_SAVANNAH SUNRISE by lonyoo

VIEWS: 17 PAGES: 29

									                             SAVANNAH SUNRISE
                                     by Skip Kazmarek

                                                               (c) 1997 Edward A. Kazmarek (Atlanta, GA)




                                          THE LAW

       "They can't do that."

       "They can do anything they want. They're the Supreme Court."

       "Well, they can't do that."

       "This is not a legislative enactment. The prohibition on retention of profits from

any retro-banned activity is a Supreme Court monetary enactment and there's nothing

you can do about it. If you don't pay, they'll initiate collection, and, as you know, ..."

       It's too hot for this conversation. This is Thursday, so only Zone 6 buildings can

be cooled after 6:00 and, although it's only 6:30, my solar collector office is already over

eighty-five. Atlanta in August, without air conditioning. I rummage around in my desk

drawer for two THC capsules, and swill them down with a mouthful of Wild Turkey.

Better take a few ZZ's just so I don't fall asleep.

       "You've got to pay. Want some Cannabules?"

       "That stuff will kill you. And I'm not paying."

       J.J. "Mac" McElroy has been my best friend for years. He and I went to law

school together... When was that? Whew! my head is really starting to buzz. But he

quit law when the NLSA, the National Legal Services Act, was enacted. Not that it

saved him--non-practicing attorneys were still domesticated and legally obliged to


                                                                                              Page 1
handle DOJ-ordered cases, but he doesn't. And somehow he doesn't get caught. He

just refuses to serve and gets away with it. It's almost as if the DOJ computers in

Washington, which mercilessly track everyone else, have a blind spot for him. But this

is different. The Supreme Court does not overlook monetary enactments. He'll have

to abide by this one.

       "C'mon, Mac, don't put me in this position. Right now I'm interpreting your

remarks as a statement of frustration. Remember, though, that if you express an intent

not to abide by a court enactment, this conversation is not privileged and I am obliged to

have you arrested."

       "Baloney."

       He's right. I won't do it. Boy, this is a doozy. I look back in my desk drawer.

Terrific. Those were not Cannabules. They were caplets. Instead of 100 milligrams

over 12 hours, I'm getting 175 milligrams instant release. Why are all those things the

same color? Only college graduates are allowed to buy psychoactives over the

counter, but even the literate college graduates often get all the different capsules

confused. That's why I stay away from the hard stuff. That, combined with my

"drinking disability," as the State Bar calls it.

       "I've got to go," I say, although on the outside of my head it might have sounded

like "I've glot to ga." I wonder if that's my mouth or my ears being incapacitated by the

rush of THC molecules infusing my brain. "You'll beel wetter tomowoe." Must be the

mouth.

       Mac shakes his head. He has that look that shows he knows I've done


                                                                                    Page 2
something lethal to my brain, once again, and any further conversation is pointless.

"Stick to the Autoroute," he says. "I mean it. You're in no condition to drive."

                                            ***

       The green glow of the annunciator shows my average speed since leaving

Atlanta is 20.6 mph. Great. Even with computerized traffic management and optimal

spacing, Traffic Control can only move so many cars per hour and the necessity of

over-night commuting has made the 6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m. rush period the worst. At

this rate I won't be in Savannah until, when? The display on the on-board route

calculator is broken. Two hundred miles, divided by... No, twenty miles per hour

times... Oh, forget it. I pour myself another W ild Turkey while Traffic Control slows my

NippoLectric for the transition from I-75C to I-16D. How does all this stuff work? The

right-side lane-sensors retract and the left-side sensors extend and a perfectly

coordinated merge takes place into the east-bound traffic, all while my drink and I sit by

and watch. Is it the beauty of the technology or the ethanol surge of the Wild Turkey

that brings me this inner warmth? For that matter, why did I take those ZZ's? I need

to get some sleep. Better have another drink.

                                            ***

       I'm scheduled to appear in Savannah Federal Court, Annex Number 6, at 9:00.

Except I can't find the annex. I enter the old Radisson Hotel to ask directions and

immediately realize this is Annex 6. My brain is really foggy.

       "Where's the courthouse pharmacy?" I ask the guard, who, judging from his

appearance, is its best customer.


                                                                                   Page 3
       "Downstairs, next to the dorms."

       8:50 ... not enough time. I settle for the ZZ dispenser, swipe my bar card

through the reader, and swallow the two 10's without water. Dispensers will not

provide any more than two, ten-milligram capsules per hour, all controlled by the State

Bar computer in Macon, but 20 milligrams will at least get me through the hearing.

       I look at my reflection in the polished steel of the elevator doors. That was a

mistake. Too many cases ... too many sleepless commutes ... too many pills washed

down with too much Wild Turkey. Maybe I should shave. No, I've got to get to the

courtroom.

       Dr. Emil Laton. Good grief, I don't even know how his name is pronounced.

