Saturday, March 26

I want to Live (Free)!

The latest and hopefully last gasp in the ongoing Schiavo/Schindler National/Family Melodrama (brought to you 24/7/365 by Fox/CNN/MSNBC/CNBC and very soon QVC) is the declaration that at very the moment when her feeding tube was removed, after desperate prompting from those in the room - Teresa Marie Schiavo struggled mightily to utter the words "I WANT TO LIVE", only managing to croak "EEAYY..... WAHHhhh..." before giving up in frustration.

If true, I have to say this is the saddest and most tragic thing I can imagine. (Yes, even more tragic than the media feeding-tube frenzy that has been going on for the past week).

Much has been said by TV and Radio pundits with little to varied experience in medicine, all of whom seem to have their own diagnosis for Terri Schiavo's condition. Few of them seem to agree on a clear definition of a "Persistent Vegatative State". Some have said that Terri is active and responsive to external stimuli - she's trying to speak and simply needs the proper therapy they say - while others have looked at her CT scan showing an extremely abnormal brain formation with a severely shrunken cerebral cortex, now flooded with spinal fluid, and have said that her apparent moments of wakefulness, smiling, groans, grunts and blinks are entirely autonomic, non-conscious, random and non-repetitive. If one agrees with the former opinion, the events of the last 8 years and this last week in particular have been a travesty of inhuman injustice. If you assume the latter, I think most people would agree that even if the independant and consistent testimony of Michael Schiavo, his brother Scott in his sister-in-law who stated that Terri did not wish to be kept alive "with tubes coming out of her" is in fact true - the possibillity that Terri still retains any reasonable form of diminished consciousness where she could *amend* those previously stated views is a critical issue in the right of self-determination for any individual. What Terri wants is the core issue, and should remain the core issue. Contrary to many on the Radical Right who have taken up this cause, those who oppose them and their methods do not do so simply because they "crave death" as has been claimed, rather they wish to protect Terri's Right to control her own fate. It is because they respect the rights on an individual to choose and control their own life that they reluctantly support Terri own reportedly expressed wish to die rather than live in such a state. It's about self-determination and the quality of life - not "deathworship".

Many politicians, including our current President, have said recently they believe in a "Culture of Life", but I find their rhetoric unconvincing as they seem to consistent reject the rights of the individual in their alleged drive to preserve life, but apparently not a life of any reasonable quality. They wish to "preserve life", but they do so by bullying, threatening, and sometimes taking the lives of those who feel differently. This is not respect for life. It's an attempt to enforce your own self-righteously indignant will upon others, denying them their own freedom to choose and control their own life. Just like a rapist, they are all about power and control, not sex, love, charity or grace. It's little wonder that so many extreme anti-abortionists such as Randall Terry have taken up the Schindlers cause as their own. And have sadly managed to diminish the credibility of much of what the Schindlers have to say in my own view.

People such as Mr. Terry say that we should "err on the side of life". But where is this sentiment when it comes to Capital Punishment? To date, Barry Scheck and Peter Neufield's Innocence Project has managed to exonerate 157 condemned persons from America's death row primarily using DNA evidence. Exoneration in these cases is not achieved simply because just one more person has a measure of doubt to add to the equation of an existing verdict. It's because they have provided conclusive evidence of innocence. In other words, once someone has been convicted by a court of law they essentially have to prove the reverse, that they could not possibly have commited the crime, in order to have them freed. They can't be found "not guilty" anymore - they have to be found innocent! Would people like Mr. Terry support that all those condemned to die in the U.S. and elsewhere have their sentences commuted to life in prison, on the merest shred of doubt?

Somehow, I seriously doubt it.

A little more doubt simply isn't enough. The previous verdict has to be "not possible". But is it not even remotely possible that three seperate people independantly heard an adult Teresa Schiavo make comments concerning how she would like to be cared for if she were incapacited, regardless of what she may have said in response to a joke about Karen Ann Quinlan when she was 11 or 12 years old? Is not even remotely possible that several experienced neurologists who all examined Terri closely for many hours were absolutely right about her not being consistently responsive, even though she may appear awake and aware to others with less medical training or who haven't even examined Terri in person? Clearly, it's possible - and that is exactly what Judge Greer, who happens to be a Conservative church-going Republican, determined almost 4 years ago and is exactly why nearly every other Judge who looks at this case - whether Conservative, Liberal, Republican or Democrat - refuses to touch it. I'm afraid that with as much as a week or more left at this point in time before Terri finally passes to the next phase of life - it's game over for the Schindlers, even with the remote possibility that they've been right about Terri all along.

