The Horror

Nearly everything that can be said about Terri Schindler-Schiavo has already been said. I’m compelled to add my thoughts anyway.

Since when are food and water considered “life support”? Should I have been allowed to deny my daughter “life support” before she was old enough to work a spoon?

Would we execute a condemned mass murderer this way? Or even an aged pet?

Condemning Terri Schiavo to death by dehydration is barbaric. One takes comfort only in God’s promise that vengeance is His, and He will repay.

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8 responses to “The Horror

  1. If Terry Schiavo had left a clear living will stating that, let’s say, after 8 years of no progress towards recovery that all medical treatment (including feeding tubes) be discontinued, could you still call it “condemning her to death”? Would it still be “barbaric” if it were unquestionably, exactly what she chose for herself?

    I understand you have strong doubts about whether her husband is relaying the truth of Terri’s wishes. So do I… but after my own review of the facts I have even greater reservations about claims made and actions taken by the Schindlers.

    I found this timeline of the situation to be helpful in making up my mind, but it seems likely that most folks, in an emotionally-charged case like this, will only draw what they wish to draw from it.

  2. No, if were clearly and truly known that Terri Schiavo preferred death by dehydration over a life impaired, then I would respect her wishes.

    However, we don’t know what her wishes are. That being the case, I maintain that erring on the side of life is the proper course.

  3. Bogey Mulligan

    Well, there’s such a big problem with the whole “err on the side of life” concept. I’d say go ahead and define that as you wish for you and your family, but I really can’t tolerate the State or anyone else telling me that my “life” must only be be defined in terms of, for instance, electrical impluses still present in my brain stem… What I’m saying is that life to me is actually too precious, even sacred, to be defined so clinically.

    After all, is it a completely impossible scenario to you that God called Terri Schiavo to be with Him in 1990, and man’s medical intervention may in fact have denied His wishes? I really don’t mean to be glib, I am very genuinely interested in your perspective on that because I have heard nothing on the subject yet.

    The same goes for this question: if the just among us are to be rewarded in a next world, isn’t the manner or physical pain of one’s death irrelevant? Just thought I should contribute one more thought on the original topic of this thread.

  4. I don’t disagree with you entirely, especially regarding state interference. I’ve noted earlier in this blog that the consequence many aren’t considering is the open door for the state to use this precedent to intervene again, and in ways that have nothing to do with the “right to die” (or “right to kill”, depending on your viewpoint).

    For example, home-schooling parents in the US may find themselves in the same situation as those in Sweden and Germany who are faced with fines or jail time if they don’t submit their kids to government schools. It’s for their own good!

    Back to Terri Schiavo. Yes, it’s impossible that God called her home in 1990. If God had called her, she’d be gone.

    You, me, and the doctors looking in on her don’t really know what’s inside her head. For all we know, she’s fully cognizant of what’s happening around her and simply unable to communicate. I’m just not prepared to say that makes her unfit to live.

    I have a real problem with the provision of food and water being equated with, say, an artificial respirator. Is feeding Terri Schiavo any different than providing sustenance to an infant?

    Or, for that matter, to Stephen Hawking? Without intervention, mechanical devices to move him and to allow him to communicate, and people willing to lift him and dress him and clean him, we might conclude that his life, too, is unfit to live.

    Terri Schiavo is not trying to die, and we do not know that she ever said that she wanted to die. Without that assurance, I can’t agree with those who believe that she’s better off dead.

  5. Bogey Mulligan

    Yes, it???s impossible that God called her home in 1990. If God had called her, she???d be gone.

    I very respectfully disagree with that, and hope you respect my right to do so. After all, does God have a specific, unassailble plan for when and how each of us will die, and human intervention in the matter is wholly impossible? By that logic, it seems to me there’d be no tragedy in the death of a murder victim, and no sin in the murder, because it was God’s will.

    Anyway, no one anywhere is arguing or would ever argue that Terry Schiavo is “unfit to live” — I’m starting to worry that your choice of phrase may simply be an effort, conscious or not, to simply make people with legitimate differences of opinion sound cruel. It’s not about fitness to live at all; it’s about the choice to live under what circumstances. In the absence of a concrete assurance of her wishes like a living will, someone must speak for her wishes and have the final say. Because as you said yourself, “For all we know, she???s fully cognizant of what???s happening around her and simply unable to communicate” — and for all we know, she could spend every one of those cognizant moments begging for death. That’s why someone has to step in and make the call, not keep mere biological life going for its own sake. A spouse is the most appropriate person to make this kind of impossibly difficult decision, and all the judicial review to this point has concluded that Mr. Schiavo is still the appropriate person in spite of the many claims to the contrary.

    To address the other points:

    A healty infant can’t make judgements about what conditions it’s willing or unwilling to endure, and so we are morally and legally compelled to raise the child until it can. (This is a natural place to steer the issue to abortion, that’s even more complex and this isn’t the time and place.) The case of a very unhealthy infant — one whose prognosis is as grim as Mrs. Schiavo’s, or worse — is the really chilling scenario to me. When a baby is so sick that it will clearly never be able to make its own decision on the matter, do we put the baby on life support and just leave it there for eighty years until its tissues die of old age? Would that be an appropriate “erring on the side of life” too in your eyes? Ugh.

    The Stephen Hawking example is simply irrelvant because he clearly chooses to live and endure the challenges put to him, and his loved ones (or employees, or whoever) help him with it in accordance with their obligations as such. The case of anyone who can definitely communicate their wishes is pretty much irrelvant to the real issue here.

  6. Bogey, I do respect your right to disagree. I don’t profess to understand the dichotomy between free will and predestination, either, but the bottom line is that when God has determined that your time is up, it’s up. Nothing anyone can do will subvert God’s will.

    You’re right about my choice of words. I should have been more clear; what I meant to say was that no one should presume to decide for her whether her life, with its limitations, is unfit to live.

    I would also suggest, although I can’t possibly know, that the fact that Terri Schiavo is still alive after so many years is some indication of her will to remain alive.

    Again, I just don’t understand equating the provision of sustenance with “life support”. I have been present when the decision was made to shut off a family member’s heart pump after all medical hope was gone. Terri Schiavo doesn’t need a heart pump or any other artificial means of keeping her body alive. All she needs is what you or I need–food and water. The only difference is that she is unable to provide them for herself.

    The only evidence of her desire to die is the word of a man who seems to have a vested interest in her death. That’s enough for me to make up my mind.

  7. OK. As for me, I’m becoming more and more convinced that this “vested interest in her death” is largely a distortion, an emotional appeal made by those who merely wish to insert their beliefs into a decision that is rightfully his to make, simply because they disagree with it.

    Anyway, it’s obvious at this point that neither of us will be convincing the other of anything, so I’ll just thank you sincerely for being a very gracious host.

  8. Likewise, I appreciate your thoughtful and courteous input. I would respectfully suggest that the same argument can be applied to those who view this case as a “right to die” issue.

    Again, my position would be reversed if Terri had a living will that spelled out her preference. It’s not her death that bothers me; it’s the circumstances leading to it.

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