Prayers For Terri

March 15, 2005

Absent a further court order, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube will be removed on Friday, and she will starve — painfully, many say — to death. Doesn’t it strike you as eerie that the court relied on the testimony of an “estranged” husband in making its decision?

Doesn’t it strike you as horrifying that Terri may very well want to live but they are going to cause her to die, not by removing a respirator, but a feeding tube?

Do you really believe that Terri’s husband, Michael, who is living with another woman with whom he sired two children, is refusing to relinquish guardianship of Terri to her parents because he is irreversibly committed to carrying out Terri’s wishes?

Do you believe that disabled, but conscious and self-breathing people who can’t physically feed themselves or verbally express their desire to live, but who have left no written legal directions as to their destiny in such circumstances, should be starved to death?

How likely is it that Terri, now only 41 years old, would have discussed her wishes as to life support with her husband in 1990, when she would have only been in her mid-twenties and with no inkling of life-threatening or disabling medical conditions?

Without question, even young people discuss these unpleasant matters when they go through the process of estate planning. But Terri didn’t even have a will, much less a “living will” or health care power of attorney. If Terri had been so strong willed and adamant on the subject, why didn’t she make sure to get her papers in order?

Even if Terri did tell her husband she wouldn’t want to be kept alive “artificially” in the event of her incapacitation, is it likely she would have been so explicit as to cover all possible scenarios (like she might have in a lawyer’s office), such as those in this case? If you actually believe she did express her wishes to Michael, do you think she was so thorough and unambiguous as to make clear her irrevocable desire to die even if it meant starving to death when she could breathe on her own?

What is the urgency, other than financial, to end Terri’s life, especially when her parents have expressed a desire that she be kept alive and have agreed to care for and assume guardianship over her? Do you really believe that Terri’s parents would insist on keeping her alive if they believed she were miserable and didn’t want to go on living?

Were you aware that some believe that suspicious circumstances surround Terri’s injuries and that discrepancies exist concerning her medical condition, such as whether she suffered a heart attack?

Did you know that not long ago the Florida Department of Children and Families sought the court’s permission to intervene in Terri’s case for the purpose of requesting a delay to give it time to investigate abuse allegations?

From what I’ve read, while Terri is severely disabled, she’s not in a so-called vegetative state, she’s not in a coma, and she’s not medically terminal — except by court decree of starvation. What if, as Terri’s parents believe, Terri truly does want to go on living but just can’t verbally express it? Would it be ethical in that event to starve her just because she can’t feed herself?

If not, then on what basis has the system decided to terminate her life? Surely we can agree that it’s entirely possible that Terri does want to live even in her current condition and even if she expressed a general desire 15 years ago that she would not want “heroic measures” performed to save her in certain circumstances.

Given Terri’s reported responsiveness, her ability to breathe on her own, and the doubt and suspicious circumstances surrounding this case, shouldn’t the question be resolved in favor of life, especially given what we’ve seen recently, for example, with the comatose patient regaining consciousness after 19 years?

I find it haunting that we live in a culture of death where the presumption seems to be against finding that a human being would want to go on living and the burden of proof is on those promoting life.

Terri Schiavo and her parents need and deserve our prayers.