Tuesday, October 05, 2004

New Legal Strategy to Save Terri Schiavo

Attorneys for Bob & Mary Schindler have adopted a novel but interesting legal strategy in their efforts to save their daughter Terri.

They are arguing that removing Terri's feeding tube would be an infringement of her First Amendment right to free expression of religion.
New attorney David Gibbs filed a motion Thursday for an evidentiary hearing. Gibbs argued that a recent speech by Pope John Paul II changes Terri's case completely.

The pope clarified the Church's view on advanced directives. In the pope's opinion, people in a vegetative state -- like Terri Schiavo -- have a right to nutrition and health care.

I would quibble with the article's implication that the Pope's speech last March actually presents anything new. I think that the Pope didn't present anything new in his speech, in which he declared that food and water could not be considered "medical treatment" for PVS patients, but must be considered part of the ordinary care to which every patient is entitled. Rather, he elaborated on that point of Catholic moral teaching, previously enunciated in the CDF's 1980 "Declaration On Euthanasia", and applied it to cases such as Terri's. That is how the Ordinary Magisterium works: applying theological principles to the questions of the day.

The argument boils down to this:
Schiavo's parents on Thursday asked a circuit judge to hold a mini-trial to determine if the pope's recent statement should erase a court finding that Schiavo would not want to be kept alive by artificial means.

David Gibbs III, lead attorney for Schiavo's parents, said Catholics take the word of the pope as the supreme law of the church. And to ignore it imperils the soul.

"It would be disobedience to the church," Gibbs said. "It's a sin. It would be something one would be judged for. . . . It would be an act of disobedience to God."

In other words, since Terri is a Catholic, who practiced her faith and took it very seriously before her injury, she would want to follow the Pope's teaching on this matter, and would not have wanted to have her feeding tube removed.

As I said, it's an interesting argument, and one which I think reflects the truth of who Terri is, as opposed to Michael's cock-and-bull story that Terri "wouldn't want to go on living" in her condition.

Unfortunately, since it is, in essence, a religious argument, the legal establishment is going to be inclined to dismiss it. I hope I'm wrong, but the Florida judiciary hasn't given the defenders of life much cause to be optimistic.