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Focus on the Family lists errors in Schiavo media reports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Focus on the Family has issued what it describes as a fact sheet about the condition of Terri Schiavo “in the hope of correcting the erroneous information being written and broadcast” about the brain-damaged Florida woman at the center of a national controversy over “right-to-die” issues.

Schiavo, brain-damaged since a mysterious 1990 heart flare-up, went six days without nourishment between the court-ordered removal of her feeding tube sought by her husband and action by the Florida legislature to give Gov. Jeb Bush authority to order the tube re-inserted.

Meanwhile, media coverage of the Schiavo case is “a revelation in itself” about today’s death-embracing culture, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, noted in an Oct. 24 commentary on Crosswalk.com.

The Focus on the Family fact sheet, prepared by the ministry’s vice president of medical outreach Walt Larimore, MD, and bioethics analyst Carrie Gordon Earll noted that “many media reports misrepresent the medical facts of her condition.”

Among the fact sheet’s counterbalancing statements:

— “It is being reported that Terri is comatose. She is not. It is also being reported that she is in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ (PVS), based on conflicting testimony in the courts. The truth? Terri is severely brain damaged and disabled. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, ‘… individuals in a persistent vegetative state … do not speak …’; yet Terri’s parents report that she can say words. In addition, experts say patients with PVS cannot follow objects with their eyes; yet video of Terri clearly shows that she does.”

— “Terri is not dependent on ‘life support,’ as many reports have stated. She breathes on her own and, like many disabled Americans, only requires assistance in receiving hydration and nutrition. Her body receives and processes hydration and nutrition naturally. Prior to the removal of her feeding tube, Terri was not experiencing (to our knowledge) any organ or system failure, and her body benefited from the nutrients she received.”

— Terri was not dying prior to the removal of her feeding tube. To deny her hydration when her body requires and processes fluids has the potential to cause her a painful and agonizing death. The effect of dehydration and starvation on Terri is no different than denying fluids and nutrition to the most ‘healthy’ person.”

— “After Terri’s initial collapse, she was continually denied rehabilitative therapy that may have given her the ability to swallow on her own. This denial of therapy created a dependence on the feeding tube. Medical experts have testified that Terri may still be a good candidate for being weaned from the feeding tube, but she has been denied this opportunity for therapy.”

— “Focus on the Family recognizes that there are times in the dying process when forced hydration via a feeding tube can be burdensome to the patient as the body is shutting down to die. In these situations, a feeding tube may be ethically removed with the concurrence of the guardian and/or family. However, Terri was not dying of natural causes but from denial of hydration and nutrition.”

— “Focus on the Family believes that there is a time to die (Ecclesiastes 3:2), and therefore there are situations when medical interventions should cease and a natural death be allowed. The question is not whether Terri should be allowed to die, however. The question is whether she has been given the opportunity to live.”

— “Ultimately, Focus on the Family believes that in cases like Terri’s, where the condition is not necessarily terminal; the patient has not let his or her wishes be known concerning hydration and nutrition; and the family is in dispute as to whether to remove hydration and nutrition (thereby hastening the patient’s death), the legislative and judicial processes should always favor life.”

Mohler, in his Crosswalk.com column, quoted from The New York Times and other media indications of a callous view toward crucial life issues.

The Times charged that Florida legislators and Gov. Bush have “mocked the courts’ careful deliberations and embarked on a ghoulish medical journey by directing that her feeding resume.” The Times also argued that “true respect for life includes recognizing not just when it exists, but when it ceases to be meaningful.”

Mohler’s reaction: “Evidently, The New York Times believes that it, along with others in the liberal elite, have the right to decide when life is adequately ‘meaningful.'”

The Times concluded its editorial by contending end-of-life decisions should be based upon “the wishes, as best they can be determined, of the individual whose life is at issue.”

Mohler’s reaction: “That is a fascinating statement, made all the more ludicrous by the fact that Terri Schiavo left no written instructions and the only individuals who have claimed that she would have wanted her life to end are Michael Schiavo and members of his immediate family.”

Other media cited by Mohler were:

— The Miami Herald, which declared that “by ordering Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube reinserted, the Governor and legislature have provoked a constitutional crisis, substituted a hasty legislative order for years of court rulings; defied sound medical judgment; and made a mockery of Florida’s Right-to-Privacy and Death-with-Dignity laws.”

— The Tampa Tribune, which dismissed the legislative action, now known as “Terri’s Bill,” as “profoundly unconstitutional.”

— The Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal, which claimed: “The true villains have been the self-serving grandstanders who interfered to turn private agony into political theater.”

To Mohler, “The legal charade presented by Michael Schiavo continues to have its enablers in the media. …

“The sad case of Terri Schiavo is a poignant sign of the advance of the Culture of Death and the impact of its logic on the nation’s conscience. The liberal elites have embraced the euthanasia movement and are ready to define life in terms of its perceived ‘meaningfulness.’

“These are the same people who believe that a woman has a fundamental right to abort the unborn life within her. They also believe that life should be measured by its ‘quality’ rather than its objective sanctity . …

“The Terri Schiavo case isn’t over — not by a long shot,” Mohler wrote. “For now, those who value the sanctify of human life must be thankful that Florida’s legislature and Governor Jeb Bush acted courageously to take a stand for life over against the forces of death. Just don’t assume that they will have the last word.”