My buddy Nat Hentoff has been dealing with the issues covered here at SHS long before I was even a writer. An atheist and civil libertarian, Hentoff sees his advocacy on behalf of the equality of all human life–including in opposition to abortion–as consistent with his belief in human rights and dignity.
In this article in the Forward, Hentoff takes Senator Obama to task for his (cynical, says I)”admission” of a mistake allowing the Federal Terri’s Law to pass through the U.S. Senate with unanimous consent, writing in part:
Obama added: “I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.”
When he was a professor of constitutional law, Obama probably instructed his students to research and know all the facts of a case. The reason Congress asked the federal courts to review the Schiavo case was that the 41-year-old woman about to be dehydrated and starved to death was breathing normally on her own, was not terminal, and there was medical evidence that she was responsive, not in a persistent vegetative state.
One of the leading congressional advocates of judicial review was staunchly liberal Democratic Tom Harkin of Iowa, because he is deeply informed about disability rights. By contrast, in all of this inflamed controversy, the mainstream media performed miserably, copying each other’s errors instead of doing their own investigations of what Terri’s wishes actually were. Consequently, most Americans [Me: Due to media bias and malpractice] did not know that 29 major national disability-rights organizations filed legal briefs and lobbied Congress to understand that this was not a right-to-die case, but about the right to continue living.
Among them were: The National Spinal Cord Injury Association; the National Down Syndrome Congress; the World Association of Persons with Disabilities; Not Dead Yet; and the largest American assembly of disability-rights activists, the American Association of People with Disabilities.
Nentoff closes with a wholly justified swipe at Judge George Greer, who ordered a helpless woman dehydrated to death without once bothering to visit the helpless woman whose life he held literally in his hand:
Five witnesses testified on whether Terri would have refused artificial nutrition, including water, in the condition she was in. Her mother and a close friend of Terri testified she had said clearly she would want these essential life needs. The other three witnesses said Terri would have approved the removal of her feeding tube.
These last three were in alliance on what became a death penalty: Michael Schiavo, his brother and his sister-in-law!
It was on the basis of that 3-to-2 vote that Florida state judge George Greer ruled that “clear and convincing evidence” allowed him to remove her from life–and then 19 judges in six courts, including federal courts–agreed. Like the press, those judges did no independent investigations of their own. And those careless judges are now joined by the equally irresponsible robot-like judgment of Sen. Barack Obama. He should be proud of the Senate vote he now recants–and learn a lot more about the disabled.
Right on, Nat!