March 22, 2005 - 10:19 EST
I’m writing this in a somewhat “secular” tone, because, as Catholics, we all know the real reason we must save Terri’s life---but maybe there are ways we can convince those less fortunate. Here’s my attempt:
Here's the thing we all know, and which has been lost in the frenzy over whether or not the government should get involved: Terri's life is in the hands of a man who is supposed to be her husband. It is, I think, very important to ascertain whether or not he is, in fact, her husband. He has a common law wife and two children. If he's Terri's husband, does this not, in fact, make him a bigamist? Can he, in any real sense, be called upon to "husband" (verb) Terri as she needs to be husbanded? Has he not, in fact, shown plainly that his interest lies elsewhere, and that he has no respect for Terri (or, for that matter, his other wife and children)? Would not a man of honor either remain faithful to Terri (celibacy is possible---good teenagers and priests do it all the time) or admit that his love for her is dead and divorce her so that she can be remanded to the loving care of her parents and he can give his children a name? When you stop to think about it, aren't you just a little bit outraged at the gall of this man?
Look---I'm a judgemental old heifer, but even without the plot twists and hazy facts, Michael is just not Terri's husband---and yet he has this driving desire to see her dead based on a casual conversation they once had!
Terri's initial incident has never been investigated, by the way...even though her family suspected foul play at the beginning. Shouldn't the government intervene there? Doesn’t the government always intervene in murder cases?
The sad thing is that this whole circus is getting us away from the facts of Life: Terri will continue to live if she is fed. She lives, she breaths, she pumps blood and functions all on her own. So do babies, and so do many old folks. They just need to be fed. If we stop feeding Terri, what does it say about us and our attitude toward Life? It's not as if there is no one willing to feed her and care for her. Being "hooked up to machines" to keep one alive is one thing. Heroic measures of any kind can be, if the patient or her loving guardian want it, dispensed with. But food and water are not heroic measures---and despite what he says about being a loving guardian, Michael's actions scream otherwise. Can we condemn this girl to weeks of agony and call it mercy?
The real problem with Terri is that she repulses us. Our initial reaction is to shudder "I wouldn't want to live like that" and turn away---hoping subconsciously that she will go away and stop making us uncomfortable. She is an adult who cannot talk, cannot move in a purposeful fashion, and, despite frequent smiles and sounds, spends most of her time looking vague. But so do babies. And maybe Terri is as happy as a baby. That's not a bad quality of life. We need to stop putting ourselves in Terri's place, because she doesn't know what we know. Neither do babies, but we don't recoil from their cribs and grieve over how helpless they are---we just love them. That's all Terri's parents want to do.
Lastly, there is certainly a hope, expressed by many doctors whom Michael will not allow to examine Terri, that she can learn to talk and perhaps move purposefully with therapy. There is hope that she can get better. Why has this been denied her? Why has her loving husband condemned her to the narrowest life possible while he actively seeks her death? What is he afraid of, really? Something funny is going on here. We need to do whatever it takes to save Terri's life until we find out what. Even if it means an odious law which will put us all at the mercy of government bureaucracies. This Life is worth saving, and we need to get to the bottom of it and just hope someone else cares enough to intercede for us if the need arises. We can't let the usual political football players so disgust us that we forget this one life.