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Christian
English Major
Writer
Thinker of odd things

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"survival of the fittest:" this is where evolutionary ideals are taking us [Monday, Mar. 21, 2005, 2:31 pm]

I've been unable to post this during the past few days, but it's finally letting me:

Sentenced to Death by Starvation
By Eva Ellsworth
Mar 14, 2005, 00:38



On the last Friday in February, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer ordered that Terri Schindler Schiavo's feeding tube be removed on March 18, 2005. To summarize her case: Terri became comatose 15 years ago. Her husband, who lives with his fiancée (with whom he has two children), claims this is the result of a heart attack caused by a chemical imbalance due to bulimia. However, a March 7, 1991, bone scan showed a head injury and other skeletal injuries possibly caused by abuse.

Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, received a malpractice award of over a million dollars for her care based on a lifespan of 50 years. After he won the lawsuit, Michael Schiavo said Terri had told him she "wouldn't want to live that way." To the best of my knowledge, no one else testified that she expressed such a wish. There is no living will or other written directive to that effect.

According to Terri's family, the Schindlers, Michael Schiavo has refused to let her receive therapy or rehabilitation since 1992, despite medical records that indicate she is responsive. He also refuses to allow caretakers to clean her teeth or treat infections, refuses to have her wheelchair fixed, will not permit caretakers to let Terri leave her room, attend mass or nursing home functions or listen to music and has ordered that her window shades be kept closed. If the Schindlers' allegations are true, as "guardian," Michael Schiavo is doing all he can to prevent improvement in Terri's condition.

It is unconscionable that a person who does not have Terri Schindler Schiavo's best interests at heart could be permitted to remain her guardian. Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, argued that the question of guardianship was "irrelevant," because the court had ruled that Terri did not wish to live in her current state. How can a court rule to starve an innocent woman to death on the sole basis of one man's statement? Very convenient for a man who now has over a million dollars and a new woman.

Unfortunately, Florida law permits the removal of a feeding tube from a non-terminally ill person who has not left a written directive if the person is deemed to be in a persistent vegetative state. According to the New York Times article, "Signs of Awareness Seen in Brain Injured Patients," as many of 30% of people diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state may be minimally conscious, a condition from which recovery is more probable. Additionally, some patients have almost completely recovered from persistent vegetative states. This month, Sara Scantlin, who had been in a vegetative state since 1984, woke up and was able to speak with her parents.

How can a society allow such people to be sentenced to death by starvation? The Third Reich had no problem doing so: In October 1939, Hitler initiated the T-4 Program to exterminate the mentally ill, (a group that included those who spoke out against the government), in a letter authorizing euthanasia for those whose conditions were judged incurable. Initially, this was done by starvation. Pastor Braune, a protestant clergyman trying to assist the victims, wrote, "Visits to the institutions in Saxony plainly show that the mortality rate is being increased by withholding food."

Hitler's program of exterminating "unproductive citizens" was eventually expanded to include Jews, Gypsies, and other groups. Will that be duplicated here? Will court decisions expand laws such as the one in the Schiavo case to include those with diminished capacity, chronic illness, or other disabilities? In our health-worshiping society, some see those with chronic illnesses and disabilities only as something "that makes our health insurance more expensive." This is already being applied to those whose behavior is bad for their health, but how long will it take until that attitude affects people with non-behavior-related medical conditions? It is a scary thought. Already, many with disabilities report being pressured to sign "Do Not resuscitate" orders (DNRs) even when hospitalized for non-life-threatening conditions.

Another thing to think about is, if someone voluntarily signs a living will, what if he changes his mind after becoming incapacitated? Such individuals are aware of other people and their surroundings. The life force is still present, and the will to survive is our strongest drive.

If there were justice in this case, Terri Schindler Schiavo would not be sentenced to a slow, painful death. She would have a guardian appointed for her who would see that she had everything possible to help her recover. In the State of the Union address, President Bush stated, "Because a society is judged by how it treats the weak and the vulnerable, we must strive to build a culture of life." Starving and dehydrating an innocent, disabled woman is not the way to do so

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