A Cup Of Water For Terri Part II
April 1, 2005
This is the concluding article on the Schiavo story written by Douglas W. Phillips, Esq., who serves as the President of Vision Forum Ministries:
And I looked, and rose up, and said unto the nobles, and to the rulers, and to the rest of the people, Be not ye afraid of them: remember the Lord, [which is] great and terrible, and fight for your brethren, your sons, and your daughters, your wives, and your houses. (Nehemiah 4:14)
Deciphering the Terri Schiavo Case
There are five things you must know about the crime which is ongoing in Pinellas Park, Florida: First, an innocent woman is being cruelly tortured and murdered contrary to the law of God, the law of the land, and the law of the state. Second, those individuals most complicit in the torture and murder of Terri have diabolical agendas. Third, there is an immediately available biblical, constitutional, and legal remedy. Fourth, the inability of Christian attorneys and leaders to reach a biblical consensus on the meaning of “the rule of law” has rendered our efforts to save Terri impotent, has spread confusion within the body of Christ, and will be the undoing of our legal and political efforts in the future unless it is resolved. Fifth, they are coming next for you.
I. The Torture and Murder of an Innocent Woman Contrary to Law
He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in my infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christs sake. For when I am weak, than I am strong. (II Corinthians 12:9-10)
A. Foundational Principles
There are fundamental questions that must be answered and principles which must be established to rightly interpret the tragic events surrounding the execution of Terri Schiavo. How our society answers these questions and affirms these principles will determine whether or not our children will grow up in a ruthless fratricidal society of bioethical bigots or whether Christian ethics will govern.
1. God Through His Revelation is the Source of Authority
The first question is “by what standard does man have the right to end the life of another human being created in the image of God?” The answer is: God alone gives life, and He alone may take life or delegate to another the authority to take life on His behalf. The mind of God on the matter of taking life is clearly revealed through Holy Scripture — the final authority on the issue. Scripture distinguishes between justifiable killing and murder. The Bible indicates that man may take the life of another in four and only four circumstances: Where necessary, man may take life in defense of self, in defense of others, and acting in defense of ones nation against foreign aggressors. Finally, the state has the duty to execute criminals who have been properly convicted of capital crimes. There are no other biblical grounds for taking the life of another person. Note that individuals do not have absolute rights to their own bodies. God is the owner of our bodies, which we hold in trust for Him. This is why suicide — self killing — has always been viewed as a murder, in violation of the Sixth Commandment
2. Life, Personhood, and the Right to Life
Human life is special and must be distinguished from animal life. It is special because it is soul-ish life made in the image of God. Life begins at conception and continues as long as the soul remains in the body. The Bible teaches that to be “absent from the body [is] to be present with the Lord” (II Corinthians 5:8). So-called “brain dead” men and women with functioning organs are very much alive, and their souls remain connected to their bodies. Science history is replete with numerous examples of individuals diagnosed as comatose, with minimal brain functions, who return to consciousness after many years. They never lost their souls or their personhood, and they were grateful that their lives were not terminated.
Contrary to the teaching of pro-eugenics bio-ethicists, consciousness is not the criteria for life or for personhood. As long as a soul remains in the body, a human is “alive” and is a unique person worthy of respect and protection with the God-given right to life. The popular term “vegetable” and the medical term “vegetative state” are inappropriate, emotionally-charged verbiage designed to reduce the status of a human being to that of a plant in order to rob it of its personhood as a pretext for termination. After all, what could be wrong with killing a vegetable — i.e., a plant? However, to knowingly terminate the life of a living, soul-filled person by depriving him of basic care is to murder the individual, contrary to the Sixth Commandment.
3. Who Decides the Quality of Life of a Person?
For the same reason that man may not kill without delegated authority from the Creator, man may not attempt to evaluate the quality of life of another as a pretext for terminating that life. Unhappiness is not a biblical ground for killing. Pain is not a biblical ground for killing. Mental limitations or physical abnormalities are not biblical grounds for killing. Opinions about the quality of life of another are never biblical grounds for killing.
