Living will could have simplified Schiavo case

At the time this editorial was written, Terri Schiavo is still alive in her hospital bed, but she will most likely die within the next day or so, her doctors have been telling the media. She has already been given her Last Rites by a priest.

Anyone can agree — even those who oppose the reinsertion of Terri‘s feeding tube — that the image of the now 41-year old woman slowly starving to death is a depressing one. But that is what her husband has finally chosen to do, and the law is on his side.

This case will be groundbreaking when it comes to the topics of euthanasia and the rights of disabled patients. Who has the right to decide whether or not someone is allowed to live? When should the government be allowed to intervene? At what point is someone’s life no longer worth continuing? These are all questions that are running through everyone’s mind.

One can’t help but wonder how things would have been different if Terri had a living will. Many wonder why she had not made any formal arrangements for what to do in case of an emergency. What is sometimes overlooked is that Terri was only 26 years old when she had her near-fatal heart attack that left her severely brain damaged.

Though the thought of making a will at such a young age is depressing, this case shows us that we need to be looking into our arrangements now. We need to have our wishes explicitly and legally stated so that if such an incident were to occur, it would be our wishes that are carried out, not the wishes of a governmental body or a concerned parent whose desire to preserve life no matter what may skew his or her judgment.

Some people have no desire to be kept alive by artificial means. To them, this is no longer living.

Though the technology exists for carrying out the natural functions of the body artificially — breathing, heart beating, eating — we must be sure we are not abusing this technology and playing God ourselves.

Who is to say that removing Terri’s feeding tube is any more unnatural and immoral than leaving the tube in for 15 years while it was obvious that her condition was not going to improve?

Though it is almost impossible to imagine any sort of legislation will be passed before Terri’s passing, this case will set the precedent for future cases involving the rights of the disabled. Congress will use this case as its main example when it has hearings next month regarding the long-term care of disabled patients. Hopefully, stricter, more definite policies will be in place so there will be no more drawn-out court cases like this one.

Until then, everyone, regardless of age, needs to make their wishes known to our loved ones and through a living will. It’s hard to think that something may happen, but it’s certainly possible, and we all need to plan for it — for our sake and our family’s sake.

The above editorial is the consensus opinion of the Daily Kent Stater editorial board.