Terri Schiavo And False Campaign Rhetoric
By Daniel Downs
As presidential campaign rhetoric spews across America’s airwaves, liberals of all stripes and special interests fault Republican’s for their zealous efforts to defend Terri Schiavo’s right to life. Even the prestigious financial publication, The Economist, got in on the act recently. The liberal spiel is that the federal government had no legal right to interfere with a state judicial matter. More important to Michael Schiavo and supporters is the view that family not government should decide such medical matters.
What is missing in liberal rhetoric is the interest of Terri Schiavo. In her Slate article Not Dead at All, Harriet McBryde Johnson, a disability-rights lawyer, argued that Congress did have a right to defend Terri. Because she was neither terminally ill nor was the Florida court deciding on an end-of-life decision making issue, congressional legislation giving the federal court the last word was proper procedural law. Johnson wrote that Terri had “a federal constitutional right not to be deprived of her life without due process of law.” She also had “a statutory right under the Americans with Disabilities Act not to be treated differently because of her disability.” Because “killing is not ordinarily considered a private family concern or a matter of choice,” it was appropriate for Congress to give federal courts jurisdiction to make sure state courts respected her federally protected rights.
Congress also acknowledged the right of the Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, to challenge the decisions of the state court to end her life. Her parents did not stop being such after she got married. They demonstrated to the world the deep and abiding love of normal parents. What liberals fail to mention is that Congressional Republicans acted on an appeal from her parents. The appeal was based on evidence from qualified medical experts that contradicted assessments made by pro-euthanasia physicians about her condition. As stated above, Congress created a procedure giving the federal court review authority to guarantee Terri’s Constitution rights were not being violated. This read the neurological exams as well as court hearing transcripts. It was apparent that a great travesty of justice resulted when the Supreme Court refused to review the case and when a federal court upheld the state court’s decision to deny Terri food by any means. Judge Greer ordering Terri’s death was an unpardonable injustice perpetrated both by his disregard of evidence proving she was not in a vegetative state of any kind and his refusal to order proposed medial treatment that would have enabled Terri to communicate her own will about whether to she actually wanted to live or die. As her tombstone makes clear, her husband Michael considered her disabled state the same as death. The date of death chosen by her husband was 1990 when her disability occurred and not when she was starved to death in 2005.
The charged of judicial murder made by Nat Hentoff and many others was not inappropriate but true.
Johnson also refutes current accusations by liberals and Democrats implying that Republicans were solely responsible for attempting to protect Terri’s constitutional rights. She mentioned Democrat Senator Tom Harkins’ outspoken support for the presumed unconstitutional federal remedy, but 46 other Democrats also supported the legislation.
Contrary to Johnson, Terri Schiavo was a victim of America’s culture war. Terri represents the many unknown victims of the clash of American civilizations. Directly or indirectly, all Americans have been drawn into this war between left and right, liberals and conservatives, secular humanists and Christian fundamentalists, globalists and nationalists, socialists and capitalists, humanists and traditionalists, Democrats and Republicans. Some even describe this clash of American civilizations as a cultural war between new barbarians of the liberal left and the often less than lion-hearted traditionalist right.
However described, the culture war began in the late 19th century between liberals who intended to strip Americas of all its public religious heritage and Christians who sought to preserve it…It was in midst of that diffuse social struggle that [U.S. Supreme Court] Justice David Brewer adjudicated an official definition of our nation. He said, “America is a Christian Nation.”
Justice Brewer’s pronouncement is important because most of the social issues over which members of America’s two civilizations clash have been settled by the federal courts. Instead of public debate leading to public law created by Congress, public opposition to liberal agendas has led to judicial activism and lawmaking. Post Civil War reconstruction led to civil rights legislations ending slavery and eventually to the enforcement of equality for both blacks and women. However, civil rights became a tool of liberal extra-legislative lawmaking benefiting their ideological agenda, which has included special rights for sexual promiscuity, sexual equality of gays, and killing the unborn. The murder of Terri Schiavo represents new efforts by the left to establish the right of doctors to kill those considered less than fully human. As Johnson pointed out, Terri Schiavo was not a terminally ill patient. The court did not decide on an end-of-life issue; it decided whether her husband and his physicians had the right to end her life and probably against her will.
Could this case have motivated most medical schools to reinstate the Hippocratic Oath? According to a study by Robert D. Orr and Norman Pang, only 26% of medical colleges required graduates to take some form of the oath in 1926. By 1993, 98% made taking the oath a graduation requirement. Today, only 14% of graduating doctors still pledge not to perform euthanasia and only 8% abortion. American Medical Association (AMA), the organization responsible for licensing doctors, does not adhere to any version of the Hippocratic Oath. The AMA has a written code of ethics, which neither mentions the high value of life nor prohibits euthanasia. Instead of an oath, the code of ethics requires adherence to the law. Under Roe v Wade, abortion is ethical. Euthanasia is still prohibited in most states. Consequently, it is an unethical practice for physicians in those states.
The hodge-podge of medical ethics and ethics standards requires citizen participation to create legal and ethical standards reflecting the unalienable right to life. In order to prevent judicial murder of another disabled or helpless person like Terri Schiavo, Americans who value the constitutional right to life, must engage in the conflict to change medical ethics and public legislation.
Moreover, false rhetoric of liberal pundits, politicians, and their supporters must not be allowed to demean those who defend life or who pursue justice by appropriate means. The news media aided the judicial injustice when it failed to expose it. Instead, the media supported the views of the practitioners of injustice. Failing to combat such rhetoric of injustice effectively allows the value of life, the right to life, the Constitution that guarantees it to continue to diminish. It is especially reprehensible when the type of demeaning rhetoric is employed for monetary or political gain – From the “American Chronicle” Web site.