4. The Duties of Parents and Guardians
There is an affirmative duty in biblical and common law for parents and guardians to provide basic care and to do all that is reasonable to preserve the life of a dependent. Basic care includes food, water, shelter, and air. Finally, the duty of parents and guardians to provide care do not hinge on issues like viability, dependency, self-sufficiency and the use of tools, machinery, or invasive procedures to provide basic care. Pre-born babies are fed through tubes called umbilical cords. IVs are used to hydrate the sick. Spoons are used to hand-feed quadriplegics. Tracheotomies are used to help people who would be otherwise incapable of breathing. One cannot claim a right to suspend basic care based on the necessary use of tools or invasive procedures.
5. Preserving Life vs. Prolonging Death
There is a difference between preserving life and prolonging death. There is a difference between killing a dependent person (baby, elderly, sick, etc.) by depriving them of the basic elements necessary for sustaining life versus taking “extraordinary” medical measures to attempt to extend the life of a person in the midst of systemic and persistent organ failure. Depriving a person of food, water, oxygen, and shelter is an example of the former. Experimental heart transplant surgery on a ninety-year-old is an example of the latter. The former is a cut-and-dry ethical question. The latter has greater complexities.
6. Courts Cannot Trump the Moral Law of God
Sir William Blackstone correctly noted that “This is what is called the law of nature, which, being coeval with mankind, and dictated by God himself, is, of course superior in obligation to any other. It is binding over all the globe, in all countries at all times. No human laws are of any validity, if contrary to this; and such of them as are valid, derive all their authority, mediately or immediately, from this original.
The lesson of the Nuremburg Trials was that even acting under authority, government officials may not trump the moral law of God. Courts do not have the authority to order the killing of innocent people.
B. The Relevant Facts
In the case of Terri, the relevant facts are not complicated: An innocent, living woman is being deprived of basic care by her guardian with the intent of dehydrating and starving her so she will die. Though it is possible for a healthy human to survive as long as thirty days without food and water, when subjected to dehydration and starvation, most people do not survive longer than fourteen days.
Before the judge ordered her to be starved and dehydrated, Terri Schiavo was not dying or terminally ill. She was a living, breathing woman who laughed, cried, communicated with her parents, and stood to live for many more years. “Terri [suffers from] a cognitive disability not unlike many other handicapped and disabled members of our society.... [She] is not on an artificial (or extraordinary) life support such as a ventilator, pacemaker, dialyses machine, or other device which would keep her major organs running artificially.”
Many in the media have suggested that the consensus among doctors is that there is no hope for Terri. This is simply not true:
Dr. Victor Gambone testified that he visited Terri three times each year. His visits [were] for approximately ten minutes. He testified, after viewing the court videos at a recent trial, that he was surprised to see Terris level of awareness. This doctor was hand-picked by her husband, Michael Schiavo, right before he filed to have Terris feeding tube removed. To the contrary, fourteen independent medical professionals (with 6 neurologists) have given statements or testimony that Terri is NOT in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS). Further, there has never been any medical dispute of Terris ability to swallow. Yet, even with this compelling evidence, Terris husband, Michael Schiavo, has denied allowing Terri any form of therapy for her in over ten years.
C. Irrelevant Issues
For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need. (Hebrews 4:15-16)
There are many subjects on which good Christians may disagree, but whether the state can torture and murder an innocent woman is not one of them. Having established the right to life, the exclusive jurisdiction of God over life, the personhood of all living persons, the duty of basic and reasonable care of a parent and guardian, the difference between preserving life and prolonging death, and of basic care vs. extraordinary measures, it is important to distinguish between relevant and irrelevant issues to the question of whether anyone may lawfully starve and dehydrate an innocent thriving woman with a mental disability:
1. Whether Terris parents or Michael Schiavo has custodial guardianship over Terri.
From an ethical and historical legal perspective, the issue of guardianship is irrelevant to the question of whether Terri may be starved and dehydrated to death. It is irrelevant because both the parents and the husband lack biblical jurisdiction and authority to deprive Terri of basic care. Deliberate or negligent deprivation of basic care resulting in death is criminal conduct and rightly falls under the jurisdiction of the state. Parents may not deprive children of basic care, thus starving them to death. Husbands may not deprive wives of basic care, thus starving them to death. No person has the authority to take their own life through suicide, and no guardian has the biblical or common law right to make a decision to terminate a person under their custody through deprivation of basic care — ever! On the contrary, Michael Schiavo ought to be willing to lay down his life to preserve the life of his wife, Terri, as the Apostle Paul admonishes, “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25).
2. Whether Terri is in a “persistent vegetative state,” “minimally conscious,”“improving,” “declining,” or any other status other than “dead.”
This is irrelevant because as long as the soul is in the body (i.e., as long as they are biblically “alive”), there is a non-negotiable duty of a guardian to make best efforts to provide basic care (food, water, air, shelter) for those living dependents under their care. The starvation of Terri Schiavo is not an issue of “extraordinary measures.” It is not even a medical issue per se. It is an issue of whether we will deprive a living human being of water and food. As long as the soul is within the body, there is a duty to make best efforts to nourish the body with whatever means are reasonably available.
3. Whether Terri is experiencing a quality life.
This is irrelevant because only God may determine the purpose, length, significance, meaning, and quality of the life of another. We do not have jurisdiction to determine that some lives are worth living and others are not. It is sinful to substitute in our decision making processes the presuppositions and ethics of Margaret Sanger for the revealed will of God.
4. Whether Terri requested of her husband that “she be allowed to die with dignity.”
Suicide is immoral because we do not own our own bodies — God does. We lack the jurisdiction to determine whether we should live or die. It is biblically and (at common law) legally invalid to request assistance in the suicide of ones self through starvation or any other means. Even had Terri made such a recommendation (and there is no credible evidence that she did), Terri herself lacks jurisdiction to call for her own death by dehydration, starvation, or any other means which involves the suspension of a basic, God-appointed duty of care. Again, we must distinguish between the challenging ethical issues surrounding “extraordinary measures” in the midst (for example) of massive and persistent organ failure, versus the ethically perverse decision to deprive disabled or neurologically-impaired thriving humans of basic care. To the extent that any “living will” calls for termination of basic care, it is tantamount to a request for assisted suicide, which is biblically unlawful.
5. Whether outside assistance and/or external technology is necessary to provide Terri with basic care.
Contrary to the prevailing wisdom being advanced by advocates of euthanasia, the immediate ethical issues do not involve questions of technology or artificial assistance. Technology is an ever present reality related to basic care in the life of the healthy, the sick, the disabled, and the handicapped. Technology is used daily in the preparation and delivery of food through the use of ovens, forks, etc. Doctors use technology to create an “unnatural” artificial means of breathing through tracheotomies. Even if given by a feeding tube, nutrition and hydration are still ordinary, natural care needed to sustain any life. As previously noted, babies are fed in their mothers wombs by “tubes” called umbilical cords. Everyday, patients in hospitals are fed through tubes for various periods of time while recovering from injuries to the throat, esophagus, or mouth. The presence of these tubes delivering food and water do not make babies or hospital patients less than human.
D. The Nature of the Torture
“I am a person in here. Don't let me starve.”
These are the words of Mrs. Kate Adamson describing the horrifying experience of physician-assisted forced starvation. Lynn Vincent of WORLD Magazine reports that:
A decade ago, Mrs. [Kate] Adamson, then 33, suffered a double brain stem stroke that left her completely paralyzed, unable even to blink. Inside though, she was fully cognitive, able to understand doctors telling her husband she would either die or windup “a vegetable.” She wanted to, but couldnt, scream out when... “people talked about me as if I wasnt a person, as if I didnt exist.... It was like being trapped underground and youre praying that somebody is going to be able to find you.”
