Wednesday, March 23, 2005

How Many More Straws?

From the Miami Herald:

PINELLAS PARK – Repeatedly rebuffed by the courts but armed with what they called a new diagnosis, top state officials pressured the Legislature today to act on behalf of Terri Schiavo’s parents — and they set the stage to take her into protective custody.

“Terri may have been misdiagnosed and is more likely she is in a state of minimal consciousness rather that in a persistent vegetative state,” Gov. Jeb Bush said during an afternoon press conference. “I’m urging the Florida Senate to take up the bill . . . that will provide protection for Terri Schiavo and other vulnerable Floridians.”

It didn’t work. The Senate rejected the bill on a 21-18 vote.

Now, state officials said, they might attempt to place the brain-damaged woman under protective custody so her feeding tube can be reinserted. As a possible precursor of that event, they filed a new motion in state court in Tampa.

(According to the New York Times, that didn’t work — the state court turned down the motion to take Ms. Schiavo into protective custody. Okay, back to the Herald.)

The flurry of 11th-hour action included a dramatic press conference by Bush, in which he revealed a new and more optimistic diagnosis of Schiavo by a doctor who did not fully examine her.

He said that Dr. William Cheshire, a neurologist with the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, concluded that Schiavo may not be in a permanent vegetative state, as determined by many other doctors, but instead may be in a state of “minimal consciousness.”

“This new information raises serious concerns warrants immediate attention . . .,” the governor said. “It is imperative that she be stablized so that the adult protective services team can fulfill their statutory duty and review all the facts surrounding the case. If there is any uncertainty, we should err on the side of protecting her.”

Other state officials said that Cheshire “made personal observations” of Schiavo at an undisclosed time in the past. He stood at her bedside observing her for less than an hour and, two days ago, watched two of the six videotapes in the court’s possession, they said.

This is sick. How much many more hoops will they put the families through? How many more doctors watching videotapes will they consult? The fact that Dr. Cheshire is also a member of the Christian Medical Association, whose mission and beliefs seem to be more interested in church than in science, and whose Christian Physician’s Oath reads, in part, “With God’s blessing, I will respect the sanctity of human life. I will care for all my patients, rejecting those interventions which either intentionally destroy or actively end the lives of the unborn, the infirm, and the terminally ill” makes me wonder if Dr. Cheshire’s diagnosis, regardless of how medically qualified he is, is entirely based on scientific fact.

Like I said, this is sick, but it’s not a surprise. As we have seen time and again, the Bushes do not like to lose — although President Bush seems only to happy at this point to walk away from it.

“This is an extraordinary and sad case,” he said in Waco, Tex. “And I believe that in a case such as this, the legislative branch, the executive branch ought to err on the side of life, which we have. And now we’ll watch the courts make its decisions. But we looked at all options from the executive branch perspective.”

Later, the White House spokesman, Scott McClellan, said that if the federal courts did not order the tube reinserted, “There really are not other legal options available to us.” [NY Times again]

For once, Dubya seems to know better than Jeb when to let it go, but perhaps he’s already reading the polls that show the vast majority of the country thinks Congress overreached with the Save Terri Schiavo bill. Jeb, on the other hand, is still considering his political future as the poster boy of the Christian Right. (Yes, he said he’s not interested in running for the White House in 2008 — yeah, right.)

Meanwhile, the Florida State legislature has spent more than 20 days of its annual 45-day session on this case. They’ve spent all of this time on one person while the rest of the state’s business languishes. This is not how it’s supposed to work, and even the Republicans are getting tired of it…so tired that they recessed for Easter Weekend today.

Stay tuned for further assaults on the law, logic, and more exploitation of the weak, the helpless, and the doomed.