Indeed a sad day

Published 12:00 am Saturday, March 26, 2005

For the past several days, I’ve been immersed in CNN’s 24-hour news coverage, even while on vacation a week ago. From the Atlanta shooting, the theatrics surrounding Michael Jackson’s trial, and the Terri Schiavo case, I’ve taken being a news junkie to new levels.

But nothing has triggered more thought-provoking dialogue and emotions for me than the Terri Schiavo case. Those who are in contact with me daily know where I stand on this: It’s clearly abominable.

My friend Dan in Raleigh and I have spent countless minutes on the phone into the night (thank God for free cell phone minutes) in disbelief that this is happening.


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There are numerous arguments consistently being played out in the media as to why Terri Schiavo, a woman who’s suffered from serious brain damage for some 15 years, should die. After years of legal maneuvering, the courts agreed with the woman’s husband that her feeding tube should be removed last week. Her parents lost several appeals, the most recent on Thursday, to have their daughter’s feeding tube reinserted. In a last ditch effort, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush pushed to allow the state to assume custody of Schiavo-that too was sadly denied.

The medical argument is that she’s in a persistent vegetative state. On the other hand, there are experts, including a doctor who just recently spoke out, who believe that Schiavo is in a severely altered mental state.

But aside from the medical semantics, Terri Schiavo is human. Yes human, an alive and breathing human. Unfortunately, she can’t speak for herself or do anything for herself. But she has a heart that happens to beat on its own. Because she can’t feed herself, feeding tubes were required to provide her nourishment. But no law in this country could protect her from being starved to death.

Consistently my co-workers and others polled across the country continue to ask the hypothetical question, &uot;Would you want to be kept alive if you were in that state?&uot; and they normally follow up, &uot;I know I wouldn’t want to be.&uot;

Everyone has been playing God on this issue and inserting their personal death philosophy into the Schiavo case. Perhaps you could argue I’m doing the same.

The Schiavo case boils down to fundamental issues we’re going to continue hearing about in the coming weeks: At which point is living no longer living, and who or what entity should determine when life is in fact exhausted – aside from the absence of breathing. I’ve always believed God has something to do with that.

This column would read a little different if this case hinged on Schiavo being on life support, but this is clearly different. I can’t stress enough that despite how much of a degenerative state Schiavo is in, her heart beats on its own. That alone is argument enough that this woman deserves to live. So now will the federal government issue a 10-point scale that allows us to measure when a person’s life is no longer worth living. Should it be after a debilitating stroke or four to six months into a coma? The list could go on.

Withholding food from Schiavo is atrocious. As an aside, isn’t it interesting that if you withhold food from an animal, you could face jail time. Scott Peterson, who’s on death row for killing his wife and unborn child, will receive three nutritious meals a day. Terri Schiavo has done nothing but fall into the deep trenches of a disabled state, and the ruling is that she should die.

Senate majority leader, Bill Frist of Tennessee, led efforts in Congress to keep Schiavo’s feeding tube inserted. In response to the Supreme Court’s decision to deny efforts to keep Schiavo alive, he commented Thursday, &uot;It is a sad day for her loving family and for their innocent and voiceless daughter.&uot;

Indeed it is…a sad day.

Luefras Robinson is managing editor of the News-Herald. She can be reached at

934-9613, or via email at