State interference in a family matter

Share

The struggle over the fate of Terri Schiavo appears to be drawing to a close. The 41-year-old Florida woman suffered severe brain damage as a result of a cardiac arrest in 1990 and has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since. She can breathe for herself, but has to be fed through a tube.

The struggle over the fate of Terri Schiavo appears to be drawing to a close. The 41-year-old Florida woman suffered severe brain damage as a result of a cardiac arrest in 1990 and has been in a persistent vegetative state ever since. She can breathe for herself, but has to be fed through a tube.

The parents of Ms Schiavo have been locked in a bitter legal battle with her husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, over whether she ought to be allowed to die. Mr Schiavo argues that his wife has no quality of life and no prospect of recovery. But Ms Schiavo's parents distrust her husband's motives and are adamant their daughter should be kept alive. And so for seven years the two parties have fought it out in the Florida courts. The tragic case reached its nadir last weekend when the US Congress rushed through a special law allowing federal courts jurisdiction over the case. This was part of a final attempt by Ms Schiavo's parents to keep their daughter alive, after the state courts persistently found in favour of Mr Schiavo.

Now the legal process appears to have played itself out. No federal court has taken up the case. The US Supreme Court has repeatedly refused it. Ms Schiavo's feeding tube was removed over a week ago. With no judge to order it to be reinserted, she will probably die in a matter of days.

While it is impossible not to feel sympathy for what Ms Schiavo's family has been going through, there is a strong sense that her case has been hijacked. The interference in this case by the Republican-dominated Congress - and President Bush himself - was almost certainly intended to curry favour with the evangelical right, for whom Ms Schiavo has become a cause célèbre. The same is no doubt true of the significant involvement of the Florida governor and reputed presidential hopeful, Jeb Bush. The last US election demonstrated just how significant Christian conservatism is within the Republican party. The Schiavo case has to be seen through this prism.

But this politicking almost corrupted America's constitutional separation of powers between the executive and judiciary. Fortunately, the federal courts - following the lead of the Supreme Court - decided to stay out of it. But it could easily have been different. Americans, usually so jealous of their independence, came perilously close to seeing a private family dispute settled by the federal government.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Read Next
David Cameron faces the press as he arrives in Brussels for the EU leaders summit on Thursday reuters  

On the Tusk of a dilemma: Cameron's latest EU renegotiation foe

Andrew Grice
John Profumo and his wife Valerie Robson in 1959  

Stephen Ward’s trial was disgraceful. There can be no justification for it

Geoffrey Robertson QC
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas