Terri Schiavo: A Libertarian Observation

The central position of Libertarianism is the "non-aggression axiom." To become a member of the Libertarian Party, one must make the following pledge:

I do not believe in or advocate the initiation of force as a means of achieving political or social goals.

A 10-year old boy was arrested the other day for attempting to give Terri Schiavo a drink of water. The police were engaged in the "initiation of force" against the boy -- unless the boy was engaged in the "initiation of force" against Terri Schiavo. Was he?

The answer to that question is determined in part by Terri Schiavo's wishes.

I say "in part" for two reasons. First, it's not clear what Terri Schiavo's wishes are right now.

Second, her wishes may not be decisive, even if her wishes were clear. When I was a child, my mother made me eat my spinach. I preferred eating "Baby Ruth" candy bars. As an adult, I now believe that it was in my best interests to have a diverse diet that at times did not reflect my pro-candybar wishes. Did my mother engage in the "initiation of force" against me? I would say no, since she was my parent/guardian.

Even if Terri Schiavo were an adult with no physical "brain damage," I might apply this same principle. Suppose an adult but unmarried Terri Schiavo decided to commit suicide by dehydration. Suppose further than Terri's parents were good friends with Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise, and they called him on the phone and persuaded him to use the ship's transporter beam to beam water into Terri Schiavo's stomach periodically without her knowledge. I would support that action because I believe suicide is wrong. I would say Terri Schiavo should be kept alive against her will until she can be talked out of wanting to kill herself. If she were brandishing a gun to kill herself, I would use "force" to confiscate her gun. But this is not directly relevant to the case; I'm just admitting my anti-suicide biases.

I believe Terri Schiavo is being murdered. Some would say she's being "allowed" to die, but if my mother refused to feed me when I was a baby and stood outside the door saying she was "allowing" me to die, and threatening to initiate force against anyone who tried to give me food and water, I would say she was trying to murder me.

Terri Schiavo might just approve of that action right now (she is still alive as I write this), but she can't tell us what she wants. (Or if she can, we're being told she can't [Michael Schiavo won't allow video taping of Terri Schiavo; Michael doesn't seem to want the facts to leave the hospice room]. There have been a few certified medical experts who have given Terri brighter prognoses than Michael's pro-death experts.)

So the question is, who speaks for Terri Schiavo?

Michael Schiavo claims the right to speak for Terri Schiavo on the grounds that he was married to her at one time. I don't believe "marriage" is defined or determined by "the government." I'm willing to examine the grounds claimed by Michael Schiavo. And a quick examination suggests he is no longer married to Terri Schiavo. He lives with another woman and has fathered children by her. I would say Terri Schiavo's parents have a more natural claim to speak for Terri Schiavo than her estranged husband. "Conflict of interest" is a phrase that immediately comes to mind, and it is doubtful that Michael Schiavo has Terri's best interests in mind.

I can't understand why anyone would advocate slow protracted death by starvation and dehydration rather than lethal injection. We are taxed millions of dollars by the government to keep those pot-bellied babies in Biafra from dying this way.

If Terri's parents' claim of guardianship is accepted, then I would conclude that their desire to give food and water to Terri Schiavo is not an "initiation of force" inconsistent with the fundamental Libertarian principle.

Deciding the guardianship claim is critical. Fairly deciding the issue depends on knowing the facts. I don't know the facts. Here's what the most rabid pro-life advocates are saying:

Michael tried to kill his wife. He failed. There was evidence of trauma when Terri was brought to the hospital, not just "potassium deficiency." The husband found a lawyer who sued the caregivers for failing to discover the potassium deficiency, and a judgment was awarded. With his wife worth more to him dead than alive, his intent is steadfast: he wants to kill his wife. He orders that his wife, still under medical care, not be given any further rehabilitative care or physical therapy despite hundreds of thousands of court-ordered dollars to do so. That money goes to attorneys who are on the Board of Directors of the hospice and front for a right-to-die organization, "The Hemlock Society," a group that wants to assist in killing people.*  The husband shacks up with another woman and fathers two kids. Terri dies slowly. Finally, in a case where the medical witness is also a right-to-die advocate, the husband is given the legal right to starve his wife to death.

