Tuesday, March 22, 2005

#155 - Careful Neutrality

There are reasons why I have not sounded off on the Terri Schiavo case to date. Primary among them is the simple fact that I'm not there and have no right to impose my judgement based on facts as they've been reported by others. I am not the woman's husband, nor her parent, and it is impossible for me to say how I might act were this my wife or one of my daughters. I can speculate, of course, but that's all it would amount to. Speculation.

The stories, images and sounds that have so captured everyone's attention these past months have been carefully crafted by those who have strong opinions on either side of the question. Yesterday I heard one expert talk about Terri's vegetative state and how she truly is not there. This morning I heard the story of one woman who was diagnosed with persistent vegetative state and recovered. We are meant to see every shred of hope held by the grieving parents, and every plea for dignity and quality of life made by the husband. We are also meant to see the parents as deluded souls who are desperate to save their daughter, and the husband as some sort of monster who wishes to snuff out this woman's life for purely selfish reasons.

Who among us, though, is truly qualified to make these judgements?

Not me. As I pass through life, even with a strong understanding of the eternal nature of man and God's plan for his mortal children, there are events for which there is no possible preparation. Not direct preparation, I should say. When I took my new wife by the hand and placed the ring on her finger, did I know for which trials I should prepare? Of course not. The things that may happen (and even many that have already happened) are not written down in a book somewhere that I can read. There are no telegrams that tell me that one of my children is about to require surgery, or that I might become incapacitated and unable to provide for my family sometime soon.

How, then, can I possibly adjudicate the actions and opinions of a family that has been thrust into that position?

I can't. Especially when you consider that, no matter what I may feel about the facts of this case today, I very probably would change my mind were I suddenly placed in that position myself. Were I the husband or father in this case, I would probably -- even irrationally -- hold onto every glimmer of hope, even if all medical evidence or opinion told me that no hope was possible. Even if my wife and I had talked about such things and agreed in advance not to prolong such suffering, I would probably have second thoughts.

I would have to consider not only the mortal consequences of my decisions, but all the eternal consequences as well. I would be in constant communication with my Bishop and other church leaders. I would be on my knees just as constantly. Even then, I have no idea whether I would have strength enough to either pull the plug, or hold on until the inevitable end. How can I possibly predict what I would do or how I would feel?

I understand and respect every opinion expressed by those who have such obviously strong feelings about this story. I, for one, will not be quick to judge anyone who sides either with the parents or the husband.

I merely pray that God will be merciful to all parties concerned: the husband, the parents, all those who support one or the other.

And, of course, Terri.

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