Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Murder Most Modern: Sanitised, Euphemised but still as Evil as ever

Eluana Englaro, the woman known as Italy's Terri Schiavo, has died a mere four days after life-sustaining food and water were withdrawn. She was 38 and had been in a coma for 17 years after a car accident. Englaro's father Beppino had won a court order to kill his daughter after fighting for a decade to do so.

According to her neurologist, Carlo Alberto Defanti, before her feeding tubes were removed, Englaro was physically healthy:

“She has never had any diseases and has no need for antibiotics. She does not have any damaged or injured internal organs. The tests performed at the hospital in Lecco, before her departure [to the clinic where she would be killed] were perfect.”

The enforced starvation and dehydration of Englaro were explicitly intended to kill her even though her inevitable end was described by those determined on her demise in slushy go-gentle-into-that-good-night cliches as a peaceful death, a dignified end, or even more nauseatingly, as allowing her to die.

Away from all the shmaltz besmearing the matter of murder, bioethicist Wesley J Smith provides the necessary note of gritty realism. Death by dehydration isn't pretty, or gentle, oh no it isn't.

'It always fries me when they call dying by dehydration a "gentle death,"' said Smith. 'It reminds of of when Michael Schiavo's attorney, George Felos, told reporters when she was on the verge of dehydration: Frankly when I saw her . . . she looked beautiful...In all the years I've seen Mrs. Schiavo, I've never seen such a look of peace and beauty upon her.

'Then Terri's anguished brother Bobby Schindler told the world blood was pooling in his sister's eyes because her tissues were so dry. The public is always kept from seeing these deaths in the name of patient privacy. But this is how the late Dr. Ronald Cranford--an enthusiastic supporter of dehydration, who testified in support of ending the lives of Nancy Cruzan, Michael Martin, and Terri Schiavo, among others--described the process in sworn testimony in support of dehydrating Robert Wendland, (as quoted from the trial transcript in my book Culture of Death):

After seven to nine days [from commencing dehydration] they begin to lose all fluids in the body, a lot of fluids in the body. And their blood pressure starts to go down.When their blood pressure goes down, their heart rate up...Their respiration may increase and then the patient experiences what's called a mammalian's diver's reflex where the blood is shunted to the central part of the body from the periphery of the body. So, that usually two to three days prior to death, sometimes four days, the hands and the feet become extremely cold. They become mottled. That is you look at the hands and they have a bluish appearance. And the mouth dries a great deal, and the eyes dry a great deal and other parts of the body become mottled. And that is because the blood is now so low in the system it's shunted to the heart and other visceral organs and away from the periphery of the body.

'A pro life neurologist named William Burke, who opposes dehydration, told me about what happens when patients are dehydrated (again, from COD):

They will go into seizures. Their skin cracks, their tongue cracks, their lips crack. They may have nosebleeds because of the dryness of the mucus membranes and heaving and vomiting might ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining.

But no need to worry, she was comatose and would have been blissfully oblivious to any er, discomfort. Yeah, that's why the clinic took the precaution of sedating her when they removed her feeding tubes. You know, just in case.

Englaro's death followed valiant attempts by Italian Pro Lifers to save her life. For once in his sorry career, Silvio Berlusconi did the right thing and attempted to block her court-ordered death by rushing an emergency bill through the Italian parliament which would have made it illegal for carers of people unable to take care of themselves to suspend artificial feeding.

The senate was debating the bill when her death was announced. Angry scenes ensued; an impassioned centre right senator, Gaetano Quagliarello, roared “she didn’t die. She was killed,” while others shouted "murderers, murderers" at their opponents. It's impossible to disagree with them. Those who supported withdrawing Eluana Englaro's feeding tubes are as complicit in her untimely death as the clinic staff who performed the action. They have blood on their hands.


Blogger Voltaire's Priest said...

Nothing like a sane and rational debate around death, is there? (rolls eyes...)

2/15/2009 5:17 AM  
Blogger Merseymike said...

Which is exactly why she should have been allowed to die rather than kept alive artificially many years ago. Once again, the sheer evil of Catholicism shows itself in its true colours.

2/16/2009 4:02 PM  

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