To start with, and to make emphatically clear, I do not condone, excuse, or offer any quarter to the judges who have made the decisions that have thus far condemned Ms. Schiavo. As Dickens says at the beginning of A Christmas Carol, "You must understand this for without it there would be no story."
However, there is a serious danger in lilmiting the blame to the individual judges. That they are morally culpable for their decisions cannot be doubted. Nevertheless, the fact that several judges now have arrived at the same conclusions leads us to a more frightening possibility. If these judges are judging fairly, on the merits, and by the rule-of-law (I don't stand capable of judging these issues), then the law by which they are guided to their decisions is seriously, indeed dangerously flawed. In this sense the actions of the Florida legislature are required immediately to remedy the flaw in the law.
I suspect part of this flaw may have to do with the medical and legal definition of life-support. As countless people have already pointed out, being forced to breathe and pump blood under the aegis of a machine constitutes extraordinary measures. Providing food, while technically life support, is hardly extraordinary. What may be happening in the law is a failure to distinguish between these two methods.
Ms. Schiavo's plight is a wake-up call for all of us. Some take it to mean that we must be explicit in our durable power-of-attorneys or living wills. I take it to mean that we must begin to redefine and truly understand what extraordinary measures are. There may be circumstances under which withholding food MIGHT be moral--I am not enough of an ethicist to understand every possibility. But when we are speaking of a living, functioning human being who happens to be operating at less than their former capacity, there is absolutely no question of the immorality of removing ordinary means of maintaining life.
The courts do not care about morality. They care, rightfully, about the law. That three sets of courts can find no merit in the arguments surrounding Ms. Schiavo must be our tip-off that something is seriously amiss in the legal system. Believe me, I am no friend of the judiciary--however, I think the focus must be on changing flawed laws to assure that future decisions are made in favor of sustaining life whenever there is any doubt as to the person's wishes. We cannot err by sustaining life and allowing God to make the decision as to when and where and how a person will join Him; however, when we take it upon ourselves to pretend to know this, we are in moral jeopardy, and for those who know better, in possible jeopardy of soul. A judge who knows the morality or immorality of the law is not likely to be able to hide behind the excuse of "I was just following orders" when called to account for his or her actions.
As concerned citizens, we must heed this wakeup call as we continue to pray for Ms. Schiavo. We must work quickly and in concert to move our legislatures toward laws that make sense and are compassionate and pro-life. The danger of focusing solely on the individual decisions is that we may not eradicate the root of the problem--bad law and bad legal definitions and understandings. The judges may be in the wrong morally, but the calamity is they may be in the right legally. If so, we must work as each is able to assure that such a thing as this never happens to another family.
Mr. Appleby, who neither endorsed nor approved the message above, does ask that we make everyone aware of his message with which I am in complete agreement. The immediate necessity is to pray, call and work to save Ms. Schiavo--but in the longer term, we must band together to prevent a recurrence of this nightmarish evil.