Sunday, May 21, 2006

Terri: A year after

A Terri Schaivo column worth reading by Michael Smerconish, of 1210 AM and the Philadelphia Daily News, in the form of a letter to his son, Wilson:

I saved a copy of the church bulletin distributed at Mass today as a keepsake, and I'm writing this letter in the hope that you'll keep it attached to the bulletin as an explanation. You see, my name appears in an insert to the bulletin distributed throughout the archdiocese on the day you received communion, and not in a favorable light.

The situation caught me by surprise. It was unsettling to sit in a pew as we prepared for your special moment only to look at the flier and see my name under the banner of a group called Pro Life Union Inc. They mentioned my name in a story about a recent symposium at Penn.

At the invitation of bio-ethicist Arthur Caplan, I participated and posed questions to experts on the subject of death and dying. But the assertion that I was at Penn to "celebrate" the death of a woman named Terri Schiavo was untrue. I found that characterization offensive. While I refused to let it mar your day, it warrants an explanation...

I never looked at Terri's case in the conventional pro-life vs. pro-choice terms. But as the dispute continued, I began to wonder whether the pro-life agenda was to support "life" even in a situation where someone in a permanent vegetative condition would want otherwise.

Terri Schiavo left this earth in 2005. An autopsy showed that she was in a permanent vegetative state, had been for many years and that the cause of her death was brain damage due to anoxic brain injury. An inquiry by a Florida state's attorney found an absence of any evidence that her initial collapse was caused by criminal actions.

I wish my name had not appeared in the church bulletin on the day of your first communion.

I love our church and the fulfillment it has provided each member of our family. But I am your father first, and I am not about to let this moment pass without providing you with a frame of reference for how your dad views the controversy, even though I recognize it will be inappropriate for you to read this for a number of years.

Let no one tell you that your father celebrated any death. Your old man is supportive of self-determination. In the case of Terri Schiavo, I kept saying, "There but for the grace of God go I."

If that outcome should come my way, I certainly don't want some individual or group, pro-life or pro-choice, imposing their view of end-of-life issues on me, or anyone else.

The fact that one such group would proclaim, in a church bulletin on the day of your First Holy Communion, that I celebrated death by my support of Terri Schiavo's right to determine her own fate, tells me all I need to know about this group's lack of respect for individual rights.

They wanted to call this shot for Terri. Well, please don't ever let them decide for me.

Can't say that any better myself, so I won't.



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