The case of Terri Schiavo has been riveting public opinion for some time now. However, recent events have forced the issue into the foreground. Terri’s time may be running out.1
If her husband, Michael, has things his way, Terri’s feeding tube will be wrenched from her on March 18, resulting in her starvation and death. Right now, Terri’s parents are praying and fighting in court to keep her alive. The American TFP is part of a groundswell of reaction and is petitioning Gov. Jeb Bush and others to intervene.
Catholic teaching is very clear on the matter. A March 2004 statement of John Paul II to Participants in the International Congress titled: “Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State: Scientific Advances and Ethical Dilemmas” states Church teaching on the matter. Life is not measured by usefulness. Life is a gift of God. A living person who depends on others for his survival, be he a baby or a disabled adult, maintains the rights of a human person.
The statement reads:
I feel the duty to reaffirm strongly that the intrinsic value and personal dignity of every human being do not change, no matter what the concrete circumstances of his or her life. A man, even if seriously ill or disabled in the exercise of his highest functions, is and always will be a man, and he will never become a “vegetable” or an “animal.”
Even our brothers and sisters who find themselves in the clinical condition of a ‘vegetative state’ retain their human dignity in all its fullness. The loving gaze of God the Father continues to fall upon them, acknowledging them as his sons and daughters, especially in need of help.1
Thus to deprive Terri of her sustenance and hydration, constitutes euthanasia by omission and violates her religious freedom as a Catholic.2
Furthermore, recent scientific findings have changed the prevalent opinion on patients who suffer severe neurological injuries. Dr. Joy Hirsch, director of the Functional MRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical School and an author of the study, stated:
The most consequential thing about this is that we have opened a door, we have found an objective voice for these patients, which tells us they have some cognitive ability in a way they cannot tell us themselves. The patients are more human than we imagined in the past, and it is unconscionable not to aggressively pursue research efforts to evaluate them and develop therapeutic techniques.2
This is substantiated by those who know Terri. In a recent letter her father said:
Terri is NOT brain dead; Terri is NOT in a coma; she is NOT in a ‘persistent vegetative state;’ nor is she on ANY life-support system.3
Terri laughs, Terri cries, she moves, and she makes child-like attempts at speech with her mother and me. Sometimes she will say ‘Mom’ or ‘Dad’ or ‘yeah’ when we ask her a question… It tells us she is still here, she still knows us, and with therapy and time she can have some level of recovery.
Death by starvation is very slow, and extremely painful. As you must know, it is against the law to deliberately starve an animal to death. There are members of the Florida court who would not treat a dog the way they plan to treat my daughter.3
We must act now to prevent Terri’s starvation. The petition is addressed to Gov. Jeb Bush, Florida senate president Tom Lee and speaker of the house Allen G. Bense. If enough people sign, Terri Schiavo might be saved. Her life depends on your prayers and action. Please forward this alert to as many people as you possibly can.
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- Cf. http://www.vatican.va/holy_father/john_paul_ii/speeches/2004/
- As quoted by the Catholic Medical Association,