A friend of man, a young man in his 20s, writes to ask why all the fuss about Terri Schiavo. His words are quizzical, not hostile. He has not followed the case closely, but no who reads a newspaper or listens to TV or radio in the last ten days could escape it either.
I understand the implications that this has on other moral issues. However, if you were to take her case on a single case basis, I don't see the big deal on "pulling the plug" on her. For those who claim we are "playing God" by taking the food tube out of her, it can be said that we are "playing God" by putting the feeding tube in her. If she were an animal in nature, and she was not capable of feeding herself, she would be dead. Basically, we are artificially keeping her alive, similar to that of life support. There appears to be no way for her to regain normality in her life, and there appears to be no recovery. The fact that we are putting a feeding tube into a woman that apparently did not like food in the first place, seems ironic in and of itself. I was curious as to what your opinion is of this, because I feel like I should be on the side of her living. I feel like I'm missing something here.
Here’s the real problem, as I see it. Up until a week ago yesterday, Terri was as healthy as a person with her disabilities could be. She was not brain dead. She was severely disabled. She could breathe on her own, she could move her head, she could make various sounds. Many people watching the video believe she could respond on a minimal basis. There is significant disagreement about both her true condition and her prospects for the future. Her parents were willing to take care of her, but her husband (who is living with another woman and has two children by her) wanted her to die. So tonight she looks like a concentration camp victim. For eight and now nine days, she has been deprived of food and water and is slowly starving to death--a truly horrible way to die. The point is, she was not dying until food was taken from her. There is no written document that states what her wishes truly were. It’s all hearsay.
We all have to choose whether or not to be on the side of life. It’s not as if she had cancer and like many cancer patients, lost her appetite at the end. If life is truly precious because every person is made in the image of God, then one mark of a civilized society is how we treat the “least of these” in our midst. You measure humanity not by how we treat the healthy and strong but by how we treat the sick and elderly, the unborn, the ill, and the severely handicapped. And as President Bush has said, we ought to err on the side of life.
Some people could ask, Why does Terri Schiavo matter more the suffering people of the Sudan or those who died in the tsunami disaster? It's a fair question. I don't believe Terri Schiavo is "more valuable" than anyone else. I tried to think of it this way. Is Terri more important that tsunami victim number 17,428? The answer is no, even though I know quite a bit about Terri Schiavo and nothing at all about number 17,428. He (or she) was someone's son or daughter. They too must grieve such a tragic loss. And I do not doubt that people in other parts of the world where death comes easily must wonder why we Americans make such a fuss about one woman dying in a hospice in Florida.
The only real answer I can think of is that God raises up people at crucial moments in history, and those people, like Esther of old, come into the kingdom "for such a time as this." The only problem is, Esther saved her own people. Terri Schiavo has no Esther to come to her aid.
I believe that this is one of those watershed moments in our culture that will define us one way or the other. Without some miracle, Terri Schiavo will die in the next few days. Her death diminishes all of us because it is cruel and unnecessary. But it is made much worse because it makes it that much easier to pull the plug on the next person and the next and the next. I am saddened by the fact that so many people around the nation prefer to look the other way. But I think this is the fruit of the abortion culture. Once you decide that life in its earliest stages can be destroyed by personal choice, it’s a small step to destroying unwanted life in its last stages also. Down in Florida, we're taking that small step. One woman will die, and it will be easier the next time and the next and the next.
That’s why I think Terri Schiavo matters.
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