That won't matter. This case is not that complicated. It seems Dr. Laton accidentally

euthanized the wrong patient and both families are seeking not only an award of the full

statutory $20 million penalty, but they are fighting over their respective shares. Not that

any of this matters. Dr. Laton is a U.S. MediProvider, with both his compensation and

his tenure fixed for life. The award, if any, is paid by federal insurance. In any event,

FedaSure death benefits (one million smackers) are available to the surviving family.

And damage awards are so common they are no more stigmatizing than flu shots. I'm

defending this case only because the momentum of our judicial system hasn't caught up

with the reality that no one but plaintiffs really cares.

       What a case. I've decided that our first defense will be that neither party is

entitled to any award. The patient who was to be euthanized died two hours later when

his family, distraught that he was still alive, became hysterical and starting pounding his


                                                                                    Page 4
chest, which in turn caused heart fibrillations which, under hospital SOPs, were allowed

to proceed to terminality. As for the patient accidentally euthanized, his family had

already filed the petitions for involuntary euthanasia, so ... look at the up side. They got

their wish without all of the paperwork and the embarrassing examination of their

"motivational sincerity."

       I get a lot of these cases. In fact, I suppose some would say I'm the leading

expert on the subject. I first obtained some measure of fame when I authored the

Putative Opinion in Lopez v. Lopez, the first case to recognize "rational incompetence"

as a means to permit euthanasia to proceed without the consent of the "candidate."

Although euthanasia generally required the candidate's consent, it had been long

recognized that, where the candidate was incompetent to grant or withhold consent,

consent could be given by the state or the candidate's family (provided they met the

three-part test for "motivational sincerity") and an I.E. order would be issued. (The

cynics noted that the name of the order--"I.E." for Involuntary Euthanasia--had a sound

much like that made by the candidate when learning of his fate.)

       My breakthrough occurred in realizing that, in certain cases, the candidate's own

refusal to consent to euthanasia, given the demonstrable misery of his own life, would

be evidence of his incompetence and therefore justification for vicarious consent. My

P.O., which was adopted verbatim by the court, phrased it this way: "Where an EC

[euthanasic candidate] is, by plain and obvious evidence, irrationally clinging to life, it is

prima facie evidence of mental incompetence sufficient to permit the court to defer to

other legally cognizable forms of consent, including the wishes of sincere family


                                                                                       Page 5
members."

        After the opinion was published, I had to hire two additional associates just to

keep up with the clients, all "sincere family members," seeking my assistance in

hastening the departure of elderly (and usually wealthy) parents who were obviously

"rationally incompetent." The I.E. business was booming.

        But that was nothing compared to the flood gates that opened after Bradley v.

Colores. Mz. Colores, a dottering and undeniably nasty grandmother, who was also

unspeakably wealthy, had reached the unusual age of 120 in remarkably good health

and with all of her mental faculties intact. Her daughter, CynThia

Colores-Casper-Bevilacqua-Bradley, hired me to see if there wasn't some way I could

deal with her mother's "problem," which was, as near as I could tell, the fact that she

wasn't dead. My theory, which even I didn't think would prevail until, after months of

litigation, it began to grow in my own assessment and I developed an affection--is that

too strong a word?--for it, was that there is an undeniable personal and social interest in

the "orderly progress of generations." Since Biblical times, it has been recognized that

the elderly have a duty to step aside and clear the path for those who come after. To

hang on "too long," beyond one's usefulness, draining the emotional (and, of course,

financial) resources of the family, is not only unfair and immoral, thus negating the

presumption for the continuation of life, it is--here's the kicker--irrational!   Simply being

"too old," I successfully argued, establishes not only eligibility for euthanasia but the

lack of rational competence to oppose the procedure! Lopez v. Lopez, you marvelous

baby.


                                                                                       Page 6
       The Law Offices of Thomas E. Kennedy swelled to fill the entire 53rd floor of

FedTrust's building. Five partners, 35 associates--what leverage! We even took up,

only in appropriate cases, of course, contingent fees in a few large-estate I.E. cases.

(Obviously, that's the best way to beat the hourly rate.) And that has been my

specialization ever since. Euthanasia--voluntary, involuntary, or wrongful--no one

knows this field better than I. Although most of the work is now done by other

attorneys in the firm, by my own choice--although my disability was a factor in my

decision, I am still the intellectual and, I might add, moral leader of the firm.

       God, I hate this job.

                                               ***

       Droning back along the Autoroute, as the melodious tones of government ads for

the latest "termination therapies" fill the compartment, I've had too many Cannabules

and too many Wild Turkeys to do anything but sit in contented stupor. But I can't.

