Mike Cope's blog

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Here's a great piece on the sad story of Terri Schiavo by Rubel Shelly, who's spent lots of time and research looking into Christian faith and medical ethics. (He has a longer version that I hope will soon be on the Wineskins website.) Death isn’t always The Enemy Terri Schiavo suffered massive brain damage 15 years ago when, at the age of 26, her heart stopped beating. That event left her brain deprived of oxygen for an extended period. Since 1990, she has been in what medical literature calls a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS). She is no longer in contact – either by intellect or by will – with the world around her. As with most people in their twenties, Mrs. Schiavo had not documented her wishes as to whether she wanted to be kept alive under such an unlikely set of circumstances. Her husband, Michael, says she communicated her wishes to him more than once. But her parents refuse to accept his account. Seven years and 19 judges into their bitter family wrangling, the judicial system said it is acceptable to discontinue life support and to remove a feeding tube that has been keeping Mrs. Schiavo’s body functioning. But the Florida legislature substituted its judgment for the process that has been playing out, and now the U.S. Congress has acted in similar fashion. Ironically, a coalition of conservative religio-political groups has pushed for this intervention – after howling for years about the dangers inherent when lawmakers take it on themselves to intervene on organ donation, abortion rights, or what constitutes appropriate medical treatment for a terminally ill child. Not only physicians but the rest of us are smart enough to know the difference between protecting, enhancing, and empowering a human life with reasonable hope of recovery and merely prolonging the process of dying. Skill and technology that do the former are admirable and ethical; the same skill and technology used for the latter are unnecessary and ill-advised. Maybe a key issue here is our common insensitivity which fails to see that what is best possible treatment for a person lacking higher brain function is not always the most treatment possible. The idea that an emotional observer’s faint hope of another’s recovery can trump peer-reviewed medical judgment under extensive court scrutiny over years is simply irresponsible. Death is sometimes an ally instead of an enemy. Perhaps death itself needs to be reconsidered by all of us. It is not an absolute evil. It is sometimes an instrumental good for those without reasonable hope of recovery. Sometimes the real evil lies in forcing someone to endure existence that is no longer really life. Regardless of your take on this controversial case, your most responsible personal reaction to it is to document your own wishes about end-of-life decisions and then to share it with those closest to you.


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    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 3/23/2005 06:34:00 AM  

  • Mike,
    I think the longer version HAS been posted on the New Wineskins blog.

    At least, I think it is the longer version. I dunno, it's early!


    By Blogger Greg Kendall-Ball, at 3/23/2005 06:35:00 AM  

  • I don't think this case would be so controversial if it wasn't for the actions of the husband. My sense is that because of his behavior, the parents became the psychological guardians (although most parents probably never give up this role)even though the husband is the legal guardian. They probably feel like he gave up his right when he started his life over again by creating a new family. Also, if it was more than a feeding tube, it would be less offensive. The issue about what "no longer is really life" is what conservatives fear. Who is the judge, especially when there may be opposing views.

    "In dying, all of humanity is one. And it was into this dying humanity that God entered so as to give us hope." Henri Nouwen

    By Blogger David Michael, at 3/23/2005 07:20:00 AM  

  • Rubel communicated my thoughts to a T. This is one of the problems with the "moral majority" in America (though, I admit, it hasn't been nearly as outspoken about the Shiavo case as in other cases). Part of the flaw of its position is that in order for it to be seen as credible, it has to create black and white positions from which one cannot deviate. This means that "all abortion is wrong." It means that "we must never take the life of (or deny life from) an innocent person...ever." The only place where I think my argument breaks down is in the case of the death penalty...there's no telling how many innocent people we've put to death in America, but the attitude of many right-wingers is "kill 'em and let God sort 'em out." Hmmmm....

    I didn't intend this response to be a critique of the right wing position, but it turned out that way, didn't it. Sorry, folks. Sometimes I wish I had an opinion about something.

    By Blogger Steve Jr., at 3/23/2005 08:54:00 AM  

  • Left wing, right wing, red state, blue state, moral majority, moderate minority... I think all try to make things black and white to simplify and sway people to one vision. There is nothing simple about this story.

    Terri Schiavo story is sad on all sides. Thanks for this Mike!

    By Blogger SG, at 3/23/2005 10:54:00 AM  

  • Steve, I don't have many opinions either, ha! Funny thing is I agree with yours...I knew there was a reason I liked you. Julie
    Stop by soon...we are missing Katherine and Brady.

    By Blogger julie, at 3/23/2005 11:08:00 AM  

  • As a friend of mine put it:

    "Why is it that Christians, who have the hope of an afterlife, cling to this one so desperately?"

    By Blogger Beaner, at 3/23/2005 11:59:00 AM  

  • Rubel Shelly is probably the person I most admire and hold in the highest respect [since my dad's death]. But in this case, we disagree.

    He and I both have personal experiences that can make it difficult to be totally objective in our opinions. In his case, having to make the decision about his mother. In mine, it concerned my dad and my 13 year-old nephew.

    In my dad's case, he took active part in the decision to insert a feeding tube because of advancing Parkinson's that made it almost impossible for him to eat. He was in coma the last week of his life. then the last 24-hours his system began shutting down and he could only handle liquids. We never considered removing the feeding tube. God brought Dad to the moment of his transition into eternity in God's presence. The question just never came up about the feeding tube. We kept him fed as long as he could tolerate the "food", and kept him hydrated until his fiercely strong heart stopped.

    In the case of my nephew, he experienced the rejection of an artificial heart valve, and was finally placed on life support - espirator, IVs, monitors, the whole package. The day the monitors showed no further brain activity was the day my beloved brother and wife told us of their decision to remove the life support that evening.

    These two experiences in my family make it almost impossible for me to be objective about Terri Schiavo. But I'm convinced that in both of my experiences, there was no doubt that earthly life had ended and both Dad and Bobby slipped into eternity as naturally as possible for each of them.

    I can't help but feel that to not permit at least hydration is inhumane. I can try to understand removing nourishment, but the only generalization I can, in all good conscience accept, is that hydration as a minimum needs to be maintained.

    Dehydration is extremely painful and hydration probably would not extended Terri's life , but would allow her to die without the extreme pain caused by dehydration.

    Like Steve and Julie, wouldn't it be nice if I too had an opinion or two? ;)

    Through all this, my fervent prayers continue for Terri, and I can't help but pray that her husband's heart AND her parent's be pure in the decisions they are insisting be carried out.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 3/23/2005 12:36:00 PM  

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    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 3/23/2005 12:57:00 PM  

  • I look at this as both husband and parent. I wouldn't want anyone: her parents, the government, etc, doing something that I KNEW to be against Kim's (my wife)will whether it was written or not. However, as a dad, if my future son in law has been a bit shady and is now common law married to someone else and wants to pull the plug on one of my little girls ... man!

    I can't help but thinking two thoughts about this case:

    1. My youngest daughter Emily told me this just this morning, "Life isn't fair dad." I agree.

    2. This world is not my home, I'm just a passing through.

    And, in the words of one of my heroes, "Almost. But not yet."

    By Blogger Joel Quile, at 3/23/2005 12:59:00 PM  

  • This debate brings up another question I have puzzled myself with. I am decidedly pro-life, and feel abortion is wrong. I also believe that babies who die go to heaven. The upshot of this means that, if I get my way and abortion is outlawed, many babies will be born, and a large percentage of those will grow up to be lost eternally.

    What a dilemma! Is the system I prefer condemning them to eternity separated from God, when, if they HAD been aborted, they would not be separate from God? I don't like the implications.

    On the other hand, if God used this logic, none of us would be born. There is something about life that is worth the risk in God's opinion, as far as I can see.

    I am not trying to engage in sophistry here. I really don't know what to think about this.
    Any other opinions on this question would be welcomed (at least by me).

