Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo

Congress today subpoenaed Terri Schiavo, a severely brain-damaged woman who has been the center of a struggle between her husband and her parents over whether her feeding tube should be removed. The subpoena is an effort to forestall the removal of her feeding tube, was removed today after litigation in the Florida state courts was exhausted.

This reason for the subpoena is understandable, but it will be the ultimate embarrassment for Ms. Schiavo if she actually appears before Congress in her vegetative state, even if the congressmen travel to her hospice as the lawyer for the House committee suggested. Whatever her wishes were regarding whether she would want the feeding tube to be removed, I am sure that one of the last things she would have wanted to do was testify before Congress in this manner. But of course none of this is really for her to testify, but only to buy more time for her before her feeding tube was removed.

(A word to non-lawyers: 99% of the cases we read in law school came about because people were stupid and didn't plan ahead; don't make the same mistake Ms. Schiavo did in not stipulating in extremely clear terms ahead of time what she would have wanted. Thinking ahead and trying to plan for the unexpected is a way to cut down dramatically on these hard cases.)

The whole thing is tragic, but it also further exposes the hypocrisy of partisan politics. Republicans have long championed federalism, but when state politics doesn’t come out the way they want it to, they want the federal government to intervene. The Florida state courts weren’t deciding the Schiavo case the way conservatives wanted, so conservatives wanted to pass a bill in Congress that would provide for federal courts to hear this and hopefully decide the issue differently. Yale Law School professor Jack Balkin gets it exactly right when he says that conservatives would seek a federal ban on abortion were Roe v. Wade overturned; all this talk of states’ rights is hogwash. And the same goes for Democrats. Normally in favor of the federal government, they have suddenly become fans of federalism, wanting the states to decide gay marriage and the legality of medical marijuana, for example. This hypocrisy is to be expected, but that Ms. Schiavo should be caught up in this partisan politics is tragic.


Blogger Ha ha hit him again said...

I would just like to add that the Democrats also disgraced themselves in this whole affair. They went along with a Senate bill that would applied only to the Schiavo case; clearly they have no idea how to respond to an issue like this, and that is why they are doomed to the political wilderness for quite some time!

3/18/2005 05:43:00 PM  

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