03/22/05 — Terri Schiavo: This is not a matter for the federal government

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Terri Schiavo: This is not a matter for the federal government

The members of Congress who passed a law that may extend Terri Schiavo’s life most likely were well intentioned. They believe it would be wrong to remove her feeding tube and allow her to starve.

But Congress should not have gotten involved. Furthermore, the politicians who were the strongest advocates of congressional intervention are the very ones who rail against intervention in other situations.

They cry that the federal government is too big and that, ignoring the Constitution, it asserts itself in areas where it shouldn’t. That is correct.

The Constitution sets out the functions of the federal government, and Amendment 10 says it must keep hands off any issues where it is not specifically granted power by the Constitution.

That means it has no business telling states how to educate children, how high to set speed limits, and so forth.

It also means that Congress has no business dabbling in matters like the Terri Schiavo case.

Now, Terri Schiavo should be given another chance at life. Doctors acting on behalf of the courts have said the Florida woman, who suffered a lack of blood to her brain in 1990, is in a vegetative state and will not recover. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, wants to remove her feeding tube and let her die.

But Mrs. Schiavo’s parents object. They say their daughter responds to them with her facial expressions, and she is not in a coma.

As long as there is doubt about whether she is a hopeless vegetable, she should be allowed to live, and rehabilitative therapy should be tried to determine with certainty whether she could get better.

The effect of the law passed Sunday night is to give her parents time to file yet another lawsuit. Today, a judge ruled against them, and they are appealing.

We can only pray that that the right thing will be done for her.

It may seem contradictory to say on the one hand that Mrs. Schiavo should live, and to say on the other hand that Congress should not have gotten involved. But ours is a government of laws, and we cannot pick and choose the situations in which we will maintain respect for the law and honor the Constitution.

Published in Editorials on March 22, 2005 10:28 AM