Sunday, March 20, 2005

"Right to Die?"

Full disclosure: Despite the following opening line versus the time this is posted, I actually wrote much of this on Friday the 18th of March. I set it aside, with a feeling I had left some things out, which I will add, but most of this is the raw stream of consciousness moments after the “right to die” crowd held their press conference on local media a few days ago. It’s 3/18/2005 and the press conference with Michael Shaviao’s lawyer, George Felos, just ended. Here’s my stream of consciousness. I live in the immediate area where all of this has been occurring. The local papers and talk shows have been full of information for years. George Felos said Americans should be afraid of the Congress, because they can issue subpoenas. I’m more afraid of judges who will decide they have the power of life and death at their discretion and they steadfastly, or even arrogantly, dismiss every one else’s judgment, as if they hold some monopoly on precise decision making. Wasn’t it judges who upheld that slaves were property and only the landed could vote? Yes, and they were Supreme Court justices, who should be among the best and the brightest. That being the case, how can a local judge uphold himself as something far above even those people? We all need a voice of reason sometimes, even if it’s hard to listen. Interestingly enough, Rush Limbaugh made an interesting observation today. He said not a single liberal law maker was on Terri Shaviao’s side. They were silent. The Republicans are trying to save her. He commented that the Democrats handed Elian back to the Fidel Castro, while the Republicans wanted him to stay here. Two significant cases: Republicans on the side of life and liberty, and the Democrats on the side of death and slavery. I’ll take this a step further: Republicans are against abortion, Democrats for it. Republicans: Life, Democrats: Death. How about the issue of save the whales? Democrats: Rabid protection of the environment, but let people die. Ok, let’s take a second to review the Constitution of the United States. Aren’t the inalienable rights of “LIFE, LIBERTY…” in there? Yep, right up front. And people have the gall to act like any government interaction in this case is Unconstitutional. Get a grip, it’s in there, and Judge George Greer could stand to do some professional reading in this area, as it seems he’s pretty irritated that people go over his head. There’s a reason: One of the most basic functions of a government anywhere has been the protection of the citizen group it represented. Question at the press conference: Was Michael Shaviao with his wife when they removed the feeding tube? Answer “No.” Explanation: This is an emotionally difficult time, and he couldn’t be there. My question, since he has a live in girlfriend of several years, with whom he has two children, was he home celebrating? Was he absent so the press and medical staff couldn’t attest to him high fiving the people around him? This is one more event, out of many that scream to me that he has no interest in Terri’s well being, but only his “getting on with his life.” For all you “rabid right to death” types (the opposite of the “rabid right to life” types that the local Mark Larsen foams at the mouth over), tell me this (well, actually, it’s rhetorical, so just answer it for yourself): When a family member of yours is in the hospital for major, life threatening operations (which this certainly is), are you in the waiting room outside the surgery area, keeping vigil, or are you out at a movie, or shopping? I bet you’d have to admit you’re waiting for the report form the doctor on how it went. Why couldn’t Michael be there? At this point, this husband by law (certainly not by practice), should have put his emotions second and gone to be there. It’s about sacrifice, you know, like those horribly inconvenient lines in the wedding vows: “for better or worse,” “in sickness and in health.” Given he has been sleeping with another woman for many years now, It would be easy to lower the discussion to crude remarks, but I think intelligent people will understand what I mean. 3/20/2005 additions to this part of the monologue: Michael Shaviao is a registered nurse. On one side of the coin that could lead you to believe he has the medical knowledge to know when a case is hopeless in the hands of mankind. On the other side of the equation, he has enough medical knowledge to “assist” people along a path of chemical imbalances in their systems, that, shall we say euphemistically, aren’t good for them. If someone already has an eating disorder (Terri did), might one use that already off medically off balance condition to their favor? There are plenty of crime novels, many taking their core story line from real world cases, where someone tried to commit “the perfect crime” by making a death look just like something natural. I submit a heart failure is not normal for a early 20 year old person of either gender. On top of that, while I’ll admit I haven’t had time to do the research, many cases of people having a heart attack have successful outcomes, with people’s lives being