- The Washington Times - Friday, April 1, 2005

The Terri Schiavo tragedy

For what it’s worth: On March 31, 1976, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that coma patient Karen Ann Quinlan could be disconnected from her respirator. It was the first U.S. case to establish a right to cease medical treatment based on the U.S. Constitution’s (implied) “right of privacy.”

DANIEL P. QUINN

St. Petersburg, Fla.

Those who appear to stoically accept the judicially decreed fatal dehydration of Terri Schiavo belie an unsettling apprehension that something abysmally wrong has taken place.

This stoicism is mostly because they continue to seek comfort in the dubious certainty that at least Mrs. Schiavo did not endure any suffering as she faded into eternity. This is something that, I am afraid, only Mrs. Schiavo knew, in spite of what science may proclaim today.

This self-assurance probably serves as a temporary absolving method by which they may alleviate some measure of guilt at having turned their faces away from what was in the end the slow murder of an innocent human being.

We also can speculate, to no avail, about Michael Schiavo’s motivations for holding fast to the prerogative of denying his wife the opportunity to live.

Yet neither Mr. Schiavo nor anyone else can escape his impending encounter with the one to whom we will all have to answer for our personal stance on the matter. Of that we can be absolutely certain, for Terri Schiavo’s course also will be ours someday.

Godspeed, Terri.

MIGUEL A. GUANIPA

Whitinsville, Mass.

Wesley Pruden is right on target with “The story ends, the story begins” (Pruden on Politics, yesterday).

Human life is very cheap these days. It’s a sad time in our country when some decide that food and water are “extraordinary means” to keep alive a helpless individual who could and should receive help.

You have to be pretty low to pick on someone like her. Also pathetic was to see and hear Michael Schiavo’s mouthpiece on national TV proudly proclaim that the woman he had just helped dehydrate to death “died with dignity” and then try to defend it.

What was done to Mrs. Schiavo was depraved and barbaric — she should have been ministered to rather than murdered by dehydration. No dog, criminal or terrorist would be treated this way.

It seems to me that in the eyes of her husband and the courts, her crime was “wrongful life.” How logical is it to believe an adulterous husband would look out for his unwanted wife’s wishes?

My sympathies and prayers go to her parents, Mary and Bob Schindler — what an ordeal they went through. I pray that they lean hard on God and that He shower them with His love, mercy and grace; may God also heal our nation and give us a renewed and right value for human life.

DEAN GILKEY

Woodbridge, Va.

I admire Michael Schiavo. He spent the first seven years after his wife’s collapse doing everything imaginable to save her — even training as a nurse.

In the face of enormous pressure and even death threats, he was determined to carry out his wife’s wishes not to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state with no real consciousness or chance of recovery.

The easy path for him would have been to divorce her, walk away and give her to her parents, but he couldn’t do that because he knew they would not respect her wishes to die with dignity if she were ever in such a condition. He did not take the easy path. He bravely fought for what he knew she wanted.

WILLIAM STOSINE

Iowa City

It is outrageous that upon the death of Terri Schiavo, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush offered his condolences only to her parents and siblings. Conspicuous in its absence was any expression of sympathy to Mrs. Schiavo’s husband, the ugly and obvious implication being an unfounded belief that Michael Schiavo is not grieving and that he is a villain in this mess.

Pursuant to the Schiavo fiasco, Mr. Bush has a great deal for which to make amends. He sought to extend unconstitutionally the long arm of government into an intensely personal, private, intimate matter. It never would have come to the attention of the public had it not been for the unseemly, ugly disagreement between Mrs. Schiavo’s husband and her parents over how to deal with what those who are skilled in medicine concluded was a persistent vegetative state from which she could not recover.

One would hope Florida’s leader would have the character and decency to reach out magnanimously to all in an effort to heal the deep divisions those of his ilk have created over the Schiavo matter. His statement of “compassion,” however, makes it clear that he wishes to continue the divisiveness, the battle and the rancor.

OREN M. SPIEGLER

Upper Saint Clair, Pa.

Regarding the Terri Schiavo tragedy: In the end, Michael Schiavo and Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, will have to live with the questions, “Did I do the right thing” and “Was it in Terri’s best interest?” If nothing else, this entire dilemma points up the need for people to consider filing two important documents.

Those would be the living will and the even more credible power of attorney. It’s too bad something that should have been a private matter turned into a family-fueled, media-fueled and politically fueled circus.

HERBERT W. STARK

Massapequa, N.Y.

March 31, 2005, was a day that will be burned into the hearts of many people. It marks the end of a 15-year struggle for the life of an innocent woman taken away at the order of a judge. Terri Schiavo was innocent and did nothing to deserve her cruel death.

The real problem has nothing to do with Mrs. Schiavo per se. The underlying problem here is that in America today, something has happened that all our Founding Fathers agreed should never happen. The judicial branch has become the most powerful branch of the government.

James Madison expressed in the Federalist Papers that this should never happen. It is not what America is about; it is not the best thing for democracy. It is not for the courts to decide when an innocent person’s life should be ended. Our courts should not be the most powerful branch.

How do the courts come to the conclusion that they have the power to decide whether the death penalty applies to minors or not, or the execution of an innocent woman? These are sad times for America.

VICTOR HENDERSON

Glen Burnie, Md.

In yesterday’s Commentary column “Benchmarks of imbalance and death,” Linda Chavez makes a point very well when she says: “Those who wanted to end Terri Schiavo’s life did everything in their power to dehumanize her. But Terri was not a ‘vegetable.’ She was not ‘brain dead.’ ”

Terminology is used effectively by the culture-of-death crowd. An endless stream of propaganda comes from the liberal media. We on the pro-life side should expose it and counter it and even ridicule it as they ridicule the truth.

Intellectual-sounding terminology such as “persistent vegetative state” cannot have a precise definition, and at any rate, the definition cannot be stretched wide enough to cover Mrs. Schiavo.

Even if the term were changed to “minimally conscious state,” it could not define a demarcation between human and vegetable. The scientific fact is that between conception and natural death, the person is never a vegetable.

A main function of government is to protect people who cannot protect themselves. That’s why we have entities such as the Food and Drug Administration. People like the late Terri Schiavo need to be protected from people like her husband Michael.

Evidence regarding his behavior and statements ought to be considered thoroughly and investigated, and the legitimacy of his standing as his wife’s guardian should have been re-evaluated. One would have to be blind not to see that Mr. Schiavo had not been looking out for his wife’s best interest.

All the arguments in favor of starving and dehydrating Mrs. Schiavo ultimately boiled down to “quality of life.” Some people think they can define a quality of life that excludes some other people and that only those whose quality is above that arbitrary definition are human. Talk about playing God. The Nazis under Hitler eliminated people who didn’t come up to the state’s arbitrary definition, including the physically or mentally disabled; the elderly; and racial, ethnic, and religious minority populations.

CHARLES J. MCCARTHY

Rockville

Phone: 301-871-171

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