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Okay…Let’s talk about Terri Schiavo…Again!

(Part 2 follow-up)

Written by JB Williams

©2005-03-06

On February 24th, a few days before a Florida judge issued Terri Schiavo a stay of execution until the 18th of March, I wrote for the first time on a subject I admittedly knew little about in a piece titled Okay… I’ll talk About Terri Schiavo… Once!

As I stated in that piece, I was writing in response to reader mail asking me to take a position on a national debate that I had spent little time researching. Both before and since, I have been inundated with mail from folks on both sides of the debate, most of whom, knew little more about the matter, many of whom knew even less than I did.

The purpose of my piece was to first flush out the real facts for my own benefit, second point out how little people knew about the topic despite their emotionally charged rantings, and last to point out the short comings of our judiciary process in such a matter.

I have been called about every name under the sun for appearing to not take a side in that article, yet I did take a side, the only side I could take, Terri’s side. Not her husband’s side, not her parent’s side, though I stated clearly that I related to their position best, not the court’s side as they had failed the family miserably and not the people’s side, but Terri’s side…

A dear writer friend, Joan Swirsky wrote probably the best piece I have read on the topic in her article Why Terri (and All Compromised Children) Should Live , in which she so eloquently places the debate on the proper footing.

I have also since received and reviewed the full medical report ordered by the court, issued by Dr. Jay Wolfson, in which he states that Terri is for all practical purposes, unable to sustain life on her own.

Not being a doctor myself, I asked a medical professional in whom I have great trust, to review the file and provide an open unbiased medical opinion of that report, regarding Terri’s current condition only. In short, that opinion states that Terri’s life is only threatened by her inability to swallow food orally, therefore requiring a feeding tube, not life support in traditional terms.

This goes to the heart of one of the statements I made in my first piece. We are not talking about unplugging Terri from artificial life support here…but rather denying her the same nourishment necessary to sustain any of our lives…

Do you have any idea how many people in this country require a feeding tube for one reason or another? Many of them otherwise, very healthy. Unable to take nourishment orally, is this the factor for deciding who should or should not live now?

Then I have received a mountain of documentation concerning how Terri may have actually entered her current condition, and it appears that certain state agencies in Florida have some 30 pieces of evidence now being entered into the court proceedings, questioning the quality of her husband’s treatment of her and care, before, during and since her collapse some 14 years ago…

Then there is the issue of husband Michael Schiavo, who has long since attempted to move on with his life, Terri clearly having already outlived her usefulness in his world.

But as so eloquently stated by Joan Swirsky, later confirmed in medical terms by the physicians I asked to review Terri’s file, Terri’s life still has great value to others in this world, her parents and many of us who believe life in all forms has value, great value.

In short, the more I learned about this case, the more amazed I became that there even was a case. That any court would even consider denying Terri simple basic nourishment, for any reason, regardless of her husband’s motives…

It became very clear to me that we are not talking about euthanasia, assisted death by medical procedure. It became clear that we are not even talking about letting God decide her fate by unplugging her from life support keeping her heart pumping, her lungs breathing and her kidneys functioning…

We are talking about murder by starvation, plain and simple. Terri’s husband no longer has any use for Terri. She is no longer the young vibrant carefree model he once pledged his life to. He has found another to fill that void in his life and Terri is standing in his way of personal happiness, so in his mind, it is time for her to die.

Meanwhile, Terri’s life remains of great value to those who have loved her since birth, those who never loved her for her outward beauty, her ability to cook and clean, to perform the expected duties of a wife. Those who simply loved her for who she was, their daughter, their friend, loved her for who she still is today in their hearts and minds.

I have now seen enough of the allegations concerning the husband’s questionable behavior throughout this affair. I have seen the medical report ordered by the court, and the review by independent physicians I trust personally.

This matter could not possibly be any more cut and dried than it is… To remove Terri’s feeding tube is no different than denying a plate of food to millions sitting in nursing homes across this country, just because they are physically unable to pick up a fork or spoon and feed themselves…or unable to swallow…

My father has Alzheimer’s and while he remains able to feed himself today, there well may come a day when he is not able to anymore. If and when that day comes, I will happily help him eat… When he no longer knows my name or my face, I will remind him daily. When he is no longer able to manage even restroom visits, I will gladly manage them for him, as he managed mine before I learned to manage them myself…

This is all a part of life…the caring for each other, those who represent great value in our lives.

To deny Terri’s parents the chance to care for her on the basis that her husband no longer has a use for her should not be a debate, it should be a crime…

This matter is just that simple… I stand for Terri, who still has great value in this world, who only requires love and care and basic nourishment to sustain life…all the same things you and I require… I fear what our society has become if we allow her to be starved to death… Who will be next?

At the end of the day, it seems to me that every life is precious to someone and it should be. We must respect every life, no matter how imperfect, or we will risk respecting none… Some things can be subjective… The value of life is not one of them!

"Newspaper look" derived from work ©Seattle Sentinel   
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