March 18, 2005

Of the People, By the People, For the People

Oh, my aching ass and breaking heart:

"I have had no cogent reason why the (congressional) committee should intervene," Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer told attorneys in a conference call, adding that last-minute action by Congress does not invalidate years of court rulings.
I'll give you a cogent reason, Judge Greer: Because a case like this becomes something you dickless wonders like to call "precedent." Because the members of Congress are there to function as our elected representatives, and because they've apparently been hearing enough from their constituents to acknowledge that maybe this precedent isn't one the people would like to see set.

Beyond that, all I'm going to say is that you right-to-die advocates should see some of the things I wind up typing in my line of work. You should take a gander and realize how quickly that "right to die" can be invoked by someone besides yourself, whether you've signed a DNR or not. You fall into an altered level of consciousness, and the doctors obviously won't be asking YOU what your wishes are; they'll be asking whoever's financially responsible in the event you're incapacitated. And unless someone's available to stand up for you and say otherwise, they'll take the word of whoever's financially responsible nine times out of ten. Don't be surprised when that word is, "Oh, no, Darla would never want to live this way," or "Kevin always made me promise I wouldn't let him become a vegetable." You think you actually have to sign shit in order for that to happen? You don't. Don't kid yourself.

So let's get something out of the way right now: In the event of a tragedy, Ilyka wants to live. Ilyka doesn't care if she's smelly and embarrassing and covered in drool, ILYKA WANTS TO LIVE. How do you know I'm not looking forward to every scheduled feeding down the G-tube? You don't. SO JUST ASSUME I FIND IT MAGICALLY DELICIOUS. ILYKA WANTS TO LIVE.

And if I can lay my hands on something legal and binding that says exactly that, I'm going to sign the hell out of it today.

(Linked article via Drudge. Inspiration to finally get off my ass and say something about this--now that it's apparently too late, 'cause I'm a moron that way--via Andrea Harris.)

ALL ANDREA, ALL THE TIME UPDATE: I remembered this old post of hers chiefly for the title and accompanying image, but a faint memory that the post had expressed a sentiment I wanted to share here was tickling the back of my mind when I wrote this. I was right--my memory's bad, sure, but it still comes through every now and then:

I think that all this brouhaha reveals that fear of 'tards is alive and well in the twenty-first century. "Ew gross, a 'tard! Kill it!" seems to be an almost atavistic reaction to the sight of a mental defective or the thought of becoming one.

Something in our culture just drains the humanity out of people; how else to explain the fact that starving someone to death is considered to be kinder than just giving them an overdose of morphine, or putting a bullet in their heads. The real reason this method is preferred, of course, is that everyone can pretend that Terri Schiavo isn't being deliberately killed; they are simply "letting nature take its course." Nature -- that we have spent the last ten thousand years or so trying to thwart. Now we let it win one?

Everyone wants to specify the core issue on this case: Some say it's about honoring Terri's wishes, some say it's about honoring Michael Schiavo's rights as her lawful husband, some say it's about whether she's in a persistent vegetative state or not . . . and I don't care, frankly, what the answers are to most of these frequently-asked questions regarding Terri Schiavo.

I care that starvation is about as near to "cruel and unusual punishment" as one can get, and if we're not going to use it on death row inmates, we damn sure don't need to start using it on the merely persistently-vegetative. I can reasonably agree to disagree with someone who advocates dropping many milligrams of morphine into Terri's IV; I cannot agree that withdrawing a feeding tube constitutes a compassionate end to life. If that makes me a bleeding heart, great, I'm a bleeding heart. I knew that years ago.

THE DOCTOR IS IN UPDATE, 03/19/2005: I was wondering what the esteemed Dr. Alice thought of this case; well, wonder no more. She takes a much less dim view of withdrawing the feeding tube, and also notes that complications from prolonged immobility such as bed sores, muscle contractures and wasting, etc., are inevitable and not necessarily due to low quality of care. But before any of you who are as upset and, yes, emotional about this as I am are tempted to flame her, please do note that she's aware the circumstances of this case are not exactly usual*:

To clarify: I think the Terri Schiavo case has been mishandled. The way things are at this time I would not disconnect the feeding tube. However, if Ms. Schiavo had a PET scan and MRI which confirmed that she was in a persistent vegetative state, I would. The sad thing here is that everybody involved in the case is so busy staking out their personal battle grounds that no one is really paying attention to the patient (even though they say they are). Instead of lawmakers proposing dumbass bills for passage or subpoenaing Ms. Schiavo for testimony she can never give - my jaw dropped when I saw that, I couldn't believe someone was pulling that one - the husband and MD should have been legally compelled to get the test that would, you know, ANSWER THE QUESTION of what her clinical state actually is. But no one is interested in getting the test; the husband is afraid that it might show she isn't in PVS and the parents are afraid that it will.
I think that's a fair assessment, one partly supported by this NRO article by Reverend Robert Johansen:
The most obvious possible explanation for what would otherwise be inexplicable behavior is that Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer don’t want to admit any information that would upset the diagnosis they already have. Dr. Morin, when told that Michael had refused an MRI, and that Judge Greer had confirmed the decision, said: “He refused a non-invasive test? People trying to do the right thing want the best and most complete information available. We don't have that in Terri’s case.” Dr. Bell agreed with this assessment, saying, “It seems as though they’re fearful of any additional information.”
NRO link via Susan B. of LilacRose, who earlier today declared her frustration with "libertines of any stripe -- whether they call themselves libertarians, moderates, liberals, South Park conservatives or whatever." I sympathize, but, honey, don't give up on all of us yet. In-between all the cussing and the lewdness, some of us do try to do the right thing once in awhile.

