What’s Airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Nat Hentoff’s Reflections on Terri Schiavo, part 1”

By Dave Andrusko

Nat Hentoff

Over the years we’ve written a great deal about the tragic and wholly unnecessary death of Terri Schindler Schiavo, the severely disabled Florida woman whose case was at the heart of our country’s debate over the right to life of the medically dependent and disabled. By way of preface to Monday’s edition of Pro-Life Perspective, it’s important to know about The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Foundation, originally established by Terri’s Family to save her, which has continued on to help others, like Terri, who are facing death by starvation and dehydration. Specifically, how the Foundation has set aside March 31 as “Terri’s Day – An International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo and All of Our Vulnerable Brothers and Sisters.”

With that as a backdrop, National Right to Life President and PLP Host Carol Tobias recalls an important essay written by columnist and pro-life champion Nat Hentoff’s. Shortly after the death of Terri, the pro-life quarterly journal, Human Life Review, ran a series of articles analyzing the impact of Terri’s death.  Among the authors was Nat Hentoff.

Mrs. Tobias discusses some of the many arguments Hentoff made it his fine piece at www.prolifeperspective.com. She writes

“In his article, Nat notes that Terri’s fight to live was taken up by many in the disability rights community because of the fear that, at any time, the right to life could be taken away from those with disabilities.  There is also the fear that the pursuit for perfection in areas like prenatal genetic testing could make people with disabilities second class citizens and jeopardize their right to life.”

Hentoff covered the cases from all angles—beginning with the way the legal system failed Terri, and interviewed nurses and bioethicists and others who were able to put Terri’s case in context.  For example, Hentoff  quotes Andrea Imparato, head of the American Association of People with Disabilities, who spoke before a Senate subcommittee on the inherent dangers in prenatal genetic testing, saying:

“When we start devaluing the lives of people with disabilities, we don’t know where that’s going to stop.  You need to take into account the financial implications of all of this.  We have an economy that is not doing as well as it once was an …one way to save money is to make it easier for people with disabilities to die. “

Mrs. Tobias notes that Hentoff  quotes from Wesley Smith, author and acclaimed bioethicist, who said of so-called “futile care” that “unless people object strongly to this duty to die…and unless legislatures take active steps to intervene, this new and deadly game of “doctor knows best” will be coming soon to a hospital near you.”

And perhaps the most insightful comment of all is one Hentoff says many people with disabilities have made to him over the years:

“It’s worth keeping in mind that you are only temporarily able.  You could unexpectedly, suddenly become one of us.”

On Tuesday Mrs. Tobias continues her discussion of Nat Hentoff’s reflections on Terri Schiavo’s impact on how we view healthcare in America and how you can best protect yourselves and your loved ones. 

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