One year ago tonight, Terri Schiavo had been denied food and water for five days. In eight more, she would die from dehydration. She literally dried to death. Her skin bruised. Her eyes pooled with blood. And this death by desication took 13 days.
Why did this happen? Because Terri Schiavo’s unfaithful husband convinced a judge that she would prefer death to life dependent upon the feeding tube through which she received nourishment. The basis of this claim was that Mrs. Schiavo, while in her 20s, once remarked that she didn’t want any “tubes”. This alleged intent–unlike, say, “in sickness and in health, forsaking all others, until death do us part”–was deemed inviolate.
Sadly, many Americans sided with Mr. Schiavo, because they didn’t want any “tubes” either.
But if that’s the standard, why didn’t Mr. Schiavo just shoot his helpless wife? After all, no one would prefer a 13-day death by dehydration to a split-second gunshot.
The reason is that most Americans are still able to recognize that shooting a woman for being disabled is morally abhorrent.
But then why couldn’t more of us recognize that starving her was at least as abhorrent?
Because Americans have become a morally confused people.
We elevate choice to a first principle. So if death is one’s choice, that’s fine.
The problem is that choice can’t be a first principle. It isn’t any principle at all. It’s a means, not an end.
Life, on the other hand, is a first principle. Life has intrinsic value. In our hearts, we all know that.
And that’s why no one shot Terri Schiavo.
The sad irony is that the thin moral cloak in which America wrapped itself made Mrs. Schiavo’s death all the more horrific.
Caught in her country’s moral confusion between the undeniable value of life and the selfish desire for choice, Terri Schiavo was hung out to dry.