Maybe I need to talk to Mac. I call his home, but get the answering machine. "Mac,

this is Tob ... I hanwa takka toowoo. Cob me." I realize half-way through the message

that I sound like an Aztec under water, but it's too late. He'll figure out that it was me

and will call, if for no other reason than to see if the message had anything to do with

some creative way to overcome a Supreme Court enactment.

       Twaaang-eeee. My whole head reverberates with a metallic clang. Wow, this

is strong stuff! No, it's not ... that's the videophone. I flip the lever to AUDIO ONLY,

holding off on the video signal until I find out who it is.

       "Tom, this is Mac," comes the digitally-perfect, stereophonic voice. "Give me


                                                                                     Page 7
video."

          I reach for the video lever, but miss, slip out of the recliner, and accidentally turn

on the dome light. I get it on the second try, but give up on turning off the dome light.

"Oh, hi, Mac ... watsup?"

          "You look rotten. I'm not going to even try to explain this. Give me your vehicle

control code, and switch the control authority to remote."

          "No prodlet," I say, having no idea why a thought that was clear enough in my

head won't make it through my mouth unmolested. Anyway, it doesn't matter. I can't

remember how to read the vehicle control code in the sequence of identification

numbers on the instrument panel. I try to point the videocam at the ID placard, but it

won't reach around. So I rip the placard off the glare shield and hold it under my chin,

like I'm posing for some entry in the mug shot gallery of the totally wasted. When I

hear Mac say, "Got it," I reach over and, just as I slip out of the recliner again, flip the

control lever to REMOTE.

          "OK, buddy, I'm diverting you back to Savannah."

                                                ***

          I'm more or less conscious as the Nippo tracks off I-16 and into the Savannah

Urban Traffic Staging Area. Of course, I don't have a departure appointment, and the

display at the exit lane shows the average time to enter the Savannah traffic grid is over

an hour. Besides, I suddenly realize in a fleeting moment of lucidity, I have no idea

where I'm going. Maybe there's time for another drink.

          "Put that down." Mac's unexpected voice, outside my window, makes me drop


                                                                                         Page 8
my traveling flask.

         Mac gets in the car and, without saying so much as a word, flips the control

authority to MANUAL and spins the car around towards the "Brunswick/Florida" exit

lanes.

                                              ***

         Some time later, I begin to emerge from a semi-conscious fog, at least enough to

ask a question. "Where are we going?"

         "Relax."

         That's good enough for me, at least for right now. I spin around in the

passenger recliner to pull a couple more Cannabules out of my briefcase. No

briefcase.

         "I threw it out," said Mac.

         "It has all of my papers, and my calendar."

         "You won't need it."

         "Why is that?"

         "Tom, think about this. What is the significance of human life? What difference

does it make if any particular person is alive or dead?"

         "What does that have to do with my briefcase?"

         "Everything."

         "I've got a court date tomorrow. No, tomorrow's Saturday. Maybe it's today. I

need my calendar." Actually, what I need is a Wild Turkey.

         "No, you don't. You need to think about your life." Well, that's certainly true.


                                                                                     Page 9
"Is a person significant because of his job, his accomplishments?"

       "Sure, why not?"

       "So you would have no significance if you were unemployed, idle?"

       "What are you driving at?"

       "Or, perhaps you think a person is significant because of his relationships."

       "OK by me."

       "So when your wife dies, or your children move away, you lose your

significance?"

       "Actually, Mac, I get my significance from my DayTimer. Where is it?"

       "Don't you see? Suppose in one of your damn euthanasia petitions, you had to

take the position that a person deserved to be put down, as you put it, because he was

insignificant. Suppose that were the legal test. What then?"

       "Mac, I have a splitting headache. My blood THC level is at an all-time low. I'm

probably committing malpractice, missing a court date, as we speak. Why are you

kidnapping me?"

       "Or," he continued, "suppose it was a defense to one of your petitions that the

candidate should not be euthanized because he has significance, he matters."

       A thunderstorm was building on the horizon, and it appeared that our paths

would soon converge.

       Significance. What Mac didn't understand, and what no one ever says, is that

these people were euthanized precisely because they have no significance. They do

not matter, not to their families, not to society, and usually not even to themselves.


                                                                                   Page 10
They are superfluous, extraneous, expendable. We can have all of the abstract

debates we want, but it would be practically pointless ... there's no one to raise the

question in any particular case.

         "Mac, where are we going?"

         "Tom, I want you to meet my father. And his friends. There are people out

there, scheduled for I.E., and I want to hire you to represent them. To save them.

And to change to law."

         The sky turned suddenly dark and hail began to pummel the canopy of the

Nippo.



                                         THE FACTS

         "Why is this place called 'Shady Sanctuary'?," I asked. "There isn't a tree

around."

         "The residents are fugitives," Mac replied.

         I let the implications of that rattle around for a few minutes, and then surveyed

the community around me. The homes were the classical TerraBodes, with their

sloped earthen walls and sod roofs. Only the solar panels and dish antennae

distinguished these homes from ancient Indian burial mounds. How fitting.

