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The Daily Cardinal Est. 1892
Saturday, May 18, 2024

Florida politicians play with peoples' lives

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush recently got involved in a case to keep a woman alive after a court ordered the removal of her feeding tube, the only thing sustaining her life. This has rekindled the debate on whether people have the right to end the life of a loved one (or oneself) to prevent further suffering. This debate has been raged on ethical, legal and now political grounds. 




The ongoing situation in Florida is unique in that the governor acted on a law that the Legislature passed specifically for this case. That is, the law makes it a crime to remove the feeding tube of one woman. The woman thrust into the middle of this debate is Terri Schiavo, who has been in a vegetative state for 12 years. Her husband is battling to have her feeding tube removed, while her parents (and the Florida Legislature) are trying to keep her alive. 




While the government of Florida may have acted in good faith to preserve a woman's life (mainly because Schiavo is not able to give consent to her own death), they have set a terrible precedent for future situations. This is not the government's place to be passing laws, especially since the law is based on a single case. A law that was passed in haste will now be on the books for future cases that may be entirely different. 




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So what should be done in the case going on in Florida, where the husband and the woman's family are in disagreement? The decision somehow needs to be reached between the opposing parties, without the aid of the government. The legal system can be consulted here to arbitrate, but this case should not be made into a political issue that brings about action from the Legislature. 




With that said, Terri Schiavo's case is still very ambiguous, and perhaps her life was rightly protected. However, her life should have been preserved by actions in a court of law, not from last-second laws passed by Florida's governing body. 




A person's right to die should not be prohibited by the government, since the choice of dying to end suffering is almost always a personal decision and certainly does not need the validation of politicians. How can the government make the best decision in cases that fall within the realm of medical knowledge? 




A better scenario would leave the option to end suffering to the family and the doctors who personally know the patient. The situation should never escalate beyond the sphere of the family, since they are the only ones being affected by the decision, and the media hype that generally surrounds these cases should not occur. 




In the case where a person has the cognitive ability to give consent to assisted suicide or any such measure, then there should be no ethical or legal concerns. How can you prosecute a doctor who is following the orders of a patient who no longer wishes to live in unimaginable pain and suffering? The government is certainly not in the best position to make a decision in these cases, nor is any other external party. 




The one constant theme that should be prevalent in all cases that involve assisted suicide or the removal of life-support mechanisms is that there should be no politicians standing in the way of the family making the decision. Doctors must lay out all options for the individual patient, and then the decision should be in the patient's (or their family's) hands, not in governor's. 




The decision to terminate a life, even in the face of unbelievable suffering, will always be a complex and extremely difficult choice. The fact of the matter is that the government has no business being involved in this decision process. The legal system must play a role to prevent wrongful action on anybody's part, but the external influence in these cases must stop there. 


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