Letting Schiavo starve isn’t death with dignity

To the Editor:

I am writing in response to James Kirchick’s editorial, “Allow Schiavo to die with dignity” (3/21). Mr. Kirchick suggests that the legislation that allowed Schiavo’s case to be decided in federal court is a political ploy of the religious right. Since the legislation was passed unanimously by the Senate and with bipartisan support in Congress, I think it is clear that this isn’t some sort of public relations stunt by a small minority of Republicans.

Further, Kirchick’s assertion that removing Schiavo’s feeding tubes would be a dignified death defies the medical reality. The truth is that removing Schiavo’s feeding tubes would kill her in one of the most painful possible ways. She would starve to death. After days without food or fluids, her organs would slowly begin to deteriorate until one of them failed. This could take a week or longer. I think that is far from a dignified death. If someone starved a dog to death, animal rights activists would be up in arms. If a murderer were starved to death, it would be a human rights violation. Why is it OK to starve a brain-damaged woman who feels pain and responds to family? Because she can’t feed herself? Because she’ll never again contribute to the economy?

Starving Schiavo to death sends the message that we as a society do not value the life of someone who is severely handicapped. It send the message that we are willing to subject an innocent women to the kind of suffering that we would not allow a dog to endure. Finally, it could lead to a dangerous backsliding in medical technology where we try to ease people into death instead of lengthening and improving their lives. Saving Schiavo’s life is a matter of human rights that anyone, regardless of faith or political affiliation, can support as a case of human dignity.



Jacqueline Costrini ’06

March 21, 2005

The writer is vice president of Choose Life at Yale.

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