As nurses, who lovingly care for--among others--people suffering from
dehydration or malnutrition as well as those with mental or physical
disabilities all the time, we find the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo
especially tragic and unjust.
One of the primary ethical principles has long been that health care
providers must never cause or hasten death. Terri's premature and cruel death
highlights the deterioration of legal and medical ethics that has occurred over
the last couple of decades which puts more and more of our patients at risk.
Unfortunately, recent emphasis on promotion of living wills is not the answer
and may indeed contribute to the problem of euthanasia.
As Marianne Linane, Executive Director of NAPN states, "The National
Association of Pro-life Nurses cannot endorse the use of the Living Will as a
document of health care and encourages patient education to inform those in our
charge of the potentially harmful effects of the document."
While we nurses believe that any care or treatment can be withdrawn if it is
truly futile or excessively burdensome, there are some decisions that are
unethical and illegitimate no matter who is making them. Those are decisions
that deliberately cause death.
According to a report issued by the NRLC Robert Powell Center for Medical
Ethics April 15, 2005, laws of all but ten states already permits doctors and
hospitals to disregard advance directives specifying use of treatments, food, or
fluids. The issue of medical futility policies allowing the denial of
life-sustaining medical care to some patients over their own or their families'
objections is one of the most controversial issues in medical ethics today, but
the public remains largely unaware of the discussion.
NAPN strongly encourages individuals to educate themselves on the pitfalls of
signing a living will by visiting various web sites hosting the discussion. The
National Right to Life Committee has a Will to Live available on its web site
which is an attempt to avoid some of these defects. We would encourage people
instead to sign a durable power of attorney for health care document and name a
trusted individual to make those decisions for you in the event you become
incapacitated and unable to make them for yourself.
In honor of Terri, NAPN has named their 2005 student nurse scholarship award
the Terri Schindler Schiavo Memorial scholarship. The scholarship is $1000 and
goes to a deserving student nurse based on his or her prolife work, an essay and
academic standing. More information is available on NAPN's web site at
Dedicated to promoting respect for every human life from conception to
natural death, and to affirming that the destruction of that life, for whatever
reason and by whatever means, does not meet the ideals and standards of good