Mea Culpa? For What?

In the wake of the autopsy findings for Terry Schiavo and a related post from Sam Karnick, my esteemed friend Tlaloc argues that “One can only hope that the people who spewed venom at Michael Schiavo and Judge Greer will say a few mea culpas and not rush to judgement next time.”

Really? Mea culpas for precisely what? Ms. Schiavo was not dying; she was severely disabled, and nothing in the autopsy report changes that. Her wishes were, at best, ambiguous, and—I am happy to say it again—Judge Greer was a moron for ascribing finality to Mr. Schiavo’s assertions about her wishes given his obvious conflicts of interest and inconsistent position over time. If Tlaloc believes that Mr. Schiavo knew the future findings of the autopsy, let him say that explicitly.

Serious policy issues attend upon this case and similar ones, and the Schiavo autopsy resolves none of them. Do we really want to be in the business of starving/dehydrating the severely (and let us assume, irretrievably) disabled? Precisely how disabled must one be to be judged unworthy of food and water through a feeding tube? Who should pay for such care? The Schiavo case actually was relatively easy along this continuum of agonizing choices: Ms. Schiavo’s wishes were highly ambiguous, her parents were willing to bear those costs, her husband was obviously compromised in terms of the credibility of his opinions with respect to what was best for his wife, and the federal courts— usually the last refuge of those contemptuous of life—simply ignored Congress’ clear direction that a de novo review be conducted of Ms. Schiavo’s federal rights. And so: There will be no mea culpas issued from this corner.

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8 thoughts on “Mea Culpa? For What?

  1. “Really? Mea culpas for precisely what?”

    There were a surprisingly large number of p[eople who took leave of their senses and decided to castigate and repeat rumors and innuendo about the two of them. People were calling Michael Schiavo everything from polygamist to wife beater to murderer. All because they desperately needed to believe that this was an apocalyptic battle between the “culture of life” and the “culture of death.”

    They should be ashamed of themselves. Of course having perused a few of the more vitriolic sites I find instead they have decided that it’s now appropriate to attack the medical examiner as well.

    I’ll answer your specific claims in the next one.

  2. “Her wishes were, at best, ambiguous,”

    They were unambiguous enough for the court, and the many subsequent courts that heard appeals.

    “If Tlaloc believes that Mr. Schiavo knew the future findings of the autopsy, let him say that explicitly.”

    Anyone who read the reports of the doctors from the court case knew what the autopsy result would be. The “other side” relied entirely on innuendo, edited video that showed what they wanted to show, and base emotional appeals. Oh yes and the medical opinions of internet “doctors” who never saw the patient. All of the evidence was consistent, assuming one knows how to parse evidence from internet rumormongering.

    “Serious policy issues attend upon this case and similar ones, and the Schiavo autopsy resolves none of them.”

    It resolves decidedly all the issues that right to lifers used to cloud the subject. It was claimed he beat her. It was claimed he poisoned her. It was claimed he strangled her. None of these claims came from the death with dignity people now did they?

    “Do we really want to be in the business of starving/dehydrating the severely (and let us assume, irretrievably) disabled?”

    No but since that’s not what happened it’s a moot point. We most certainly do want to allow people to end their own lives when they no longer wish to live. That’s the issue.

    “Precisely how disabled must one be to be judged unworthy of food and water through a feeding tube?”

    Strawman. Terri Schiavo didn’t want to live as a vegetable. That’s her choice.

    “Ms. Schiavo’s wishes were highly ambiguous,”

    No they weren’t. Not legally.

    “her parents were willing to bear those costs,”

    Irrelevent since she didn’t want to live that way.

    “her husband was obviously compromised in terms of the credibility of his opinions with respect to what was best for his wife”

    No more so than the parents. Both obviously had conflicts of interest. Yet he was willing to step aside and ask the courts to determine what she wanted done.

    “and the federal courts— usually the last refuge of those contemptuous of life—simply ignored Congress’ clear direction that a de novo review be conducted of Ms. Schiavo’s federal rights.”

    Congress drastically overstepped their bounds and the courts shut them down. That’s a good thing, not bad. For congress to make laws that are retroactive, violate federalism, and apply to only one case is abhorrent to our system of government. They were idiots and the courts fortunately decided not to get bullied on the matter.

    “There will be no mea culpas issued from this corner.”

    Just to be clear you may or may not be one of the people I was speaking to in my statement. It depends on how much vitriol you decided to heap on Schiavo and Greer without merit.

  3. Tlaloc,

    Michael Schiavo wasn’t technically a polygamist, but he is in my book when one considers “the spirit of the law.” How can he remain “married” to Terri while he’s living with another woman for several years?

    Had he had one ounce of honor in this situation, he would have done one of two things:

    A) Divorced Terri and gone his own way.

    B) Stayed with Terri and not become intimate with another woman while she still lived.

    Feel free to pervert my above logic anyway you want, Tlaloc.

  4. Let’s not fall into the trap of being the anti-Tlaloc brigade and speak in rational tones to reasonable people.

    Everything Dr. Zycher says is correct. I strongly recommend that everyone read Joan Didion’s synopsis of the case in the current edition of New York Review Of Books.

    Ms. Didion’s liberal credentials are not in doubt but she lays the situation out very honestly indeed.

    It can be found at
    http://www.nybooks.com/articles/18050

  5. Michael Schiavo wasn’t technically a polygamist, but he is in my book when one considers “the spirit of the law.” How can he remain “married” to Terri while he’s living with another woman for several years?

    Had he had one ounce of honor in this situation, he would have done one of two things:

    A) Divorced Terri and gone his own way.

    B) Stayed with Terri and not become intimate with another woman while she still lived.

    It’s kind of easy to cast stones when we’re not in that situation, isn’t it? I love my fiancee with all my heart, but who’s to say I wouldn’t find someone else to love eventually if disease or illness denied me her presence and love? From what I’ve read, my impression is that it was precisely Mr. Schiavo’s love for his wife that kept him married to her. He was convinced that his wife would not want to continue living in that state, because he felt she had made her wishes clear to him. He did not divorce her because he knew her parents would, in their love and grief, keep her in a persistent vegetative state, clinging to hope. He stayed married to her as a final act of love, to protect her choice. That, sir, is devotion.

    Absolutes are easy to toss around and significantly harder to live up to. I think Mr. Schiavo behaved admirably, given the impossible situation he found himself in. As a society, we cling to “intimacy” (that means S-E-X in conservospeak) as though his faithfulness to a woman who could not in anyway return his love or devotion is some sort of virtue. It is romantic to consider it, but not particularly cognizant of human nature. We want to love and feel love. It is no great fault for his love to change, to remain devoted but no longer the love of mates.

    I seem to recall reading about some long-haired hippie guy and his lessons about stone-throwing. I don’t think he was talking about stickball. While you’re clinging to absolutes, that’s a good lesson to remember.

  6. “A) Divorced Terri and gone his own way.”

    Which would have left her at the mercy of her parents. Since he apparently believed that she didn’t want to live that way staying with her until her wishes were carried out was rather noble.

    “B) Stayed with Terri and not become intimate with another woman while she still lived.”

    Her parents encouraged him to start dating, why aren’t you criticizing them?

    “Feel free to pervert my above logic anyway you want, Tlaloc.”

    thanks!

  7. Tlaloc,

    True, her parents did encourage him to start dating again. They also encouraged him to divorce her.

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