Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Let Right Be Done

"You shall not side with the great against the powerless."

Those words were spoken by an English Barrister, Sir Robert Morton, who fought to win a case where a middle class English schoolboy was accused of stealing a paltry five-shilling postal money order. The boy was summarily dismissed from the Naval Academy he attended without due process. His family sacrificed everything to regain their family honor and name by sueing the Crown for this injustice.

The theme of the lawsuit was "Let Right be Done" which recognizes the operative principle that what is legal does not mean it is right.

Such is the case of Terri Schiavo. But the stakes are much higher here. It is a human life. Some mitigate that by claiming that it's not much of a life or that the "quality of life" is denigrated. However, "quality of life" is a very subjective standard. Can a human being make that judgment on another's life? Apparently the court thinks so.

Here we have the powerless at the mercy of the great, or the powerful. The court refuses to review her case de novo. Her parents have no legal recourse to save their daughter. Her estranged husband, who is a husband only legally, has the power of life and death over her and the court backs him. In this case, the law is merciless, and what is right is irrelevant.

If Sir Robert Morton were to appear in the courts today I wonder if his ringing cry for right would move the hardened hearts of the justice system. One hundred years ago most people would have been outraged that a husband who abandoned his wife for another woman can still control whether or not his legal wife may live. Indeed, the concept of dehydrating and starving an innocent (let alone a guilty) person would be abhorrent to the sensibilities of pre WWI society.

No more, apparently.