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April 08, 2005

Slippery Slope Watch

Thrown Back, by Fr. Rob Johansen (via Patterico), relates this story:

85 year-old Mae Margourik of LaGrange, Georgia, is currently being deprived of nutrition and hydration at the request of her granddaughter, Beth Gaddy. Mrs. Margourik suffered an aortic dissection 2 weeks ago and was hospitalized. Though her doctors have said that she is not terminally ill, Ms. Gaddy declared that she held medical power of attorney for Mae, and had her transferred to the LaGrange Hospice. Later investigation revealed that Ms. Gaddy did not in fact have such power of attorney. Furthermore, Mae's Living Will provides that nutrition and hydration are to be withheld only if she is comatose or vegetative. Mae is in neither condition. Neither is her condition terminal.

Furthermore, under Georgia law, if there is no power of attorney specifying a health care decisionmaker, such authority is given to the closest living relatives. Mae's brother, A. B. McLeod, and sister, Lonnie Ruth Mullinax, are both still alive and capable of making such decisions. They opposed Mae's transfer to hospice, and are fighting to save her life. But in spite of the lack of a power of attorney, and the fact that there are closer living relatives who should be given precedence by Georgia law, Ms. Gaddy sought an emergency appointment as guardian from the local probate court. The probate judge, Donald Boyd (who, I am told, is not an attorney and does not have a law degree), granted Gaddy's request, thereby giving her the power to starve and dehydrate Margourik to death, though such an action is contrary to the provisions of the living will.

"But wait!", the supporters of Michael Schiavo will say.

"This case is an obvious perversion of the law!"

Exactly. Take careful note of this, all of you who pointed to the Florida court record and proclaimed that the Terry Schiavo case was just.

Even assuming that Florida law is just and morally right, and that all the parties involved wre acting above board and that the judge was perfectly right in his rulings, this case shows what the rest of us were warning about: if you remove the presumption that when in doubt about a person's wishes you choose life, eventually there will be a case like this appears to be.

And then another.

And then many, many more.

And then Medicare, or Allina, or your grandchildren for that matter will have all the precedent it needs to start killing off patients who are too burdensome.

And that's if the law is correct.

Posted by Mitch at April 8, 2005 06:26 AM | TrackBack
Comments

testing

Posted by: mitch at April 8, 2005 10:16 AM

Huh? It DOES work? But it doesn't SEEM like it works?

What's UP with that?

Posted by: mitch at April 8, 2005 10:20 AM

can we remove the feeding tube from this topic ( nationally I mean )? Do something useful like propose/back bills instead of vilifying others?

Posted by: Aodhan at April 8, 2005 10:32 AM

Mitch,

Obviously a case where the facts (at least as related by you) show court action completely contrary to state law is EXACTLY the same thing as a case in which the facts show court action completely in conformity with state law.

Yes, sometimes courts make mistakes. That's why we have appellate courts.

And appellate lawyers, thankfully.
/jc

Posted by: Slash at April 8, 2005 10:38 AM

Slash:

Except, as I noted before, appelate courts don't as a rule fix *faulty findings of fact*, and there are any number of reasons why faulty facts can be found.

Aodhan:

In this blog and (especially) on the show, I've been extremely forthright in urging people to let Terri Schiavo rest in peace, and *change the damned laws*.

As to the topic's reappearance on this blog, I'll reiterate; I AM the law here. And dang, I like it.

Posted by: mitch at April 8, 2005 10:55 AM

There are Georgia laws and there are Georgia courts. Don't confuse the two. Because in Georgia, as in alot of other places, the law is whatever the court says it is, especially in the appellate division.

The notion that judges and lawyers practice some kind of devoted adherence to "the law" is an absolute delusion. The "law," especially in Georgia and throughout the South, is subject to the interpretation that suits the court, and not some deliberative body in the big city or some Yankee mainstream true believers.

Oh, and that signed document you got? Disallowed. The court notes your objection. You may appeal, of course, provided you have the time and the money to chase paper year after year. You'll get a hearing eventually, but in the meantime, strange things will happen. Pigs will fly because the "law" is no match for the judge. Not in Georgia. Not in a great many places, hence the big debate.

In one court, Martha Stewart goes to jail for lying to Federal investigators about a lousy stock trade. In another court, Sandy Berger gets a fine for lying to Federal investigators about stealing and destroying classified national security documents.

So much for the "law." Obviously, what matters is the judge, as several recent U.S.Supreme Court rulings have made abundantly clear. To argue the alternative is to embrace self-delusion and folly.

For now, the judge is king. The law be damned.


Posted by: Eracus at April 8, 2005 11:45 AM

Seriously, Mitch. Just because you and Lileks say its the same thing doesn't mean it's the same thing. Even your boy Reynolds thinks you guys are being dinks on this one:

http://www.instapundit.com/

"FEW THINGS WOULD MAKE ME LESS ANXIOUS TO OPEN AN EMAIL than the subject heading "Another Terry Schiavo Case!" But if the facts recounted here are accurate, this Georgia case involves a non-comatose, non-vegetative woman being denied care in express contravention to her living will, which means that it's not really another Terri Schiavo case at all. I hope it will get sufficient attention to get to the bottom of this."

Happy Friday!

