updated 3/28/2005 1:15:24 PM ET 2005-03-28T18:15:24

Guest: Timothy Quill, Cara Buckley, John Stemberger, Robert Raben

DAN ABRAMS, MSNBC HOST:  Coming up, the attorney for Terri Schiavo‘s parents says it is their final shot to keep her alive.  And in court as we speak, a new claim that Terri herself made it clear she wants to live. 

At the final hour, Terri‘s parents now saying that, as Terri‘s tube was removed a week ago, she tried to say, “I want to live.”  Why only disclose that now?  And could it even possibly be true?

And while both Terri‘s husband and parents say they‘re acting in her best interest, both accuse the other of following the money.  We take a look back at the money trail. 

Plus, the judge in the Michael Jackson case set to rule on a huge issue, whether allegations of past sexual abuse by Michael Jackson can be heard by the jury.  We‘ve got exclusive new details about exactly who the prosecution wants to call. 

The program about justice starts now. 

Hi, everyone. 

First up on the docket tonight, another hearing has just concluded this hour.  In a Florida court, it is hard to believe, but lawyers for Terri Schiavo‘s parents argued that the severely brain-damaged woman actually tried to speak before her feeding tube was removed. 

According to the latest filing in Judge George Greer‘s court, the Schindlers‘ lawyers claim that, on March 18, a member of their law firm, Barbara Weller, went to Terri‘s bedside.  Weller claims the mood was jovial, that she talked, joked, and laughed with Terri, that Terri laughed heartily when she was called the bionic woman and that she told Terri the case could be over if she could just say, “I want to live.” 

Then, according to the filing, quote, “Ms. Schiavo attempted to verbalize that sentence.  She managed to articulate the first two vowel sounds, first articulating “Ah,” then virtually screaming “Wah.”  She became very agitated and could not complete the vocalization attempted.”

Wow.  And doctors have actually examined Terri would say it‘s impossible.  But the Schindlers are in the last days or hours of a desperate fight to keep their daughter alive. 

It‘s actually happening on two legal fronts.  The latest was that telephone hearing with Judge Greer.  Lawyers also want Judge Greer to disqualify himself from any further proceedings and to recognize that Terri can communicate for herself. 

And in this Atlanta courthouse, the other legal fight, a three-judge panel of the 11th Circuit Court of appeals will rule on the Schindlers‘ claim that pulling their daughter‘s feeding tube amounts to a mercy killing, illegal under Florida and federal law.  We are keeping our eye on both courthouses and will bring you any developments as they happen. 

“My Take”:  This latest claim just reminds us of how desperate the parents and their lawyers have become.  It just can‘t be true that Terri somehow tried to say, “I want to live,” as her tube was removed.  Whether she‘s in a persistent vegetative state as the courts have found or a minimally conscious state, as the parents now claim, she would not be able to understand the ramifications of removing the feeding tube.  That suggests far more cognitive ability than anyone in this case has suggested up to now. 

I‘m sure the parents want to believe Terri could think that way, that she would think that way, but in reality, it‘s just a last-ditch effort.  Assuming the claim is being made in good faith, you can‘t hold it against them for trying.  But you also can‘t accept the notion that it‘s actually true, either.  This case is, as I‘ve said before, and should be, over.  The rule of law should be accepted by everyone involved. 

John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council and Doctor Timothy Quill is director of the Care Program at the University of Rochester Medical Center. 

All right.  Mr. Stemberger, you can understand, right?  I mean, the fact that they‘re coming forward now, after, you know, a week later and saying, “Oh, you know what?  Terri actually was making it clear that”—even you would concede that that‘s probably not true, right?

MR. JOHN STEMBERGER, PRESIDENT OF THE FLORIDA FAMILY POLICY COUNCIL: 

No, absolutely not.  The Barbara Weller narrative is very clear that she responds.  Look, anybody can go to the Web site, terrisfight.org, and look at the videos and see that this is a woman who is actually interacting with her environment, she is actually able to laugh, and respond, and interact.  That‘s the whole problem here. 

And this drives an evidentiary train through the supposed trial court‘s decision that this is what Terri would have wanted.  I mean, shoot, if Terri wakes up tomorrow and says, “Hey, wait a second,” I mean, that‘s in essence what we have here. 

ABRAMS:  And how, just out of curiosity, how is the cerebrum that‘s liquefied in her brain going to come together and make that happen?

STEMBERGER:  Look, I mean, there have been a number of stories, and we‘ve seen them on national news, about folks who were supposedly...

ABRAMS:  Not with this kind of brain damage.  Not true.  Not true.

STEMBERGER:  Supposedly folks of PBS that have been able to have—able to recover—and she hasn‘t had a neurological exam in several years now. 

ABRAMS:  Because, I mean, the bottom line is, Dr. Quill, is because there‘s no chance, right, that it could have changed so significantly that she‘s suddenly talking. 

