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Defending marriage - that's SO last year

Reported by Chrish - March 31, 2005

John Gibson let us know on The Big Story 3/30 that he is much more concerned with "Parents' Rights" (banner for the segment) than defending Michael Schiavo's legal and moral right to make decisions for his brain-damaged wife. Gibson said "TS' parents gave her life, but they seem to have no legal rights when it comes to her impending death, or, adding insult to injury not even over where she is buried. The courts have said over and over again that decision, those decisions, rest with her husband Michael. A man who was married to Terri for less than six years, before she suffered severe brain damage, a man who has been living with another woman the last ten years. But Michael Schiavo is still considered Terri's legal guardian."

He then introduced John Mayoue from the Atlanta's Family Law and asked him "What rights DO parents have in these cases?"

Mayoue said at first he was very empathetic with both the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo, having been involved with two similar situations, one personally and one professionally. Gibson cut him off saying "When you give me a warm-up like that, John, you're about to deliver bad news; what is it?"

Mayoue answered "well the "bad" news, I guess to me is good news. We need to protect the sanctity of traditional marriage in this country...and the Florida legislature has already done so, by having a statute that says the surviving spouse is the decision-maker regarding cremation."

Gibson cut in "Wait a minute, wait a minute - this is a guy who has "set up" another family. he's claiming marital rights even though if the woman was conscious she may very well say 'he's got another wife and kids, I want a divorce.'" (Comment: I am not making this up.) "How can you talk about the sanctity of marriage in this situation?"

Mayoue replied that if steps had been taken for a divorce on behalf of Terri in 1993-1994 things might be different but as it stands he is her legal husband. Gibson overtalks and interrupts to argue that a.) she is being allowed to die in opposition to the parents' wishes and even after she's dead she's going to be cremated and in a mausoleum in PA when they would like her in Florida. It seems like the parents have no claim at all.

Mayoue replies that's the traditional view in this country and points up two issues: do a living will, and do a will that says what you want to happen to your body. The traditional view of marriage is that parents don't get to make these decisions. That's something our legislatures can change but they haven't chosen to do so.

Gibson again says "Wait a minute. Even in a situation where the person is incapacitated and you have a husband who has already "set up" another family and this is a marriage in legal name only, not in practical name, the courts can't even recognize that he shouldn't make all these decisions?"

Mayoue, as steady a guest as I've ever seen, replied "It's the same argument we had about him being a guardian. You see, people said he's got a conflict of interest here....that has gone through 20-some judges over a period of twelve years..."

Gibson interrupts to say "Doesn't that suggest that the judges are a little out of touch with what most people think?"

Mayoue replied "I really think we're out of touch, because we're criticizing 20-something judges, and medical professionals, who have looked at this for years and years and years....now John, let me tell you this: I don't disagree that this man may have some conflicts as we sit here today. Obviously with the other person, with other children..."

Gibson jumps in with "another wife, call her what she is!"

Mayoue chuckled and said "she's not a wife, but she is another person. But what's happened here is" the Schindlers have not proven in courts that Michael is so biased that he should be disqualified and that he is not truthfully testifying to her wishes. Gibson overtalked this last, but Mayoue finished his sentence.

The conversation continued another minute, with Gibson badgering Mayoue about the not-traditional marriage (Comment: true, it is extremely rare that one's spouse is in a persistent vegatative state for 15 years) and Mayoue reiterating the need for living wills to avoid this scenario. Gibson went so far as to ask "Can you at least say this is a transgression of what everybody would recognize as what ought to happen?" When Mayoue answered again that this is how it works with traditional marriage, Gibson said "I think you're stretching it calling it traditional marriage, but I'll let you get away with it now."

Comment: Gibson was self-righteous and judgmental of Michael Schiavo's decision to get on with his life while he fought with Terri's parents to let her go. It is disgusting the way he is being treated as some kind of monster as he goes through this public ordeal.
The poll numbers show that a vast majority of Americans want their end of life decisions made by their spouse. Any effort to change the laws will be met with tremendous resistance.

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