Blood is thinner than water
She died this morning, a metaphor for the ages. So the media’s hot story is concluded (maybe!)
Her blood family was excluded from her deathbed at the last few minutes so her “husband” could be with her. At least his behavior is consistent. And his live-in girlfriend cried when he called to tell her, according to her brother. I wonder why.
My concluding thoughts on this subject can best be expressed by telling you how this would have been handled in England, from the very beginning.
Upon a family member appearing to be brain dead, one would consult with one’s family doctor, who would no doubt suggest a second opinion. Upon confirmation, the doctor would ask what the family wanted him to do next. If the family did not wish to keep the patient alive, a 99.9% chance, they would ask the doctor to do whatever he felt was appropriate. The doctor would administer morphine “just in case she was in pain”. He would overdo the dose. The patient would pass on. Not a word would be spoken of this, certainly not a wink wink, not even, and especially, between the doctor and the family.
If the husband had not already handed his young vegetable wife back to her receptive blood family with great relief to be rid of the responsibility, and was stupid enough to go to court after several years had passed seeking to have the court order the withholding of food and water to end her life, which he would claim she had once said to him, the judge (not a trained lawyer in England, just a trained judge) would throw him out of court, and perhaps even angrily sanction the lawyer, who cannot cite any Constitutional rights, as the Brits were smart enough not to write one. End of a very private story, wouldn’t get a mention in the papers.
My footnote here is that President George Bush leaps to the head of the class. He tried to do the right thing, with tied hands. But he did set the right tone after the news of her death came out, when he said “The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in favor of life.”
He also said, of Terri’s relatives, “I appreciate the example of grace and dignity they have displayed at a difficult time. I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others.”
By contrast, the high-profile “intervention” from Washington drew criticism from the public, a majority of which was shown in media taken polls to think it was inappropriate. I thought that Congress made the laws, even last minute ones, the President signed them, and the judiciary was supposed to uphold them. Silly me.
Thanks to the media generally, Americans these days seem to want to be governed under the same rules used on the TV game show Family Feud. “And the top answer given by the majority of 100 randomly chosen pollsters was . . . Cheese!”
March 30, 2005
Terri really is at the end now, turned away for the last time.
So the United States Government, as representatives of all of us, having alienated much of the rest of the civilized world politically, feels it is O.K. to alienate all of the rest of the entire world religiously. And, unbelievably, it means well!
The Pope is nearing his end too, and in a few days will be on a feeding tube permanently. Will our government advocate that now his life is shutting down, we should educate him on the subject, have him change his living will from I want to live to I want to die, and have his guardians remove it because we know best? Nudge nudge?
This is a sad day, it creates a legal precedent, actions speak louder than words, and there will be repercussions from the fringe, wait and see.
March 30, 2005
Oh Terri Schiavo, why didn’t you get a divorce from Family Court (real quick and easy my wife found) and become Terri Schindler a long time ago? It could have been so simple. Was your attorney brain dead? I don’t think so.
There’s a joke describing the workings of a lawyer’s brain, and it goes like this:
Q. What’s the difference between a good lawyer and a bad lawyer?
A. A bad lawyer can let a case drag out for several years. A good lawyer can make it last even longer.
Attorneys above all know that once a ruling has been made and affirmed by a higher court, then it becomes Holy Writ, and etched in stone. “Just following (Court) Orders”, is all you hear for ever after, almost with the German accent intact, and logic is out the window.
Shakespeare met this situation exactly in Hamlet’s To Be Or Not To Be speech.
“The oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely,
The pangs of despis’d love, the law’s delay,
The insolence of office,
and the spurns
That patient merit of the unworthy takes,
When he himself might his quietus make
With a bare bodkin?]

[contumely = insults; quietus = death; bodkin = a stiletto]
Update Easter Weekend
March 25, 2005
Message for the Schindlers-Be Comforted
No, not comforted by George Felos, the husband’s attorney, who is now the messenger bringing on-camera news to us, the public, of Terri’s physical appearance with his reports of how beautiful she looks as she nears death, starving from thirst and hunger.
(We are certainly teaching the third world what it is to be a civilized nation with a respect for life. Now they must think we are playing by their rules.)
I’m not religious. I was born and baptized into the Church of England, but while I believe in creation, I don’t think we yet know how this came to be (probably we are inventions of another intelligence from another place which I guess makes me an agnostic, although I’m aware that a Catholic would say that is a proof of God’s existence) – but no matter, for my purposes here.
As you should know by now, I am ever the observer and the inquirer, and now the watchdog, and the point of this post is that it cannot be ignored that today is Good Friday, and today is the day that Terri is headed for her tomb.
