“Euthanasia is the intentional killing by act or omission of a dependent human being for his or her alleged benefit.”
(Source: National Right to Life Committee)
In This Section:
- Terri’s Story
- The Euthanasia Movement
- Types of Euthanasia
- Living Wills
- Iowa’s Futile Care Law
- What You Can Do
One year ago tonight, in a hospice in Pinellas Park, Florida, I kept vigil at the bedside of Terri Schindler-Schiavo watching a death that was not at all peaceful. Our sister Terri was near death by dehydration, while a display of live flowers stood just inches away, immersed in water. Along with a few relatives and friends who were on the visitors’ list, we were joined by armed police officers, making sure none of us shared that water with Terri.
—Fr. Frank Pavone, “Statement for the Schindler Press Conference,” March 30, 2006
Euthanasia has been with us a long time, but the struggle of a vibrant young woman named Terri Schindler Schiavo put a face on the issue. Her family’s heroic battle for her right to live gave us courage.
On February 25, 1990, 26 year-old Terri Schindler-Schiavo collapsed at her home in Florida from a mysterious cardio-respiratory arrest. The cause was never determined.
Terri had a brain injury. Contrary to reports from pro-death-biased media, she was not in a coma. She was not terminally ill. She was not on life support. According to her family, she was responsive – she looked directly at people speaking to her, she tried to speak herself, she laughed, she even returned kisses. Notes from a physical therapy session a year after her injury showed she was able to say things like, “No,” “Stop” and “Mommy.”
Despite this, Terri’s husband Michael Schiavo used the court system to deny Terri of basic treatment and limit the Schindler family’s access to their daughter and sister. The Schindlers fought for Terri’s life in the courts and in the media. On March 18, 2005, Terri’s feeding tube was removed, denying her water and nutrition. After clinging to life for 14 days, she died of severe hydration.
Today, the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation is dedicated to helping persons with disabilities and the incapacitated who are in or potentially facing life-threatening situations. The foundation hopes to create neurological care centers to provide care for brain injury victims and support for their families.
For details, visit the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation (link to www.terrisfight.org)
The Euthanasia Movement
We live in a world full of accidents, risks, perils and imperfection. There will always be people with disabilities among us. The Euthanasia movement is a movement to snuff out people who are mentally disabled, physically disabled or just elderly.
It happens every day in this country – and right here in the state of Iowa. In fact, current Iowa law empowers physicians to withhold life-sustaining medical treatment from a patient, against the wishes of the patient’s family, guardian, surrogate or written advance directives from the patient. (Read more about Iowa’s “Futile Care Law” below.)
A new, twisted pro-death language has emerged. Contrary to medicine, Euthanasia proponents have invented their own shifting interpretations on when life is “meaningful” or “worth living.” They have branded mentally disabled people with terms that rob them of their humanity, such as “vegetable” or “persistent vegetative state.” People in need of medical care are made to feel like a “burden.” Saving money has become a priority over saving lives.
Euthanasia sponsors have distorted healthy words such as “mercy,” “physician,” “right,” “care,” into confusing pro-death oxymorons such as “mercy killing,” “physician-assisted suicide,” “right to die,” and “futile care.”
There will always be people with disabilities among us. Our challenge is to arm ourselves with the facts and seek protection for our most vulnerable citizens.
Types of Euthanasia
- When the person who is killed has requested to be killed.
- When the person who is killed made no request and gave no consent.
- When the person who is killed made an expressed wish to the contrary.
- Someone provides an individual with the information, guidance, and means to take his or her own life with the intention that they will be used for this purpose. When it is a doctor who helps another person to kill themselves it is called “physician assisted suicide.”
Euthanasia by Action:
- Intentionally causing a person’s death by performing an action such as by giving a lethal injection.
Euthanasia by Omission:
- Intentionally causing death by not providing necessary and ordinary (usual and customary) care or food and water.
Source: National Right to Life (link: http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/index.html)
A living will is a legal document creating an advanced directive of what type of treatment you would like to have in the event of a serious injury or terminal illness. The problem with living wills is they are different in every state and subject to interpretation. Some states include “nutrition and hydration” under in their definition of “medical treatment.” This is the same as signing over permission for physicians to starve you to death in the same manner that Terri Schiavo was killed.
National Right to Life recommends against signing Living Wills and instead provides an alternative document, called a “Will to Live,” in which you designate a person to make medical decisions for you, in the event that you are unable to communicate.
