Tags: Terri | Schiavo: | Her | Wishes | Matter?

Terri Schiavo: Do Her Wishes Matter?

Wednesday, 30 March 2005 12:00 AM

But so far this debate has mistakenly centered on the question of what Terri's wishes might have been twentry years ago.

However, the principle behind the law is not about previously expressed wishes. It is about people dying of terminal illness who refuse to eat because of nausea or medication. In the end, the person would die as a result of his disease, not from starvation or dehydration.

Terri Schiavo's situation is really quite different: She is not dying of a disease; she is dying of dehydration and starvation. Furthermore, she has not refused food and water. In fact, the nurses who gave her food and water testified that she enjoyed it immensely.

We need to ask a much more important question: Are her wishes as expressed prior to her condition really a valid expression of her wishes now? Is that the same as a terminally ill person who is days away from death refusing food and water?

What person can know the future and anticipate his actual situation years in advance? What person could anticipate the medical technology and techniques that will be available in the future? Is Terri Schiavo the only living human being who can't benefit from embryonic stem-cell research?

Today people have much more medical technology available to them than did previous generations. A person with difficulty breathing can be helped by a respirator. A person with difficulty swallowing can have nourishment placed directly in their stomach. Who could have anticipated these developments in the past?

Medical research will continue to offer new treatments and procedures, but some of these procedures can be very intimidating. Tubes and needles are frightening. Most people would prefer not to live with tubes and would even express natural repugnance to such measures.

Many people today might also say that they would prefer death to life in a wheelchair without the use of their limbs. But how many people in wheelchairs would choose to be starved/dehydrated to death?

While many people believe that they would not want to live with a feeding tube, in my years of pastoral ministry, I have never seen anyone in the hospital reject water. I think it's a safe bet that Terri Schiavo would gladly accept water if only it could be offered.

In 2005, a person might reject a particular procedure because as of now it offers little hope of benefit. Twenty years from now that same treatment might be a standard procedure with an excellent rate of success. When one is unable to speak for oneself, should one's wishes as previously expressed be respected?

Even if Terri Schiavo really did express her repugnance at the idea of a feeding tube at some point in her life, how is that relevant now? Hasn't medical technology advanced considerably since the time she may have expressed that sentiment? Did she really anticipate the pain and suffering entailed in dehydration and starvation?

Those who are rushing to prepare Living Wills need to proceed with great caution lest their Living Will become a Death Wish.

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But so far this debate has mistakenly centered on the question of what Terri's wishes might have been twentry years ago. However, the principle behind the law is not about previously expressed wishes. It is about people dying of terminal illness who refuse to eat because...
Terri,Schiavo:,Her,Wishes,Matter?
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2005-00-30
Wednesday, 30 March 2005 12:00 AM
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