Schiavo fallout

Schiavo fallout

: As Congress and the President rushed into their exploitation of Terri Schiavo, they set off a bomb that will have considerable fallout, I think:

: Without incredibly explicit instructions directly from the patient — and even with explicit instructions from the spouse or guardian — I can see doctors and hospitals refusing to take people off life-support for fear that some family member can come forward and start suing.

: Not that moneyu should be a factor in matters of life and death — though, of course, it is in the insurance industry — but we are going to end up with who-knows-how-many-more vegetative patients who will be kept alive out of fear of litigation and the high cost of maintaining them will fall to the people through insurance and taxes.

: We now have the federal government — and not just the federal goverment but both houses of Congress and the President himself — inserting themselves into an individual medical, legal, family dispute. Watch the avalanche of individual cases that will now fall upon Washington: You did it for Terri, why not for my cousin?

: The Republicans set some odd precedents in matters of state’s rights and government interference in individuals’ lives that may come back to haunt them.

: You can bet there will be attempts to extend what happened last night as a principle of life into the debate over abortion.

: You can bet you will not see attempts to extend this principle into the debate over the death penalty, however.

: You will see Terri Schiavo continue to be used as a political hostage as any Democrat who dared question the wisdom and legality of this action will be accused by opponents in the next election as being against life.

What else?

This is not the result of deliberative government and the rule of law. This is the result of the fog of media and cynical politics.

: MORE: I also believe that this will have an indirect impact on the issues surrounding right-to-die and euthenasia. I do agree that starving a person to death — or choking them by withdrawing a resperator — is potentially cruel (the arguments about whether a person without a brain feels pain are, of course, inconclusive). I would be scared of agreeing to die that way. But if I were eased into death with drugs, that might be a different matter. [Note to the future: Do not take this as my living will. I’m not sure yet.] But to ease me into death with drugs — in other words, to kill me with medication — is illegal in all states but Oregon. And so we are forced to choose what certainly seems to be a crueler means of ending life. It’s not wrong to draw the parallel many have (one commenter on this post, one blogger I quoted on MSNBC last week) to death-penalty treatment: We also cannot be sure whether they suffer (there is debate about that) but even if they do, it is for a far, far shorter time than starving someone to death or choking them (which is terribly frightening to me). So more fallout of this case — quite unintended by those who set off the bomb — could be more liberalization of laws regarding medically assisted death. Or put it this way: If I wrote my living will with explicit instructions [again: I’m not going that yet] saying that I would want life support removed but only with sufficient narcotics to cause death, what would doctors and courts do then?

: Joshua Claybourn discusses the constitutionality of the legislation just signed. Here’s a link to the Senate bill. See also Joe Gandelman’s analysis of the politics.