Terri Schiavo

This is the first time I have ever blogged about Terri Schiavo, the severely disabled Florida woman who, until a few days ago, was kept alive with a feeding tube. This story has been in and out of the news over the years, as her husband has been on a crusade to remove the tube and allow her to die. He claims she told him that would be her wish if she ever became severely incapacitated. Terri’s parents disagree. They want to keep her alive so they can care for her.

It looks as though the story may soon come to a tragic end. Michael Shiavo, Terri’s husband, has consistently been victorious in his legal battles with her parents, who appear to have run out of options. Not even intervention from Congress has been of much help. Unless something happens quickly, such as a new law passed in Florida or Washington, or an overruling by the Supreme Court (or even Gov Bush or President Bush taking Terri into custody), Terri will soon die.

The reason I have been silent on this issue in the past is because I have always had mixed feelings about it. On the one hand, who would want to live in the condition Terri is in? It is certainly logical to think that she would rather die. Having said that, since when is hearsay (which is essentially what all rulings in the case have been based on) admissible in court? And what gives the judiciary the right to decide who is worthy of living and who is not?

Recently, some serious accusations have been lodged at Michael Schiavo. I don’t know if they are true or not; I wasn’t there. Yes, I admit, it seems strange that they have just now come to light. Yet, given the fact that he has started a new life with a new family, I think it is fair to question his motives. A better man would have said “yes, it may have been Terri’s wish to die years ago. But her parents are so dead set on keeping her alive, and certainly they knew her even better than I did. I will simply sign over custody to them, and trust their judgment.” This, I think, is what most people would do. So reasonable people must begin to wonder why he is so insistent on her dying.

My take on this whole tragic situation is this: Terri had no living will. No one, other than Michael himself, knows if the conversation ever took place. She is not living on a respirator; all she requires for life is to be fed. She is not being kept alive by a machine in the sense most of us would think from the reports we read. Therefore, I think it inhumane to deny her the feeding tube.

Deciding what life is not worth preserving is a judgment I am not prepared to make – and anyone who does claim the ability to such a right is gravely mistaken. History is replete with examples of societies who made such judgments, and mass murder has usually resulted. The two most evil ideologies of the twentieth century – Nazism and Communism – were based on the belief that certain lives were not worth preserving. We Americans, who sacrificed our fellow citizens to defeat these evils, should realize that this is a road we must not go down.

Therefore, I think that it is prudent to error on the side of life, as the cliche goes. We do not know what Terri’s wish would be. And we have no right to deem her life unfit to save. We must mourn for her condition, and we should pray for a miracle.

But, most importantly, we must not allow our government the right to deem any human life unworthy of protection.

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