DR. TIMOTHY QUILL, UNIVERSITY OF ROCHESTER MEDICAL CENTER:  She‘s been evaluated by numerous neurologists in tremendous depth over 15 years.  And there‘s a consensus amongst mainstream neurologists that she is, indeed, in a persistent vegetative state. 

The challenge with persistent vegetative state is that people are wakeful but not awake.  So that they do move around, their eyes blink, they sleep, but they do not interact with their environment.  And it takes in-depth observation over hours to really determine whether a person is responsive.  So one can‘t make this determination on a brief glimpse of a videotape or a...

ABRAMS:  But even if she‘s in a minimally conscious state, as their new filing claims, even if that were the case, she‘s not going to be talking and responding to people.  That‘s not minimally conscious. 

QUILL:  She has been evaluated again by people who understand these different conditions.  She does not respond, unfortunately.  It is a sad circumstance that she‘s in.  And one can only understand a family‘s agony about seeing this.  But the facts are that her brain has been severely damaged and is not going to recover after 15 years. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Stemberger, what also sort of troubles me about this is that even the lawyers for the parents conceded that she was in a persistent vegetative state.  But when that argument seemed to hurt them legally, it seems they shifted the debate. 

STEMBERGER:  Look, the bottom line here is that, with all due respect to the learned doctor, doctors make mistakes.  The human body is an amazing thing and all the time things happen by natural or supernatural means.  Folks recover.  Folks get better.  Things happen that we can‘t understand. 

And so, you know, the issue is giving the benefit of the doubt.  I don‘t understand why she‘s not at least given an I.V. so that, while these appeals are going on, I mean, what if we did this to a death-row inmate?

ABRAMS:  The death-row inmate comparison again.  It‘s not comparable. 

STEMBERGER:  No, it‘s exactly right.  Look, no, no, look...

ABRAMS:  Death row inmates are trying to protect themselves.  Terri Schiavo is not in court.  There are people—there are people claiming to be acting on her behalf. 

STEMBERGER:  She didn‘t even have—she didn‘t even have a lawyer at a court. 

ABRAMS:  She had a guardian ad litem, and you know she did. 

STEMBERGER:  Look, a guardian ad litem is not a lawyer.  It‘s just a person that makes recommendations to the court.  You should know that. 

ABRAMS:  What do you mean she doesn‘t have counsel?  She can‘t talk to her lawyer. 

STEMBERGER:  Look, we don‘t—no one was representing her interests.

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  What does a guardian ad litem do?  I‘m sorry, what does a guardian ad litem do, apart from represent the interests of the person?

STEMBERGER:  Sure, they give an evaluation.  I mean, I serve as a guardian ad litem here in Florida and I make a recommendation to the court.  But I‘m not an advocate.  I don‘t file pleadings on behalf.  I don‘t advocate on behalf of a client. 

ABRAMS:  Let me ask you this, Mr. Stemberger.  Would you say—because I think there‘s a little inconsistency, I‘m not saying with your argument, but some people‘s—they seem to be suggesting, and I wonder if you are, that no feeding tube should ever be removed?  Because, as you know, it happens hundreds of times a year in this country.  It‘s not unusual that feeding tubes are removed.  It sounds like what you‘re saying is that should never be the case because you just never know. 

STEMBERGER:  Well, look, what you‘re saying is, because something unethical happens all the time, therefore, it‘s OK. 

ABRAMS:  I‘m just asking if you think it‘s ethical all the time.

STEMBERGER:  Here‘s what I believe.  I believe there‘s a difference between prolonging life and prolonging death.  There‘s nothing—it‘s very natural to die.  If someone is going to naturally die, then I don‘t think we should—there‘s nothing wrong with allowing a person to naturally die.  But Terri‘s not dying.  She‘s living.  This is not a right-to-die case. 

This is a right-to-life case.  That‘s the whole point. 

ABRAMS:  No one‘s arguing that she would have died immediately.  I concede that. 

Let me read you another thing that the attorney, Barbara Weller, has said, that she claims Terri—this is again, apparently conversations that we‘re suddenly learning about that Terri Schiavo is having with her lawyers.  “I remind Terri that Jesus would stay right by her side even when no one else was there with her.  When I mentioned Jesus‘ name, Terri again laughed out loud.  She became very agitated and became loudly trying to speak again.  I quietly prayed in her ear, kissed her, placed her in Jesus‘ care, and left the room.”

Look, I mean, Barbara Weller sounds like she‘s doing exactly what you would hope a lawyer would do, is speak about religion, try and reassure someone. 

But the bottom line is, Dr. Quill, these loud noises of laughing, et cetera, there‘s just no way that she‘s responding—unless, again, absent divine intervention for a moment—but purely from a medical perspective there‘s no way it‘s happened. 

QUILL:  It‘s not going to be—she‘s not going to be responding this way after 15 years.  She has been, again, evaluated by many, many people over the years. 

