Euthanasia and Terri Schiavo

While agonizing over the fate of Terri Schiavo, this murder of the infirm and cognitively impaired has become a mainstay of the American medical and legal establishment. At a Missouri medical center, I was given an information sheet entitled “Fluid Deprivation and the Terminally Ill” which stated, “…the decision not to provide hydration, IV fluids, and nutrition (feeding tubes, etc.), may be helpful. …As death approaches dehydration occurs naturally. Administering IV fluids to the terminally ill patient can increase urine output, often creating the need for a catheter or the frequent use of a bedpan. Administering tube feedings can result in nausea, vomiting or diarrhea. Additionally the administration of IV fluids by IV or by mouth can result in swelling of the feet and hands that contribute to the formation of pressure sores. Oral discomfort is noted to be the only known drawback to natural dehydration. Because foods and fluids have such powerful symbolic meaning, it is often very difficult for family members to decide in favor of natural dehydration for their terminally ill loved ones.”

In response to this policy I wrote the Administration, Board of Directors, and Ethics Committee the following:

Dehydration is a pathologic state or symptom of an anomaly or disease that is to be treated, not produced by withholding fluids and/or nutrition. Withholding hydration, nutrition, or any medical treatment should not be done unless death is imminent, (not terminal) and the removal of such hydration, nutrition or medical treatment should not be the etiological or causative factor in the death of that individual, but as a natural consequence of the disease state. This directive on removal of hydration from the terminally ill is paramount to passive euthanasia (murder)…This medical institution needs to eliminate its policy on the terminally ill since the word terminal has many definitions and it is too illusive or subjective to be used in policies affecting those patients in whom death is imminent. All policies affecting the medical treatment of patients whose death is imminent need to safeguard the patient and/or significant power of attorney, stating that if the patient's condition changes and death is not imminent, all hydration, nutrition and appropriate medical treatment will be reinstated. (“Imminent” defined as the approximate relation to death of a patient in an irreversible, persistent catabolic state or an irreversible respiratory or metabolic acidosis). In conclusion, no medical treatment or the withholding of medical treatment should be the etiological cause of a human being's death; the disease, anomaly, pathology or trauma should be its etiological cause.

By acting in this way the legal and medical establishment usurp the place of God in so much as they arbitrarily choose whom they will allow to live and whom they will send to their death. No doctor or lawyer can claim this right to decide on other peoples' origin or destiny. The purpose of their institutions is to safeguard the health, dignity and welfare of their patients and constituents-not to help them or any other persons to hasten their death!

Richard Mahoney

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