         In front of me was a notebook containing a "Comprehensive Plan" and a series of

attachments and supporting documents. From what I could tell, the basic idea of the

plan revolved around the formation of an "autonomous district" (somewhat akin to a

municipal corporation) within the general area known as the "South Georgia Retirement


                                                                                       Page 11
Zone." In this district, the plan called for a municipal charter and supporting ordinances

all based around a presumption of human significance, with the idea that the elderly,

disabled, and infirm, could find sanctuary in the district and would be ineligible for

euthanasia, voluntary or involuntary.

       The philosophical justification for the concept was embodied in a document

called "Dignitas Humanae," the operative paragraphs of which read as follows:

              We hold that human life has both origin and destiny.

               As a result of this origin and destiny, human life possesses extrinsic
       significance, that can neither be granted nor divested by circumstances or
       human action.

              It is contrary to this significance to treat human beings as means to
       ends, or to weigh the significance of human life by utilitarian measures.
       Human significance is not dependent upon physical or mental fitness or
       competence. Human significance is not a matter of degree; it exists fully
       in every living human being.

              It is the duty of all persons to affirm the significance of human life,
       and to live in community and mutual respect toward that end.

              No person may judge any human life as lacking in significance.

              We specifically state that all forms of assisted death are contrary to
       human significance everywhere. We deny our own authority and the
       authority of all others to consent to unnatural death.

The declaration was signed by about 75 persons, on behalf of themselves, their

representatives, and heirs. Attached to the document were a number of legal forms,

including "Personal Wills and Intentions," "Non-Consent Declarations," and "Mutual

Designations as Attorneys-in-Fact."

       Although the document struck me as harmless, even if rather quaint, the problem




                                                                                        Page 12
arose in that both the U.S. Quality of Life Commission (Dignified Death Division) and

several of the residents' children and grandchildren had gotten wind of the movement

and had filed a complaint in federal court in Atlanta. The plaintiffs sought a declaratory

judgment that the legal documents executed by the parties were void and of no effect,

that the "association" represented by the residents was unlawful and contrary to public

policy, that the parties had been and were continuing to be falsely imprisoned by virtue

of "manipulation of their individual and collective will," and that Dignitas Humanae

represented a conspiratorial agreement to deprive the residents of their civil rights,

including the right to due process of law under the 5th and 14th Amendments.

       Even worse, one of the Dignitas signatories, James W. Osman, had been served

with a Rule Nisi on the petition of his children for the issuance of an I.E. order. The I.E.

petition had been consolidated with the declaratory judgment action, and both were

scheduled for a preliminary hearing in 30 days.

                                            ***

       "Jimmy" Osman was a wreck. Not only was he withered, hunched over, and

mostly blind, he had just that day fallen down the steps and scraped several layers of

skin from his nose and forehead. As I spoke to him, he picked at the scabs, forcing

little droplets of red blood to ooze down the sizable patches of brown crust on his face.

Totally disgusting. Besides, what kind of a grown man calls himself "Jimmy"?

       "Mr. Osman, my name is Tom Kennedy. I've been asked to represent you in the

I.E. hearing. Do you have a few minutes?"

       "I haven't danced in thirty years...." His voice trailed off into a hacking spasm.


                                                                                   Page 13
       Terrific. I shouted, "Mr. Osman, I'm a lawyer. Do you understand?"

       "Can't. Broke my hip." With that, his head started to shake back and forth and

a little rivulet of saliva crept out of the corner of his mouth.

       I tried several times to capture his attention, but he was plainly sunk in a

fathomless mental lapse. I put my hands on his shoulders. "Mr. Osman... Mr.

Osman... Can you hear me? Do you understand?"

       No response--just more drool. That's it. I quit.

       I put my mouth next to his ear. "Never mind, Mr. Osman," I shouted, "I'll call

back later when someone is home."

                                               ***

       "Mac, you're not listening. You've got more problems that I can count, but let me

just name, oh I don't know, the top one hundred. There are thousands of cases

contrary to your position. I know. I litigated most of them. There is no time to

develop a defense. The principal respondent is a walking calamity. I've eaten salads

with a higher I.Q. Any reasonable judge would conclude no human should end up like

that and will probably euthanize the poor slob on the spot. You can make any damn

declaration you want, but what matters are facts and law and on both counts YOU

LOSE!"

       I was screaming. After my "interview" with Jimmy Osman, I stopped by the

Retreat infirmary. I couldn't find any Cannabules, so I ate half a dozen pills from a vial

labeled "Cannibulate." Sounded close enough under the circumstances. And I

washed them down with the Alcohol/Fuel Additive I found in the maintenance shop.