Terri's case was not argued in the criminal courts. It did not require a standard of proof beyond all reasonable doubt to be decided, however the usual civil standard of "preponderance of evidence" was not used either. Because someones continued life was being determined by the outcome, the much more stringent standard of "clear and convincing" evidence was used. I think that's a good standard to use in this case, but for those who claim they wish to "protect life" above all other efforts I would challenge them to support use of even this standard in all cases where the health, safety and life of persons are at risk. Would they support this level of standard for worker safety, environmental and consumer protection cases -- where all juries and judges would be required to "err on the side of life" when determining liability, injury and death claims and what reasonable actions both individuals and corporations should take to "protect life"? Would they be willing to go even further and say that in order to protect life those who are accused in civil court of endangering people lives, health and safety should be presumed guilty unless there is evidence "beyond all reasonable doubt" of their innocence? Wouldn't that be the ultimate in "erring on the side of life"?

Just how strong is their commitment to life? For example, will we be seeing these same people holding up signs on CNN and the Letterman Show, standing candle-light vigil for the children of mothers who've suffered brain damage as a result of increased mercury poisoning of our rivers and streams?

I might be wrong, but somehow I really seriously doubt that.

A lot of us want to live, but I think most of us want to live free. Free of toxins, free of excessivly hazardous work conditions, free of thoughtless negligence, free of random senseless crime, free of domineering abuses spouses, and free of intolerant zealots whether they wear a judges robe, white sheet, a "God Hates Fags" or "I <3 N'Sync" T-shirt.

Then again, I could still be wrong. I suppose we'll find out in the Congressional elections of 2006! I can hardly wait.


Friday, March 25

Randall Terry : Terrorist Spokesman

Cable News Ignores "Anti-Abortion Terrorists" activites of Schindler Spokesman Randall Terry.

From Media Matters

As part of their coverage of the Terri Schiavo case, CNN, MSNBC, and Fox News devoted substantial airtime to a March 23 demonstration organized by anti-abortion group Operation Rescue/Operation Save America, which was protesting the court-sanctioned removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. But none of the three news outlets provided background on the group, which was founded by anti-abortion extremist and Schindler family spokesman Randall Terry.

Under Terry's leadership, Operation Rescue staged aggressive protests of abortion clinics, including "screaming and pleading with pregnant women to turn away," "toss[ing] their bodies against car doors to keep abortion patients from getting out" and "wav[ing] crucifixes and scream[ing] 'Mommy, Mommy' at the women," according to The Washington Post. The Post further noted that Terry "described Planned Parenthood's founder, Margaret Sanger, as a 'whore' and an 'adulteress' and arranged to have a dead fetus presented to Bill Clinton at the 1992 Democratic National Convention." The New York Times reported on August 14, 1993, that "[i]n his radio appearances, Mr. Terry said of [abortion provider] Dr. [Warren] Hern: 'I hope someday he is tried for crimes against humanity, and I hope he is executed.' " The Times added that "Coming just five months after an anti-abortion protester [Michael Griffin] shot and killed the doctor [David Gunn] in Florida, Mr. Terry's words were construed by many abortion rights groups as a call to violence." According to an August 7, 1994, report on CBS' 60 Minutes, Terry entreated his followers "to pray for either the salvation or the death" of Hern. The New York Times also noted on November 8, 1998, that Terry "filed for bankruptcy ... in an effort to avoid paying massive debts owed to women's groups and abortion clinics that have sued him."

Currently, Operation Rescue is part of a dual organization, Operation Rescue/Operation Save America. According to a June 22, 2003, article in the Charlotte Observer, the Rev. Phillip "Flip" Benham took over the organization from Terry in 1994 and changed the name to Operation Save America in 1999, though the group "uses the names Operation Rescue and Operation Save America interchangeably in literature." Benham spoke at the March 23 demonstration, and both CNN and Fox News showed his comments live. The article also noted that "[p]hotos showing Benham being arrested at clinic demonstrations hang on his office walls, and he's been jailed for months at a time," adding that under Benham's leadership, "Members' activities range from stroller parades outside abortion clinics to a man who was arrested after he sneaked into a clinic." It also described a T-shirt available for purchase on the group's website:

They are black, with the word "Intolerant" branded across the front in big, white letters. In smaller print is a John 14:6 passage: "I am the way, the truth, the life ..." On the back: "Homosexuality is a sin. Islam is a lie. Abortion is murder. Some issues are just black and white."

