CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

Terri Schaivo: Immediate Desire v. Higher Duty

In many ways I agree with CADRE member The Dawn Treader when he says in his post entitled "Exegeting Culture: The Terri Schiavo Story" that "I feel like we are all standing around a swimming pool and watching a child drown … and analyzing the drowning and discussing the ethical and legal issues involved in diving in to save the child." Still, I think that I have seen little discussion about is the difference between what we want (our desires) and what we would do if we choose to act virtuously.

As I understand the situation, Terri is being starved to death because her husband (and supposedly others who have never been identified that I can find) introduced testimony that Terri, in a casual conversation about people in persistent vegetative states, said words to the effect of "I wouldn't want to live that way." As I listen to the endless discussion of this matter on the radio, I hear person after person saying basically the same thing about Terri's position: "I wouldn't want to live like that."

Ignoring for a moment the dispute over whether she actually said such a thing, I guess I wonder whether we ought not take into account the difference between what we want and what we do on the basis that it is virtuous to do so. I may have a desire to do something or avoid doing something because of a gut reaction that it would be distasteful, but that doesn’t mean that in light of my concept of what is good or virtuous, I wouldn’t do it anyway. For example, I wouldn't want to go fight the war in Iraq, but I would go if I were called upon to do so -- there is a higher calling than my desires. I wouldn't want to be unmarried, teenage and pregnant, but if I had been in that position, I wouldn't have aborted the baby -- there is a higher calling than my desires.

I told my daughter the other day that I wouldn't want to live in the condition that Terri Schiavo is living. But you know what? I believe that only God can take life, and as long as I can live, I don't think it is right to pull the feeding tube and killing myself even if I am in the persistent vegetative state. My distaste at living life in a persistent vegetative state is outweighed by my beliefs that the better, more virtuous, road would be to live out my life in such a condition until God sees fit to bring me home.

Unfortunately, we will never know what Terri wanted because it has become fairly obvious that absent a miracle, Terri will shortly be starved to death. But I will always wonder whether when she said (allegedly) that she "wouldn't want to live that way," she meant that it would be distasteful or undesirable, but that doesn't necessarily mean that she would have wanted the feeding tube removed. As many millions of people have been throughout history, she may have been motivated by a higher purpose.

5 comments:

During the 30 years plus that I taught 5th Grade, I would often ask my class of 35,
"Boys and girls, if 1 = 0 what does 35 = ?" A wrong answer got an "F Grade."

If they said,"Zero," they got an "A."

America's human value system is based on the value of each Individual person; One.
If One equals Zero what will 160 million be worth?

Abortion/cannibalism is devaluing each and every individual in our Country including you
and me -- and each One in our families -- and each Individual American.

Terri is now being used to teach that each individual is in further jeopardy. She is being
placed there by law. Law which is minimal in describing human behavior and worth in a
civilized society.

Law raises no maxim high standard but only a minimum of acceptance -- not the highest.
Ethics and morality are higher standards which are not being used in Terri's protection
because lawyers and judges revere law as the highest standard -- when it is not. It is the
least standard. "Grade: F "

"Woe unto you lawyers and judges!" Your stewardship before The Creator is non-existent.
The Lord God will not be mocked. As you sow you will reap. Legalists are individuals and
will be weighed in the balances of their own choosing.

Observe.......Behold!

As a past president of the Thunder Bay Right to Life Association and a lawyer, I can speak with some knowledge as to the situation in which Terry Schiavo finds herself.

The debate here is not between the right to life and the right to die movements, but rather two factions within the right to life movement. The question is a simple one. Does a person have a moral obligation to take all steps necessary to preserve one’s own life, once the dying process has set in? Moderates answer no; extremists answer yes.

On all accounts, Ms.Schiavo is in the dying process. She has lost the ability to swallow. She is terminal within all accepted definitions of terminality including the Florida statute defining terminal illness. Hence, the discussion of whether she is in a minimally conscious state or a persistent vegetative state is immaterial. She is terminal.

Moderates argue, persuasively in my opinion, that Ms.Schiavo, contemplating the possibility of such a condition, is morally free to choose to forego life prolonging procedures. Why? Two reasons. First, the duty to live is the duty of an average human being not of a saint. It is not a duty to take extraordinary measures that offer little if any hope of full recovery. Second, in choosing to forgo artificially prolonged life, a person intends life, however long or short, though he or she forsees the possibility of an imminent death. Extremists have no real answers to those arguments.

