Stop killing the disabled

I remember receiving a notice in March 2005, a warning written by a man in the Netherlands, that if America allows Terri Schiavo to die in the manner that was unfolding so dramatically at the time, Dutch euthanasia would soon come to this country and there would be no stopping it. It has happened more than even he may have foreseen.

There have been so many other Terris since then, and the tireless work her family puts into Terri’s Life & Hope Network is making a remarkable difference in saving individual lives, assisting families of vulnerable and impaired people, and at least doing their best to inform the public and especially the recalcitrant and sometimes delusional media.

The Italian Terri Schiavo was back in the news recently with the news that Eluana Englaro’s death by starvation and dehydration shocked enough Italian sensibilities to put forward an anti-euthanasia law before their Parliament.

Now, it’s Baby Joseph, the child in Canada whose life is threatened by the hour and hangs in the balance between the hospitals eager to pull life-support and the parents desperate to stop them. Here’s the latest as of this writing, and it’s not the least surprising that Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler is at the heart of it.

“The family wants to bring their baby home and they’re being denied,” he explained.  “That’s what our family – we were fighting for the same thing, really.  To bring Terri home and to care for her and show her the compassion that really only a family can do.”

In a statement, the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network said “it is unacceptable for Canadian Health Allocation Officials and/or the Canadian Government to make decisions for baby Joseph and his family.”

“Every patient, regardless of age, has a right to proper and dignified health care. It is frightening to once again see government usurp the God given rights of parents to love and care for their child at home,” it added.

Rev. Pat Mahoney of the Christian Defense Coalition called this a human rights issue, and how could anyone claim it is not?

“This is an issue that goes to family, this is an issue about who decides at the end of life issues, and we clearly believe that should be with the family, with the parents,” he told LifeSiteNews.  “So we’re here to support them, we’re here to stand with them, and we’re here to encourage them.”

And help them get Baby Joseph into his family’s care, essentially.

Joseph suffers from a severe neurological disorder, but his specific condition remains undiagnosed.  Doctors have given him no chance of recovery, so his parents, Moe Maraachli and Sana Nader, have asked them to perform a tracheotomy which would enable him to breathe on his own, so that they could take him home.  The doctors have refused, saying the procedure is too risky.

Too risky for what? The child’s health and well-being? The child they’re trying to take off life support? They’re already intending to hasten his death. I saw his father on a television interview today. He said all they want to do is take Joseph home, so he can die peacefully there.  “He’s a human being,” his father emphasized, startled that he has to remind anyone of that. “I accept that he has a problem, but he has rights.” 

The clock is ticking for the family, however, as Joseph’s current hospital has asked Ontario’s Office of the Public Guardian to assume decision-making power after the family refused to have Joseph’s life support removed on Monday.  The public guardian could order it removed at any point.

Loved to death

Whether there are more Terri Schiavo’s suffering a torturous death by starvation and dehydration these days, or we’re just hearing more about them these days is uncertain. But the manner of such death should be made clear, and the media are certainly not doing that.

The latest case we know of is the ‘bride in a coma’ story. She was young and just married. But what we know through the media is incomplete about Trisha Rushing Duguay’s death is incomplete.

Just 27 years old, she had continued living, remarkably, for eight weeks after her husband and family had, according to her wishes, removed her feeding tube.

Trisha’s father, Jim Rushing, announced the news in an e-mail to family and close friends.

“Trisha has finally departed us on this physical journey to take her branch onto her spiritual journey. This journey has been 132 days in length 56 of those days off of life support. We know that not only her love & caring for others, but the sheer volume of prayer that has occurred will truly help her along this new path. Thank you.

That volume was generated through media coverage of this dramatic story and social communications media that spread it. The good news is that it generated a tremendous amount of prayer. The darker side of this story didn’t make it into the news coverage, as Terri Schiavo’s brother tried to warn people. Bobby Schindler writes:

Terri’s Life & Hope Network expresses concern with the manner in which some media outlets are portraying the situation, treating Trisha’s prolonged death and going without food and hydration-for over 7 weeks now-as an act of compassion.

I think it is important to be reminded that dying this way is not compassionate, peaceful or pleasant. My family witnessed, first hand, something quite the opposite. Terri went through almost two weeks without food and water before she died, and it was heartbreaking. Her death was cruel and barbaric and she suffered horribly. We must continue to educate the general public that food and water is basic and ordinary care and despite ones intentions, it does not change the nature of the act.

That’s a vital point. Food and water are not medical treatments, they’re ordinary care, no matter how they are redefined. People are very confused about this. Conscientious, faithful people are looking for moral guidance in making end of life decisions, and it’s available for all people concerned with preserving and respecting human dignity when it can be toughest to discern that process.