During 70 days of intensive care, doctors fed Mrs. Adamson through a tube. Then her digestive system failed, forcing them to remove the tube until her body could again eliminate waste. For the next eight days, she learned what it feels like to starve. Unable to communicate, she remembers the terror of being “on the inside screaming out, Feed me something! I dont want to die! ... Im alive! Im a person in here! Do not let me starve! The hunger pains were unbearable,” she said. “I thought I was going insane.”
Appearing on Larry King Live, Michael Schiavo offered an emotional appeal in which he told viewers that death by dehydration was dying with dignity, “Larry, shes not dying by starvation. This is a natural, painless death. What happens is when you stop eating, your electrolytes will slowly diminish. Youll slowly go into a nice, deep sleep and then pass away.”
Other proponents of euthanasia and assisted suicide have included the term “death with dignity” in describing Terris impending death. Numerous newspaper editorials and letters to the editor have included references to “just letting her go.”
The truth about death by starvation and dehydration is far less glamorous than Michael Schiavo and his pro-euthanasia comrades have led the general public to believe. It is difficult to imagine any of the survivors of Japanese and Nazi prison camps describing the death of their emaciated, dehydrated, and starving comrades as “death with dignity.” The truth is that a knife to the heart would have been less cruel and more dignified than the prolonged, torturous measures of Michael Schiavo and the prophets of euthanasia in the legal and medical community.
Dr. David Stevens of the Christian Medical Association explains what happens with starvation:
As dehydration begins, there is extreme thirst, dry mouth and thick saliva. The patient becomes dizzy, faint and unable to stand or sit; has severe cramping in the arms and legs as the sodium and potassium concentrations in the body goes up as fluids go down. In misery, the patient tries to cry but there are no tears. The patient experiences severe abdominal cramps, nausea and dry-heaving as the stomach and intestines dry out. By now the skin and lips are cracking and the tongue is swollen. The nose may bleed as the mucous membranes dry out and break down. The skin loses elasticity, thins and wrinkles. The hands and feet become cold as the remaining fluids in the circulatory system are shunted to the vital organs in an attempt to stay alive. The person stops urinating and has severe headaches as their brain shrinks from lack of fluids. The patient becomes anxious but then gets progressively more lethargic. Some patients have hallucinations and seizures as their body chemistry becomes even more imbalanced. This proceeds to coma before death occurs. The final event as the blood pressure becomes almost undetectable is a major heart arrhythmia that stops the heart from pumping.
Following are the medical effects of forced death by starvation and dehydration as described by a Massachusetts judge in the 1985 Brophy case:
- The mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material.
- The lips would become parched and cracked.
- The tongue would swell, and might crack.
- The eyes would recede back into their orbits and the cheeks would become hollow.
- The lining of the nose might crack and cause the nose to bleed.
- The skin would hang loose on the body and become dry and scaly.
- The urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder.
- The lining of the stomach would dry out and the sufferer would experience dry heaves and vomiting.
- The body temperature would become very high.
- The brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions.
- The respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug the lungs and cause death.
- At some point within five days to three weeks, the major organs, including the lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and the patient would die.
In his book Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder, Wesley J. Smith describes the intense suffering imposed on those being starved to death. “Proponents of dehydration contend that deaths by dehydration are peaceful,”
Smith wrote. Explaining that, “the patients we are discussing are not terminally ill” and that those who are conscious can feel hunger and thirst, Smith quotes Dr. William Burke, a neurologist in St. Louis, who described the agonizing process:
A conscious person would feel it (dehydration) just as you and I would. They will go into seizures. Their skin cracks, their tongue cracks, their lips crack. They may have nosebleeds because of the drying of the mucous membranes, and heaving and vomiting might ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining. They feel the pangs of hunger and thirst. Imagine going one day without a glass of water. Death by dehydration takes ten to fourteen days. It is an extremely agonizing death.
