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Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was overemphasized in the media as a form of extraordinary artificial medical treatment. However, unlike mechanical ventilation where a machine is required to inflate and deflate a nonworking or severely injured lung, tube feeding does not require continuous medical activity or monitoring. Schiavo's tube simply delivered food and water to a functioning digestive system.

Equally important to this discussion is the basic issue of human dignity. No one's life should ever be considered useless, an object to be discarded by society when felt to be inconvenient. All the weak and defenseless now risk Schiavo's fate. This would include those with Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, Lou Gehrig's disease, Down syndrome, muscular dystrophy, multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, quadriplegia, strokes, etc. All could live many years with their illness, but could require feeding tubes to maintain their nutritional needs. Instead, how easy now to justify the cessation of extraordinary medical measures and let them starve to death.

Anthony V. Stockus

Bennington Center