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The real principle: Making unwanted people dead

A court in New York State has removed guardianship of apparently unconscious Gary Harvey from his wife, Sara Harvey, on the grounds that she "was ill-suited to care for him and did not follow the advice of medical professionals" and has granted that guardianship to the county, which has been trying to dehydrate him to death.

No further details are available on Sara's alleged "unsuitability," except for the fact that she apparently doesn't want her husband to be dehydrated to death. If she is unable to care for him at home, which could easily be the case, it scarcely follows that she cannot be his medical guardian and have legal decision-making power over things like whether he should continue to receive food and water. That the county wishes to dehydrate him to death should indicate that his county guardian is "ill-suited" to make those decisions.

Wesley J. Smith conjectures, with some plausibility, that Sara Harvey may have been removed precisely because she refused to dehydrate her husband to death, that this might have been the "advice of medical professionals" which she refused to accept. Further evidence for this (beyond the absence of other explanation for the removal of Sara Harvey and Smith's experience of exactly such guardianship decisions) is to be found in the statement in a news story,

The county was named Gary Harvey’s guardian. In 2009, Chemung County planned to remove Gary Harvey’s feeding tube on the advice of doctors, but the move was blocked.

That tells us what "medical" advice the doctors are giving.

When Terri Schiavo's case was in the news, we often heard the would-be-wise tell us that her husband "had the right" to decide her medical fate. This was not even legally correct. The State of Florida could have appointed someone else as her guardian, and the decision to kill her was made by a court on the basis of the unsubstantiated claim that this would have been her own wish. In this case in New York, my guess (though it is only a guess) is that a "best interests" standard is being used rather than the allegation that this is what Gary Harvey "would have wanted." This makes guardianship all the more legally crucial. But where is the supposed principle that a spouse "has the right" to be guardian and to decide these things? When it's inconvenient to the culture of death, that principle is nowhere in sight.

In a well-motivated effort that I fear will be unsuccessful, Terri's brother Bobby Schindler has petitioned the court to be made Mr. Harvey's guardian. This is an obvious attempt to call the county's bluff. If the claim is that there is some legitimate, special reason (other than not wanting him to die) why Mrs. Harvey cannot be her husband's guardian and make medical decisions for him and that the county has been forced to assume guardianship because there is no one else available to do so, then Schindler's offer should be taken seriously.

The case bears watching. Also, if your state provides for a medical durable power of attorney, make sure you have one set up. That will make it harder for the state to do what they are trying to do here.

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