Bush and co taking over the medical profession
October 21, 2003 3:27 PM   Subscribe

Senate passes legislation to ban partial birth abortion which contrary to what is apparently popular belief, is not a clear cut thing and definitions and facts seem to vary rather greatly. Bush is expected to sign the bill. In other news, another Bush is making medical decisions - this time to keep a comatose woman alive - reversing an earlier court ruling that she be allowed to die.
posted by twiggy (76 comments total)
 
I know - abortion is a divisive topic, but this is interesting to me in so many ways regardless of whether or not I agree with the legislation that's being passed today.

Personally I'm against both decisions, but that's not my impetus for posting them. I truly wonder what people's opinions are on how much control politicians should have over the medical field which it's safe to say very few of them have any intimate knowledge of.

Are we potentially approaching a point where it may become impossible for science and religiously-driven morality to coexist?
posted by twiggy at 3:30 PM on October 21, 2003


in regards to the florida woman, am i wrong in thinking that there is no way in hell that the government or a specific government official should be intervening in this matter to begin with?
posted by sixtwenty3dc at 3:36 PM on October 21, 2003


So does this have an exception for the life of the mother? I can't find it stated definitely anywhere. From what i understand, these sorts of later abortions are very rare, and exclusively done to protect the mother's life.

As for the florida woman, it's a shame that the governor is overriding/disregarding the court's decisions. Her life was ended long ago.
posted by amberglow at 3:41 PM on October 21, 2003


So does this count simply as newsfilter, or just trying to stir controversy? I've never seen any discussion on abortion yield anything except people getting annoyed at other people's opinions.
posted by stryder at 3:48 PM on October 21, 2003


amberglow: no, it doesn't. Barbara Boxer made the most poignant statement about it, in how this is the first time in our nation's history that we've banned a life-saving medical procedure.

As for Jeb's actions, I was at a loss for words when I first heard the story on the news an hour ago. There is so much abhorrently wrong with what just happened that it's cirtually unimaginable. The Florida legislature just decided that the governor has the right to not only override the court, but in a way that authorizes him to decide on his own whim who lives and who dies.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:49 PM on October 21, 2003


cirtually = virtually
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:49 PM on October 21, 2003


If we would just ban birth we wouldn't have these sorts of divisive debates.
posted by xmutex at 3:55 PM on October 21, 2003


hey George.. it's Jeb. I need a favor..
posted by shadow45 at 3:56 PM on October 21, 2003


xmutex: No, that's just silly! clearly here, the answer is birthing licenses.
posted by shadow45 at 3:57 PM on October 21, 2003


amberglow: from what i've been reading, "partial birth abortions" are not necessarily late term.. you should really read the link from the ACLU (and to balance things, the other site too)...


stryder: the purpose wasn't to start a flamewar about abortion or euthanasia, and at least so far that hasn't happened... thanks for weighing in though.. *shrugs*
posted by twiggy at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2003


Just the fact that every news organization is usingthe term "partial-birth abortion" makes you realize how well the conservatives have been able to frame this debate.

We're using their loaded language to describe the procedure.
posted by hipnerd at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2003


Re: PB Abortion ...

I used to get upset about this sort of political posturing, but I've lately discovered that they very often contain the seeds of their own ultimate demise. In this case, we had a similar law passed here in Nebraska that was struck down when challenged by a Nebraska provider (Leo Carhart). Our unicameral passed it knowing full well it was constitutionally flawed; just feel-good, resume'-stuffing fodder for re-election campaigns. But in doing this, they brought together a very savvy group of legal types who painstakingly mapped out a strategy to deal with it. Those people are still together and much more prepared to challenge the law than they would have been, had our lawmakers not provided them with such a nice "dress rehersal". Assuming the case is decided on its merits, this law will be aborted.


posted by RavinDave at 4:02 PM on October 21, 2003


XQUZYPHYR: I think you mean this exact comment: "[This bill is] the first time in history [which] bans a medical procedure without making any exception for the health of the woman."

So basically, the pro-lifers who squeezed this sucker through both houses couldn't give a good goddam for the women who are, after all, having the kid in the first place. The fetus itself is more important than the welfare of a woman. The wording is so broad ("until, in the case of a headfirst presentation, the entire fetal head is outside the body of the mother, or, in the case of the breech presentation, any part of the fetal trunk past the navel is outside the body of the mother for the purpose of performing an overt act that the person knows will kill the partially delivered living fetus") that "partial birth abortion" could apply to any number of safe procedures.

Who knew that Margaret Atwood would be so prescient?
posted by ed at 4:03 PM on October 21, 2003


From what i understand, these sorts of later abortions are very rare, and exclusively done to protect the mother's life.

That myth has been around since 1995, when Ron Fitzsimmons, then executive director of the National Coalition of Abortion Providers, stated that "women had these abortions only in the most extreme circumstances of life endangerment or fetal anomaly."

