[Paleopsych] The Szasz Blog: The Terri Schiavo Case

Premise Checker checker at panix.com
Sun Mar 27 23:57:38 UTC 2005

The Terri Schiavo Case

    The purpose of The Szasz Blog is to advance the debate about Thomas S.
    Szasz's basic ideas and their practical implications. The Szasz Blog
    is part of The Szasz Site, www.szasz.com The administrators are Jeff
    Schaler and Sheldon Richman. Comments are published at the discretion
    of the administrators. Please stay on topic. The length should not
    exceed 250 words. E-mail comments to sheldon at sheldonrichman.com or
    jeffschaler at attglobal.net

Saturday, March 19, 2005

The Terri Schiavo Case

    The sad case of Terri Schiavo brings important medical-ethical issues
    to the fore. But this is not a hard case. As a general principle, when
    there is reasonable doubt about an incapacitated person's wishes
    regarding life-support and when someone is willing to pay for
    continued support, the presumption should be in favor of life and a
    spouse should not be able to terminate it. In this case, there is no
    written proof that Terri Schiavo expressed a wish not to be kept
    alive. All we have is her husband's and one or two other persons' say
    so. Not good enough. In fact, according to [7]Terri Schiavo's parents,
    "When he [husband Michael Schiavo] promised the malpractice jury back
    in 1993 that he would take care of Terri for the rest of his life, Mr.
    Schiavo said nothing to the jury about Terri not wanting to be
    sustained on anything `artificial.'"
    Not only was Michael Schiavo [8]awarded money by a jury for her
    perpetual care, it has been reported that others have offered to pay
    for her life-support. Add to these facts that ten years ago Michael
    Shiavo [9]commenced a romantic relationship with another woman whom he
    describes as his fiance, has had two children with that woman, and has
    announced that he has "moved on" with his life, and his wish to
    disconnect his wife from feeding and hydration tubes becomes suspect
    and indeed irrelevant. The Florida courts long ago should have
    excluded Michael Shiavo from the matter, declaring that he has a
    conflict of interest, and recognized Terri Schiavo's parents as her
    The fact is, we don't know what Terri Shiavo would say she wants if
    she could speak for herself. But there should be a presumption in
    favor of preserving life unless that presumption is overcome by an
    advance directive.
    It might be argued that in her condition, Terri Schiavo is no longer a
    person and thus has no interests. But what is the difference between a
    former person (non-person) and a severely impaired person? Does the
    desired disposition dictate which term we use? Language is often more
    prescriptive than descriptive.

    posted by Sheldon Richman @ [10]12:05 PM   [11]11 comments


    At [12]5:16 PM, [13]Lee Killough said...
           Here is a [14]radio interview (MP3) of Terri's brother, Bob
           Schindler, and family lawyer, Pat Anderson, that was recorded
           by a friend of mine this week.

    At [15]9:34 PM, [16]Mira de Vries said...
           It is clear that there is a horrific feud going on between the
           parents and the husband. We should be careful not to take
           The idea that the husband has a conflict of interest while the
           parents don't is unfair. Surely no one is suggesting that the
           husband should have stayed celibate for fifteen years. Now
           there is a new family which also has interests. This may be
           affecting not only the husband's point of view, but also that
           of the parents, who clearly resent the new family.
           I'm not for a moment suggesting that Mrs. Schiavo should be
           allowed to die for the benefit of the new family. I'm only
           pointing out that there is no party without a conflict of
           Does Mrs. Schiavo truly respond to environmental stimuli, as
           her parents claim? Or are they fighting acceptance of the
           reality that she is no longer? Or are they using their daughter
           to punish the new family?
           Perhaps no one can know the answer for sure, which would
           certainly be a reason to continue the life-support, but I don't
           think the issue is as clear-cut as you suggest.

    At [17]11:26 PM, [18]Nicolas Martin said...
           Being careless, I'll side with the conflict of interest known
           as love. I agree that there should be a "presumption in favor
           of preserving life."
           Don't the physicians who are caring for Mrs. Schiavo want to
           disconnect her? How can the woman be kept alive if the state
           does not compel the doctors and the hospital to keep her on
           support? Why should the state have such power?

    At [19]12:01 AM, [20]Nicolas Martin said...
           Too bad nobody remembered to bring a video camera to this
           Terri Schiavo Tried to Tell Parents' Attorney She Wanted to
           Barbara Weller, one of the attorneys for Terri's parents Bob
           and Mary Schindler, told reporters about her visit with Terri
           on Friday.
           "Terri, if you would just say, 'I want to live,' all of this
           will be over," she told the disabled woman.
           Weller said Terri desperately tried to repeat Weller's words.
           "'I waaaaannt ...,' Schiavo allegedly said. Weller described it
           as a prolonged yell that was loud enough that police stationed
           nearby entered the hospice room.
           "She just started yelling, 'I waaaannt, I waaaannt,'" Weller
           At that point, police removed Weller from Terri's hospice room
           and, later, her feeding tube was removed.

