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The dress of liberty is stained with Terri's blood

Posted By Barbara Simpson On 04/04/2005 @ 1:00 am In Commentary | Comments Disabled

The wrangling continued even before Terri Schiavo’s body was cold.

Would there or woudn’t there be an autopsy? All along, we were told the husband wouldn’t allow it. Then we were told Florida law requires autopsy and it would be done by the Pinellas county medical examiner. When Terri’s parents requested that renown forensic pathologist Dr. Cyril H. Wecht be allowed to observe, the answer was “no.”

Would she be buried or cremated? The family requested a Catholic funeral with Terri’s body. Terri is Catholic; her husband Michael isn’t. He said “no.”

Where will her remains be laid to rest? Her parents, brother and sister request Florida, where they live. The husband says “no,” it will be in Pennsylvania. He even refused to specify where – until ordered to by the court.

Finally, a court ruling in Terri’s favor. But she’s dead.

Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo died March 31, two weeks after her feeding tube was ordered removed by local, state and federal courts. She was starved and dehydrated by the system.

You may not realize that it wasn’t just the removal of the feeding tube that was ordered. The legally blind, circuit judge George Greer also ordered that no one give her water or liquid food by mouth. Everybody was forbidden to even try.

In her death throes, Terri was denied cool water cloths on her mouth and body, ice chips on her lips and even lip balm. Yet she was given morphine to “ease discomfort” even though we were told she could feel nothing. Remember, they insisted she was a “vegetable.”

She was refused Catholic Holy Communion, neither a flake of the Host nor a drop of the wine. Finally, at the end, when her priest again made the request, (and was threatened with arrest by one of the several policemen posted in Terri’s room 24-hours a day) he was allowed to do it, but only by sharing the action with the hospice priest.

One wonders how the hospice “priest” lives with his conscience, to say nothing of Robert Lynch, bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of St. Petersburg.

Rather than speak out in favor of life, in support of the position of his own pope and his own church – indeed, rather than speak out against Terri being starved and refused Holy Communion – Bishop Lynch said virtually nothing.

He did say Terri’s situation needs “mediation” and that it’s “complex and tragic,” but that ultimately the decision is “that of the husband.” He spoke of decisions concerning people “in extremis.” Too bad that wasn’t Terri – she wasn’t dying until the state began starving her.

In fact, priests in his diocese were told to say nothing about the case. The bishop said “… spiritual ministry is a private matter.”

The bishop’s statement when Terri died is, predictably, innocuous. He’s “deeply saddened.” Over the years he’d “hoped” the family could come to “agreement about Terri’s ongoing care.” Then he speaks of Terri going to “meet our Lord” and he hopes for “healing and peace” for the family.

Oh, and the bishop’s lesson for us all is to talk with family about such decisions – spend time with family and tell them “you love them.”

Spoken like a real soldier of Christ. A martyr he is not.

Someone close to the situation told me, that had the bishop been a “real Catholic person,” it might have been different for Terri.

As for Judge Greer, this one man, supported by levels of judiciary to the highest available, ordered Terri Schiavo to die. He is blind in more ways than one.

Then there are the courts. Rather than review the issues and case merits to be certain justice was done, particularly since the life of an innocent person was at stake, they chose to follow the letter of the law and essentially ensure that Theresa Marie Schindler-Schiavo be forced to die. That is what happens when people don’t eat or drink.

Appeals went all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court. Congress got involved when it was clear there was injustice at work here and asked that the case be looked at anew. Just to be sure. Just to be fair. Indeed, just to be just.

Each time the answer was “no,” despite the life of an innocent hanging in the balance.

Terri was not waiting to instantaneously die, as in a state-ordered criminal execution. Had that been the case, her “execution” would have been stayed. But this was different.

As those people in robes debated the degree to which they felt their authority was being usurped, a 41-year-old, brain-damaged but otherwise perfectly healthy woman was deliberately being starved to death.

Judge Stanley F. Birch Jr. of the Atlanta-based U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals took 15 hours to hand down his denial – Terri’s last. After he lambasted the legislative and executive branches of government for what he interpreted as stepping on the judiciary, he said “… the time has come for dispassionate discharge of duty.”

Translated: Terri had to die.

She did.

While each court and judges might be preening that they followed the law, the truth is they killed Terri Schiavo by omission. Their not reviewing the case sealed her death warrant.

Our judicial system, which is supposed to administer justice, instead ordered – no, demanded – cold-blooded murder in the case of a handicapped woman who could not speak for herself.

It’s not the first time people have been allowed to die by stopping food and water. It’s the dirty secret of medicine that it goes on all the time, but usually it’s hidden – people are lied to and families suffer in silent grief.

However, this is the first time it’s been done in the glare of media coverage, however biased, misleading and inflammatory it was and is.

It’s also the first time, such a death has been ordered by the courts, ignored by elected officials who claim they could do nothing and, in fact, used police to enforce the killing. How do they live with themselves?

I guess they were just following orders.

It’s not a proud moment for this country. It’s an indelible stain on our honor and freedom. Whatever happened to justice tempered with mercy?


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