None of the networks discussed the group's history or that of either Terry or Benham, and only CNN, which devoted about 20 minutes to covering the protest, identified Benham by name. As Benham spoke loudly to the assembled protesters and media organizations, CNN national correspondent Bob Franken reported live and identified Benham as "a representative of Operation Rescue." Apart from CNN's on-screen digital display, which also noted that Benham was from Operation Rescue, CNN did not mention the group's name again.

MSNBC and Fox News both identified the group only as "Operation Save America." On MSNBC, correspondent Mark Potter reported that "Six members of a group called Operation Save America" were arrested for trespassing when they stepped onto the grounds of the Schiavo's hospice. Potter's report lasted about two minutes and provided no additional detail on the group's history. Fox News hosts consistently referred to the group as "Operation Save America" during more than 20 minutes of live protest coverage. Fox News' on-screen text displays noted that " 'Operation Save America' will try to bring water to Schiavo" and "'Operation Save America' attempts to bring Terri water" but offered no further detail on the group.

In addition to the above, Operation Rescue as formerly headed by Randall Terry were sued by NOW (National Organization for Women) due to their connection with the murders of abortion doctors, as well as violence and bombings at womens clinics. (The issue was settled out of court)

These actions include the Murder of Dr. Barnett Slepian by Operation Rescue member James Kopp, which was denounced as "Terrorism" by Janet Reno.

The Southern Poverty Law Center notes the activities of various former Operation Rescue members.

Murder and the Theocratic Revolution
By the early 1990s, Michael Bray had come to advocate the murder of abortion doctors and call for theocratic revolution with the aim of instituting biblical law. During the same period, professed AOG member Rachelle "Shelley" Shannon, who had earlier launched butyric acid and arson attacks on clinics throughout the western United States, attempted to murder Dr. George Tiller in Wichita, Kan., wounding him badly.

High-profile murders in the early 1990s marked a turning point in the violence, transforming the movement and riveting the attention of the nation.

In 1993, Dr. David Gunn was shot to death by Rescue America activist Michael Griffin. Paul Hill then became the focus of attention through his efforts to promote the notion that the murder of Dr. Gunn and other abortion providers was "justifiable homicide." Hill received the prominent support of Fr. David Trosch, Bray and 31 others (see Justifiable Homicide: The Signers).

Following Dr. Gunn's murder, Joseph Scheidler presided over a summit meeting of militant pro-life leaders in Chicago to discuss the movement's future. The conclave degenerated into a debate about violence, and led to the formation of the hard-line American Coalition of Life Activists (ACLA), many of whose leaders signed the "justifiable homicide" statement. Many ACLA members had previously been prominent in Operation Rescue, the group founded and long headed by Randall Terry.

In 1994, Hill murdered a doctor and his escort outside a Pensacola, Fla., clinic. He drew moral support from the likes of ACLA leader Andrew Burnett, who appeared in one photograph holding a sign reading "Free Paul Hill! JAIL Abortionists." Burnett's magazine, Life Advocate, has been the leading editorial voice of the pro-violence faction.

In 1995, a young, mentally unstable hairdresser named John Salvi shot up two clinics in Brookline, Mass., killing two people and wounding five.

From ProChoice Online.

Link between anti-abortion militants and right-wing militias

Observers of right-wing activities are noting a convergence of philosophy and technique between anti-abortion militancy and extremist militia activity. Bombings at the Atlanta clinic (where a second bomb exploded an hour after the first) are just one example; clinics vandalized with hangman's nooses and bullet- riddled signs, as was done by militia leader Larry Ball at a Lincoln, Nebraska, Planned Parenthood clinic, are another. Look deeper and hear the rhetoric used by extremist militias, radical tax protesters, and extreme anti-choicers merging: Both anti-abortion and militia leaders often cite Roe u Wade and FACE (the federal Freedom of Access to Clinic Entrances law) as evidence of "anti-Christian" bigotry and defiance of "God's law."

One militia leader has been fined over $500,000 for his participation in abortion blockades with Oregon-based Advocates for Life. This same man also conducted target practice with Shelley Shannon four days before her attempted murder of Dr. George Tiller in Wichita. Larry Pratt, former Pat Buchanan aide and executive director of Gun Owners of America, a favorite speaker at white supremacist gatherings, raised $150,000 to pay Operation Rescue's bills. Many pro-gun, anti-government zealots have connections to Operation Rescue, and OR activists have demonstrated at the Waco compound.

