Tag Archives: assisted suicide

End-of-life dispute re-emerges as 2016 issue for Bush

Jeb Bush was preparing to release the emails he sent and received as Florida governor when he was excoriated by a letter-writer to The Miami Herald.

The headline: “Don’t trust Jeb Bush with the power of the presidency.”

The subject of many of the emails was Terri Schiavo. The letter-writer was her husband, Michael.

Bush’s effort to stop Michael Schiavo from removing his brain-damaged wife’s feeding tube was a defining moment of Bush’s time in office.

Bush, a devout Catholic, sided with Terri Schiavo’s parents in the end-of-life dispute and reached for unprecedented authority to intervene. Michael Schiavo said his wife did not want to be kept alive artificially.

As Bush moves toward a run for president in 2016, Michael Schiavo has re-emerged, promising to campaign against Bush and remind voters about the ex-governor’s role in the matter.

“I will be very active,” Schiavo, a registered Republican, told The Associated Press in an interview. He said he plans to back Democrat Hillary Rodham Clinton, should she run.

To Schiavo, Bush “owes the public, along with myself, a huge apology.”

Asked last week about the case, Bush told the Tampa Bay Times: “It’s appropriate for people to err on the side of life. I’m completely comfortable with it.”

Bush’s recently released emails are part of his attempt to define himself on his terms. Many of the emails deal with the Schiavo case.

“Please know that I respect the opinions of those who disagree with the actions I have taken,” Bush wrote a constituent in 2005. “This is a heart-wrenching case, and I have not taken any action without thought, reflection and an appreciation for other points of view.”

Friends and advisers to Bush say his actions were driven largely by his faith, and they believe his effort to keep Schiavo alive _ despite wide public disapproval _ illustrates principled leadership. That could help in early presidential voting states such as Iowa and South Carolina, where social conservatives hold significant sway in the nominating process.

“Jeb felt strongly from a personal standpoint that she should be given a chance,” said Al Cardenas, former chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Terri Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, asked Bush for help. They disputed the diagnosis that she was in a “chronic vegetative state” and said that their daughter, as a Catholic, would not want to be taken off life support.

“For Mr. Bush, it was clearly about doing the right thing,” said David Gibbs, the Schindlers’ lead lawyer. “He knew the easiest thing would be for him to avoid the issue and just be the governor. But he felt in principle that one disabled woman was worth his time and attention. He showed genuine compassion.”

Bush first intervened in 2003 as the Schindlers’ legal appeals were coming to an end. A judge’s ruling that Michael Schiavo, Terri’s legal guardian, could remove her feeding tube had withstood years of court challenges. But the governor took the unusual step of writing the judge and asking him to assign a different guardian.

“I normally would not address a letter to the judge in a pending legal proceeding,” Bush wrote. “However, my office has received over 27,000 emails reflecting understandable concern for the well-being of Terri Schiavo.”

His request was rejected.

On Oct. 21, 2003, six days after the feeding tube was removed, the GOP-controlled Legislature passed a one-page bill granting the governor the power to order the tube reinserted. Bush signed it into law, and a police-escorted ambulance moved her from a hospice to a hospital, where the tube was put back in.

“I honestly believe we did the right thing,” Bush wrote a constituent who supported the move.

Others weren’t so sure, including some of the Republicans who shepherded the measure through the Legislature. “I keep thinking, ‘What if Terri Schiavo really didn’t want this at all?”” the late Jim King, then Florida’s state Senate president, said at the time.

Nearly a year later, the Florida Supreme Court ruled the law unconstitutional. Bush appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, was rejected and asked Congress to intervene. Lawmakers, including then-Sen. Clinton, voted to give Terri Schiavo’s parents legal standing to appeal anew in the federal courts, which then rejected their case.

In a last-ditch effort, Bush tried to have the state Department of Children and Families take custody of Terri Schiavo, based on allegations that she had been abused by her husband and caregivers. The move was rebuffed by the presiding judge.

On March 31, 2005, Terri Schiavo died.

Even after that, Bush raised questions about Michael Schiavo’s involvement in his wife’s initial collapse and asked that a state prosecutor revisit the case. “Jeb Bush had no right to do what he did,” Michael Schiavo said in his letter to the newspaper.

The prosecutor concluded there was no evidence of wrongdoing.

“Voters should consider what someone who used the power of government to hurt so many would do with the power of the presidency,” Schiavo wrote.

In a statement upon Terri Schiavo’s death, Bush said he joined those in Florida and around the world who were “deeply grieved by the way Terri died.”

“I remain convinced, however, that Terri’s death is a window through which we can see the many issues left unresolved in our families and in our society. For that, we can be thankful for all that the life of Terri Schiavo has taught us.”

