Monday, March 21, 2005

Terri’s Life May be Prolonged With Senate Legislation

Just hours ago, the United States Senate had just passed a bill that would allow the replacement of the life-saving feeding tube removed from Terri Schiavo last Friday. This latest development in the long-running debate on the issue of Terri Schiavo’s condition favors pro-life advocates. There is one remaining problem however. Congress is still grasping to form a proper quorum to respond positively to this Senate move, as many Democrat legislators were dilly-dallying to act on this Republican-initiated legislation. According to a leading Democrat legislator, the Republican is using the issue as a pawn in its earnestness to please its conservative allies. Without a corresponding legislation from Congress, the bill will not become a law.

White House spokesman Scott McLellan however made it clear that “we’d rather err in life’s favor”, if ever there would be mistake in this particular Republican initiative. President George Bush, the main man in the GOP, has returned to the capitol from a break in his Texas ranch, in order to sign the bill anytime it becomes ready. The next hours this day is crucial to Terri’ Schiavo’s life since she had already missed two meals due to the stalling of the Democrats and may miss more if quorum in the House of Congress is not forthcoming soon.

The proposed bill does not contain specific language that would order the restoration of the feeding tubes that will help prolong Terri’s life for that would be tantamount to the constitutional prohibition on bill of attainders, or the passing of ultra-special laws that would benefit merely a certain person or class of persons. Instead, the said legislation would only allow the parents of Terri to seek injunctive action in the higher courts in Florida and this injunctive move would of course order the retention of the life saving apparatus on Terri pending the resolution of the appeal. Of course, this goes to say that the law would allow the parents of Terri to make an appeal to the Florida state courts.

If passed, the proposed legislation that would give Terri’s parent to apply for temporary injunction does not however ensure that Terri may be allowed to go on tube feeding from now on. If the courts could still prove that Terri had really intended to refuse further medication while on a vegetative state, then her wishes will be respected. The U.S. Supreme Court has already ruled in Cruzan v. Director that the constitution allows a person to refuse medication as a general right emanating from the Fourteenth Amendment of the constitution. Although in the Cruzan case the Supreme Court voted in favor of the restoration of the life-saving apparatus of the patient (when it wasn’t sufficiently established that Cruzan had indeed made known her intention to refuse medication), it affirmed however that whenever there is enough evidence that a person desires to refuse medication through a will or any form of documentation and recording, then that right and desire should be respected.

The constitutional right to refuse medication in the United States does not however validates the also-controversal issue of physician-assisted suicides which led to the conviction of “Doctor Death” himself, Dr. Jack Kevorkian, in 1999 for his aiding of a number of clinically-ill patients in committing “painless” suicides between 1994 and 1998. Refusal of medication is deemed to be a “passive” way to die while Kevorkian’s methods is an “active” mode of killing and therefore still considered as murder.

In the Philippines, there is no such constitutional right “to refuse medication” even when one is in vegetative state and our criminal laws prohibit suicides and anyone who assist in these suicides would be complicitly named as conspirators to suicide and will be penalized gravely by substantial imprisonment. Our constitution only has this to say about life: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty and property without the due process of law.” Our Revised Penal Code even punishes those who would not help a mortally wounded person in some isolated areas.

If Terri’s case happens in the Philippines, any person who would take out the feeding tube of the victim, even when the victim desires it, that person will be guilty of murder or complicity in suicide.



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