Judge Greer's finding on Terri's wishes may be immune from legal review, but it's not immune from criticism. He's a finder of fact – he's not God. A few years ago, Judge Greer found that Helene Ball McGee did not have reasonable cause to believe domestic violence was imminent and denied her an order of protection. Two weeks later, Mrs. McGee was stabbed to death by her husband. So judges can make mistakes.
Judge Greer's pivotal "finding of fact" in the Schiavo case determining a life-or-death issue is based on something Terri allegedly said after watching a TV show. Michael didn't know his wife was bulimic, but he distinctly remembered Terri's remarks about a TV show. (It was an episode of "Melrose Place," during which she said that Heather Locklear's shoes were "to die for.")
After watching "Bambi," I'm against deer hunting. Then I go out the next day and order venison. Maybe we could have a higher standard of proof before the government orders a woman to die.
Despite Michael's insistence that he has a vivid memory of Terri expressing her wishes regarding death, note this exchange on "Larry King Live":
KING: I have a 35-year-old daughter. I've never asked her this question. I don't know if she has a living will. I hope she does. But if she doesn't, I don't know the answer to the question. Because most 35-year-olds, I guess, don't talk about it.
SCHIAVO: Nobody talks about death, Larry.
Michael apparently forgot to add – except for that one night I remember so clearly, Larry, when my wife, Terri, talked to me about death and expressed her firmly held desire not to be kept alive on a feeding tube.
If you start making damning admissions on "Larry King Live" – with your lawyer sitting next to you, no less – you have a problem. Larry King can interview Louis Farrakhan and make him look like a charmer.
As even the New York Times admits, Michael did not recall Terri's clearly stated desire to be taken off life support until after the million-dollar settlement was paid, most of it going for Terri's medical costs – and the remainder to her husband.
What offhand comments might Terri have made if she had read in the Baltimore Sun about Rod Brandner, who indicated that he was coming out of a coma by squeezing his son's hand in response to questions less than two hours before his life support system was to be turned off?
Or what if she had read the Associated Press news story on Chris Trickle, who lost 5 percent of his brain when he was shot in the head, but later came out of a nine-month coma to breathe on his own, eat three meals a day, and tell his girlfriend he loved her?
What would Terri have said after hearing that Gregory Dygas' mother refused to believe the doctors' assurances that Gregory was brain-dead and should be taken off life support, and six months later watched as Gregory sat up, talked and watched television?
What offhand remarks might Terri have made after reading about Terry Wallis, the Canadian man who just last summer awoke from a 19-year coma?
Or how about that case in Minnesota last year where the guy who'd been in a coma for decades suddenly reappeared and ran for Senate? What was his name? Walter Mondale?
(Note for the record: I want heroic measures taken to keep me alive, and I demand the immediate arrest of anyone trying to remove my life support.)
In the absence of a living will, I would think the courts ought to be erring on the side of life. But short of that, couldn't we at least all agree that the courts should not defer to the pull-the-plug demands from anyone who: