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Taking a stand against causing death

[Published in the Eastertide 2005 Voices:
Terri Schindler Schiavo died of dehydration and starvation on March 31, at age 41, almost two weeks after the court-ordered removal of the food and water she received through a feeding tube, and fifteen years after she suffered the brain damage that left her utterly dependent on others.

After more than two years of strenuous efforts by her parents and many others to keep her alive (and an earlier court-ordered withdrawal of food and water in 2003 which was reversed by the executive action of Florida Governor Jeb Bush), Mrs. Schiavo's food and water were finally withdrawn on March 18, as a result of a Florida court order, following out the wishes of her husband, Michael, who was her guardian.

Emergency actions of Congress, and other unprecedented efforts to reverse the court order during the succeeding days failed.

Also in the days following the removal of the feeding tube that sustained her life, many bishops - in the US and elsewhere - made statements in defense of restoring food and water to Terri Schiavo, recognizing that her case brought intense focus to an alarming moral crisis that affects the whole of society.

Women for Faith & Family issued a brief statement on March 2, during the vigorous battle to continue providing food and water to Terri Schiavo.

In 2003, when her food and water had been removed, we wrote letters on her behalf to Governor Bush. At that time we also created a web section on this case, which has serious implications for all disabled people and their families, and involves fundamental Catholic teaching on the value human life.

We will continue to update this web section with Church documents and bishops' statements that may be helpful to others who must encounter critical "end-of-life" situations and make crucial moral decisions.

The text of our March 2 statement follows: ]

For Immediate Release:

Contact:
Helen Hull Hitchcock
Women for Faith & Family
PO Box 300411, St. Louis, MO 63130
Ph: 314-863-8385; Fax: 314-863-5858
WFF web site: http://www.wf-f.org

Taking a stand against causing death

In their February 28 statement, "Continued Concerns for Terri Schiavo", the bishops of Florida have reiterated "our plea that Mrs. Schiavo continues to receive all treatments and care that will be of benefit to her". The statement followed a ruling by a Florida judge that her food and water are to be withdrawn March 18.

The bishops quote Pope John Paul II's forceful clarification on cases in which a person is said to be in a "persistent vegetative state", issued March 20, 2004. <http://www.wf-f.org/JPIILifeSustaining0304.html> The Pope said that providing nutrition and hydration to such persons ­ even by "artificial" means (feeding tube) ­ is not a "medical act"; rather it is ordinary care we are morally obliged to provide to every person; hence, it cannot be either refused or denied.

It is deeply ironic that the date Terri Schindler Schiavo's starvation and dehydration is set to begin is almost the precise anniversary of the Pope's uniquely forceful statement reaffirming the dignity and worth of every human life and of our obligation to care for our dependent brothers and sisters.

As the Pope said a year ago, it is not enough to "reaffirm the general principle" of the value of human life, "it is necessary to promote the taking of positive actions as a stand against pressures to withdraw hydration and nutrition as a way to put an end to the lives of these patients". (§ 6. Original emphasis.)

Leaving aside all the serious moral and legal implications involved in this distressing case, refusal to give to Terri Schindler Schiavo the food and water that sustains her life extends beyond one vulnerable individual and those who love her.

This refusal to provide food and water, precisely intended to cause the death of an innocent disabled human being, is an intolerable injustice ­ an injustice that will set a precedent that puts the lives of all people who may similarly be subjected to the decision of an unjust judge in grave jeopardy.

Women for Faith & Family
March 2, 2005

Statements by the Flordia Bishops can be found at http://www.flacathconf.org --

Continued Concerns for Terri Schiavo http://www.flacathconf.org/Health/Schaivo%20Statement%202-28-05.htm
 
Statement of Bishop Robert N. Lynch http://www.dioceseofstpete.org/content.php?P=119

Florida Bishops on Terri Schiavo http://www.flacathconf.org/health/#Concerning%20Terri%20Schiavo


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PO Box 300411
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