I think the question then becomes, what would she want under these terrible circumstances?  And, again, many people have come forward, and the courts have taken testimony about her wishes.  And the courts have decided that she would not want this kind of treatment under these circumstances. 

And now, also has been analyzed, appealed to the Supreme Court, and they have said that this met the clear and convincing standard that is required by Florida law. 

ABRAMS:  All right, let me...

QUILL:  In that setting, you know...

ABRAMS:  Right.  Let me take a quick break here.  We‘re going to come back.  Dr. Quill is going to come back with us.  John Stemberger is going to come back. 

Coming up, we are also waiting for a ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.  That‘s a federal court where Terri‘s parents have appealed.  They are saying that this is effectively a mercy killing and that mercy killing is not permitted. 

And did you know that Terri‘s husband and parents didn‘t even begin really feuding over her fate until they started fighting about money?  Hundreds of thousands of dollars Michael Schiavo got in settlement from Terri‘s doctors.  We follow the money. 

Plus, Monday is a make-or-break day in the Michael Jackson trial.  The judge could decide whether to let jurors hear allegations of abuse from other boys.  We‘ve got exclusive details about what the prosecution wants jurors to hear. 

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I‘ll respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

MILISSA REHBERGER, MSNBC ANCHOR:  MSNBC keeps you up-to-the-minute every 15 minutes. 

Hi, everyone.  I‘m Milissa Rehberger. 

The U.S. has agreed to sell about two dozen sophisticated F-16 fighter jets to Pakistan.  That‘s a move seen as rewarding that country for its help in the war on terror.  Next-door rival India immediately expressed its displeasure. 

Pope John Paul appeared by video hook-up from the Vatican to the crowd gathered for Good Friday services at Rome‘s Coliseum today.  The pope did not speak.  It is the first time in his papacy that he didn‘t attend the traditional “Way of the Cross” procession. 

Meanwhile, Christians gathered in Jerusalem‘s old city, walking along the Via Della Rosa, or the “Way of the Cross,” following the path that is believed Jesus took on his way to be crucified. 

You‘re up-to-date.  Back to THE ABRAMS REPORT.

ABRAMS:  You‘re looking at a live picture of the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals where attorneys for the parents of Terri Schiavo are hoping, hoping upon hope, that judges at that court will order the tube to be reinserted. 

And they have also made another claim in another court, in a Florida state court.  One of the things that they‘re saying is that—and this is brand-new—they‘re saying that Terri Schiavo actually tried to talk when asked, “Do you want to live?” or saying to her, you know, “You know, you‘re going to have to say it.” 

Quote, “Ms. Schiavo attempted to verbalize that sentence.  She managed to articulate the first two vowel sounds, first articulating “Ah,” then virtually screaming “Wah.”  She became very agitated but could not complete the vocalization attempted.”

But the problem with this is that the very neurologist who they‘re now citing as the new evidence in this case, this is what he said—and, again, this is the person that the parents are saying provides the guide here—“To enter the room with Terri Schiavo is nothing like entering the room of a patient who is comatose, or brain-dead, or in some neurological sense no longer here.” 

Do we not have this?  OK, there we go. 

“Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness, or volitional behavior, yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her.”

I don‘t know.

John Stemberger, I mean, look, even the doctor being cited by the parents is not claiming that she could talk.  And now suddenly one of the lawyers is serving as an expert?

STEMBERGER:  Look, the bottom line is not, “Is this too late?”  The issue is, “Is this truthful?” 

ABRAMS:  Right, exactly.  I agree with you. 

STEMBERGER:  If it is, we should err on the side of caution.  Here‘s the thing—and let me say just say this generally about this case.  The reason this is such a difficult case is because there are so many factors, so many facts in the case, that are a tipping point. 

If she was a little more conscious or a little less conscious, you know, we wouldn‘t be here.  If the husband didn‘t have a conflict of interest, we wouldn‘t be here.  If the parents weren‘t in a conflict—so every fact in the case is on a tipping point.  And it‘s very unfortunate because it makes the case very difficult. 

But the thing that really—that I don‘t understand is, in my judgment, the legal travesty of this case is why some judge hasn‘t stayed her execution, in essence, until all these appeals are done.  I mean...

ABRAMS:  Well, because there has to be, at some point, there has to be an end point, meaning, according to you, I think, it would really never—

I mean, they would continue to appeal.  They would continue to go back to federal courts.  They would continue, even though they haven‘t demonstrated an iota of evidence that a court has accepted that would change anything. 

STEMBERGER:  Well, no, no.  I mean, we‘re at the place procedurally here where there‘s an end in sight, in terms of the legal appeals.  But imagine a death-row inmate who we said, “Let‘s give him a slow drip to—let‘s give a slow drip to until his appeals are done.” 

I mean, why haven‘t a judge—why is everyone wanting her to die? 

Why can‘t we just allow her to live until all the appeals are exhausted?

