Til death do us part.

The law, lawyers, and the court.
Oct. 23 2003 6:29 PM

Till Death Do Us Part

Why spouses get the final say in coma cases.

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This isn't to say that spouses may execute their partners at will. Or that one's spouse is one's property, any more than one's child is one's property. But in death, as in life, the courts must ultimately grant some decision-making powers to someone. It is a mistake to view these end-of-life cases as analogous to death penalty cases. The only issue on the table is who best knows what you'd have wanted for yourself. The courts must conduct a thorough inquiry to that end—is this guardian fit? Is he in fact expressing the patient's wishes for herself? Is her medical condition indeed irreversible? In this case, the courts have done all this. Medical experts have spoken. Michael Schiavo was not given this decision cavalierly. It was given him as his wife's partner and caretaker, someone she took until death do us part.

The courts have not found that Michael Schiavo is unfit to act as his wife's guardian, only the Florida Legislature did that. But in a more profound way, Terri Schiavo decided this case the day she married him. Until and unless a court finds him unfit, it is vital that we respect that.

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