I wrote about Terri Schiavo while she was dying. Today the autopsy report came out. Todd Schnitt, a local radio talk show host here in Miami, was among many in the commentariat who crowed that the autopsy “proved” Terri’s husband was right to withdraw food and drink from her. The autopsy showed that she had suffered extensive and irreversible brain damage in the original stroke that left her in a persistent vegetative state.
As for me, I never thought she had any mental activity and never thought she had any hope of recovery. I just thought, and still think, that it is a terrible moral wrong to murder brain-damaged people.
Terri Schiavo was still a person. She still had a neshama. If she were a Jew and her family had to decide what to do according to halacha, they would have to continue food and water, via a feeding tube if there was no other way. At least that’s the halacha according to R’ Moshe Feinstein, the greatest posek of recent Jewish history.
If the person was days from death, there might not be a halachic obligation to put in a feeding tube in the first place. But she was not near death. She could have lived for years. To take the tube out once it was in would certainly be forbidden for a Jew. I don’t know the wrongs and rights of the case from the point of view of Florida law or of Noahide halacha, but just want to point out that Jews should not view the taking of human life with equanimity. Nor should they give orders to have their loved ones, or themselves G-d forbid, put to death when they lose consciousness.
She was a person. She was a human being. She was not a dog, not a doll, not a piece of furniture. Not only was she a person, she was a person who was very much loved and wanted, even if she could do nothing at all but make unconscious reflexive movements that resembled smiles. How horrible to kill an unwanted person. How much more horrible to kill someone whose family desperately wanted her alive and loved her devotedly.