The trial court determined, on a standard of clear and convincing evidence, that Ms.Schiavo did not want the life prolonging measure of artificial hydration and nutrition. She saw a movie dealing with a similar case. At the end of that movie and shortly thereafter, she expressed her wishes to her husband, his brother and I believe one other person. I have been unable to find a full transcript of that case or the trial judge’s reasons because it was a guardianship case- all evidence and decisions are sealed to protect the privacy interests of Ms.Schiavo. Most is reconstructed from the appeal court comments.

Some suggestion has been made in the media that Mr.Schiavo lied about her wishes. The appeal courts are very clear that Mr.Schiavo was a credible and reliable witness. A disgruntled former girlfriend of his came forwards over a year after the trial and made the allegation that he told her Ms.Schiavo never talked about the issue. However, as I read the subsequent cases, that individual never put that allegation into an affidavit and never testified in any subsequent proceeding that Mr.Schiavo lied. Hence, no evidence was ever brought forward that could potentially overturn that trial verdict as to what her wishes were.

Normally, death by the removal of artificial hydration and nutrition is not painful. Dying patients generally lose their appetite in the days before death. Many undertake a religious fast to focus their awareness on God. Few suffer. Minimally conscious patients have little awareness of pain; persistent vegetative patients have none. In any event, medical personnel can sedate a patient to a level beyond consciousness to eliminate any awareness of pain, if required and if requested.

The death of Terry Schiavo may prove to be the death of any unity within the right to life movement.

Further to my last comment, I found the trial judgment and a relevant appeal judgment that address some of the issue I raised. Both are found at http://abractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

The following is from the trial judgment.(http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/trialctorder02-00.pdf) Five witnesses testified as to Ms.Schiavo's intention: two for the parents, three for the husband.

1. The mother "Mrs.Schindler testified that her daughter made comments during the television news reports of the father's attempts to have life support removed to the effect that they should just leave her (Karen Ann Quinlin) alone. Mrs.Schindler first testifed that those comments were made when Terri was between 17-20 years of age but after being shown copies of newspaper accounts agreed tht she was 11 perhaps 12 years of age at the time." (page 5)

2. "A witness called by Respondents tesified to similar conversation with Terri Schiavo but stated that they occured during the summer of 1982. What that witness appeared believable at the offset, the court noted two quotes from the discussion between she and Terri Schiavo which raise serious questions about the time frame. Both quotes are in the present tense and upon cross-examination, the witness did not alter them. The first quote involved a bad joke and used the verb 'is'. The second quoted involved the response from Terri Schiavo which used the word 'are'. The court is mystified as to how these present tense verbs would have been used some six years after the death of Karen Ann Quinlin. The court further notes that this witness has quite specific memory during trial but much less memory a few weeks earlier on deposition...the court is drawn to the conclusion that this discussion most likely occured in the same time frame as the similar comments to Mrs.Schindler." (page 5)

3. The husband Michael Schiavo testified. "Statements which Terri Schiavo made which do support the relief sought by her surrogate (Petititioner/Guardian) include statements to him prompted by her grandmother being in intensive care that if she was ever a burden she would not want to live like that. Additionally, statements made to Michael Schiavo which were prompted by something on television regarding people on life support that she would not want to life [sic] like that also reflect her intention in this particular situation." (page 9)

4. The husband's brother Scott Schiavo testified. "Also the statements she made in the prsence of Scott Schiavo at the funeral luncheon of his grandmother that 'if I ever go like that just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine.'" (page 9)

5. The husband's sister Joan Schiavo tesified. "and to Joan Schiavo following a television movie in which a man following an accident was in a coma to the effect that she wanted it stated in her will that she would want the tubes and everything taken out if that ever happened to her are likewise reflective of this intent." (page 9)

The court attached particular importance to the testimony of the husband's brother and sister. "The court has reviewed the testimony of Scott Schiavo and Joan Schiavo and finds nothing contained therein to be unreliable. The court notes that neither of these witnesses appeared to have shaded his or her testimony or even attempt [sic] to exclude unfavorable comments or points regarding those discussions. They were not impeached on cross-examination." (page 5-6)

Basically the trial court finds that the testimony for the parents expresses a somewhat ambiguous intention from her earlier teenage years, but the testimony for the husband express a clear and convincing case from her later adult years.

