To the Editor:
I have been following the back-and-forth over the Schiavo feeding tube issue. While both James Kirchick and Jacqui Costrini make true assertions about the case, I found that together they made a stronger point: The arguments people are making about the Schiavo case are largely irrelevant. Whether or not death by starvation is painful, and trying to prove that one side is more sympathetic than another, is unimportant.
The issue of whether or not to continue on life support comes down to the will of the patient. Unfortunately, the will of Terri Schiavo is not known in writing, and she has joined the disabled class of Americans whose protection (but not autonomy) falls to a guardian. True or untrue, we cannot take as written testament Mr. Schiavo’s hearsay that she would not want to live this way. Doing so opens the door to speculation by any burdened guardian that their charge would not wish to live dependently. Without a positive indication of the will of Terri Schiavo, there is no legal separation between her and the thousands of other disabled citizens of this country. Until such a separation exists, “allowing” Terri Schiavo to die justifies the “allowed” death of any other similarly disabled individual.
Mariangela Sullivan ’06
March 23, 2005