Monday, March 28, 2005

Mohler on Terri

Al Mohler's most recent Crosswalk Commentary summarizes the case well, even in the title - The Bell Tolls for Humanity. Mohler makes several points that have been repeated often and bear repeating. First, that spousal privilege, although a well set precedent, should not trump every other consideration in cases like these...the fact that Michael Schaivo should be given the life or death decision for his wife, while living with another woman with whom he's borne children and having a potential financial motive in desiring her death (whether or not these two facts have influenced his decision), is deeply troubling. Second, medical science has come on leaps and bounds in the ten years since the medical evidence the courts relied on to make the decision was proposed, and PVS (if Terri is in a PVS, which as I say, it seems very likely she is not, if only the courts would listen to the countless doctors willing to testify so) is not necessarily completely irreverible - as Wilson pointed out in his article in the previous post:

The chances that such a recovery will occur are very small, but they are not zero.

If they are not zero, then withdrawing a patient's feeding tubes and allowing her to die from a lack of water and food means that whoever authorizes such a step may, depending on the circumstances, be murdering the patient. The odds against it being a murder are very high, but they are not 100%.

Further, Michael Schiavo has denied Terri the medical tests necessary to really tell for certain one way or the other (MRI and PET). Further, Mohler comments on the notion of food and water being medical treatment:

Some observers attempt to find recourse in the legal definition of food and hydration as medical treatments. This is yet another of the perversities currently established in legal precedents. Since when is food and water a form of medical treatment? There can be no doubt that numerous courts have now agreed in this finding, but the moral consequence of this distinction is both fundamental and far reaching. Infants are obviously unable to feed themselves, but no one would rationally characterize the feeding of a healthy infant as a medical treatment. Those attempting to justify the courts' determination to end Terri Schiavo's life would immediately jump to a distinction between a healthy infant, who may be presumed to advance towards healthy adulthood, and Terri Schiavo, who, it is claimed, has little hope of any recovery or advance. This is a tempting distinction, but where does it end? Who will be next in line to be judged to have an inadequate quality of life or an inadequate chance of recovery? The logic of death advances on our refusal to face these questions directly.

Mohler further comments on the rulings of James Whittemore against the obvious intent of Congress. The fact that Congress took such extraordinary actions to pass legislation to allow Terri a further hearing based on the multitudes of new evidence, and that this man ignored this (and not only him, but the judges of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals (well, most of them, or at least half - enough to send it up), and the Judges of the Supreme Court), is astonishing. And claiming his reason was that they were not likley to win an appeal on the merits of their case - that wasn't his judgement, in just a few hours - that was meant to be the judgement of a court based on the merits of their case, not his view of the expected outcome. As Mohler writes,

Judge Whittemore's decision not to hold such a hearing was not only a devastating loss to Terri Schiavo and the Schindlers, but to the cause of life itself and to hopes for a recovery of moral sanity within the judiciary.

This Easter period, the thought of Pilate comes to mind, washing his hands of the blood of Jesus...but the water couldn't wash away his guilt. The judiciary in this case stands in exactly the same position - Terri's blood is on their hands. But not just theirs: ours, as a society as a whole. The moral indignation has been muted, and many people are content to let Terri die.

The last word from Mohler again:

If one member of the human race can be so devalued as to be considered unworthy of life, every single human life is effectively discounted. As the poet John Donne would remind us, the bell that tolls for Terri Schiavo tolls for all humanity.


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