Valuing Human Life

2009_conference_logo_72_pixelsLast night I heard Bobby Schindler give the keynote speech at the National Lutherans For Life Conference. He is Terri Schindler Schiavo’s brother and the executive director of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation. He briefly recounted the events around Terri’s situation and the final days of her life.

The purpose of Bobby’s keynote wasn’t to re-tell all the details of Terri’s story, but to urge us to stand for the weak and defenseless. He noted that the most at-risk person in our society today is someone who has a disability; in our culture, having a disability puts you at the mercy of someone else to determine whether your life is worth saving or not–just like Terri.

He made it clear that Terri was not dying in 2005; she did not have a terminal illness and she was not in a so-called “permanent vegetative state” as was reported in the mainstream media. Terri had a severe cognitive disability, and it was decided that her life was not worth saving because her so-called “quality of life” was deemed unsatisfactory. She was refused all nutrition and hydration until she died nearly two weeks later of dehydration–that’s usually called “murder.”

During this time, several people were arrested for attempting to get water to Terri in the hospice facility where she was slowly being killed. One of them was a 10-year-old boy and part of his punishment was to write a letter of apology. The text of the letter is reproduced below; to read the letter in his own handwriting, click here.

To whom it may concern,

My name is Joshua Heldreth, I am 10 years old. I was arrested on Good Friday for trespassing on the hospice center’s property.

I am not a law breaker, I keep God’s law. That is very important to me.

In the Bible it says thou shalt not murder in the 10 commandments. It says to love your neighbor as yourself. It also says in Matthew 25, When I was hungry and thirsty you gave me food and water. Doing it for others was like doing it for God and He called the people who did that righteous and let them into heaven. So I wanted to do the same thing.

Not giving Mrs. Shiavo [sic] food or water was wrong. The reason I had to go on your property was because Jesus would do the same thing. It made me sad that she was so thirsty and it made Jesus sad too. I knew she would die without water and I am called by Jesus to be a defender of the defenseless. So I had to go on your property to try to bring her a drink.

I am sorry that you didn’t like that and wouldn’t allow me to help her when I came on your property. I am also sorry you didn’t help save her life and one day you will have to tell God why. I won’t be able to help you then like I tried to help her.

I will pray for you every day that you will some day have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ and serve Him whole heartedly [sic] no matter what.

Joshua Heldreth

Maybe it’s just me, but…if it is so clear to a 10-year-old that it’s not right to cause a person to die by denying him nutrition and water, why do our laws stipulate that it is okay to withhold these things from someone who cannot speak for himself? And if a child can stand up and speak for life, what excuses do we have for not doing the same? Where will we draw the line? Who will decide how much “quality of life” a person with disabilities has to have to make his life worth saving? When will we defend the defenseless?