It appears that a subsequent proceeding did consider that testimony from Mr.Schiavo's disgruntled girlfriend. I don't have that actual judgment, but it is referred to in an appeal judgment.(http://www.2dca.org/opinion/October%2017,%202001/2d01-3526.pdf)

1. "First, in May 2001, the Schindlers discovered three new witnesses whose proffered testimony is primarily evidence of the testimony of Mr.Schiavo at the original trial before the guardianship court. Two of these witnesses were close friends of Mr.Schiavo during a period ending in approximately 1993. The third witness was the husband of one of these women. The Schindelrs filed lengthy depositions from the husband and wife, and a lengthy affidavit from the second woman." (page 5)

2. "The trial court has reviewed the affidavits and depositions of these new witnesses and has assessed the potential impact of this new evidence upon the evidence and testimony that the court considered at the initial trial. We have also reviewed this evidence and conclude that the trial court committed no reversible error in determining that this new evidence failed to present a colorable claim for entitlement to relief from judgment." (page 6)

It is not clear whether that second trial court found the new testimony credible and reliable. It may have; it may not have. But the appeal court is clearly saying that the second trial court decision not to reverse is understandable since that new testimony would not impeach the testimony of Scott Schiavo or Joan Schiavo.

Further to my last comment, I found the trial judgment and a relevant appeal judgment that address some of the issue I raised. Both are found at http://abractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

The following is from the trial judgment.(http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/trialctorder02-00.pdf) Five witnesses testified as to Ms.Schiavo's intention: two for the parents, three for the husband.

1. The mother "Mrs.Schindler testified that her daughter made comments during the television news reports of the father's attempts to have life support removed to the effect that they should just leave her (Karen Ann Quinlin) alone. Mrs.Schindler first testifed that those comments were made when Terri was between 17-20 years of age but after being shown copies of newspaper accounts agreed tht she was 11 perhaps 12 years of age at the time." (page 5)

2. "A witness called by Respondents tesified to similar conversation with Terri Schiavo but stated that they occured during the summer of 1982. What that witness appeared believable at the offset, the court noted two quotes from the discussion between she and Terri Schiavo which raise serious questions about the time frame. Both quotes are in the present tense and upon cross-examination, the witness did not alter them. The first quote involved a bad joke and used the verb 'is'. The second quoted involved the response from Terri Schiavo which used the word 'are'. The court is mystified as to how these present tense verbs would have been used some six years after the death of Karen Ann Quinlin. The court further notes that this witness has quite specific memory during trial but much less memory a few weeks earlier on deposition...the court is drawn to the conclusion that this discussion most likely occured in the same time frame as the similar comments to Mrs.Schindler." (page 5)

3. The husband Michael Schiavo testified. "Statements which Terri Schiavo made which do support the relief sought by her surrogate (Petititioner/Guardian) include statements to him prompted by her grandmother being in intensive care that if she was ever a burden she would not want to live like that. Additionally, statements made to Michael Schiavo which were prompted by something on television regarding people on life support that she would not want to life [sic] like that also reflect her intention in this particular situation." (page 9)

4. The husband's brother Scott Schiavo testified. "Also the statements she made in the prsence of Scott Schiavo at the funeral luncheon of his grandmother that 'if I ever go like that just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine.'" (page 9)

5. The husband's sister Joan Schiavo tesified. "and to Joan Schiavo following a television movie in which a man following an accident was in a coma to the effect that she wanted it stated in her will that she would want the tubes and everything taken out if that ever happened to her are likewise reflective of this intent." (page 9)

The court attached particular importance to the testimony of the husband's brother and sister. "The court has reviewed the testimony of Scott Schiavo and Joan Schiavo and finds nothing contained therein to be unreliable. The court notes that neither of these witnesses appeared to have shaded his or her testimony or even attempt [sic] to exclude unfavorable comments or points regarding those discussions. They were not impeached on cross-examination." (page 5-6)

Basically the trial court finds that the testimony for the parents expresses a somewhat ambiguous intention from her earlier teenage years, but the testimony for the husband express a clear and convincing case from her later adult years.

It appears that a subsequent proceeding did consider that testimony from Mr.Schiavo's disgruntled girlfriend. I don't have that actual judgment, but it is referred to in an appeal judgment.(http://www.2dca.org/opinion/October%2017,%202001/2d01-3526.pdf)

1. "First, in May 2001, the Schindlers discovered three new witnesses whose proffered testimony is primarily evidence of the testimony of Mr.Schiavo at the original trial before the guardianship court. Two of these witnesses were close friends of Mr.Schiavo during a period ending in approximately 1993. The third witness was the husband of one of these women. The Schindelrs filed lengthy depositions from the husband and wife, and a lengthy affidavit from the second woman." (page 5)

2. "The trial court has reviewed the affidavits and depositions of these new witnesses and has assessed the potential impact of this new evidence upon the evidence and testimony that the court considered at the initial trial. We have also reviewed this evidence and conclude that the trial court committed no reversible error in determining that this new evidence failed to present a colorable claim for entitlement to relief from judgment." (page 6)

It is not clear whether that second trial court found the new testimony credible and reliable. It may have; it may not have. But the appeal court is clearly saying that the second trial court decision not to reverse is understandable since that new testimony would not impeach the testimony of Scott Schiavo or Joan Schiavo.

