TerriSince everyone else has.... below is my long $0.12 about the Terri Schiavo case. I am not a lawyer, don't play one on TV, and don't live in FL.
1. From my understanding listening to many folks who are FL lawyers... the law in that state is such that it just doesn't matter if this would have been Terri's decision. The law makes him, as her legal guardian, responsible for these and many other decisions on her behalf. I suspect if she had written documentation to the contrary it might make a difference but as far as anyone can tell she didn't.
2. A lot of people have vilified the husband. I do not believe there is evidence that this is reasonable. He may be worthy of this disdain but it is also reasonable that his "attitude" is a result of being fought tooth and nail by others when he truly believes he is doing the right thing. According to many sources he was a model husband for a long time after her initial "accident". He went to her side every day and seemed to be a loving and committed husband. He hasn't been there regularly for many years and he has moved on with another woman with whom he has children. That can be explained either by his moving on and wanting her to die because she has become inconvenient OR by his conscientious decision that his wife is no longer present in the shell before him and won't be coming back. I have no way of knowing and I think most of the people pontificating on this topic don't either. There are certainly coincidences that do not look good. That said, we should not judge until we have walked a mile in his shoes.
3. The court seems to have initially ruled on Terri being PVS based on the testimony of 1 doctor (whose reputation makes his diagnosis somewhat suspect) that was hired by the husband. This does not seem right to me. It may be legal in FL law but it is highly suspect. I once got a second opinion on how to treat my planters warts. I would certainly want a second, independent opinion on a patient's diagnosis if I were a judge about to sentence someone to death based on that diagnosis. There are a lot of doctors out there who say that this diagnosis is more than suspect given the innumerable tests that might show it to be incorrect which were never run. Some of these doctors have an obvious axe to grind, others do not appear to.
4. All the other courts at the state and federal level took that diagnosis on face value. It was never reviewed. This is common in the legal system. Upper courts will generally stipulate to any finding of fact by a lower court and question processes and legal opinions based on those facts only. The rhetoric that 19 judges have reviewed the case is just hot air. Only one judge ever evaluated Terri's condition from a medical perspective. That finding was treated as indisputable fact at every subsequent step. That finding is the basis of most of the controversy and it was never questioned by another court. The process of determining an outcome based on that and other findings were reviewed and found to be within the bounds of the initial judge's discretion. In my opinion that judge made a huge mistake. In the opinion of other judges it was not so outlandish that it should be reviewed. This is sad, but legal under our system of government.
5. The US Congress passed a law inviting (some would say ordering) the federal courts to review the case. The federal courts did conduct a de novo review of whether Terri's federal constitutional rights were violated. This is, again, a procedural review. They did not de novo review the underlying finding of facts. Many congressmen have stated that the courts ignored the law in not doing a de novo review of the findings of fact. Many lawyers fall on both sides of this issue. It seems to me that if Congress claims that they ordered the courts to re-review the basic facts of the case then they have stepped over their own boundaries of authority and the law itself may be unconstitutional. This is a very sticky wicket even with the expanded powers of 14th amendment considerations. We explicitly allow the Congress of the US to tell the federal courts when to go sniff out 14th amendment constitutional violations by state courts but it is another matter for the Congress to decide that gives them the power to order de novo review of the finding of fact in a state court case not involving any officially alleged criminal action or prosecution.
6. I believe that the federal courts had the right to review the basic findings of fact and should have done so in the face of so much evidence that the finding of PVS may be incorrect. This is rarely done but certainly can be done and has been done many times in the past when the federal courts have any reason to believe that a lower court (state or federal) may be creating facts that are convenient to its desired outcome in a case rather than fairly interpreting both the facts and the law as it applies to those facts. The same applies to the upper state courts who could have, and in my opinion should have, reviewed the diagnosis of PVS which is so critical in this case. The most common use of this level of review at the federal level have had to do with civil rights cases but there are others. All of this said, it is also a discretion of the courts to decide when to question findings of fact and when not to.
