March 22, 2005

Judge To Let Schiavo Die, Orders Stephen Hawking Feeding Stopped

terrischiavo.jpgTampa, Fla (Jawa News Service): A federal judge on Tuesday refused to order the reinsertion of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, denying an emergency request from the brain-damaged woman's parents that had been debated in Congress and backed by the White House.

He also ordered caregivers of Stephen Hawking to stop feeding the 63 year old nobel prize winning physicist.

U.S. District Judge James Whittemore said the 41-year-old woman's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, had not established a "substantial likelihood of success'' at trial on the merits of their arguments. He also noted that since Stephen Hawking appeared to be in "pretty bad shape, we better err on the side of caution and stop feeding him too."

Whittemore wrote that Schiavo's "life and liberty interests'' had been protected by Florida courts. Despite "these difficult and time strained circumstances,'' he wrote, "this court is constrained to apply the law to the issues before it.''

"And by 'law'," he added, "I mean the disregard of this court for the express will of the legislature which wrote the law, substituting my own judgement for their's."

stephenhawking.jpgThe Florida legislature had attempted to clarify the law in Florida so that in cases where a person in a vegetative state had not left clear instructions as to whether to continue life supporting activities, that the presumption would be in favor of life. The Florida Supreme Court declared that law unconstitutional.

Rex Sparklin, an attorney representing Terri Schiavo's parents, said lawyers were immediately appealing to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta to "save Terri's life.'' That court was already considering an appeal on whether Terri Schiavo's right to due process had been violated.

Lawyers for Hawking also plan to join the suit.

Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, praised the ruling: "What this judge did is protect the freedom of people to make their own end-of-life decisions without the intrusion of politicians. Terri Schiavo and Stephen Hawking would have wanted it this way.''

Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo's brother, said his family was crushed. "To have to see my parents go through this is absolutely barbaric,'' he told ABC's "Good Morning America'' on Tuesday. "I'd love for these judges to sit in a room and see this happening as well.''

But Scott Schiavo, brother of Terri's husband, Michael, called the judge's decision "a good thing,'' and said he did not believe Congress should have intervened.

"Plus," he added, "that computer voice thingy of Hawkings is just freaky. Not natural, like."

"There's not a law that's made for this,'' Scott Schiavo told The AP in a telephone interview. "This is something that goes on 100 times a day in our country, that people, their wish to die with dignity is not a federal issue. And if they refuse to die with dignity, we'll just help them along some.''

Attempts to reach Bob Schindler were unsucessful early Tuesday. George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, hung up twice when reached by reporters from The Associated Press. Hawking's people were equally short with reporters, one of them telling the AP to, "go bugger off."

Whittemore's decision comes after feverish action by President Bush and Congress on legislation allowing the brain-damaged woman's contentious case and the ALS afflicted (also known as Lou Gehrig's disease) physicist's to be reviewed by federal courts.

The tube was disconnected Friday on the orders of a state judge, prompting an extraordinary weekend effort by congressional Republicans to push through unprecedented emergency legislation Monday aimed at keeping her alive.

Gov. Jeb Bush was described by a spokeswoman as "extremely disappointed and saddened'' over the judge's decision not to order the tube reconnected. "Gov. Bush will continue to do what he legally can within his powers to protect Terri Schiavo and Stephen Hawking, both vulnerable persons,'' said the spokeswoman, Alia Faraj.

Terri Schiavo did not have a living will. Her husband has fought in courts for years to have the tube removed because he said she would not want to be kept alive artificially and she has no hope for recovery. Her parents contend she responds to them and her condition could improve.

Stephen Hawking has lived with ALS his whole life, and first noticed its affects on his Oxford rowing team. The disease slowly ate away at his motor functions.

Doctors, hired by the ACLU for this case, note that Hawking's latest attack on string theory, published in the journal Nature, was, "nothing more than a reaction to light and sound and only mimicked higher motor functions."

David Gibbs III, the parents' attorney, argued at a Monday hearing in front of Whittemore that forcing Terri Schiavo to starve would be "a mortal sin'' under her Roman Catholic beliefs and urged quick action: "Terri may die as I speak.''

Hawking's, an agnostic, is said to believe that the right to life is the fundamental basis of democracies and that no man can sit in judgement of anothers inherent human worth. He noted that without the help of a specially designed computer that he might also appear to be braind dead.

Hawking communicates through eye movement alone.

But George Felos, an attorney for Michael Schiavo, argued that keeping the woman alive also violated her rights and noted that the case has been aired thoroughly in state courts. "Hawkings," he added, "was just thrown in for safety's sake."

"Yes, life is sacred,'' Felos said, contending that restarting artificial feedings would be against Schiavo's wishes. "So is liberty, particularly in this country. And if it's not in England, it should be.''

Hawkings is a British citizen who has often complained that his computerized voice system makes him sound American.

Michael Schiavo said he was outraged that lawmakers and the president intervened in a private matter. "When Terri's wishes are carried out, it will be her wish. She will be at peace. She will be with the Lord,'' he said on CNN's "Larry King Live'' late Monday.

When King asked Michael Schiavo if dying really was Terri's wish, he answered, "We didn't know what Terri wanted, but this is what we want...."

Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped briefly because of a possible potassium imbalance brought on by an eating disorder. She can breathe on her own, but has relied on the feeding tube to keep her alive.

Stephen Hawking was born in 1942 and first noticed symptons of ALS when he was 20. At 21 doctors diagnosed him with multiple sclerosis. Later he learned the diagnosis was incorrect. Since 1974 he has been unable to feed himself, and has been assisted by his wife Jane. Since 1985 he has been under full time medical supervision.

Court-appointed doctors say Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery, while her parents insist she could recover with treatment. Doctors have said Schiavo could survive one to two weeks without the feeding tube.

Hawking is expected to expire in a much shorter time.

According to a CNN-USA Today-Gallup poll of 909 adults taken over the weekend, nearly six in 10 people said they think the feeding tube should be removed and felt they would want to remove it for a child or spouse in the same condition.

In another poll, nearly one in three agreed with the statement that 'the holocaust has been blown way out of proportion.'

The poll was taken before the judge added Professor Hawking to the list of those that will be euthenized.

On Tuesday, reaction to the judge's decision from the handful of protesters outside the woman's hospice came quickly. "It's terrible. They're going to talk and talk and she's going to die,'' said Miriam Zlotolow, 59, of Venice, Calif.

Larry Flynt, of Hustler publishing fame, is said to be holed up in his Malibu home and is said to be looking for a non-extradition country for immediate emmigration.

UPDATE: It looks like we both forgot our lithium on the same day.

UPDATE II: Dan is on the same wavelength:

A conservative judge in Orange County, California has come under fire for ordering the removal of at least three feeding tubes sustaining the live's of a small group of anti-war protestors in Southern California.

The therapist, too:

Florida officials are setting up a makeshift "tent city" in Pinellas County, Florida, in anticipation that recent court rulings may provide a spike in euthanasia requests.

"We've received many letters from distraught husbands with ‘vegetatively constrained’ wives. We'd just like to be prepared for the boom."

(both via Cranky Neocon)

UPDATE III: Via Bill at INDC my thoughts summed up exactly by Dale Franks suggests:Do us all a favor. The next time you go to the doctor, put in a DNR/No Heroic Measures order. Save us all a bunch of trouble if you get a nasty bump on the head, would you?Allah provides us with this link: "Click, register, and download your very own state-specific living will and/or health-care proxy. Follow the instructions on the forms closely, as you'll probably be required to sign in front of two witnesses or a notary."

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 09:21 AM | Comments |