restored, without any significant long term after effects. If someone who has had their heart stopped is allowed to lay there, without the normal blood circulation for a period of many minutes, they may be revived, and yes, there will be brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation. I would think a medically trained person would know about how long to wait until the time was approaching when any longer would dramatically reduce the probability of resuscitation. I lean towards this case. Michael Shaviao, as the guardian of Terri, has denied access to her medical records. While many think the Department of Children and Family Services recent motions to stay Terri’s starvation has been grandstanding, the allegations of noticeable bone damaged, noted by Terri’s brother from interviews with the Doctors from the Emergency Room, that the injuries were similar to those one would suffer in a car accident. If there is nothing to hide on Terri’s x-rays, why won’t Michael release them. If you have nothing to hide, then the x-rays shouldn’t result in any legal action. The family reports the relationship was abusive, and there may be some linkage to Terri’s coma and things that happened to her in the weeks leading up to that. A litany of things just don’t square with all of Michaels demands to let his wife die: Michael already has planned for Terri’s cremation upon her death. That will remove a tremendous amount of forensic evidence. To include the detection of broken bones in the neck and back area (with certainty). Michael won’t allow Terri’s parents in to be with her while she is starving to death. He has successfully petitioned to keep them away from her for a very long time, and even has restraining orders to keep them from photographing and video taping her. Judge Greer has granted one last photo session of Terri and her family, but the pictures are to be turned over to Michael Shaviao, as his property. Why will he get to keep the pictures? Might he fear the release in a public forum will both turn all public opinion against him (and the Judge), as well as producing evidence that will incriminate him in a homicide? He has denied Terri access to her Priest. Just what does he have to fear here, except a report from a man of integrity that will undermine Michael’s continued declaration that his wife is in a “persistent vegetative state?” Priests in Florida, as with health care professionals and counselors are required by law report the commission of a crime. I can see where Michael might fear being caught. All of this sounds exactly the opposite of what a well-balanced human being would do. I believe Judge Greer, and Michael Felos have crawled so far down in the pit of lies with Michael Shaviao, with Michael not telling them many details, that they are so insistent on carrying out this death sentence, hoping their won’t get caught up in the community backlash, when they try to say “I wash my hands of this.” Won’t fly, and I think they know it. Being duped in the lies for so long, they hope pressing through will save them. No, I submit standing up and telling the truth is the antidote at this juncture. Even if all they want to do is look at this from a political viewpoint, then their professional reputations will be ruined forever as a result. If that is the only way to make them wake up, that’s fine, but I’d not want to be them, trying to sleep nights, knowing I helped kill someone who didn’t deserve it. If anyone else does this, the same judge would charge them with murder in the first degree. While I cannot confirm this, a lady from the area called the Michael Savage radio talk show on Friday evening, the 18th, claiming she worked in the local court system and that Judge Greer was legally blind and all he could see was colors and shapes. All legal briefs and documents had to be read to him. I have many questions about this, but also an observation, that such “breathtaking” (to use the New York Times editorial words) decisions, that seem to be unsupported by the facts presented, can possibly be explained by this situation. If someone either failed to read all of a document (implied: partial omissions), or failed to read some documents (implied: complete omissions), or “misrepresented” (implied: LIED!) about what was contained in the documents, Houston, have a problem. Who was assigned to read these documents to him? Were representatives from the parents and Michael Shaviao present? If Judge Greer is legally blind, I think it’s time to question his ability to judge, merely based on the large volume of material he must absorb in any case. This isn’t discrimination, but just plain common sense. Would you want a blind pilot in the cockpit of the 767 taking your to London, just to avoid a discrimination law suit, while hazarding 300 plus lives? Even the economic analysis by the bean counters would say “risk the ADA suit, we’ll be way money ahead!” How much is the cost of human misery, in this case, versus the feelings being hurt judge who can’t access the material required to do his job? If he could assure all documents he requires to be familiar with the contents of are read to him by unbiased