What’s airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Withholding Food and Fluids, Part Three”
By Dave Andrusko
National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias continues her thoughtful look back at the ultimately unsuccessful struggle to save Terri Schindler Schiavo. As she reminds us, the public is still under-educated about what the withdrawal of food and fluids means for the helpless patient.
On Wednesday’s PLP, Mrs. Tobias discusses an article written by Dr. Curtis E. Harris about the physical responses to the withdrawal of food and fluids. At the time, Dr. Harris was the President of the American Academy of Medical Ethics. He wrote
“Imagine a hot summer day. You have worked hard outside. You’re thirsty. You’re tongue and lips are dry, and they stick together easily. Nothing sounds better than something cold to drink. How would you feel, both emotionally and physically, if you suddenly had no control over what you were able to do, and someone else decided thirst was not reason enough to give you a drink? Trapped? Frightened? Desperate? If you can feel these sensations and emotions, you have taken the first step toward realizing what it means to be deprived of food and fluids.
“How long does it take for someone to die from dehydration? Depending on the state of health prior to stopping fluids, three to ten days.
“How long does it take for someone to die from starvation? The average lean individual has enough energy stored in muscle and fat tissue to last 40 days. The more obese an individual, the longer that person will live without food. The effects of malnutrition can be seen. . .in films of the Nazi Holocaust, and in the victims of starvation in Africa. Kwashiorkor disease, prevalent in Third World Countries, is caused by a deficiency in the quality and quantity of dietary protein, resulting in hollow eyes, weakness, bloating of the abdomen, and loss of bowel and bladder control. Death by starvation is painful, slow and miserable, with many symptoms the same as found in dehydration. Death occurs when the heart and lungs simply fatigue and collapse. . .
Dr. Harris went on to outline the effects of dehydration and starvation, which is equally unnerving but necessary to know because (as Mrs. Tobias explains)
“That’s the tragic reality of death by starvation and dehydration – the reality assisted suicide advocates don’t tell you. The reality that escapes the evening news. The reality from which vulnerable patients need protecting.”
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