7. The US Congress used it's supeona powers in an effort to force a stay prior to passing "Terri's Law". This one, unlike "Terri's Law", is highly suspect to me. Legal scholars I have heard claim that this is certainly within their powers but is clearly a disgraceful abuse of those powers. Many would argue that the courts are so out of control that the legislatures must overreach to bring them back in line. If that is the case we are in big trouble. I would argue that we should appoint better judges and force our legislature to behave themselves and use their constitutionally granted powers to remove the really bad judges legally (impeachment anyone?) rather than "stoop" to constitutional abuses themselves. This move should have never been made. That said, given that the knuckleheads did it, shouldn't they hold the judge in contempt of congress for ignoring them? I believe they should, and then after a closed door session and not a publicity stunt, let him off with a fine or something. State judges are not exempt from congressional supeonas and they should not be. I would argue one should not have been issued in this case but we should not allow a judge to break the law just because he is reacting to a stupid and partisan abuse of power.
8. Many people are calling on Jeb Bush to use his authority as Governor to ignore the current court rulings and take custody of Terri. Governor Bush has been as strong an advocate as this woman has had. I am glad that he did the things he did. I am also glad that he is refraining from violating legal (flawed, but legal) court orders. Again, we should not deteriorate into lawlessness because of a bad ruling from the bench. I respected Judge Moore's position on his now famous 10 Commandments display......... right up to the point that he knowingly violated a federal court order. He should have continued his fight within the law instead of stepping outside of it. I may choose to violate a court order or bad law as a private citizen and accept the outcome of doing so. It is my right and your right to do so. We do not want or need state judges or governors doing so in public matters. The ramifications are too severe.
9. How in the world do we allow a human being to be dehydrated to death? This is apparently a very common solution to "allowing someone to die with dignity." There is no dignity in dehydration. We need to write to our legislators and change our laws so that when someone is going to be allowed to die when they are PVS or brain dead or whatever - they are truly killed in a humane way. If I decided that my dog was PVS and let him "die with dignity" in this way I would be locked up for animal abuse. These laws need changing and we should push our elected representatives to get them changed. If a state assembly passed a law making it possible to carry out the death penalty this way the courts would throw out said law in the blink of an eye.
10. On that note, why are the doctors giving Terri morphine? If she is PVS she wouldn't feel pain. If she isn't in pain why the painkillers? If they are not so sure she is PVS then why is she being allowed to die by dehydration?
11. Should a man (or woman for that matter) be allowed to continue to act as legal guardian to their spouse once they have another de facto marriage with someone else? This is a tough question... much tougher than many claim. If my wife truly believed I was PVS and was trying to carry out my wishes to allow me to pass on would I want her to wait 10 or 15 years to move on with her life? Would I want someone else who might not carry out my wishes to be allowed to get legal custody of me if she did move on? This question seems the hardest one to get my arms around in this whole mess. Like most tough questions the devil is in the details and this is a great example of details that legislatures have a great deal of difficulty getting right. It is too political for our political system.
12. Conservatives are clearly as capable of jumping into the fever swamp as liberals. I am disappointed. I do not like the outcome of this case for the simple reason that I don't think this woman is PVS and I am certain that it hasn't been reasonably proven. We cannot start asking our federal courts to insert themselves into a state court decision because we don't like state law. No system is perfect and the citizens of each state must retain the ability to define their system as they choose (within the bounds of not violating the federal constitutional rights of other citizens of course). FL law clearly has some holes that most Floridians would like to get plugged. Let them work with their elected representatives to do so in constitutional and legal way and not fall into the trap that it is somehow the federal governments business because we don't like the outcome in this one case. Judicial activism is wrong even when the outcome of the case is moral (Brown vs. Board of Ed being the most famous of many cases of conservative activism). If we encourage conservative-minded judges to commit these sins we cannot complain when liberal ones do it. Judges must be forced to simply interpret the law and legislators must be forced to past just and sane laws. Governors must uphold the laws passed by those legislators and interpreted by those judges. Anything less is lawlessness.