This is not a case about withholding desperate and disproportionate medical treatment from a patient who is destined to die of a terminal illness. Ironically, if Terri were certain to die of disease tomorrow, the purpose of denying her water today would go away.
At its core, this case is about whether one person can make a judgment that another person's "quality" of life justifies taking that person's life. What is at stake for society here was explained in a brief presented to the Supreme Court by the Catholic Medical Association (Terri Schiavo is a Catholic), which cited a letter published last March by Pope John Paul II in which the Pope said it is wrong to withhold food and water even from someone believed to be in a persistent vegetative state.
"However, it is not enough to reaffirm the general principle according to which the value of a man's life cannot be made subordinate to any judgment of its quality expressed by other men," the Pope said. "It is necessary to promote the taking of positive actions as a stand against pressures to withdraw hydration and nutrition as a way to put an end to the lives of these patients."
The principle the Pope defends is not new. It is the same principle President Bush defended when he addressed the March for Life via phone on Monday. "We know that in a culture that does not protect the most dependent," Bush said, "the handicapped, the elderly, the unloved or simply inconvenient become increasingly vulnerable."
And it is the same principle that Sir Philip Sidney acted on when he sent his drink of water to a dying soldier. All human life is sacred because God made it so, and no man can change that.
Florida's legislature should not surrender this principle to the courts. Inspired by Terri Schiavo, it should enact a new law. This time, it should simply say: You may not kill a person through starvation or dehydration.