When I was Hungry
By Deacon Keith Fournier
© Third Millennium, LLC
"When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he
will sit upon his glorious throne, and all the nations will be assembled before
him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the
sheep from the goats. He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his
left. Then the king will say to those on his right, 'Come, you who are blessed
by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the
world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me
drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you
cared for me, in prison and you visited me.' Then the righteous 16 will answer
him and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give
you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe
you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?' And the king will say
to them in reply, 'Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least
brothers of mine, you did for me.' "
The Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 25
Terri Schiavo is communicating with her family - and with the world- on a
daily basis. We all know that. Her smile has been embedded in our National
conscience. That is, if we still have one. She is a lovely, disabled woman who
her estranged husband wants to kill by starvation and dehydration. Terri Schiavo
is not dying. For convenience and proper care, she is being fed at meal times
through a feeding tube. There is medical evidence that, with proper care, Terri
could be fed in the future with a spoon.
Terri is not in a "Persistent Vegetative State" Though I find the term
repugnant (because a person can never be a vegetable), under Florida Law a
"Persistent Vegetative State" is defined as a "permanent and irreversible
condition of unconsciousness in which there is: (a) The absence of voluntary
action or cognitive behavior of ANY kind. (b) An inability to communicate
or interact purposefully with the environment." (Florida
Statute 765.101) Terri communicates through her face,
her movement and even verbally. She laughs and cries around those whom she
loves. Terri is simply limited in her communications. So are millions of other
Terri has needs and rights. She has a right to rehabilitation under any
interpretation of the law. She is being denied that right. Florida law (
Florida Statute 744.3215) codifies the "Rights of
Persons Determined Incapacitated":(1) A person who has been determined to be
incapacitated retains the right. (i) To receive necessary services and
This is a personal right that cannot be taken away, even by a guardian. What
is being attempted in Florida, with the approval of a Judge who has set himself
above the law, is the killing, by starvation and dehydration, of Terri Schaivo.
This is illegal and unconscionable.
Here is the truth, Terri Schiavo suffered brain damage. Her communications
skills were altered as a result of the injury. She is a disabled American woman.
She is also a daughter to two wonderful parents who have lovingly cared for her
and communicate with her regularly. In order to facilitate easier feeding of
Terri, a so called "feeding tube" is being used. This does not constitute the
use of "extraordinary medical means" by any stretch of that term, under any
definition. This is not "prolonging the dying process" within any moral
analysis, because Terri is not dying. However, if things continue without
intervention, she will be killed.
Today, March 18, 2005 a judge’s order staying Terri’s execution expires. I use
that expression with intentionality. She is under a stay of execution from this
Judge. Hopefully, the Congress of the United States will put Terri ahead of
their Spring vacation and act to stop this impending murder. Terri Schiavo is a
human person and a United States citizen. As far as her potential to improve her
communications skills goes, there is medical evidence that she could make
substantial improvement. That is, if she is not executed. We all remember the
wonderful story of Sarah Scantlin of Hutchinson, Kansas, who, after an accident
twenty years ago, who began to speak. I am sure that her mother is watching the
events in Dunedin, Florida today!
The whole world is watching the events in Florida.
Terri Schiavo must not be killed. To do so would be to sanction a new,
profane "right" to exercise raw power over disabled people who are hungry and
thirsty. That is precisely what is being claimed as a "right" by Michael
Schiavo. You cannot have a "right" to do what is wrong. I have practiced law for
twenty five years. There is absolutely no verifiable evidence that Terri desired
to be killed by starvation and dehydration! That is still illegal in America.
This is a contrived claim, advanced by an estranged husband, backed by a lawyer
who should be disbarred, and funded by culture of death activists.
Without Congressional, Presidential or Judicial intervention, a death
sentence will be carried out by a Medical Doctor who, in contravention of his
oath, will starve a woman to death after having vowed to "do no harm!"
Some in the Press still refer to this entire story as a "right to die" story.
This is not about a "right to die". We all have a "right" to die, that is when
it is time and when we are called home. We should be surrounded by love when
that time comes. This is not even about "passive" euthanasia, or "active"
euthanasia. In fact, it is not about "euthanasia" at all, which must always be
resisted as intrinsically evil. This is an effort to create a "right" to starve
some disabled people. The story of Terri Schiavo is about the possibility of
judicially sanctioned murder by a husband who no longer cares for his brain
damaged wife. His will is being forced on her through the efforts of a misguided
lawyer. There is absolutely no independent proof whatsoever of Terri’s so called
"last wishes" as he claims. That is a subterfuge.
Terri has the real rights here, including a right to live; and a right to be
loved and cared for by her parents and all those who have volunteered to serve
her. Terri’s rights, authentic justice and our obligations in human solidarity
should become the basis for Congressional, Presidential or Judicial
If, God forbid, there is no action by the Congress today, than millions of
people should flood the streets around the hospital to stop this killing. We
must not allow the killing a disabled woman simply because she cannot
communicate in a way that someone else has determined has "value". It is no
wonder that the disabilities community has stood in solidarity with Terri. Will
we? Or will we allow a new "triumph of the will" - in this instance the will of
an estranged husband who no longer "wants" his wife? If we fail to act we will
be allowing him to "dispose’ of his disabled wife with the protection of the
Tonight we will either see Congressional action that will allow Terri’s parents
to continue their courageous fight for their beloved daughters’ life, or we will
witness the beginning of the starvation and dehydration of a beautiful woman
named Terri Schiavo.
'Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you
The answer is clear; in the eyes and the smile of Terri Schiavo.
How will we respond?
Deacon Keith Fournier is a Deacon of the Diocese of
Richmond, Virginia who also serves the Melkite Greek Eparchy with permission. He
is a human rights lawyer and a public policy advocate.