This is a tragedy. Congress has responded by rushing to pass a law that will allow her case, but only her case, to be heard in federal court. But there is no guarantee that, if it is heard there, a federal judge will do any better than the Florida one. What is lacking in this matter is not the correct set of jurisdictional rules but a decent set of moral imperatives.
That moral imperative should be that medical care cannot be withheld from a person who is not brain dead and who is not at risk for dying from an untreatable disease in the near future. To do otherwise makes us recall Nazi Germany where retarded people and those with serious disabilities were 'euthanized' (that is, killed). We hear around the country echoes of this view in the demands that doctors be allowed to participate, as they do in Oregon, in physician-assisted suicide, whereby doctors can end the life of patients who request death and have less than six months to live. This policy endorses the right of a person to end his or her life with medical help. It is justified by the alleged success of this policy in the Netherlands.
But it has not been a success in the Netherlands. In that country there have been well over 1,000 doctor-induced deaths among patients who had not requested death, and in a large fraction of those cases the patients were sufficiently competent to have made the request had they wished.
Monday, March 21, 2005
Kathryn Lopez, who has been admirably and dogged pursuing the Schiavo story on the Corner, puts a link there to an excellent piece by the insightful James Q. Wilson at the American Enterprise Institute: