Friday, November 07, 2003

Rumor Correction Alert!

It has been reported that Bob & Mary Schindler were "axed" from the "Larry King Live" program. They were scheduled to appear tonight.

While it is true that they will not be appearing tonight, it has nothing to do with Larry King. Nothing nefarious going on here.

Bob Schindler has been having some heart and blood pressure problems in the last couple of weeks (one might guess as to the cause...).

So his doctors have ordered him to do nothing for a week. The Schindlers have tentatively rescheduled their Larry King appearance for next Friday, November 14.

Say a prayer for the Schindlers.

Why Doesn't Michael Divorce Terri?

A frequent question brought up regarding Michael Schiavo's relentless pursuit of Terri's death is, "Why doesn't he just divorce her and walk away?" Bob & Mary Schindler have begged Michael to do just that, saying that they will be happy to care for her. He would then be free to "move on" with his own life; marry his live-in girlfriend, etc.

Michael's response to that question, put to him last week by Larry King, was just as unconvincing as his confabulated tale of Terri's supposed wish not to be kept alive. All he can say are things like: "This is between Terri and myself. I'm not asking anybody to be mad at me. I'm not asking anybody to agree with me."

I have been thinking a lot about that question for the last few days, and I think I have some possible answers to it. Obviously, what I offer here are speculations, but they're speculations that I think fit what we know of the case.

Firstly, Michael might have some difficulty obtaining a divorce from Terri in Florida. From what Terri's parents told me and what I have learned about Florida law, Michael might find it difficult or even impossible to divorce Terri because she is disabled and unable to respond to a petition for divorce. The laws in Florida, in all likelihood, are written as they are to prevent people from divorcing their disabled spouses and dumping their care on the state. Of course, that well-intended law now works to Terri's detriment.

So then what about the possibility of moving Terri to another state, which would permit the divorce more readily? At first I thought the Schindlers might have objected to having Terri moved, but when I brought up the idea with Bob, he said, "if Michael wanted to move Terri to another state to divorce her, I'd say, 'let's do it tonight.'"

But, even then, there are other reasons why moving Terri and divorcing her wouldn't be acceptable to Michael. If Michael had divorced Terri say, five years ago, there would have still been around $700,000 in Terri's settlement fund. But in a divorce, Michael would be lucky to get even a third of it. Any competent lawyer representing Terri would realize that much of that money would be needed for Terri's care, and wouldn't have allowed Michael to get much of it at all.

No, a divorce wouldn't have given Michael what he wanted, if it was money he was after. In a divorce, Michael walks away with maybe $250,000. If Terri died, he would have gotten it all.

Now, of course, there isn't much money to be had. By all accounts, much of the money has gone to pay for Michael's lawyers. Michael says there's only about $50,000 left in the fund, and lawyer George Felos laments that he hasn't been paid since July (poor guy). Even allowing for Michael low-balling the amount left in the fund, there wouldn't be enough in there to care for Terri for more than a few years.

So now, for Michael, divorce is the last thing he wants. Not only in a divorce would he get nothing, he might even be required by the court to contribute to Terri's care, possibly for the rest of her life. He'd come out of the bargain worse off than when he entered it.

Then we come to what might be the more "intangible" considerations: Whatever motivations Michael may have had in seeking Terri's death, for George Felos, this is part of his Crusade of Death. Mr. Felos has built his legal practice around seeking the death of the diseased, elderly, and disabled. He has been a member of the Hemlock Society and is an advocate of euthanasia. Felos wants to expand the parameters within which we will find death not only acceptable, but desirable. And I think it was clear from the Larry King appearance that Felos is now the engineer of the train. Michael, it seems to me, may be a brute, but he is fundamentally a small, banal man. Michael is neither smart enough, nor evil enough, to have followed through for this long. And now Michael's only hope of seeing his wish for Terri's death come to fruition is to stay hitched to that train.

It would not suit Felos' purposes at all for Michael to divorce Terri. If that happened, Felos wouldn't have his test case. And Felos is not alone in wanting this test case. I do not think it is an accident that George Felos had Dr. Ronald Cranford appear as the chief medical witness for Michael. Dr. Cranford testified that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, and will never recover. Although I hold, as I have written before, that Terri's "recoverability" is not the real issue, nonetheless Cranford's testimony on that score is hardly disinterested. He jokingly refers to himself as "Dr. Death," and for a fee he will come to your trial and testify that the person whose life you want ended is in a PVS. He was the leading medical voice calling for the deaths of Paul Brophy, Nancy Jobes, Nancy Cruzan, and Christine Busalucci. And what manner of death was prepared for all those about whom he testified? Removal of food and water, leading to death by dehydration/starvation.

Nancy Cruzan required no skilled nursing, no care but food and fluids, hygiene and turning to prevent bedsores. Indeed, she didn't require tube feeding. But Cranford testified that he would even consider spoon-feeding for Nancy Cruzan to be "medical treatment". Dr. Cranford has written that he foresees "that there may be extreme situations, and in the future increasingly common situations, where physician-assisted suicide may not only be permissible, but encouraged." In an op-ed piece for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Star-Tribune, Dr. Cranford advocated the starvation of Alzheimer's patients. Granny better hope and pray she remembers her grandkids' birthdays if Dr. Cranford gets his way.

Dr. Cranford is one of the leaders of the Death Crusade. He sees death as a solution to the problems posed by the elderly and disabled, and so wants more of it. George Felos demonstrates where he is coming from and what he is after by employing him. There are hundreds of thousands of elderly people in Florida, posing what Cranford called "challenges and costs" to society. A win in Terri's case would set a legal precedent, allowing Felos and the other acolytes of the euthanasia movement to help all those people to shuffle off this mortal coil a little more quickly than otherwise.

Mr. Felos has his own reasons for assisting Michael in his pursuit of Terri's death. Michael's reasons are, perhaps, more humble, but now they're attached to Felos.

Michael may have another reason for seeking Terri's death, though. It might be the same reason he has ordered that Terri is not to have an autopsy when she dies, and that her body is to be cremated...

Eve Has Been Very Good to Me

Eve Tushnet has been very good to me over the past few months, saying nice things about me and plugging my blog on several occasions. And, schmuck that I am, I've failed to acknowledge it until now.

So, Thanks, Eve!

By the way, she has a pretty cool blog. You should read it. Lots of stuff lately about movies and culture. Though, I must confess, I don't get the whole comic book thing.

Thursday, November 06, 2003

Small Victory For the Schindlers

At a hearing yesterday, Judge Greer ruled against Michael Schiavo's motion to dismiss the Schindler's petition to have Schiavo removed as guardian.

Some time ago (before the constitutional challenge to Terri's Law), Pat Anderson, attorney for the Schindlers', filed a petition in Judge Greer's court seeking to remove Michael as Terri's guardian. Deborah Bushnell, guardianship attorney for Michael, opposed the petition and asked Judge Greer to dismiss it out of hand, without a hearing.

Judge Greer denied Bushnell's motion for dismissal, and ruled that he will hear the Schindler's petition at a later date.

While this is admittedly a small, procedural, victory for the Schindlers, it is nonetheless important, as it means that the Schindlers will have the opportunity to challenge Michael's guardianship. Judge Greer could have dismissed it, on the grounds that the Schindlers have already sought to have Michael removed twice.

We need to keep praying, that the Schindlers may finally prevail in court.

Editor of Chicago Tribune Admits Abortion Bias

Don Wycliff, public editor of the Chicago Tribune, admitted in his column today that "some of our failures have been egregious."

In referring to recent stories dealing with abortion, particularly the Partial-Birth abortion ban, Wycliff wrote:
The perspective of those who define the issues involved in terms of "choice" was taken as normative, and the position of those who disagree with them and define the issues differently was characterized in "choice" terms. The result was two headlines that couldn't have been more slanted if they had come directly from the public relations office of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

He also described how a letter from Bill Beckman, the executive director of the Illinois Right to Life Committee, was edited by the Tribune so that "each of his uses of 'pro-life' was changed to 'anti-abortion...'"

Those who seek to have good called evil and evil called good first seek to change the language with which we speak of good and evil. Nowhere has that been more apparent than with abortion.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Save Birdies, Kill Children

A reader passed this story along from the Detroit News:

Hours after hundreds of hunters led by "Motor City Madman" Ted Nugent rallied on the Capitol steps, the Michigan House voted to remove a century-old state ban on the hunting of mourning doves. The tally was 64-44. The measure now heads to the Senate, where similar legislation failed by a single vote in 2000. Gov. Jennifer Granholm has not indicated if she would sign the controversial legislation. Lawmakers have been flooded with phone calls and e-mails from people on both sides of the issue.

"The cooing you hear are the doves who are mourning over this bill," Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi, D-Farmington Hills, said during a floor speech in which he failed to persuade colleagues to vote no.

Of course, we all know that Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, who likes to wax rhapsodic about what her Catholic faith means to her, vetoed a state Partial-Birth Abortion Ban. If the bill goes to her, it will be interesting to see whether birds rate stronger protection under the law than children.

