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Vatican criticizes Schiavo's 'hastened' death

Separately, American cardinal says it creates 'teachable moment'

From Alessio Vinci
CNN


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President Bush reacts to Terri Schiavo's death.

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VATICAN CITY (CNN) -- A spokesman for the Vatican criticized the manner in which Terri Schiavo died Thursday.

"The circumstances of the death of Mrs. Terri Schiavo have rightly disturbed consciences," Joachin Navarro-Valls said. "Her death was arbitrarily hastened, because feeding a person can never be considered excessive therapy."

The brain-damaged Florida woman who was at the center of a family battle fought on a national stage died Thursday morning at age 41, nearly two weeks after doctors removed her life-sustaining feeding tube.

"There are no doubts that exceptions cannot be allowed to the principle of the sacredness of life, from its conception to its natural death. Besides being a principle of Christian ethics, this is also a principle of human civilization," Navarro-Valls said.

"One would hope, from this dramatic experience, a greater awareness of human dignity could mature in public opinion and that it would bring greater protection for life, even from the legal point of view."

Navarro-Valls' comments came shortly after Cardinal Renato Martino, prefect for the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace at the Vatican, made stronger comments.

"It is nothing else but murder," he said. "It is a victory of the culture of death over life. This is not a natural death, it is an imposed death."

Martino said Pope John Paul II, who is ill and has not been able to speak, would say the same.

The Vatican said Wednesday that the pope is being fed through a nasal tube and is continuing a slow convalescence after two hospitalizations and a tracheotomy for respiratory difficulties. (Full story)

In Los Angeles, California, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony said Schiavo's death was undignified.

"It seems to me that the dignity and graces of a natural death have been violated through this endless process, and that what should be a time of quiet and peaceful prayer with a loved one has somehow become the platform for many groups with various agendas."

Her death, he continued, has created a "teachable moment for all of us."

He added that he would post on his Web site a sample document that people could use to designate someone to make medical decisions on their behalf.

"Our Catholic moral tradition always calls us to give the benefit of the doubt to life, not to death," he said. "At the same time, legitimate Catholic medical ethical guidelines exist to help us as we face these very important questions."

Schiavo collapsed in her home in 1990, suffering from heart failure that led to severe brain damage because of a lack of oxygen. Michael Schiavo said his wife suffered from bulimia, an eating disorder, that resulted in a potassium deficiency, triggering the heart failure.

She has been the focus of a decade-long legal tug-of-war between her husband and her parents. Michael Schiavo maintained his wife would not want to be kept alive in her condition, which courts ruled was a persistent vegetative state.

Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, claimed she could have improved with intense therapy. State and federal courts consistently ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo's position.


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