Is is all over but the crying? Should we just hang our heads in shame and turn our backs on Terri Schiavo and her impending, court ordered death or is there one more hurrah for life? Bob and Mary Schindler are continuing their valiant fight to save their daughers life. Last week, they filed a flurry of legal challenges they hope someone will hear. As February 22nd approaches (the day state Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer's stay of the order to remove Terri's feeding tube expires), the level of desperation in the Schindler home continues to rise.
How have we arrived at this moment in time? How can a country that prides itself on the protection of individual rights so totally miss the mark when it comes to the protection of the most important individual right of all...the right to life?
In the unlikely event you have totally missed this case; Terri Schiavo is the 41 year old woman in Florida who, 15 years ago, suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped beating due to a potassium imbalance brought on by an eating disorder.
According to her husband, Michael Schiavo, Terri would not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Since Terri did not have a living will, the courts have consistently ruled the feeding tube which keeps Terri hydrated and nourished must be removed it that is what her husband wishes.
Michael has moved on with his life to the point of fathering two children with another woman. He will not divorce Terri, a move which would allow her parents to take over the decision making power for their daughter, thus keeping her alive. Michael claims his motives are pure. He says he knows his wife would not want to live in any type of vegetative state and his fight to remove the tube is in his wife's best interest.
Terri's parents believe Michael is motivated by what is left of the multi-million dollar medical malpractice judgment their daughter received. On several occassions, Michael has successfully convinced the court system in Flordia to bar Terri's parents from visiting her and even from allowing a Catholic Priest to administer communion.
When Terri's parents asked for additional swallowing tests, Michael said no. When they asked permission for Terri to see a team of rehabilitative specialists who believe they can help her regain her abiity to swallow, Michael said no. He has won case after case with each case moving Terri a little closer to the grave.
On two occasions, Terri's feeding tube has been removed and the starvation process begun. The first time, the tube was reinserted by a judge's order. The second time the tube was removed the Florida Legislature stepped in enacting a bill that authorized Governor Jeb Bush to order the tube reinserted. Last year, that law which seemed to have rescued Terri from state sanctioned murder, was overturned by the Florida Supreme Court.
It is both tragic and ironic that at the very moment in history Terri may be allowed to die, the New York Times reported the results of a new brain-imaging study which suggests that thousands of brain-damaged people do hear and register what is going on around them. The results of the study, initially published in the journal "Neurology," show that brain-imaging technology such as magnetic resonance imaging, can be used to determine whether a person is in a "persistent vegetative state" or the brain is actually responding to stimuli and the patient is simply incapable of communicating the response.
The research needs more work and the results must be retested, but upon receiving the initial findings, Dr. Joseph Fins said, "This study gave me goose bumps, because it shows this possibility of this profound isolation, that these people are there, that they've been there all along, even when we've been treating them as if they're not." Dr. Fin is no fly-by-night medical flunky. He is chief of the medical ethics division of New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Terri's death will be a horribly slow, agonizing process. She will literally die of dehydration and starvation. This is a method of execution the Nazi's used for their most hated prisoners in the death camps during World War II.
If our so-called civilized society allows Terri to suffer this fate I believe it will mark the crossing of a line. We have already defined life in the womb as meaningless and we are now about to add life in the nursing home to the list of expendable humans.
Hear the Word of the Lord as spoken through His servant Moses, "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendents"(Deut. 30:19 NASV). God's Word is clear...Terri's life is linked to the life of our culture.
If Terri's feeding tube is removed, I will mark each day on my radio program by reading this verse as Terri's death draws near. I will mourn her passing but I will, in a much greater way, mourn our culture's choice of death over life. It is a decision which one day may very well lead to the death of our culture.