However, he later admitted that "the vast majority were done not in response to extreme medical conditions but on healthy mothers and healthy fetuses." What abortion rights supporters failed to acknowledge, Fitzsimmons said, is that the vast majority of these abortions are performed in the 20-plus week range on healthy fetuses and healthy mothers. "The abortion rights folks know it, the anti-abortion folks know it, and so, probably, does everyone else," he said. [Source]

The last time this was seriously discussed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declared that there were "no circumstances under which this procedure [D&X, a.k.a. partial-birth abortion]...would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman"
posted by gd779 at 4:04 PM on October 21, 2003


Also, from the same source:

Doctors who use the technique acknowledged doing thousands of such procedures a year. They also said the majority are done on healthy fetuses and healthy women.

One of the doctors was quoted as saying, "We have an occasional amnio abnormality, but it's a minuscule amount. Most are Medicaid patients, and most are for elective, not medical reasons: people who didn't realize, or didn't care, how far along they were."

A Washington Post investigation turned up similar findings.

posted by gd779 at 4:06 PM on October 21, 2003


This bill is yet another violation of federalism and state sovereignty, and while I am vehemently opposed to abortion, I do not think that this bill should be made law. Not that it matters though, because then the Dupreme Court goes and immediately declares unconstitutional any state legislation attempting to regulate abortion (including everything from parental notification laws to partial-birth abortion bans). Catch-22 I guess.
posted by insomnyuk at 4:07 PM on October 21, 2003


Are we potentially approaching a point where it may become impossible for science and religiously-driven morality to coexist?

We passed that point nearly four hundred years ago.
posted by Armitage Shanks at 4:08 PM on October 21, 2003


*Supreme Court.
posted by insomnyuk at 4:11 PM on October 21, 2003


Well, this will go to the supreme court, definitely. Hopefully, it'll be declared unconstitutional. I think they'll rule more narrowly than insomnyuk believes.

As for that poor woman in florida, i hope there's some recourse that can be taken against Bush's decision.
posted by amberglow at 4:13 PM on October 21, 2003


Mother Teresa would be so pleased.
posted by homunculus at 4:33 PM on October 21, 2003


Any commentors old enough to know women who had abortions before they were made legal? Know what they went through and what it was like etc?
posted by Postroad at 4:41 PM on October 21, 2003


This is a reasonable restriction on abortion that probably reflects the views of most Americans. The Roe opinion does not give as much protection to abortion rights when a third trimester pregnancy is at issue, so this legislation may stand. I say BRAVO, because for too long the abortion debate has been dominated by the extreme left and right wings of the national parties. The liberals are unwilling to accept any restrictions on abortion, and most conservatives are unwilling to accept any legal abortion under any circumstances. Deal with this, folks, because this legislation (and parental notification laws) represents rational compromise on an issue that is has been way too devisive for too long.
posted by Durwood at 4:42 PM on October 21, 2003


Pre-Rose Abortion Facts.
posted by ed at 4:50 PM on October 21, 2003


Er...Roe.
posted by ed at 4:51 PM on October 21, 2003


Her life was ended long ago
Are you sure; I just can't tell what her actually state is. I've been there in a similar state, spinal meningitis which caused my brain swelling which then made me lose my motor control skills. remembering yelling at my various body parts to move and they wouldn't, scarry. Then heard my cries of help come out as garbled talk. Worse, those around me concluded the garbled talk was a sign I was clueless to my condition...
The hardest part was having people say; good thing he has no clue to his condition. Though I knew fully well I was dying with a rising temperature and in a vegetable state. My initial reaction, if I can't communicate, WTF will I do to let them know I'm still thinking, speak more garbled talk. After passing out I woke 2days later fully knowing the correct date and time, added one hell of a headache. My tempertature was only recorded as high as the themometer would go. From then on I've always wondered if medicine really knows one's mental condition.
posted by thomcatspike at 4:53 PM on October 21, 2003


As for that poor woman in florida, i hope there's some recourse that can be taken against Bush's decision.

Two different moral dicisions here. Please don't confuse abortion and having the courts decide to starve a living being to death. The complexities aren't comparable (and if you think they are, then you've entered a realm of not thinking about it at all).
posted by Wulfgar! at 5:00 PM on October 21, 2003


The last time this was seriously discussed, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists declared that there were "no circumstances under which this procedure [D&X, a.k.a. partial-birth abortion]...would be the only option to save the life or preserve the health of the woman"

Well, of course it's not the only thing that can be done. You can, for example, begin a caesarian section, destroy the fetus, and deliver the chunks. Or perform a hysterectomy and leave the fetus to die on its own. Or do the same nasty things as IDX does, but entirely within the uterus.

The alternative is not a happy babbling healthy infant. The alternative is a fetus aborted with some other method, probably one that is less safe.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 5:05 PM on October 21, 2003


Let me explain why the bill will be struck down. It already WAS in Stenberg v Carhart. The current version claims to address the concerns expressed by the SCOTUS, but the changes are cosmetic and superficial. Moreover, the still-vague language could be used to attack other methods. Nothing has changed significantly and they may have even introduced a flaw that wasn't in the original Nebraska bill. Unless Bush can get one of the 5 dissenters to retire and appoint a new judge, it ain't gonna fly.
posted by RavinDave at 5:10 PM on October 21, 2003


thanks for that ama story gd. Some questions i have: How many abortions are done each year, and what percentage of the total are these "partial-birth" ones? How many are done after viability and why? and Why have no studies on the effectiveness of this procedure versus others been done?

