Recently, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson characterized the controversy over Terri Schiavo's 2005 euthanasia case in Florida as "much ado about nothing." Attorney David C. Gibbs III, founder and chief general counsel of the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL), takes great exception to Dr. Carson’s comment. Gibbs was the attorney who represented Terri’s family in their efforts to save the life of their beloved but severely disabled daughter and sister.
Dr. Carson’s comments once again demonstrate the misinformation that existed at the time and that persists today both in the media and in medical and legal circles. Gibbs visited Terri on many occasions, even though the judge in her case refused to allow the media or others to interact with her as he did. Terri was not terminal, even though she had suffered severe brain damage. Terri was not on life support of any kind. She merely needed food and water to stay alive, something that previously was considered to be “basic and ordinary” medical care. Terri was aware of what went on around her and interacted with her family and attorneys. She needed no extraordinary means of care—no life support machines, no special “heroic” procedures—just help with food and water. Terri’s death, which resulted from the first death sentence ever imposed by a civil judge on an innocent person in America, was a thinly disguised form of euthanasia—an ever increasing “solution” to today’s soaring health care costs, particularly for the aged, infirm, and disabled among us.
Most pro-life Americans, on the other hand, are pro-life from conception until natural death. Terri’s death was not natural in any sense of the word. No human being can survive without food and water—basics that were withheld from Terri for an agonizing thirteen days before she finally succumbed to dehydration and starvation. This horrific death occurred despite the fact that Terri had a family who loved her and who just wanted to take her home and care for her until her natural death. Fighting for her life was definitely “much ado” about something very important in the eyes of her family and of Gibbs as their legal counsel.
Following is Candidate Carson’s complete statement about the Schiavo case: “I don’t think it needed to get to that level. I think it was much ado about nothing. Those things are taken care of every single day just the way I described." Carson then stated that he does not believe in euthanasia, but he sees his role as a physician this way: “Your job is to keep them comfortable throughout that process and not to treat everything that comes up."
Bobby Schindler is Terri’s brother. He now seeks to help hundreds of families all over the world save their loved ones from Terri’s tragic fate. Bobby’s modern-day “Schindler’s List” operates through the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, seeking to bring good out of his sister’s tragic death. When Bobby personally contacted Dr. Carson about his comments, he reported that Carson listened politely but did not condemn this thinly disguised form of imposed euthanasia. Nor did he apologize to Bobby for his thoughtless remarks. Dr. Carson has since issued a statement of regret that his “recent comments about Terri Schiavo have been taken out of context and misinterpreted.”
Unfortunately, it appears that Dr. Carson’s context, despite his heroic surgical career saving lives, is an all-too-typical medical approach to those individuals who are infirm, aged, severely disabled, or brain-damaged, as Terri was. Our “throw away” culture all too often favors an imposed “quality” of life standard over the biblical standard of “sanctity” for all innocent human life. Doctors, judges, and others tend to make determinations that some individuals are expendable if their quality of life does not meet the standard of the person making the judgment. The judge in Terri’s case decided that her quality of life was not sufficient to support that life by artificially providing her with basic food and water. The biblical standard of sanctity of life, on the other hand, values every individual person regardless of disability or disease. The biblical position honors the sanctity of life from conception to natural death and allows that God alone gives life and has the authority to take it away. That is the position Terri’s family unsuccessfully argued for her in court.
The National Center for Life and Liberty would like to give Dr. Carson the benefit of the doubt. He was not involved with Terri’s case as Atty. Gibbs III was. He never visited Terri or reviewed her medical history as Atty. Gibbs III did. Nevertheless, Gibbs continues to believe that his fight for Terri’s life was definitely not “much ado about nothing.” Atty. Gibbs III stood strong alongside the Schindler family, arguing for the sanctity of Terri’s life and of all life in 2005. It is a position he continues to proudly advocate today through the National Center for Life and Liberty (NCLL). Just this week, in fact, Gibbs issued a letter to selected presidential candidates, offering to consult with them about this very important but greatly misunderstood issue of forced euthanasia in America.