Monday, March 21, 2005

Terry Schiavo - Federal Court Review

The federal government has enacted a law (see text here) to give Terri Schiavo's parents one last chance to show that Terri's feeding tube should be permanently restored. The new law applies solely to Terri.

It seems to me that the primary purpose of the law is to ensure a thorough review of Terri's case. That purpose will only be served if the federal court is able to review all the facts in the case, and that will take time, which Terri has precious little of. I hope that the federal judge today will issue a temporary stay at the very least so that the case can be reviewed properly.

Ascertaining the facts seems paramount to me. Decide once and for all what Terri's condition is and what her wishes would be.

I have learned through The Corner that Terri's guardian ad litem (GAL) in the initial trial recommended that there was not clear and convincing evidence of Terri's wish to die because the testimony of Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband was subject to financial conflict. When the GAL made his report, Michael immediately claimed that the GAL was biased. The trial judge dismissed the GAL and surprisingly did not appoint another one for Terri. Since then, the trial judge has consistently favored Michael over Terri's parents. Most importantly, the trial judge ruled directly contrary to the GAL's recommendation and found clear and convincing evidence of Terri's wish to die. You can read all this and more about Terri's case in the final report of the GAL appointed by Gov. Jeb Bush.

Conflicting stories are swirling over the air waves and the internet. Now, a federal judge brings fresh eyes to view Terri's case. Hopefully, the federal judge will not be bogged down in too many constitutional issues and will ensure a thorough review of the essential facts regarding Terri's condition and wishes.

I hold little hope that the federal judge will reach a different conclusion about Terri's condition, although there are many stories flying around that suggest otherwise. I do expect that a thorough review of the facts surrounding Terri's wishes will bring into focus the reasons that caused Terri's first GAL to discount Michael Schiavo's testimony.

Until all the evidence is in front of us, it is premature to predict the outcome. The American public should consider all the evidence before deciding on Terri's condition and wishes. The federal judge certainly is aware of the widespread concern about the handling of Terri's case to date. Above all, the judge must aim to have all the facts in the public domain so that the public can be assured that the outcome, whatever it is, rests on a thorough and honest evaluation of all the facts.

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