L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 313, April 3, 2005
"The War on Guns"
Why the Terri Schindler Schiavo Case Matters
Special to TLE
March 29, 2005
JPFO does not take an official position on issues such as the "right to die" or when it might be ethical to disconnect a brain-dead person from artificial life- support.
But JPFO does care deeply about how governments use power against defenseless innocent people. The genesis of JPFO came with the observation that the Nazis rendered the Jews and others powerless by enforcing "gun control" laws. Our first book, "Gun Control": Gateway to Tyranny, was the first major work to prove the connection between German victim disarmament laws and the destruction of 12 million victims in concentration camps. Our documentary film, Innocents Betrayed, proves the same kind of genocide formula applied to seven other major genocides and countless other horrors. How governments treat defenseless people is among our top concerns.
A New "Justification" To Kill
In the Terri Schindler Schiavo case, the courts accepted her husband's claim that Terri told him (before her severely disabling injury) that she never wanted to be kept alive in a severely brain damaged state. Decades later, the courts held that Terri's wishes, as expressed by her husband, must be carried out by starving and dehydrating her to death.
The evidence we have heard indicates that Terri is not brain dead. She is not totally unconscious; according to eyewitnesses, she does respond to human stimuli. She is not connected to life support machines. She has been in otherwise good health and has been successfully sustained via feeding tube for over 14 years.
What has happened in the Florida and federal courts signals a major shift in how Americans will permit governments to kill people. Make no mistake: by forcibly prohibiting Terri's parents from feeding and caring for her, the government is killing Terri just as surely as if government agents blocked a mother from feeding her baby.
The justification given for killing Terri is that her husband testified, many years after the fact, that it was Terri's wish to die. Terri is powerless to contradict her husband or to express a new wish. His oral testimony about her statement was enough now for the courts to order her death.
Notice further: the courts have decided to not to give Terri's life the benefit of the doubt. A written "living will" or "advance directive," signed by Terri, could be conclusive proof of her wishes. Here the courts are going by the recollection of an oral statement many years ago. That recollection could be wrong, it could be fabricated, it could be confused, it could be out of context. All of these "could be's" are valid reasons to raise doubt.
At the same time, Terri's parents are willing to feed Terri and keep her alive in their care indefinitely. Although currently the costs of Terri's care are borne by the government (taxpayers) via Medicaid, there are numerous individuals and groups who have stated they would donate the money needed for Terri.
So, we have a defenseless innocent person being killed by government order because her husband says she said she wanted to be killed, even though there are people who are willing to keep her alive at their own expense. The government is giving the benefit of the doubt to killing, not to saving a life.
Not A Question of Liberty
Unlike the abortion issue in which some people argue that the unborn child "is not a person," the issue in Terri's case involves most certainly a "person." Thus, the government's decision to kill Terri moves the discretionary power out of the area of "privacy" and into the light of public scrutiny.
We do not see Terri's case as involving the exercise of her right to refuse artificial life support, because she did not take the steps to make clear that she wanted to exercise that right. We are profoundly concerned that courts (and apparently many Americans) consider it acceptable to kill a defenseless disabled person on the say-so of a spouse given many years after the disability occurs.
Religious Tradition Values Innocent Life
Even before the Ten Commandments were declared, there was the unambiguous law against unjustly killing fellow human beings. In the book of Genesis, in the sacred Torah for Jews (and part of the Old Testament for Christians), it states: "Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of G-d has G-d made man." (9:6, NIV).
The book of Deuteronomy, also a sacred Torah book, transmits the clear message: "This day I call heaven and earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live." (30:19, NIV). Deciding to starve Terri to death means to choose and inflict death, and not the death of oneself, but the death of an innocent other person.
Starvation Is A War Crime
We recall that Nazi doctrines authorized the killing of disabled people to purify the race and because the victims lacked a good "quality of life." Killing innocent people because others say those people lack a good "quality of life" is unacceptable, and no government in America should be allowed to make such a decision. Moreover, starving people is a war crime under the Geneva Convention and is considered barbaric torture by human rights organizations worldwide.
Large numbers of prisoners were systematically starved to death in the concentration camps under Nazi and Imperial Japanese control during World War II. Nobody called those starvation deaths "humane." It astounds us that courts in America could order a starvation death of an innocent disabled person.
Doubts Should Favor Preserving Life
When there is a doubt about a question of saving a life, the benefit of the doubt should weigh in favor of volunteers willing to preserve a person's lifenot in favor of the very late testimony of someone who wants a person dead.
Several American courts have nevertheless now ruled that positively killing a conscious disabled person, who was convicted of no crime, is authorized under law and must be carried out. There is no way to spin this outcome as a victory for personal liberty or the rule of law. It's a government killing of an innocent, taking place in clear view of the world. We at JPFO oppose the killing of Terri Schindler Schiavo.