By this point, you’ve probably read about Terri Schiavo in Florida who is the object of unthinkable political abuse.
The law clearly supports someone’s right to withhold treatment (including forced feeding) from someone who has made their wishes clear. (One could debate if choosing to die by dehydration is more humane than a swift and drug-induced act of euthanasia, but that’s a topic for another day.) For this case in particular, there is certainly a lot of grey area. Terri Schiavo’s wishes were never expressed other than verbally to her husband. While that’s plausible, it’s not indisputable. There is enough money involved as well as a girlfriend (which after 13 years doesn’t seem so very bad either), to cause the husband’s motives to be suspicious. And of course the parents of the woman, who want her to live in this state of “alive but intellectually inert” in perpetuity. An ugly and unfortunate situation all around, and one which pretty much is the reason courts exist.
But this is where the “unthinkable” part comes in. The courts rule to allow the feeding tube to be removed. The executive and legislative branches of the Florida government sense the media frenzy and political opportunity this case provides and pass legislation after the fact which in effect overturns the court’s decision. The feeding tube is then reinserted in the woman.
I’m pretty sure I didn’t sleep through this part of American History class. The whole notion of the 3 separate branches of government is to keep this sort of thing from happening. I see little difference between this situation and a possible situation where the court acquits someone of a crime and then the legislature passes a law which allows him to be tried again on a different charge for the same crime. The latter is clearly unconstitutional. So why in this case is the legislature allowed to act after the fact to overrule the court?
The fact that this political quagmire involves the life/death of a human being is abhorrent in and of itself. But ignoring that for a moment, the precedent here is even more troubling in the long term. And while I’m tempted to cite Jeb Bush as the bad guy here and note that trampling on civil rights, personal freedoms, and espousing right wing Christian agendas seems to run in the Bush family, I can’t. The Florida legislature is the one who ultimately pushed this through. If they were somehow strong-armed by Jeb into acting, then Florida has more serious problems than are apparent. Either that, or Terri Schiavo should be running for State Senate as she is clearly their intellectual equal.