On March 31, 2005 Ms. Terri Shiavo died in a hospital in central Florida with her husband in attendance. Her death marked the end of a protracted and very public legal battle between her husband and her parents. It was a legal battle that moved through the entire US legal system and involved both the government of the state of Florida, the governor, as well as the federal government and President Bush. Ms. Terri Shiavo had been in a coma for the past 15 years. It seemed to be the general medical opinion that
Ms. Terri Shiavo was in a “persistent vegetative state” and would not recover. Her husband Mr. Shiavo insisted that Terri Shiavo had communicated to him that she would not want to be kept alive in such a state. He therefore sought to have her feeding tube removed so that she could die peacefully.
Ms Shiavo’s parents felt that Terri’s condition could and would improve. They felt very strongly that Terri should be kept alive.
A well know Christian Social activist, whom I deeply respect, has suggested that the correct course of action was for the husband to allow the parents to continue to care for Terri, as they clearly wanted to do.
However I do not find his suggestion completely satisfactory. As a Buddhist and a deep believer in Ahimsa I feel that it is very important to protect all life. I am also married. If my wife had made clear to me that she would not want to continue to live in the condition that Ms. Shiavo was in, I would probably want to honor her wish. And in some way, if I were successful, this would make me my wife’s killer. Hmmm!
Of course it is complicated even more by the fact that Ms. Terri Shiavo was alive after 15 years in a deep coma as the result of medical intervention. So I am not really convinced that choosing to remove Terri’s feeding tube on a given day was an affront to the Christian God as some have argued.
This issue with Ms. Terri Shiavo is important and one that needs to be discussed and argued. Life is precious and we should be very wary of treating life lightly and in killing. But this discussion also involved politicians including President Bush who said that he is attached to a “culture of life.” Given that the US is at War in Iraq and Afghanistan, that we are dragging our feet in the Sudan, are slow to protect the environment, and that in the US large numbers of children are living in poverty and lacking proper healthcare, one has to ask what “culture of life” is President Bush talking about? And in Iraq how many 10s of thousands of people: men, women children and unborn children have been killed? Are these Iraqis somehow not a part of the “culture of life?” And what about the “Death Penalty?” Are the prisoners executed under US law somehow outside of the “culture of life?”
And what of all the money and media attention and political action that went into the Terri Shiavo case. Where is that concern and attention and money for the 30,000 children that die each day around the world from lack of nutrition, clean water or proper healthcare?
When I hear President Bush, a self-professed Christian, proclaim that he is attached to a “Culture of Life” I despair of Christianity. His very actions seem to make mockery of the sacredness of life that he is advocating. How are this president’s actions a reflection of the sacrifice, forgiveness, love and courage that we find in the Jesus teachings of the Christian testament?
posted by Paul