*Please also note that she is something few others opining on this issue are: Board-certified in internal medicine. So show the respect.

Posted by Ilyka at March 18, 2005 07:39 PM in news

Nin and I had a similar conversation a few weeks back. She stated pretty much the same as you, so we're going to actually sign a document to that effect. It's not fun to think about, but you have to be prepared.

Posted by: Ith at March 18, 2005 07:47 PM

Living wills were a regular part of our practice in the Trusts and Estates department of the law firm I used to work at. We didn't draft them, just downloaded them free of charge from the Partnership for Caring website and filled them out for our clients.

Go here, submit the registration info, and download the appropriate state-specific form. You'll probably need to sign in front of a notary.

Posted by: Allah at March 18, 2005 07:52 PM

Ah, Greer and Schiavo. Does a day go by when they don't feel like bloviating about how damn put-upon they are?

I'll admit, this case makes me furious for all the reasons you mentioned. But one incredibly irritating minor aspect is the way Greer and Schiavo and carrying on and wailing like they're such martyrs. As far as I know, only one person is could be dead at the end of all this, and it's not either of them.

Posted by: Sonetka at March 18, 2005 07:59 PM

Yep. Let them wipe my smelly ass. I used to think like everyone else "oh noes, I don't wanna be a drooler!" but I was full of shit. The truth is me in a lumpen state would hardly be all that much of a different existence from the life I lead now. I can see it now. "We're sorry, but we've noticed that instead of going out dancing every Friday night you sit in front of the tv with a beer. Since the Surgeon General has determined that kind of life isn't healthy, and people who are unhealthy are not leading full, happy lives, we've decided to seal up your apartment and starve you to death."

Posted by: Andrea Harris at March 18, 2005 08:07 PM

This thing obviously is very divisive and hurtful, but I have to say that until you've walked that road, you don't know what you would do. Having said that, I'm a lot surprised that her husband wasn't THERE when the feeding tube was removed. That doesn't sit well with me.

As for me? If I'm in a persistent vegitative state -- let me go.

And those are my wishes, which have been communicated to my family members.

Posted by: Margi at March 18, 2005 09:36 PM

Sansioy doesn't want to live in a vegetative state. Hell, Sansioy doesn't even much like living in a non-vegetative state.

If this was my wife, I'd have smothered her with her pillow a long time ago.

Posted by: sansioy at March 18, 2005 09:44 PM

If this was my wife, I'd have smothered her with her pillow a long time ago.

If anyone but you said that I wouldn't believe them, but you? You would totally do that. You'd keep the pillow afterwards, too, because why throw out a perfectly good pillow like that?

See, it's just one more reason why we never married.

Posted by: ilyka at March 18, 2005 11:23 PM

You could still marry me. My rules are simple: you don't want to be smothered with a pillow, don't become a vegetable. I'm sorry, but you have to take responsibility for your actions sometime.

Posted by: sansioy at March 19, 2005 12:56 AM

Ilyka, I've posted a rebuttal. Not to you specifically but to all the hysteria I've seen on the Web about this issue. (Warning: it's long and overwrought and laced with frustration.) If you know your wishes, more power to you: sign that form.

Posted by: Dr. Alice at March 19, 2005 03:39 AM

Alright, but after five years of no progress, no abilities, and no conversation, I will stop visiting you. You are no fun if you can't talk or write. I have no use for a silent, thoughtless Ilyka. You are what your brain does, AFAIC.

How about the case of Sanne in this article? The parents demanded an end to their baby's horrific suffering. How hard-core are you in The Culture Of Life, dude?

Posted by: jdc at March 20, 2005 11:20 AM


I sympathize, but, honey, don't give up on all of us yet. In-between all the cussing and the lewdness, some of us do try to do the right thing once in awhile.

LOL! Well, I don't think you're a libertine. And I cuss too, sometimes. ;-)

Posted by: susan b. at March 20, 2005 07:40 PM

Ilyka: Did you mean to trackback my post on Poop Circles, or is it just a glitch?

Posted by: Lauren at March 22, 2005 09:17 PM

Mae Magouirk safe for now. See Tekgnosis for further details.

Tell the Media to report the REAL Schiavo polls!

My account, etc. of Terri Schindler's Funeral Mass:

Main page:

Posted by: Juan Schoch at April 12, 2005 06:13 AM