    By Blogger don, at 3/23/2005 02:00:00 PM  

  • When I see video of Terri, I see someone who is responsive to touch, who smiles at her caregiver. Is this a truly "vegetative state" that the media is leading us to believe?

    When my grandmother was dying in the hospital, my siter gave her parced throat and cracked lips water through a straw because her nurses and doctors and even sons and daughters had given up. The next day, she was much more responsive and thanked my sister for saving her life! A few days later, she passed in her sleep, peacefully. Dying of dehydration is cruel and painful.

    At some point, do we abdicate God's will in death, with reasoning that sometimes life is too complicated and painful and we are justified in standing by and doing nothing? Tell that to any one of us who have children with disabilities and I promise you will get a different answer. Yes, there is heaven (thank you Lord!)where we will be made complete, and more so. But where is the beauty in suicide after diagnosis? It's a natural response to recoil from the damaged, the retarted, the suffering. My prayers are with her parents as they see the daughter whom they love, the child they are scratching and clawing and are desperate for, who have accepted her now as she is, to save.

    By Blogger Cindy, at 3/23/2005 02:16:00 PM  

  • I have nothing but deep respect for Rubel Shelly. And I don't disagree with him when he states, "Death is sometimes an ally instead of an enemy."

    However, using this logic as justification for what has been done to Terri Schiavo constitutes a slippery slope. Under this logic, what is to prevent a society from declaring that "Death is your ally!" as it rids itself of the poor, or mentally retarded, or the handicapped?

    I agree with Rubel's assertion that the best thing any of us can do is express our wishes in the form of a living will. But I don't buy that Michael Schiavo has anyone's but his own self-interests in mind, so I have a hard time taking his word at face value.

    By Blogger Phil Richardson, at 3/23/2005 03:03:00 PM  

  • note to self--get that living will completed.

    By Blogger Brandon Scott, at 3/23/2005 03:08:00 PM  

  • Phil, if I may, one addition to your last paragraph. It might help clear all this up if we'd insist on God's written Word being applied. In the OT, 2 or 3 witnesses were required before any life-threatening decisions/sentences were applied.

    And Jesus said, in what is probably one of the most misapplied scriptures in the whole Bible, "where two or three come together in my name, there I will be also." Jesus was talking about applying congregational discipline and echoes the OT requirement of more than ONE witness. In light of this, imho, Michael's testimony about Terri's supposed wishes are null and void - he needs at least one witness to verify what he claims were her expressed wishes.

    By Blogger Kathy, at 3/23/2005 03:40:00 PM  

  • Mike, My name is Casey Mikesell. I live in Alvin and my cousins (Wade and Taylor Hood) go to Highland. I keep up with your blog and I must say. I have to agree with one of the other peoples comments I saw..Terri doesnt seem at all in a "vegitative state" from what I have seen. I think that not giving someone nourishment is just wrong.

    By Blogger Casey, at 3/23/2005 04:17:00 PM  

  • I'm sorry, but I must disagree with many of the responses, especially Rubel Shelly. Clearly, this is a black and white issue. She is not on life support. If Terri Schiavo had a respirator, that would be different. The reason is because removing a respirator ALLOWS the person to die. We are not ALLOWING her to die, we are CAUSING her to die, period! Starvation is ALWAYS wrong. Can you imagine Jesus starving someone?

    Secondly, her so called "husband" is a creep. He has no right being her guardian because he has a common-law wife. He has emotionally abandoned her. Letting him be her guardian is irresponsible.

    As for congress, I believe they did the right thing. Are some politically motivated? Perhaps, but that is irrelivent. Do we know what's in someone's heart? Judge not lest ye be judged. And state rights and court jurisdictions mean nothing to me. To use what Jesus said: "Law for man, not man for law." Congress stepped in to save an innocent person's life. If that is not the job of the government, what is?

    By Blogger Jonathan Teram, at 3/23/2005 04:21:00 PM  

  • I think those who cite pain as evidence for leaving in the feeding tube are operating on misinformation. I saw an interview with a doctor who said that those in a vegetative state do not feel any pain due to dehydration or starvation, especially with pain medication. As well, snippets of video that show Terri smiling and responding do not take the place of doctors and nurses who know the whole picture. They say such actions are reflexes, not evidence of sentience.

    By Blogger Cole, at 3/23/2005 06:36:00 PM  

  • I am sickened and saddened by this tragedy and my lack of ability to do anything about it. My heart aches for Terri and her family and everyone else involved in this battle. I always try to see both sides to any story, so my question is: Did Mr. Shiavo maintain what her wishes were from the beginning? I don't know the early history here. By Florida law who was the decision maker regarding her treatment on day one? If it was him, doesn't he have the right as her husband to keep her off life support? Was this always a battle, or did he change his mind and strategy along the way?

    Please don't misunderstand me - What is being done NOW is cruel and inhumane! But back at the beginning, if it were me, and my husband knew my wishes but we didn't have them written in ink, I would still want him to decide for me. (I LEFT my parents and was joined to HIM in marriage.)Was this the case?

    Beaner's friend had a good point...I don't want to be kept here any longer than I have to be.

    I believe that ALL life is valuable. I think it's easy to look down my nose and call this man scum, but I don't know the shoes he has walked in. Yes, he has moved on with his life which is very sad for both Terri and him. His motives may not be pure now, I don't really know. I have to remember that there was a day that he loved her deeply - enough to take her as his wife, and no decision must have been easy for him.

    There are no easy answers and it's sad this sory has become political fuel. God have mercy on us sinners and the decisions we make.

    By Blogger Niki, at 3/23/2005 11:07:00 PM  

  • What would happen to a person if they killed Terri Shiavo before she died of dehydration? Would they be charged with murder?

    By Blogger David Michael, at 3/24/2005 04:22:00 AM  

  • Life deserves the benefit of the doubt. If a hunter sees something moving in the woods, but isn't sure whether its a deer or a person, would it be okay for him to shoot? There is much uncertainty here regarding Terri's condition. There are a number of credible experts who dispute whether or not she is PVS. And there is certainly doubt in my mind anyway about what Terri's wishes are. The husband's actions at the very least raise questions in an objective observers mind.

    SO if we are not absolutely sure, do we let her starve anyway or do we give life the benefit of the doubt?

    By Blogger Rcutsinger, at 3/24/2005 06:22:00 AM  

  • For the most part, this discussion took place with GREAT respect and consideration. Thanks so much. A few miscellaneous thoughts.

    1. If you think this doesn't happen ALL the time, you're either very young (and just don't realize it) or very sheltered.

    2. If this can be settled by the federal government, it surely will be since Republicans control the presidency, the House, the Senate, and the Supreme Court (6 of the 9 appointments).

    3. Someone mentioned that the husband is a creep, and then in the next paragraph said "judge not that ye be not judged." Hmmmm.

    4. The questions asked in the comment before this seem irrelevant to me. If you shoot a cancer patient ten minutes before they would have died anyway, you're guilty of murder. Are you just trying to establish that a person in a persistent vegetative state is alive? What Rubel's writing about isn't the legal definition of "living." (As if Rubel needs my defense!)

    5.The doctors and nurses seem unanimous that she is in a PVS.

    6. If we agree that a person should be able to choose to refuse treatment under such circumstances through a living will (such as Diane and I have), then I think we've agreed that such treatment isn't illegal or immoral.

    6. Thoughts from a wonderful book, BIOETHICS: A PRIMER FOR CHRISTIANS by Gilbert Meilaender.

    "On the one hand, we ought not to choose death or aim at death. But on the other hand, neither should we act as if continued life is the only, or even the highest, good. It is not a god, but a gift of God. Thus we should neither aim at death nor continue the struggle against it when its time has come. 'Allowing to die' is permitted; killing is not. Within these limits lies the sphere of our freedom. . . .