Postroad, my grandma had one during the depression, and was messed up, eventually having a full hysterectomy (i never got all the gory details of what was messed up. We were told she went to a "butcher" and that those were the only people doing it, but that women in the neighborhood knew of him, and some had gone to him, and recommended him. Given the times, he was a busy man, i believe. You'd think he would have gotten better with practice.)

two entirely different issues being discussed there, wulfgar. 1. partial-birth abortion ban...2. woman's feeding tube being reinstated by governor's decree. What i said about the woman is about the woman, not about abortion.

thomcat, i'm glad you're ok, but i've heard that the court-appointed doctors have thoroughly examined her brain for evidence of any higher-level functions--thinking, feeling, speaking, reasoning, etc. They've declared she's in a vegetative state, and has been for years. You were diagnosed with a disease, and thankfully got better. Her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long, and won't. (the court-appointed doctors are the only ones without an axe to grind in the case, so i believe them more than any other involved in the case)
posted by amberglow at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2003


I am curious if this will worsen our growing problem with obstetrics. It is already a risky industry, malpractice-wise, because there are two lives involved rather than simply one (and the emotional distress of parents if the slightest thing goes wrong). The insurance rates are unbelievable for OB/GYN's who already don't make as much money as other types of physicians. Now on top of that, we have a law that's vague enough to be interpreted as allowing criminal prosecution of doctors who simply botched a normal delivery.

We're going to start having trouble finding people to deliver our babies pretty soon.
posted by McBain at 5:19 PM on October 21, 2003


like amberglow pointed out, this woman is being "kept alive" artificially. since that is the case, i think what the government is doing here is wrong. why does one in a vegatative state have to be kept alive? because it would be considered killing if they aren't? personally, i don't see it like that, maybe someone else has a good explanation?
posted by memnock at 5:32 PM on October 21, 2003


It seems to me that the battle for abortion rights is far from over and what we're seeing is just a troubled moment.

Probably, at the end, the only apparently good method that will find little opposition except in the zealots is RU-486 given that ,according to the linked article, it's best used within 7 weeks from the start of pregnancy.

Which should give the woman or the couple enough time to take an informed decision without submitting to some surgical procedure. Also, that would reduce the need for abortion clinic sometimes picketed by zealots ; once removed from the public streets I guess we will notice a reduction in the oppositions (except from integralists) given that, as you know, the morals of people are very elastic (as long as I don't see....)
posted by elpapacito at 5:38 PM on October 21, 2003


Her brain was deprived of oxygen for too long, and won't.
Thank you amberglow for filling me in further, the news has been poor on this. Coming from you(a true compassionate person) can fully understand. Still hard aware what a vegetable state is then seeing this. Because there is life, yet no functional life as we would want it. Fortunately when I was deprived of oxygen it only went as far as having an "out of body experience." I should have asked my 7 neurologists what my brain wave patterns were during my state, since it may have been some knowledge.

It seems to me that the battle for abortion rights is far from over and what we're seeing is just a troubled moment.

Troubling because this subject separates all; family, friends, political parties & even churches/religions/faiths.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:44 PM on October 21, 2003


it would be really interesting to find out about how your brain was doing during that time, thomcat...You're here talking with us so I guess it was ok : >

Both of these stories go to the question of what life is, and when it should and/or does begin or end--I guess each of us feels differently about it. (I'd recommend Living Wills and Health Care Proxies for everyone)
posted by amberglow at 5:55 PM on October 21, 2003


amberglow: that story about your grandma perfectly matches the story I was told by a policeman I know. Leaving aside the gory details better explained by pictures, he told me about the conditions in which the abortion was practiced by a doctor : a dirty room with little light (curtains used to have more secrecy) and a bed, a bed without a mattress , just the metallic web. A plastic container, some hot water..I guess there's no need to go on with the description.

But that didn't happen during the Depression !! It's not a grandmother era tale, it happened one or two years ago I don't remember ; I think that this is an alarming evidence of the incredible desperation these women are experiencing, going so far as to risk their lifes , but trying to keep the whole trouble secret because of the "moral" consequences they would probably face.

That's so absurd.

thomcatspike: indeed troubling for the reasons you just said.
posted by elpapacito at 6:14 PM on October 21, 2003


So, the first woman that is denied a life saving abortion procedure and dies either during birth or an "alternative" way of getting the fetus out, does her family have a case against the government for wrongful death? That could be one way this could be challenged.

The liberals are unwilling to accept any restrictions on abortion

That's not true. I'm vehemently against coathangers. I get what you were saying, Durwood, and agree partially. But, while this could be the beginning of the middle road, it could also be the beginning of an avalanche.
posted by Ufez Jones at 6:22 PM on October 21, 2003


Just the fact that every news organization is usingthe term "partial-birth abortion" makes you realize how well the conservatives have been able to frame this debate.

