How is it possible? How could it happen in the United States of America? We could understand it if this happened in Nazi Germany or in Stalin's Russia or in Mao's China, but how could it happen in America?
How can a nation whose core principles protect the rights of life and liberty for every citizen allow (even condone) a woman to be slowly and painfully starved to death? This is beyond comprehension.
There are so many elements to this story that it is very difficult to deal with them all, especially in one column. Let me try to highlight a couple of the more glaring lessons that come out of this tragic story.
Under Florida statutes, Terri's husband, Michael, is legally authorized to make life or death decisions on behalf of his wife. These statutes are, no doubt, rooted in the principle that the marriage relationship of a man and a woman is the cornerstone of the family and of all society. In principle, this is a very good thing. No one, at least not me, wants the state meddling in the affairs of the family except under dire and extreme circumstances.
However, are not the circumstances surrounding the Terri Schiavo affair dire and extreme? Does not the state intervene in family matters hundreds, even thousands, of times every year for matters much less severe than those surrounding Terri Schaivo?
Obviously, state laws recognizing the authority and right of a spouse to speak for his or her mate in life-threatening matters hinges on the presupposition that the spouse truly loves his or her mate and seeks the mate's best interest. Unfortunately, too many times, a spouse will prove by his or her actions that he or she does not have the mate's best interests at heart, and the state is forced to intervene.
Can any objective person who is even vaguely familiar with Terri's story not readily admit that there is more than ample evidence of misconduct and mismanagement of Terri's care and oversight by husband Michael Schiavo? This part of the story is a no-brainer!
Where is the curiosity for truth and the desire for justice on the part of local and state law enforcement, state attorneys, and local and state judges located in Pinellas Park and in the State of Florida? Is there not plenty of circumstantial evidence to suggest that Michael is acting out of motives that are unclear, uncertain, and perhaps even unscrupulous?
Somewhere within the vast bureaucracy of law enforcement and the state judiciary, there must be mechanisms in place to circumvent state ordered starvation! Yet, despite all the hullabaloo of Florida politicians, Terri Schiavo is slowly dying of starvation and dehydration! I cannot imagine a more painful death.
Does anyone in their right mind really believe that the starvation of a young woman whose medical condition is anything but certain (after all, more than 30 physicians, including numerous specialists, have emphatically declared that Terri Schiavo is not in a "persistent vegetative state") is what lawmakers had in mind when they created the state laws that are now being used to justify Terri's tortuous death? Get real!
Another glaring lesson is that of how the executive and legislative branches of government (both state and federal) are ceding power to the judiciary at a frightening pace! For all practical purposes, we do not have three "separate but equal" branches of government anymore. Instead, we have an all-powerful judiciary with no checks and balances provided by the other two branches. The Terri Schiavo case shines neon lights upon this reality.
There is no question to anyone who understands the Separation of Powers doctrine that Governor Jeb Bush has the discretionary authority and obligation to faithfully execute his state's laws protecting the right to life. This same authority is given to all state governors. And in matters relating to the federal government, this same authority is granted to the President of the United States.
In Governor Bush's case, Article I, Section 2, of the Florida State Constitution clearly says, "[a]ll natural persons, female and male alike, are equal before the law, and have inalienable rights, among which are the right to enjoy and defend life." Furthermore, Article I, Section 2, states that no person shall be deprived of any right because of "physical disability."
Further still, Article IV, Section 1, of the Florida State Constitution emphatically says that "the supreme executive power" of the State of Florida is vested in the "governor, who shall take care that the laws be faithfully executed."
Neither is any chief executive bound by the opinions of the judiciary. Thomas Jefferson said in 1819 that "[E]ach of the three departments has equally the right to decide for itself what is its duty under the constitution without regard to what the others may have decided for themselves under a similar question."
President Andrew Jackson agreed with Jefferson. He once observed that "[judicial] precedent is a dangerous source of authority, and should not be regarded as deciding questions of constitutional authority." Jackson also categorically stated that a president (or governor) is bound by his oath of office to decide matters of constitutional right and power according to the executive's interpretation of the constitution, not according to the judiciary's interpretation!
Consider also that Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist No. 78 that the exercise of judicial power is subject to the check and balance of the executive branch, which, alone, has the power to enforce a judicial order.
Thus, if a court order is contrary to the law of the inalienable right to life, as the order in the Schiavo case surely is, then Governor Bush has the vested authority to intervene and stop any action pursuant to that court order. In other words, Jeb Bush could have taken custody of Terri Schiavo and seen to it that her feeding tube was not removed at anytime, all the political rambling and double- speak notwithstanding!
However, instead of faithfully executing the laws of Florida, which protect people such as Terri Schiavo, Jeb Bush decided to wash his hands of the matter and turn Terri over to the will of the judiciary. Shades of Pontius Pilate!
It should be clear to anyone willing to see that while Terri Schiavo suffers what must be an agonizing death, Lady Liberty is also dying. Her feeding tube, the feeding tube of constitutional government and bedrock principle, has been removed, and she is starving for want of the fundamental fluids that maintain her health and vitality.
Oh! I'm sure readers will be pleased to know that the same State of Florida that has given its blessing to the slow starvation death of Terri Schiavo has just arrested a rancher in Immokalee, Florida, for starving his cows. According to press reports, his remaining cows were seized and fed by Domestic Animal Services. How comforting!
© Chuck Baldwin
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