    "This distinction between an act's aim and its result is crucial to bear in mind when we consider decisions to refuse or withdraw treatment. The result of such decisions may be that death comes more quickly than it might have. Nevertheless, the fact that we ought not to aim at death for ourself or another does not mean that we must always do everything possible to oppose it. Life is not our god, but a gift of God; death is a great evil, but not the ultimate evil. There may come a time, then, when it is proper to acknowledge death and cease to oppose it. Our aim in such circumstances is to care for the dying person as best we can -- which now, we judge, means withdrawing rather than imposing treatment."

    As an example (that he gives), we know that giving a patient in the final stages of a terminal illness large doses of morphine to control pain may bring death more quickly by suppressing respiration. That's a possible result of the medication. But that isn't the aim. The aim is to control pain.

    This doesn't solve all the issues in this tragic (and common) case. There are so many issues for us to think about as Christ-followers: life, death, advocacy, value of life.

    There are ways in which this is a very personal, emotional issue for me.

    It helps to know that the community of faith will be in dialogue about our response.

    By Blogger Mike, at 3/24/2005 06:32:00 AM  

  • Mike, I don't consider myself young nor sheltered. Instead of stating it as FACT, I will just communicate that I doubt that this EXACT situation, with all of it's variables, happens "ALL the time". I sure pray that it doesn't.

    Thanks for providing this forum for us to communicate our opinions....including yours.

    By Blogger David U, at 3/24/2005 06:56:00 AM  

  • (As it turned out, one of my earlier comments was about a response TWO before mine. Someone jumped in before I published.)

    By Blogger Mike, at 3/24/2005 06:59:00 AM  

  • David - I will confirm for the public that you aren't young. You'll have to convince us you aren't sheltered. :) (You're not.)

    I've done a good bit of reading in medical ethics, and there is so much written about people in PVS and about how to apply Christian principles in the use or nonuse of feeding and hydration. Also, I, in my limited pastoral ministry, have been in the situation more than once!

    Not the exact same situation, for sure. Sorry, I miscommunicated. I didn't mean that. Actually, every case is unique. Which is why we usually don't put them all in the headlines. They are solved through local people, through established guardians (whether we like those guardians or not), and through personal physicians and nurses.

    Thanks, brother.

    By Blogger Mike, at 3/24/2005 07:21:00 AM  

  • Brother Mike, I understand the kneejerk opposition to the kneejerk right. On the other hand, I think they are right on this, even if some are right for the wrong motives.

    The PVS diagnosis is highly disputed by the medical professionals involved--she laughs, responds to fear of pain, can swallow water and some jello, etc.

    This is not a brain-dead woman, in which case I would feel differently. And a feeding tube is not "life support" or a heroic lifesaving measure by any standard of the medical profession. Is an infant on life support because it needs assistance getting food into its stomach?

    There is also the fact that her injuries were sustained under suspicious circumstances, and there have been allegations of domestic violence.

    The biggest scare factor about this for me is the new precedent for euthenizing the mentally retarded by starving them to death, which is exactly what is happening, morally and legally.

    None of us would want to be in Terri's situation or her family's, but God often gives us circumstances we don't want to help shape us into his image.

    God bless,

    Kevin Harper

    By Blogger Kevin Harper, at 3/24/2005 08:16:00 AM  

  • Mike,

    I didn't mean to be irrelevant.(: From an intellectual point of view, I understand your point. However, when I hear Terri's family (excluding her husband) being interviewed, I get a sense that she is not in PVS, and then my emotions override logic. Watching her family take care of their daughter and sister reminds me of many families I have witnessed over the years taking care of someone they love who is disabled in some way. From the various news reports, it is difficult to know what is the truth. I have also heard two sides to the issue on whether or not a feeding tube is considered in the same category as other life support technology.

    Praise our Father God that his Son and our Savior, Jesus Christ, has conquered death!