ABRAMS:  I guess the answer would be because a court found that she wanted to die.  I know you want to have...

STEMBERGER:  And that‘s fine, if there was clear and convincing evidence of that, if there was a living will. 

ABRAMS:  Well, the clear and convincing evidence was found by the court, affirmed by the Florida appellate courts, rejected by the U.S.  Supreme Court.  Let‘s not go over that again. 

Let me bring in quickly Robert Raben, former assistant attorney general under Janet Reno, and with the National Advocate for Compassion and Choices. 

Look, this doesn‘t seem to me to be that close a legal—I mean, the other side makes it seem like it‘s a real close legal case.  It‘s not. 

ROBERT RABEN, FMR. ASSISTANT ATTY. GENERAL:  No, legally, it‘s not a close call.  It‘s a tragic call.  It‘s a horrible call.  And I think one of the reasons that it‘s so compelling to the American public is everyone who watches this thinks, “This could be me.” 

For me, and I find myself surprisingly agreeing with some of the things the gentleman from Florida said, it‘s neither a right-to-die case nor a right-to-life case.  For me, and I hope a lot of people, it‘s about giving Terri Schiavo and all of us the autonomy and the decision to decide how we want to live our lives and end our lives. 

ABRAMS:  We will actually talk about that in a later segment, and Mr.  Stemberger will join us, continuing with his eloquent analysis.  And he‘s a great guest. 

So, John Stemberger, please stick around.  Dr. Quill, thank you very much for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.  And Robert Raven is going to join us in a moment. 

The question we‘re going to ask:  Is starving to death the only way someone like Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die?  Many argue it would be easier on everyone if doctors gave Schiavo medicine to help her die.  We debate. 

And next, both Terri‘s husband and parents say they‘re trying to help her, but both accuse the other of being motivated by money.  We follow the money trail.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  We are waiting for a ruling from this federal appeals court, as well as from a Florida state judge.  The family, the parents of Terri Schiavo, now saying that Terri actually tried to speak to one of their lawyers.  The question, is that going to change anything in this case?  And is that actually possible, is, of course, the other question. 

But as the battle continues, we‘re watching those courthouses, anything, we‘ll tell you, bring it to you immediately. 

The battle continues.  Hard to imagine that, at one time, Terri‘s husband and her parents had a good relationship.  First, Michael Schiavo and Bob and Mary Schindler worked together to care for Terri.  They pursued various treatment options together.  Both suffered significant financial setbacks in order to continue caring for her. 

But all that changed 12 years ago in an argument which it seems clear was over money.  The two sides haven‘t talked since, both sides now accusing the other of letting money cloud their judgment.  Even Judge Greer, who ruled in favor of removing Terri‘s feeding tube said, quote, “Regrettably, money overshadows this entire case and creates potential of conflict of interest for both sides.” 

The question, of course, whose fault is it?  And the answer depends on who you ask. 

It started as part of a medical malpractice suit that the husband filed in 1992.  A Florida jury awarded Michael Schiavo $300,000 for losing his wife‘s companionship and $700,000 to Terri.  The relationship between them and his in-laws effectively ended in February, 1993, when the two sides got into an argument about how the money and the settlement would be doled out. 

Cara Buckley is a reporter for the Miami Herald who reviewed document in the long legal battle between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers relating to that fight about money in 1993. 

Thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it. 

CARA BUCKLEY, MIAMI HERALD:  No problem. 

ABRAMS:  All right, so, first of all, they get in this—it‘s clear, is it not, that this was the beginning of the problems?

BUCKLEY:  This was the beginning of the problem.  I mean, up until that point, they were unified and really struggling to find some way to rehabilitate Terri.  The Schindlers were expecting some kind of money from Michael from the award.  They said he made a commitment to them.  And they really wanted to bring Terri home to care for her at home.  Michael said, “You never made that commitment.”  And what happened was a blowout, basically, in Terri‘s hospice room on Valentine‘s Day in 1993. 

ABRAMS:  And so what do—let‘s start with, what is Michael Schiavo, the husband, saying happened?

BUCKLEY:  He said what happened was there was very casual discussions at one point when they thought that the reward might be $15 million or $20 million, you know, maybe they could build a home and take care of Terri, maybe.  But he said it was very casual and sort of faded away, especially when it became clear that the award would just be in the hundreds of thousands as opposed to millions. 

Now, the Schindlers say differently.  They said he always promised them that they would get a share of it. 

ABRAMS:  So, why are the Schindlers, though, now, and some of the supporters of the parents, continuing to say that he is motivated by money?

BUCKLEY:  Well, I can‘t answer that.  But looking at court papers, that was definitely one of their motivations in filing to get guardianship of Terri.  They were scared that—and they said that—Michael is killing her for her money. 

And then what happened in 1998, which was also in court papers, was basically Michael offered to give the entire trust fund to charity if they agreed to stop fighting his push to have the feeding tube removed.  And they rejected that proposal. 