                                                                                      Page 14
Now the warmth of some miraculously delightful chemical reaction had started in my

gut, and the numbness I had come to love so well was returning with even more

life-affirming force than usual. Except that I could barely hear my own voice, and the

luminators seemed to be shutting down, and where was that pounding noise coming

from?

        "You need to tadee throse peemle..." I don't actually remember getting that far.

I was told later that I collapsed on the floor and went into convulsions. Several of the

residents dragged me into the infirmary where the on-duty gerontology nurse pumped

my stomach and started an antitoxicant drip.

                                            ***

        There were a dozen or so beds in the infirmary, and all but a couple were

occupied. I could make out Jimmy Osman a few beds away. All of the other patients

were elderly. A few had clear plastic masks over their faces, with plastic tubes running

to green oxygen cylinders. There was someone, sometimes two or three others, next

to each bed. I could hear voices all around. The room was bright, not only from the

luminators but from the GroLites that shone on the flower boxes near each bed. Sitting

next to Jimmy was an old woman, stroking his head and reading softly from an open

book.

              Fear no more the heat o' the sun,
                    Nor the furious winter's rages;
              Thou thy worldly task has done,
                    Home art gone and ta'en thy wages;
              Golden lads and girls all must,
              As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.




                                                                                  Page 15
       I started to push myself out of bed, but was immediately forced backward by

what seemed to be an army of tiny people inside my cranium shoving red hot daggers

into the backs of my eyeballs. "Aye-eeee!" I screamed. "No," "No," No," came voices

from around the infirmary. Oops. Better not say that around here.

       The old woman who had been reading to Jimmy came over to my side.

"Well...what do you know! Mister Junior Chemistry Set has regained consciousness!"

She said it loud enough both to set off a miniature thermonuclear detonation just inside

from my left eardrum and to attract the attention of everyone else in the infirmary, who

began to gather around my bed.

       "How's your head?"

       "I've seen better looking eyes on a potato..."

       "Next time, try the antifreeze..."

       "Yeah...tastes sort of like raspberries...

       "And it tastes better on the way back up, too."

       "I'm glad you're not dead." The last voice was familiar. I looked to my right and

Mac was standing next to me. "You're not going to be much help in saving us if you

euthanize yourself first."

       I slumped back into the bed. How was I supposed to save these people? The

woman who had been reading to Jimmy had gone back to his side and was reading

again. "Who's that woman reading to Jimmy?" I asked Mac.

       "Her name is Clarissa Fergusson. She rented a room in Jimmy's home when

she was in college, right about when Jimmy's wife died. He took it pretty hard and she


                                                                                 Page 16
became, oh I don't know, sort of an adopted daughter. She's been the only real family

he's had ever since. His own children are the ones seeking the I.E."

                                            ***

      "Ms. Fergusson, I'm Tom Kennedy. Mac has asked me to represent Jimmy in

the I.E. proceeding. Can you talk to me for a while?"

      "Not here," she said. "Let's go to the library."

      It seemed rather silly. Over the past few days Jimmy's condition had

progressively deteriorated and he was now, as they say, "down-trending." He certainly

couldn't hear or understand anything we said. I think.

      The library was the largest TerraBode at the corner of the compound. It was

also the only unit with active cooling. Geosinks, with their metallic shafts driven deep

into the earth, were able to keep living units at a constant 70 degrees year-round, but

could not cool or heat larger areas or areas where large numbers of people might

gather. That still required active cooling. I could see the solar evaporative coolers on

the roof of the library, remnants of a simpler time. Of course, even the name "library"

harkened back to an ancient era. Books, magazines, newspapers, they all existed in

archives and were sometimes used by researchers, at least when the materials hadn't

been imaged, but except for a few volumes that people tended to keep around the

house, the very concept of printed texts had almost disappeared.

      Which is why I was completely unprepared for the library. It actually was a

library. Row after row of books. Actual books, mind you, not CD-ROM jewel cases.

Thousands of them. Tens of thousands.


                                                                                  Page 17
       "Let's sit here," Clarissa said, "and tell me what I can do to help."

       "Ms. Fergusson, I'm sure you already know this, but let me just tell you the

problem we face. It is the law of our country that humans are not to be deprived of

their essential dignity by a prolonged and degrading process of death. This means,

obviously, that they are free to refuse medical treatment that would do just that. But it

also means that, when they consent, they have the right to an artificially induced death

where the natural process would be protracted, painful, or degrading. Moreover, where

they are unable to consent, family members, or even the government, can give that

consent."

       "I understand the law, Mr. Kennedy."

       "And Mr. Osman seems to fit well within the existing legal framework. He is near

death, the process of dying is wreaking a terrible toll not only on him, but on his family,

he is unable to consent, and those who care about him wish to end his misery. In

short, I don't know what I can do for him."

       "Then I guess there's nothing you can do for him."

       "Is that it?"

