This Schiavo mess has been an outrage and a sad mess, and we need to make sure things like this don’t happen again. Well- we need to do what we can to try to make sure thigs like thisdont happen again. Charles Krauthammer had a ham-fisted proposal the other day that would virtually ensure chaos, pitting family member against family member, so here is my proposal:
Every state should make a living will a requirement for couples in order to get their marriage licenses. We already require birth certificates amd HIV tests, a living will should be no large burden. However, the devil is in the details.
1.) Convene a national panel of medical and legal experts, and by experts, I mean people who actually know something, not people you are paying to pretend they know something (See Jeb Bush). This panel would then invesitgate and report back with a proposal to codify the language of medicine and law into a single coherent agreement.
One of the most frustrating things over the past few weeks has been is listening to people babble on about how a feeding tube is not a medical treatment, etc. Bring in the experts- neurologists, end-of-life caregivers, medical ethicists, relgious leaders and bio-ethicists, and lawyers from the appropriate area of specialty.
Then, have them sit down and create a glossary of agreed upon language that can be accepted by the medical comomunity, the legal community, and the relgious community. Create a multi-tiered system of treatment options. Define what is meant by “Do not resuscitate” and “extraordinary measures.” Religious leaders could then lend advice as to which tiers are acceptable for their faith. The National Right to Life folks are already doing something like this with their “Will to Live.”
Let’s not let them dominate the debate, let’s be honest, diligent, and straight-forward, and create language and options that will lead to consensus. When they are done, when someone uses terms such as “extraordinary measures,’ we will not be referring to abstractions and nebulous concepts which can mean different things to different people. We will need agreement on what is meant in all of the cases.
2.) Congress can then adopt those in something that will no doubt be named “Terri’s Law,” and can establish that when these terms are used in legal documents such as living will, they are given the full authority of the federal government.
3.) Marriage falls in the domain of state law, so something needs to be done to get the states to adhere to this law. Not an unfunded mandate, but an incentive to folow. Congresscritters can think of something, I am sure.
4.) Mandate that the legal and religious advice price be provided for a modest fee. There is no reason, once these things are in place, that a lawyer and your religious leader and a medical provider of choice can not sit down with a couple and hash this out in an hour or two for under a few hundred dollars.
5.) Create a national database that can store this living will, so that no matter where you are married, this living will will be accessible. No need to file it with your attorney, no need to file it with your current doctor, no need to bring a copy to a new doctor should you move.
6.) A media campaign explaining the reasoning for this. This is not government intervention or government regulation, this is society making the determination that you know best how you want to be treated, and that this is the best way to make sure that your wishes are carried through.
I am open to suggestions, but this should get the ball rolling. Your input is appreciated.
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And yes, I instinctively am against laws exactly like this- but you just know congress is going to do ‘something.’ They just have to do ‘something.’ They insert themselves in everything. This seems to be less troubling than anything else they could do, in particular the Krauthammer proposal I suggested above.
*** Update ***
Just because I have a sense of humor, I sent this to the folks at Reason and to the Instapundit. That should be entertaining. Heh.
*** Update ***
Others hate it, although I reject some of their characterizations of the proposal.