What kind of a place is Florida?
by Reason McLucus

What kind of state has laws that says a woman’s unfaithful husband has a right to decide what happens to her, but not the woman who gave birth to her or the parents who devoted time and money raising her from a baby to a young woman? What kind of a state has judges so lacking in humanity that they ignore the rights of parents?

I could understand if Florida was somewhere in Afghanistan or possibly even in India. In those areas a woman becomes the property of her husband when she marries and he can do whatever he wants with her including killing her. In the United States women are not supposed to be property.

An American woman may depend on her family to protect her from an abusive husband. Her parents may depend on her to take care of them if they have health problems in their old age.

American women are supposed to have the right to divorce a husband who moves in with another woman and fathers her children. Does Florida have some type of law that says a woman loses that right if she suffers an injury that leaves her unable to communicate her wishes? If so, are Florida judges aware that the U.S. Constitution requires states to provide “equal protection of the laws” to women with unfaithful husbands regardless of whether the woman can communicate or not?

Don’t Florida judges understand that an unfaithful husband may kill his wife to avoid a divorce with a property settlement and required alimony payment? Don’t Florida judges understand that such a husband might lie about his wife’s wishes to have the courts kill her for him?

Perhaps some Floridians suffer from an ignorance based prejudice against those with brain injuries. Perhaps Floridians don’t understand that the term “persistent vegetative state” was coined by ignorant doctors who don’t understand that human intelligence isn’t related to the ability to use the body to communicate.

A century ago ignorant people referred to those who couldn’t speak as “dumb”. Today most people recognize that those who cannot speak can be just as intelligent as those who can speak. There is a man in England who, because of an hereditary version of ALS, can barely communicate using a special computer, but those of us who are familiar with his work consider him one of the world’s most brilliant physicists. His name is Stephen Hawking.

Scientists know that a person can be totally aware of what is going on around them, but be unable to move or communicate with others. Those like Kate Adamson who have been in this situation report that they were totally aware, but unable to get their bodies to respond to their effort to communicate.

Scientists have just finished the decade of the brain. They know much more about how the brain functions and how to help those with brain injuries recover at least some functions.

Scientists have learned that contrary to what was once believed, the brain does produce new neural cells and this process can be encouraged. Ironically, one of the leading scientists in this field, Dr. William M. Hammesfahr, is based in Clearwater, Florida.. Scientists in other parts of the world are developing equipment that allows persons with paralysis to use brain waves to communicate or control prosthetic devices.

Are Floridians ignorant of Dr. Hammesfahr’s work? Is that why the Florida courts have ignored his statement that he can help Terri Schiavo? Is that why many Florida journalists continue to act as if there is no hope for Terri Schiavo?

Or, are Florida judges prejudiced against those with brain injuries like Southern judges once were against those of a different skin color? Southern courts once allowed white people to murder black people with no real fear of punishment. If such murderers were prosecuted at all, they were likely to be easily acquitted.

Attitudes can change over time. Those white people who escaped prosecution for murdering black people decades ago, now can be punished. A man who killed three black girls in Birmingham over 30 years ago was recently convicted of murder.

The U.S. Department of Justice recently announced that it had opened an investigation into the brutal murder of 14-year-old Emmitt Till in Mississippi almost 50 years ago. They are attempting to find evidence that could be used to prosecute those who participated in the murder and are still alive.

Attitudes toward those with brain injuries are already changing, even if the attitudes aren’t changing in the Florida courts. Experts in the field already recognize that patients like Terri Schiavo aren’t hopeless and don’t deserve to be killed. When the Florida criminal justice system recognizes this fact those who have violated the rights of persons with brain injuries, including judges, could face criminal prosecution.

The judges who have denied Terri Schiavo her right to divorce her unfaithful husband Michael need to realize that they could be convicted of murder if they help Michael kill her. The judges have heard expert testimony that Terri can be helped. They won’t be able to defend themselves by claiming they didn’t know about her condition.

Medical personnel who might participate in the action could also potentially be held accountable. “Just following orders” isn’t an acceptable defense in U.S. courts. Such prosecution could occur in five years, ten years or even 40 years.

For that matter, Michael Schiavo potentially could be prosecuted for murder if Terri were to die in her current condition. Regardless of whether he abused her or not, there is physical evidence such as bone scans, indicating she could have been abused. In fact Michael might be easier to prosecute successfully than Scott Peterson.

Prosecutors of Michael would have motive in the form of previous arguments with Terri. They can place him with her at the time of whatever event caused her to go to the hospital. Respected forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden has stated that a bone scan indicates she was abused. In short, Michael would be better off if Terri were to recover and die later of something unrelated to her current situation.


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