Indeed, there is no other term to use because "partial-birth abortion" doesn't refer to an actual medical procedure. You create a provocative term, you give it an intentionally vague and inflammatory description, and then you legislate against it. Because you've invented the thing being legislated against, there's no other word to use for it. People are left talking about "so-called partial birth abortions."

The tactic is a fundamentally dishonest but apparently very effective use of framing.
posted by alms at 7:22 PM on October 21, 2003


Do you American citizens realise that your country is being destroyed?

Seriously, there are some huge problems down there.

You've got election fraud up the wazoo. That alone spells the end of democratic rule. Between the Supreme Court getting into the business of deciding who should be king, to the Diebold/etc voting machine scandals (not only have the databases been proven hackable over the Internet, there have been several elections with rather stunningly suspicious outcomes), you people don't even get to choose your leaders. That is horrible!

And then the leaders you do get shafted with are doing things that aren't bettering the lives of the citizenry, but are doing things that are illegal, disregarding the legal system, and are doing things that run contrary to everything your nation was built upon.

What the fuck?! For a nation that has stood strong on the right to bear arms in anticipation of a time when the government must be overthrown, you're sure standing around with your thumbs up your bums, letting the entire nation fall apart.

Crikey, GET A MOVE ON ALREADY! You simply have to start demanding change, or it's going to be too damn late and you'll be ruled by a puppet dictator.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:25 PM on October 21, 2003


Schiavo is not terminally ill, but because of her condition, she cannot feed herself, so the feeding tube provides her with nutrition and water.

Christopher Reed would die w/o someone to feed him, seems like people don't mind helping him out.

Stop feeding your dog, it dies, you go to jail. Stop feeding your wife, she dies, nothing. ...interesting. (and you expect people not to react to that?)
posted by tomplus2 at 7:51 PM on October 21, 2003


This is a reasonable restriction on abortion that probably reflects the views of most Americans.

I'm gonna have to disagree with you on how reasonable the restriction is, though I can't disagree that it reflects the views of many Americans (though I suspect much of that view has been distorted by extremists on either side of the debate.)

Banning all proedures of a specific type without regard to the circumstances is just bad law, but rather than offer a hypothetical, I'll give you an anecdotal. I was 22, married, quite happily pregnant with my second child, and almost 20 weeks along when a routine ultrasound showed something unusual. The doctors followed that with an amnio, and another, clearer ultrasound.

It turned out that the fetus was anaencephalic- aside from the stem, the baby had no brain to speak of. It would never have a brain, and though I could carry the pregnancy full term, have a completely normal pregnancy in all other aspects, but the baby would die within a few hours or days after birth. So, at 20 weeks (8 weeks past being able to have a suction abortion, which is standard in most states,) I had a partial birth abortion.

My life nor my physical health was at stake; and the baby would have been born alive, but no one can tell me that I didn't have a compelling reason to terminate that pregnancy. Maybe there are people out there who are generous enough, selfless enough, to endure an entire pregnancy just to give birth to an organ donor, but I am not one of them. Yet, under the new law, I would have been forced to do just that.

So, for obvious reasons, that's not what I consider a reasonable restriction. Abortion is a terrible thing; I don't know anybody who celebrates it, but sometimes it is a neccessary thing, no matter how terrible it is.
posted by headspace at 8:08 PM on October 21, 2003


Oh my god, headspace....I wish I could give you a hug right now. I'm so sorry. My heart goes out to you.

And headspace's point is incredibly valid. I was 24 weeks along before I had one of the super clear 3d-like sonograms. My friend didn't have her *first* sonogram until 20 weeks. They generally don't do amnio tests until after week 24, unless, as in headspace's situation, something sets off the alarms earlier.

This is terrible legislation. It's morality over science. I would venture to say that no woman who carries a child for 6 months or more is jumping up and down with anticipation of an abortion. When decisions like this are made, they are made heavily, with much thought and emotional stress. The only people involved in this decision should be the parents and the medical staff...this is no place for politicians.
posted by dejah420 at 8:29 PM on October 21, 2003


let me rephrase... It's a particular brand of morality over science...
posted by dejah420 at 8:32 PM on October 21, 2003


I wonder who exactly is paying the medical bills of the Florida woman. Perhaps they can sue Jeb for the cost of her continued care.
posted by ilsa at 8:54 PM on October 21, 2003


I wonder who exactly is paying the medical bills of the Florida woman. Perhaps they can sue Jeb for the cost of her continued care.

I would happily pay for her lethal injection, if you would agree to pay for all costs accrued while she starves to death. Deal?
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2003


insomnyuk has an interesting point about federalism.

One wouldn't have to stretch recent Supreme Court precedent too far to argue that Congress lacks the power under the Commerce Clause to enact this legislation. If regulating violence against women is not within the scope of Congress's enumerated powers, it's hard to see how regulating specific medical procedures could be.

Incidently, that's a key difference between the previous partial-birth abortion case and this one --- the first case involved a state law, not an act of Congress.

Having said all that, don't hold your breath for Renquist and co. to use this case for the next big expansion of federalism. Under the "new federalism," Congress only interferes with states rights when it passes laws favored by Democrats.
posted by boltman at 9:05 PM on October 21, 2003


Under the "new federalism," Congress only interferes with states rights when it passes laws favored by Democrats.

