Court-Ordered Euthanasia: Euthanasia Advocates Claim It Is Not a Crime to Kill as Long as the Victims Cannot Speak for Themselves

By Gilmore, Jodie | The New American, April 4, 2005 | Go to article overview

Court-Ordered Euthanasia: Euthanasia Advocates Claim It Is Not a Crime to Kill as Long as the Victims Cannot Speak for Themselves


Gilmore, Jodie, The New American


Michael Schiavo married his wife, Terri, "until death do us part." Unfortunately, Michael wants to hurry that moment along. Normally, there would be outrage, not to mention criminal charges, against a husband who wanted to kill his wife. But because Terri has been brain-damaged since 1990, Michael's efforts have attracted euthanasia proponents who claim Terri's disablement entitles her to a mercy killing--though it is debatable how merciful it would be to remove her feeding tube so that she dies of starvation and dehydration over a period of about two weeks.

The resulting Florida court battle over what Terri's father calls "judicial homicide" has been bitter--and a woman's life hangs in the balance. Michael and his lawyers claim that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) and that she told Michael she would not want to live in such a state. Terri's family, on the other hand, claims that Terri is a "purposefully interactive, alert, curious, lovely young woman."

PVS Irrelevant

But while much of the public debate centers around whether Terri is indeed in a PVS or some other form of disabled condition, the real issue has been largely swept under the rug by the mainstream media. And that is that, PVS or not, Terri is a living human being; as such she is entitled to live her life to its natural end.

Terri is not "brain dead," as headlines and news stories describe her. In fact, 14 independent medical professionals (six of them neurologists) have given either statements or testimony that Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state. Her family foundation website notes that she "responds to stimuli, tries to communicate verbally, follows limited commands, laughs or cries in interaction with loved ones, physically distances herself from irritating or painful stimulation, and watches loved ones as they move around her. None of these behaviors are simple reflexes and are, instead, voluntary and cognitive. Though Terri has limitations, she does interact purposely with her environment."

Terri is not on life-support systems, such as a respirator, which could be construed as "over-zealous" treatment, disproportionate to the expected outcome. She does have a gastric feeding tube, which is connected only at meal times. But the existence of a feeding tube does not magically metamorphose Terri from a human to a "houseplant," which is what Michael's lawyer and euthanasia advocate, George Felos, compared her to.

Bobby Schindler, Jr., Terri's brother, has been fighting to save his sister's life for many years. "I never realized how insidious these death groups are," said Bobby, relating how, prior to his sister's crisis, he considered abortion the main issue on the pro-death agenda. Now he sees euthanasia as an equal threat to our country. One of the main ways the pro-euthanasia groups promote their agenda, said Schindler, is by presenting their victims as non-persons.

According to a spokesman for the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children, a British pro-life group, "The persistent vegetative state is increasingly referred to simply as the vegetative state. The use of vegetative in these expressions is gravely misleading since it suggests that a person in such a condition has somehow ceased to be human." (Emphasis in original.)

Diagnosis of PVS Prone to Error

It is useful to examine the definition of PVS because it shows that the definition permits multiple interpretations of its meaning. According to HDI's Brain Injury Glossary, PVS is "A long-standing condition in which the patient utters no words and does not follow commands or make any response that is meaningful." But what constitutes long-standing? What if responses aren't noticed? What is meaningful? Recent events and research point to the impossibility of answering these questions.

For example, consider Sarah Scantlin. Although not specifically diagnosed as in a PVS, Scantlin has spent 20 years in a nursing home after being struck by a drunk driver. …

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