staff, that would satisfy me, and I’m sure the people coming into his court. If he has too much pride to admit this is a real limitation to overcome in order to pass “blind” justice (how ironic to have to make that comment), then, Houston, we still have a problem. Back to 3/18/2005 in the writing time machine. Press conference comment: Terri Shaviao has been a pawn of the “right to lifers.” Wow, I hope I have right to lifers defending my family, and country. I agree she has been a pawn. She has been a pawn of the group who wants to extinguish life. Here’s my logic: The main argument for Terri “being allowed to die” has been she told her husband that she wouldn’t want to live like this. Ok, I can admit that conversation may have happened. Here’s the rub: She never executed a Living Will, outlining those wishes. So she is without paperwork, required by a law of the state in order to remove life support, and he gets into court to and somehow convinces a judge to violate a State Law. I see it this way: without some prior mess, since we are a reactive culture, there would not have been a State Law saying people had to keep you alive, unless you specifically executed a legal document saying they didn’t have to and you fully appreciated the ramification of your voluntary, PRIOR completion of the paperwork. Am I wrong, or without law school, do I understand something Judge Greer does not? Now the wheels are set in motion to “let” Terri die, on Michael’s word (oh, yeah, the guy who has a life with a girl friend and two children with her) that that’s her wish. Isn’t this sort of like how we get incensed when a report comes out saying we need to take this drug for out well being, and we find out the research staff just sort of happened to be paid by the company that makes the drug? We used to acknowledge this as “conflict of interest,” prior to today. I’d say there’s a HUGE conflict of interest in the case of Michael Shaivo. He’s got a real family that takes his attention, so it certainly follows that having Terri “expire” would clear the way for him to devote himself fully to his girl friend. I think it will be interesting to see just how long it takes for him to marry this woman. Maybe we should hold our breath as soon as Terri dies, for I suspect we won’t have to hold it long enough to pass out. 3/20/2005: I sat down at the local bookstore and someone had left a copy of the 3/19/2005 New York Times National edition. Here’s an amazing line from the lead editorial titled “The Shavaio Case”:
“Meanwhile, we can only lament the Republican’s theatrical effort to expand their so-called pro-life agenda to include intervening in a case already studied and litigated exhaustively under Florida Law. Congress’ rash assumption of judicial power and trampling on established state and federal constitutional precedents in ‘right to die’ cases is nothing short of breathtaking.”
My response: The adjective of “so-called right-to-life” is said in this editorial like it is a bad thing, and that it’s anything but a right-to-life. Excuse me for being impertinent, but I would recommend that the editors of the New York Times return to the basic of what is life, and some basic philosophy. I would home these editors are more educated than I, but I object to someone impugning the motives of to keep someone alive as a “so called right-to-life.” I submit it is a push for a “right-to-life,” as the facts show they are asking for a life to be retained. By modifying it with the “so-called,” it takes on the air of disgust, suggesting hypocrisy. The Republicans haven’t been hypocritical in supporting measures that save lives, they have openly stated their beliefs, and then have worked to pass laws, control funding, etc, etc, in order to promote their world view on the topic. Had the Congress not stepped up to the plate, I’d think the editors had plenty of ground to prod the Republicans for a “so-called right-to-life” as they let Terri Shaviavo die without lifting a finger. I’ll say the editors of the New York Times are fully in the “right to die” world view and I’ll grant you they are not hypocritical in the least, they want people to die. There is nothing “so-called” about their position at all. Back to 3/18/2005 comments: Consider this contrast: The Constitution disallows “cruel and unusual punishment.” Many people in this country, and around the world, think dogs barking at people held for terrorist activity were the victims of this form of abuse. Since the word “punishment” is part of the sentence, then I assume people only think this applies to criminals. I think we can acknowledge any survey would yield an almost 100% result in agreeing that this equally applies to all US citizens. Functionally, we don’t let people beat on people, except in paid for sporting events, with the intent to physically harm others, without arresting and charging them with battery. This is particularly true for children. If this applies in this way, how can anyone imagine starving to death does not fall under this clause of the Constitution? The very form of the way in which Judge Greer has sentenced her to death would result in severe criminal penalties