Americans should err on side of life

By Richard Bradfute: Guest columnist

After 15 years in what doctors call a “persistent vegetative state,” Terri Schiavo had her feeding tube removed recently, essentially inflicting her death by dehydration (or starvation) because she lacks the ability to drink and/or eat for herself.
I have an experience with one such as Schiavo. I went to church for nearly 20 years with a young man who was in nearly the same condition. He died two years ago of natural causes, and I still remember him fondly. Even though he could not speak, eat or drink for himself, he still mattered.
I have been silent on most affairs for the last nine years, but I can remain silent no longer. I cannot sit idly by while a woman, who is conscious, alive, and breathing on her own, is going to die due to a lack of hydration and nutrition at the will of a husband who has moved on.
Although I have been following this situation over the last two years, the ramifications became apparent to me when I saw video of Terri Schiavo on a newscast. Her parents had brought her a balloon and waved it in front of her. Her eyes were tracking the balloon. I will remember the way her eyes moved for the rest of my life.
That woman, though incapacitated, is alive, conscious, and, at some level, aware of her surroundings.
When I saw this clip, I was reminded of my children when they were infants. They looked at objects in the same way that Terri did. She is clearly not fully “there,” but she was fascinated by the balloon. She was, and is still (at this writing), alive and aware at some level. I could not starve my own children to death, and I cannot condone the starvation of Terri.
As a parent of very young children, I am troubled by the culture of death we are now seeing in our society. If you are not appalled and downright terrified by the events, you should be.
Terri Schiavo is my 3-year old daughter, my 20-month old son, my wife, my father, my mother and a host of other people I know and love. She is me. She is you. She is someone you know and love.
If Terri had a living will, or a note scribbled on a napkin, or a remark captured on a video stating that she wouldn’t want to remain alive, I would not be writing this. Terri did not record anything regarding her wishes. I am convinced that, in such a situation as this, we must err on the side of life.
Who will speak for those who have no voice? I will. Will you?

Richard E. Bradfute is the chief information officer at Portales National Bank. He can be by e-mail: