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Published: Wednesday, 3/23/2005

Congress intrudes

WITH the addition of 435 members of the United States Congress, it's gotten far too crowded in Terri Schiavo's room at a Pinellas Park, Fla., hospice.

The suffocating hand of government interference is painfully obvious regardless of how one feels about end-of-life issues.

Congress, in passing special legislation to allow the federal courts to take over a case that already had been carefully and properly adjudicated by a state court, has made a grave constitutional and political mistake, one that poses more questions than answers for people in the same heartrending plight as Ms. Schiavo's family.

Each year, thousands of adults and children in this country end up in a persistent vegetative state, somewhere in the twilight between coma and brain death, where Ms. Schiavo has been suspended for nearly 15 years.

Will the Republican majority in Congress go to bat for each one of them when family members can't agree on when the effort to sustain life has gone on long enough? Probably not.

Would anyone in a similar situation want Congress to inject itself in what should be a purely personal and family decision? Not likely.

Should Congress be involved in the first place? Unequivocally no.

Few Americans in the throes of a life-and-death decision would want to be burdened with the unwelcome advice of 435 politicians - 436 if you count President Bush, who hastily signed the legislation early Monday morning.

On the other hand, the next time a similar case arises, Congress has little excuse not to intervene. Lawmakers specify in the statute that their action should not be considered a precedent, but what else is it?

The GOP leadership in Congress intruded in the Schiavo case for political, not humanitarian, reasons. It's one more example of the craziness that has taken over Washington in the grip of one-party rule. Good judgment, good sense, and even the Constitution are swept aside in the irresistible urge to pander to emotion and to a sizable voting constituency.

In allowing the federal courts to take jurisdiction over Ms. Schiavo's case, Congress is clearly trying to manipulate the end result. Call it judge-shopping on a grand scale, even after the United States Supreme Court wisely declined to get involved.

It's an ironic ploy from a group of politicians who routinely rail against "activist" judges, and whose political creed - at one time, anyway - decried the heavy hand of intrusive government in personal decisions.

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