for any citizen, in addition to being clearly Unconstitutional, by any thinking person’s reading of the Constitution. As someone pointed out a few days ago, even Scott Peterson will have his arm swabbed with alcohol before a lethal injection, in order to protect him from possible infection. We hate the killers, yet we have functionally provided them more respect than we have for Terri Shaviao. How about PETA and their friends in all levels of government? Just try to stave your pet kitty to death? There’s criminal penalties for that. Really cool, we regard animals with greater worth (as measured by the laws to protect them), than a human being. I doubt anyone from the “other side” will take the time to come and read my thoughts, but if you do, you need to examine your very soul, if you think you can justify the protection of an animal over protecting human live. This is a complicated issue, yet it all points at one thing: The precedent that a spouse/guardian can proclaim the wishes of the other person, and the Judge then just lets it happen. This in validates the law requiring a Living Will, because now case law sets this precedent. Years ago, I heard G. Gordon Liddy explain that this is what takes an “untested” law to the “tested” category. I think this is the correct connection here, as other lawyers can now parade this decision before a judge and ask for them to rule the same way. In this all, I’d find it easier to not be struggling with all of this if Michael had stood by his woman, but he was out “moving on.” His behavior speaks the truth nature of his feelings, not his words. Here’s the hard spot: If you are disabled and become a burden to those carrying for you, specifically the guardian, they just tell someone you don’t want to live this way, and they are absolved of any criminal activity, as is the guardian, based on this decision. While compassionate, carrying people will labor long and hard to avoid this, many more will merely use this as an out to “get on with their lives.” Even if a majority of cases are not handled this way, as I’m sure they won’t be, if this plays out at all, then it’s what we would have properly called, before today, murder. Will we have the misplaced compassion to release those in jail who have “put a loved one out of their misery?” I’d say that’s only fair. For the husband who had actually slept next to the women he loved for so many years, watching her suffer through the agony of terminal cancer, before he finally smothered her with a pillow, and is now serving any time in prison, or even probation, will we as a society, exonerate them and beg their forgiveness? I doubt it. Judge Greer has just done that for Michael Shaivo. Years ago, thinking I’d get off easy doing a paper for a Master’s course, I picked the topic of genocide. Of course, due to the compulsive nature of the German culture to record data, the “Final Solution” is always a good case study. He’s the chilling part of this case of killing: Hitler began by convincing the populace that the terminally ill were a burden on society, taking more than their fair share of resources, and *voila!* they could now be euthanized. He went on to use the exact same arguments, now that he had “climbed over the fence,” that the disabled and mentally handicapped fit the same set of circumstances. Soon, he was killing the people of Jewish descent. We have just crossed the Rubicon in our own journey down this path. The moral question is how far will we go? The citizens of this country have continued to reject euthanasia, except in Oregon, when it has come up. Dr. Kevorkian is reviled and was arrested for his acts of “assisted suicide.” That is how Terri is being used as a pawn by the “right to die” lobby. Look how this entire issue has been marketed. The “grieving husband” says she wants it this way. It’s a real tear jerker and now, “we” have been conditioned to believe it’s ok to grant a “right to die.” Ok, so if someone wants to commit suicide, will people be obligated to help them, since it’s their wish? I don’t know, I bet that’s not going to fly, so therefore we’ll be caught, trying not to have our heads explode when faced with this issue. It’s tough enough with medical professionals leaving the field due to insanely high malpractice insurance, due to the lawyers pushing people to sue, and us taking up the litigious life style as an alternate to the lottery. What happens when doctors are faced with having to try and keep insurance, when families of the departed show up on their doorstep for “pain and suffering?” We’ll have to get legislatures to pass laws, exempting them from killing. Oh, wait, we already have those under Roe vs. Wade. We’ll still have to modify them, as people who can speak will probably need a piece of paper to declare their intention to want to die, so they can hold it up to the judge and get their “get out of jail free” card. That, in a nutshell is my concern. Along the way, the issues of judicial authority, the protection of citizens from harm as a function of government, the legitimate authority of family members in life decisions, but, the “tap root” of the topic comes right down