Starved for love?

Published 12:00 am Monday, February 28, 2005

What would happen if one day the courts deemed it unconstitutional for parents to feed their children?

The question seems incomprehensible, yet for Florida parents Robert and Mary Schindler it’s a question whose answer will determine whether or not their 41-year old daughter Terri Schiavo is allowed to continue living.

Having received little to no attention in the mainstream media, Terri’s story is one whose outcome has the potential to impact millions whose lives depend on accessory medical assistance.

Fifteen years ago, before Terri collapsed from a chemical imbalance that caused her heart to stop, resulting in damage to her brain from lack of oxygen, she probably wasn’t thinking she’d become one of the many disabled individuals dependent on such assistance.

She also probably never imagined she’d be at the center of a legal battle where her husband, who promised to love her, would be trailblazing efforts to have her feeding tubes removed and slowly starved to death.

Despite parental efforts to intercede for Terri’s well being through proposed legislation, along with requests to have additional medical tests to help determine the level of brain function, it appears that her right to live is at the mercy of the courts.

When a country’s laws say it’s illegal to starve a dog to death, but contemplates condemning defenseless and disabled individuals, ruling it unconstitutional to supply the basic elements to sustain life, we have a serious problem.

According to Dr. William Burke, a neurologist in St. Louis, death from starvation and dehydration not only takes between 10 to 14 days, but plagues the individual with seizures, cracked skin including their tongue and lips, dried out mucus membranes, nose bleeds, dried out stomach lining and vomiting and would be agonizingly painful for those who remain conscious.

Isn’t it eerily ironic how a court system, whose purpose is to administer justice and protect the rights of those who cannot defend themselves, would completely disregard the fact that Michael Schiavo wants his wife dead?

How can they so hideously miss the mark?

If the court were really interested in doing what was right, wouldn’t it quit dragging its feet, have an officer read Mr. Schiavo his rights, arrest him for attempted murder and transfer guardianship of Terri back to her parents who actually appear to have her best interest at heart?

Isn’t it more merciful for Mr. Schiavo to divorce his wife and walk away without any obligations instead of subjecting her to such cruel and inhumane treatment?

Yet, if Schiavo and others like him have their way, disabled individuals who can’t speak up for them may soon share the same fate. If the courts rule in favor of Terri’s husband, millions of people dependent on this kind of medical care could be conveniently exterminated despite the most valiant efforts of individuals/family who might want to care for them.

If we fail to speak out against injustices and choose to stay silent on this issue and others like it, we may one day find ourselves just as helpless as Terri Schiavo, at the mercy of a culture that embraces death for reasons of selfishness and convenience.

We already turned a deaf ear to the silent screams of millions of unborn babies for that same reason and if we veil our faces and tune out the cries of the disabled and others unable to speak for themselves, we will surely reap the consequences of our neglect and become a victim of our own demise.