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Terri Schiavo's National Legacy

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Joni Eareckson Tada

AGOURA HILLS, March 31, 2005 - With the death of Terri Schiavo, we at Joni and Friends extend our deepest sympathy to her family and friends who labored tirelessly, yet unsuccessfully, to save her life. Terri did not die in vain, however. We are grateful to God for Terri's life and we now pray for His glory to be revealed out of this tragic situation. We adamantly believe God will use the example of Terri Schiavo to stave off the culture of death, and thus build a culture of life in our country.

President Bush stated shortly after Terri's death that "The essence of civilization is that the strong should protect the weak... and we need to continue to work to build a culture of life."

This is why Joni and Friends is committed to extending the culture of life to families affected by disability through our ministry's various programs. We also are working with other national disability organizations to prevent the sad plight of Terri Schiavo from happening again. First, we call on all Christians to pray. Next, we believe there should be a federal review in state cases where there are contested decisions to withhold feeding tubes from significantly disabled people. We also believe there should be a state-by-state reform of guardianship and health-care decision laws to safeguard the involuntary euthanasia of disabled people.

To uphold the God-given dignity of life - especially those whose lives are impacted by significant disabilities - we are asking society to stop using the term "persistent vegetative state." Too many people with severe disabilities have been called "vegetables" - this is not only demeaning, but dehumanizing. When severely disabled people are stripped of life-dignity, the discussion too easily turns to death or the warehousing of that individual in a hospice.

Joni and Friends is calling for a moratorium on the dehydration and starvation of significantly disabled persons. We believe there should be a "cognitive assessment review" as a minimal standard before a feeding tube is removed. When a person's wishes are not documented, we should err on the side of life; we should assume that living is preferable over dying.

We have observed that media discussions have centered around whether or not a severely disabled person is "going to get better some day" as though that fact is a criterion for life. However, for millions of Americans, disability is a fact of life; many will "never get better" by society's standards. We assert that the quality of one's life should never be a criteria to put them to death. Life is the most irreplaceable and fundamental condition of what it means to be human and it is an express gift of God, the Author of life.

Disabled people have the right to life. The moral fabric of our country will be strengthened as we support the right of all disabled people to humane treatment, rehabilitative therapy, and most of all, the right to life.

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org