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Bishop says Schiavo case may influence Australian laws

Sydney's Bishop Anthony Fisher has said the tragic slow death of Terri Schiavo in Florida after the removal of a feeding tube may be morally akin to active euthanasia.

The case of the brain-damaged Schiavo has gained world attention, "partly because of the human tragedy", he told the Catholic Weekly for this week's lead story (pictured).

The death of 41-year-old from starvation and dehydration was regarded as imminent. Early this morning Sydney time, the Atlanta-based 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled against a fourth appeal by her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, to have the tube re-inserted. The tube was removed on 18 March on a Florida judge's order.

Bishop Fisher, a bioethicist and former lawyer, said that even though US legal cases are not binding precedents here, because the US is a leader of world opinion, important American cases can influence laws elsewhere.

He pointed to a tendency in many jurisdictions in recent years, including in Victoria, for courts to allow the non-treatment and even the non-feeding of people who are thought by others to be "better off dead".

Justice Stuart Morris ruled in the Victorian Supreme Court in 2003 that food and hydration given artificially is a form of medical treatment rather than palliative care and therefore could be refused under the Victorian Medical Treatment Act.

Bishop Fisher said: "There is a real risk of euthanasia by neglect of reasonable care becoming an accepted practice in our community despite our rejection, through our laws and medical ethics, of more active forms of euthanasia.

"Morally there may be very little difference, and the practice of euthanasia-by-starvation now may be a prelude to euthanasia-by-poisoning later.

"The important thing for us as a Catholic community is to keep insisting that every human being, no matter how disabled, is an image of God, the bearer of human dignity, and entitled to basic care such as feeding and hydration, even if that requires some medical or nursing assistance," he said.

Schiavo case may influence our laws (Catholic Weekly 3/4/05)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Life Office, Archdiocese of Sydney
Exercising our Medical Rights. Why Don't We Do It? (Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria)
Landmark 'right to die' decision (The Age 29/5/03)

Vatican calls for keeping Schiavo alive (CathNews 22/3/05)
Vatican bioethicist says patient's tube 'direct euthanasia (CathNews 14/3/05)

Schiavo Appeal Rejected Again in Atlanta (Santa Maria Times 31/3/05)
Schiavo case raises issue of advance medical directives (Catholic News Service 29/3/05)
Glimmer of hope for Schiavo, Appeals Court considers new petition to reinsert feeding tube (Catholic News Agency 30/3/05)
Appeals court agrees to consider Schiavo hearing (Catholic World News 30/3/05)
Monks Comfort Schiavo's Parents (The Guardian/Associated Press 30/3/05)
Lying Jesuits and Journalists (The American Spectator 29/3/05)
Michael Cook: Why the pro-life lobby lost a do-or-die battle (The Age 31/3/05)
Michael Gawenda: Schiavo - playing God and politics (The Age 31/3/05)
American bishops weigh in on Terri Schiavo (10 perspectives) (Catholic World News 28/3/05)
Catholic Stance on Tube-Feeding is Evolving (Pew Forum/Washington Post 27/3/05)
Don't let Schiavo die through lack of food, water, says cardinal (Catholic News Service 24/3/05)
Terri finally receives last rites and Communion, supporters to bring fight to DC (Catholic News Agency 28/3/05)
The Forum: If Terri dies, who is safe? (Catholic World News 28/3/05)
Schiavo Receives Last Rites, Communion (The Guardian/Associated Press 28/3/05)
Schiavo's Parents 'Dealing With Reality' (The Guardian/Associated Press 28/3/05)
Death vigil for Terri Schiavo (Herald-Sun 28/3/05)
John L Allen: A short note on Terri Schiavo (National Catholic Reporter 25/3/05)
Edward Spence: Morals compel us to favour life over death (Sydney Morning Herald 28/3/05)
Andrew Sullivan: Schiavo and the religious Right (The Australian 29/3/05)
Feeding tube row a dangerous precedent (Catholic Leader 27/3/05)
Removing feeding tube 'like capital punishment' (Associated Press/Sydney Morning Herald 23/3/05)
Vatican denounces Schiavo ordeal (Agence France-Presse/The Advertiser 24/3/05)
Schiavo Facing a Cruel Death, Says Vatican Official (Zenit 22/3/05)
Florida Case Lamented by Vatican Newspaper (Zenit 22/3/05)
'95 Encyclical Foresaw Cases Like Terri Schiavo's (Zenit 22/3/05)

31 Mar 2005