Vatican Appeals for Terri Schiavo's Life

Bishop Sgreccia Warns of «Serious Consequences»

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VATICAN CITY, MARCH 13, 2005 ( Sidestepping its general rule to not intervene in specific cases, the Pontifical Academy for Life has appealed for American Terri Schiavo’s life.

The brain-damaged Florida woman has been at the center of a long and bitter court battle between her parents, who want to keep her alive, and her husband, who wants to remove her feeding tube so she can die.

A court order requires removal of her feeding tube next Friday, which would deny the 41-year-old the basic nourishment she needs to live.

Bishop Elio Sgreccia, president of the Academy for Life, in explaining why the Holy See is speaking out in favor of Schiavo, said Saturday on Vatican Radio that her «case goes beyond the individual situation because of its exemplary character and the importance that the media have rightly attributed to it.»

«Silence in this case might be interpreted as approval, with consequences that would go well beyond the specific case,» he said.

The bishop explained that Schiavo is not in a genuine vegetative state, but rather she «seems to be in a sort of subliminal vegetative state, at the limit of consciousness, which might be described as ‘minimum consciousness state.'»

«Unfortunately, official medical examinations and expert assessments were not carried out on the patient to clarify her precise neurological state,» he said.

«No decision on the life of a person should be made legally without these assessments and, whenever necessary, one should also proceed to carry out cross-examinations by several experts,» the prelate added.

«From all worthy accounts, Schiavo may be considered a living human person, deprived of full consciousness, whose juridical rights must be recognized, respected, and defended,» the president of the pontifical academy said.

«The removal of the gastric feeding tube from this person, in these conditions, may be considered direct euthanasia,» said the bishop.

Making the distinction between «ordinary» and «extraordinary» means to keep someone alive, Bishop Sgreccia said, «The gastric feeding tube cannot be regarded as an ‘extraordinary’ or as a therapeutic ‘means.’ It is an integral part of the modality in which Schiavo can be fed and hydrated.»

«To prevent someone access to food and water, represents a way of killing that person,» he said.

Regardless of secondary aspects of the case, Bishop Sgreccia says that he feels it to be the duty of his academy «to affirm that such a decision goes against Schiavo’s rights as a person and, therefore, constitutes an abuse of the juridical authority.»

«If such a decision was confirmed and leads to Terri Schiavo’s death,» he warned, «it would create a juridical precedent and would present euthanasia in reality as a right before the courts of the United States, with the serious consequences that can be easily imagined for the lives of many other more or less autonomous persons, in this country and elsewhere.

«For these reasons we regard as illicit the decision to remove the gastric feeding tube from Mrs. Terri Schiavo.»

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