Another aspect of the Terri Schiavo tragedy is that many people misunderstand its cause and, therefore, its solution. They think the problem was that Terri did not leave any written instructions about whether she wanted to be kept alive. In order to avoid any such problem in their own lives, they are now told that they have to draw up a “living will.” This is both erroneous and dangerous.
Terri’s case is not about the withdrawal of life-saving medical treatment, but rather about the killing of a healthy person whose life some regarded as worthless. Terri was not dying, was not on life support, and did not have any terminal illness. Because some thought she would not want to live with her disability, they insisted on introducing the cause of death, namely, dehydration.
The danger in our culture is not that we will be overtreated, but rather that we will be undertreated. We already have the right to refuse medical treatment. However, we run the risk of losing the right to receive the most basic humane care — like food and water — in the event we have a disability and become inconvenient.
• Father Frank Pavone is the national director of Priests for Life and president of the National Pro-Life Religious Council.