ABRAMS:  Very quickly.  It‘s only like $40,000 left or something of the money?

BUCKLEY:  Yes, lawyers say roughly $40,000 or $50,000.  The rest has gone to attorneys‘ fees and to caring for Terri. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  All right, Cara Buckley, thanks a lot for coming on the program.  Appreciate it.

BUCKLEY:  No problem. 

ABRAMS:  Coming up, again, we‘re waiting for any word from the federal court of appeals in Atlanta.  We‘re also waiting to hear from a federal judge in Florida.  Actually, that ruling probably won‘t come until tomorrow.  That‘s the one where the family is saying Terri is actually speaking to, or trying to speak to, the lawyers for the Schindlers. 

And should there have been an easier way for Terri to die?  Should her doctors have been allowed to help her die faster? 

Plus, another ABRAMS REPORT exclusive:  New details about another boy prosecutors want to call to the stand to say, “He molested me.”  Judge‘s decision on this issue, I say, could make or break the case. 

Your e-mails, abramsreport@msnbc.com.  Please include your name, where you‘re writing from.  I respond at the end of the show.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, Terri Schiavo‘s family says she‘s dying a painful death.  While most doctors disagree, should there be a way to legally expedite the inevitable and alleviate any pain? 

First, the headlines. 

(NEWS BREAK)

ABRAMS:  As we wait for any ruling from the federal court of appeals in the Terri Schiavo case, her death has been described by supporters of her parents as cruel, vicious, inhumane murder.  They say she‘s been treated in a way we would never even treat animals, removing, reinserting her feeding tube again and again, no food and water, literally starving to death, they say.

And while the vast majority the medical community would say she is not suffering because of her mental state, it does lead to the question, should there be another option, easier and quicker way to allow her and the hundreds of others who have their feeding tubes removed every year to die?  Oregon is the only state that permits what‘s commonly referred to as physician-assisted suicide, where a patient can ask a doctor for a lethal dose of medication. 

Now, Oregon‘s law wouldn‘t apply to Terri Schiavo, because it requires terminally ill patients be conscious, be able to make the decision themselves, be able to ingest the medication on their own, and given less than six months to live and two doctors must agree with the prognosis.  But should there be another option for Terri or anyone else?  Why should starvation be the only permissible way to die?  Should we even let guardians choose a quicker, more painless way for their loved ones?

Back with us again is John Stemberger, president and general counsel of the Florida Family Policy Council, and Robert Raben, a former assistant attorney general under Janet Reno and the national advocate for Compassion and Choices.

Mr. Stemberger, do you have a problem with that? 

STEMBERGER:  A huge problem.  What you‘re suggesting is now you go from right to die to something quite different.  Physician-assisted suicide would be a moral and ethical disaster in my estimation, and there‘s a profound legal, medical and ethical difference between providing medicine to alleviate pain and affirmatively killing someone prematurely. 

And it‘s a line we don‘t want to cross.  It‘s dangerous.  And it‘s bad public policy. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Raben? 

ROBERT RABEN, FORMER ASSISTANT ATTORNEY GENERAL:  Well, let‘s just—let me respond to Mr. Stemberger first.

He‘s a person who wouldn‘t accept anything but his will about how terminally ill and other people ought to comport themselves in the decisions they have to make.  So, I‘m not sure he‘s the proper advocate for what‘s the right line here.  In our view, terminally ill people who are in the dying process ought to have the most compassionate care they can have, and that includes working with your doctor to alleviate pain, pain management, and, if you decide and you‘re competent and you comply with the rules, hasten your death. 

I think the real issue here, Dan, is—and this case, which is so tragic, has been very helpful—Americans need a lot more conversation about what‘s going to happen at the end of our lives. 

ABRAMS:  Do you think, though, that, in a Terri Schiavo case, I mean, in this particular case, do you think that she or her guardian should have had a way to allow her to die other than by having her feeding tube removed? 

RABEN:  No, I don‘t.  I don‘t think that we are at the point in our law and science and culture where we are ready to accept somebody hastening the death of somebody who isn‘t making that decision directly about themselves. 

I do think that the overwhelming majority of Americans accept the proposition that, if you‘re terminally ill and you‘re competent and you know what‘s going on, you ought to be able to work with your medical professional to control the dying process. 

ABRAMS:  Let me play a piece of sound.  This is from Bob Schindler, the father of Terri. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BOB SCHINDLER, FATHER OF TERRI SCHIAVO:  The first impression I had, the first thing that came to my mind was, it put me of mind of when they released the inmates at Auschwitz and Dachau is how their faces were all sunken in and their eyes were bulging.  And Terri‘s not to that point yet, but she‘s starting to have that look about her, the look of starvation.  And just—it‘s terrible, absolutely horrible. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Mr. Stemberger, I keep hearing about how horrible, horrible her death is.  And, again, while most of the medical community doesn‘t agree with that, I keep trying to think, all right, well, look, if the law says that the feeding tube can be removed, can‘t there be another way such that there is no debate about whether Terri is in—no one wants Terri to be in pain. 