    By Blogger David Michael, at 3/24/2005 08:24:00 AM  

  • I have been asked about this case a lot in the last few days, probably because of what I do: I am a critical care nurse in a neuro-surgical/trauma ICU. And like Mike said, these types of decisions are made all of the time. Here are my two cents. The video clips that every one sees on the news are 5-10 sec blips recorded 5 years ago. The judge in his ruling stated that he watched the entire 4 hours of video tape. And the responses that we see from her are not consistent. Her own family is not able to elicit the same response to the same stimulus even seconds after seeing her smile. These are most likely autonomic reflexes. Also, an earlier blogger was correct in stating that she is not able to feel pain.

    My professional experience has led me to inform my husband, parents, in-laws, friends, and co-workers about my own wishes. As a parent, I hope and pray that I could let my child go to God in this situation.

    By Blogger jhp, at 3/24/2005 09:51:00 AM  

  • Like most people, I'm very conflicted by this case, and I agree with David's earlier post that this case would be easier if Terri's husband were acting a little differently. But should it legally matter? I'm not so sure. We're a nation of laws, not emotions...right? That's why I'm conflicted.

    During the late 90's, I knew many people who didn't think Bill Clinton's indiscretions necessarily required impeachment because they were private matters...but they realized that the law is the law and because he most likely committed perjury the legal process needed to be respected, and that reality fueled their support for the independent prosecutor's actions. I wonder how many of these individuals are now saying that this one very sad & unfortunate case can negate current laws and our country's jurisprudence, not realizing the broad legal consequences of actions by Congress, the Supreme Court, or the Federal Court of Appeals if they intervene on the Schindler family's behalf.

    After all, don't many people believe that the legislative branch makes laws...not the judicial branch?

    In this case, the Judicial branch is merely upholding the laws/procedures that are currently on the books. If they intervene, won't it reveal them as the "activist judges" so many scorn?

    This represents the inconsistency of both the right AND the left, and again, it's so sad that this tragic case has come to this.

    By Blogger Malibu Librarian, at 3/24/2005 11:04:00 AM  

  • Here is something for everyone to consider:

    "Florida state court judge George Greer –- last heard from when he denied an order of protection to a woman weeks before her husband stabbed her to death — determined that Terri would have wanted to be starved to death based on the testimony of her husband, who was then living with another woman. (The judge also took judicial notice of the positions of O.J. Simpson, Scott Peterson and Robert Blake.) The husband also happened to be the only person present when the oxygen was cut off to Terri's brain in the first place. He now has two children with another woman.

    Greer has refused to order the most basic medical tests for brain damage before condemning a woman to death. Despite all those years of important, searching litigation we keep hearing about, Terri has yet to receive either an MRI or a PET scan — although she may be allowed to join a support group for women whose husbands are trying to kill them.

    Greer has cut off the legal rights of Terri's real family and made her husband (now with a different family) her sole guardian, citing as precedent the landmark "Fox v. Henhouse" ruling of 1893. Throughout the process that would result in her death sentence, Terri was never permitted her own legal counsel. Evidently, they were all tied up defending the right to life of child-molesting murderers."
    From Ann Coulter

    By Blogger Lucinda Ross, at 3/24/2005 11:13:00 AM  

  • Two comments:

    As Christians we need to view this from a spiritual perspective. I believe that "death is sometimes an ally" ONLY if one is in Christ. Outside of Christ, death is ALWAYS the enemy. If Terri Schiavo is not in Christ then she is bound for eternal punishment -- a state much worse than PVS. If she is not in Christ, the most humane thing we can do is reinsert the feeding tube and prolong that destiny as long as possible.

    My second comment is that God is the one who determines when we die. Many say, "Who are we to play God and decide when Terri dies?" BUT God also is the only sustainer of life. Who are we to artificially sustain Terri's life? Doesn't that fall under God's domain as well? It seems we are playing God either way.