And the ringleader of those striving with all their might to save the birdies, Rep. Aldo Vagnozzi? He voted against the Partial-birth Abortion ban. And what religion, pray tell, is Vagnozzi?

Why he's Catholic, of course.

Not A Great Man

St. Blog's resident deranged genius, Victor Lams, has composed a song which captures the self-absorbed persona of Michael Schiavo.

I haven't made up my mind whether anything in the Terri Schiavo case, even Michael's posturing, is ready for parody or satire yet. But if it is, then Victor has done it brilliantly in his song, "Not a Great Man". It's got a great Techno-Hiphop sort of groove to it. Some of the choicer lyrics are:

I never said that I was a great man,
I'm just an average man who'd like to make some plans;
And you're standing in the way of this average man,
who'd like to move on just as soon as he can...

I promised to love you faithfully,
before you became such a burden to me...

Sometimes art can express what prose only strains at conveying.

Having Your Cake And Eating It

I think it's been pretty clear to most of my readers that I don't think much of Michael Schiavo. I find his story about Terri's "wish" to not be kept alive incredible, I find his efforts to portray himself as the caring husband unbelievable, and his attempt to portray Bob & Mary Schindler as the villains of the conflict contemptible. Furthermore, if, as I suspect, it was his actions which put Terri in her current state, his behavior would have been despicable.

These sentiments, as they have found their way into my writing about Terri, have prompted some to accuse me of "hating" Michael or of being uncharitable towards him. This, of course, is false. I don't hate Michael: I think he is pursuing an evil course of action against an innocent third person, and as such, it is my duty, and that of every other decent person, to try to stop him. If he relented from his relentless pursuit of Terri's death I'd be perfectly content to let him go about his life and never utter another word about him.

But I am not, in charity, obliged to pretend his actions and stated intentions are somehow less evil than they are, or to make believe that whatever good Michael might do in other spheres of his life somehow makes up for or negates the evil he is inflicting on Terri. That is, it would be silly for me to say, "Michael is nice to the child he had by his girlfriend, so he must be a decent guy, and he must have a point in wanting Terri dead." It is not charity to ignore or make light of evil actions or designs, especially when they involve the life of an innocent person.

Which brings me to my point. After reading today's article "The Guardian", by Wesley J. Smith, I realize now what it is about Michael's actions and statements that I find so reprehensible: It is that Michael is trying to have it both ways. He is trying to have his cake and eat it too.

The Schindlers have not made their allegations of abuse (which are founded on medical evidence), or disputed Michael's claim to be acting upon Terri's wishes out of some desire to hurt him. They have not challenged his self-touted image as the caring husband because they have some ill-will toward him. They're doing so, and I have taken up their cause, because his claims and image are false.

It was Michael who went to the court and, in effect, said, "my wife told me she didn't want to live like this, so please let me kill her." It was Michael who claimed that he was acting out of his love towards Terri. It was Michael who went on Larry King Live and tried to convince us that he was the caring and long-suffering husband.

And, as the Schindlers told me last week, they find his claims to be false and his pose as the loving husband to be unbelievable. I was convinced of that by what the Schindlers told me, what I read in court documents and medical testimony, and by Michael's own performance on Larry King.

The Schindlers told me that the first court-appointed guardian ad litem, Richard Pearse, found Michael to be incredible. Now, as Smith's article makes clear, Pearse's report and recommendations substantially support Bob & Mary Schindlers' statements to me:

Bob & Mary told me that Michael withheld treatment from Terri for an infection. The treatment consisted of a routine course of antibiotics. Mr. Pearse found that "Early in 1994, for example, he refused to consent to treat an infection from which the ward was then suffering and ordered that she not be resuscitated in the event of cardiac arrest. "

Furthermore, the Schindlers, in their account of the initial dispute that caused their estrangement, said that it became clear to them at that point that Michael didn't intend to follow through on his promises to seek rehabilitation for Terri. Mr. Pearse saw it the same way. Smith wrote:
Pearse confirmed the charge by the Schindlers that once the medical malpractice money was in the bank, Schiavo began to refuse medical treatment for Terri, writing:

After February 1993, Mr. Schiavo's attitude concerning treatment for the ward apparently changed.

And there were signs that that attitude had changed even earlier, as Mr. Pearse reported that Michael "admitted to the guardian ad litem that he had at least "two romantic involvements" after Terri's collapse. " Pearse concluded:
"It is apparent to me," Pearse wrote the court, "that he has reached a point that he has no hope of the ward's recovery and wants to get on with his own life." Smith adds: To say the least. At the time of Pearse's investigation, Schiavo was already living with the woman who would become the mother of his children.

