There has been a lot of attention given lately to the Terri Schiavo case and all of the details involved between the husband, her parents, the Florida government and the Florida courts. The latest appears to be the news that the Florida courts have ruled in such a way that her feeding tube will be removed today, Feb 22nd. Though she is likely to have it reinserted after further court battles, it is a real set-back nonetheless. Any period of court mandated starvation is barbaric.
We must be a culture which affirms life, even in the most difficult of cases. A culture which refuses to acknowledge the inherent value of life at all of its stages, especially at the margins, will become a culture in which the margins will take over. A culture of death defines more and more human beings in more and more circumstances as expendable.
It is not the case that an exception here and an exception there will relieve the political and ethical pressure inherent in these situations. Instead, they will set a precedent which will make it easier to set the bar lower in the next scenario. If we are willing to starve someone to death who is breathing on her own now, will be begin suffocating the elderly who cannot breathe without assistance but who can feed themselves?
End of life decisions make for notoriously difficult decisions, but that is exactly why we should draw a line defining life well in the distance and not shy away from the complications. If we cannot draw that line defining life now, then we will find ourselves not knowing where that line is at all and the unthinkable will become the next matter-of-fact headline. Making difficult decisions now as a culture will help abate barbaric choices in the future.
This post is not a prayer for the future, it is a prayer for the present. Terri Schiavo is starving to death right now. This is not a prayer just for our children and their children and the choices they will face in the future, it is a prayer for our parents and grandparents in the here and now.
Lord Have Mercy.
The removal of the tube has been postponed one day.