Meanwhile from CNN
, This just in...

... FBI agents have arrested a North Carolina man on suspicion of soliciting offers over the internet to kill Michael Schiavo and [Judge] Greer. Richard Alan Meywes of Fairview is accused of offering $250,000 for the killing of Schiavo and another $50,000 for the "the elimination of the judge who ruled against Terry."

Meywes was arrested without incident at his home around 5 p.m. Friday on charges of solicitation of murder and transmission of a threatening communication via interstate commerce, authorities said.

If convicted, Meywes could face up to 15 years in prison and up to $500,000 in fines. He is expected to make an initial court appearance Monday in U.S. District Court in Asheville, North Carolina.

Greer has been under 24-hour protection by two U.S. marshals due to increased threats against his life by those unhappy with his handling of the Schiavo case.

On Thursday, police arrested an Illinois man they said robbed a gun store in Seminole, Florida, as part of an attempt to "rescue Terri Schiavo."

And this is what we call the actions fo those within the "Culture of Life"? I think it would be better named the Culture of Intolerance, Control and Murder!.

Thursday, March 24

Frist on False Hope

Before he decided that he was an expert on Neurosurgery, Sen Majority Leader Dr. Bill Frist had a completely different take on heroic efforts to sustain and improve the life of disabled persons than he apparently does today.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist attacked Sen. John Edwards on Tuesday over a comment the Democratic vice presidential candidate made regarding actor Christopher Reeve.

Edwards said Reeve, who died Sunday, "was a powerful voice for the need to do stem cell research and change the lives of people like him.

"If we do the work that we can do in this country, the work that we will do when John Kerry is president, people like Christopher Reeve will get up out of that wheelchair and walk again," Edwards said.

Frist, a Republican from Tennessee, called Edwards' remark "crass" and "shameful," and said it gave false hope that new treatments were imminent.

Edwards campaign spokesman Mark Kornblau hit back, "Yes, breakthrough research often takes time, but that's never been a reason to not even try -- until George Bush."

Edwards made the comment Monday while he was stumping in Newton, Iowa.

Frist, who was a heart surgeon before coming to the Senate, responded Tuesday in a conference call with reporters arranged by the Bush-Cheney campaign.

"I find it opportunistic to use the death of someone like Christopher Reeve -- I think it is shameful -- in order to mislead the American people," Frist said. "We should be offering people hope, but neither physicians, scientists, public servants or trial lawyers like John Edwards should be offering hype.

"It is cruel to people who have disabilities and chronic diseases, and, on top of that, it's dishonest. It's giving false hope to people, and I can tell you as a physician who's treated scores of thousands of patients that you don't give them false hope."

Abuse of Power

This entire Schiavo fiasco has been quite illustrative. A sad and tragic intra-family dispute that has been turned into the cause celebre of the Reich-wing, and shows just how far they're willing to lie and pervert fact in order to put forward their agenda.

Polls indicate that 60-70 percent of the American public wouldn't want to be sustained in such a way. They don't care. Other polls indicated that even Evangelical Christians oppose the forced continuation of life - they don't care.

The target here is clear. The American Judiciary. I've watched people such as Hannity and Pat Robertson say it over and over again, how could all these judges continue to defy the will of Congress by refusing to throw out all previous findings of fact by Judge Greer at the original trial as Congress wanted? Why can't they see that there's still a slim-to-remote possibility of Terri's recovery and continued life (on the basis of people who have not examined Terri Schiavo, of one or two nurses -who are not qualified as neurosurgeons and are therefore not credible - and the word of one doctor who is in fact a neck injury specialist that falsely claims to be a legitimate Nobel prize nominee and is contradicted by the four others that did examine Terri). Why can't we "err on the side of life" as the President stated. Or Is it that the government is to "protect innocent life" as some in Congress have stated, or shall they "protect and preserve all life" as former Gingrichian Congressman-turned-Television personality Joe Scarborough has stated?

They seem unable to understand the primary function of government, is to respect and protect the rights of the individual. That the basic framework and standards of Civil litigation, whose rules are not beyond all shadow of doubt, but are instead based on the preponderance of evidence. This is not a criminal case. Contrary to the vicious berating that Bill O'Reilly gave one guest who countered his claim that "only one man" has said that Terri's expressed wish was not to be sustained on life-support devices by daring to - gasp - quote the appellate and trial court documents which state that "multiple witnesses" came forth with this information at trial. (A fact which the following day on his program O'Reilly acknowledged by admitting that Michael Schiavo, his brother and sister-in-law all made the same claims in court -- but then went on to continue to berate a viewer who e-mailed this information to him as buying into "propaganda". Which is it Bill - fact or propaganda?).

When it's convenient for them, they wave the banner of the "Culture of Life" high - but when it's inconvenient - like when it actually might have a positive effect on the lives of American citizens - they duck and cover. One Democratic Congressman, Rep John Capuano (D-MA), actually had the guts to challange Hannity on the fact that just hours before passing this emergency legislation (for one person) Congress had previously voted for substantial cuts to Medicaid (which is what is currently paying for Terri Schiavo's care), as well as caps to Medical Malpractice Lawsuits (which have benefited Mrs Schiavo's care and legal expenses to the tune of $700,000) while failing to address the insurance company feeding frenzy which is the actual cause of increasing costs and the dramatic drop in care quality. Millions of Americans have lost their healthcare on their watch, many have lost all possibility of "continued life" -- and it's clear that they don't care.

The lies have been coming fast and furious. No one is rejoicing at the prospect of Terri Schiavo's death, yet Michael Savage calls Democats "Deathworshippers", and Pat Buchannan compares removing Mrs Schiavo's feeding tube to the "warcrimes of Mengele", and Fox's John Gibson claims "Republicans stand for Parents and Life, Democrats stand for a questionable husband and dying". The Schindlers have accused Michael Schiavo of attempting to "cover up" something by wanting Terri dead. They seem to believe that Michael is somehow responsible for Terri's original heart attack. How exactly does one person give another person a heart attack at age 25? Apparently they can't explain this, but still they refuse to believe the court-validated claims of three members of the Schiavo family. Why did the court rule so overwhelmingly in Michael's favor? Possibility because the Schindlers, particularly Bob, may have their own hidden agenda?. Court documents repeatedly speak to a rift in the family beginning over money - specifically the malpractice settlement fund, which at this point in time has been almost completely exhausted. Scott Schiavo has stated that Bob told Michael to either share some of the settlement or .."I'll make you live to regret it". It's seems that with the help of Religious Radicals on the Right, such as Randall Terry - he's done exactly that, taking this case all the way to the Supreme Court multiple times. Just who is standing for what here?

All of this is what I call a true abuse of power-- and it has to stop. This morning the Supreme Court yet again denied the motion of the Schindlers to re-insert Terri's feeding tube, in accordance with her wishes. It appears that finally, this long and tragic family and national nightmare may be coming to a close.

I only wish that this were similarly true for those who would continually seek to exploit the emotions of the American people, abuse it's position to defy the Constitution (14th Amendment equal protection clause), defy the Law and defy the facts all for their own financial and political gain.

Would that it were so.


Tuesday, March 22

Masters of Sleaze

Masters of Sleaze


Published: March 22, 2005

Down in the depths of the netherworld, where Tammany Hall grafters and Chicago ward heelers gather amid spittoons and brass railings, a reverential silence now spreads across the communion. The sleazemasters of old look back into the land of the mortals and they see greatness in the form of Jack Abramoff.

Only a genius like Abramoff could make money lobbying against an Indian tribe's casino and then turn around and make money defending that tribe against himself. Only a giant like Abramoff would have the guts to use one tribe's casino money to finance a Focus on the Family crusade against gambling in order to shut down a rival tribe's casino.

Only an artist like Abramoff could suggest to a tribe that it pay him by taking out life insurance policies on its eldest members. Then when the elders dropped off they could funnel the insurance money through a private school and into his pockets.

This is sleaze of a high order. And yet according to reports in The Washington Post and elsewhere, Abramoff accomplished it all.

Yet it's important to remember this: A genius like Abramoff doesn't spring fully formed on his own. Just as Michelangelo emerged in the ferment of Renaissance Italy, so did Abramoff emerge from his own circle of creativity and encouragement.

Back in 1995, when Republicans took over Congress, a new cadre of daring and original thinkers arose. These bold innovators had a key insight: that you no longer had to choose between being an activist and a lobbyist. You could be both. You could harness the power of K Street to promote the goals of Goldwater, Reagan and Gingrich. And best of all, you could get rich while doing it!

Before long, ringleader Grover Norquist and his buddies were signing lobbying deals with the Seychelles and the Northern Mariana Islands and talking up their interests at weekly conservative strategy sessions - what could be more vital to the future of freedom than the commercial interests of these two fine locales?

Before long, folks like Norquist and Abramoff were talking up the virtues of international sons of liberty like Angola's Jonas Savimbi and Congo's dictator Mobutu Sese Seko - all while receiving compensation from these upstanding gentlemen, according to The Legal Times. Only a reactionary could have been so discomfited by Savimbi's little cannibalism problem as to think this was not a daring contribution to the cause of Reaganism.

Soon the creative revolutionaries were blending the high-toned forms of the think tank with the low-toned scams of the buckraker. Ed Buckham, Tom DeLay's former chief of staff, helped run the U.S. Family Network, which supported the American family by accepting large donations and leasing skyboxes at the MCI Center, according to Roll Call. Michael Scanlon, DeLay's former spokesman, organized a think tank called the American International Center, located in a house in Rehoboth Beach, Del., which was occupied, according to Andrew Ferguson's devastating compendium in The Weekly Standard, by a former "lifeguard of the year" and a former yoga instructor.

Ralph Reed, meanwhile, smashed the tired old categories that used to separate social conservatives from corporate consultants. Reed signed on with Channel One, Verizon, Enron and Microsoft to shore up the moral foundations of our great nation. Reed so strongly opposes gambling as a matter of principle that he bravely accepted $4 million through Abramoff from casino-rich Indian tribes to gin up a grass-roots campaign.

As time went by, the spectacular devolution of morals accelerated. Many of the young innovators were behaving like people who, having read Barry Goldwater's "Conscience of a Conservative," embraced the conservative part while discarding the conscience part.

Abramoff's and Scanlon's Indian-gaming scandal will go down as the movement's crowning achievement, more shameless than anything the others would do, but still the culmination of the trends building since 1995. It perfectly embodied their creed and philosophy: "I'd love us to get our mitts on that moolah!!" as Abramoff wrote to Reed.

They made at least $66 million.

This is a major accomplishment. And remember: Abramoff didn't do it on his own.

It took a village. The sleazo-cons thought they could take over K Street to advance their agenda. As it transpired, K Street took over them.


Monday, March 21

Texas Futile Care Law

More strange Shiavo Stuff...

In 1999, then Governor George W. Bush signed the Texas Futile Care Bill into Law. This bill states that if a patient doesn't have health-care coverage dramatic life-sustaining techniques should be the decision of the hospital, not the patients primary guardian or their family.

Just last week under this law, life support for a six-month old baby was removed - against the will of the child mother who did not have health insurance to pay for continued care.

Where was the heroic late-night session of Congress to protect the life of this baby?

March 16, 2005

Life-Support Stopped for 6-Month-Old in Houston

Yesterday Sun Hudson, the nearly 6-month-old at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston, diagnosed and slowly dying with a rare form of dwarfism (thanatophoric dysplasia), was taken off the ventilator that was keeping him alive. A Houston court authorized the hospital's action, and Sun died shortly thereafter. Today's Houston Chronicle and Dallas Morning News have most of the details.

Both papers report that this is the first time in the United States a court has allowed life-sustaining treatment to be withdrawn from a pediatric patient over the objections of the child's parent. (The Dallas paper quotes John Paris, a bioethicist at Boston College, as its source.) If true, the unique Texas statute under which this saga was played out contributed in no small way to the outcome. As one of the laws co-authors (along with a roomful of other drafters, in 1999) let me explain.

Under chapter 166 of the Texas Health and Safety Code, if an attending physician disagrees with a surrogate over a life-and-death treatment decision, there must be an ethics committee consultation (with notice to the surrogate and an opportunity to participate). In a futility case such as Sun Hudson's, in which the treatment team is seeking to stop treatment deemed to be nonbeneficial, if the ethics committee agrees with the team, the hospital will be authorized to discontinue the disputed treatment (after a 10-day delay, during which the hospital must help try to find a facility that will accept a transfer of the patient). These provisions, which were added to Texas law in 1999, originally applied only to adult patients; in 2003; they were made applicable to disputes over treatment decisions for or on behalf of minors. (I hasten to add that one of the co-drafters in both 1999 and 2003 was the National Right to Life Committee. Witnesses who testified in support of the bill in 1999 included representatives of National Right to Life, Texas Right to Life, and the Hemlock Society. Our bill passed both houses, unanimously, both years, and the 1999 law was signed by then Governor George W. Bush.)