Further to my last comment, I found the trial judgment and a relevant appeal judgment that address some of the issue I raised. Both are found at http://abractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

The following is from the trial judgment.(http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/trialctorder02-00.pdf) Five witnesses testified as to Ms.Schiavo's intention: two for the parents, three for the husband.

1. The mother "Mrs.Schindler testified that her daughter made comments during the television news reports of the father's attempts to have life support removed to the effect that they should just leave her (Karen Ann Quinlin) alone. Mrs.Schindler first testifed that those comments were made when Terri was between 17-20 years of age but after being shown copies of newspaper accounts agreed tht she was 11 perhaps 12 years of age at the time." (page 5)

2. "A witness called by Respondents tesified to similar conversation with Terri Schiavo but stated that they occured during the summer of 1982. What that witness appeared believable at the offset, the court noted two quotes from the discussion between she and Terri Schiavo which raise serious questions about the time frame. Both quotes are in the present tense and upon cross-examination, the witness did not alter them. The first quote involved a bad joke and used the verb 'is'. The second quoted involved the response from Terri Schiavo which used the word 'are'. The court is mystified as to how these present tense verbs would have been used some six years after the death of Karen Ann Quinlin. The court further notes that this witness has quite specific memory during trial but much less memory a few weeks earlier on deposition...the court is drawn to the conclusion that this discussion most likely occured in the same time frame as the similar comments to Mrs.Schindler." (page 5)

3. The husband Michael Schiavo testified. "Statements which Terri Schiavo made which do support the relief sought by her surrogate (Petititioner/Guardian) include statements to him prompted by her grandmother being in intensive care that if she was ever a burden she would not want to live like that. Additionally, statements made to Michael Schiavo which were prompted by something on television regarding people on life support that she would not want to life [sic] like that also reflect her intention in this particular situation." (page 9)

4. The husband's brother Scott Schiavo testified. "Also the statements she made in the prsence of Scott Schiavo at the funeral luncheon of his grandmother that 'if I ever go like that just let me go. Don't leave me there. I don't want to be kept alive on a machine.'" (page 9)

5. The husband's sister Joan Schiavo tesified. "and to Joan Schiavo following a television movie in which a man following an accident was in a coma to the effect that she wanted it stated in her will that she would want the tubes and everything taken out if that ever happened to her are likewise reflective of this intent." (page 9)

The court attached particular importance to the testimony of the husband's brother and sister. "The court has reviewed the testimony of Scott Schiavo and Joan Schiavo and finds nothing contained therein to be unreliable. The court notes that neither of these witnesses appeared to have shaded his or her testimony or even attempt [sic] to exclude unfavorable comments or points regarding those discussions. They were not impeached on cross-examination." (page 5-6)

Basically the trial court finds that the testimony for the parents expresses a somewhat ambiguous intention from her earlier teenage years, but the testimony for the husband express a clear and convincing case from her later adult years.

It appears that a subsequent proceeding did consider that testimony from Mr.Schiavo's disgruntled girlfriend. I don't have that actual judgment, but it is referred to in an appeal judgment.(http://www.2dca.org/opinion/October%2017,%202001/2d01-3526.pdf)

1. "First, in May 2001, the Schindlers discovered three new witnesses whose proffered testimony is primarily evidence of the testimony of Mr.Schiavo at the original trial before the guardianship court. Two of these witnesses were close friends of Mr.Schiavo during a period ending in approximately 1993. The third witness was the husband of one of these women. The Schindelrs filed lengthy depositions from the husband and wife, and a lengthy affidavit from the second woman." (page 5)

2. "The trial court has reviewed the affidavits and depositions of these new witnesses and has assessed the potential impact of this new evidence upon the evidence and testimony that the court considered at the initial trial. We have also reviewed this evidence and conclude that the trial court committed no reversible error in determining that this new evidence failed to present a colorable claim for entitlement to relief from judgment." (page 6)

It is not clear whether that second trial court found the new testimony credible and reliable. It may have; it may not have. But the appeal court is clearly saying that the second trial court decision not to reverse is understandable since that new testimony would not impeach the testimony of Scott Schiavo or Joan Schiavo.

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