At least point 3 is original

I have some more thoughts on the exceedingly sad case of Terry Schiavo, most of which I'm copying from what I've said in comments at other sites.

1) On the legal issues, I can't understand why someone would think that "federal government intervention will lead to swift resolution." The entire point of the Federal government intervention is to avoid the relatively swift (two weeks maximum) resolution (Terry's death) which was about to take place. Now, rather than this definetly being resolved within two weeks, the Schiavos have 30-days to file with the Federal Court for the Eastern District of Florida, though they will move for a preliminary injunction immediately, since the feeding is presently disconnected. I think it's extremely likely that the Federal Court will grant the injunction, a standard formula for injunctions is based on the severity of the harm if there is delay and the probability of winning on the merits. If the courts thinks there is some small chance of deciding for her parents later on, they will grant the injunction as soon as possible, since she is certain to die without it in two weeks.

2) On the ethical issue, I'm going to assume that everyone reading here thinks that there are some cases where autonomy trumps the life (living will cases, at least). So the question is what do we know in hard cases where we lack clear intent. The principle proposed by Alameida and others to "err on the side of life" has some intuitive appeal, but it's in danger of swallowing the rule. (I think the point I'm about to make is stolen from Hilzoy, not certain though. Update: Sadly, yes) What if the living will provides for the future self being brain dead, but not in a PVS? What if it specifies removing ventilation, but not removing nutrition and hydration? If we err on the side of life there, we're at risk of ignoring the general intent behind a great number of living wills. The odd thing about this case from my perspective, besides the separation of powers issues, is how well the proceedings worked. The parents had numerous oppurtunities to appeal, the husband gave up his ability to make the determination himself and instead gave the state court the ability to use its discretion, and still we have the current mess. So despite what appears to me to be a remarkably well designed system in Florida for adjudicating end of life decisions, we still have this mess. I'm not really sure what improvements can be made to avoid this in the future, other than everyone having living wills. Maybe make filling out a living will part of some process that most people go through, like registering for a drivers license, though that strikes me absurd.

3) Most morbidly, this whole situation keeps reminding me of the Seinfeld episode "The Comeback." It's probably most well known for the line, "The jerk store called and they're running out of you," but one of the subplots is about Kramer watching a made for TV film called Coma. He makes a living will which gives Elaine the power to decide to unplug him from assistance, but then it turns out that he only watched the first half of the film and didn't know that one could recover from a coma. He then wants to change the will, but goes into a coma after being hit by a tennis ball and wakes up thinking that Elaine is about to kill him. Funny stuff, that.