What’s Right for Terri Schiavo?

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In the battle over Terri Schiavo, I have found but one pertinent argument

OpinionJournal – Peggy Noonan

There is a passionate, highly motivated and sincere group of voters and activists who care deeply about whether Terri Schiavo is allowed to live. Their reasoning, ultimately, is this: Be on the side of life. They remind me of what Winston Churchill said once when he became home secretary in charge of England’s prisons. He was seated at dinner with a jabbery lady who said that if she were ever given a life sentence she’d rather die than serve it. He reared back. No, he said, always choose life! “Death’s the only thing you can’t get out of!”

No surprise.  Peggy Noonan is something of America’s conscience.  She shoots the gaps in every argument she enjoins, finding the missing pieces that make the reader say, “oh, of course.  How could I have been so stupid.”

In the Terri Schiavo case, I sat on my hands until today.  It’s a sordid affair in which motives seem to override all other matters.  Such is the problem with money.

The money in this case is a $1 million settlement from a malpractice suit over Schiavo’s medical treatment which missed a diagnosis that would have prevented her cardiac arrest. 

Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband who has fought to kill her by starvation, has a serious relationship with another woman.  He could have divorced Terri and married this woman, with whom he has children, long ago.  But the $1 million settlement belongs to Terri and passes to her next of kin.  Divorce would sever Michael’s relationship, thus passing the million to Terri’s parents and brother.  Perhaps King Solomon would propose killing Terri so long as Michael surrenders the $1 million to her parents and brother. 

On the other hand, one might reasonably assume that Terri’s parents, who have fought to keep her alive by means of forced feeding, have ulterior motives as well.  First, there’s the million dollars.  Second, not all pro-life organizations  (and I apologize in advance for this) display a lack of altruism in their advocacy.  Terri’s parents may be influenced, even in their honest grief, by these organizations.

The third motive often discussed belongs to the victim.  “What would Terri want?” has been the battle cry of the starvation side for years.  Obviously, Terri’s motives would be pure.

What I haven’t read anywhere, even in Ms. Noonan’s excellent column, is an attempt to drive to the truth absent corruptible motives. 

We cannot know any person’s motives in this case.  Even if they tell us, we don’t know they are being honest even with themselves.  Absent motive, we are left to deal with the facts, which are these.

  • Terri Schiavo, while dependent upon artificial feeding, is not brain dead.  She breathes on her own.  She controls her muscles on her own. Her heart beats under the command of her own brain. 
  • Brain death has long been the standard for stopping life support.  Except in a few states, doctors must provide all means necessary to sustain life whenever the patient’s brain functions. 
  • The US Supreme Court having rejected the case without comment, there are no judicial appeals left.
  • Only by passing a law exempting itself from judicial review can Terri’s life be saved.  (And there probably isn’t time.)

Where does this leave us?  Well, frankly, it leaves us with nowhere to turn . . . but to God. 

“What would Terri want?” has always been the wrong question.  Legally, perhaps, it’s salient, but morally it’s irrelevant.  Unable to act upon her wants, Terri Schiavo no longer gets a vote.  The correct question, then, becomes, “What does God want?”

Fortunately for us, the one being whose motives and desires we can know are God’s.  He gave them to us and codified them. 

I must stop here.  I am not a theologian, just a curious sinner.  But in the search for God’s will on the Terri Schiavo case, I would make two points:

1.  Terri Schiavo’s existence will not end when her soul leaves her body. 

2.  Terri’s reward awaits her; eternity for those who are fighting to save her or to kill her is held in abeyance pending, among other things, how they handle Terri’s life.

UPDATE:  Raymond’s television wife, Patricia Heaton, joins fight to save Terri, according to NewsMax:

“Feminists have always challenged the idea that married women have no rights of their own,” said Heaton. “A husband should not be granted absolute control over his wife’s fate, especially a disaffected husband with dubious motives.”

Heaton is the honorary chairwoman of Feminists for Life and the best looking “mom” on television.

“I wanted to find a group that had compassionate, intelligent, reasonable people who are fun and life-affirming.”

—Patricia Heaton
Two-time Emmy Winner and
Feminists for Life Honorary Chair

GreyPatty