesn't have to try to figure it out.

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