STEMBERGER:  First of all, death by starvation and dehydration is a brutal form of death.  And you can look at the medicine in it, and it‘s just not—it‘s a torturous way to go.

ABRAMS:  Except—unless you‘re in a persistent vegetative state, in which case the majority of the medical community would say it‘s actually not painful at all. 

STEMBERGER:  Well, of course, you‘re assuming that she can‘t feel pain, and there seems to be some controverted evidence on that. 

But the point about it is this, is that Mr. Raben just said something that was very interesting.  He said we‘re not at that place yet.  Now, that‘s the slippery slope right there.  The slippery slope we can see in Holland, because, in Holland, they do have assisted—physician-assisted suicide.  And two studies in 1990 and 1995 showed that the physicians began to depart from the guidelines and there was people—many doctors that abused this and began to use it on disabled and elderly and handicapped folks, where it didn‘t need to happen, because, all of a sudden, now, when you have a right to die that‘s strong, then it becomes a duty to die.

And when you consider the fact that our Medicare situation, you look at the population of our aged and the baby boomers, you look at the pressure on the health care industry, long-term health care industry, this is a very dangerous place. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

STEMBERGER:  We don‘t want to go here in society. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Raben, what do you make of the slippery slope argument?

RABEN:  Mr. Stemberger doesn‘t need to put words in my mouth.  I‘m here, and I can talk about what reasonable people think. 

And reasonable people think that terminally ill people ought to be able to work with their medical professionals and their family to make decisions.  I have never asked Mr. Stemberger, but my supposition is, he wouldn‘t support the withdrawal of new treatment for Terri Schiavo if she had a certified living will saying that.  My guess is, there‘s a group of people—and I don‘t know whether Mr. Stemberger is one of them—but I‘m afraid a lot of them have the levers of power these days. 

There‘s a group of people who are aggressively using the government and power to impose their view of how we ought to live and die.  And that frightens me. 

ABRAMS:  Mr. Stemberger? 

STEMBERGER:  Well, here‘s the point.  First of all, you made the quote, not me.  And you said we‘re not at that point yet as a society.  And that‘s my very point, is that we can go there. 

One can‘t look at this issue isolated.  We have to look at the profound implications of the long term, what could happen if we go down the road of assisted suicide. 

ABRAMS:  And I think, Mr. Raben, just to be—Mr. Stemberger actually said before, when I asked him almost the exact same question, he said he views it as unethical to remove any feeding tube.  So, I think that‘s his answer to the question. 

STEMBERGER:  No, no, no.  I didn‘t say that.  No, look...

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  That‘s not fair? 

STEMBERGER:  The Supreme Court is clear that people have the ability to direct their end of life.

ABRAMS: 

STEMBERGER:  And I think, even from a spiritual perspective, someone could view that as their confidence in the life to come.  There‘s nothing wrong with that. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  Oh, I misunderstood.  I thought you said you thought it was unethical.  You said people shouldn‘t continue to do things that are unethical just because it‘s done over and over. 

STEMBERGER:  No.  Your point was that this happens all the time. 

ABRAMS:  Right.  It does.  Feeding tubes are removed all the time. 

Right. 

(CROSSTALK)

STEMBERGER:  Right.  Well, under proper circumstances, where there‘s clear and convincing evidence, where there‘s a living will, something in writing. 

ABRAMS:  OK.  Then I misunderstood you.  Fair enough.  Fair enough. 

All right, I got to wrap it up.  John Stemberger, Robert Raben, thanks a lot. 

Coming up, as the courts hear the final arguments, I say Terri probably wouldn‘t want to be remembered for this cause.  And yet none of the people supposedly speaking for her seem to care about that—my “Closing Argument.”

But, up next, a critical day in the Michael Jackson trial on Monday.  The judge decides whether prosecutors can present proof that Jackson may have molested other boys.  I have said all along this case rests on whether the 93 allegations of abuse will be let in.  At least that‘s the only hope for the prosecutors.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

(NEWS BREAK)

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

BRIAN OXMAN, JACKSON FAMILY ATTORNEY:  The defense team is doing well.  I am hanging in there and getting through a bout of pneumonia.  And I thank you all for the very kind consideration and Mr. Jackson thanks you for the thoughts that he has had, you give to him, because he has been really having a time staying out of pain.  But we thank you very much for all your thoughts. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Michael Jackson‘s attorney a short time ago.  He later told reporters he‘d be spending the weekend with family and friends.  No doubt he will be thinking about next week, a huge ruling expected in the Michael Jackson case. 

And we have got exclusive new details about one of the boys who could testify about a past allegation of abuse as early as Monday.  That‘s when the judge is set to decide whether prosecutors can call witnesses whose testimony could alter the course of this trial. 

