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Friday, March 18, 2005

Congress intervenes in Shiavo case


Members of Congress on Friday stepped up their efforts to keep a severely brain-damaged Florida woman alive, as a deadline neared to have the woman's feeding tube removed. Terri Schiavo was scheduled to have her feeding tube removed at 1 p.m. ET today, under court order. ... A House committee subpoenaed the brain-damaged woman to appear before Congress next week, and Schiavo's family was "hopeful" the brain-damaged woman would make that appearance in Washington, an attorney for her parents said Friday. Meanwhile, a Senate committee issued an invitation for Terri Schiavo and her husband to testify on Capitol Hill. U.S. marshals were expected to serve the House Committee on Government Reform subpoenas at The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast on Friday, attorney David Gibbs said.
Regardless of the merits of this case, I think this tactic is wrong. Congress isn't trying to learn anything or make any law relating to this case, they are simply abusing their subpoena power as a means of by passing the legal system. That is wrong, and it should not be applauded even if you favor the effect that it will have. There is a lot of disinformation and confusion about Terry Schiavo's case. I am certainly not competant to sift through conflicting medical testimony, although the side that says she is 'brain dead' seems a bit more reliable to me. What is more troubling to me is the endless speculation on the motives of those involved. Most of these speculations seems to be grasping at straws as a way of making those who disagree with one side or the other not only wrong, but evil and filled with ulterior motives. I hear that those who want to keep Schiavo alive want her to suffer to are trying to condemn her to a state of endless pain. The invective is even stronger against Michael Schivo who obviously (according to some) doesn't love his wife and just wants her dead so he can get on with his life and collect all that insurance money. I believe quite strongly that both sides in this are trying to do what they feel is best for Terry Schiavo. Absent compelling evidence of this, not mere speculation, I will continue to believe that. This is such a fundamental issue on the nature of life and what is moral that it is pretty much impossible to get any clear, unbiased opinions on the matter, and that most definitely includes opinions from Doctors. I am biased in on this issue as well. Several years ago my youngest brother developed a swift cancerous growth in his throat that swelled up and cut off his breathing. By the time the paramedics arrived he had been without air for 8 minutes or so. He was flown to a local hospital here in Spokane and his condition was stabilized with the aid of extaordinary life saving measures. The next morning, after we were sure he was brain dead, my parents had him taken off of life support and a few minutes later he died. I was there most of that night from when I found out what had happened until after he was dead. Early on he was moving somewhat and his eyes would flutter open, later he was completely comatose. I don't know when he 'died' but I do know he was never going to get better. He was never going to be again. Obviously there are differences between my brother's case and Schiavo's. She is certainly closer to the line than he was. I can look at her case though and feel a certain sympathy. If the paramedics had arrived perhaps a minute sooner my family would have had to face the far more agonizing choice that Michael Schivo had to make. From a purely selfish point of view, I am glad I was able to have closure on this issue. To know that he was dead and not a vegetable forever. Yes, this has made it easier for me and my family to get on with our lives. I also strongly believe that this was best for my brother as well, it allowed him to get on with his existence, whatever that may be. There are many people who believe that even removing someone from extraordinarly life saving machines is wrong, that as long as the body can be compelled by science to maintain a semblance of life we are morally obligated to continue those measures. I respect their right to believe that. I accept their condemnation of my parents choice (which I agreed with) as morally wrong. They can make their own moral judgments. What I cannot accept though, is anyone who condemns my families decision as being based upon our own selfish desires. (update: if anyone wishes to comment more generally on the Schiavo case I have another post about that here. This blog post is obviously very personal, but don't fear offending me because we disagree.


Blogger jaymarie said...

I am sorry that you lost your brother, and thank you for sharing about it in such a sincere way.

I think the differences you mentioned between your brother's life and Terri's life are really key in this whole situation. They are where the line is drawn. I don't wish for anyone to become a "victim of technology" (as, it sounds, your brother would have been under different circumstances), but it appears to me that Teri is hardly that, but more a "victim of no voice". What are we to our fellow man if we can not support those who haven't a voice? I know it has all been said before, and I don't want to pontificate...

Just know that I think your story stands alone, and I think many people who are taking a stand on Terri's life would be absolutely supportive of the choices your family made.

Peace - Jaymarie

3/18/2005 12:32:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

I certainly agree that the situations are different, and that many who oppose Schiavo's death would agree with my family's decision.

However, there are some who would disagree. And there judgements would be as harsh against my family as many who judge Michael Schiave to be wrong are about him.

The fact that the Schiavo case is harder, and there are more who support her life doesn't change that.

3/18/2005 12:39:00 PM  
Blogger jaymarie said...

I can only imagine that your family has experienced that kind of judgement, and in that case my opinions (not, obviously, my convictions) would bend to your experience.

fyi - I saw your blog a few days ago and have spent some time appreciating your thoughts...


3/18/2005 01:42:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...

No one has ever personally condemned me or my family for this decision.

Certainly those who would are far outside the mainstream. Our decsion was much more clear cut as I have said.

Thanks for your kinda words about the blog. I appreciate every reader and certainly enjoy every commenter, even (perhaps especially) those who disagree with me.

3/18/2005 01:48:00 PM  
Blogger Frances said...

I appreciate your posting such a personal story and what you all had to endure and then recover from.

I wonder if you've read the story of Kate Adamson who recovered from a long term vegetative state and is now living a normal life of wife and mother. The story is here (LifeSiteNews.com). I respectfully submit this only to show that I am one of those who support saving Terri as I think she could really be rehabilitated to a great degree. I have a cousin who was a vegetable after being run over, and my aunt chose to save him. It took years but now he reads, swims, enjoys telling jokes, crosswords, etc. tho' he lives in a wheelchair part time. He's whole. He was far far worse than Terri and he is whole today. I opine that we ought to let these silent victims have a chance. That is all.


3/18/2005 02:07:00 PM  
Blogger MacBoar said...


Thank you for sharing what you and your family experienced. All too often families are forced to make these tough decisions with modern medicine. It helps when others realize they are not alone when tough decisions arise.

Thank you.

3/18/2005 08:22:00 PM  
Blogger Dave Justus said...


Thanks for the kind words.

I have read her story. It is a compelling one. However, her case is very exceptional and I don't know how relevant it is to the question at hand. Basically, it boils down to if a person can choose what steps they want to have taken on their behalf and who, if anyone, is responsible for conveying their wishes (as best as they are understood) when the person is incommunicado.


Thanks for the kind words. We all have tough things to deal with in life. Our decision was not really that tough (although the loss of my brother was) but it highlights to me how easy it could have been a very tough thing indeed.

3/21/2005 11:20:00 AM  
Blogger Mystic Knight said...


I'm truly sorry for the loss of your brother. Reading your post has made me think of my three daughters and how I would hate to have to make that decision for them, or lose them. I know I would make the same decision that your family did in that case.

As I'm sure you no doubt have read elsewhere, Terri does not require extraordinary medical support, yet her husband has forbidden anyone form providing her with any assistance. She can swallow on her own and is in the same condition as many handicapped people that are being cared for today. At what point do we make the decision to kill someone who is handicapped? At what level do they become to much of a bother to sustain?

I have stated this in another blog, but think it's something everyone needs to think about. In baseball the tie goes to the runner. Shouldn't we give the same consideration to someone's life? If the husband wants her dead, but her parents are willing to provide the needed care for her, should we not err on the side of life?

3/21/2005 05:18:00 PM  

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