Fuckin' yawn. Proof, please. Then we have a talkng points memo.
posted by Wulfgar! at 9:09 PM on October 21, 2003


Christopher Reed would die w/o someone to feed him, seems like people don't mind helping him out.

Golly, and it's just the same, what with his condition improving, his ability to maintain free will and cognitive functions, and that little fact that CHRISTOPHER REEVE HASN'T BEEN COMATOSE FOR THIRTEEN YEARS. ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME?

Stop feeding your dog, it dies, you go to jail. Stop feeding your wife, she dies, nothing. ...interesting. (and you expect people not to react to that?)

No more than I would expect anyone to accept a shitty analogy like that. Are you so deluded as to believe that trapping an animal in your house and denying it food causing it to starve to death is the same as disconnecting life support from a comotose person? Your dog is ASKING for food. This woman, according to her husband, ASKED to DIE.

Look, I went the civil route before and I've restricted my harsh invective for my own personal weblog, but this comment just made me fucking angry. tomplus, I refuse to accept that you actually believe your own ridiculous "comparison." I defy you to explain how that wasn't a troll, and an outrageously offensive one considering the situation of this story.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 9:22 PM on October 21, 2003


Thank god you had the option, headspace--hopefully this legislation will be overturned so other women can have it too.
posted by amberglow at 9:36 PM on October 21, 2003


fff: As one in the middle of this mess, I'd say you're right on the whole;
the hopelessness darkens the spirit and crushes the soul.
When it has all become about money, power, and war,
it's clear it has nothing to do with 'we the people' anymore.

It'll take most of us a while to assess the true cost,
but no matter how loud we try to shout it, we're already lost.

I used to be one who felt a better state we could maneuver;
but these days I'm thinking: can I get at least as far as Vancouver?
posted by troybob at 10:45 PM on October 21, 2003


...definition of partial birth abortion, which is not a formal medical term.

If this is not a medical term, just what exactly is the purpose of this legislative interference of all women's right to do what they think is best for them using terms not in the medical dictum?

Moreover, it is a term invented by anti-choice activists propagated by Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., chief sponsor of the bill, who said the procedure was both inhumane and unnecessary. I didn't notice the letters MD anywhere near Sen. Rick Santorum's name, so what exactly makes him an authority on what is inhumane and unnecessary in this case?

This crosses the line by interfering with a person's constitutional right. I decry the paternalistic Senate who dare deny women adults the control of their own destiny after a certain age [that being the age of __, consent, that defining adult [fill in for your state]]

The framing of abortion facts online [The Right To Life-sponsored by Heritage House76 who believe that god is pro-life! god??] I have a problem with. It is meant to elicit a negative response by the wording of the procedure alone. Those not MD's would be shocked. Those in the profession deal with life and death daily. Certain procedures are nasty to the layman.

• How will there be proof that an MD performed said abortion as defined by this legislation?
• Will they now videotape all abortions to prove no criminal act was committed as outlined by this legislation?
• Will the RN's be required to phone police if said abortion was performed in the manner as described by the legislation?
• In whose lap will the burden of proof fall?

I want to know how they intend to police this legislation.

Can we at least stop referring to an abortion by the name chosen by some senator in pocket with extremist right wing special interest groups? They certainly aren't interested in individual rights, just their own agenda and dictating to all.

...how much control politicians should have over the medical field...

Absolutely none! in this case specifically.
This is particularly worrisome. Politicians paid off by deep pocketed conglomerates and churches will suddenly lord over those without the funds to "vote" in their man politician. I certainly am cynical about this. Do you blame me? One just needs to look at the recent track record of the current lot of "politicians" [yes, those with whom I disagree with and how they got "voted" in, in particular]

This poxy bit of legislation just smacks of the same thinking that went into Marriage Protection Week legislation proclamation. This shmear "for the well being of the chil'len"... what about the rights of adults and those entrusted with medical degrees and the agreement between them?

ed, welcome to the Handmaid's Tale. Jayzus, next up, Oryx and Crake. An essay and the complete first chapter and more. Margaret Atwood's letter to America is tender yet chilling.


[note my framing]
posted by alicesshoe at 11:09 PM on October 21, 2003


Any commentors old enough to know women who had abortions before they were made legal? Know what they went through and what it was like etc?

My mother-in-law lost two friends from pre-legal abortions. They died in their 20s.

These damn moral conservatives just don't get it. Things don't just go away if you wish them to go away. The reality is, abortions are going to happen. What is so hard about facing reality and at least letting these things happen safely?

But oh yeah, "pro-life" only applies to before you're born. After that, you're on your own.
posted by billder at 11:48 PM on October 21, 2003


All of the news stories I've read about Terri Schiavo mention how different the case is from similar ones because she's not comatose. The original thread on this subject had pretty interesting arguments on both sides and explored a lot of tough moral issues - now that there's a Bush involved, we can't seem to get beyond cheap shots. Not only that, but everyone seems to have completely forgotten a lot of the conflicts and ambiguities in the case, which really is like a Law and Order episode, even though the other thread was pretty recent. The mere mention of Bush seems to bring the level of discussion down several notches.
posted by transona5 at 12:24 AM on October 22, 2003


I wonder who exactly is paying the medical bills of the Florida woman. Perhaps they can sue Jeb for the cost of her continued care.

Terri Schiavo's medical bills are being paid out of a $1.3 million legal award given her husband after he sued the original hospital for malpractice for their (mis)treatment of her case at the time of her heart attack. $750,000 of that amount was set aside in trust for Terri's ongoing medical care, but shortly after the trial in which her husband, Michael, said that it was crucial that the hospital be made to pay because Terri was going to need extreme medical care for years to come, he began the process of trying to get her dead.

The $550k that went directly to Michael has been largely swallowed by his legal bills, but the remaining balance of the $750k trust will come to him upon Terri's demise. Her death will also free him to marry the woman who is currently pregnant with her second child by him.

Therein lay the reason, I believe, why Bush and the Florida lege are working so hard to insinuate an executive override into this case. Michael Schiavo has so many conflicts of interest that his testimony about Terri's supposed desire to not persist in a vegetative state -- after fighting so hard to get money to pay for the bills associated with her continued life -- is suspect at best, and his behavior since the ruling in his favor has been utterly disgusting. (In addition to banning Terri's parents from seeing her, most recently, he refused permission for a priest to give Terri the last rites.) Given all of that, and given that this woman is slowly but surely dying of thirst, it's not surprising that someone would seek to intervene when the courts seem to have fallen down on the job in such a grand fashion.
posted by Dreama at 12:26 AM on October 22, 2003


Who knew that Margaret Atwood would be so prescient?

I read the Handmaid's Tale when it was published, and have been waiting and watching since. The story it tells grows to have a feel more documentary than fictional, slowly and in waves reaching a little higher each time, as the years go by.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 1:17 AM on October 22, 2003


Well, Wulfgar!, just off the top of my head, in recent years, for federalism-related reasons, the Supreme Court has struck down parts of or narrowed the scope of: the Violence Against Women Act, the Brady gun control bill, The Gun-Free School Zones Act, The Clean Water Act, Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, The Americans with Disabilities Act, and the Age Discrimination in Employment Act. The only even arguably conservative measure that I can think of that has gotten similar treatment is the Religous Freedom Restoration Act, and that was only because the Supreme Court felt that Congress was usurping its power to say what the Constitution means.

There's no question that the Renquist court really does believe in the principle of federalism -- it's not totally unprincipled. But its pretty hard to look at the cases and not see a pattern of targeting progressive policies.
posted by boltman at 1:36 AM on October 22, 2003


The party of smaller government always seems quite willing to pass new laws that are intrusive into personal lives, just so long as they don't affect businesses and profit.

You'd think the Bushie brothers would be a bit more circumspect about the death penalty being carried out what with their deep concern for the sanctity of life and all...
posted by nofundy at 4:49 AM on October 22, 2003


fff: Some of us here in the States are trying. Believe me, we're trying. But reasonable arguments delivered with forceful conviction don't seem to work these days. People are tired of politics. They'd rather be entertained by a Bill O'Reilly-Al Franken or Arnold-Arianna squabble than an actual discussion. For whatever reason, they feel overtaxed and overburdened. But here's the kicker: the idea that government can help them has, in a matter of ten years, become a foreign concept. People here are worn down by the futility and, as a result, they've completely forgotten the purpose of a representative democracy. As a result, they're making a lot of uninformed and outright desperate decisions at the polling booths.

Here in California, even here in San Francisco, I've talked with people who willingly voted for the recall and Ah-nuld. The upshot of it is that centrists like Howard Dean are considered "socialists," that the unemployment woes we're facing are considered outside the purview of the government, and that there seems to be a strange belief that any kind of government assistance with the improvement of life is bad.

You're dealing with a nation of pull-themselves-up-by-their-bootstraps libertarians who apparently see personal responsibility and rampant industrialism as the answer to their woes, as opposed to government. You're dealing with people who have become so jaded by what happens in Washington that they've stopped paying attention.

But we're trying. Really, we are. Letters, discussions, phone calls. You name it. I fight the desire to become a overly cynical elitist everyday.

And, aliceshoe, there's a bunch of Atwood in my bookpile. Thanks for the links. :)
posted by ed at 4:55 AM on October 22, 2003


some modern testimonials
posted by Karmakaze at 6:00 AM on October 22, 2003


In addition to banning Terri's parents from seeing her

Not true. He banned them from unsupervised visits because they violated court order and videotaped her secretly and then released the tape to the media.
posted by archimago at 6:10 AM on October 22, 2003


I didn't notice the letters MD anywhere near Sen. Rick Santorum's name, so what exactly makes him an authority on what is inhumane and unnecessary in this case?

I don't know alicesshoe, I really don't like the proposition that only doctors can decide what's inhumane.

