Anil Adyanthaya argues in today’s Boston Globe that the ACLU is acting outside of its mission by suing on behalf of non-American detainees who allege abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan. While this is an interesting argument, I think there is an equally salient example from our own soil. The ACLU has intervened in Terri Schiavo’s case. The case shows the problem of the slippery slope in right-to-die jurisprudence. Beginning with the premise that an individual has the right to refrain from receiving lifesaving medical care, the ACLU then must make the leap that where a party has not made such intent known, and where there is colorable doubt as to 1) the individual’s true intent, and 2) the individual’s medical status, then the default should be in favor of the right to die, or in this case, in favor of the party who has economic incentives to assure that the individual dies quickly.
This case does nothing to reaffirm the right to have medical treatment withheld insofar as that right is held by the individual to whom the medical treatment is at issue--a qualification that used to be important to the ACLU. Rather, it simply reinforces what can go wrong when this "right" is applied by the court: those who are zealous to expand these "last rights" (pun intended) may be prone based on their predispositions to ignore issues such as the self-interest of the guardian that no jurist or officer would ignore if they were forced to examine a suspect death after the fact. Only then, we would call it motive . . . .