My take, I‘ve said it before.  Prosecutors‘ only hope for a conviction, I believe, in this case is if they are able to introduce past allegations of abuse. 

Former Santa Barbara Sheriff and NBC analyst Jim Thomas now joins me with the exclusive new details about what prosecutors will and won‘t present—present. 

All right.  So, Jim, what are they hoping to present? 

JIM THOMAS, NBC ANALYST:  Well, I think they‘re hoping to present somebody who could testify to the fact that they had also been abused by Michael Jackson, as well as testimony from witnesses who say they saw Michael Jackson inappropriately touch other boys. 

And I believe that, when the judge makes this ruling, he may limit it to that testimony, rather than bringing in all of the officers and all of the evidence and everything else under 1101, which he could do, but would definitely extend the length of the trial. 

ABRAMS:  But let‘s be clear.  We‘ve talked a lot about the ‘93 case and the boy from the ‘93 case.  My understanding is that you do not believe that that boy will be called. 

THOMAS:  I don‘t believe that the main boy, the one that we talked about who settled for somewhere around $25 million, will testify, because I don‘t believe he wants to. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

THOMAS:  And I don‘t believe that the prosecutor would compel him to testify. 

(CROSSTALK)

ABRAMS:  I did not know that.  I did not know that he does not want to testify.  OK.  That is interesting information. 

THOMAS:  I believe his position is that he‘s put it behind him, and he‘d like to leave it behind him. 

ABRAMS:  All right. 

THOMAS:  We don‘t know if he may change his mind. 

ABRAMS:  All right.  Well, that‘s important in the context of this case, that the ‘93 boy does not seem to want to testify.  But you say there‘s another one who is willing to testify? 

THOMAS:  There is another, lesser boy, who‘s actually accused Michael Jackson of molesting him in 1990.  We interviewed that boy—at least my department did—in 1993 as a part of that case.  He is subpoenaed.  He will testify.  And I think, in some ways, he will be even more powerful than the boy that everybody talks about with the large settlement. 

ABRAMS:  Why? 

THOMAS:  Well, No. 1, he doesn‘t have that kind of settlement.  No. 2, the allocation of molestation that he gave us in 1993 was that Michael Jackson had touched him on the outside of the clothing inappropriately.  Since that time, in a subsequent interview, he has said that it was actually more than that and I think you will find fairly closely mirrors the allegations of this boy. 

The accuser from 1992, the lesser-known accuser, his information has never been published.  These boys have never met.  I think that his testimony would be very powerful to the jury because they would be so much alike. 

ABRAMS:  And you said there are witnesses who are going to say that Michael Jackson was seen molesting other boys? 

THOMAS:  I said that there would be witnesses who said they saw Michael Jackson inappropriately touch other boys.  And I think that we would have testimony, something to the effect of somebody who saw Michael Jackson in a golf cart with a boy with his hand in the area where it shouldn‘t have been, that type of testimony. 

ABRAMS:  Wow.  Jim, this is—this is a bombshell here. 

All right, let me very quickly, to be fair here, Tom Mesereau, Michael Jackson‘s defense attorney, spoke out a while ago about some of the payments that had been made to boys to settle cases. 

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

THOMAS MESEREAU, ATTORNEY FOR MICHAEL JACKSON:  Michael Jackson now regrets making these payments.  Nevertheless, these efforts to settle are now being used against him, regardless of the merits or the truth behind them.  These settlements were entered into with one primary condition.  That condition was that Mr. Jackson never admitted any wrongdoing.  Mr.

Jackson always denied doing anything wrong. 

(END VIDEO CLIP)

ABRAMS:  Went on to say these two false allegations must be placed in a proper perspective. 

Jim Thomas, thanks for that exclusive information.  Appreciate it. 

THOMAS:  OK, Dan. 

Coming up, Terri Schiavo‘s family and friends say she was quiet and say.  I say she would likely be appalled by many of the people supposedly speaking for her.  It‘s my “Closing Argument.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  Coming up, what would Terri Schiavo herself think about all the attention her case is receiving?  I say she probably wouldn‘t be happy with some of those who claim to be speaking for her.  It‘s my “Closing Argument.”

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  My “Closing Argument, “what would Terri have wanted?  That‘s the question so many have asked with regard to Terri Schiavo‘s feeding tubes.  It‘s been litigated in the courts in Florida, the federal courts.  The answer, she would not have wanted to live this way.  And, so, the feeding tube that has kept her alive for 15 years has been removed. 

But I also wonder whether all of this, the attention Terri and her case have received, is what she would have wanted.  I‘m talking about the shy 26-year-old woman in these pictures, the one who friends and family say wanted to live a quiet life.  Based on what I‘ve read and heard about her, the answer is probably no.  Grew up in Pennsylvania, very close to her parents, long struggled with her weight.  After high school, she came out of her shell a bit, apparently, attending a local community college, where she began to shed some of that weight that had troubled her for so long.

