Reader Larwynn pointed me across the Atlantic to an exceptionally well-written opinion piece in London's Times Online by Michael Grove regarding Terry Schiavo, her "husband" and her family.
Not only does Mr. Grove give a good account of the shifting court positions, but:
"After Mrs Schiavo collapsed in 1990, her husband sued for medical malpractice and claimed that he wished to secure resources so that he could care for her for the rest of her natural life. The court awarded Michael Schiavo $300,000 for loss of companionship and awarded Mrs Schiavo around $700,000.
Mr Schiavo’s conduct since then does not suggest that he has exerted himself to provide the duty of care that he was awarded money to ensure. A year after winning his case on the basis that he wished to nurse his wife, he refused to allow doctors to prescribe antibiotics for a serious infection. In contrast to the position he held when suing for compensation, Mr Schiavo argued that his wife would not wish to live in her disabled condition. Had she died, Mr Schiavo would have inherited her $700,000."
Mr. Grove is wise to link the tale to the Old Testament tale of Solomon:
"Attachment to the rule of law is certainly a foundation stone of our civilisation. But so is respect for the moral principles on which our civilisation has been built. And it has often been through religion that those moral principles most central to civilised conduct have been preserved and defended. One does not need to be a member of any church, or a subscriber to any established faith, to appreciate the ethical debt we owe in the West to our Judaeo-Christian inheritance.
To take just one example, our notion of the role that judicial intervention should play in interpreting the law owes a great deal to Jewish tradition. Take the resonant story of the judgment of Solomon. Presented with a child whom two women claimed as their own, Solomon proposed depriving both of the baby by the decision to divide the child into two. One woman acquiesced, the other protested, and by their reactions the woman with the real bond of love to the disputed child revealed herself.
Invoking Old Testament justice may seem anachronistic in an age of advanced medical technology. But the importance of respecting the bonds of love has a profound bearing on Terri Schiavo’s case."
I am not arguing that the Book of Leviticus should be our basis for laws, but laws that do not serve a moral purpose are unjust. The German government during the Second World War was built on many laws. Laws do not make justice. Law rooted in a strong moral tradition and democratic principles does lead to a more just society.
Unfortunately, none of that is found in the current pain a family finds itself left with in Florida today.