« Here and There: The Death of a Cliché | Main | At the California State Democratic Convention »

Florida v. Texas

The death of Sun Hudson - a 6-month-old with a fatal genetic disorder who was taken off life support against his mother's wishes in a Texas hospital last week - adds some depth to the emotional debate over the fate of Terri Schiavo. The MSM are hanging on every twist and turn in the Schiavo case, and protesters have descended on Florida to denounce what they call "murder."

Wanda Hudson, Sun's mother, also considers her son to be a victim of murder. Just as Terri Schiavo's parents believe she could emerge from her vegetative state one day, Ms. Hudson thinks Sun could have defeated the odds with more time on a respirator. President Bush, who signed a bill to allow Schiavo's parents to fight for her life, is in an awkward position on this one.

From an editorial in the Concord Monitor:

On the same day President Bush interrupted his vacation to rush to Washington to sign the Schiavo bill, a Texas hospital removed the breathing tube keeping 6-month-old Sun Hudson alive. According to the Houston Chronicle, the hospital's action, the first of its kind, was made possible by a 1999 bill signed into law by Bush, then Texas's governor.

That law allows hospitals to discontinue life-sustaining care even when doing so runs counter to the wishes of the patient's guardians. Before ending the patient's life under the law Bush signed, however, two conditions must be met. Doctors must deem that there is no chance for recovery and the patient must be unable to pay the hospital bill for continuing care.

It is almost impossible to watch the news and not see Terri Schiavo's face or hear her name. But virtually no one knew of Sun Hudson, who, thanks to another law signed by George Bush, died yesterday. A Texas bioethicist defended the hospital's decision by saying that it was not killing but "stopping pointless treatment."

Many blogs are hosting discussions on this topic - most notably Daily Kos, Sue Bob's Diary and Lean Left. The very different treatment of Terri Schiavo in Florida from that of Sun Hudson in Texas raises questions about what principles are actually driving these actions:

1) A juridical right to life

2) Marital and family values requiring deference to the appropriate family member charged with end-of-life decisions

3) State authority versus federal, congressional or judicial decision making

4) Political exploitation of fundamentalist convictions

What do you think?

The President said: "This is a complex case with serious issues, but in extraordinary circumstances like this it is wise to always err on the side of life."

I think Wanda Hudson would agree.

March 23, 2005 | Permalink

Comments

My view is that the President probably sees no contradiction between these two actions. After all, Wanda Hudson could not pay for her son.

He probably also sees no contradiction between his stand on the Schiavo case and his attempt to gut Social Security while ignoring Medicaid. After all, if he leaves Medicaid alone, it'll break. Social Security will continue to work unless he finds a way to end it. And he wants to maintain that compassionate thing. If you're helpless and completely dependent on outside aid, George W. Bush will end his vacation and fly back to help you.

Two short off-topic points.

1) It's great that you're blogging. Another in a series of innovative moves. Let's hope this one becomes as wide-spread as the 800 number deal.

2) When are you running for President again? Any party, even the Democrats, that nominated a reasonable person would grab a lot of that 40% or so that doesn't vote. You'd get mine. Again.

Posted by: Chuck Dupree (Belisarius) | Mar 23, 2005 7:40:47 PM

What some call murder? Bluntly, then, MR. Brown: How many abortions have YOU paid for?

Posted by: James C. Hess | Mar 23, 2005 8:29:43 PM

Thanks for blogging Mayor Jerry Brown.

There is going to be a big tax reform panel meeting in San Francisco next Thursday, March 31.

http://www.taxreformpanel.gov/

My good friend Bob Schulz of New York would like you to be there to help support the cause of freedom and individual liberty.

Please visit Bob's website and consider being at the tax reform panel meeting in San Francisco next week.

http://www.givemeliberty.org/

Thank you very much.

Respectfully,

Posted by: Doug Kenline | Mar 23, 2005 10:02:32 PM

Great post, Mr. Mayor

Posted by: MattSchiavenza | Mar 23, 2005 10:57:53 PM

I think President Bush and the Republican members of Congress (joined by many Democrats) are politically motivated by their actions in the Terri Shiavo matter. They seek votes in the next election from the right to life voters. Terri's plight just provided them a means to an end.