In the Hudson case, the hospital ran through the statutory procedure, but decided nonetheless to get a court order authorizing withdrawal of Sun Hudson's ventilator support. The hospital undoubtedly had its own sufficient reasons for taking this additional step; the statute doesn't require a court order. Indeed, the statute was designed to keep these cases out of court, if possible.

I am no great fan of unilateral withdrawals of treatment under the banner of "medical futility." When our drafting team agreed on the key language in chapter 166, I said that I hoped the authority to unilaterally withhold treatment would never have to be invoked, but I knew then what I know even better now: sometimes good, humane medical care requires it.

Since the 2003 change that made the law applicable to minors, I have participated in two cases in which life-support was ultimately withdrawn from infants over parental objections. In both cases, the hospital extended the 10-day waiting period in order to attempt to restart discussions with the parents before unilaterally withdrawing life-support. In one case, a previous hospital's ethics committee (on which I also serve) had twice agreed with the attending physician. The hospital CEO overruled the committee the first time (before the 2003 amendment that added minors to chapter 166), and the second time the child was transferred to our hospital on the 9th day, and we restarted the statutory process from scratch. In neither case did the hospital resort to a judicial proceeding to settle the treatment dispute.

My experience on five hospital ethics committees, and as co-chair of two, is that in both adult and pediatric cases, most futility disputes never get to this last step of unilateral withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment. In most cases either the families drop their opposition along the way or the patient dies before the due-process steps required by the statute have been exhausted. Last fall, ethicists at M.D. Anderson surveyed Texas hospitals' experiences under chapter 166; I hope they will publish their results soon. It will be extremely interesting to find out how often the statutory process has been followed all the way to the end, including withdrawal of life-sustaining treatment over family objections.

There is no telling how the Houston judge would have decided this case if chapter 166 were not on the books. On the one hand, it appears that no judge in this country has ever sided with the family in one of these treatment disputes. On the other hand, the physicians, hospital, and ethics committee appear to agree that Sun's condition was fatal and that his protracted death was not without some suffering. (I don't know how to square this with newspaper reports that "[t]he hospital's description of Sun [was] that he was motionless and sedated for comfort.")

But in this case, the judge wasn't writing on a blank slate. The Legislature had already spoken, twice -- once in 1999 when it enacted chapter 166 and again in 2003 when it amended the law to make it apply to pediatric patients. All the judge had to do -- and apparently all he did do -- was to find that the law authorizes the hospital to withdraw treatment over the objections of Sun's mother, Wanda Hudson.

The papers also report than another case is making its way through Houston courts: "Another case involving a patient on life support — a 68-year-old man in a chronic vegetative state whose family wants to stop St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital from turning off his ventilator — was scheduled to be heard Tuesday by the Houston-based 1st Court of Appeals. But the case was transferred to the 14th Court of Appeals, which promptly issued a temporary injunction ordering St. Luke's not to remove the man's life support. No hearing date has been set." More on this case in a future post. [tm]

Another irony concerning the recent Congressional action involving the quite similar case of removing the feeding tube for Terry Shiavo - is the fact that Terry Shiavo was originally hospitallized for Bulimia. The prolonged loss of potassium damaged her heart muscle, bringing on a heart attack that lead to oxygen deprivation and brain damage.


GOP Talking Points on Terry Shiavo

March 21, 2005 — The following memo listing talking points on the Terri Schiavo case was circulated among Republican senators on the floor of the Senate.

This is an exact, full copy of the document obtained exclusively by ABC News and first reported Friday, March 18, 2005, by Linda Douglass on "World News Tonight with Peter Jennings."

S. 529, The Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act

Teri (sic) Schiavo is subject to an order that her feeding tubes will be disconnected on March 18, 2005 at 1p.m.

The Senate needs to act this week, before the Budget Act is pending business, or Terri's family will not have a remedy in federal court.

This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited that the Senate is debating this important issue.

This is a great political issue, because Senator Nelson of Florida has already refused to become a cosponsor and this is a tough issue for Democrats.

The bill is very limited and defines custody as "those parties authorized or directed by a court order to withdraw or withhold food, fluids, or medical treatment."

