It is often said by abortion supporters that a fetus is not a baby until it can survive independently outside the mother’s womb. This is, of course, a specious argument since this “survival” is not possible without the care and nourishment of others, either pre or post birth.
This is true not only of infants and children, but of the sick, disabled and elderly as well. But if certain right-to-death groups get their way this week, you can add Terri Schiavo’s name to the growing list of disposables for whom the simple act of feeding would make her life otherwise viable.
We live in a society where multibillion-dollar projects are cancelled or altered in order to protect certain animal habitats, and one that engages in Herculean labors to spare the lives of confessed serial rapists and killers like Michael Ross. Yet a family who wishes nothing more than to take home and care for their daughter – a woman guilty of nothing except maybe her fatal choice of a husband – may yet lose their battle for her life.
For those not familiar with Terri’s case, in 1990 Terri Schindler-Schiavo collapsed in her home and suffered a 10-minute loss of oxygen due to causes unknown. Her husband of six years, Michael Schiavo, although he reportedly knew CPR did not perform it and his wife suffered severe brain damage which left her badly handicapped.
Two years later, when Michael won a malpractice suit against Terri’s doctors, he claimed he needed the million dollar-plus settlement to care for her for the rest of her life. This caring ended less than five years later when, in 1998, Michael suddenly remembered that Terri had indicated to him shortly after their marriage that she would reject any life support should it someday become necessary.
Even though Terri never signed any living will-type document, the Florida courts believed Michael’s story and granted him guardianship of Terri even though he’d been living for three years with a woman with whom he was to have two children.
In 2001, Judge George Greer, a man who has reported conflicts of interest in this case, ordered Terri’s feeding tube disconnected. This action prompted the Schindler family to begin their own round of legal proceedings and, in the course of one, they discovered new evidence. A report of a medical exam done shortly after Terri’s collapse seemed to suggest she might have been the victim of violence.
No matter what evidence the Schindler family has presented, Michael Schiavo, Judge Greer and noted euthanasia lawyer George Felos are determined that Terri must die for her own good. This despite numerous reports by nurses and others that she is a vital and responsive young woman of 41 who smiles at and recognizes her family; regardless of the fact that her feeding tube is only inserted at mealtimes and she needs no other life support; even though she is a Catholic whose religion forbids euthanasia.
The lengths to which those who wish her slow death by starvation have gone are truly appalling. They have, at various times refused medication for routine infections which could prove fatal if untreated; withheld dental and gynecological tests and treatments for periods of up to seven years; restricted visits from her family and worse, visits by her parish priest, even refusing to allow him to administer the Host during the Last Rites the last time her tube was removed, claiming it would constitute “sustenance.”
That this case, if carried to its most ghastly conclusion, will become a legal precedent is as disturbing a tragedy as the execution of Terri herself. Worse than merely representing a culture of death begun by the abortionists, euthanasia, along with cloning and embryonic research, represents a belief that certain humans should control the making and taking of innocent life. This thinking is precisely that of Hitler’s Third Reich, an idea that millions paid the ultimate price to eradicate.
There are thousands of people with brain-impairments of varying degrees alive today around the world and I’m willing to bet that the great majority of their loved ones cherish every day they’ve been allowed to care for them. Some people cannot understand that what would be an unbearable burden to them is a blessing to others.
One wonderful woman who recently passed away devoted most of her life to the home care of her severely impaired 54-year-old son rather than leave him in an institution. Another family lovingly rotated monthly care of their brother until his death at the age of 81.
Such devotion to and belief in the sanctity of all innocent life is at the core of the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case and those who wish her death this week know it. This is a fight that has been coming for some time that will shape the future of our country in as profound a way as we have ever known and one that should be fought as fiercely as was Hitler.
Those who think that man should be an architect of life and an arbiter of death are using a disabled woman’s plight to foist their notion of 21st-century morality on the rest of us. The fate of Terri Schiavo will be a measure of their success or failure. It is tragic that freedom is now on the march all over the world, yet here at home the most basic of all human rights may be lost.