On the other hand
Amidst all the overheated rhetoric regarding Terri Schiavo comes this thoughtful essay in Slate arguing in favor of Congress' action to intervene in the matter (My anonymous reader made some of the same points in his/her comment on yesterday's post.) The writer, Harriet McBryde Johnson, makes her arguments on legal grounds as well as moral ones:
In addition to the rights all people enjoy, Ms. Schiavo has a statutory right under the Americans With Disabilities Act not to be treated differently because of her disability. Obviously, Florida law would not allow a husband to kill a nondisabled wife by starvation and dehydration; killing is not ordinarily considered a private family concern or a matter of choice. It is Ms. Schiavo's disability that makes her killing different in the eyes of the Florida courts. Because the state is overtly drawing lines based on disability, it has the burden under the ADA of justifying those lines.
In other contexts, federal courts are available to make sure state courts respect federally protected rights. This review is critical not only to the parties directly involved, but to the integrity of our legal system. Although review will very often be a futile last-ditch effort—as with most death-penalty habeas petitions—federalism requires that the federal government, not the states, have the last word. When the issue is the scope of a guardian's authority, it is necessary to allow other people, in this case other family members, standing to file a legal challenge.
I'm not aware that anything was preventing the parents of Terri Schiavo to pursue the case in the federal courts; indeed, if I'm not mistaken, the U.S. Supreme Court previously declined to hear this case. But the writer implies that their ability to seek federal legal redress was hampered by the fact her husband, who wants her feeding tube to be removed, is her legal guardian.
Still, I remain unconvinced, and while I do believe that many members of Congress were well-intentioned, I believe that many others are exploiting this tragedy for political gain. I don't think that Terri Schiavo's feeding tube should be removed; but the matter, it seems to me, has been properly considered by the courts, and their decision should stand.