    At [21]7:21 AM, [22]Sheldon Richman said...
           I am not saying I agree with the parents' decision or that we
           know that their position is untainted by vindictiveness. All
           I'm arguing for is a presumption in behalf of the preservation
           of life. It does not follow from this that the taxpayers should
           be compelled to maintain life-support. I understand that
           private money has been offered to support her.

    At [23]10:21 AM, [24]Mira de Vries said...
           Sheldon, surely the right to life is not contingent on the
           willingness of a third party to pay for it?
           In Libertaria, where the state has no power except to protect
           citizens' right to life, liberty, and property, the
           technological possibility of life-support systems will force us
           to take another look at the definition of life.

    At [25]10:43 AM, [26]Sheldon Richman said...
           The right to life cannot mean that others (absent a contract)
           have an obligation to sustain that person's life. That would be
           slavery. It means only the right to take non-coercive actions
           to maintain one's life.

    At [27]10:44 AM, [28]Sheldon Richman said...
           It would be hard to come up with a group of people more cynical
           than the the Republican leadership in the Congress. This is
           from today's Washington Post:
           "In a memo distributed only to Republican senators, the Schiavo
           case was characterized as 'a great political issue' that could
           pay dividends with Christian conservatives, whose support is
           essential in midterm elections such as those coming up in

    At [29]11:13 AM, [30]Mira de Vries said...
           Sheldon said: "The right to life cannot mean that others
           (absent a contract) have an obligation to sustain that person's
           In Mrs. Schiavo's case, that would mean that the husband has an
           obligation to sustain her life at whatever cost, as it is
           understood by the marriage contract. On the other hand, he has
           no obligation to sustain the life of his common-law wife, as
           state law prohibiting bigamy prevents him from making a
           marriage contract with her.
           My conclusion is that as long as the state interferes so
           heavily in our private lives, we cannot always apply
           libertarian principles to the right to life.

    At [31]8:54 PM, [32]Nicolas Martin said...
           mira de vries wrote: "[S]urely the right to life is not
           contingent on the willingness of a third party to pay for it?"
           You mean, I assume that the right to remain alive should not
           depend on third party support. But why not?
           Does Mrs. Schiavo retain the right to indefinitely force others
           to maintain her on life support? Does that right extend to
           doctors who think it unethical to keep her alive? Does it
           extend to her family, even in the event they decide she should
           not be sustained artifically? Does it extend to all people who
           pay taxes?
           If an adult has a right to live at the expense of others,
           should this right be confined just to medical interventions?
           Does someone who, due to handicap, cannot generate the income
           to feed or house himself have the right to compel others to
           support him? If a person is so impaired that he cannot bring
           food to his mouth, does he have the right to compel others to
           put the food in his mouth? If so, is this a right that can be
           exercised only indirectly, such as by having taxpayer money pay
           for an assistant, or can it be exercised directly, such as by
           having the police compel his neighbor or family to attend to
           his needs?
           If you believe that the family or taxpayers can be compelled to
           support a right to life, does that also mean that they are
           obliged to provide assistance, directly or indirectly, to all
           elderly persons who haven't the financial, mental, or physical
           wherewithall to care for themselves?
           I'm interested in more details on this positive right that you
           are apparently propounding. What are its boundaries? I can't
           see how it could be limited to medical care: food and shelter
           are just as critical for survival. And I don't see why it
           requires a redefinition of life or of ethics.

    At [33]11:39 AM, [34]Mira de Vries said...
           I have great faith that in a libertarian society, people (not
           everybody, but sufficient) will feel responsible for each
           other's lives, and rally to the rescue when needed. If I
           didn't, I wouldn't be a libertarian.
           In our current society, which, I don't have to point out to
           you, isn't libertarian, the state takes this responsibility
           upon itself. Private citizens are actively discouraged and even
           prevented from helping each other, for instance because they
           are not licensed to do so.
           As a libertarian living in a maxarchy, I find that not all
           dilemmas are easily solved by rigid principles.


    7. http://www.terrisfight.org/press/Press%20Release%20Counter%20Michael.htm
    8. http://news.tbo.com/news/MGBUR26HK5E.html
    9. http://www.discovery.org/scripts/viewDB/index.php?command=view&id=1664.
   10. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html
   11. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#comments
   12. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111127061589071173
   13. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6070545
   14. http://shows.vyzygothsgrassyknoll.org/terri.mp3
   15. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111128609128131663
   16. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6063014
   17. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111129278911900991
   18. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6053203
   19. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111129491605768705
   20. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6053203
   21. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111132129494416866
   22. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6052653
   23. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111133210854284231
   24. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6063014
   25. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111133338814384056
   26. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6052653
   27. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111133346115587975
   28. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6052653
   29. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111133522630016266
   30. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6063014
   31. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111137009973437314
   32. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6053203
   33. http://theszaszblog.blogspot.com/2005/03/terri-schiavo-case.html#c111142316487036456
   34. http://www.blogger.com/profile/6063014

More information about the paleopsych mailing list