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February 26, 2005
Column #1,226

                              
The Right To Life Vs. The Right To Kill
                               
      In some circles, euthanasia has become popular. I predict, for example, that the film, "Million Dollar Baby," will win an Academy Award for Clint Eastwood's acting, direction or production of the movie which, while powerfully written and acted, ends with Clint killing the heroine, a superb female boxer who was paralyzed by an illegal punch in a championship bout.

     Let's consider making a movie about a real euthanasia story, the attempt by Michael Schiavo to snuff out the life of his wife, Terri, 4l, who was left brain damaged under mysterious circumstances. Although paralyzed, she recognizes people, smiles and is conscious by day.

     Scene One: Soon after her injury, Michael melts down her wedding and engagement rings to make a ring for himself.

      Scene Two: in 1992 Michael wins a malpractice case of more than $1 million for Terri's rehabilitation and therapy. In seeking the award, he never indicated Terry wanted to die if severely disabled as he later alleged in a Florida court.

     Three: Michael refused to permit any of the award money be used for therapy or rehabilitation. Instead, he pocketed it or spent it on lawyers hired to help terminate her life. 

     Scene Four: Michael moves in with a girl friend and they have two children.

     Five: In a 2000 trial, in opposition to her family and friends, Michael asks that the feeding tube be removed, so she would die slowly by starvation. Yet Judge George Greer, allows him to act as Terri's guardian, without, as required by Florida law, a guardianship plan.

     Scene Six: Terri's family - parents, brother and sister - plead for the opportunity to care for her without compensation, but Michael refuses, using his power of guardianship.

     Seven: Michael wins the right to allow his wife to starve to death.

     Eight: Florida Gov. Jeb Bush intervenes on behalf of Terri, delaying any action by appealing to courts on her behalf.

     Nine: Terri's family begs Michael to let Terri have a swallowing test. It is denied, said Dr. Ronald Cranford, hired by Michael, because spoon feeding would be considered "medical treatment" and "would be totally inconsistent" with what was wanted (e.g. the patient's death).

     Scene Ten: A Florida District Court ruled this week that Terri Schiavo could be starved to death by removing her feeding tube. This occurs in a state that "properly prohibits the inhumane treatment of animals, treating the starvation of one's pet as an inhumane act," as Family Research Council President Tony Perkins puts it.

     Eleven: A Circuit Court Judge issues a temporary stay on the ruling until Friday, a day before this column is published.

     Scene 12: The Catholic Media Coalition publishes an "Open Letter" to Governor Bush, signed by Mary Ann Kreitzer, its president. It quotes the Florida Constitution, which Bush swore to uphold as Governor: "All natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life and liberty, to pursue happiness...No person shall be deprived of any right because of race, religion, national origin or physical disability."

     Therefore, Ms. Kreitzer charges the governor has "the authority as the top elected official of Florida to save Terri....The abuses, conflicts of interest, suppressed evidence, etc. are legion and yet you take no action...

     "Why have you not:

     - ordered a criminal investigation into the night of the incident that left Terri disabled and the evidence of `trauma' over an extended period of time that indicates possible spousal abuse

     - ordered the Department of Social Services to begin legal action to remove Michael as a guardian for failing to fulfill the duties of guardianship under Florida State law

     - brought charges against Michael for negligence/abuse of a disabled individual under Florida law defending the rights of the handicapped..."

     Scene 13: In this same week, the U.S. Supreme Court agrees to hear an appeal of a case involving Oregon's euthanasia law, passed in 1997. The Drug Enforcement Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, notified Oregon that using lethal doses of controlled drugs to kill patients violates the Federal Controlled Substances Act. 

     Attorney General Janet Reno vetoed DEA's action, allowing physicians to kill 170 Oregon residents. Her successor, John Ashcroft, revives the legal action.

     Scene 14: In Tallahassee, Dr. Gary Cass of the Center for Reclaiming America, will hold a news conference Friday with up to 100,000 petitions to Gov. Bush pleading for saving Terri's life.

     At stake: the right to life vs. the right to kill.

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