A Deadly Compassion

  In 1990, a seizure left Terri Schiavo of St. Petersburg, Florida, with severe permanent brain damage -- dependent on a feeding tube to sustain life. But today Terri's life is threatened by something even more dangerous than a seizure: namely, today's culture of death and its false notion of compassion. Two years after her trauma, Terri was awarded two million dollars by a jury in a malpractice suit against her doctor. The money would go to keep her alive. At the trial, Mr. Schiavo testified that he believed his marriage vows -- "till death do us part." Well, Michael's timeframe seems to have shrunk a bit. Four months after receiving the damage settlement, Mr. Schiavo began maneuvering to find a way to end his wife's life. He requested a "Do not resuscitate" order and then he tried to prevent the nursing home from giving Terri antibiotics to treat a potentially lethal infection. And yes, if she died Mr. Schiavo would get what's left of the two million. In 1997, Schiavo filed a petition asking for Terri's artificial feeding to be discontinued. He told the court that while she was alive Terri gave him an "oral living will" that provided that she not be kept alive by artificial means. But as WORLD Magazine reported recently, she's not being kept alive by what most people would call artificial means. Moreover, neurologists who've examined Terri say she's not in a persistent vegetative state. Dr. Richard Neubauer, an expert in cases like this, said in an affidavit that Terri Schiavo is both "viable" and "semi-responsive" to her environment. And that's why Terri's parents opposed Michael's petition. In addition, they presented evidence that Mr. Schiavo may have been less than forthcoming in his testimony. Nevertheless, despite the evidence, a trial court granted his petition -- a judgment that was recently affirmed by the court of appeals. So barring a change of heart by the judge, any day now Terri Schiavo's feeding tube will be removed. The next time you hear somebody scoff at terms like "culture of death" and "slippery slope," I hope you'll remind them of Terri's case. From the beginning, "right to die" advocates have dismissed concerns about where this so-called "right" would lead. They claim that legal requirements -- like a written will -- would prevent abuse. No one would die simply because they were a burden to their family. Well, those assurances have proven hollow. Despite doubts about her actual condition, and on the basis of the most dubious claims, Terri Schiavo is set to die And this is what is the "culture of death" is really all about. Disavowal of the "sanctity of life" has taken death from being merely the last resort to the option-of-choice for dealing with society's weak and helpless. This was inevitable because on a slippery slope the trajectory is always downward. That's why we call it slippery. The only way to avoid that downward trajectory is to stay off the slope in the first place -- by rejecting the idea of a "right to die." George Orwell said that we're seldom so cruel as when we seek to be kind. For Terri Schiavo that's apparently true. And her case reminds us that few things are as deadly as a misguided sense of compassion. To read Chuck's Capitol Hill address on "Abolition of Man," please see link below:


Chuck Colson


  • Facebook Icon in Gold
  • Twitter Icon in Gold
  • LinkedIn Icon in Gold

Sign up for the Daily Commentary