On Thursday, March 31, Terri Schindler Schiavo died as the result of court-ordered starvation and dehydration. From March 18, it was not lawful to give Terri Schiavo any food or water. As late as March 30, the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals – a panel of 12 federal judges – refused to rehear her case.
What happened to Terri Schiavo is tragic.
Cardinal William Keeler, chairman of the Bishops’ Committee for Pro-Life Activities, issued a statement mourning Terri Schiavo’s tragic death. The Cardinal cited the teaching of Pope John Paul II that “‛the administration of food and water, even when provided by artificial means,’ should be considered ‛morally obligatory’ as long as it provides nourishment and alleviates suffering for such patients.” The Cardinal went on to state, “Ours is a culture in which human life is increasingly devalued and violated, especially where that life is most weak and fragile.” He concluded, “May the soul of Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo rest in the peace and mercy of God. And may God have mercy on our society which failed to protect this innocent human life.” For the Cardinal’s full statement, see: www.usccb.org/comm/archives/2005/05-075.shtml.
New Scientific Findings
Through use of functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), medical researchers in the United Kingdom and Belgium determined that some patients in their study—5 out of 54—diagnosed as being in a vegetative or minimally conscience state had brain activity reflecting some awareness and cognition. The results were published online in The New England Journal of Medicine (February 3, 2010), “Willful Modulation of Brain Activity in Disorders of Consciousness.”
In a Washington Post story on the study, one of the researchers, Adrian Owen, stated, “These are patients who are totally unable to perform functions with their bodies—even blink an eye or move an eyebrow—but yet are entirely conscious. It’s quite distressing, really, to realize this.” Nicholas D. Schiff, an associate professor of neurology and neuroscience, stated, “This should change the way we think about these patients. . . .I think it’s going to have very broad implications.” “Beneath the ‘vegetative state,’ scientists find some alert minds,” Washington Post (2/4/2010), A1.