March 25, 2005
I write this with pen on Lisa Betta my TabletPC. It's easier than
you suppose, but Capital Letters creep in. Pardon My German.
I am at Kaiser for dermatology having heard Good Morning America give us
the wisdom of Kevorkian from his prison cell. We needed that: the
fascination with death continues. We have become a post-pagan Society. We
believe in luck and talismans and shamans but there is little left among the
chattering classes of what used to be the values of the Society.
Why Dr. Death? But of course he is to be Consulted, the man who told us
that if Christ had died in his van, it would have been with dignity. We
Needed that as a Good Friday message. And in fact perhaps we did Need the
reminder. If life is no more than The swirl of The atoms then no Swirl is
very important, and there is No great value in any one of us. Certainly Not
in a mere husk.
Several of you have asked why I seem to have it in for Schiavo's
husband. I do Not and I have considerably more sympathy with and for him
than it may Seem. But. He is not a disinterested party and there iS No
jurisdiction that would Not grant Terri a divorce if he asked for one in her
Name. He has another wife and two children and he evidently wants to
Legitimate that marriage. Why he has Not done so is Not Known to me, but that he has Terri's interest at the fore is Not obvious.
He may believe he has more obligation to his wife's wishes than to her
living parents. why? If she be dead then it hardly matters if the parents
feed the Corpse. If she be alive, she does not deserve execution by thirst.
The presumption seems to be that death has more rights than life.
Kevorkian was rightly Consulted, I guess. Who knows more about the joys of
I see thus Apple settled with the engineers who Leaked the OD to the
web, but the details were Not released. This is probably just as well, although I remain curious.
Back home, with a hole in my face that ought to heal soon enough. If you
are not using Sun Block, do so. Now. I will wait.
To reiterate the principles here:
1. The presumption is or should be that husbands do not have the right to
kill their wives by starvation, nor to hire others to do so, and that their
statement that the wife wanted to die is not sufficient to grant them
immunity from killing the wife or hiring others to do it.
2. Legislatures make law and are the usually presumptive agents for
expressing the will of the people and the consent of the governed. Judges
interpret law and apply it to cases, but they are not presumed to be supreme
3. Legislatures which make law may make exceptions to that law, and the
prohibition against ex post facto law and bills of attainder is intended to
prevent punishment, pains, and penalties: not to prohibit the legislature
from awarding prizes, or seeking to exempt someone from pains and penalties.
The legislature could retroactively abolish the death penalty, as an
4. There is neither a legal nor a moral compulsion to keep someone alive
using extraordinary means, and certainly not so when they have expressly and
unambiguously indicated wishes to the contrary.
5. It is an established and accepted maxim that no man should serve as
judge in his own cause: those with substantial interests in a case should
not judge that case.
Now for particulars:
Had she left an unambiguous documentary statement of her preferences in
these circumstances, Terri Schiavo would have been gone years ago. While
some dispute the "right to die", most do not, and the legislature would not
have acted in the face of unambiguous evidence. Moreover, were she comatose
the matter would be long over, and the legislature would not have acted.
The Legislature of Florida decided that the Governor could intervene in
Terri's behalf. The courts have ruled otherwise on principles not made clear
in their decision, other than an assertion of judicial sovereignty.
Mr. Schiavo has acquired a second wife and two children, and this would
be grounds for divorce in Florida.
The only evidence we have that Mrs. Terri Schiavo would not seek a
divorce is her failure to file one: but that decision is in the hands of an
The opinion polls say most Americans want Terri Schiavo to die and get it
over with. This has reduced the support she might have had from the
political entities of the nation.
It was considered appropriate by at least one major network to seek the
opinions of Kevorkian on this matter.
It is Good Friday.
None of this matters in one sense; but those who rejoice in the present
resolution of this matter may discover precedents to regret at a future
time. It is very easy to undermine the notion that life ought to prevail
over convenience, particularly when dealing with the burdensome helpless. It
is not so easy to restore it.
If the price of continuing the preference for life over death is that
those who have not made unambiguously clear their preferences in the matter
may be kept alive despite their preferences, that is the price.