       "What would you like me to say?"

       "I would like you to tell me why he should live."

       "Mr. Kennedy, the reason why Mr. Osman should live is inside you, not him.

You must come to understand life in general before you can understand life in

particular. Until you understand the meaning of human lif e, there is nothing I can say.

After you understand that, there is nothing I need say. Thank you."


                                                                                    Page 18
       With that, she rose from her chair and left.

                                            ***

       I spent the next week interviewing residents, thinking about possible defenses.

Why? I don't know. At first, it seemed like, well, something to do. In the process,

though, I did come to know many of the residents and, in ways, came to be fond of

them. I was especially fascinated by their approach to Jimmy. He was never without

company. One after another--often in twos or threes--his friends spent time at his side.

They seemed to have no illusions about his mental condition, and certainly harbored

no misconceptions about his recovery, but they still visited to him, read to him, patted

his hand, and would always leave him at night with a whispered secret in his ear or a

kiss on the top of his head.

       I also became a part of Retreat activities. Almost every day there was a trip to

Savannah. There was at least one poker game every night. And everyone who could

had to devote at least two hours per day to Net work, which is how the community

supported itself. Mac's father had made his fortune in the computer business, and

probably knew virtual networks as well as anyone. By using the uplinks to tie into the

local node of Globalnet, and by using the remarkably powerful set of computers in the

library, they were able to do piece work on the Net, such as routine file maintenance,

stripping duplicate files, running cleanup programs, encrypting or decrypting messages,

whatever. Most of the work was done for government agencies or universities, which

meant they were entitled to both the mandated preference and bonus, giving them all

the well-paying work they could handle.


                                                                                  Page 19
       It was two weeks before I realized the hearing date was bearing down on me.

And I hadn't had a Wild Turkey the whole time.



                                     THE VERDICT

       "Oye! Oye! The United States District Court for the Northern District of Georgia

is now in order, the Honorable Mark Ingram presiding. Please be seated."

       "Gentlemen, this is a preliminary hearing in the matter of United States versus

J.J. McElroy, and others, consolidated with the matter of Osman versus Osman. My

understanding is that we are taking this as the preliminary hearing in both matters. Is

that correct?"

       "Yes, your Honor," both Bill Clayton and I replied. Clayton is the chief lawyer for

3D (Dignified Death Division) trial litigation in the United States. He is widely regarded

as smart, tough, and tireless in his advocacy of broad rights of euthanasia. As to this

trial demeanor, he is as icy-cold as any lawyer I've ever seen--never hesitating, never

wavering, never shaken. He and I have been on the same side of several cases; this

would be my first matter opposing him.

       "I've read the briefs and much of the cited case law. I'm impressed with the

quality of the legal work I've seen, and I think we're ready to get started. Are there any

preliminary matters?"

       "Nothing, your Honor."

       "Nothing."

       "Let's do this, then. Let me hear the evidence in the matter of Mr. Osman.


                                                                                  Page 20
Then we'll take the evidence in the declaratory judgment action. After that, you can

argue both Mr. Osman's particular case and the general legality of the challenged

association."

       I like Judge Ingram. He is business-like, and fair, and takes his duties very

seriously. Unfortunately, at least for this case, he also tends to take precedent very

seriously and is not inclined to ignore controlling authority where it is directly applicable.

 Unlike some judges, it is not so easy to make a facile distinction to give him the

maneuvering room to follow his own wishes. He'll take the facts and the law as they

are.

       "Mr. Clayton, call your first witness."

       "The United States calls Dr. Otto DeMays."

       The 12-foot-wide witness screen opposite from the jury box snaps to life with the

video image of Dr. DeMays. As usual, Dr. DeMays' testimony will be taken by videolink

from a remote location. The clerk rises. "Gentlemen, do you require an assurance?"

       "I do not," replied Clayton.

       "Yes," I state.

       The clerk activates his videocam and states, "Dr. DeMays. Do you assure these

parties and this honorable court that the testimony you are about to give is true to the

best of your ability to know?"

       "I do." His enormous visage, larger than life, with a booming stereophonic voice,

dominates the courtroom.

       "Gentlemen," the clerk continues, "do you permit the use of veracity monitors?"


                                                                                      Page 21
       "Yes," we reply.

       "Dr. DeMays, please make a statement you believe to be true."

       "My name is Otto Demays." This was obviously not the first time Dr. DeMays

had been through this procedure; he looked bored. The indicator lights on the panel in

front of me glowed green, indicating that the DOJ computer in Washington, by

monitoring a voice stress analyzer and the galvanic skin response, or GSR, sensors on

Dr. DeMays' hand, had concluded that the witness more likely than not believed that the

statement was true.

       "Please make a statement you believe to be false."

       "Today is Friday," replied Dr. DeMays, again obviously finding the process

tedious. My indicator light immediately turned to red--the computer's warning that

deceit had been detected.