I searched the web under the search words “Story of Easter”, and immediately came up with a site telling the Easter story, and there I just read the following:
“Some of the Jewish leaders hated Jesus because He condemned their sins. They did not want to believe the truth He preached, as He urged them to repent and turn back to God. They became jealous of the great crowds that followed Him and believed in Him, and finally decided to get rid of Him by having Him killed.
“Since the Jews did not have the right to have a man killed without the approval of the Roman governor, they had to take Jesus to Pilate. At the trial they had no evidence of wrong-doing by Jesus, but put enough pressure on Pilate that he finally agreed to have the soldiers kill Jesus by crucifying Him.”

WOW!! Is this coincidence or what? That’s the historically accurate story from 2000 years ago! And should we read anything into this?
Can we recast the characters?
Well, Terri is obviously Jesus, the defendant at trial, and the Romans, the most powerful political force in the world – headed into decline one might add – is obviously the United States. Then who is the Governor? Why, George W. of course. And Pilate? Florida Circuit Judge George Greer, having his 15 minutes of fame.
Then we have the Jews, well that’s easy, them’s the lawyers. We might add that her unfaithful husband Michael Schiavo will be well cast as Judas Iscariot.
Jesus was crucified, a slow form of death which involved the withholding of food and water. And the parallel is clear.
The doctors at that time didn’t believe in miracles – until a few days later – just as today doctors in their thousands are unable to explain how it is that there are hundreds of recorded cases where apparently dead people have suddenly come alive, even in their coffins about to be buried, and when asked, these same two tongued physicians will vaguely point out from their lofty height “Modern medicine cannot explain it, we must put it down to a miracle.”
Before you think I am not being deadly serious about this, I wish to say that given that Terri’s parents are church-going Catholics, they should whole-heartedly believe in the significance of the act that bears down upon Terri their daughter on this day, Good Friday, causing her imminent demise. Her death may well be a watershed event that will be long remembered, and she will be revered by a huge section of the world community forever, and there will be consequences, the nature of which we cannot know at this time.
As for all of the participants in her death, they will be remembered too, and they will pay for it in ways that are not yet apparent, but the Piper will be paid.
For one, Bush will wonder why he didn’t make an Executive Order to have Terri turned over to her parents immediately. Of course such a forceful act would have been inevitably challenged in the courts s-l-o-w-l-y (no emergency), but as a strategy time would have been gained, time for the whole problem to most probably go away.
This case has become a touchstone for the morally bankrupt American legal system, and provides an example revealing why it is time for the United States written Constitution to be scrapped. It just doesn’t work! Great Britain was smart enough to keep theirs always not written, thus giving the government at all times the authority to do the fast “right thing”, instead of the time-consuming, expensive, and self-defeating “legal thing”. But more on that another time.
Meanwhile, Bob and Mary Schindler, may your God be with you in this hour of your need, and may you find solace and closure by your faith, which all people of good will can respect.
And may Terri rest in peace. She did not know that she had an earth-shaking purpose in her life. Take comfort in that.
And try repeating Christ’s penultimate words as a mantra, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”.
March 21, 2005
The Pope, through the Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano, did indeed get into the act today.
It said very reasonably that no person can claim the right to decide whether a human being lives or dies. It asks who, and under what criterea, in the name of God and humanity, can claim the right to bestow the privilege of life?
“Who can decide to pull the plug as if we were talking about a broken or out of order household appliance?”
These are strong and meaningful words, no matter one’s religion or lack of it.
What the courts should narrowly decide, and only decide, is designating this case a question belonging to the Church, and should be left alone on the basis of the separation of Church and State.
This is not a story that should be fomented for the benefit of talk show hosts and their media agendas.
However, this is America, and legal strategy rules, so let’s talk about the paucity of the Schindler’s legal strategy.
My own experience says that the Schindler’s attorney should get this case removed to where it truly belongs, into Family Court (new rules, new moral standards!).
They could hire a different lawyer to represent her interests, to plead for her to get divorced from her husband immediately on the grounds that he committed adultery (2 kids by another woman during their marriage) and is slowly killing her. And then this lawyer could plead in Family Court that she wishes for her father to become her legal guardian for all purposes. (My friend Idelle Clarke, seeing her daughter reach the age of eighteen, just saw the Family Court grant conservatorship to the girl’s father on his pleading, thus we will never know whether he sexually abused the girl, because he still won’t allow her to speak for herself, and all this with the court’s approval).
Then, her father steps in and takes over as conservator, and presto! Problem solved, and we can all go away and mind our own business.
Yes, the law is sometimes an ASS, and you have to deal with it on its terms.
Terri Schiavo
March 20, 2005
Surely this is one of those easy problems, is it not?
As usual, the media is not asking the right questions, and so manipulates the answers, and their answers smell of money and circulation and ratings.
