Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Governed by the Rule of Law

I’ve been silent (until now) on the Terri Schiavo issue, mainly because it’s already been discussed ad nausium ad infinitum. The emotional aspect of this case cannot be overstated. Certainly, one would not want to be forced to make life and death decisions for a beloved family member.

To be sure, there are patients languishing in hospital rooms worldwide. This case is distinct, in that the news media have made it a “cause celeb”. This is why Congress has, and should not have, inserted itself. Political expediency is responsible for bad law.

Charles Krauthammer’s piece points out the problem when current law is at odds with a particular moral concept.
Because following the generally sensible rules of Florida custody laws, conducted with due diligence and great care over many years in this case, this is where the law led.

For Congress and the president to then step in and try to override that by shifting the venue to a federal court was a legal travesty, a flagrant violation of federalism and the separation of powers. The federal judge who refused to reverse the Florida court was certainly true to the law.

But the law, while scrupulous, has been merciless, and its conclusion very troubling morally. We ended up having to choose between a legal travesty on the one hand and human tragedy on the other.

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in Atlanta said the parents "failed to demonstrate a substantial case on the merits of any of their claims" that Terri's feeding tube should be reinserted immediately. This is “the rule of law” in action. Our nation IS NOT ruled by morality. Law is (theoretically) neutral and equally applied; moral codes vary with cultures, neighborhoods and indeed families…as this case has shown. The US Constitution articulates a rule of law, not a rule of men.

Update: The erudite William F. Buckley has weighed in on this matter…his wisdom is apparent.