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Thursday, September 18, 2003

Kitty Genovese redux.

On October 15, 2003, the feast of St. Teresa of Avila, the State of Florida will begin the process of starving Theresa "Terri" Schiavo to death. Over three years ago, following a suit initiated by her husband, Michael Schiavo, Judge George Greer ruled that Terri was in a "persistent vegetative state" and that her feeding tubes could be removed. You see, her loving husband (till death do us part) argued that Terri had told him that she didn't want to be kept alive if she were a "vegetable." Of course, he only started arguing this after he scored over a million bucks in a lawsuit associated with her condition, but...

Others have been making comments about this case, and I suggest you check a few links, starting with Terri's Fight, Amy Welborn, Fr. Rob Johansen, The Mighty Barrister and Mark Sullivan. FWIW, here's a few additional thoughts of my own.

1. Re: her husband, Michael Schiavo. There's a popular saying: "If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." Here goes: Mr. Schiavo is probably biodegradable.

Then again, sacks of crap usually are. Welshing on a promise to use the lawsuit funds for rehabilitation of his wife, he currently lives with a phenomenally stupid woman by whom he's had a child and will doubtless drop both like hot rocks once they prove to be impediments to his lifestyle. Just like, well, Terri. Hope you're a light sleeper, girlfriend.

2. "Persistent Vegetative State."
I hate to resort to technical legal jargon, but nothing else will do: my ass. Watch her respond to various tests and the presence of people who actually regard her as something other than a grotesque inconvenience. Judge Greer found she was in a PVS largely because of the testimony of an "expert witness" who routinely testifies in favor of withholding medical treatment in these cases. You might think that this practice makes him some kind of prostitute, but you'd be wrong. He's an expert witness. There's a difference. It takes an electron microscope to see the difference (technical, not moral) but it's there.

Somehow, during his tour Dante missed the bulging Bolgia of Hell that holds this kind of expert witness. I know the type. It's the vocational rehab expert who claims there are lots of jobs available to the triple-amputee ditchdigger with a fourth grade education; the psychiatrist who testifies that the plaintiff who slipped on a banana peel at the large chain grocery store experiences post-traumatic stress disorder and goes catatonic upon being exposed to fresh produce. Oh, yes. It's entirely likely that the good doctor in the Schiavo case probably would have testified that he himself was in a persistent vegetative state if the money was right.

3. Michigan had a similar case eight years ago August: In re Michael Martin. It, too, was a lawsuit involving a dispute between a spouse and the victim's blood relatives as to the continued feeding of an injured man. However, the Michigan Supreme Court reached the opposite conclusion of the Florida jurists, making the obvious choice:

To end the life of a patient who still derives meaning and enjoyment from life or to condemn persons to lives from which they cry out for release is nothing short of barbaric. If we are to err, however, we must err in preserving life.

Michael Martin is still alive today. If the Florida courts persist in upholding this atrocity, they will be as complicit in her death as if the jurists had gathered together to murder her with their gavels. If the elected officials and people of Florida and elsewhere sit idly by, they will be as guilty the bystanders who watched Kitty Genovese attacked not once, not twice, but three times, but did nothing.

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