Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Schaivo Sentenced to Death torture

A Florida State Judge ordered that Terri Schaivo's feeding tube be removed at 1pm EST today! (Friday). The story goes that Michael Schaivo wants his wife, who he says is in a persistive vegetative state, to die a humane death. Question: has Mr. Schaivo or the judge that sentenced Terri to death actually considered what it's like to die of starvation and dehydration?
Nancy Harvey wrote an article in 1995 that is very applicable in these circumstances:

Having spent a fair amount of time dehydrated and malnourished, I can confidently say that hydration is far more pleasant than the opposite. Anyone who doubts this can forgo fluids for a few days or nourishment for a few weeks and experience the reality. And after my experiences with staph infections, I would want antibiotics even if I were dying of cancer.


My distant cousin, a man with cancer, died from the removal of his food and water. His sister was not allowed to be in on the decision, but she watched him die in torment. While he was still able to feel pain, he was racked by agonizing muscle spasms. When he was finally dead, he was so contorted that the undertaker was unable to make him presentable. His sister, a registered nurse, considered it the most horrible death she had ever seen.

Of course, those who would remove food and fluid do not wish to torture the helpless: therefore, I can only assume that they have no idea of the quiet torment of starvation and dehydration. Doctors may say that it doesn't hurt, but knowledge of suffering cannot be gained second-hand. I do not understand how a headache feels by reading about constricted blood vessels. I know how those blood vessels feel because I have a headache. My experiences with starvation and dehydration have not encouraged me to think of them as a comfortable alternative to the "bad death" of feeding tubes, nor as a superior rival to the swift, painless, merciful death promised by those who support euthanasia.


This is the great attraction of euthanasia: to spare ourselves the experience of the body's struggle with death. I believe that the only way to resist the seduction of euthanasia is to care-to nurse the terminal person with love, to manage pain better, to recognize and respond to the dying person as Ruth or Helen or Fred instead of as a problem to be solved. Dying people do not lose their personalities or their humanity. They still like lemon sherbet, fingernail polish, baseball news. They still need humor, consideration, loving caresses, and companionship.

Regardless, barring congressional intervention, Terri Schaivo is sentenced to die by what all accounts could be considered torture. Her crime? Years ago Terri's brain was injured due to anoxia secondary to anorexia and bulemia. Hardly a crime worthy of death by torture.

But in this day and age (ever since Roe v. Wade), we have embraced a culture of death. The slippery slope that we have set for ourselves, in our haste and arrogance to play the Creator, places the value of life on the currencies of convenience and functionality. Reminds me of an at-times corny, though prescient late 50s TV show; only with very real and deadly consequences for those found to be obsolete.


Peggy Noonan has a brilliant piece regarding the possible political ramifications in today's Opinion Journal

A Circuit Court Judge George Greer has ruled today that the feeding tube must come out. states:

If one is truly dying, nature will soon take its course. The target of the Judge George Greer, George Felos, and the Woodside Hospice crowd in Pinellas County, Florida is someone who is not dying "quickly enough," those whom ethicist Daniel Callahan unkindly termed "biologically tenacious."

I am biologically tenacious, aren't you? Knowing what I know now, I am extremely grateful that I have never lived under Judge George Greer's jurisdiction. I have chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, have an electric wheelchair, and have been through acute rehabilitation at the University of Utah Medical Center four times. In two of those extended stays in the hospital I was given the beautiful opportunity to learn how to swallow, speak, eat, and to continue with my life. I was treated by experts, a multidisciplinary medical team that had the experience to evaluate and rehabilitate me. All of these opportunities have been denied Terri Schiavo.

In previous orders by Judge Greer to remove Terri's feeding tube he based the orders on the testimonies of doctors who say Terri is in a persistent vegetative state(none of which were qualified medical rehabilitation experts). But doctors employed by the Schindlers to assess her condition conclude that with therapy, she could learn to eat and drink on her own and perhaps learn to talk. However, those assessments were not allowed in court by Judge Greer.

Dear readers, if you feel as passionately as do I regarding this subject, please call your congressman today and let him or her know how you feel, and that this abominable, cruel and unusual death sentence being imposed on Terri Schaivo cannot go uncontested.

(I will be bumping and editing this post as circumstances and time warrant. I will be travelling to the Chicago area this evening to spend time with my ailing father this weekend.. I will continue to blog as time permits.).