Wednesday, February 23, 2005

I haven't been following up the story as much as the others on Fox News but looking back I should have done so, that is the sad case of Terri Schiavo. She suffered severe brain damage some fifteen years ago in 1990 following a heart attack and collapse (stemming from an improperly diagnosed potassium deficiency). The settlement was for continuation of her care and rehabilitation, among other things.. This attack cut off oxygen to her brain leaving her unable to care for herself so she’s had a feeding tube in her mouth for nutrients and fluids. It's important to note that the attack hasn't left her in a comatose state leaving her to die with the flick of a switch from a life support system. Far from it you could see her fully conscious and a flicker of consciousness in the video inside her hospital room provided by her parents.

Now comes the tricky part: who has the right to decide if Terri dies or not? The Bible and the law rightfully states that a man and woman should be free to decide for themselves what should be advantageous for them but what happens if the husband in this case strays from his marriage vows and takes in a common law wife while his first wife is still alive and goes on to produce kids, does he still retain his right to decide for his wife? Terri and her family weren't able to produce a note or anything that would help their case if she became incapacitated although her husband claims that Terri told him explicitly before she came to this state that she should be allowed to die. I guess that would be all right if he also produces a note or a document testifying to this or if she lapses into a comatose state, became brain dead, if the doctors give her something to die gently and quickly, or if her family gives the go signal. But nothing like that is happening here. In fact her brother, Bobby came on TV asking his brother-in-law to release her into their care since he clearly doesn't want anything to do with her anymore. There wouldn't be any battle if Terri's husband, Michael, complies with their plea and withdraws the case but I guess his pride and some interested parties want to go on with this legal hullabaloo. As of this writing the judge deciding on this case has given a termporary reprieve by ordering a 48 hour stay on her feeding tube. Executive Director of the Common Good Foundation, Derek Holser, put it succinctly in his article posted on Catholic Online regarding this case:
As a child, I was taught the story of the Good Samaritan. In this parable, a man is found on a roadside, having been robbed and beaten by some bandits and then left to die. This man is never named, never given an identity, he is just another of the needy among us. As he lay in the dirt, bloodied and bruised, two men pass by him on their way to various destinations.

Perhaps like many of us, the men that passed him that day were busy, and it would be inconvenient for them to show any true compassion. Perhaps they thought, "I gave some money to a charity recently", or "someone else will help this hapless soul." Amazingly, the first man to pass by this poor wounded person is a priest, a man entrusted by his ordination to care for the less fortunate among us. The second man, a lawyer, passes by him even though he may be able to offer this victim the protection of the law by assisting him in identifying and bringing to justice those criminals who left him to die.

I wonder how many of us would pass by this nameless man? I wonder how many of us would find it inconvenient to help those who have been left to die?

Terry Schiavo was left to die last week, and many people among us were willing to pass her by, thinking it was inconvenient or unnecessary to provide assistance to someone that is not currently experiencing "a full life". Like Terry Schiavo, the nameless man was not currently experiencing what society would have deemed "a full life". Thankfully, compassion overcame convenience and someone stopped to help him. Thankfully, the Florida Legislature and Governor Jeb Bush allowed compassion to overcome convenience by stopping to help Terry Schiavo this week.

The battle between compassion and convenience is one that we each fight on a daily basis. Although we may be busy working and living, we must also be compassionate to the less fortunate among us. The reason we must be compassionate is clear: it is a response to the essence of humanity, being made in the image of the Creator. The story of the Good Samaritan has an interesting beginning – The story is prompted by the question, "Who is my neighbor?"

"Who is my neighbor?" I believe this question is motivated by a desire to limit the bounds of our charity. The man asking the question is seeking to restrict his solidarity to a small group in his community. Yet Jesus blows that notion to smithereens by telling a story about a Jew being helped by his mortal enemy, a Samaritan. In the end, Jesus' interrogator realizes the true meaning of being a neighbor. A neighbor is someone who allows compassion to overcome convenience.

When compassion wins, new relationships are created; when convenience wins, old relationships remain status quo. When compassion wins, the fullness of life is experienced; when convenience wins, the emptiness of existence is perpetuated. When compassion wins, a culture is humanized; when convenience wins, mankind becomes more mechanistic.

The last two sentences in the last paragraph hits the problem on target. We tend to take rationalism to the extreme to the point of excluding God out of our thoughts and bowing down to materialism resulting in what we conceive to be self-suffiency but all evidence points to the contrary. Left to our own devices we're sliding down to faster and farther down than the level of animals. By weeding out all traces of the Bible and its teachings because of what we think is its flawed views of equal opportunity for all is just an excuse for the survival of the strong, a contradiction of what God teaches us through His word that those of us who are strong should reach out to those who are weak. Should we decide to take another's life in case they can't fend for themselves? Or more importantly, can we even find it in our hearts to grant another person a death sentence through slow starvation and dehydration? If then will we be able to look at ourselves in the mirror and still be able to proudly call ourselves human?

* You can read more about Terri's fight for her life here: Background: Terry Schiavo’s Right To Live or Die - Does Terry's Husband Have The Right To End Her Life?
** Ganns Deen also posted some tips how you could contribute to help Terri and her family fight for her life:
1. Pray for Terri and her family.
2. Blog - communicate the truth about what is going on and rally support for Terri and the Schindlers.
3. Visit BlogsforTerri ( http://www.blogsforterri.com/) for information and to join the team of blogs for Terri.
4. Deluge Gov. Jeb Bush with emails and phone calls. He has the power to intervene. Here is his contact information: Governor Jeb bushjeb.bush@myflorida.com850 / 488-4441850 / 487-0801 (fax)
5. Support HB701 (click here).
6. Important - Bypass the Mainstream Media - pledge support a paid advertisement in the St. Petersburg Tribune to inform its 450,000 paid subscribers about what is really happening to Terri. [http://www.blogsforterri.com/pledge.php].

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