Right-to-die case shows we all need to decide

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 1, 2005

Thirteen days after the long-running dispute took centerstage in the hearts and minds of many Americans, Terri Schiavo passed away Thursday and has gone to a better place.

Schiavo suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when her heart stopped because of a chemical imbalance that may have been caused by an eating disorder. Court-appointed doctors ruled she was in a vegetative state with no real consciousness or chance of recovery. She spent 15 years on a feeding tube in what has become the longest, most bitter right-to-die dispute in U.S. history.

For people on both sides of the issue, the painful memories of Terri's final days will likely last for a long time to come. Images of activists and politicians championing her right to live are in sharp contrast with her husband Michael proclaiming he was simply fulfilling her right to die.

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Sadly, it takes a heart-wrenching tragedy such as this to make us open our eyes and not take things for granted. We believe that if Terri was still living today she would want each of us to learn from her situation.

All of us are mortal. Whether we like it or not, we all will leave this earth one day. The lesson to be learned is that we should all prepare for this event.

It is not a pleasant thing to discuss - even amongst family, but loved ones should know what our individual wishes are. These should be put in writing.

If Terri's wishes were clearly spelled out, all this heartache and grief stemming from the uncertainty would be washed away.

In the Schiavo case, Florida lawmakers, Congress, President Bush and his brother Gov. Jeb Bush all tried to intervene. In the end, federal courts refused to sway from the husband's decision to allow her to die.

Was this the right solution? We will likely never know, and most likely that answer would be different for each person.

But this case has shown that these decisions should be decided by family so that it is never left to the politicians and judges.