Fat Steve's Blatherings

Friday, March 25, 2005

This Summarizes My Position Fairly Well

From Jerry Pournelle today:

To reiterate the principles here:

1. The presumption is or should be that husbands do not have the right to kill their wives by starvation, nor to hire others to do so, and that their statement that the wife wanted to die is not sufficient to grant them immunity from killing the wife or hiring others to do it.

2. Legislatures make law and are the usually presumptive agents for expressing the will of the people and the consent of the governed. Judges interpret law and apply it to cases, but they are not presumed to be supreme or sovereign.

3. Legislatures which make law may make exceptions to that law, and the prohibition against ex post facto law and bills of attainder is intended to prevent punishment, pains, and penalties: not to prohibit the legislature from awarding prizes, or seeking to exempt someone from pains and penalties. The legislature could retroactively abolish the death penalty, as an example.

4. There is neither a legal nor a moral compulsion to keep someone alive using extraordinary means, and certainly not so when they have expressly and unambiguously indicated wishes to the contrary.

5. It is an established and accepted maxim that no man should serve as judge in his own cause: those with substantial interests in a case should not judge that case.

Now for particulars:

Had she left an unambiguous documentary statement of her preferences in these circumstances, she would have been gone years ago. While some dispute the "right to die", most do not, and the legislature would not have acted in the face of unambiguous evidence. Moreover, were she comatose the matter would be long over, and the legislature would not have acted.

The Legislature of Florida decided that the Governor could intervene in Terri's behalf. The courts have ruled otherwise on principles not made clear in their decision, other than an assertion of judicial sovereignty.

Mr. Schiavo has acquired a second wife and two children, and this would be grounds for divorce in Florida.

The only evidence we have that Mrs. Terri Schiavo would not seek a divorce is her failure to file one: but that decision is in the hands of an interested party.

The opinion polls say most Americans want Terri Schiavo to die and get it over with. This has reduced the support she might have had from the political entities of the nation.

It was considered appropriate by at least one major network to seek the opinions of Kevorkian on this matter.

It is Good Friday.

None of this matters in one sense; but those who rejoice in the present resolution of this matter may discover precedents to regret at a future time. It is very easy to undermine the notion that life ought to prevail over convenience, particularly when dealing with the burdensome helpless. It is not so easy to restore it.

If the price of continuing the preference for life over death is that those who have not made unambiguously clear their preferences in the matter may be kept alive despite their preferences, that is the price.



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