Terri Schiavo’s medical condition is in dispute, she left no living will, we don’t know her present wishes, and yet the courts are ordering that her husband has the right to kill her? This outrage simply couldn’t happen in a culture that considered human life sacred.
“Objection,” you say. “The courts are exhibiting their ultimate respect for life by carrying out the wishes of a person to terminate her own life and die with dignity.”
Even the “pull the tube” advocates, then, are agreeing that we can’t remove the feeding tube unless the patient has previously indicated her intent, either in writing or verbally, that that be done.
But what other conditions must be necessary for the doctors to remove nourishment to a physically healthy patient? Well, presumably, the patient must be in a persistent vegetative state, or PVS.
The courts have apparently determined that both conditions have been satisfied: Terri is in a PVS, and she expressed her intention not to be kept alive artificially if she ever arrived in that condition.
But based on informed opinions we’ve learned about in the last few days alone, isn’t it obvious that there is significant doubt as to both conditions?
Nurses who personally treated Terri are coming out of the woodwork to state that Terri was responsive, communicative, capable of swallowing and far from a PVS. Distinguished physicians are opining that Terri is not only not in a PVS, but could likely be rehabilitated. Her parents, who surely would not do anything intentionally to cause or perpetuate Terri’s suffering, believe she has been responsive and wants to continue living. Is this not enough to raise extraordinary doubts as to Terri’s alleged PVS?
What about Terri’s alleged expression of intent that she not be artificially sustained? Shouldn’t it deeply disturb us that the courts are relying primarily on the testimony of an estranged, discredited husband riddled with personal conflicts of interest to divine Terri’s intent, especially when Michael reportedly didn’t share that communication for some seven years after Terri’s “incident”?
Shouldn’t it haunt us that a number of Terri’s nurses have stated that Michael forbad rehabilitative and other treatment to Terri at a time when she seemed susceptible to improvement and that he made shocking statements about Terri? What possible motive, other than masochism, would they have to lie?
With his egregious conflicts of interest, does anyone really believe Michael is motivated to honor Terri’s rather than his own wishes?
Even if Terri did express something to Michael, how likely is it that she had a feeding tube in mind? Does anyone believe she actually spoke with anywhere close to such specificity, indicating to Michael that she wanted to be starved and dehydrated to death even if there were serious doubt as to her being in a PVS?
Don’t say it doesn’t matter, because the types of life-sustaining measures a person requires depend on the condition the person is in. Indeed, if it doesn’t matter, why are makers of living wills required to specify such choices?
Let me also ask you to consider this: What if a person had a living will stating she did not want to be kept alive if she ever became brain-damaged with limited cognitive functions, but once she arrived at that state, expressed a desire to continue living?
Should her written directive override even her present intentions? Stated another way, should we dishonor a person’s will to live, even if she doesn’t have any more brainpower than a severely retarded person, solely because she issued a previous directive to the contrary when she had greater capacity?
If so, aren’t we saying, in effect, that a mentally handicapped person’s life is less valuable, less precious than that of a person with full mental capacities? Aren’t we deciding to terminate life based on our subjective view of one’s quality of life?
What this boils down to is that our courts (and far too many in society) are so acclimated to our Culture of Death that they are erring on the side of death. Despite enormous doubts about Terri’s condition, her intentions and even her initial injury, the courts are determining that in the end, none of this matters because anyone in Terri’s diminished state (no matter what it specifically is) is better off dead. It’s essentially a court-ordered murder based on the court’s subjective assessment of the victim’s quality of life – an assessment tainted by its diminished reverence for human life.
The decision to kill Terri Schiavo is not in deference to Terri’s intentions, about which there is way too much doubt, but to godlessness, humanism and death. It is to quench society’s lust for death.
This case marks a turning point in the Culture War, where society is making a giant leap toward the dark side, embracing the lie over truth and death over life. In our relentless quest to become like gods, we are crossing another sacred line, and it is hard to imagine how we might return.