Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
Logo of The Spectrum
Wednesday, June 19, 2024
The independent student publication of The University at Buffalo, since 1950

Assisted Suicide Is not Murder

Thursday, a feeding tube was removed from a Terri Schiavo, 39, who, according to, has been in a "coma-like state" in Florida for 13 years. It may take up to two weeks for the woman to die. Schiavo's parents will likely appeal the decision, which was made by her husband and legal guardian.

In 1990, Schiavo suffered a heart failure that caused her "massive brain damage," and left her in a "persistent vegetative state." According to Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband, she would not want to continue living under such conditions as she currently does - in a hospice, being fed through a tube, with no brain activity.

According to her parents, Terri's ability to "laugh, cry and make noises" is evidence enough that she should be kept alive. But according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, such behavior is typical of people in Terri's condition, as stated in Thursday's CNN article.

Throughout the on-going legal battle being fought between Michael Schiavo and his in-laws, the real victim is Terri. Whether her husband's claims that she would not want to live in a vegetative state are true is irrelevant, as there is no hope for her recovery.

"Unfortunately, I know of no single treatment or combination of treatments that could result in any meaningful improvement in her current situation," said Dr. Peter Bambakidis, a neurologist appointed by the court to make an independent evaluation, in the article.

The only logical point the woman's parents and their attorneys have is that Terri is being starved to death, which is ridiculous. It is, however, the only legal way to assist Terri to die, as euthanasia is still illegal in every state except Oregon.

With proper rules and conditions enforced, people who are terminally ill and miserable with their lives should be allowed to end it in a way that is effective and painless, and should be allowed the option of dying with dignity rather than suffering in a hospital uncomfortably, or attempting to commit suicide themselves, possibly causing further pain or physical injury.

Although the legality and morality of assisted suicide has been at the forefront of the American consciousness in the past, it has never garnered prolonged attention in a way that has brought about any real progress. Debate over assisted suicide has actually been on-going since 1906 when the first euthanasia bill was drafted - and failed - in Ohio, according to the Euthanasia Research and Guidance organization.

Opponents of the practice refer to it as murder, and in 1999, Dr. Jack Kevorkian was sentenced to 10 to 25 years in jail for second degree murder after assisting nearly 200 patients die. That same year, 26 people died with assistance from their physicians in Oregon, up from 16 in 1998 - the first full year the Oregon Death With Dignity Act was in effect.

In Oregon, Switzerland, Belgium and the Netherlands, patients' suffering can legally be ended with the help of a doctor. Hopefully, the successes in these parts of the world will soon spread throughout the globe. This is not to say, however, that the process should be easily completed or done haphazardly.

Those wishing to undergo euthanasia must be adults, and should be terminally ill without the possibility of effective and timely treatment. They should also be counseled so that they are absolutely sure they want to die. Patients should also commission a second opinion from a doctor as to whether their condition is treatable. Patients and doctors must also both understand that assisted suicide will not be implemented on those who are only "tired of life."

In the places where assisted suicide is legal, the practice is not abused and is considered to be effective. Some doctors even believe the knowledge that legally assisted suicide is available is a comfort to patients who would consider dying over living with an illness or disability.

Terri Schiavo's parents are being selfish in keeping their daughter alive artificially. She is never going to wake from her coma or lead anything resembling a normal or even tolerable life. She is a drain on resources, and her condition is causing anguish and animosity between her relatives. While it cannot be easy to let a daughter or wife go, after 13 years, it is time to say goodbye.

There should be a better legal way to do it, however, than by starving her to death. Legal precedence was set for this case in 1976 when the New Jersey Supreme Court allowed the parents of Karen Ann Quinlan to remove their daughter from a respirator because that was the choice they believe she would have made herself. If an appeal is filed by Terri's parents, I hope the judge rules with common sense and compassion for Terri Schiavo.



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Spectrum