A right-to-die case or murder?

Because of headlines describing Terri Schiavo as comatose, and reporters stating she is in a “vegetative state,” people are picturing the Florida resident as a lifeless woman with little or no brain activity who is hooked up to life-saving machines. Illegally shot video footage, however, shows Schiavo, eyes open, responding to pain, joy and stimuli. Until her feeding tube was disconnected Wednesday, this conscious 39-year-old merely received her nutrients from the device some say she might not even need and without which she should have been allowed to try to live.

Aside from the objection that starvation of a conscious person is a gruesome and therefore controversial practice Schiavo’s case deserves scrutiny because her impending death might be murder and not simply a “right-to-die” case. It sets a dreadful precedent and slippery slope for brain-damaged people – human beings who should not be killed because of their handicap.

Although removing Schiavo’s feeding tube is said to be about artificial life support, it is not. A person is no more “kept alive” by a feeding tube than someone who uses silverware or a food grinder to consume food. The device has nothing to do with mental deficiency or even other physical problems. Not unlike many others with the tube, Schiavo’s heart and lungs are self-functioning. Therefore, removing the feeding tube is not akin to a “do not resuscitate” order or “pulling the plug” from a brain-dead or comatose person.

Schiavo is not dying because she documented she never would want to be kept alive artificially, but because her husband, who appears to have motives other than her well-being, said she once told him so. However, he only spoke of this after winning a medical malpractice settlement to which he is heir. During the lawsuit, he said the money would be used for Schiavo’s long-term rehabilitation and care. Following the award, he began efforts to prompt his wife’s death; a nurse, under oath, attested to his desire. Michael Schiavo never used the fund for his wife’s therapy; instead he stuck his non-terminally ill wife in a hospice and has used the settlement to pay for the legal battle to end her life. Allegations have even surfaced that Schiavo did not have oxygen-deprived brain damage 13 years ago from an induced heart attack, but rather from the abusive hand of her husband.

We might never know what Schiavo really would have wanted and whether she would have thought starvation would be an OK method of death. Because of the unknowns, ending her life might be a murderous act. If this action is not stopped, others will be murdered. By merely relying on the word of other individuals, who might not value a disabled person, any handicapped patient might die unwillingly. And if these conscious, severely brain-damaged people can be legally euthanized without proof of previous consent, what is to stop the murder of those, who, unlike Schiavo, never had normal brain capacity?