They took an oath to defend the constitution of the United States. The courts have found, following evidentiary hearings, that Terri Shiavo had stated that she did not wish to be maintained on life support if she were ever in such a predicament as she finds herself. The due process clause of the Constitution assures her wish be honored. Yet the Congress and President chose to ignore the due process clause. Contrary to her stated desire they intend she be kept alive.

Mrs. Shiavo's husband is trying to see that her wishes are carried out. That "family value" is being strenously fought by President Bush, Governor Bush, Senator Frist, Dennis Hastert and Tom Delay and others.

I am gratified to read that an overwhelming majority of Americans see what is happening and disagree with government intermeddling in private personal affairs.

I sincerely hope that all those people who voted for Bush regret casting their ballots and rectify that mistake at the next election.

Also, let me say, I am pleased to see you blogging.

Posted by: Jack Wood | Mar 23, 2005 11:27:21 PM

These are complex situations. Unfortunately, I know first hand… I was a teenager when my adoptive mother committed suicide (or attempted). She was in a similar state to that of Terri Schiavo for 10 years before she died of pneumonia. My adoptive father did not want to remove the feeding tube and other life-sustaining apparatus. In her case, permitting the prolonged but inferior quality of life seemed to be a mistake.

Not in the mood for an intellectual discussion tonight. Just wanted to let you know that my article about this blog will be printed in the L.A. Daily News in the morning. I asked them to provide a link to this site, but it seems they didn’t. Oh well…

Link below…

Posted by: Charlotte | Mar 24, 2005 1:32:54 AM

Unfortunately, Mr. Mayor, you've been taken in by a lie.

The true story: Prior to 1997, Texas hospitals were taking patients off life support with only 72 hours notice to the family. In those 72 hours, the a dissenting family had to try to either get the hospital ethics committee to overrule the doctor, or find a new facility that would care for the patient.

In 1997, a bill passed the state legislature to make this the recognized legal procedure in Texas. Gov. Bush vetoed that bill.

But the hospitals kept right on pulling the plug with 72 hours notice. Bush wanted a law to prevent that. In 1999, the bill mentioned was passed. It lengthened the period before terminating life support to 10 days, and it allowed a judge to intervene and grant additional 10 day delays.

Gov. Bush wanted more than this, but it was the best he could get, so he signed it. The bill extended Sun Hudson's life by a week. In another recent Texas case, a man who can't breathe on his own was relocated to a different facility. Finding that facility took the family considerably more than 72 hours. If Gov. Bush hadn't signed the bill, the man would also be dead.

BTW, it's astonishing to me, the way so many people just make things up concerning these issues.

Belisarius thinks Sun Hudson was killed because his family couldn't pay for his treatment. Not a single doctor I've read said that. They said they discontinued mechanical ventilation because in their opinion, he'd never get off that machine. Money was not the problem, futility was.

Jack Wood thinks the Constitution required the President and Congress to do nothing. In fact, the 14th Amendment says "No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws. . . . The Congress shall have power to enforce, by appropriate legislation, the provisions of this article." If Congress has no power to intervene here, then it had no power to pass the Civil Rights Act, either.

Mr. Wood also asserts confidently that Terri Schiavo said she wanted to die if she was in this situation. But there was testimony offered in the original hearing that Terri had said she wanted to live on another occasion. Is it possible a mistake was made? If not, when did state courts in the Deep South become infallible?

I might mention here that I used to be a respiratory therapist, and frequently treated patients in a "vegetative state." None of them ever acted like I saw Terri act on the video tape. My wife is an RN, and she said the same thing, spontaneously, when she saw that video -- 'She doesn't look like she's in a vegetative state to me.' Perhaps we're both wrong, but no doctor has examined Terri for years. I'd like to see someone who wasn't hired by a husband who wants her dead do an evaluation.

It says something sad about this country, that so many people are unable to believe that members of the Republican Pary might have acted because they thought it was the right thing to do. It's even sadder that, with at life a stake, people couldn't be bothered to look around and gather a few facts. This case reminds me of the joke about the judge who always made up his mind as soon as the plaintiff rested, because listening to both sides was too confusing.

