30 March 2005

Two federal court decisions; updates on the Schiavo case

As reported in The New York Times:

The Supreme Court ruled 5-4 on Tuesday that Title IX protects those who bring sex discrimination complaints, even if they are not directly discriminated against in the usual sense (story and opinion (pdf)). Justice O'Connor wrote for the majority, joined by Justices Stevens, Souter, Ginsberg, and Breyer; Justice Thomas' dissent was joined by Justices Kennedy and Scalia, and Chief Justice Rehnquist. The Bush administration (surprisingly) sided with the good guys.

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed early Wednesday to reconsider Terri Schiavo's case, as brought by her parents Mary and Bob Schindler (story). The same court has twice told the Schindlers that the Florida state court did not commit any due process, etc., errors; this time it seems that they're reconsidering all the facts of the case. They have not announced a timeframe, and hopefully (if only to get this all over with, and to not draw out Schiavo's death any longer) the Court will not rule that the feeding tube should be temporarily reinserted.

Update, clarification, and further thoughts: It seems the Times continues to read too much into court decisions. According to their story this morning (as opposed to AP's story last night, linked above), the 11th Circuit has simply extended the time that the Schindlers have to file an appeal, since they missed Saturday's deadline. The Appeals Court has not said whether they will actually hear the case, or given any indication that they will decide any differently from previous rulings, when they have agreed with Judge Greer and found against the Schindlers.

The Rev. Jesse Jackson has publicly sided with the Schindlers on this, joining the President and leading Republicans. He seems sincerely concerned about the negative impact Greer's and higher courts' decisions could have on America's disabled and alter-abled communities, and talks about this as a "civil rights issue". I agree that this is a worry, and if I thought it would be so detrimental as to trump the need for the Government and doctors to try to meet Schiavo's wishe's, as best they can establish them, then I would follow him. As it is, however, I still trust Judge Greer's finding that Schiavo would rather be allowed to die.

One other concern that hasn't been mentioned much (at all?) in the popular media: Schiavo's heart stopped due to a potassium deficiency, probably caused by an eating disorder. It's entirely possible that she and her husband had a not-entirely-positive (might I even suggest abusive?) relationship, and it's equally possible that her parents didn't take the best care of her (given how abuse works, those would go hand in hand if true). I don't want allegations to go far; I bring this up to mention that in similar cases, we should be careful that parents and spouses who abused and controlled people in life don't continue to control them in death.

Further Update: A three-judge panel declined to reinsert Schiavo's feeding tube, and in a ten-to-to ruling, the entire 11th Circuit rejected the request. Moreover, the very Republican-leaning Judge Stanely Birch, a member of the 11th Circuit, found that the request had no standing in federal court, because Congress's laws allowing the Schindlers federal standing were unconstitutional:
"When the fervor of political passions moves the executive and legislative branches to act in ways inimical to basic constitutional principles, it is the duty of the judiciary to intervene," wrote Judge Birch, who has a reputation as consistently conservative. "If sacrifices to the independence of the judiciary are permitted today, precedent is established for the constitutional transgressions of tomorrow." (From the Times)
Oh, and while singing his praises, Florida Governor Jeb Bush compared the Rev. Jesse Jackson to Richard Nixon.

The End, hopefully: Terri Schiavo died at 9am ET on Thursday, 31 March. In the Times' story is a nice overview of the entire fifteen-year-long case, and they provide various slideshows of her life. It's interesting that a person who's only claim to fame is a bulemia-induced potassium defficiency would garner such national attention and sympathy.

Hey, there's an idea. Let's set up a Terri Schiavo foundation that focuses on bulemia and other eating disorders. Eating disorders ravage the country and lead to all range of health problems; among women and men they pose a public health risk. Eating disorders are closely tied to broader psychological issues in the afflicted persons' lives, and a good anti-anorexia organization would work to help people be happier about there lives (as opposed to just convincing them that they don't need to diet), so that they don't use controlling their bodies as a coping mechanism for feeling like they have no control over the rest of their lives.

But the Schindlers and Schiavos are good Catholics (so much so that the Pope, in addition to the President, became involved in the case), and given how much the Vatican hates women, and especially the feminists who might run such an organization, there's no chance that the national attention will funnel into solving big problems.

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