The Florida Catholic Conference must be experiencing a little heat since they have issued another statement only two weeks after their last one.
Terri Schindler Schiavo has been the center of national media attention, and the focus of a debate that touches all three branches of government. Mrs. Schiavo is not "brain dead" or comatose. She has lived in a nursing home for years, presently a hospice facility, generally needing only nursing care and assistance in receiving nourishment. Some experts say she is in a "persistent vegetative state;" others say she is not. Her husband wants to remove her feeding tube, insisting she expressed clearly this would be her wish; her parents and siblings vigorously disagree, and have offered to care for her as long as she lives. Questions about her prognosis and wishes persist, raising doubt as to what she would truly want.
No longer able to speak on her own behalf, Mrs. Schiavo is a defenseless human being with inherent dignity, deserving of our respect, care and concern. Her plight dramatizes one of the most critical questions we face: To be a truly human society, how should we care for those we may not be able to cure?
In our past statements concerning Terri Schiavo, as well as those by Bishop Robert N. Lynch of the Diocese of St. Petersburg, we have made it clear that there should be a presumption in favor of providing nutrition and hydration even by artificial means as long as it is of sufficient benefit to outweigh the burdens involved to the patient. We reiterate our plea that Mrs. Schiavo continues to receive all treatments and care that will be of benefit to her.
In a statement provided in March 2004, Pope John Paul II urges us to see every patient in a so-called "vegetative" state as a fellow human being, retaining his or her full dignity despite diminished abilities. Regarding nourishment for such patients, he said:
I should like particularly to underline how the administration
of water and food, even when provided by artificial means,
always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a
medical act. Its use, furthermore, should be considered, in
principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally
obligatory, insofar as and until it is seen to have attained its
proper finality, which in the present case consists in providing
nourishment to the patient and alleviation of his suffering.
Simply put, we are called to provide basic means of sustenance such as food and water unless they are doing more harm than good to the patient, or are useless because the patient’s death is imminent. As long as they effectively provide nourishment and help provide comfort, we should see them as part of what we owe to all who are helpless and in our care. In certain situations a patient may morally refuse medical treatment and such decisions may properly be seen as an expression of our hope of union with God in the life to come.
We pray that Terri Schindler Schiavo’s family and friends, and all who hold power over her fate, will see that she continues to receive nourishment, comfort and loving care.
This statement is better than the last one and is also much better than the statement Bishop Robert N. Lynch released on the same day. My own Bishop Bishop Victor Galeone signed this letter and I know that he has in the past released some fairly strong statements on this case that were read at Sunday Masses. Many have already commented on Bishop Lynch’s statement on Feb 28th which I would classify as unhelpful in the least. He phrased the debate as a decision made within a family, specifically Michael Schiavo, and pretty much gave a pass to the judiciary and to medical personnel. As if his ordering them to starve her to death could be carried out without the judiciary cooperating or medical people carrying out the execution order. Whatever happened to first do no harm? Unfortunately we have too many people working in the medical field who are willing to starve a patient to death without a second thought of refusing to do it. Bishop Lynch also talked much about legacy, finality, and end of life as if Terri was in some final stage from a terminal disease.
Update: John Gibson fisks Bishop Lynch’s statement, harsh but accurate.
John’s post started off with this which had me laughing.
Bishop Lynch has appeared above ground. Saw his shadow and therefor there will be 8 more years of the absence from Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration.
Update: Patrick Sweeney adds his own fisking of Bishop Lynch’s statement.
Update: Ignatius Insight also weighs in.
All I can say is poor Bishop Lynch. When he doesn’t say anything regarding Terri he gets blasted and when he finally does he gets blasted.