Stotch on Schiavo

I haven’t posted at all about the Terri Schiavo case for one fundamental reason: I sincerely believe that it’s none of my business. Which means that I also believe that it’s none of your business as well.

For the record, I personally understand that this individual is being starved to death, but I can’t say with the conviction that many do that she’s being murdered. For me this boils down to a he-said she-said argument — and the courts have determined about 18 times that what the husband says is the proper interpretation of the truth. That may not be so, but I’m confident enough in my own infallibility to know that they probably can assess the situation better than I can.

I guess why I’m posting is to make two larger points; first is that it should be ok for us (parties, pundits, bloggers, etc.) to not have an opinion on an issue — and we certainly shouldn’t base our opinion on what the two major ideological activist groups say about a given situation. Second, there are some situations, no matter how deeply they concern us or tug at our heart strings, that should not be the purview of the government (either federal or local).

No matter how brutal this woman’s situation may seem, I believe that the power over life and death should be completely excluded and detached from the public sphere. As stated by several others, if the government has the authority to re-insert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube, then they have the authority to take it away. I refuse to acknowledge the latter, so on principle I believe that I must refuse the former.

Leopold Stotch
About Leopold Stotch
“Dr. Leopold Stotch” was the pseudonym of political science professor then at a major research university inside the beltway. He has a PhD in International Relations. He contributed 165 pieces to OTB between November 2004 and February 2006.


  1. I guess I agree with you for once…

    yeah, I do.

    I think it’s hard to come up with an opinion because there are some things that you just can’t know. I believe that this is a matter for the courts, but not the congress.

    I agree with them in that they wanted to push it into another court because they disagreed. But I don’t understand the people there who wish her to stay alive. How do they know that she isn’t suffering? How do they know she wants to live or not?

    It’s not something they can answer, so they should stay quiet. Don’t presume to know something you can’t.

  2. James Joyner says:

    The problem, though, is that in this case the husband and parents disagree on fundamental facts and have sought the courts as an arbiter. Courts are an inherently governmental/public sphere venue.

  3. Just Me says:

    I don’t think there was anyway you cold keep the government out of this one, because there wasn’t an agreement on what Terri wanted.

    But the facts are that in most cases, families don’t disagree to this degree, which is why it doesn’t get splashed all over the news 24/7.

  4. wavemaker says:

    I agree with James — once the principals involved ask the Court to resolve their dispute, it is (by its very definition) constrained to render its decision on the basis of law, not on the basis of relative moral values. And that’s the crux of all this controversy, law versus morals. But that doesn’t mean what happens to Terri is our business. Where the debate goes in the aftermath is, though.

  5. reliapundit says:

    without the STATE michael could not pull the plug. the STATE gave him the power to order the plug pulled.

    if the STATE had kept out then terri would not be starved to death.

  6. Stotch, you ignorant slut.

    Governments are formed to protect life, liberty, and property.

  7. I suppose this is a question of me not being clear in my wording — which is an indication that I just don’t know in this case, but I wish the talk was about erring on the side of individual freedom from government action. Yes, the courts are part of the government, but their action as arbiter is fundamentally different than the exercise of state power we’ve seen from the President and Congress.

    As to the state being charged with protecting life, liberty, and property, I think this is the courts have done: they’ve acted in a way to protect Terri Schiavo’s liberty to not want to live in this state.

  8. praktike says:

    Actually, she’s not being starved to death. She will die a painless, natural death as a result of dehydration.

  9. reliapundit says:

    a judge arbited. that is ALL POWERFUL.

    and when the Congress -which has SPECIFIED CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY ON THIS EXACT AREA – ordered the judges to re-arbit and they FLATLY and UNCONSTITUTIONALLY REFUSED.

    congress acted within its authority and within its specified powers under the cConstitution.


    what is so hard to understand about that!?

    and THAT’S why if you “fear big brother” you should fear the courts more.


    how many supreme court justices (or fed justices for that matter) have YOU ever voted out of office!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    they are unaccountable, and ACCOUNTABILITY to the electorater IS DEMOCRACY!

    Okay. SHE IS DEAD NOW! Are you happy!?
    A painless death that would land you in jail iof you did it to a pet.

  10. Just Me says:

    reliapundit makes a good point. The courts hold the legislative and executive branches accountable, but now that the courts are in the business of writing law, who is holding the courts accountable? (that said I want to make it clear that in this case I don’t really see judicial activism, I think the judges worked within what the law allowed, but I strongly disagree with the conclusions reached, and I have huge issues with the fact that we are killing people without strong evidence-I am also strongly troubled by what the future holds now in regards to the disabled. Some of you may want to live in the Netherlands, but I would like to live in a country where all life is valued, even those who are severely disabled. Maybe my issue with the Sciavo case, is that I don’t know that I like the country or the courts this case has revealed it to be. I feel like my government really is in the business of murder at the moment.

  11. praktike says:

    Actually, it isn’t. See here.