Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How the Law Has Failed Terri Schiavo

In a 2-1 ruling issued this morning, the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals denied requests by Terri Schiavo's family to have her feeding tube reinserted thus allowing the state-sanctioned murder of Ms. Schiavo to continue. Her parents have filed an appeal with the U. S. Supreme Court. Although the Court has previously refused to get involved in this case there is no way to tell what they will do with this appeal since they have heard only a couple of similar cases in the past.

As Charles Krauthammer points out this morning, the law is failing Terri Schiavo. Because her wishes were not documented in a living will or other advance medical directive, the courts have had to rely on the conflicting accounts of her parents and her husband as to what her final wishes might be. Regardless of the outcome of the Schindlers appeals on behalf of the daughter, lawmakers are going to have to wrestle with this issue in order to prevent further cases like this being decided by the courts.

Although I generally don't favor the federal government getting involved in decisions such as this one, I believe that for the good of the country a federal law regarding living wills and life and death decisions will be necessary. One good approach would be that in the absence of a written living will that has been properly signed by the individual, witnessed and notarized, that doctors and medical facilities must take all steps necessary to preserve life.

I don't believe that this debate will end with Terri Schiavo. Although it has been heartbreaking to watch her suffer needlessly at the hands of her estranged husband and judges who do not want to stand up for life, I believe that her case will bring this important debate to the attention of all Americans and will present our elected representatives with the opportunity to do the right thing and prevent this type of travesty from occurring again.

UPDATE 12:56 PM EST: The Schindlers have filed a request for a rehearing en banc before the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals which means that they are asking the entire 12 judge panel to review the case. If a majority of the judges rule in favor of Terri Schiavo her feeding tube can be reinserted. The original opinion can be found at this link (PDF format).

Meanwhile, a friend of mine e-mailed me this post from Sharp Knife with some thoughts on the hypocrisy surrounding this case. Rich Lowry also has some thoughts on that issue.

And Michelle Malkin does an excellent job of exposing the mainstream media's bias in their coverage of the case.

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