to just what moral lines will we draw? I’ve long known that setting a precedent is a dangerous thing. Before you make any serious decision, it’s worth the effort to come up with “scenarios” to test the effect. Specifically, you need to dream up circumstances for the most unlikely occasions of the situations, and then, if the application of the ruling/law/regulation works well, then you probably have a good ruling/law/regulation. If it seems completely out of whack in these circumstances, then you need to review the wording and recalibrate it accordingly. I think this ruling from Judge Greer has a very narrow application, but now that it will be available for “general use,” the floodgates will open and it’s going to get ugly. Will you be person enough to then admit this was a bad thing, and stand up to reverse the ruling, or will you hide your shame and let it just keep happening, praying it will never darken your doorstep? “We” usually pick the second set of conditions. Imaging yourself, screaming silently, comprehending everything and knowing they are doing everything they can do to kill you. 3/20/2005 additions: To weave this discussion into a more complex picture, just look at how “good intentions” are taking us down a very interesting path: Animal rights take precedent over that of people (rationale: As above, we can’t starve our dogs and cats, with being charged with a crime, but we can starve Terri Shavaio). If you need a second source to confirm my “projection,” take a look at the PETA crowd, it’s clear all the evil visited upon the animal kingdom is the result of the human population of the earth. People are the cause of all the pollution (no where near true, but it keeps the environmentalists in grant money), and the end game of that argument would be to get rid of people (read: culture of death, or not just a right to die, but a demand that you die philosophy). The Pro-Choice (read: you must choose to abort your child, or you are not exercising your choice) crowd wants you to kill off the coming generations. Hmmm…seems to me that’s the ultimate in population control yet just one step taken farther, “executes” the strategy of the radical environmentalists. These groups should form an alliance. The “gay marriage” agenda crowd is either a front for the human cloning industry, and alternative path of attack to the medical community wanting to grow “spare parts” in the form of cloned people. If not, the end game to this philosophical world view is to attrite humanity to nothingness, as the issue of procreation is out of the question in those marriages. Once more, a viable tactic in ridding the Earth of the most devious, invasive, evil that ever evolved. The smart thing is this is all being carried out with multiple angles of attack, and an entire campaign in the press to have us accept the de-population of the planet. Euthanasia: George Felos has been supporting this movement for years. If he can get this seeming small, but in actuality, landmark case through the court system, and then have Michael Shavaio, under a cloak of privacy, destroy the evidence, he’ll be another proponent of clearing the planet of human life. Sound like this is too far out? Think about the consequences of the end game of those agendas. Can you disagree that they object to humans? Which of them strikes a balance in life? None of them in my eyes. In summarizing, I chose to err on the side of life. I think “death by family” is a dangerous precedent to establish. If people think that Congress, the Florida Legislature, DCF and, by implication, Governor Bush and President Bush, is onerous, what will they say when someone shows up in court to pull their plug at the first sign of financial discomfort? How about if the family just thinks having the emotional burden of a handicapped person around the house, that no longer can exercise the ability to communicate in ways sure as speech or writing, is just too much to bear? What if the cost of modifications to the home to support a disabled person is too much? These conditions can be responsibly extended in this case of this argument. I would hope to have public officials on my side, if I was in this state. If I elect to put in my Living Will that I don’t want to have “extraordinary and/or invasive” procedures to maintain my life, then that is my choice, and my wishes will not be a question, but a known fact. I submit we have become short sighted, interested only in the “now” of the moment, and disrespectful of the long term consequences of our choices. The only impact of concern is that of what it is to “me” and not of how it affects anyone around. I say “choose life.” Now retuning to your in progress ranting: You know what’s interesting? The “breaking news” about 20 minutes ago said the man who was the “person of interest” in the Jessica Lunsford kidnapping case just confessed to killing her. The outpouring of grief for her will be tremendous, as it should be, and sadly, it will be forever linked to the same date in history, in the same state, and only a few counties apart, where the law will direct a human to die.

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