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Charles Krauthammer suggests laws should change regarding spouse's rights

Reported by Chrish - March 26, 2005

Charles Krauthammer appeared as a guest on Special Report today 3/25, introduced as "graduate of Harvard Medical School, board certified by the American Board of Psychiatry, and member of the President's Council on Bio-ethics." Jim Angle subbed for Brit Hume again, 3/25/05.

Angle asked Krauthammer what would be the legacy of this case, and Charles replied that it would heighten our awareness, especially of cases where the patient can't speak for themselves.

Angle says one of the difficulties is the legal principle in courts of law that gives the right to make decisions to the spouse involved, even when the parents want to prolong her life, and asks is there any other way to resolve disputes like this over life and death when there's this kind of dispute within the family?

Comment: Imagine that Michael wanted to keep her on life support and the parents wanted to let her go; this would never be an issue.

Krauthammer replies that logically one would generally want the spouse to be the one making decisions, as (s)he is the chosen life partner, "but obviously we now have a case where you've got a spouse who has, let's say, a conflict of interest, we might say in a political context. He's got a woman he lives with, he's got two children by her, so I'm not necessarily saying he's not speaking honestly on behalf of Terri, but we cannot read into his heart and his motives. So in a case like that with an obvious conflict, when you have the parents who say they want her to "live", I think we might want to look at changing the laws that automatically assign the surrogacy... to the spouse and perhaps have a law that says if there's a division among the family we probably ought to err on the side of awarding custody to those who want the person to live."

Comment: So much for the sanctity of marriage. No matter how old you may be, the "strict father" could still have the last say in your life.

Angle says that throughout the court cases it has repeatedly been found that there is "clear and convincing evidence" that Terri would not want to continue to live this way. Charles disputes this by saying that Michael's sworn testimony is "hearsay" and he may not be the most reliable witness. Even if there was a written living will, Charles asserts, people may change their minds after "something happens" and they may accommodate themselves to a new and perhaps difficult situation.

Comment: This was not a very surprising segment, following the "pro-life regardless of quality" and anti-Michael smears and insinuations we've witnessed all week, one-sided and unbalanced by a reasonable death-with-dignity supporter. What was new was the feeler put out about possibly changing laws so that a spouse is not automatically the next of kin designated to make decisions for an injured or incapacitated person. How can those on the right "defend marriage" while weakening the legal rights and responsibilities of legally married couples?

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