Terri Schiavo and the Right to Kill

Join me in praying for Terri Schiavo tonight – and in praying for America. May she survive, may those who wish to kill her be ashamed, and may we as a nation be stirred to remember the sanctity of life.

Many thanks to Mary Beth Bonacci, one of our allies at The Catholic Herald for her still timely Dec. 2003 article, “The Schiavo Case: Right to Die or Right to Kill?” Here is an excerpt:

But make no mistake — this is most definitely not a right-to-die case. It’s a right-to-kill case. And the stakes are high, not just for Terri, but for all of the vulnerable, disabled people of the world.

First of all, numerous doctors have observed that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state. The state of Florida defines persistent vegetative state as “a permanent and irreversible state of unconsciousness in which there is an absence of voluntary or cognitive behavior and an inability to interact purposefully with one’s environment.” Terri is in no such condition. Videotapes show Terri closely watching her family’s movement, verbalizing in response to questions, responding to simple commands and laughing when listening to her favorite music. No fewer than 10 physicians are on record with the court saying that Terri was aware and her condition could improve with therapy. In fact, a Nobel nominee in medicine, Dr. William Hammesfahr, has offered to treat her and provide her rehabilitation without charge.

And then there are the issues surrounding her guardian and husband, Michael Schiavo. He has repeatedly denied Terri the rehabilitative therapy recommended by medical professionals treating her. He has also repeatedly ordered that Terri not be treated for life-threatening infections and blocked “swallowing tests” that would determine whether Terri could be taught to eat without her feeding tubes. Schiavo has also blocked tests that would determine if Terri sustained bone damage around the time of her collapse, clarifying lingering suspicions that her collapse may have been the result of abuse at Schiavo’s hand.

In 1995 Schiavo moved in with girlfriend Jodi Centonze, and in 1997 the two announced their engagement. The couple, still cohabitating, now have two children together. And yet Schiavo refuses to divorce Terri. . . .

Terri Schiavo is aware of her surroundings. She feels pain. And starvation is not a painless way to die. It is, in fact, a particularly torturous and cruel death.

This case is not about the right of a terminally ill person to refuse useless life-prolonging treatment. It is about the right of an adulterous, neglectful and possibly abusive husband to sentence his wife to a slow, excruciating death.

Now it may be that she is in a permanent vegetative state and has no hope of recovery. Let’s explore that possibility – let there be decisive tests, let the results be carefully reviewed, let us pursue the last glimmer of hope. There are those who maintain she responds – I heard one of her nurses today say that Terri smiled in response to her joking. Others say that CAT scans show no hope of serious brain function. Were the CAT scans interpreted properly? Has a mistake been made? Are her responsive actions random twitches? Let’s find out – and not force her to die.

Susan Nunnes in a comment posted on Alas a Blog put it well:

It’s the PRECEDENT it sets, NOT Jeb’s dubious involvement, NOT the right-to-lifers’ involvement, or Michael Schiavo’s dubious “saintliness” that’s the issue.

I have YET to read ONE coherent argument in favor of Schiavo having his wife killed by starvation. NOT one.

And this is from somebody who is pro-choice on abortion, but this case stinks to high heaven on the part of the “husband.”


Author: Jeff Lindsay

9 thoughts on “Terri Schiavo and the Right to Kill

  1. The second paragraph of the article makes me think that if he really loved his wife and wanted to do things in her best interest, he would allow testing to be done on her to see if maybe she can relearn things first. Then if it doesn’t work and they know that she’ll persist in the way she is now, then he can say, “Okay, we’ve done all we can. Now let her rest in peace.”

  2. I agree with you. I heard her father in an interview today, and he is convinced that Terri’s husband wants her dead to cover up his attempted murder. Remember, her husband is the one who stopped therapy that was appearing to help Terri – why do that unless he had some serious reason for wanting her silent? And now he’s doing all possible, with the help of the pro-death community, to have her killed. Sounds suspicious!

  3. My wife and I have an understanding (which we may now get in writing) that if either of us are in similar conditions, the other is to let us go.

    Are you suggesting that decision will make my wife a murderer?

  4. If her husband is guilty of attempted murder or, when she dies, actual murder, then he should be tried and convicted of it.

    I am not pro-death or part of the pro-death community. This is not a pro-life or pro-death issue. When it comes right down to it, this is a marriage issue. Abuse of a spouse is always wrong, but unplugging a person from machines keeping their body alive is not abuse. Terri will be fine. This life is eternal and she’ll be fine.

  5. Jeff,

    Hate to go up against you on this, but I will instead be praying that the courts will continue to decide in favor of the weight of medical authority and the right of the spouse to make life-or-death determinations in accordance with 18 previous court decisions in the case.

  6. Jeff, if what you are saying is true, then there has been a media cover up on this issue, since everything I’ve read or heard about it says that all the doctors who have examined her have concluded that she is in a “persistent vegetative state.” Do you think that there is a cover-up here, or are you perhaps taking some of the more sensationalistic less-reliable news sources as authoritative?

  7. http://www.meridianmagazine.com/books/040512mcconkie2.html
    (Bruce R. McConkie’s last days)
    Elder Packer visited with Mother and left. His instructions to the family were to yield to the will of the Lord. When Mother and Elder Packer left the room, Dad got up and with what little strength he had remaining, he undressed, pulled the covers back, and got into bed, thus signaling that the battle was over. Thereafter he declined food but would sometimes take a little water.

    -General Handbook of Instructions. 1989.

    When severe illness strikes, Church members should exercise faith in the Lord and seek competent medical assistance. However, when dying becomes inevitable, death should be looked upon as a blessing and a purposeful part of an eternal existence. Members should not feel obligated to extend mortal life by means that are unreasonable. These judgments are best made by family members after receiving wise and competent medical advice and seeking divine guidance through fasting and prayer.

    I’ve watched the videos of Terri. I’ll be putting a a power of attorney in place, as well as a living will that states my desire to not recieve nutrition should I ever be in a state similar to Terri.

  8. I sometimes wonder if we, as Latter-day Saints, often lean too much on the arm of the flesh. Whenever a child becomes ill, we head for a doctor to get drugs rather than use a more effective means of healing: a priesthood blessing.

    Often the maverick medical industry does too much to interfere with the normal course of life. Often (always?) they do this for money. Certainly the lawyers in Terri’s case are making a lot of money.

    Terri’s husband hasn’t been convicted of any crime in any court of law. It isn’t our place to judge him of any crime whatsoever at this point. But he is still Terri’s husband and I believe he should therefore have the “call” as to whether or not she is “kept alive” on life support (a feeding tube is, in fact, a life support mechanism).

    At any rate, we should all put down in writing what we want the doctors to do when we become incapacitated. I know both my wife and I would rather be released from this life under Terri’s condition than to be kept alive with a medical “miracle” feeding tube.


  9. Please realize that being a “Nobel Nominee” doesn’t mean anything at all since tens of thousands of people are eligible to nominate for the Nobel. In fact, anyone who is a professor in a life-sciences related field, at any university, can nominate themselves, and many do.

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