LegalWorks Apostolate - Counsel for a Culture of Life

A Sad Anniversary

By Patricia Pitkus Bainbridge

Tomorrow will mark the sixth anniversary of Terri Schindler Schiavo's tragic death from court-ordered dehydration. It was the first time in our country's history that a judge ordered a feeding tube be removed from a disabled person. In previous high profile cases (e.g. Nancy Cruzan and Christine Busalacchi) the courts ruled that feeding tubes could be removed, but not that they must be.

Most pro-lifers will remember Terri and the battle for her life. While her parents and siblings fought hard to take care of her, her adulterous husband wanted her dead. After a long battle, Judge George Greer ? influenced by a few heretical clergy?eventually sided with Terri's husband and ordered her to be slowly euthanized.

And while we are rightly outraged by her forced death, there are others who think it was the right thing to do. These are the people who believe that if one does not have "quality of life" (whatever that is) or are suffering, they are really better off dead?even when that death is not desired by the person in question.

Unfortunately, we have no idea of the number of elderly, disabled, or seriously ill individuals who have been dehydrated to death. We typically become aware of such cases only when there are legal challenges or the information somehow becomes public.

When it comes to euthanasia via lethal injection we know even less. However, there is no doubt it occurs under the cloak of silence.

As the December 7, 1998 issue of Time reported: "The dirty little secret about euthanasia is that it's common in hospitals, hospices and nursing homes even in the 49 states where it's illegal. It just isn't talked about. A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine this year found that 1 in 21 doctors surveyed had administered a lethal injection to end suffering. A doctor in the anonymous survey reported having done it 150 times."

Sadly, there is no reason to believe these shocking figures from almost 13 years ago have decreased. In fact, with a cultural emphasis on "quality of life" and avoiding suffering at all costs, it is likely they have increased drastically.

We need to step up our efforts to ensure that every human life, no matter his or her size or "condition" is valued and protected.

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