The denial of food and fluids to Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the 36 year old Florida woman in a vegetative state since a heart attack, has caused Americans to ponder the fact that any one of them could be in this woman’s place for a variety of reasons, like an auto accident, fall, mishap, etc. And most Americans don’t want to be treated by their family as Terri is being treated by her husband – being denied food and fluids in order to hasten death.
It is appropriate to be appalled, but no one should be shocked. Denial of food and fluids to people who cannot speak for themselves has been going on for fifteen years in this country. It is routine practice in hospitals and nursing homes across the country. And for over a decade, the law on this, established by numerous court decisions and statutes, has been largely settled. If someone who is now incompetent to make health care decisions has not left clear instructions in a legal document (variously called an “advance directive,” “durable power of attorney for health care,” “living will,” or …
Marijuana, Medicine, and Politics
Abstract: For the past few decades, debate has ensued over the putative medicinal value of marijuana. These claims extend back over 4000 thousand years ago to ancient civilizations on the Asian continent. More recently, some scientists experimenting with cannabis have found evidence to support these claims. However, the United States federal government has remained reluctant in supporting further research characterizing the therapeutic properties of cannabis. These policies may have been shaped by cannabis’ early associations first with low-income minority groups and later with the youth movement in the 1960s. Government support of additional research is key in settling the long debate over the medicinal value of cannabis.
The government’s attitude toward drugs, especially illegals ones, can be summaried in three words, “Just say No!”. This has been my attitude toward drugs until I came to UC Berkeley. But now, it is time to examine the reasonings behind the legal status of drugs. Why are they illegal, and should U.S. policy concerning at least some drugs change? We will examine the history, science, and policies concerning marijuana as an example.
History of Cannabis
Marijuana refers to the cured leaves and flower clusters of Cannabis sativa, a herbaceous annual plant often called “Indian Hemp.” This plant is believed to have originated in Asia, and is one of man’s oldest cultivated non-food plants. In fact, this plant has been domesticated for so long that it is no longer found in its wild state. One reason that cannabis has been so widely cultivated may be its utility to mankind. Durable fibers from the woody trunk can be used to produce hemp rope and cloth such as canvas (Carroll 1989). In the past, canvas was the only known material that did not rot upon repeated exposure to seawater, and so was the major material used to produce sails. Cannabis is also one of the most efficient producers of cellulose pulp which can be used to produce paper, including paper money (WWW 1). Oil from cannabis seeds is used to prepare paints and soaps. The seeds are also edible, most commonly used as birdseed (Carroll 1989).
The earliest known detailed reference to cannabis is from a medical book prepared by the legendary Chinese Emperor, Shen Nung (circa 2700 B.C.). The ancient Greek historian, Herodotus (circa 450 B.C.), recorded a Scythian funeral purification rite that involved the inhalation of fumes of burning cannabis.