I have always been puzzled by Christians who oppose the idea of disabled and severely ill people ending their lives. I feel this way about Terri Schiavo, the brain dead Florida woman whose parents oppose the removal of her feeding tube. One of the wisest things I ever heard about this was said by a woman whose husband had just died of prostate cancer: “At least he finally got rid of that awful body.” If these people believe in the existence of the soul, as they say they do, why are they so afraid to let the souls of those who are so damaged leave their bodies and journey to a better place?
Terri Schiavo’s mother, Mary Schindler, who, with her husband Robert, opposes the removal of Terri?s feeding tube, describes Terri’s starvation in stark terms. However, the truth is far different?while it’s true that Terri will starve to death, her pain will be relieved with drugs and she will not be uncomfortable. Not only that, it is going unremarked in the media that Terri’s MRI scans show that she has essentially no brain left at all, just a brain stem. Her head is filled largely with spinal fluid. The fact that she has been in this state for 15 years is also being ignored. On the evening news, it sounds as if a person who has at least some consciousness is being arbitrarily killed by a cruel husband. The truth is that Terri is a body without a brain, being maintained by entirely artificial means.
How can artificial life support like this be said to obey the will of God? It seems that God called Terri a long time ago, and human emotions are refusing to let her heed that call.
Whitley and I have had two extremely ill friends who made the decision to do this themselves. They had hospice workers come to their homes and give them drugs that would make their last weeks comfortable, while they refused food. Both were suffering from incurable diseases and had received every medical treatment that was available to them. Like Terri Schiavo, they were beyond hope of recovery.
If these Christians truly believe that our souls travel to some kind of heaven when we die, why not let Terri’s soul go on to a better place, given that her brain is not only dead, but actually gone?
Despite having had a near death experience, I can’t say I really KNOW that there’s life after death. But when my life here on Earth becomes untenable, I’ll be ready to take a chance on it, and if I am not able to communicate, I certainly hope that those who love me will stand up for my right to fly free.
Anne Strieber is the author of An Invisible Woman.
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