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Another 9-11 date with death

What do you call a country that sentences its prisoners to death by starvation and dehydration?

Barbaric, inhumane perhaps?

Fasts, even hunger strikes, often are self-imposed for periods of time. However, no one in his right mind passes up fluids.

Death by dehydration is a painful, agonizing and arduous process that takes 10 to 14 days.

In addition to feeling the pangs of hunger and thirst, the skin, lips and tongue crack. The nose bleeds because of the drying of the mucus membranes. Heaving and vomiting may ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining. The victim may experience seizures.

As the fluid level in the body goes down, the blood pressure goes down and the heart rate goes up. Respiration often increases as blood is shunted from the periphery to the central part of the body in a desperate attempt to sustain the primary organs. The hands and feet become extremely cold.

Compared to starvation and dehydration, death by hanging, firing squad, even the electric chair seems humane.

What kind of country imposes such a death, even on those guilty of the most heinous crimes?

Look in the mirror! We the people of the United States of America now are guilty of allowing this kind of death sentence to be carried out – not against murders, rapists and child molesters, but on some of the most disabled in our midst.

One week from today, on Sept. 11, 2003, as we observe the second anniversary of the terrorist attacks that killed over 3,000 innocent people in New York and Washington, D.C., a circuit judge in Florida will hold a hearing to decide when to remove the tube that is used to bring food and fluid to 39-year-old Terri Schiavo, who is slated to become the latest death-by-dehydration victim.

We call those people, who programmed and sent the terrorists into our country, barbarians. However, if we stand by and allow the state to kill an innocent woman like Terri Schiavo, whose only crime is being severely disabled, are we any better?

Terri is not on a respirator or any artificial life-support equipment. Any reasonable person who sees this woman reacting to her parents will realize she is not in a coma or, as it is sometimes called, a “persistent vegetative state.” You can view the evidence for yourself.

In 1990, Terri Schiavo collapsed and suffered brain damage under unexplained circumstances. Having no durable power of attorney for health care, her husband, Michael Schiavo, became her guardian. He filed a malpractice lawsuit against the doctors who attended her and was awarded $1.3 million.

The bulk of the award was placed in a trust fund for her care and rehabilitation. However, in the last 10 years, she has received no meaningful rehabilitation treatment. Instead, her guardian husband hired a right-to-die advocate, George Felos, as his lawyer and began petitioning the courts to have her feeding tube removed, which, of course, will kill her.

Would a jury have set aside this money for her care if it had known that her guardian had planned to ask the court to end her life? Of course not!

Does the fact that Michael Schiavo would inherit any money left in her trust or is living with another woman – with whom he has had a child and plans to marry once Terri is out of the way – a conflict of interest? You bet it is!

Recently, Terri developed a serious infection, but Michael Schiavo refuses to allow doctors to treat her.

If a child is mistreated or denied proper care or medical treatment by a parent or guardian, the state will step in and place that child in the hands of someone who will protect the child from harm. Why should a disabled person be denied this protection?

Have we, as a nation, become so callous that we have bought into the “quality of life” argument that some people simply are not worth the effort to protect or rehabilitate?

Florida’s governor, Jeb Bush, wrote a letter to the judge in charge of the case asking him to delay the removal of Terri’s feeding tube – stay her execution – until her case could be investigated. He was ignored.

What Gov. Bush should do is have his attorney general bring an action by the state on Terri’s behalf.

There has been a federal court hearing, but time is running out.

To date 27,000 people have petitioned Gov. Bush to save Terri Schiavo. That leaves 281,395,000 who should.