       "Dr. DeMays, please repeat the following. It is true that the statement 'Today is

Friday' is false." Dr. DeMays repeated the statement as requested. My indicator

remained off for an instant, then turned to amber, indicating either that the DOJ

computer received inconsistent signals from the monitors or that the calculated

likelihoods did not exceed the statistical threshold necessary to classify the answer.

       I didn't really like the veracity indicators. Unfortunately, now that remote

testimony was commonplace, all of the indicia that one would normally use in a

cross-examination--body posture, tone of voice, hand placement and gestures--were

concealed or lost in the electronic translation. There was really very little choice but to

use them.


                                                                                      Page 22
       "Gentlemen, are you satisfied?"

       "Yes."

       Judge Ingram looked up from the bench. "Mr. Clayton, you may begin."

                                               ***

       There are really only two elements to a euthanasia case. First, the court must

find "eligibility." Originally, a candidate was eligible for euthanasia only if terminally ill

and death was imminent. Almost immediately, however, eligibility was expanded to

include any terminal illness, even without imminent death, if accompanied by substantial

suffering. Other forms of eligibility followed predictably: the loss of substantially all

mental functioning (the "flat-line" criterion), or Alzheimer's disease, or any other form of

severe dementia. Later, the list was expanded to include any serious physical or

mental illness or injury, if debilitating or degrading; "excessive" age (that's my case!); or

"reasoned and informed" petition, which largely meant that the candidate simply had

"good reason" for wanting to die. The full breadth of this last form of eligibility was

illustrated in a case I handled last year where the court held that a candidate met the

requirement of eligibility upon a showing that her desire to die was motivated by the fact

that she was "irrefutably ugly."

       The second element is "consent." To meet this test, it must be proven either

that the candidate is competent and has given consent, or that the candidate is not

competent and that "a sincere family member" or, in such a person's absence, the state

(usually a 3D caseworker), has given consent.

                                               ***


                                                                                       Page 23
       Bill Clayton's interrogation followed the current caselaw like a pilot's checklist.

Every question, and every rehearsed answer, tracked the reasoning of binding

precedent. Even for me, as I listened to Dr. DeMay's testimony, Mr. Osman's eligibility

seemed beyond doubt.

       "Any cross-examination, Mr. Kennedy?"

       "Not at this time, your Honor." The witness screen snapped back to azure blue.

How unfair. Such a peaceful and appealing color for a deathly process.

       "Your next witness, Mr. Clayton."

       "The United States calls Robert Osman."

       Robert Osman testified, as expected, that he loved his father dearly, that he had

been to visit him repeatedly in the recent past, that his father was unable to respond,

that his father would not want to exist in this condition and must have been tricked or

pressured into signing those documents, and that regrettably the best course was a

merciful and rapid death. On the basis of all of these facts, after careful deliberation,

he had consented on his father's behalf to euthanasia. Once again, everything was

right out of the current case law. And the veracity indicator shone brightly green on

every answer--not a hint of red-tainted deceit or duplicity in a single response.

       "Any cross-examination, Mr. Kennedy?"

       "No, your Honor."

       I was sinking. I had pinned everything on calling Mr. Osman's friends, especially

Ms. Fergusson, to testify as to the legitimacy of Mr. Osman's decision to decline an

easy death. The issue was not rationality, I would argue, but meaning. But the


                                                                                     Page 24
evidence in favor of the petition was so formidable. Even in my own estimation, my

case seemed like irrelevant mush.

       "Any more witnesses, Mr. Clayton?" It was obvious that Judge Ingram thought

the evidence before him was sufficient.

       "Your Honor, the United States calls Mr. James Osman."

       "Your Honor, I object! This isn't necessary. We have stipulated to the fact that

Mr. Osman is in a state of unconsciousness and is incapable of responding to

questions. To broadcast his image here, in this fashion, is degrading. We implore the

court to allow him to retain a little dignity."

       "Overruled."

       The witness screen displayed a brief moment of static, then the inside of the

infirmary. Mr. Osman could be seen lying on his back. Next to him was Clarissa

Fergusson. Behind the bed were two or three of his friends. The black rings of the

GSR were on the fingers of his right hand, which lay across his chest.

       "Mr. Osman, can you respond?" asked Bill Clayton. Mr. Osman remained

motionless.

       "Mr. Osman, a petition has been filed on your behalf for euthanization. Is it true

that you consent to such a procedure?" Why do this? Why bolster the testimony of

Robert Osman by making a spectacle of Mr. Osman lying motionless while he is

interrogated about consenting to his own death? I felt sick to my stomach.

       Clayton immediately fell backward into his seat. His face was flushed and he

was obviously shaken. "Your honor!" Clayton was stuttering. "We are having


                                                                                 Page 25
technical difficulties ... may I have a few ..."