And it scares the Hell out of me that, in a country where we endlessly review the cases of convicted murderers, so many people are eager to see a woman who never did anything wrong killed by court order, without having a final review by a disinterested party. I've never seen any evidence that Terri Schiavo was in any physical or mental pain. So just what is the rush?

Posted by: Stephen M. St. Onge | Mar 24, 2005 2:48:52 AM

Mr Mayor,

You damage your credibility with some people when you start linking people to Daily "Screw 'Em" Kos.

Posted by: Robert | Mar 24, 2005 7:34:54 AM

Stephen -- Many of us are researching the matter and judicial decisions in the various court actions pertaining to it. Judge Greer's ruling in the suit regarding Theresa Schiavo's expressed wishes demonstrates the thoroughness with which he met his obligation to apply the law to the evidence and arguments in the case.

As his decision makes clear, Schindler witness testimony was judged not credible because it was contradicted by that given earlier at deposition. Judge Greer further explains why Schiavo witness testimony met the high standard of credibility that determined his decision.

As for the 14th amendment: Theresa's rights have not in any way been abridged by the state of Florida; rather, they have been fully ajudicated in numerous courts over the course of many years.

The Guardian ad Litem appointed to review the Shiavo case after the Florida legislature gave Governor Jeb Bush power to intervene in a court decision to remove Theresa's feeding apparatus, established a Platform of Understanding between the contending parties that could serve to create a fresh start in resolving their conflicts over her care.

Michael Schiavo's attorney advised him, rightly in my opinion, not to move forward on the Platform proposal lest doing so be misconstrued as accepting the legality of the means by which it was initiated, the law -- ultimately ruled unconstitutional -- permitted Gov. Bush to interfere the decision-making processes of the judicial branch.

It saddens me that no one, not their legal or spiritual advisors or caring friends, led the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo to enter into a private process akin to that outlined in the Platform of Understanding. Issues of life and death are private matters. When conflicts among loved ones occur under such tragic circumstances, caring people are obligated to serve as honest brokers, helping contending parties sort through their grief and anger and work toward solutions that protect the privacy and dignity of those they love.

Posted by: cs | Mar 24, 2005 9:06:53 AM

Mayor Brown, I submit that there probably exists a piece of compromise legislation which you signed which contradicts one of your current positions, even if that position has not changed. In other words, possibly excepting the criticisim, you stand in the same shoes as President Bush.

I'm being lazy in not citing a specific example.

Posted by: Dishman | Mar 24, 2005 9:27:23 AM

Regardless of how any of us personally feel about this issue, it is not our government's responsibility nor business to inject itself or its majority members' religious or ethical beliefs in what should be a case for the courts alone. By doing so, Congress has further advanced what is increasingly becoming a clear agenda to blatantly integrate fundamentalist Christianity into politics, and to eliminate the separation of powers of the different branches of our government, both aims directly counter to the intent of our forefathers and our national Constitution, and for good reason.

I urge everyone to contact their federal legislators immediately and let them know how you feel about this. America is still slumbering, even after all that has happened, and it needs to awaken and do it soon, to call those onto the carpet who would attempt to usurp our Constitution for their own personal gain, whether for political reasons, or to distract the American public from the real issues that should concern them, or for money or material goods, or for the advancement of a misguided agenda to force the entire nation to follow what should be their own personal beliefs.

Posted by: thorjansen | Mar 24, 2005 10:27:17 AM

Mr. Mayor,

Thank you for the link.

I personally know some of the stakeholders--on both sides of the issue- who hammered out the Texas Futile Care Law. The disability and right-to-life advocates were overruled on the kinds of issues presented in both Sun Hudson's case and Terri Schiavo's case. The disability advocates are not necessarily social conservatives, by the way. Go see the commentary at Not Dead Yet:http://www.notdeadyet.org/

The right-to-die advocates (and their lawyers) outnumbered the disability and right to life advocates and the latter were forced into a compromise with the other side in order to get some relief for patients in the form of additional time to find another facility. Had no agreement been reached, hospitals could have continued to pull the plug within 72 hours.

