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How do you measure the value of life? Is it quality, quantity or something else? Right now the nation is once again split over the taking of human life. I am obviously talking about the life and death struggle surrounding Terri Schiavo.
This is a subject that strikes a particularly strong and personal cord with me. I have always believed in the sanctity of human life. This belief applies equally in situations like the one facing Terri as well as those related to the unborn. For example,
back in October my little girl was diagnosed in utero with Down’s syndrome.
The relevance to the Schiavo situation lies in knowing that for so many a diagnoses of DS becomes a death sentence for their unborn. Statistics suggest 90 percent of all children diagnosed with DS are killed in the womb. This startling fact brings tears to my eyes as I look on the 3-week-old face of my little girl.
The question is: “How did we arrive at a place where the only value life has is that assigned by Hollywood, university or utilitarian standards?”
This mindset tragically reflects the true shallowness of our culture and our preoccupation with worldly perfection. How else can we explain that the least sign of imperfection or inconvenience is met with a race to the abortion clinic or a battle between family members to pull the plug?
In the case of Terri Schiavo, we have a brain injured woman whose parents are fighting for her life and are willing to spend their lives meeting the needs of their daughter. They stand opposed by Terri’s husband who appears largely dedicated to himself and who insists that Terri wants to die.
As for Terri’s physical condition, there are many conflicting reports. Some say she is responsive and can be rehabilitated. Others say she is non-responsive and rehabilitation is impossible. But who can really predict the future, the progression of her diagnosis and the possibilities of advancing medicine that may one day assist Terri?
From my personal experience, consider my daughter Victoria, diagnosed with DS. At 16 weeks, we were specifically warned of an anomaly revealed by ultrasound on both her heart and kidney.
For those who don’t know, DS is associated with a number of major malformations. Approximately half of DS children are born with a heart defect, and a great many others are born with intestinal complications – both of which can require surgery upon birth.
So rather naturally, I was afraid of the unknown and the myriad of major and minor complications associated with DS. Yet to the doctors’ surprise, both anomalies – tracked by 4D-ultrasound – simply disappeared with time. Then at eight months into my pregnancy another threat (atop the DS diagnosis) arose. I was told I had elevated levels of amniotic fluid known as polyhydramnios. According to one source, the cause of polyhydramnios is congenital defects. But this, too, disappeared with time as a false alarm.
My point is this. There were and still are many threats to the overall health of my daughter. And there were many times that someone who did not believe in the sanctity of human life might have been driven by “quality of life” arguments and fear to end Victoria’s life in the womb.
Truth is as a pro-life advocate, I hear arguments like these all the time. Even now they’re being made to end Terri Schiavo’s life.
My response is to strike squarely at the Achilles’ heel of such arguments. That is, “There are no sure-fire predictors for the meaning, quality or quantity of anyone’s life.”
To point – although Victoria has DS, she is in every way the picture of health. Examples like this should warn anyone against making a life-and-death decision for someone else or projecting their own sense of value onto human life, whether in the womb or out.
According to this nation’s founding principles and religions worldwide, life is unquestionably sacred and has inherent value. It is also in many ways completely unpredictable and often produces results contrary to those made by the “experts,” particularly when the power of prayer is factored in.
That means no one can really know or predict Terri’s future health, the quality of her life or the quantity of her days. Advances in medicine can, if allowed, uniquely and unpredictably combine with love, attention, nourishment and therapy to Terri’s benefit.
After all is said and done, it is devastating how many would put Terri to death as well as my own daughter had they been given the diagnosis I received in October. So I want to encourage those who think Terri should die to rethink their position.
Likewise, I want to encourage women receiving a threatening diagnosis of their unborn children to carry their children to term rather than abort. There is a cherished life waiting to touch yours. There is hope through the power of prayer. And there is wisdom that extends far beyond the world’s definition of perfection and perspective on human life. I experienced all this firsthand in the birth of my daughter Victoria.