I wrote the following in one heated online discussion, before Terri Schiavo's death:
I believe that, callous as it sounds, suffering is part of the human condition. I believe that suffering should be alleviated but I believe that our Christian worldview should help us decide what measures that alleviation should take. Some suffering cannot and will not be alleviated this side of paradise. I don't like that but that's just the way it is. I believe there are things worse than suffering.
I don't think that pro-lifers should stoop to using right-to-die rhetoric. I think this is dangerous and frightening and wrong. [Note: I also don't think we should stoop to other hypocritical, intellectually dishones, or illogical arguments either.]
I don't believe that dying by starvation or thirst is "being tortured to death". Many ill people quit eating and drinking and it is dehydration that hastens or even causes their death. I do not believe that it would necessarily be compassionate to force-feed them. In fact, some view this lack of desire to eat and drink as part of God's mercy---they view death by dehydration as far more peaceful than the alternatives.
I don't believe that being force-fed via a feeding tube is the moral or medical equivalent of being fed with a spoon. I believe that I should have the right to determine that. If I don't get my living well written in time, I believe that my husband should have the right to make that decision on my behalf. I hope and pray that no one fights him on this. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe that my husband, despite his current or future failings, is my family---my family by choice and bound by our vows. (And anyone who knows the least little thing about me would never dare question my love or respect for my birth family. Please don't bother.)
I believe that the government should be limited in their power. I do not want them making any more medical decisions for me than they already unfortunately do. I certainly do not want some of the legal remedies that have been suggested during the whole Schiavo debate---if I want to die without being force-fed, I don't want to have to petition some federal review board for permission.
I don't believe that people should welcome someone in their home and let them call them "Mom and Dad" if they suspect he may have caused their daughter's PVS, disability, cerebral palsy like symptoms, or whatever you want to call it. If they did this, I seriously call into question their love for their daughter. I also believe that when Bob Schindler told his daughter's husband to "get on with his life" and date other women that he was not being a loving father. I believe that Michael Schiavo should have screamed, "Get behind me, Satan!" and separated himself from this bad influence as quickly as possible. I am serious.
Most of all, I don't ever, ever want to be the center of such acrimony and ugliness. I don't want my picture plastered all over the internet and in the media. I don't want people gossiping over my medical records, my alleged eating disorder, any alleged abuse, etc. I don't want the public arguing my case. Even if well-meaning people think I am being "tortured to death" by my husband having my feeding tube removed, please---in the name of all that is decent and holy---stay home and pray quietly and keep your mouths shut and rejoice that I will be with Jesus all the sooner, without having people behave as horribly as they are right now. In the name of God, do not call him a murderer. Do not think that you must go to extreme lengths to keep me bound to my physical body. Let me go and, if you care for me at all, cry and sing and laugh at my funeral. Otherwise, leave me and my family alone.
The above has been slightly edited for clarity.
I would also add that I believe that there is no perfect law or system that cannot be abused by someone. Try as we might, we cannot prevent tragedies and injustices from happening, no matter what draconian measures we may put in place.
Our advances in medical technology have brought with them all sorts of moral dilemmas. Are we duty bound to use every measure at our disposal? Is there no place, in a pro-life worldview, for letting nature take its course? Is there no place in a Christian pro-life philosophy for ever refusing medical treatment?
A century ago, the Terri Schiavo case would have never happened. She probably would not have survived the night of her collapse. She certainly would not have survived the first week, without the medical technology that saved her life. But, since such life-saving measures exist, we are faced with wrenching moral decisions and far more complexity than our forefathers ever faced. I am not arguing against the use of heroic life-saving measures; I have good reasons to be very thankful for modern medicine. However, medical ethics---especially Christian medical ethics---has a lot of difficult, ongoing work to do in grappling with the difficult issues that face us.