In the past week, many of you have been following our prayer efforts surrounding Terri Schiavo in Florida. For those of you who might not recognize the name, Terri is the woman had her feeding tube removed by her estranged husband this evening. The media is painting this as a clear cut case of ending someone’s suffering, and in light of that, a few of you have gently asked if we were really sure about where we stood in this situation. I’m not sending this to my entire address book; just about fifty of you who I know love us and have supported us over the years, both emotionally and financially, in order to give you a clear picture of why we are actively praying for Terri’s life.
This afternoon, a good friend asked me “Are you sure it’s not just Terry’s time to go and the Lord wants to take her?”. To be fair, I’m not sure about that – but I do know if the Lord wanted to take her, he wouldn’t need Judge Greer’s help. Most of the confusion centers around a misunderstanding of Terri’s state.
She is brain damaged, not brain dead. While on first reading that may seem like a technicality, there is a vast difference. She responds to music and to her parents’ voice.
She is not on life support as most people would consider it. She does not use a ventilator to breath, nor is she on any pain medicine. She needs no suction tube because she swallows normally. The ‘help’ she gets to live is food and water that enter her stomach through a tube. I am not sure when food and water became ‘heroic measures’.
Her injuries are not life threatening. If no one intervenes, she will die, not because of her present physical condition but because of starvation and dehydration. She will die no more quickly than you or I would if we were deprived of food and water. The CNN website described it this way: The length of the death process is determined by how well-nourished patients were and how much body fat and fluid they had when the procedure began. There may be outward signs of dehydration, such as extremely dry skin. Kidney function declines, and toxins begin accumulating in the body. Toxins cause respiratory muscles to fail. Multiple organ systems begin to fail from lack of nutrition.
This is less of a mercy killing than it is a matter of convenience. Terri’s husband, Michael, has moved on with his life, living with his girlfriend with whom he has two children. It appears that he has remained married to Terri to keep his interest in a $1 million malpractice award from doctors who failed to diagnose her chemical imbalance years ago. When we gave Grayson, our 7 year old, the very basic facts around the case, he announced “This sounds like abortion for adults.”
While we do this for Terri, we also do it for every person our society might consider too damaged or inconvenient to continue to feed. The Schiavo case puts our nation further down a slippery slope. Martin Niemoeller was a protestant minister whose fiery preaching angered Adolf Hitler to the point that Hitler had him held in a concentration camp. In relation to the church's relative silence on the atrocities of the Nazi's, Niemoeller said: “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”
Kelsey has spent the last week in Florida, leading a team of our interns in prayer, first at the courthouse and more recently at the hospice center. We are silently praying, not protesting – although to protest the death of a defenseless person doesn’t seem too unreasonable to me. Half of the team will be heading back to DC Saturday along with Paul and Cheryl Amabile, while I fly down to join Kelsey on Sunday. We will stay on site praying at least until Tuesday, when we will reevaluate and either return to DC or continue our prayer vigil. Thanks so much for praying for us as we stand on behalf of life.