Monday, March 21, 2005


The Eighth Amendment to the Constitution – article eight of the Bill of Rights – prohibits “Cruel and Unusual Punishment”. On March 21st, the United States Congress effectively redefined the meaning and scope of the Eighth Amendment – with Bush immediately signing their act into law.

Crucified, Immanuel was taken down early because Jewish law mandates burial within three days of death – the belief, shared by most cultures, being that a soul is trapped on earth until the body is properly sanctified. (Matt 27:57; John 19:31)

Florida Representative Jim Davis (D) classified the actions of his fellow congressman with the words, “These actions today are a clear threat to our democracy.”

House Democratic leader, Nancy Pelosi of California characterized it with these words: "The actions of the majority in attempting to pass constitutionally dubious legislation are highly irregular and an improper use of legislative authority.”

Obviously, in this most religious period of the year, when analogy to Immanuel is most pungent, many of you already know I am talking about Terri Schiavo – in a vegetative state since February 25th, 1990. At issue is her “right to die”; or more accurately, since she has no cognitive functions, the right to a proper funeral so that her soul can move on.

The Constitutional issue comes from assertions of Senate Republican majority leader Bill Frist of Tennessee – who is a medical doctor – in asserting, "Remember, Terri is alive, Terri is not in a coma."

The Schiavo case is unique, she was receiving any life-sustaining treatment beyond the feeding tube and does not appear to be in the physical state normally associated with decisions to end medical assistance. However, the lack of cognitive function renders “brain dead” – a medical state sufficient to warrant cessation of assistance in hundreds of case every year.

The debate becomes one of what is life? Is it the continuation of bodily function in the presence of sustenance, but without cognitive function? Or, is it the continuation of cognitive function – regardless of the necessary interventions to sustain the body?

Imagine this: Terri is alive, with undetected cognitive function. She is a prisoner in her own body and the nerves which will allow her to communicate no longer exist. Having spent 15 years in this prison, by act of Congress, she is to be sentenced to “imprisonment for life” – currently, another 40 years or more.

If Congress can do that to Terri, who has committed no crime, why couldn’t they eventually decide to do it to criminals? Would they chemically paralyze a criminal, insert a feeding tube and thus time would be served imprisoned within their own body. Think of the money we would save.
Speaking of money. President Bush now seeks to “err on the side of life” when only a few weeks ago he wanted to cut the Medicaid funding which sustains Terri’s body – and countless Terri’s.

If what is being imposed on Terri is not cruel and unusual, is not an 8th Amendment violation, it follows it can be imposed on everyone. If not prisoners, than all the “brain dead” whose bodies can be sustained with only feeding tubes – utilizing Medicaid funds diverted from the living.

However, Terri is “brain dead” – short of doctors discovering the technique Immanuel utilized on Lazarus and subsequently taught his Apostles, she is dead; and Congress and the President have dictated that her soul be entombed on earth until the day her shell succumbs to corruption.

The current administration has authorized torture by declaring insurgents and accused terrorist to be outside the scope of the Geneva Convention a – or moral treatment. This Administration has washed its hands of crimes of torture by raising its legal advocate to the post of Attorney General.
Now, in this period of heightened religious observance and recollection of the origins of modern faiths, we must ask what morality is in play – how many souls will be denied closure?

No comments: