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Schiavo case a test of our deepest moral convictions

It has been quite a couple weeks for The Signal, hasn’t it? I have received quite a few angry letters in my tenure as a columnist, but the entire section lovingly dedicated against Mr. Carter has certainly set the record for liberal student outrage.

Ah yes, liberals angry that someone said something unpopular using faulty data.

Funny, I do not recall such a monumental response in The Signal from the same outraged students when CBS and Dan Rather’s less-than-stellar journalism ethics came into question regarding President Bush’s service record.

Regardless of the reliability of Carter’s data, one thing he and I share are similar beliefs about moral values.

Moral values have been an issue of importance for centuries. Most recently, they played a prominent role in the re-election of President Bush.

The country has been faced with several decisions on moral values in recent weeks, with none as important or as controversial as the Terri Schiavo case.

Americans have been debating the fate of this Florida woman who suffered oxygen deprivation to her brain during a bout with an eating disorder 15 years ago and now remains under heavy care.

The decision whether to keep her on the feeding tube which sustains her life has been ongoing for several years and the courts have all reached similar verdicts.

Pull her feeding tube and let her die. It seems that even the religious right and both Bushes (Jeb and George W.) could not stop the decision to starve Schiavo to death. So much for those who think this country is becoming “Jesus Land.”

Regardless of your position on this case, Schiavo’s plight speaks to many political, moral and ethical dilemmas such as the treatment of incapacitated persons, states’ rights and the right to die.

This case bothers me on many levels, because so many things just do not seem right. I am uncomfortable with the state ordering a person’s feeding tube to be removed while close relatives plead for her life.

The idea that young children can be arrested for trying to bring the bedridden woman water to prolong her life irks me as well.

Politically, I am disturbed that only a few politicians from either party seem willing to speak out for or against this situation.

I suppose they prefer to whine and moan about budget cuts.

I am additionally outraged by husband Michael Schiavo’s refusal to allow his wife Easter communion, a blatant infringement on her religious rights that is downright cruel and inhumane.

However, regardless of the rhetoric, at the end of the day we are talking about a person.

In several days, barring a miracle, Terri Schiavo will die, since her feeding tube has been removed for over a week and the litigation options to save her life have all but been exhausted.

As I type this article, this woman is living out her final days or even hours, dying from court-imposed starvation in the wake of a furious resistance mounted by her family and pro-life groups to save her.

Right now, we should all be asking ourselves, “Is this what Terri would have wanted?”

Her husband says yes although he had quite a different tone in 1992 (two years after the tragic incident that left her incapacitated) when he said on MSNBC “I married my wife because I love her and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. I’m going to do that.”

He obviously seems to have changed his mind.

I think his girlfriend and two children out of wedlock with her might have something to do with his overwhelming desire to “follow out Terri’s wishes” not to remain on life support.

Could it be that he is simply waiting out her death so that he could remarry?

The problem is there is neither any “living will” nor any solid evidence pertaining to Terri’s wishes.

It is simply the word of Michael Schiavo against the words of her parents who insist that she never would have chosen to be allowed to die.

So to whom do we listen? Who we trust? The husband or the parents?

I will tell you who I would trust.

The parents have no ulterior motives to keep her alive other than their love for their daughter and their convictions that Schiavo’s unnatural demise is wrong.

The husband, on the other hand, has a new life and has had accusations leveled against him by nurses and family members that he never spent time with her, successfully denied her therapy and eagerly awaited her death.

This man’s story changes continually and, by many accounts, he has hardly been at her bedside through this whole ordeal.

Yet, I could be wrong. Schiavo could have wanted to die rather than remain in an incapacitated state and now it looks like she will be getting her wish.

But what if the courts were wrong and Schiavo’s inaudible shrieks when her feeding tube was removed from her throat amounted to a plea of “I want to live!” like the family says.

We would have condemned an innocent woman to cruelly die of starvation.

The president said in these cases “we must err on the side of life” and I agree wholeheartedly.

The decision for death is the only thing you cannot take back once it has been carried out.

That choice should never be made lightly. I pray that we made the right decision.


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