Pope denounces euthanasia as ‘sin against God’

Pope Francis denounced the right to die movement on Nov. 16, saying it’s a “false sense of compassion” to consider euthanasia as an act of dignity when in fact it’s a sin against God and creation.

Francis made the comments to the Association of Italian Catholic Doctors.

Earlier this month, the Vatican’s top bioethics official condemned as ‘’reprehensible” the assisted suicide of an American woman, Brittany Maynard, who was suffering terminal brain cancer and said she wanted to die with dignity.

Francis didn’t refer to the Maynard case specifically.

While denouncing euthanasia in general, he also condemned abortion, in vitro fertilization (or “the scientific production of a child”) and embryonic stem cell research (or “using human beings as laboratory experiments to presumably save others.”)

“This is playing with life,” he said. “Beware, because this is a sin against the creator, against God the creator.”

While shying away from hot-button, culture war issues such as abortion, Francis has spoken out frequently about euthanasia. He considers the assisted suicide movement as a symptom of today’s “throw-away culture” that views the sick and elderly as useless drains on society.

Francis urged doctors to take “courageous and against-the-grain” decisions to uphold church teaching on the dignity of life, even if it requires resorting to conscientious objection.

Death penalty, marijuana, assisted suicide on Nov. 6 ballots

Voters in some U.S. states will get a chance on Election Day to decide intriguing topics that President Barack Obama and Republican rival Mitt Romney have ignored, including death penalty repeal, marijuana legalization and assisted suicide.

In all, there are 176 measures on the Nov. 6 ballots in 38 states, according to the Initiative and Referendum Institute at the University of Southern California.

Some, if approved, would be historic milestones for U.S. social policy.

Any of three states – Maine, Maryland and Washington – could become the first to legalize same-sex marriage through a popular vote, a potentially momentous development that could influence future Supreme Court deliberations on the issue. Thus far, all 32 states with referendums on gay marriage have rebuffed it, while the six states that have legalized it did so through legislation or court orders.

Washington, Oregon and Colorado could become the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana, allowing adults to possess small amounts of pot under a regimen of state regulation and taxation. The Oregon proposal appears to be fizzling, but the Washington and Colorado measures have led in opinion polls and are backed by wealthy out-of-state donors.

A “yes” vote in any of the states could set up a showdown with the federal government, which continues to consider marijuana an illegal drug. The U.S. Justice Department has declined to elaborate on how it would react.

Two other states, Arkansas and Massachusetts, will be deciding whether to allow marijuana use for medical reasons, as 17 states have done previously. Arkansas would be the first southern state to join the group.

In Massachusetts would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Massachusetts would join Oregon and Washington in allowing terminally ill patients to obtain lethal doses of medication if doctors say they have six months or less to live.

The measure raises “the most profound questions that an individual can wrestle with,” said the Rev. Tim Kutzmark, a Unitarian Universalist minister who shifted from a foe of assisted suicide to a supporter after watching a close friend slowly die from Parkinson’s disease in 2002.

California has numerous attention-getting measures, including one that would abolish the state’s death penalty. If approved, the more than 720 inmates on California’s death row would have their sentences converted to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

While 17 states have ended capital punishment, most did so through legislative action. Only in Oregon, in 1964, did voters choose to repeal the death penalty, and they later reversed themselves to reinstate it.

Another measure in California would require most genetically engineered processed foods and produce sold in supermarkets and other outlets to be labeled as such. These GMO foods also will be prohibited from carrying the term “natural” on their labels.

Consumer groups and the organic food industry support the measure as a way of giving shoppers more information about what they purchase and consume, while many retailers are opposed, saying grocery bills would increase. Food and chemical conglomerates, including Monsanto Co. and DuPont Co., have contributed nearly $41 million to defeat the measure – close to 10 times what its supporters have raised.

California labor unions are the target of another measure, aimed at depriving them of tens of millions of dollars they use to finance campaigns and political organizing.

The battle follows conflicts in Wisconsin, Ohio, Indiana and elsewhere where Republican efforts to weaken organized labor have produced protests and political tumult.

In Michigan, labor unions are fighting back. On Nov. 6, voters there will be deciding on a first-of-its-kind ballot initiative that would put collective bargaining rights in the state constitution – and out of lawmakers’ reach.

If successful, the strategy could serve as a model for other states, encouraging unions to bypass hostile officeholders and take their case directly to voters.

“Labor is on the defensive,” said Lawrence Mishel, president of the Economic Policy Institute, a liberal research organization in Washington, D.C. “This could very well be a turning point if the people of Michigan affirm collective bargaining.”