Michael has proclaimed repeatedly his love for Terri. But men who love their wives stick by them, even when they are sick, disabled, or debilitated. Men who love their wives seek to have them treated if they are sick or disabled. They don't deny treatment in spite of doctor's urgings. And if love isn't sufficient or it is crushed under the weight of grief or despair, then duty and honor would urge any decent man to stay the course. As Mary Schindler once said to me, "if Michael loves her so much he could start by keeping his vows to her."

Michael is trying to have it both ways: he is seeks to exercise the prerogatives of a husband, when in fact he has not lived up to the responsibilities of a husband. He seeks the moral standing that a husband would have vis-a-vis his wife, but he has constructively not lived as Terri's husband since before he began his efforts to bring about her death.

When Michael took his vows to Terri, he committed himself to bear the burdens of marriage as well as enjoy its benefits. If he won't fulfill the one, he has no moral basis on which to enjoy the other. He can't have it both ways.

Mr. Pearse, as I wrote in my interview with the Schindlers last week, found that Michael's claim that Terri wouldn't want to live in her condition wasn't credible, saying:
his credibility is necessarily adversely affected by the obvious financial benefit to him of being the ward's sole heir at law in the event of her death while still married to him. Her death also permits him to get on with his own life.

The portrait of Michael that emerges from the Pearse report could hardly be at greater variance from his own representations. Upon scrutiny, his claims crumble into dust. He wants to be trusted as a loving husband, but we see a man who threw aside his marriage vows a long time ago. He wants us to believe that he has her best interests at heart, but he refused her routine treatment for illnesses having nothing to do with her primary disability. He wants us to believe that he is trying to live up to a promise he made to Terri, but he is revealed to have broken promises that he made repeatedly before he got the money in his hands.

He can't have it both ways.

Tuesday, November 04, 2003

Terri's Parents To Go On Larry King

Bob & Mary Schindler will be appearing on the Larry King Live program this Friday night. The show airs at 9:00 PM EST.

The Schindlers were able to persuade Larry King to drop his demand that they give him an "Exclusive" interview, that would have prevented them from going on other similar shows.

It will be interesting to see how Larry treats them in comparison to how he handled Michael Schiavo last week.

New Guardian ad litem Appointed

The court has appointed a new guardian ad litem in Terri's case, Mr. Jay Wolfson. The Schindlers had opposed his appointment out of concern that he was carrying "baggage" that indicated he might be prejudiced in this case. Apparently Mr. Wolfson has made statements in opposition to "Terri's Law".

However, the Schindlers say that it is too soon to tell what he is going to do or recommend in her case. He has agreed to visit Terri accompanied by Mr. Schiavo, and another visit accompanied by the Schindlers.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Anglican Crack-Up Commences

In keeping with its courageous efforts to ape the dominant culture whereby it knows better than Scripture, the Church Fathers, or Natural Law, the Episcopal Church, USA, consecrated the heroic prophet Gene Robinson as Bishop of New Hampshire yesterday.

In doing so, the Church was simply following its "different" interpretation of Scripture.

Now, Anglican churches of Africa, who have rejected the Griswoldian tradition of Scripture interpretation, are making good on their promise to break ties with the ECUSA.

"'We are not the ones breaking ties with the Diocese of New Hampshire, it is the one that has opted out of the fellowship,' AFP quoted Jackson Turyagenda, a spokesman for the central African church, as saying."

Thanks to Mark for the link.

Forensic Pathologist: Terri Was Likely Abused

Some have tried to dismiss the Schindlers' allegations that Terri's brain injury was the result of abuse. They have labelled those allegations as "11th hour", when in fact the Schindlers have been trying to get someone to pay attention to them for years. Judge Greer, oddly, ruled them "irrelevant". Others have rejected them as baseless.

But in fact, as forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden makes clear, the allegation of abuse is squarely founded on medical evidence:
"[The] bone scan describes her as having a head injury. That's why she's there. That's why she's getting a bone scan," Baden explained, "and a head injury can cause, lead to the 'vegetative state' that Ms. Schiavo is [allegedly] in now."

The doctor who completed her bone scan, Dr. W. Campbell Walker, reported "This patient has a history of trauma".

Dr. Baden also stated that Terri's injuries should have been investigated long ago:
The trauma could be from an auto accident, the trauma could be from a fall, or the trauma could be from some kind of beating that she obtained from somebody somewhere. It's something that should have been investigated in 1991.

Not only weren't they investigated then, but they still haven't been investigated now, 12 years later.

To paraphrase Judge Greer, it would be "interesting" to know what happened to her...