       What had gotten into Clayton? And then I saw it. The light on the veracity

indicator was glowing bright red.

                                               ***

       Technically, the indicated veracity of testimony was not evidence. Indeed, only

the lawyers and the judge could see the indicator lamps; they were hidden from the

jury's view. The point here was not actually the veracity of Mr. Osman's response; it

was that Mr. Osman made a response. And a response, whether truthful or not, meant

that Mr. Osman's ability to consent was a fact question that needed evidence, a

showing the petitioners were not prepared to make. In other words, we could move to

dismiss the I.E. petition for want of evidence.

       "Gentlemen, it's been a long, and I must say quite eventful, day. I suggest we

adjourn until tomorrow. Thank you."

                                               ***

       "Good morning, gentlemen. Anything before we begin?"

       "Nothing your honor."

       The clerk answered the inaudible signal of the telephone beneath his desk. He

then rose and whispered something to Judge Ingram.

       "Gentlemen, I have just been informed that Mr. Osman died last night."

                                               ***

       We all lost our interest in litigating the declaratory judgment action after that.

Clayton, shaken from the assault of the veracity indicator, and then distracted by the


                                                                                     Page 26
death of the respondent, tried to present a case, but it was weak and ineffectual. I

made all the arguments that I had worked out and briefed, that the Retreat was an

association protected by the first amendment, that Dignitas Humanae was political

speech, that the contractual arrangements were valid under state law and could not be

impaired unless clearly contrary to federal principles, and I forget what else. But even

though I knew that in many ways everything depended on winning, my heart wasn't in it.

I thought of Mr. Osman's friends, especially Ms. Fergusson, back at the Retreat, and I

wanted to be with them.

      Anyway, it didn't matter. Judge Ingram announced his ruling from the bench,

obviously based on the briefs which, as he stated, he had studied quite carefully. He

ruled against petitioners on all counts. Unfortunately, that did not mean that

respondents had won. The concluding paragraph of his opinion read as follows:

                    The court finds that Respondents are intelligent and
             competent, and able to order their affairs. The court finds
             no evidence that the Respondents have been coerced or
             manipulated. While they plainly disagree with
             well-established statutory and common law principles, such
             disagreement is not unlawful. Neither are their
             arrangements so plainly contrary to established law that the
             court could find them to be necessarily void. Rather, such a
             decision can only be made on a case by case basis.

All things considered, we really won nothing. Mr. Osman was dead, and the Retreat

had only a temporary reprieve.

                                           ***

      Inside the cool comfort of the library, Mr. McElroy and two of his friends, John

Campbell and John Alexander, were working away on the computers.


                                                                                 Page 27
       "Strange," I said, "how the veracity indicator showed FALSE on Bill Clayton's

question."

       "Oh, I don't know," Mr. McElroy replied, "computers have a way of getting the

right answer, even when you least expect it."

       "Sure," Mr. Campbell, sitting next to him, added. "The DOJ computer on the

Washington node could have compared the question to one of Jimmy's previous

statements, recorded in Globalnet memory." He smiled.

       "How could it do that?" I asked.

       "Beats me," said Mr. McElroy.

       "Me too," said Mr. Campbell.

       "I didn't do it," piped in Mr. Alexander.

       And all three continued typing.

                                              ***

       "I'm sorry, Ms. Fergusson. I feel like I let you and Mr. Osman down. Everyone

really. But I'm here. I'm not quitting. I'll keep fighting."

       "Mr. Kennedy, you didn't let anyone down. Don't you see? Jimmy Osman was

a picture of human dignity right up until his last breath. He neither ran to death, afraid

to live, nor clung to life, afraid to die. He didn't need you, or me, or the federal court, or

anyone else for his dignity. And even if they had wheeled him from his room and

injected him with pentobarbital, they could not have changed his dignity in the slightest.

That is the lesson he taught."

       "Then why fight?"


                                                                                     Page 28
      "Because that is how we validate and affirm human significance. It does not

matter if you won this case. It does not matter if you lose the next. We are to be

faithful, even if not successful. By fighting, we make a statement that speaks louder

than briefs and opinions. By the documents we endorse, we send a message, even if

they cannot be enforced. By the way we live here, by the community we share, we

acknowledge that we matter, even if the world says we do not. When you learned that

Jimmy Osman had died, what did you feel?"

      "I felt empty, like something was lost."

      "Be true to that. That is why we fight."

      Mr. Osman had been buried that day near the end of the compound. The

conversation had gone on most of the night.      Now the sun was rising over the

Savannah skyline, and the first rays hit the gravestone that marked where Jimmy

Osman had been buried. These words were engraved:

             He who bends to himself a joy
             Does the winged life destroy;
             But he who kisses the joy as it flies
             Lives in eternity's sunrise.




                                                                                   Page 29

								
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