If these allegations are true, there is a clear "conflict of interest" between Michael and Terri Schiavo, and Terri's parents, who want Terri to live, are a better choice for Terri's guardian.

The following is from Is It "Murder" to Pull Terri's Feeding Tube?

Let us peruse some of the evidence of Michael Schiavo’s malicious intent against his wife.  The following is taken from http://www.terrisfight.org/: "In 1992, Terri was awarded nearly one million dollars by a malpractice jury and an out-of-court malpractice settlement which was designated for future medical expenses. Of these funds, less than $50,000 remains today. The financial records revealing how Terri’s medical fund money is managed are SEALED from inspection. Court records, however, show that Judge Greer has approved the spending down of Terri’s medical fund on Schiavo’s attorney’s fees - though it was expressly awarded to Terri for her medical care. Schiavo’s primary attorney, George Felos, has received upwards of $400,000 dollars since Schiavo hired him. This same attorney, at the expense of Terri’s medical fund, publicly likened Terri to a 'houseplant' and has used Terri’s case on national television to promote his newly published book."

To be precise, in 1992, two and a half years after Terri’s accident, a total of 2.25 million dollars was awarded to Mr. Schiavo in a total of three suits.  It was only then that Mr. Schiavo placed a “Do Not Resuscitate” order in his wife’s chart and began to deny her therapy.

An affidavit has been put forth by a licensed practical nurse (L.P.N.) who cared for Terri Schiavo at the Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center in Largo, Florida.  She was very concerned about the neglect and lack of care provided to Terri Schiavo under the insistence of her Michael Schiavo.  She documents Terri responding to her, laughing at jokes, speaking several words with appropriate contexts, and informing her of the presence and location of pain and when her diaper needed to be changed.  This nurse made several positive comments in the chart about Terri's improvement, but those comments were always deleted from the chart.  She noted that Mr. Schiavo would express glee over any illness that Terri suffered, hoping that she would die, and even once exclaiming, "I'm going to be rich!"  He would gloat over all of the things he would buy when Terri died.  He would order the nurses staff not to contact Terri's parents, and was very intimidating to the staff.  The nurse documents strong evidence that Mr. Schiavo attempted to kill Terri by injecting her with insulin.  Once he shouted to the nurses, "When is that bitch gonna die!?"  (This affidavit can be read at http://www.rense.com/general63/aff.htm and an interview with the nurse can be read at http://www.thedavidallenshow.com/guests/iyer.carla.20050309.)

Michael Schiavo has not only failed his obligation to provide for his wife's care, he has maliciously mistreated her, and possibly tried to murder her.  He has exploited his wife's tragedy to rake in a million, and has not employed this money to provide the care intended.  He became engaged to another woman in 1997 and he lives with her and has two children by her!  Mr. Schiavo’s ex-girlfriend testifies that Michael Schiavo lied about Terri’s last wishes, evidence that Judge Greer refused to consider.  Michael Schiavo doesn't want Terri to improve, he doesn't want her to have physical, occupational and speech therapy, he doesn't want her to have a swallowing study, he doesn't want to provide comfort measures to her, he doesn't want to be a faithful husband, he doesn't want to let Terri's parents take her home and take care of her until she dies, as many loving Hospice families do.  Michael Schiavo wants his wife to die because he wants to keep the money intended to provide Terri's care and he wants to marry his adulteress, and he has found a judge and a doctor to serve as his accomplices in this crime.

Terri should have been -- but was not -- represented by counsel. The allegations in this case should have been -- but were not -- considered in a court of law. The original court has ordered many records sealed. Michael Schiavo insists on immediate cremation of Terri's body, possibly to avoid detection of abuse and criminal acts against her. The deliberate and intentional killing of a human being ought to take place only after all the facts have been carefully considered. Criminals accused of murder cannot be executed unless the evidence is "beyond a reasonable doubt." It is not clear "beyond a resonable doubt" that Terri should be killed. Public officials who give deference to "the law" or "the Rule of Law" rather than the life of Terri Schiavo are political cowards.

I invite your comments: schiavo@KevinCraig.US

More rabidly pro-life resources:



Part 2: To Hell with "The Rule of Law" -- Why Congress did nothing wrong in trying to keep Terri Schiavo alive.

Part 3: A Response to Neal Boortz