National Right to Life’s “Will to Live” for Iowa: http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/willtolive/docs/iowa.rev1105.pdf
Iowa’s “Futile Care” Law
Under current Iowa law, a physician can order life-sustaining medical treatment withheld from a patient, against the wishes of the patient’s family, guardian, surrogate or written advance directives from the patient. In other words, the doctor’s word supercedes even the instructions in a living will created by an attorney.
What if health care providers do not want to comply with a patient’s or surrogate’s decision for Lifesaving Treatment?
Section 144A.9 of Iowa’s Life-Sustaining Procedures Act requires a physician or health care provider unwilling to comply with the recorded health care decisions of a patient or the decisions of a person legally acting for a patient who is unable to make health care decision to “take all” reasonable steps to effect the transfer of the patient to another physician or facility. However, the law does not require the health care facility to give life-sustaining treatment while the transfer is being arranged. For example, if a guardian directs that a patient be put on a respirator and the treating physician objects, the patient could die within minutes while a transfer might take days or weeks to arrange.
States like Texas, have a 10-day waiting period that gives the patient’s relatives or representatives to arrange for a transfer.
Because of this loophole, Iowa health care facilities might now legally follow the example of other hospitals around the nation that allow their ethics committees to decide who is worthy of continued life and who fails the test.
Iowa Right to Life backed an amendment in 2003 to add protections so patients and guardians who choose life will not be denied effective life-preserving treatments simply because a particular provider thinks the life that would be saved is not worth living.
The amendment simply said this: If denial of treatment against the will of a patient or the patient’s guardian would, in reasonable medical judgment, cause the patient’s death, the provider must allow the patient to be transferred to a provider willing to preserve the patient’s life. The unwilling doctor or hospital would merely have to provide treatment to preserve the statues quo – the patient’s life – until the transfer is completed.
The amendment failed.
The goal of the legislation was to guarantee that individuals’ rights to refuse treatment must afford equal protection to the rights of individuals who choose treatment.
It is important that the amendment would not require physiologically futile care – care whose denial would not, in reasonable medical judgement, cause the patient’s death.
Would the Law Allow Patients to “Practice Medicine?” How can You Force a Doctor to Give Treatment He or She Thinks is Medically Inappropriate?
The proper role of a physician includes diagnosis, making judgments about the probable effect of providing alternative medical treatments, and administering medical treatment; it does not include judging that a life that can be preserved is not worth preserving, overriding the opinion of the person whose life it is.
The American Medical Association’s Council on Ethical Judicial Affairs has warned against the threat to patient autonomy in assessments of futility based on “quality of life” judgments:
This approach to defining futility replaces a medical assessment (ie, whether a reasonable potential exists for restoring cardiopulmonary function to the patient) with a nonmedical value judgment that is made by the treating physician (ie, whether 1 day, 1 week or 1 month of survival by the patient – perhaps in a severely debilitated state – is of value to him or her). This interpretation of futility is inconsistent with the principle of patient autonomy, which requires that patients be permitted to choose from among available treatment alternatives that are appropriate for their condition, particularly when such choices are likely to be influenced by personal values and priorities.
…Examples of some benefits that have been described as appropriate indications for CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) are a “meaningful existence” after resuscitation or an acceptable quality of life for the patient. These determinations, which attempt to define the types of treatment and the qualities of existence that constitute a benefit for the patient, undermine patient autonomy because they are based on the value judgments of someone other than the patient.
These judgments of futility are appropriate only if the patient is the one to determine what is or is not of benefit, in keeping with his or her personal values and priorities.
(Source: American Medical Association Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. “Guidelines for the Appropriate Use of Do-Not-Resuscitate Orders,” Journal of the American Medical Association, vol. 265, no. 14 (April 10, 1991); pp: 1868-1870)
Patient Autonomy Includes the Right to Choose Life!
What You Can Do
- Do not create a “Living Will.” Fill out National Right to Life’s “Will to Live” instead. (link: http://www.nrlc.org/euthanasia/willtolive/docs/iowa.rev1105.pdf)
- Support the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation’s mission to provide care for the disabled or incapacitated who are facing life-threatening situations. (link: www.terrisfight.org)
- Encourage Pro-Life Doctors and Nurses. Check out our links for Pro-Lifers in the medical profession. (link: “Helpful Links” page)
- Support Iowa Right to Life’s efforts to lobby for pro-life legislation in the Iowa Senate and House of Representatives. (link to “Donate” page)
- For other ways to be active, visit Iowa Right to Life’s “Get Involved” section.