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Saturday, March 31, 2007
'No such thing as a worthless life'
Priest who was with Schiavo says society has it all wrong
Posted: March 31, 2007
1:00 a.m. Eastern
By Bob Unruh
© 2007 WorldNetDaily.com
Father Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life
A priest who was with Terri Schiavo during her final hours in this life says society has it all wrong – because it does not understand the difference between a futile treatment and a futile life.
Today is the second anniversary of the death of the disabled 41-year-old Florida woman, and Father Frank Pavone, of Priests for Life, shared some thoughts with WND to mark the second year since Terri died.
"As you know, I was deeply involved in the Terri Schiavo case and with her in her final hours and moments. What was clear in this case was that even healthy people, if brain-injured are in danger in our current system of laws," he said.
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"Terry left no indication that she wanted to be deprived of food and water. Yet the courts insisted that this happen. Nor was Terri lacking a family ready to care for her, without complaint. Yet they were not allowed to," he said.
Terri died March 31, 2005, after the U.S. federal court system ordered that doctors could follow instructions from her husband, who was living with another woman, and withhold food and water from her.
The result was that she literally died of dehydration.
"Many people fear that they will be given all kinds of machines and medicines against their will," Fr. Pavone told WND. "What they should fear is exactly the opposite, namely, that even when they indicate that they want appropriate treatments, these will be denied them.
"Laws vary from state to state," he said, "but one of the most dangerous flaws in the law is that which considers food and water to be 'medical treatment' rather than ordinary human care. When we return from a meal, we don't say that we just 'returned from our latest medical treatment.'"
Fr. Pavone, who is national director of Priests for Life, and president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council, continued:
"We also see, in policy and practice, a confusion between 'futile treatment' and 'futile life.' If a person is not able to communicate or interact with others, many consider treatments which would keep that person alive to be 'futile,' not because the treatment would be ineffective at preserving life, but because they don't see a purpose to that life," he said.
"Certainly there is such a thing as a worthless treatment. But there is no such thing as a worthless life," he said.
Fr. Pavone was a familiar figure as life advocates and members of her family battled for Terri's life in those last few months and weeks as her husband sought court permission to order her physicians to withhold the basic needs of life – food and water.
He described her final hours as "an agony unlike anything I have ever seen" and has not changed his characterization of her death as murder. He preached at her funeral Mass and is preaching at her second anniversary memorial Mass.
In his website, he noted that he recently had the privilege of blessing Terri's grave.
"Those who visit the gravestone … will notice something highly unusual. While on most graves there is an inscription of two dates – when the person was born and when he or she died – on Terri's there are three."
Her gravestone, he said, lists: "Born December 3, 1963" and then "Departed this Earth February 25, 1990."
Finally, it concludes: "At Peace March 31, 2005"
"The whole world knows that she died on March 31, 2005. National and global media were present at the scene for days, covering every detail. Media were present again when I preached at her funeral mass. We know when she died. But her gravestone has become a pulpit for the euthanasia movement," he said.
"Those who killed her are now using her grave as a platform for their twisted ideology. What they are trying to say is that once her brain was injured in 1990 and she was no longer functioning like most of us, she wasn't one of us anymore. She 'departed this earth.'"
"This is actually a variation on an ancient heresy, which says that we are really spirits inhabiting a body. Terri couldn't communicate normally. So, her 'spirit' must have left her. The body was just a shell left behind. Those who believe she really 'departed this earth' in 1990 can therefore pretend it was OK to kill her in 2005. After all, it wasn't really her. She was already gone," he said.
He said Christianity teaches a unity of body and soul and further, the gravestone is an insult to those who are disabled and to those who love and care for them.
"Should they be considered already dead, too? Are we just wasting our time caring for them. Euthanasia advocates would have us think so," he said.
"As I blessed Terri's grave, I also prayed that God's people would be kept safe from this falsehood. And I recalled being in Terri's room the day she died. I remembered her face, dehydrated from not having had a drop of water in two weeks. I recalled seeing the flowers, inches away, on her night table. They were immersed in water. And as I left the grave, I gave a final glance to the vase of flowers that was standing by the stone," he said.
Pavone also noted that people who worry about a "right to die" needn't.
"Don't worry – you won't miss out on it," he wrote.
"A right is a moral claim. We do not have a claim on death; rather, death has a claim on us! Some see the 'right to die' as parallel to the 'right to life.' In fact, however, they are opposite. The 'right to life' is based on the fact that life is a gift that we do not possess as a piece of property … but rather is an inviolable right. It cannot be taken away by another or by the person him/herself. The 'right to die' is based, rather, on the idea of life as a 'thing we possess' and may discard when it no longer meets our satisfaction. The 'right to die' philosophy says there is such a thing as a 'life not worth living.' For a Christian, however, life is worthy in and of itself, and not because it meets certain criteria that others or we might set."
On his website, he elaborated: "In the case of a person who is not dying but whose physical or mental functioning is impaired, the question often arises as to whether we should 'keep them alive' by feeding them," he wrote. "But there is no more of a doubt about keeping that person alive than about keeping alive anyone else who is not impaired! There is no underlying cause of death in this case. To fail to feed such a person is to introduce a new cause of death, namely, starvation."
He also suggested that as soon as there is the "right" to voluntary euthanasia, "you automatically and immediately introduced non-voluntary euthanasia, that is, killing people without their having asked for it."
"The reason is simple: A person should not be deprived of a 'right' simply because they are not able to ask for it. This is especially easy to understand when the 'right' is freedom from suffering. Why should someone suffer just because he cannot vocalize his desire to die?"
"This also leads to involuntary euthanasia, the killing of people although they want to live. The reasoning that leads to this conclusion is that the patient is not in a position to properly evaluate what is best for him/her in the circumstances – so we will step in and do what is best," he wrote.
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WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organizations – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily's unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.
Bob Unruh is a news editor for WorldNetDaily.com.