What Might Have Been: Terri Schiavo, Charlie Gard

By | September 25, 2017 | 0 Comments

Some people say that America’s favorite sport is baseball, the “national pastime.” Others say it’s football, that prototypically American sport. Still others say it’s soccer, which is increasing in popularity, or basketball, which is played almost universally, or hockey, or auto racing. But I believe our favorite sport is Monday-morning quarterbacking.

With this disclaimer, allow me to indulge in the fantasy of what might have been.

Terri Schiavo.

Terri was a 41-year-old disabled woman. Some experts said she was in a persistent vegetative state, but others said she was minimally conscious. The cause of her condition was never clarified ‒ it was seen as a medical problem but never investigated as a possible crime. Her family ‒ mother, father, brother, and sister ‒ begged to care for her.

But her estranged husband had moved in with his girlfriend and fathered two children. He insisted that Terri would want to die, though her family was devoutly Catholic and opposed to suicide. The judge, who had a financial interest in the hospice, ordered that food and water be withheld. Terri died after 13 days.

And for all those 13 days, the doctors and nurses who were sworn to aid the sick, and the police who were sworn to protect the public, stood by idly. They could say, as Nazi war criminals claimed at their trials, “We were only following orders.” After all, the judge insisted. The case was appealed up to the Florida Supreme Court, and then up to the U.S. Supreme Court, which refused to intervene.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush demonstrated what he does so well ‒ he spoke up, then stood aside passively. To quote Teddy Roosevelt, “He means well ‒ feebly.”

What would I have done as governor? I would have sworn out a criminal complaint against Terri, charging her with some imagined offense ‒ for example, fraud on an old state tax return. There is no statute of limitations on fraud. Then I would have ordered the Florida Highway Patrol to force their way into the hospice, arrest Terri, and transfer her to a proper nursing home under 24-hour guard.

Then I would have gone on TV:

My fellow Americans, Terri Schiavo is alive. “Impediments to death” cannot be removed, because death is not approaching. “End-of-life care” cannot be given, because her life is not ending ‒ unless we decide to end it. My fear of disability is no excuse to kill her.

Withholding water and food would be illegal and inhuman for the purpose of executing a convicted murderer. How can it be permissible for the purpose of killing an innocent woman?

As an innocent citizen, Terri was being killed by a legal system that forgot it was meant to be a justice system. But as an accused criminal, she now enjoys all the protections of our Constitution. Think about that. Think about how an accused criminal enjoys more protections than a disabled woman. Then tell me what you think about assisted suicide and euthanasia, to be administered by bureaucrats devoid of Judeo-Christian ethics ‒ but interested in cost containment.

This is not Nazi Germany, where they killed the disabled. This is the United States of America, where we care for them.

You want to kill Terri? You’ll have to come through me.

What would the ultimate outcome have been? Would Terri have been allowed to live out her days, visited by her loving family? I don’t know. But I do know that if he had done that, Jeb Bush would have demonstrated the moral fiber and guts that qualified him to be president, instead of what he is now ‒ a forgotten has-been.

Charlie Gard.

Remember him? You should. He was the British baby born with a rare metabolic defect that thus far is uniformly fatal. The doctors cared for him free of charge, as the National Health Service promises. But they decided that his case was hopeless. He who pays the piper calls the tune. In this case, the tune was, “So Long, It’s Been Good To Know You.”

Single payer delivers the care it deems necessary ‒ and not one iota more. Those who favor single payer should consider whether they want to entrust the lives of themselves and their loved ones to remote, faceless, unelected, unaccountable bureaucrats.

An American doctor proposed an experimental treatment. Charlie’s parents decided that faint hope was better than none at all. They collected money to take Charlie to America for treatment.

The British doctors objected. They decided there was no hope, and they refused to take the risk of being proved wrong. They went to court to forbid the Gards from removing their son from the hospital. The court agreed, denying the parents’ right to decide the care of their child.

It is one thing to force parents to allow necessary medical care for their child. It is quite another to forbid care, even if the treatment is unproven. This gives new meaning to the term “arbitrary and capricious,” and should be filed under “O” for oppressive.

Appeals to higher courts were unavailing. As is true in America, the “elite” tend to stick together against us peasants. By the time the American doctor was allowed to see Charlie, six months had elapsed, and by that time his case was indeed hopeless. The circular argument had circled. The self-fulfilling prophesy had been fulfilled. Charlie died a week before his first birthday.

But what if, early in the case when there was still hope, Prince William and Princess Kate, or Prince Harry and Meghan, or perhaps Queen Elizabeth herself, had visited Charlie in the hospital? True, the queen does not intrude into day-to-day governmental affairs. But such a visit would have been a powerful message of support for Charlie and his family by the royal family.

Would Charlie have been allowed to come to America for experimental treatment? If so, would it have worked? At the very least, would something have been learned that would help other children, thus giving meaning to Charlie’s brief life and some shred of solace to his parents?

Again, I don’t know. But at least they could have been allowed to try. At least the preference would have been to continue life, not to end it. At least the power of the state would have been used to support the family, not to crush it.

Contact: dstol@prodigy.net. You are welcome to publish or post these articles, provided that you cite the author and website.

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