    From a spiritual perspective, if she is in Christ, let the natural order of things that God created take it's course -- for she is going to a far better place. If she is not in Christ, what would be more humane than doing what we can to keep her from the gates of hell?

    By Blogger John, at 3/25/2005 08:32:00 AM  

  • Two things:

    1. Criticizing the deeply held convictions of others by calling them young and naive is not the way to cultivate respectful dialogue.

    2. The frequency of an event or situation has not effect on its morality or immorality.

    By Blogger James, at 3/25/2005 10:20:00 AM  

  • Is it just me, or did all this just get a bit ugly, from both sides? There is no winner to this argument, but if you really are genuinely trying to have meaningful dialogue, you will catch more flies with honey than vinegar. (That is what my mother always said, anyway.)
    Cathy Moore

    By Blogger cathy moore, at 3/25/2005 11:53:00 AM  

  • I do not agree with Rubell. I detail my response at this address: mtapie.blogspot.com
    God bless you all,

    By Blogger Matt Tapie, at 3/30/2005 12:07:00 AM  

  • Welcoming death, as Rubell has recommended, is very different than expediting death. I believe welcoming death is definitely something Christians should do--we should all have the theological attitude that says: I do not fear death since Christ has conquered the grave. This, though, is very different than bringing about death, or initiating death, or facilitating death, or to put it more harshly, murdering. To bring death upon someone who is living is to kill them; to take away their life. Do we have such authority? I do not think we do.

    Human life is a gift from God. Because we are made in his image we are precious--we are "sacred" because of our Godlikeness and taking life is literally an attack on God the owner of life. A person's physical condition does not change this fact. The value of life comes from its intrinsic worth not the "quality" another human being ascribes to it. Human suffering, disabilities, lack of consciousness, vegetative states, mental retardation, etc. do not take away from the eternal God-assigned value of a weak person's life. Just because someone is weak and dependent does not mean they are no longer human as Rubell's article suggests: "...evil lies in forcing someone to endure existence that is no longer really life." I believe evil is telling someone they are not human. No longer "really life"? One cannot look at another's life and decide, based upon their opinion of what life should be like, that such a human life is not a "quality life" or that it is not worth living.

    Advocates for the removal of Schivao's feeding tube say that in her last hours of starvation she will die with dignity. But what is dignity? Dignity is defined traditionally as nobility, moral excellence, or moral virtue. You don't have a right to dignity any more than you have a right to beauty. Dignity is built up from moral choices--it comes from character; it comes from within. Dying with dignity should mean to the Christian person that we welcome and embrace death the way our Lord faced it. Dignity, or moral excellence, should not be twisted to endorse our asking someone else to take our life (euthanasia) or any attempt to take it ourselves (suicide). But do those who believe Terri's feeding tube should be pulled really want dignity for her?

    I think underneath the talk about dying with dignity, patients rights, and a right to die, there is a deeper assumption about Terri's mental health. Some believe that since she is unconscious her life is not worth living. Her mental state makes her life, in the words of Rubell Shelly, "no longer really life." However, regardless of her mental state this women is living and not dying. No matter if you wouldn't want to be her, she is still a human life. She has no terminal disease. Death was not knocking on the door of her life until it was ordered there by judges. The feeding tube that sustains her is like a spoon to the mouth of an infant. But this is unconvincing to many. As William Luse has written, many think Terri Schivao is "as good as dead," so it does not matter much to kill her.

    I leave you with a quote from Luse's article entilted, "Let Live or Make Die: Terri Schiavo, Christopher Reeve & the Right Not to Be Killed."(from March 2005 www.Touchstonemag.com) Luse writes,

    "She is not dying, but living. She needs to be fed and that's all. This is a thing we do for each other. Her only problem--society's problem, actually--is that she is severely mentally retarded. She is not participating in the life of the world as others would like. Being alive is not enough. That you are human and in existence no longer grants you an inherent and infinitely precious worth."

    By Blogger Matt Tapie, at 3/30/2005 11:53:00 AM  

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