Friday, March 18, 2005

TORTURING TERRI. In one hour, Terri Schiavo’s husband will pull the feeding tube from her helpless body and begin the process of starving and dehydrating is wife to death. It will probably take her almost two weeks to die. She went without food or water once before for five days and was still alive.

Mr. Schiavo will kill his wife while her parents and millions of horrified Americans look on helplessly. Her parents are willing to care for her. She has money in trust for her care. She has been alive for 15 years with this condition.

Mr. Schiavo can kill his wife because a Florida judge ordered it. The judge has never been to Terri’s room or seen her in person. He has kept her a prisoner in her hospital room, ordering that no one can take her to the mall, or to a party, or just out in the Florida sunshine. He denied a request by the Department of Families and Children to delay the removal to investigate allegations that Schiavo has been abused.

Terri also gets no therapy because Mr. Schiavo prevents it. Her only problem to survival is that she cannot swallow. However, she manages her own saliva, so can be taught to swallow food.

Although court appointed doctors have said Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who is a physician, has disagreed with that diagnosis after viewing videos of Terri.

There are some lawmakers who are sympathetic, but have had no success passing laws to keep Terri alive. The Florida senate previously passed a bill, but the courts struck it down. Now they cannot muster the votes. They voted 21 to 16 to reject a bill that would have prevented the removal of feeding tubes from patients whose families disagreed on whether to continue the feeding.

You have the sense they would like to see her die and go away so they can think about something else. Florida state senator Rod Smith, a Democrat, said "the last vote was a fairly emphatic statement that the Senate does not wish to go further."

The U.S. House approved legislation late Wednesday night to move the case into the federal court system. The Senate passed similar, but different, legislation yesterday, but the House adjourned before the bills were reconciled. Congress is supposed to be in recess beginning today. The recess is for 17 days. That is longer than Terri probably has.

The reality is that Terri will be tortured to death. This point was ably made by Andrew McCarthy, who led the Terrorism prosecution of Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman. In contrast to Terri, Mohammed Daoud al-`Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed, who bombed American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing over 240 people, were given highly experienced lawyers, audiences with the Justice Department (Terri’s judge has not ever seen her in person), a jury, and seven months of trial and sentencing proceedings. All that time they were fed, housed, and provided health care at tax payer expense. They were not tortured. Ultimately, they were allowed to live.

Terri did not kill anyone. She suffered a disability. She got in the way of her husband’s life with a new woman.

What the courts, and our society by extension, are saying is that the lives of these murderous terrorists, with 240 deaths on their heads, are more valuable than one disabled woman. We will spend millions of dollars keeping these killers alive. We will not even let Terri live when others will pay for her care and assume responsibility for it.

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