When she was 19, she met Michael Schiavo, soon happily married and moving to Florida to be closer to her parents.  She got a job as an insurance clerk, died her hair blond, got contact lenses.  Would such a shy, unassuming young woman who seemed so sensitive about her appearance have wanted to be at the center of a heated national debate like this?  Would she have wanted the world to see that video of her in such a vulnerable state over and over again?  I think she would be appalled to see politicians using that video as a political football. 

I didn‘t know Terri.  Most of us didn‘t.  But I really doubt she would have approved of many what so many of those claiming to be fighting for her have done, supposedly on her behalf.  We all discuss her wishes about the feeding tube, but what about how she would feel about how she‘s been portrayed and remembered?  I‘ll bet she would prefer to be remembered like this. 

Coming up in 60 seconds, your e-mails on the Terri Schiavo case. 

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

ABRAMS:  I‘ve had my say.  Now it is time for “Your Rebuttal” on the Terri Schiavo case.

From Springfield, Illinois, Jean Dowell: “The debate should remain why a living, breathing human being is purposely being starved to death as if it‘s some sort of legitimate medical procedure.

Well, Jean, you better have that debate about the fact that it happens in hospices around the country and hospitals every day. 

Betty Hood in Chicago: “People, including judges, apparently say they know what Terri Schiavo wants.  And how is that?  We hear others say what they would want.  But the truth is, no one really knows what Terri Schiavo wants, including judges.”

Well, Betty, you could say that about all legal rulings.  All legal rulings have serious consequences and judges are called to make those decisions every day.  I have to say, I‘m getting tired of people acting as if the legal and medical treatment in this case has been any different than in other cases. 

And last night, we asked if Terri Schiavo‘s husband, Michael Schiavo, should have any authority to make the decision to remove her feeding tube, even though he‘s lived with another woman since 1995 and they have two children together. 

Barbara in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina: “Why does Mr. Schiavo have a right to decide Terri‘s fate, as he appears to be the only man in America who has two living legal wives at the same time?”

Samantha in Jefferson City, Missouri: “I keep hearing people calling Michael Schiavo an adulterer.  But I would seriously hope, as a young married couple, that, if in this situation, my husband would fight for my rights and wishes, as Mr. Schiavo has for Terri.  But, even more so, I would hope that he would move on with his life, find someone to love and, yes, even begin a family, if that is what would complete him.”     

And, remember, that is how her parents felt before they started feuding with Michael as well. 

And from Morristown, New Jersey: “Terri has been in this state for 15 years.  Michael should be praised and complimented for loving her enough to continue to fight for her right to die as she wished.”

Finally, Steve Mercer in New York City: “Ultimately, the husband isn‘t the decision-maker.  She is.  He‘s involved as a witness, one of three, to her intent.  And the courts have considered all these facts and determined they were credible.”

Your e-mails, ABRAMSREPORT@MSNBC.com.  Please include your name and where you‘re writing from.  And I know you all feel very, very strongly about this case.  We have just been getting literally thousands of e-mails on each show. 

“Oh, Pleas.”  Who says a judge can‘t use schoolhouse punishment as precedent?  A judge in Miami redefined punishment for contempt of court.  It started in a hearing Wednesday when prosecutors—get this—wanted permission, without objection from the defense, to allow doctors to cut open the defendant‘s shoulder in order to get a bullet crucial to the case.  Ouch. 

The defense further requested to be present during the operation, hoping the recovered bullet would set their client free.  But that‘s not even the strangest thing to occur in that case.  On Wednesday, in Circuit Court Judge Rosa Rodriguez‘s courtroom, later in the day, the judge became so enraged with the defense attorney and his partner, she gave them a schoolhouse-style reprimand, sending them to sit in the corner and write an apology. 

Months earlier, Judge Rodriguez had offered defense attorney Ellis Ruben (ph) and his partner an opportunity to apologize.  Judge Rodriguez not satisfied with the apologies, calling them nonapologies, and ordering them to be redone. 

Just got to hope that they‘re using ink, instead of chalk. 

That does it for us tonight.  Coming up next, “HARDBALL WITH CHRIS

MATTHEWS.” 

Keep in mind, we are keeping an eye on the Terri Schiavo case.  Stay tuned to MSNBC for any developments in the case, even over the weekend. 

Thanks for watching.  Maybe I‘ll see you this weekend.  If not, I‘ll see you on Monday.

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

Content and programming copyright 2005 MSNBC.  ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.  Transcription Copyright 2005 Voxant, Inc. ALL RIGHTS  RESERVED. No license is granted to the user of this material other than for research. User may not reproduce or redistribute the material except for user‘s personal or internal use and, in such case, only one copy may be printed, nor shall user use any material for commercial purposes or in any fashion that may infringe upon MSNBC and Voxant, Inc.‘s copyright or other proprietary rights or interests in the material. This is not a legal transcript for purposes of litigation.

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