Bush signed the law only because it provided a greater chance to save such patients than did the existing law. He vetoed a similar bill regarding withholding life-sustaining measures in 1997, precisely because the bill did not provide sufficient time for patientst to find a different facility.

Posted by: Sue Bob | Mar 24, 2005 11:29:38 AM

Mayor Brown,
Yesterday's Trinity Journal reported that the only hospital serving Trinity County is once again in danger of closing leaving l3,000 residents without health care. Although 3 of Weaverville's doctors who volunteered their services for free in the emergency room of the hospital; even though the PUD (our branch of PG&E) agreed to step in recently and try to keep the place going in order to save the lives of county residents who might die before they can reach Redding by helicopter, it looks like the monthly bills just cannot sustain medical care up here due to healthcare costs.

With all due respect, it's time to talk about the vast majority of citizens who are losing their health care benefits and whose local hospitals are shutting down.

It's time to look at Sen. Sheila Kuehl's Health Reliance bill which supports universal coverage here in California which was recently introduced into the Senate. Do you support the coverage of health care for all Californians?

The Terry Schiavo case which has been through 34 courts is a diversion from the true healthcare crisis both in California and the nation.

It's a diversion from the broken Medicaid system where seniors can no longer afford the higher prices of their medicines. Tennessee has been the first state now to stop Medicaid. Yet this threat to the lives of thousands who live there has not made the headlines.

Where is the Right to Life movement and the Pope on this issue? --I hear nothing but silence.

Why is one person's life worth so much attention and the lives of millions of other Americans who cannot receive basic health care services and medicines unspoken of and obviously of lessor value?

Please support Senator Kuehl's bill and help prolong and support life for all Californians.

Posted by: val | Mar 24, 2005 1:34:19 PM

This is being driven by two things: compassion and justice.

The case of Sun Hudson is tragic, but the decision was made by doctors. It is a very different case.

In the Schiavo case, there are two crucial elements at stake. First of all, it is unnecessarily cruel to put a person to death by dehydration, slowly and over many days. If a person is beyond hope, he or she should be put to death swiftly and painlessly.

Second, there is a general feeling that the science of the Schiavo case has not been rigorous enough. There is disagreement among qualified neurologists as to her true condition.

There ought to have been a thorough review by a panel of qualified doctors. There ought to have been rigorous tests conducted to try to ascertain the level of this woman's awareness. Every avenue ought to have been explored.

If it could be established that Schiavo was entirely non-conscious and beyond hope, she should have been euthanized, not left to thirst to death.

A citizen tortured to death based on hearsay evidence. That is deplorable.

This is not about the right to life, it is about the right to adequate science and the right to compassion.

Posted by: Graham Lester | Mar 24, 2005 3:12:47 PM

If Terri Schiavo were a brain dead dog that was being slowly starved to death, there would be animal rights demonstrations across the nation and bomb toting PETA freaks dancing the funky chicken in front of Chiron. But no one seems to care that Schiavo is a human being. I don't have any comment about whether she should live or die, or who "owns" her. But I do think it is barbaric that she is allowed to starve, whether she can feel anything or not. Western Civilization is still the leader of barbarism when it comes to the treatment of human beings. We treat dogs better than we treat people. If some great decision has been made that she should die, then put the poor woman out of her misery.

Posted by: Kris Rocks | Mar 24, 2005 7:23:02 PM

This is a disappointing post because it's the first one I've read here that seems highly unlikely to have been written by you. You're not serving any good by engaging in this kind of hack work. Look at the explanation of the background above by Mr. St. Onge. You didn't want to check that before you posted? You wanted to rely on Kos? Look, I know you're running for Atty Gen and everything and you've got to keep your base happy, but there's no need for this kind of sideshow. Why not show a bit of that Jerry Brown that spent some time in the seminary? We don't need you mimicking Carville....

Posted by: Henry | Mar 24, 2005 7:28:25 PM

It's amazing how if you link to a right-leaning site, the lefties scream bloody murder. Then, if you link to a left-leaning site, the rightwing nuts start yowling. And I thought blogging was about the freedom to click ... or not.