Even though I oppose this bill strictly on the "slippery slope" argument, I have to say that I'm somewhat surprised that more of you can't even bring yourself to acknowledge how grisly and (yes) inhumane this procedure is, or see why many people are troubled by it and want to ban it. I don't see how it's defensible that this procedure is primarily used electively. But, like I said, I also don't think you can reconcile banning this procedure but still allowing abortion, from a constitutional standpoint. Roe v. Wade is on pretty questionable legal grounds as it is. The slightest erosion of those grounds could topple the whole thing.

in regards to the florida woman, am i wrong in thinking that there is no way in hell that the government or a specific government official should be intervening in this matter to begin with?

Yes. If everyone -- spouse and family -- had been on the same page, this would never have become a story. But when two sides both claim to know what the woman wanted, and she can't speak for herself, the government pretty much have to get involved. No branch of government is particularly well suited to make this kind of decision, but who is? And for those who are up in arms about Bush "disregarding the courts," understand that he is not violating the court's ruling -- the Florida legislature passed a new law to allow him to insert the tube. Whether that law constitutional is a question for a later day. Remember that our system of government is one of checks and balances -- no one branch is superior to another.

The upshot of it is that centrists like Howard Dean are considered "socialists,"

Howard Dean, centrist. That's a good one, ed. Maybe on the spectrum from Stalin to Atilla the Hun, he's somewhere in the center. By the same token, I don't know anyone who considers him a socialist.
posted by pardonyou? at 7:04 AM on October 22, 2003


I don't think anyone's linked to the text of the bill, or the final votes.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:29 AM on October 22, 2003


For the too numerous posters to mention who think "that Florida woman" is comatose please look at some of these videos and then come back and tell me if you still think she's a vegetable.

Video Clips of Terri Schiavo
posted by Bonzai at 8:03 AM on October 22, 2003


pardonyou, I'll acknowledge how grisly it is, however I will add that I find it more troublesome having no choice but to taking an unwanted pregnancy to term for whatever reason and then the quality of life for that unwanted child. I find it more troubling that young women are "shamed" by a certain segment of society that their choice is not theirs to decide and therefore go to the lengths of self aborting and dying from it should trouble you all the more.

As prohibition didn't work, history should have taught us by now, that whatever a person decides to do, they will find a way to do just that, whatever the current opinion or law placed to prevent them from doing just that.

The fact that no men ever died as a result of this thinking and laws governing specifically what only applies to a procedure done to women really is medieval. The fact that initially men are part of the equation, but then want to wash their hands of it then legislating against it and walking away is also wrong. Seriously, that legislation isn't progressive where there is true equality between the sexes yet. This once again seems like another reminder of their "place" in society.

This piece of legislation just won't carry much truck for those who have decided to go ahead with an abortion. They will go where it is legal, Canada for instance.

Like a travel embargo to Cuba, people from the USA will go via Canada. It's that simple.
It's the same reason why Vancouver has a facility for heroin addicts to shoot up safely and get counseling to address what is basically a health issue. This is also a health issue. Continuously criminalizing health issues, such as the war on drugs too, is again, medieval. Why the continuous sticking your collective heads in the sand? It isn't about to cease, face it. [yeah, cowboy up I hear they like to say huh?]
posted by alicesshoe at 8:43 AM on October 22, 2003


Umm... no Bonzai, I think I'd rather not endorse the aforementioned invasions of trust and privacy archimago just noted. I think I'll add to that by believing, umm, you know... the doctors and stuff instead of smuggled video.

"Hey, the photo of the embryo LOOKS like a human! It MUST be alive!" Please.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:48 AM on October 22, 2003


Who you going to believe? Me or your lyin' eyes!?
posted by McBain at 8:49 AM on October 22, 2003


Bonzai, I saw the videos on TV news. They are very short clips of dozens of hours that were, by the parents' own admission, videotaped. Many doctors have testified that what you see in the videos are nerve reflexes and not responses to stimuli. Terry showing discomfort at having a swab put down her throat is not discomfort but her gag reflex kicking in. Notice how in the balloon video you never actually see where the balloon is in relation to her eyes, and it is just as easy to make a ballon follow where her eyes are going.
posted by archimago at 10:02 AM on October 22, 2003


Some of us here in the States are trying. Believe me, we're trying. But reasonable arguments delivered with forceful conviction don't seem to work these days.

I think the time for discussion and argument is over.

You can not win this fight using weapons that are centuries old. The ruling overclass has moved to new techniques: you need to, too.
posted by five fresh fish at 10:34 AM on October 22, 2003


XQUZYPHYR: Umm... no Bonzai, I think I'd rather not endorse the aforementioned invasions of trust and privacy archimago just noted. I think I'll add to that by believing, umm, you know... the doctors and stuff instead of smuggled video.

If you don't see the videos you don't have a right to question anyone else's assessment of the videos. You have to judge these things for yourself.

archimago: Many doctors have testified that what you see in the videos are nerve reflexes and not responses to stimuli. Terry showing discomfort at having a swab put down her throat is not discomfort but her gag reflex kicking in. Notice how in the balloon video you never actually see where the balloon is in relation to her eyes, and it is just as easy to make a ballon follow where her eyes are going.

From what I understand, a person in a vegatative state can't sit up or vocalize. While I do have my suspicions of those clips being carefully edited propaganda, I am not even close to 100% sure that they are. The fact that the husband banned the parents from video taping her in the first place raises a big red flag for me.

His agenda appears to be selfish, while the parents agenda seems to be for Terri. I would like to see a neutral court appointed doctor examine her to get a 3rd party opinion.

It seems to me if the parents are willing to take care of her for the rest of her life then there isn't any reason he shouldn't just divorce her and move on. No reason other than the money of course.
posted by Bonzai at 12:56 PM on October 22, 2003


The fact that the husband banned the parents from video taping her in the first place raises a big red flag for me.

Maybe because he was worried they might, oh I don't know, copy the tape and give it to the news media and a couple hundred religious fanatics who would proceed to camp outside the hospital?

Funny, that's exactly what they did, since, yes, I did see the videos on the news, and the parents' goal for it has been achieved: it's propaganda. This isn't the UN with photo evidence of Cuba lying about Russian missiles. This is emotional zealots using images to override the opinions of multiple trained professionals.

Numerous doctors have declared the woman permanently vegetative. Numerous courts have ruled the husband the authority of power of attorney. Any actions refusing to accept this is a selfish response to one's personal/emotional desire. You are doing the exact same thing by hawking this video as if even remotely overrides both medical and legal opinions.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 1:18 PM on October 22, 2003


I would like to see a neutral court appointed doctor examine her to get a 3rd party opinion.

There have been a handful of court-appointed doctors who examined her, who proclaimed her vegetative, and on whose testimony the court decision was partially based.

Vegetative does not always mean coma.

It is also my understanding that her husband did not ban them from videotaping. During court procedings the court ruled that the existing videotapes could not be made public. Her father is (was) being held in contempt of court for ignoring the court's mandate on this. It was then that her husband got a court order forbidding her parents from visiting her unsupervised. That's what happens when you willfully break someone's trust. The parents cannot be trusted. How would you feel if your S.O.'s parents were trying to make him/her into a sideshow when you were fighting for his/her dignity to die?

This is a very difficult situation, made worse by the parents. They don't have the right to make decisions on her behalf. Her husband does. Perhaps her husband won't divorce her because he knows that as husband he is next of kin and the only one who can carry out her wishes of not being kept alive in this way. Perhaps he is a religious man who doesn't believe in divorce.
posted by archimago at 1:27 PM on October 22, 2003


His agenda appears to be selfish, while the parents agenda seems to be for Terri.

I lean toward thinking the exact opposite is true. Numerous impartial medical experts have opined that she has no chance of recovery, her parents want her to undergo therapy which has never once proven successful - they're grasping at any straws they can find, no matter how delusional, because they can't bear to let her go, and her husband seems to be trying to carry out Terri's expressed wishes to not be kept alive artificially (and yes, I'm sure he has some self interest here, he's ready to move on with his life - his wife has been dead for 13 years, only her body is still alive, that's got to be extraordinarily painful). It seems to me that her parents are the ones being selfish (their pain is understandable, people in states like Terri's often do things which make it seem as if they're conscious on some level, even when they're not - I'd hazard a guess that if we were able to see all the videotape that's been taken of her, the degree to which we'd think her movements and reactions were truly conscious would drop substantially).
posted by biscotti at 2:13 PM on October 22, 2003


`(d)(1) A defendant accused of an offense under this section may seek a hearing before the State Medical Board on whether the physician's conduct was necessary to save the life of the mother whose life was endangered by a physical disorder, physical illness, or physical injury, including a life-endangering physical condition caused by or arising from the pregnancy itself.
posted by tomplus2 at 11:06 AM on October 23, 2003


"Hey, the photo of the embryo LOOKS like a human! It MUST be alive!" Please.

You get the award for stupidest argument in this thread. Congratulations. I think you know where your prize is.
posted by insomnyuk at 1:19 PM on October 23, 2003




I have seen the videos...and they are heartbreaking. But I've also had experience dealing with head injuries...and I'd have to think that the doctor's would have no ulterior motive for testifying that she's vegetative. I would hate to be in the position of any of the parties.

But I think a lot of the problem is caused by the fact that there is no graceful exit strategy in situations like this. Our culture, in general...but especially in America...doesn't want to think about death, wants to fend off death at all costs, refuses to consider that death may be a blessing in some situations.

For example, I have a living will that directs that no lifesaving measures be implemented if I meet the Harvard criteria for brain death. That is the standard for living wills...it means if your brain can't control functions like breathing and heart beat, and has no chance of recovering that control...unplug the machines.

But Terri doesn't meet those criteria. I can't speak to what Terri wanted...but I know that I, personally, wouldn't want to be kept alive in her condition. The thought terrifies me.

But even if she had left a clear will stating that she never wanted to be kept alive under conditions [x], starving her to death is inhumane. It's absurd to think that we as a society should sentence her to that, when we have the ability to ease her in to the next life with a simple addition to her IV tubes.
posted by dejah420 at 10:24 PM on October 26, 2003


I think it's fantastic that that procedure will be illegal soon. You people are twisted.
posted by ParisParamus at 5:42 AM on October 27, 2003


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