She is not dying. She has no terminal illness. She is not in a coma. She is not on life-support equipment. She is not alone, but rather has loving parents and siblings ready to care for her for the rest of her life. She has not requested death.
Yet a battle rages regarding whether Terri Schindler-Schiavo should be starved. She has sustained brain injuries and cannot speak or eat normally. Nevertheless, the only tube attached to her is a small, simple, painless feeding tube that provides her nourishment directly to her digestive system.
Her legal guardian is her husband, who already has another woman by whom he also has children. He wants Terri's feeding tube removed. Of course, he could simply allow her to be cared for by her parents and siblings, and get on with his life, but he refuses.
I have had two opportunities to visit Terri, most recently on the first Sunday of February. I have been able to talk to her, to listen to her struggle to speak, to watch her focus her eyes and smile and attempt to kiss her parents. I have prayed with her, blessed her, and assured her that she has many friends around the country and around the world, who love her and want her to enjoy the same protections we all enjoy, even when we're wounded.
News articles have recently characterized Terri's situation by saying that some want to “keep her alive against her husband's wishes.” But Terri is not dying. What does “keeping her alive” mean, if not the same thing as keeping you and me alive that is, by giving us adequate food, shelter, and care?
Some say that Terri's family should “let her go.” But this is not a matter of “letting her go,” because she isn't “going” anywhere. If, however, she is deprived of nourishment, then she would slowly die in the same way that any of us would slowly die if we were deprived of nourishment. It is called starvation.
If the courts permit that to happen, then why should that permission apply only in Terri's case? There would be no way to limit it to her case alone. Countless others would follow, and their deaths would be described as “letting them die” instead of “killing them.” Where, indeed, does the state get the authority to starve people? Court decisions permitting this lack all authority, as Pope John Paul II teaches in The Gospel of Life (section 72). These decisions cannot be obeyed, because they are not binding on the conscience and are in fact acts of violence.
At the present time, there are two simple things you can do. Educate your neighbors about this situation. Visit our website, www.priestsforlife.org, and click on the “Terri Schiavo” link. Second, contact anyone you know in Florida and ask them to encourage their governor and state legislators to continue doing everything possible to save Terri's life.
If you want educational cards on Terri's situation, contact our orders department at email@example.com, or by calling 888-PFL-3448, ext. 237, or by writing Orders Department, Priests for Life, PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314.
Fr. Pavone is the Founding Director of Priests for Life. You may contact Priests for Life at PO Box 141172, Staten Island, NY 10314; Tel: 888-PFL-3448 or 718-980-4400; Fax: 718-980-6515; Email: firstname.lastname@example.org; Website: www.priestsforlife.org.