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Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last 24 hours, you’ve seen, heard, and/or read about the Terri Schiavo case out of Florida. Despite an 11th hour attempt by the US Congress to halt the impending court-ordered removal of her feeding tube, a Florida judge ordered today – shortly after Congress’ attempt – that the removal proceed. So it has proceeded. Here’s what will happen to Terri over the next two weeks:
The general process of death for patients whose food and hydration tubes are withdrawn:
_Day One: The percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy tube, which is placed through the skin and into the stomach, is removed in a simple surgical procedure. Patients who do not have mental cognition to have a sense of thirst or hunger will not be uncomfortable.
_ Days Three to Four: Urine output decreases and patients begin to lose normal body secretions. The mouth begins to look dry and the eyes appear sunken. Patients will look thinner because the body tissues have lost fluid. Their heart rate gradually goes up and their blood pressure goes down. In some patients, dehydration releases endorphins in the brain that create a state of euphoria.
_ Days Five to 10: People who are alert have a marked decrease in their alertness. Respiration becomes irregular with periods of very fast and then very slow breathing. Some patients will become restless, while others will be less active. For patients in a persistent vegetative state, there may be no discernible change in their movements.
_ Days 10 to Death: Patients do not appear to respond to their environment at all and may appear to be in a coma. Length of death process is determined by how well-nourished patient was and how much body fat and fluid they had when procedure began. May be outward signs of dehydration, such as extremely dry skin. Kidney function declines and toxins begin accumulating in the body. Toxins cause respiratory muscles to fail. Multiple organ systems begin to fail from lack of nutrition.
Does that sound humane to you?
I’m proud to live in America. I think this is the best country on earth (I know – I’m a bit biased). But the Terri Schiavo case has brought to the forefront in my mind just how off base I think some of the priorities of some well-meaning people in this country are when it comes to decisions of life and death. No doubt they take the same view of mine. It’s a fundamental disagreement that doesn’t give way to much, if any, middle ground. This issue has shaped up to be one where partisans have taken their sides, with conservatives generally taking the Schindler’s (Terri’s family) side while liberals are generally taking the Schiavo’s (Michael, her husband) side.
Think about this. Civil rights and other advocacy groups work day and night in this country to try and save murderers on death row from having to face the death penalty. They cite a number of reasons. One, life in prison without parole gives those who might really be innocent an opportunity to prove their innocence whereas if they were sentenced to death, their innocence may be proven too late. Ok. Another reason they cite is that the death penalty is inhumane or ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and the state shouldn’t be sanctioning it.
But what is happening here? In Schiavo’s case, a case that has once again pitted liberals and conservatives against each other, her feeding tube has been removed. And she is going to be going through that cruel process of death mentioned above. Contrary to popular belief, Terri Schiavo can and does respond to what’s going on around her and she does breathe on her own. She is not on life support. She has to be fed through a feeding tube. That feeding tube, as of this afternoon, has been removed, thereby taking away any chance Terri has of living. Who knows what medical miracles will occur in the near future that could have helped Terri? We’ll never know because Terri is now dying. Why is it that that convicted murderer on death row should be kept alive because one day he or she may be found to be innocent, while Terri doesn’t get the same option to be kept alive in the event that therapy and perhaps a medical miracle could be found one day that could help her? Why is it that this particular form of allowing someone to die is somehow not inhumane, cruel, or unusual yet lethal injection to a death row inmate is? Why do (mostly guilty) death row inmates receive 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, but Terri – an innocent, living, breathing woman, will no longer have those chances as of today?
What Terri will have to go through is inhumane by any account. That she *may* not feel it isn’t really relevant. Starving a person to death against the wishes of her parents shouldn’t be any more acceptable than it is to starve an animal. In fact, starving an animal is not acceptable. We lock people up for that. Yet our courts allow a hospital to do precisely that to a living, human being – LEGALLY – in spite of the wishes of the family. As Andrew McCarthy at National Review points out, suspected terrorists in this country receive more legal protections and seem to be afforded more rights than Terri and her family:
In this instance, though, deafening is the only word for the silence of my former interlocutors — -civil-liberties activists characteristically set on hysteria auto-pilot the moment an al Qaeda terrorist is rumored to have been sent to bed without supper by Don Rumsfeld or Al Gonzales (something that would, of course, be rank rumor since, if you kill or try to kill enough Americans, you can be certain our government will get you three halal squares a day).
Not so Terri Schiavo. She will be starved and dehydrated. Until she is dead. By court order. *snip*
On another Friday, seven years ago, Mohammed Daoud al-`Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed blew up the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing over 240 people. They were brought to the United States for trial. They were given, at public expense, multiple, highly experienced capital lawyers, and permitted extensive audiences to plead with the Justice Department not to seek the death penalty. When a capital indictment nevertheless was filed, they were given weeks of voir dire to ensure a jury of twelve people open to the notion that even the lives of mass-murderers have value. They were then given seven months of trial and sentencing proceedings, suffuse with every legal and factual presumption that their lives had worth and should be spared. And so they were.
There’s something wrong with this picture when people suspected (and sometimes convicted) of murder and terrorism are given every opportunity at their disposal in order to either prove their innocence, or keep them from going on death row, yet one woman’s parents in Pinellas Park, Florida have to sit and watch as their options have been taken away from them by the courts and as a result, they’ll have to watch their daughter, who can breathe on her own and is responsive to those around her, go through an inhumane and two week period of starving to death. The state may not be pulling the trigger, so to speak, but it might as well have been when that judge ordered the feeding tube to be removed. Only one result comes from that and we know what that result is: death.
We have evolved (dare I say regressed?) in this country to where more emphasis has been put on saving a guilty life rather than protecting an innocent one. And I say that even knowing that most who argue against keeping Terri on the feeding tube are well intentioned. People who think abortion is ok are well intentioned, too, but in this writer’s opinion, they are wrong. There is an innocent life inside that womb, from the time of conception to birth. Terri Schiavo is an innocent woman, and there is most assuredly life within her.
I’m a proponent of the death penalty. Some have called me a hypocrite for being pro-life, yet being pro-death penalty at the same time. However, I see quite a difference in advocating that an innocent child in a mother’s womb be allowed a chance at life, versus advocating that a person who has already had that chance at life but screwed it up be put to death for a brutal crime. However, I’m willing to make a change right here and now. I’ll make a deal with anyone reading this who wants to make one: I’ll change my view on the death penalty – start advocating that life in prison without parole is the best and most humane option for the state to utilize when determining the punishment for a convicted criminal. I’ll be pro-life all the way – even to the point of advocating life for a convicted murderer, if you’ll join me in advocating life for the unborn and the innocent who can’t or hasn’t made that decision (such as the situation is with Terri). If we are going to err in this country, let’s do it on the side of life – not death.
To the various advocacy/civil rights groups out there who believe Terri should be allowed to die but on the other hand are outraged at the death penalty for criminals and frown upon any suggestion that abortion is somehow wrong, would you do me a favor? Instead of of staging protests to save electric cars from being used for spare parts, or instead of holding sit-ins to save the forests, or working tirelessly to free the lab rats from animal testing, or strapping yourselves to old trees in order to prevent them from from being chopped down, would you strap yourself to Terri instead? If you can work to save the trees, you can work to save an innocent life, whether it be a child yet to be born or Terri. If the whales are worth saving, so are unborn children – and so is Terri.
Update: LaShawn has more .