2005-03-31

The Execution of Terri Schiavo

revjmike's blog
OK. I admit it. I only used that title to have a better chance of getting someone's attention. I don't believe what happened to Terri Schiavo was the same thing as an execution. I do not, however, consider it to have been accidental or passive.

Terri Schiavo was as alive as you are; but she was allowed to starve to death because she was unable to feed herself, or even to swallow. If she were in the Commonwealth of Kentucky the feeding tube would still be inserted unless she has a living will that stated what her "husband" said were her wishes. In other words, Kentucky's law says you are assumed to want to stay alive unless there is proof you wanted it otherwise. Not so in Florida, however! This, in itself, is part of what makes this situation interesting and difficult. In Oregon Michael Schiavo could probably have even persuaded a doctor to prescribe something that would have "finished her off" in a very short period of time since they have an "assisted suicide" law in that state.

When did we decide that life is not worth living unless it meets some special criterion or criteria? Do I deserve to live if I am blind, deaf, or mute? Do I deserve to live if my IQ is below 100, below 75, below 50, below 25? What about physical disabilities? Should the authorities say I shouldn't be fed if I am awake, talking, and breathing, but cannot move from one place to another without help, nor eat on my own, as in the case of Christopher Reeve?

The fact is that Terri Schiavo was alive. She may or may not have been able to understand or even perceive the world around her. The stories surrounding her tend to lean toward her being totally unable to determine what was going on in the world surrounding her, more or less like a sponge in the ocean. Yet does that mean it wasn't a life? Does it mean she should be allowed to starve to death? Does it mean the state should be involved in this determination of starvation?

What if she really did know what was happening in the world around her, but just couldn't react to it "normally" so that others could determine she was actually cognizant? Would that make her less or more alive than someone who was totally unaware of that world? Would her life be less or more valuable if her mind were working, but trapped in a body that would not allow her to make that fact known to those around her?

You see, I am one who knows that death is simply a part of the process of what we call "life." I heard someone say on the radio this morning that they hoped to keep Terri from dieing. How? Were they going to freeze her until some method for restoring brain cells was developed; and even then how would they keep her from coming to terms with death at some point in time? ALL DIE! Everyone ends up as dust. There is no escaping this finality in these clay shells in which we are housed.

We in the "first" world tend to think of medical help as a greater source than it really is. It can PROLONG life, perhaps; but it cannot keep us alive forever. That is not part of the way the world works.

So Terri Schiavo is dead at the hands of those who refused to let her be fed. It seems to me this is not what is meant by using artifical means to keep someone alive. Some folk who have lost their esophgases due to cancer or burns use tubes just like Terri's to feed themselves. The fact that she was fed in this manner did not mean her life was of less meaning than someone who could feed themselves.

We have become a culture of youth where those who aren't productive are presumed to be of less value than those who are more productive. We are not generally angry about abortion nor euthanasia. We are unwilling to take the action necessary to keep mass starvation from occuring in some parts of the world because of the effect it would have upon our own economic status.

I grieve Terri Schiavo though I never knew her because she represents a life that was considered worthless. Thus the Tutsis or American slaves were considered in various situations. This is the attitude of the Arab highjackers who flew into the World Trade Center about the value of their own lives and the lives of the thousands of people occupying those towers.

Life is always a gift to be accepted. What we make of it depends on us, upon God, and upon those around us. Terri's parents were giving her a better life than she otherwise would have enjoyed. May we accept our situations in life as gifts from God to be enjoyed or even tolerated, but always knowing that in life or in death we belong to God, to be loved by God, and to be used by God.

Mike

1 comment:

Kshetra said...

Mike Mansfield,

perhaps, you do not remember me but less than a year ago, you left a comment on my blog. of course, though I didn't follow your advice then, I've now started writing on a regular basis. it's pure crap, that I post, but it does have it's trivial pleasures. so anyways, I had searched out your blog to tell you a thank you.

I am not old enough and therefore not wise enough to actually leave a comment on the serious issue you put forward. but I don't know if I can ever completely agree with you on your views on euthanasia. But then I am young, and therefore perfectly incapable of thinking the same consistently!

Still, there is one thing I'll say, allanis & Moazart, you have excellent taste in music!