Posted by: Crybaby | Mar 24, 2005 7:57:14 PM

Not that i am infavor of the florida farce...

but in florida the law gives you tons of points of recourse and examination ( and forbid that kind of care to people)

its not an apples to apples deal

Posted by: Larry Bernard | Mar 24, 2005 8:01:37 PM

Although, I believe all life is sacred and am personally opposed the idea of removing life support from anyone, I think that there is a much more serious issue involved here.

At 4:30 P.M. on a Sunday afternoon, three Republican Senators spoke for the entire Senate. What others bills could three Senators pass on a Sunday by unanimous voice vote? Could they vote to declare war on California or to abolish all environmental laws? What if the session is held in the middle of the night and only one Senator unanimously votes? Could Bush use this method to get right-wing extremist justices confirmed?

Also, if the Republicans are so gung-ho on life, why are they killing so many people and children in the Middle East?

Posted by: Ruth | Mar 24, 2005 8:09:58 PM

To Stephen M. St. Onge, God bless you in your work. I'd certainly want you for my therapist if my condition was being questioned by an institution's fiscal and legal argument for prolonging life.
We are an arguing society fast losing the essential ingredient of compassion.

Posted by: corrine G. | Mar 25, 2005 5:50:50 AM

I feel President Bush was playing politics is signing Terri's Law II. But the Texas law is entirely appropriate and within the bioethics mainstream (as are the Florida laws). You need a defined procedure for these situations. You only hope that the finder of fact did his job, and the finding that this condition was incurable was correct, and the race of the patient didn't play into it. But somebody needs to decide, and futile cases should be allowed to die.

Posted by: Stephen | Mar 25, 2005 8:56:15 AM

I hope it's not true.

Things worthwhile may seem imperfect at first, but we miss a powerful beauty if we ignore them.

"All things excellent are as difficult as they are rare." - Spinoza

Think about it.

Posted by: Charlotte | Mar 25, 2005 2:33:03 PM

Just a note to many of the posters complaining about the "cruelty" of the manner in which Terri is being allowed to pass into the next life. Next time the issue of humane euthenasia comes up. Remember this case. To rebut your double-standard comparisons, right-to-lifers don't run rampant when a pet is put to sleep humanely (though it is often claimed that ALL life is sacred), but its of your own doing that Terri is being starved rather than being humanely allowed to pass on.

Posted by: johnQ | Mar 25, 2005 5:08:53 PM

I think the husband would have gotten a divorce by now, after 15 years, if he was anxious with some self serving purpose. Parents don't agree with son-in-law, that's typical. As for her fate I would certainly get another team to make a second assessment. What Florida voters many of whom are senior citizen retired folk are concerned about, hence the law they passed, is that treatment for old age illness doesn't force them to undergo extremes of aggresive care when they themselves don't see the advantage, i.e., suffering. AARP is adament about the quality of life issue I read somewhere and from what I've seen with my parent's care, have good reason. What the old folks used to say was, stay away from hospitals, you'll never get out--they were speaking about "their" parents. Even to lay out the terms in writing feels as indicisive as this delema. I do know doctors generally can test parts of the brain for activity, recently someone in the midwest came out of a 25 year or so comma with all mental faculties. When I was what they called patient advocate, the guy with the signed paper, they wanted to take every chance to give me the depressing side, they know the odds maybe. Money should never be the issue especially in law form. Thanks Jerry for having variety of issues on this blog.

Posted by: Bruce | Mar 25, 2005 9:49:16 PM

This sad case in Florida is really the fault of Jeb Bush. He is the one that after the court had correctly ordered the feeding tube to be removed pushed through a special bill in Florida to have the tube replaced back in 2003. This year we have additional political piling on by Pres Bush and the GOP Federal Congress.
This has certainly as you say become on the National level Political exploitation of fundamentalist convictions. I think the GOPers are now in a can of worms situation with this as they will not be able to satisify the ultra- right.

Posted by: Chet | Mar 26, 2005 2:24:39 PM

The comments to this entry are closed.