In 1988, I was a defense lawyer for my high school legal team during a mock trial competition. We took first place in the county. Our job was to prevent the removal of a feeding tube from a comatosed woman.
Now the year is 2005, Terri Schiavo is having me relive my mock trial days in my mind. I am forcing myself to ask some difficult questions.
How much suffering is too much suffering? As a person living with brittle bones, the word pain is a part of my every day vocabulary. Sometimes the pain would be so unbearable that I would close my eyes and wish I were dead but I never really meant it.
During my mock trial days, I learned the term euthanasia and I learned that some people really do mean it when they say they want to die because the pain is too unbearable.
But is this the case with Terri Schiavo?
Michael Schiavo claims that his wife, Terri, never wanted a feeding tube. However, there is no living will and the court is left to deal with pillowtalk.
While the details to her case seem to be blurred with the usual elements of a good soap opera: greed, money, malpractice, adultery.
The real question is whether or not Terri deserves to live?
According to Michael, the feeding tube is an artificial means of life support. But, should the feeding tube be compared to a respirator? If a respirator is turned off the person dies immediately, but if the feeding tube is removed there is no immediate death.
Is Terri alert but physically unable to communicate with the rest of the world? How many severely disabled people have that same problem? Should we starve them as well?
Maybe Michael’s claims are valid. But maybe she is not in pain but merely frustrated for not having the ability to communicate with her family?
If Michael doesn’t want to see Terri in this condition then why not divorce her so he can marry the woman he’s been with for quite some time? Why doesn’t her husband simply allow the parents to be Terri’s legal guardian and go on with his life? The parents are willing to care for Terri so why starve her?
Most importantly, is starving her an acceptable way of dying? How can someone even say that it is ok to starve a person? If we starved a dog, we would be arrested. Just because Terri can’t speak or communicate with the world doesn’t give us the right to decide that she shouldn’t live.
Every day before lunch time I can actually hear my middle school students’ stomaches growling of hunger. I can’t imagine how it must feel to not eat for three weeks.
Even homeless people will go to such depths as to eat garbage in order to remove their hunger pains.
There is no guarantee that Terri will die immediately or even within one day. How will her family know if she is in pain? How will they know if she is not screaming on the inside “Feed me! Feed me!”
Who is willing to take that chance?
Not me, would you?