What If This Was Our Daughter or Sister or Wife? What If It Was “Only” A Stranger’s Life?
My wife heard last night the sad and horrible news of the death of one of her dearest friend’s daughter. We grieve for that wonderful family, whose kindness to others – including my wife – has never known any limits. Having been fortunate enough to be present at the birth of our three children, I cannot imagine anything more painful than having to bury one’s child.
And that leads to a related story about Terri Schindler-Schiavo, which has been in and out of the news for a while now. Last week, however, a posting by Greg Wallace got my attention. Here is an excerpt:
She is not dying. She has no terminal illness. She is not in a coma. She is not on life-support equipment. She is not alone, but rather has loving parents and siblings ready to care for her for the rest of her life. She has not requested death.
Yet a battle rages regarding whether Terri Schindler-Schiavo should be starved. She has sustained brain injuries and cannot speak or eat normally. Nevertheless, the only tube attached to her is a small, simple, painless feeding tube that provides her nourishment directly to her digestive system.
Her legal guardian is her husband, who already has another woman — by whom he also has children. He wants Terri’s feeding tube removed. Of course, he could simply allow her to be cared for by her parents and siblings, and get on with his life, but he refuses…
Some say that Terri’s family should “let her go.” But this is not a matter of “letting her go,” because she isn’t “going” anywhere. If, however, she is deprived of nourishment, then she would slowly die in the same way that any of us would slowly die if we were deprived of nourishment. It is called starvation.
What makes this an even more poignant human love story is the content of a written settlement offer made by Terri’s family to her husband, Michael, on October 26, 2004. You can find the letter here. In that letter, her immediate family offers to:
Take Terri home and care for her at their own expense.
Never to seek money from her husband, Michael, including from past malpractice awards. He would also be able to keep all assets from their married life.
Sign any legal documents allowing her husband to divorce her, should he desire that, while still allowing him to retain all rights to her estate upon her natural death in the future as if he was still married to her.
Allow Michael to retain visitation rights, if he so wished.
Forgo any and all future financial claims against Michael.
Michael has rejected their offer; the only acceptable outcome for him is to see Terri dead.
The love of this family for their daughter and sister is reinforced in postings here and here by fellow Rhode Islander, Chuck Nevola.
I would also encourage you to return to the family website for more on this case.
Going back to Greg’s original posting and taking the issue to a more philosophical level:
If the courts permit that to happen, then why should that permission apply only in Terri’s case? There would be no way to limit it to her case alone. Countless others would follow, and their deaths would be described as “letting them die” instead of “killing them.” Where, indeed, does the state get the authority to starve people? Court decisions permitting this lack all authority, as Pope John Paul II teaches in “The Gospel of Life” (section 72). These decisions cannot be obeyed, because they are not binding on the conscience and are in fact acts of violence.
A horrible day is upon us: Michael Schiavo will have the legal right to begin starving Terri to death today.
This ghastly outcome should be neither the values nor the law of America. But it is now on the verge of becoming just that.
What would be our response if this was our daughter, our sister or our wife? Could our response be muted just because Terri Schindler-Schiavo is a “stranger” to all of us? Why should there be any difference?
Or, consider this: What if, by some awful twist of fate, one day you personally were in Terri’s place and your family was stopped from saving your life, caring for you, and showing tender love for you? And what if everyone else was “too busy” to care?
I hope our society will find a greater respect for the preciousness of all human life – regardless of whether they are family, friends or someone we have never met. Let’s begin by saving Terri Schindler-Schiavo’s life.