'Judicial Murder' and Terri Schiavo; the American Way of Euthanasia

Article excerpt

Byline: Nat Hentoff, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

While editorials across the nation agreed in chorus that at last, Terri Schiavo will rest in peace, the autopsy report declined such certainty:"It is the policy of this office that no case is ever closed and that all determinations are to be reconsidered upon receipt of credible, new information." Even if no new information surfaces, how Terri Schiavo was put to death is causing many Americans to confront their own death.

Pat Anderson, for a long time the attorney for Terri Schiavo's parents, said the day Terri died of dehydration as ordered by the courts and her husband: "Euthanasia in America now has a name and a face." Dr. Jon Thogmartin's autopsy report made clear that Terri Schiavo was not dying, let alone terminal. As Dr. Carl D'Angio wrote in a June 21 letter in the New York Times: "Her family loved what was left of her and asked only to be permitted to care for her at their own expense. My question is, who or what was better served by her passive execution by water deprivation than by the first alternative?"

Responding to the autopsy report, Terri's parents said: "Terri's case was NOT an end-of-life case. Terri's case was about ending a disabled person's life. Terri was brain-injured. This does NOT mean that she was brain-dead." Her parents also noted that "according to the medical examiner, Terri was given morphine for pain as she died ... If Terri could feel no pain, as some would say, why would these drugs be necessary? In our opinion, the treating health care officials understood that Terri felt pain."

There was a service when Michael Schiavo, her husband, buried her cremated remains on June 20 in Clearwater, Fla., where he lives. However, Terri's parents were not there and he did not tell them. That tells me something about Michael Schiavo.

Also, on a bronze grave marker he had taken pains to order, he wrote: "I kept my promise." Concurring, a headline in the June 16 New York Post exclaimed: "Terri had no hope, autopsy supports her husband." With few exceptions, this was also the opinion of many editorial writers and columnists around the country. Another consensus in the media was that her rights had been, indeed laboriously, upheld by the courts, up to and including the Supreme Court.

But the true core of this case, resulting in the extraction of her life, was the decision by Circuit Judge George Greer in Florida that Michael Schiavo had kept his promise by adhering to what he claims Terri told him, before her brain injury, that she would not want to live if she were kept artificially alive. …