One of the great ironies of the present battle for the life of Terri is that the same state which is overseeing the forced starvation of an innocent woman just locked up a man for five years for starving his cows. We are reminded that “A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel” (Proverbs 12:10).
II. The Diabolical Agendas of those Complicit in the Murder
“Bill Allen, do you think she is a person still?” —Joe Scarborough: MSNBC
“Well, I think she has lost the distinguishing feature, or she has lost the physiological ability for awareness, self-awareness, which is the distinguishing feature of human being or, if you will, even the divine image.” —Bill Allen, bioethicist arguing for forced starvation of Terri Schiavo
The American public has been sold a bill of goods. We have been told that Terri feels no pain of starvation, that starvation and dehydration is a “dignified” way to die, that Terri was dying from her handicap, and that she is a vegetable who has no awareness, even that she is no longer a person. The public relations campaign of those intent on her death has been carefully conceived and brilliantly executed. But behind the “PR” is a diabolical agenda of self-interest and radical politics.
A. The Husband
The first question that typically comes to mind when considering the behavior of Michael Schiavo is this: Why is an unrepentant, serial adulterer, presently living with a mistress, who has sired two children out of wedlock, who has had no compulsion violating the law of God and his marriage vows, still reluctant to divorce his wife and be free of the burden of her care? Why not simply transfer her guardianship to those individuals (her family) who love her and want to care for her for till death do them part?
Is it the insurance money? The book and movie deals? Or the trust fund which has been depleted due to Mr. Schiavos legal efforts to kill his wife?
At the time of his marriage to Terri, Michael Schiavo vowed to care for his wife “in sickness and health till death do us part.” He made the same statement to a jury. In fact, when Michael Schiavo promised a jury that he would spend the rest of his life taking care of Terri, he was granted just under a million dollars that was placed in a trust fund for her care. Yet Michael, “said nothing about Terri wanting to die until seven years into her disability. For the past 14 years he has denied Terri any therapy. Thirty allegations of abuse, neglect, or exploitation were filed in court by the Florida Department of Children and Families. But the judges disregarded all that.”
The jury also awarded him $300,000 for loss of consortium. Mr. Schiavo then took the money and sought consortium through adultery. Additionally, while more than $700,000 of the trust fund remained, he sought a court order in 1998 to have Terris feeding tube removed. He has now spent most of the money on attorneys fees trying to keep it removed.
Michaels disdain for his wife is well-documented. In 2003, National Review Online reported, “In the mid 1990s, according to...[registered nurse Carla Iyers] affidavit filed under penalty of perjury, Michael was overheard saying things such as, When is she going to die?, Has she died yet?, and When is that bitch going to die?”
Under biblical law, a man who claims to be committed to his wifes best interests, but commits successive adulteries (resulting in multiple children sired out of wedlock), and who then urges his wife to be torturously dehydrated and starved to death, is both a liar and a murderer. This is the record of Michael Schiavo.
One thing is clear: This “husband” has consistently acted against the best interests of his wife. In his commitment to the death of Terri, Michael Schiavo has:
- Denied her speech, swallowing, and other rehabilitation therapy;
- Denied her parents visitation with Terri for as long as five months at a time;
- Had her two cats euthanized in preparation to move in with his girlfriend who had a dog;
- Admitted in a deposition that he took Terris engagement and wedding rings and made them into jewelry for himself;
- Brought girlfriends to Terris bedside;
- Refused to permit doctors to give Terri antibiotics when she developed a urinary tract infection;
- Refused to have her teeth cleaned for several years and five had to be pulled as a result; and
- Refused to have her wheelchair fixed and permit Terri to be taken outside.[xvii]
B. The Attorney
Attorney George Felos is at war with the life-affirming Gospel of Jesus Christ. As an outspoken advocate for euthanasia, he is committed to building a society where individuals, families, and doctors can be free to “mercy kill” those whose lives are “not worth living.” He is a member of the notorious, ultra-radical, pro-death Hemlock Society, an organization committed to breaking down legal and cultural barriers to assisted suicide for individuals with quality of life issues — from the unhappy to the disabled to the sick. His Amazon.com entry for his book, Litigation as Spiritual Practice,[xviii]notes that he is “spearheading a social revolution to enable death with dignity in the state of Florida.”