There is an exemption for a proceeding "which no party disputes, and the court finds, that the incapacitated person while having capacity, had executed a written advance directive valid under applicably law that clearly authorized the withholding or or (sic) withdrawl (sic) of food and fluids or medical treatment in the applicable circumstances."

Incapacitated persons are defined as those "presently incapable of making relevant decisions concerning the provision, withholding or withdrawl (sic) of food fluids or medical treatment under applicable state law."

This legislation ensures that individuals like Terri Schiavo are guaranteed the same legal protections as convicted murderers like Ted Bundy.

Schaivo Sham

Sometime's I just can't believe the nerve of some people.

Here you have a Congress and President that has the nerve to proclaim that it is "Pro-Life" by interveining heroically into a private issue between a husband, his wife and her family - yet this is the same Congress that just a short time ago voted to cut funding for the Veterans Administration and to the double the cost of prescription drugs for our wounded soldiers. It seems that they wish to preserve life at all costs, even if there is no discernable minimum level of quality to that life.

Terry Schaivo has already survived in a near-vegatative state for 15 years. She could continue to survive for another 15 , or thirty, or even 50 more years. She's still a young woman, who was just 25 when the accident that left her severely brain-damaged occured. All of that time, trapped within a shell of her own body and mind. A living hell. And our Congress is hell-bent that she endure as much of it as possible, regardless of her wishes as they have been expressed by her husband.

There is little evidence that as this case winds it's way through the appellate and federal courts that federal judges will discover a genuine and legal way to wrest Terry from the custodianship of her husband Michael. And if they did, wouldn't that set a terrifying precident? Imagine, if the case were argued that Michael has forfieted his rights as a husband by committing adultery, bigomy and abandonment by taking a second common-law wife and having two children with her - and the courts then decided that his expression of her will is to become secondary to her families will purely on that basis?

The problem with this scenario is that marriage is a state issue, not a federal or constitutional issue - at least not yet. If the case is argued as it has been so far, it's obvious that Michael will prevail and Terry's feeding tube will again be removed some months or years in the future. But if the case is argued as I have described, which is unlikely, you could very soon see a new federal definition of marrage appear through the courts. One that is exceeding different from what I suspect the Reich-Wing of the Republican party would endorse.

And this would be done in order to continue and prolong Terry Shaivo's sufferring. To continue her ongoing torture. Somehow I don't find that surprising coming from this Congress and this President. Much has been discussed concerning the Geneva Conventions in the last year, but surprising little has been said about the fact that torture is against U.S. Law.

TITLE 18 > PART I > CHAPTER 113C > § 2340

§ 2340. Definitions

Release date: 2004-08-06

As used in this chapter—
(1) torture” means an act committed by a person acting under the color of law specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control;
(2) severe mental pain or suffering” means the prolonged mental harm caused by or resulting from—
(A) the intentional infliction or threatened infliction of severe physical pain or suffering;
(B) the administration or application, or threatened administration or application, of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or the personality;
(C) the threat of imminent death; or
(D) the threat that another person will imminently be subjected to death, severe physical pain or suffering, or the administration or application of mind-altering substances or other procedures calculated to disrupt profoundly the senses or personality; and
(3) “United States” includes all areas under the jurisdiction of the United States including any of the places described in sections 5 and 7 of this title and section 46501 (2) of title 49.

§ 2340A. Torture

Release date: 2004-08-06

(a) Offense.— Whoever outside the United States commits or attempts to commit torture shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both, and if death results to any person from conduct prohibited by this subsection, shall be punished by death or imprisoned for any term of years or for life.
(b) Jurisdiction.— There is jurisdiction over the activity prohibited in subsection (a) if—
(1) the alleged offender is a national of the United States; or
(2) the alleged offender is present in the United States, irrespective of the nationality of the victim or alleged offender.

I doubt quite seriously that this provision of Federal Law will come into play in this case (although many stranges things are still possible), just as I doubt that it will be enforced on anyone by a Justice Department as headed by Alberto Gonzales - but I do find it highly ironic that the U.S. Congress would expend this much energy on one person - on poor Terry Schaivo - and not one second on the many cases of real suffering that have been caused and exerbated by various U.S. Government policies in the last two years.

Don't you?

Here's a thought: if Congress and this President really want to do something to help the Terry Schaivo's of the world, they could authorize use of non-mouse-turd-tainted stem cells for research into regeneration of damaged brain tissue. How's that for "Pro-Life"!