Saturday, March 19, 2005

THOUGHTS ON TERRI SCHIAVO. The urge to weigh in on this tragedy has overcome my better judgment. My knowledge of the legal issues is superficial at best. I have not followed this story obsessively over the past several years. Still, this is such a human dilemma that it's almost impossible not to form an opinion - and, once that opinion is formed, it's almost impossible not to express it.

So let me at least try to restrict myself to facts that are obviously true, or that seem obviously true to me.

1. Terri Schiavo has a right to die in her current condition. Her husband, Michael, claims she told him that she would want to die if she were permanently incapacitated. The legal system has determined that Michael Schiavo is telling the truth. Thus her parents have no legal claim to act on her behalf. But ...

2. Terri Schiavo is not in a persistent vegetative state. The videos that are online at are absolutely convincing that she is semi-aware, semi-responsive, and able to understand people in some dim way. Claims to the contrary - as in this New York Times story - are so clearly untrue that they have poisoned the debate. Yes, I am choosing to believe my own lying eyes over the testimony of numerous medical experts. If that makes me naive, so be it. Therefore ...

3. Terri Schiavo has a right to change her mind and choose to live. She does not appear to be in pain. She appears to enjoy, at some level, her parents' visits. The question is, is she capable of changing her mind? Again, from today's Times:

Yet Barbara Weller, a lawyer for the Schindlers, told reporters outside the hospice that Ms. Schiavo had responded emphatically Friday morning when Ms. Weller asked her to say, "I want to live." According to Ms. Weller, Ms. Schiavo's eyes "just popped right open" and she made loud noises, startling a police officer stationed outside her room, and then wept.

Under such circumstances, it is inconceivable to me why Judge George Greer wouldn't get off his rear end, drive down the hospice, and ask her himself. Or am I missing something?

TRUTH AND BLOGGING. Some observations on the Project for Excellence in Journalism's report.


Anonymous said...

Schiavo has repeatedly been legally declared to be in a "vegetative state" in court decision after court decision handed down after each side gave their evidence. How novel that you wouldn't take any of them into account before declaring she's not in that state, instead basing your opinion on the misleading graphics of a biased website. Schiavo isn't "happy": she's dead. Brain dead is medically dead, and Schiavo has lost much if not most of her cerebral cortex (which is now filled with spinal fluid). That's why doctors have testified over and over again to remove the tube.

If you are affiliated with an anti-choice groups or ones that typically push an anti-choice agenda you should say so, instead of offering poorly researched opinions like this one. Oh by the way, if you want to check out a timeline of this case, and just how many times Schiavo has been legally found to be in a persistent vegetative state go to

Anonymous said...

The previous responder is exactly right. Dan, as a reporter and commentator who makes his living holding other reporter's metaphorical feet to the fire, you should know better.

I have almost never had a real, visceral reaction to a news story, but the actions of Congress on Friday, and particularly the bleatings of that sanctimonious lying bastard DeLay, made me physically sick. That you, usually a voice for fact and reason, would adopt their "facts" without checking the whole story is astounding and dissapointing.

The poor woman has been dead for fifteen years. She will never be any better. The doctors who "revived" her should also be ashamed. Let her go.

Anonymous said...

The fact that a bunch of so-called "right-to-life" buttinski bozos in the congress all clap in unison like penguins bowing to the wishes [not to mention the $$$ fishes] of their religious nutsack whack-job contributors is quite humorous; especially considering all of the proposed budget cuts in both medical care and housing for poor folks these right-wingers make in the backrooms of congress that will actually kill far more people than this poor unfortunate woman.

To me the saddest part of this entire case is that the most important point of this current debate is the missing element: i.e. the importance of getting your final wishes down on paper [in writing] by composing a Living Will.

My dad died of pancreatic cancer in the early 1990's and although he made it clear [orally only, unfortunately] that he wanted to die with dignity - not hooked up to tubes unconscious - there was absolutely nothing in writing.

Because he had no written living will beforehand [and was unconscious by the time anyone thought to fill one out] – he lingered seemingly endlessly for about 6 months in the hospital.

The toll on my mother was awful trying to convince the insurance-hungry doctors that his wish was not to linger on so – with absolutely no hope of recovery at all and only leaving an unnecessary legacy of leaving my mother in tears day and night before he finally succumbed "naturally."

I would strongly urge anyone reading this to consider visiting such websites as the one which is entitled "Welcome to the US Living Will Registry" at and look it over carefully in order to take a look-see at how to get your final wishes in order and how to go about composing a Living Will.

If you do not like that particular site; simply type the words "Living Will" in any search engine and get the process moving forward. Do NOT let what happened to the family in Dan's story [or in my family] happen to you!

Anonymous said...

Our eyes deceive us, or the earth is flat. It's time to encourage public officials and the media to start using their brains, as in honor medical opinion and trust the legal system.

Let's suggest that those who want to maintain Schiavo's bodily functions commit themselves and their loved ones to the same thing. Challenge the advocates of a "right to enduring undeath" to draw up a legal document prohibiting anyone from "pulling the plug" on them no matter what state of vegetative unconsciousness they might be in in the future. Make them "live' by these values themselves to prove this is not just a political charade to gain points for "right to life."

Anonymous said...


The comments above are precisely what is wrong with liberalism today. Who is more sympathetic - Schiavo's husband, who has taken up with another woman and produced two children while squandering 2/3 of the money received in the medical settlement - or her parents, who would do anything in the world to keep their daughter breathing? You are a parent (who has written a book about your love for your daughter and the struggles she has faced) and your post, I believe, is representative of the kind of empathetic and sensitive response to this tragedy that Liberals (like myself) need more of if we are serious about gaining votes with parents who vote. No parent can be following this without a very real and sickening feeling.
-S. Grant

Anonymous said...

If she is dead, as several commenters here insist, why is it so important to stop feeding her? let's keep "going Dutch" to dating.

Anonymous said...

Re: "Who is more sympathetic - Schiavo's husband, who has taken up with another woman and produced two children while squandering 2/3 of the money received in the medical settlement - or her parents, who would do anything in the world to keep their daughter breathing?"

You have a valid point there "Liberal-Anonymous!" (and I don't mean the one on top of your head, either!

I gotta admit, this husband really makes Ted Williams Jr. look like Mother Theresa or something in comparison. Perhaps if House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas doesn't succeed in getting the subpoena for "The Veg Lady" to testify; he can get Ted Williams Sr. frozen head to appear to testify in the ongoing case here...

It would certainly - at the very least - be far more revealing than the MLB players testimony in the Steroid Hearings. (g)

Anonymous said...

Oh Dan--I didn't think you were a knee-jerk kind of guy. Or so easily manipulated by carefully selected by videos. Majikthise has done some of your research for you.

Dan Kennedy said...

Most of Majikthise's post is devoted to debunking conspiracy theories that I have not endorsed. Part of it deals with the medical issues. We're back in the same endless circle: she relies on medical opinion, I'm somewhat more skeptical.