C. The Expert Witness
Dr. Robert Cranford, a faculty associate of the University of Minnesotas Center for Bioethics, is the leading “medical expert” on the side of Michael Schiavo. Three years ago, Dr. Cranford examined Terri Schiavo for forty-five minutes and declared her to be in a persistent vegetative state, and he has since lobbied stridently for her death.
As a member of the board of directors of the Choice in Dying Society, Cranford is a hard-core proponent of the pro-death movement and is unabashed about his position. “Everybody needs a scapegoat,” said Cranford mockingly. “They need a Dr. Evil. And they've got one.”
With a frequent presence on national television, Cranfords tactics include belittling the qualifications and dismissing as non-credible the opinions of well-respected physicians who disagree with him, calling some “pro-life fanatics,” and others quacks and charlatans.
In an op-ed published in the Minneapolis Star Tribune in 1997, Crawford decried the medical community's “inability to be realistic and humane in treating irreversibly ill people.” His answer: kill them. Otherwise, we will only prolong “a dehumanizing existence for the patient.” Crawford has advocated that Alzheimers patients should be starved.
D. The Philosophy Behind the Pro-Death Doctors and Lawyers
Terri Schiavo is what Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood and mastermind of modern birth control, abortion, and eugenics policy, described as human waste. As Edwin Black comments in his revealing book, War Against the Weak:
Sanger was an ardent, self confessed Eugenicist and she would turn her organization into a tool for eugenics which advocated for mass sterilization of so-called defectives, mass incarceration of the unfit and draconian immigration restrictions. Like other staunch eugenicists, Sanger vigorously opposed charitable efforts to uplift the downtrodden and deprived, and argued extensively that it was better that the cold and hungry be left without help so that the eugenically superior could multiply without competition from the unfit. She repeatedly referred to the lower classes and the unfit as human waste not worthy of assistance, and proudly quoted the extreme eugenics view that human weeds should be exterminated.
It is appropriate to mention Sanger because, in many ways, she is the American most responsible for masterminding the widespread acceptance of various forms of eugenics, policies that are at the heart and soul of the courts decision to kill Terri. What began as one clinic has burgeoned into a global movement, earning Planned Parenthood the status of being the only organization in recorded world history to surpass both Hitler and Stalin in the sheer volume of weak and helpless human beings brutally killed as a result of its influence.
Sanger's biggest victory, however, was not merely the gradual acceptance of her radical eugenics mindset by the courts, but the gradual wearing down of the resolve of the Christian community to oppose the birth control mindset, embrace all life, and care for the weak and those in distress. While few Christians would embrace Sanger in her most radical form, many have accepted her basic premises that we should manipulate the womb to accommodate economic realities, that some disadvantaged people would be better off dead, and that it is a mercy to pull the plug on the old, the weak, and the comatose.
In her 1922 book, Pivot of Civilization, Sanger dedicated an entire chapter to the “Cruelty of Charity.” Quoting the great social Darwinist Herbert Spencer, she wrote, “Fostering the good for nothing at the expense of the good is an extreme cruelty.” She pulled no punches when castigating those who would help the weak:
Organized charity itself is the symptom of a malignant social disease. Those vast, complex, interrelated organizations aiming to control and to diminish the spread of misery and destitution and all the menacing evils that spring of this sinisterly fertile soil are the surest sign that our civilization has bred, is breeding and is perpetuating constantly increasing numbers of defectives, delinquents, and dependents. My criticism is not directed at the failure of philanthropy, but rather at its success. The most serious charge that can be brought against modern benevolence is that it encourages the perpetuation of defectives, delinquents, and dependents. These are the most dangerous elements in the world community, the most devastating curse on human progress and expression.