Friday, February 25

CALAMITOUS COUNTDOWN TO DEATH

Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the cognitively-impaired Florida woman whose husband Michael is trying so earnestly to have her killed, finds herself this day in a calamitous countdown to death, facing the grim prospect of injustice at the hands of the courts and, through such judicial indifference, at the hands of her unfaithful, abusive husband, who shows no mercy for her, while obstinately refusing to give the responsibility for his wife's continued care to her lovingly devoted parents, George and Mary Schindler, who seek it. It is a grim story, poignant and compelling. It touches the heart and troubles the soul.

Should the courts give Michael the go-ahead to have Terri's gastric feeding tube removed this afternoon, Terri will begin her final journey -- a journey to death's door that may take up to ten to fourteen days, days marked by inevitable thirst, gruesome dehydration, and the body's desparate need for sustenance. Veterinarians don't euthanize animals this way and certainly states don't execute convicted killers in such fashion. Even animal habitats and their dwellers draw more earnest protection from the government it would appear!

In short order, Terri's hospice room could become a ghastly death camp, bereft of tender mercies and any hint of human dignity, a horror chamber exemplifying man's inhumanity to man. Who in this country could think such a barbaric death of no consequence or turn a deaf ear to it? Who could think that the plight of a defenseless woman warrants no hue and cry for justice? Should that tube be pulled, her ensuing death will be a contemptible outrage!

Terri Schiavo is 41, hardly a "senior," or near becoming one. But she's confined in virtual "lock-down" to a hospice room in Pinellas County, Florida, so I thought it might be illuminating to understand how the State of Florida comprehends the "common concerns of the dying" through non-profit agencies it funds to assist seniors and their caregivers. Do you think it not apropos? I do. So I've turned to the "Area Agency on Aging of Pasco-Pinellas, Inc.".

In the section of its Web site entitled, "Stage Four, section 4, Common Concerns of the Dying," its authors register a profound concern for caregiver and care receiver alike. They proceed to list fear of pain as the foremost concern of the dying. Indeed, pain is feared more than death itself. So, I ask, if this is true of a terminally ill senior, why would it be any different for a cognitivally-disabled 41 year old? Michael Schivo and his right-to-die advocate attorney George Felos no doubt would argue that she's brain dead and can neither fear death nor feel the pain that will bring it. In their minds nothing is working in her mind. But, what if her mind is working, at least in part? What if she is simply trapped inside of her own body, conscious of her surroundings, and quite able to experience dread, joy and pain? Before that tube is pulled and the "long, painful road to a starved darkness" becomes her death sentence, shouldn't the courts first order a full medical evaluation to determine just that?

Patients want to be seen as a whole person, not a disease, according to a study by the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina. Terri and Terri's family, save for her heartless, two-timing husband (and his apologist attorney), see their daughter and sister as a "whole person" -- disabled, to be sure, but still a living, breathing, sentient human being, whose only requirements to sustain life are food and water. Let's pray that the court sees her that way and ends her family's misery, while giving Terri Schindler-Shiavo the right to food, water, human dignity, and caregivers who define the term.