Posted by: rew at April 8, 2005 11:51 AM

Seriously, Mitch. Just because you and Lileks say its the same thing doesn't mean it's the same thing. Even your boy Reynolds thinks you guys are being dinks on this one:

http://www.instapundit.com/

"FEW THINGS WOULD MAKE ME LESS ANXIOUS TO OPEN AN EMAIL than the subject heading "Another Terry Schiavo Case!" But if the facts recounted here are accurate, this Georgia case involves a non-comatose, non-vegetative woman being denied care in express contravention to her living will, which means that it's not really another Terri Schiavo case at all. I hope it will get sufficient attention to get to the bottom of this."

Happy Friday!

Posted by: rew at April 8, 2005 11:52 AM

Rew,

As much as Nick Coleman tells you all the "connect the dots", I have to disabuse you of a thought you (and most leftybloggers) seem to have; we don't take our orders from Glenn Reynolds. Any more than all you leftybloggers awake with reveille to read the morning dispatches and talking points from Media Matters. (You don't, do you?)

I didn't say the cases were the same. I said that the slippery slope is being slid.

Posted by: mitch at April 8, 2005 11:55 AM

Funny, I seem to remember when "slippery slope" arguments were something many on the right reviled about the left.

The times, they are a'changin', I guess.

And I will have you know I never wake before noon.

Posted by: rew at April 8, 2005 12:19 PM

"Funny, I seem to remember when "slippery slope" arguments were something many on the right reviled about the left."

Then you were never involved in the gun control debate throughout the eighties and nineties. The right argued - rightly, in view of the experiences in the UK, Canada and Australia - that incremental gun control was the slipperiest of slopes. The left used to...you guessed it, revile the right for making the argument.

"The times, they are a'changin', I guess."

They more the times they a'change, the more they stay a'the same.

"And I will have you know I never wake before noon. "

And I usually wake up before my alarm clock, which is set at 5:45AM.

Posted by: mitch at April 8, 2005 12:30 PM

Mitch - the Houston Chronicle did a story about a case down there where the plug is being pulled by the hospital AGAINST THE FAMILY'S WISHES. This story was run last month, during the Terri Schiavo hysteria which is why no one talked about it then.

Here is a link to the story.

http://www.chron.com/cs/CDA/ssistory.mpl/metropolitan/casey/3079622

Posted by: Cindy at April 8, 2005 12:54 PM

"Then you were never involved in the gun control debate throughout the eighties and nineties."

I tried, but few people wanted to listen to a 10 year old. Go figure.

Posted by: rew at April 8, 2005 01:02 PM


Iíve been trying, unsuccessfully alas, to find a published court decision or even newspaper account of this story, so that we have more to go on than the description of one sideís argument from a blog.

What it comes down to is that we have a constitutional right to choose not to receive medical care and to be allowed to die, and that we have to have some way to resolve factual disputes about what our wishes are.

If youíve got a better way to resolve the factual dispute over what a patientís wishes are than to have a court listen to live witness testimony from each side, judge the credibility, biases, and strength of each sideís witnesses and evidence, and come to a decision as to what the patientís wishes are, Iím all ears.

At the moment, thatís how we resolve factual disputes in this country. In the courts. Not by a vote by bloggers and blog readers. We hope that this system will more often than not lead to some objective factual truth, but we also admit that the system is not metaphysically infallible. But itís the system we use to decide everything from contractual disputes, whether someone committed murder and will be put to death, to whether someone wished to refrain from further medical care and be allowed to die.

I donít know if the Georgia court got the facts right or wrong, I havenít read the transcripts or the courtís reasoning for accepting the credibility of one side over another, so I canít form my own opinion as to whether the facts you describe are probably true, nor am I an expert on Georgia law, so I canít form an opinion as to whether the Georgia court properly applied it. But neither can you.

In the end, we have a right to choose, and we have a judicial system to resolve disputes as to what choice we made.

Or we could let Tom DeLay choose for us.
/jc

Posted by: Slash at April 8, 2005 01:12 PM

"Or we could let Tom DeLay choose for us."

Tom Delay didn't choose anything for anyone. The law Congress passed merely granted the Federal courts jurisdiction to hear the case afresh, because the findings of fact from the Florida courts smelled to high heaven and someone's life was in the balance.

I though you were an attorney. Try reading the law.

The goal was to be certain what Terri's wishes were; not to keep her alive for the sake of keeping her alive. What is it about you people that blocks that fact from registering.

Oh yeah: that cute characature you all have drawn of is in your tiny little minds that we're all a bunch of religious nut-jobs.

Never mind that most of us were just applying common sense:

How old was Schiavo when she had the heart attack that caused her condition? Mid-twenties? How many twenty-somethings do you know that talk about what they want done if they're brain-damaged with the certainty that her husband's testimony claimed?

Enough with this already.

LF

Posted by: LearnedFoot at April 8, 2005 01:32 PM

Even if you accept the precept "when in doubt, choose life" (which I don't accept, not necessarily), in this case there is no doubt. Mae left a living will that says she would want the tube left in. Even people like me who supported Michael's side in the Schiavo case (on legal grounds) know this case stinks (if the facts as reported are true).

Posted by: Fred at April 8, 2005 01:58 PM

Bizarre. This time we have a living will which is being violated against the wishes of the one being killed and there are STILL some people supporting the death in the name of "choice." I don't think I have ever seen a euphemism so patently transparent.

Posted by: Doug at April 8, 2005 06:29 PM

FYI, almost all the blog reports I've seen on this story are blogs repeating what other blogs have said. Kind of like the MSM does. For additional reference, I did find this link from the local LaGrange, Georgia newspaper covering the story: http://www.lagrangenews.com/new.php?StoryType=full

Posted by: Night Writer at April 8, 2005 07:11 PM
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