We are told that it is her husband and his lawyer who want her to really die, by removing the feeding tube (and why, one wonders, is it necessary to remove it – just stop feeding through it one would have thought.)
– Her husband Michael Schiavo, is he still her husband? Why?
– Doesn’t he want to get remarried, and why hasn’t he divorced her, she’s not much use as a wife? Grounds are no problem any more.
– Does he have a financial interest in ending her life (life insurance, community funds, other)? And should we believe the answers, coming as they do through a lawyer?
– Her parents, and her brother and sister, want to keep her “alive”.
– The U.S. Constitution guarantees “Life, Liberty . . . ” etc. (There is no “or” between those terms.)
– The legal guys backed by the doctors seem to think that she is not alive in the usual sense, so it’s o.k. to kill her by withholding water and food. So if somebody were to walk into her bedroom and shoot her, would that be murder? Would he go to jail? The absurdity of the court’s action stands exposed.
– Shouldn’t the legal system of the United States make its first priority to be that its citizens RESPECT the law, and not hold it in CONTEMPT? To hear President Bush and his brother the Governor of Florida say that they disagree with the law, and yet are powerless to take action, is to teach us that this country’s laws are skewed and incapable of charting the right course, while at the same time disabling its leaders from doing so. This makes for a dysfunctional country, and may explain why so many people take the law into their own hands, and the terrible violence that we hear taking place somewhere every single day, and the corruption in the courts themselves bending to illegal pressure.
– This particular situation belongs anyway, not in a legal forum, nor in a political forum, but in a SPIRITUAL forum. (Yes, priests, that is their function, actually.) At last, a question dealing with the after-life, a subject we all admit to knowing very little about, even though we are all headed that way.
– If anybody could and should be giving input and guidance into this highly personal and private problem, it is any high priest of any established religion. Try a petition to the Pope, except there are those today who would like food and water withheld from him, they say he is devoid of proper function due to illness.
– The answer is a foregone conclusion. If the Schindler family is willing and able to take care of this soul, then that is where she should be, in their loving arms, surrounded by their love, to be dealt with as they wish. This list does not include the husband, nor the government, nor the lawcourts, nor me, nor you. It’s Schindler’s list!
I’ve said elsewhere that at my age (72), I have a “been there done that” approach to most of today’s problems, and this one is no exception.
Back in 1989, my mother lay immobile in a nursing home at Henley-on-Thames, outside London, England. She’d had a final massive stroke, and was not responding to anything, and was medically deemed to be a vegetable, and the diagnosis prepared us for the inevitable.
My sister, who lived nearby, made the decisions, and I trusted her to do the right thing. She decided that the right thing was to instruct the nurses to withhold nutrition and water, and let nature take its course.
It so happened that my wife was finishing up her (“Getting it Right”) work on a film in London at the time, and I asked her if she and my daughter Kelly would go there, and report to me by telephone in California whether there was any point in my coming over. A few years before, I had flown to London to see my father, also felled by a stroke, only to be told at Heathrow on arrival that there was no point in going to the hospital, he was gone. My sister had called and said it wasn’t serious, and so I had waited for further word. When it came, it was too late. I didn’t want to put myself through that again.
Lynn called me from the bedside. She said that Mother was lying immobile, and had not moved for several days, and there seemed to be no point any more, and probably I should stay where I was.
I said “Put the phone to her ear, let me speak to her.” Lynn did so, and I talked softly into the phone in words that I knew would be close to her heart.
I had always been the “apple of her eye”, as she used to say. Remember, she was a stage mother, and as a child star I had become the target and fruition of her life’s ambition, at least that’s how I came to think of it.
Lynn immediately took over. She said excitedly that there was movement in mother’s face as she struggled to respond. From somewhere deep within her – perhaps her brain stem had taken over certain upper level functions – came a response, and it was an attempt to communicate with a smile.
With an overnight bag I caught the next plane over, and went straight to the hospice, armed with a video camera.
And there I caught the most moving afternoon of my life, as I witnessed mother’s last hours. We talked to her of our happy times together when she visited us in California, of her grandchildren, our memories of the past, her Danish family before she emigrated to England, our plans for our future, and now her face looked relaxed and peaceful.
But it became time for us all to leave for the airport, mandated by contractual obligations back home, and I have on camera the record of mother’s huge physical effort to raise her hand in a final wave and a silent smile. And we had to abandon her to her fate, perhaps a week or two, we reasoned.
But mother had the last laugh. On arrival home, I called the hospice to be told that she had just died. I am sure she willed herself to her final sleep.
For a description of the scene at her funeral, look up the heading “Alienation – the good sort” under the topic A Space for Reflection, at the left.