S+L logo

Terri Schiavo Was Not Euthanized?

March 30, 2007
We love receiving emails and phone calls from our friends and viewers! Just this week I heard from a priest who received our message regarding our documentary, Turning the Tide: Dignity, Compassion and Euthanasia, which will premiere on S+L this Sunday, April 1st at 9:00pm ET (and rebroadcast on Wednesday April 4th at 9pm ET). The documentary features several people who, because of personal experience, claim that if Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide were to be legal, they would be the targets. They also speak on behalf of the most vulnerable: the elderly, the terminally ill and the disabled.
One of these people is Bobby Schindler, Terri ’s brother. For those who may not recall the Terri Schiavo case of two years ago, she was a young woman, who due to mysterious circumstances (to this day, no one knows what happened to her), had a “collapse” when oxygen could not reach the brain, which led to brain damage. You will recall that some people claimed that Terri’s collapse was due to her alleged struggles with an eating disorder. Some claim that her husband, Michael Schiavo is to blame for her “passing out” that morning, some 16 years ago. Skip ahead 14 years, after receiving virtually no therapy and no treatment (she was basically warehoused in various nursing homes and hospices), by court order (and the wishes of Michael Schiavo), she was dehydrated and starved to death. She died on March 31st, 2005.
The email I received, expressed concern that Bobby Schindler was in Turning the Tide, because, this email claimed, Terri Schiavo was not euthanized: She was in a vegetative state, showing no brain activity, and therefore she was already dead.
At first, I was a bit confused; hearing from a Catholic priest who said that what happened to Terri Schiavo was not Euthanasia. But in reading his explanation, it all became clear. The issue with Terri was whether she was already “dead” and simply had to be “let go”. For her brother Bobby and her family, she was clearly not dead. She was responsive and had brain activity. For Michael Schiavo, she might as well have been dead, had no ‘quality of life’ and had expressed a desire in life not to be kept in such a state.
But let’s not be confused. The position of the Church is very clear. Our priest friend is right. When someone is already dead, ie. if they require extra-ordinary care, as in a respirator, without which they would not be alive, then, in effect, they are already dead. Disconnecting them from this machine is not euthanasia, it is not murder. It is letting them die a natural death.
I don’t think there is much of an issue here. We don’t need to see brain activity to determine if someone is dead or not. If the lungs and heart are working on their own, as in the case of Terri, then, the person is alive. The only care Terri required was a feeding tube, so she could eat. In the absence of the feeding tube, she could have been fed by hand, like we feed infants or other people who cannot feed themselves. Despite what the laws in most states say, this is not extra-ordinary care, or medical treatment. This is feeding. It is ordinary, basic care.
And what of brain activity? Who says that those with no brain activity should be killed? Besides, as you will see very clearly in Turning the Tide, Terri was responsive; she follows the doctor and her mother with her eyes. She follows a balloon with her eyes and she turns her head when asked. She even vocalizes in response to her mother’s voice and to music.
So, what happened to Terri Schiavo? The courts decided that her husband could determine her fate, despite the fact that there were others, namely her parents and her siblings, who would have gladly brought her home and cared for her, and since she was considered a “non-person”, with no brain activity (which could be disputed), they detached her feeding tube and starved her to death. That is not a natural death. That is euthanasia.
If you want to read more on euthanasia and my thoughts on the topic, please visit
Pedro's Journal. Click on “journal” on the top menu and select the entries titled “Dignity?” Parts 1, 2 and 3
We love getting your emails and phone calls. Please continue to do so. You can also add your comments to this blog.
And let us know what you think of Turning the Tide. We love that you are watching. But we love it more when you write to tell us about it.
Related posts
SLHour: Superheroes, Gaudete et Exsultate and other conversations
This week, on a special edition of the SLHour, we speak with Jim Papandrea about superheroes, science fiction and Christ and we learn all about Pope Francis’ latest exhortation, Gaudete et Exsultate ...read more
Feast of St. Philip Neri, Priest
A brief overview of who St. Philip Neri was, and what he accomplished as a Priest to commemorate his feast day - May 26th. ...read more
Read more about Amoris, a new 6-part series leading up to the World Meeting of Families (WMOF) this August airing on Salt+Light every Sunday from May 27th to July 1st at 8 PM.  ...read more
Welcome to S+L’s Weekly News Round-Up. As part of my job, I come across many interesting Catholic news stories on a daily basis. Some of them I'll cover on Perspectives Daily and the others I’d li ...read more
The spiritual bond between two Francises: <br> Pope Francis and Padre Pio
In honour of the birthday of Padre Pio, we present you with this article written by Dr. Ines Angeli Murzaku on the occasion of the pilgrimage of his major relic to Boston in 2016.  ...read more