Terri Schiavo’s Brother Condemns Pro-Euthanasia Veterans End-of-Life Guide

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Aug 26, 2009   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Terri Schiavo’s Brother Condemns Pro-Euthanasia Veterans End-of-Life Guide

by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
August 26
, 2009

Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — The brother of Terri Schiavo, the disabled woman whose former husband subjected her to a painful 13-day starvation and dehydration death, is speaking out against a guide the Obama administration is distributing to veterans that critics say promotes euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is currently promoting a guide called "Your Life, Your Choices" that was first published in the Clinton administration.

The VA’s National Center for Ethics in Health Care brought back a 52-page end-of-life planning document that was suspended during the Bush administration.

A worksheet on page 21 lists various scenarios and asks users to then decide whether their own life would be "not worth living."

One section of the guide titled, "What Makes Your Life Worth Living?" asks veterans to check boxes such as "I am a severe financial burden on my family" and "My situation causes severe emotional burden for my family."

Bobby Schindler, Terri’s brother and a spokesman for the foundation the Schindler family established to help disabled people like her, told LifeNews.com the booklet is a disservice to military personnel as well as disabled, ill and elderly persons.

“It is quite clear that the language used in Your Life, Your Choices is encouraging individuals to make life and death decisions based on a ‘quality of life’ judgment," he said. Instead, they should be made based on the "Constitutionally supported position that the value of all citizens is equal and each has a right to live."

Schindler says the guide "encourages the idea that people with chronic health issues, disability or advanced age are ‘burdensome to society.’"

"I found it very disquieting that the Department of Veteran’s Affairs would publish any document that speaks to the legal and very personal issues of deciding what medical treatments or therapies are appropriate to the individual," Terri’s brother said. "This booklet even uses the term ‘vegetable’ to describe those individuals living with a cognitive disability or neurological injury.”

Schindler continues: “The terminology used elicits the extreme prejudice that now exists towards people with disabilities or other complicated medical issues."

"It serves to demonstrate how widely misunderstood brain injuries continue to be. The language isn’t simply offensive, but it is also particularly dehumanizing when directed towards the men and women who have given their lives, their bodies and their well-being in defense of this country," he told LifeNews.com.

He concluded, "Certainly, United States military personnel, who are returning from these theatres with profound brain injuries, should have every expectation that their medical needs are met and not coerced away from them."

The guide was promoted as the VA’s preferred living will throughout its vast network of hospitals and nursing homes but, as Jim Towey writes in the Wall St. Journal, "the Bush White House took a look at how this document was treating complex health and moral issues and suspended its use."

Under Obama, the VA has now resuscitated the guide, written by Robert Pearlman, chief of ethics evaluation for the center and who advocated for physician-assisted suicide in the 1996 case of Vacco v. Quill before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Pennsylvania Democratic Sen. Arlen Specter, a member of the Veterans’ Affairs Committee, says the document raises "a lot of questions" and he is calling for immediate hearings on it.

"I think consideration ought to be given right now to suspending it pending hearings," Specter told the Fox News Sunday program.

Towey also spoke about the guide on the program and said it makes injured veterans feel like a burden, encourages the severely injured to die and should be tossed out.

"This is a slippery slope," he said "When you look at the book it makes people feel like they’re a burden and they should do the decent thing and die. … When a veteran comes back from Iraq, they shouldn’t be given a book like this."

Tammy Duckworth, assistant secretary for the Department of Veterans Affairs, told the Fox program that the guide hasn’t been fully revised and is not yet officially implemented.

She called it a "tool" and said it was just one of many options for veterans, not the only one.

Fox reports that an official directive from July tells VA health practitioners to refer veterans to the document but Duckworth said she questioned whether the directive had been approved at higher levels.

A pro-life legal group, the American Center for Law and Justice, has called on the Obama Administration to permanently rescind the guide because it is "devaluing human life and promoting euthanasia."

Related web sites:
Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation – https://www.terrisfight.org

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