This past week two totally different stories engulfed the headlines of the evening news. Both, as of today, ending up in the determination of life. Little Jessica Lunsford was kidnapped and murdered by a pedophile who was staying across the street from her home. At the same time, a judge ruled that Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was to be removed so that she can starve to death over the course of the next few weeks. Cases like these are becoming all too common. And these two cases in particular may redefine the rights of life, and how to protect them.
Children are in need of protection now more than ever. The kindly stranger who once was trusted now has to be looked upon as a potential attacker of the innocent. The Jessica Lunsford case, like so many others, has left parents scratching their heads, wondering, “Who can we trust, and how much?” The man who killed Jessica was a registered pedophile, but little did that help Jessica’s family in knowing that he was staying right across the street, within striking distance. The rights of Jessica were violated. Society failed her. Pedophilia, from what I understand, is an incurable disease, so pedophiles must be monitored at all times, either with an ankle bracelet, or some kind of system that determines their constant whereabouts. In my view, they have lost their right to privacy once it has been proven they have violated a child.
Terri Schiavo has been fed intravenously for over 15 years. The case has gone through the courts…on one side is her husband, who wants the tube removed…on the other side is her family, who wants it to remain. Terri can breathe on her own, and from all accounts, is not on medications, but she has been deemed by a number of doctors and experts as brain dead. Yet, her eyes open and close, she breathes air through her lungs, and can make sounds through her mouth. Before succumbing to this condition, Terri did not write any conditions down on what was to be done if she was to ever come to that state of being. Terri’s husband has said that it was Terri’s wishes that she be allowed to die, if she arrived at that condition. Her family disagrees. This weekend the United States Congress has met in a special Saturday session to draft a bill that would be signed as soon as possible by the President to instruct the judge in the case to reinsert the feeding tube. This coming week the latest chapter in what we consider the Protection of Life will begin to be written.
What scares me the most is the slippery slope that we may be embarking upon. One has to ask themselves, how many defects are “allowable” before we deem a person so incapacitated that termination of their life is acceptable? Are stroke victims, or brain damaged individuals who cannot feed themselves, or be of clear mind, next? As a society, what we now consider horrific, is it possible to eventually arrive at it’s doorstep? Being kept alive on respirators for an indeterminate amount of time is one thing, and signing Health Care Proxies is another, where one’s wishes are known, no matter what they are….. but starving people to death is unmerciful. We always assume that loved ones will know the right thing to do….well that decision sometimes can get real cloudy. A person of sound mind at any time can sit down and draw up a document stating what procedures are to be followed if they are incapacitated or at death’s door. It’s easy and it’s simple, and should be notarized. Then our wishes rest with us…otherwise, we leave them for someone else to decide.
Life and Death….issues that we struggle with daily. There are no easy answers. Yet we must strive to be humane as much as possible.
love, Jennifer Avalon
Â© 2005 Jennifer Avalon