Hmm. I don’t know that I’d really call it a showdown, but increasingly that seems to be what it is. Or at least what it is that the press would like us to think it is (accurately or not). I’m still trying to decide how I feel about it. I just don’t know.
On one hand, Terry Schiavo is a living being. Removing her feeding tube is roughly akin to neglecting to feed your children, who are unable to fend for themselves. Of course, the children could eat grass in the yard or drink toilet water or something, an option that Ms. Schiavo doesn’t have.
This woman has been brain-damaged for 15 years. I believe that the proper term is that she is in a persistent vegetative state. As I understand it, this means that her body functions – it sleeps, it wakes, it breathes, that sort of thing. But there are no higher brain functions. According to that link, someone can recover from such a state, but I have to believe that after 15 years, it’s increasingly unlikely that she will recover to anything resembling a normal life.
Which leads to the other hand. While I believe that there is a certain amount of mercy being shown, there is also a time when difficult decisions need to be made. Many people will only encounter this sort of experience with a dog or other pet, who simply isn’t enjoying a quality of life that they probably should. At that time, it becomes an issue of whether they should be put to sleep or not. And while comparing a pet to a person may not be the most apt comparison, it’s the most likely comparison that many of us will be able to recognize.
Personally, mostly because I have not been in such a situation, I cannot imagine having a family member in such a state for 15 years. I don’t know if I could handle it. But still, I think that life is sacred. So much so that sometimes the best thing to do may very well be to end it. To go back to my earlier, inaccurate, illustration – I have previously determined that a pet’s quality of life is no longer there and decided to end it. That was one of the hardest decisions that I’ve ever had to make.
When I made the decision, I did so only after I had seen for myself that the spark of life was no longer there. So without seeing that same thing for myself, I can’t say that it’s time to end Ms. Schiavo’s life. Equally, I can’t say that it isn’t time. Only someone exposed to her can do that. And rightly or wrongly, it seems to me that the person justified to do so (her husband) has made that decision. I think that someone has to make the call, and in our society, I believe he is the person entitled to do so.