Thursday, April 21, 2005

The Side Effects of Witnessing Murder

The Side Effects of Witnessing Murder
by Cheryl Ford RN

April 21, 2005

Three weeks have passed since Terri Schindler-Schiavo was forced to die an inhumane and tragic death. Thousands who were against Terri's killing claim they find themselves awake at all hours of the night trying to come to terms with what happened to Terri. Many state they are suffering from overwhelming depression, frustration, and feelings of powerlessness. Others find themselves struggling to understand how America stood by and allowed Terri to be publicly murdered and not receive judicial or police protection.

Only a few short weeks ago, we witnessed thousands upon thousands of people from all over the world rise in protest to the heinous crime involving the murder of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. During the long 14 day period, as Terri laid suffering from starvation and dehydration, members of the US Congress gathered in a weekend forum to vote on a bipartisan bill that would assure Terri's constitutional rights. The bill was aimed at saving her life. The President of the United States who was preparing for Easter with his family, was urgently flown from his vacation ranch home in Texas to the White House to sign a bill that was passed in a 203 to 58 vote. So, why now are we faced with feeling the unsettling side effects of Terri's murder? Why do many seek answers to questions such as: How does a nation justify, publicly watching the death of an innocent disabled woman while no one was capable of stopping her murder?

When trying to find any sense of understanding or acceptance regarding Terri's murder, we must discuss some aspects surrounding the topics of death. Death, as we all know, is defined as: "A permanent cessation of all vital functions." Due to its permanency, we find death very disturbing under any circumstance. Death creates a destabilization of our existence, knowing there is no turning back. Normally, we experience death when it results from illness, unexpected trauma, or old-age. We are seldom, if ever, confronted with the unique emotions associated with murder happening in our family. When we hear about a murder we usually find ourselves gasping at the crime as it makes headline news. The loss of human life is final and emotionally traumatizing on any society. Any way we wish to view it, the intentional infliction of death on a human being, will always be defined as murder. Our country bases its philosophy on the value of "preservation of all life," thus, creating its laws to say, under no circumstances should anyone take the life of an innocent human being. We ask then, why was Terri allowed to be murdered as the world stood by and watched?

Once we are subjected to loss of life, we naturally emerge into what is known as the grieving process. Grief as we know it, has limitless boundaries. Often when we are forced to grieve, we flail aimlessly and timelessly into what appears to be an open abyss. Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross describes in her book "Death and Dying," the 5 stages of grief as: Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance. In order to move through the grieving process, we must at some point encounter the 5 stages of grief. Many will vacillate between the phases of grief for an undetermined period of time.

We also know there are thousands of people who routinely struggle with the controversial issues surrounding the death penalty. It is not unusual, or unreasonable for people to find difficulty digesting the legal liberties that are given to man when they are authorized to inflict the finalities of death upon any human being. Be the death penalty right or wrong, even those who struggle with it can often find some sense of rationale and acceptance in knowing that those on death row were convicted and tried for a crime which brought forth their death sentence. However, what happens to the thousands who are reaching for that same sense of understanding and acceptance when grieving for Terri's publicly inhumane murder? Terri, was not a criminal and never hurt anyone. She was not tried or convicted of any crime. She was not terminally ill, or unhealthy. She was not taken off to the hidden ominous fields where victims are murdered by their unknown killers. Despite all, we had a nation that was forced to watched Terri's tragic and unnecessary death, making it difficult, if not impossible, to transition into the acceptance phase of grief.

We recognize that Terri was not any more special to her parents, than any other child is to their parents who love them. It is a given that she will be just as missed by her family, as others tend to miss their family members when they die. However, as we seek some rationalization, and acceptance in dealing with Terri's death, like we do in the normal grieving process of others, we find ourselves with an unsettling set of uncomfortable emotions. Could it be due to the disturbing visions of a Mother publicly pleading for the life of her daughter; a daughter who would not be dead if it weren't for an estranged spouse who intentionally starved and dehydrated her to death?

These visions leave the sane population very distraught. We find ourselves asking, how do we move into the acceptance phase of grief after watching a disabled member of our society be murdered and denied the right to receive help? We will remember Terri as the innocent woman who through her means of natural communications waited patiently each day for her loving and very dedicated family to visit her so she could smile and laugh with them. We will recall how her biological family had struggled for years to be capable of providing her with the therapy that we all naturally reach for when we are hurting, or injured. We shall remember the look of love and warmth on the faces of Terri and her Mother as they embraced each other. Was the love and unity of the Schindler family so wrong a bond that we had to remove one of its members?

For Terri, sadly, the help that we normally would have expected to come her way, never arrived. Where does this leave the thousands of civilized people who are in shock, remembering the agonizing expressions on Mary's face as she pleaded for someone, anyone, to help rescue her daughter? How do we as a nation cope with Terri's unnecessary and brutal murder; a murder that we not only heard about over and over again though out every media source, but were also forced to watch as it appeared on national television for 14 long days? How do we justify the murder of a woman who was healthy and did not have to die, yet, we did nothing to stop it? When did America begin denying a family the right to care for one of its members? Who will be next?

I personally refuse to accept the notion that we have become a barbaric society living amongst many others like George Felos, Michael Schiavo, George Greer, and Deborah Bushnell. The four people who comfortably watched Terri slowly have the life sucked out of her, and then later rationalized Terri's death as merciful. Terri's death cannot be defined as anything but cold, callous, inhumane, unnecessary, unmerciful, wrong, and against all the laws that our country was founded upon. Laws that still read, MURDER is illegal! Assuming the majority of our world still believes murder is wrong, we must ask ourselves what can we do to prevent Terri's situation from happening to another individual? How can we seek justice for Terri and see to it that the four people who are responsible for the 14 days of her inhumane killing are brought to legal justice?

We must also ask ourselves, is it reasonable to suggest that the thousands who supported Terri, who were appalled and against her death, the emotionally unstable religious zealots that George Felos suggested they were? Or, is it more reasonable to say that it was Terri's estranged spouse, his euthanasia attorneys, and the judge in Pinellas County, who are the emotionally unstable death zealots who need to be convicted for their criminal actions?

Most importantly, as a civilized society, we must question, are we prepared to challenge the inhumane laws that killed Terri? Or, are we willing to allow her death to be in vain and chalk it up to becoming the new season preview for Reality Guardianship Murders? I do believe that it is vitally important for every person who grieves Terri's tragic death to have all of these questions answered in an effort to enter into the Acceptance phase of grief.

© by C Ford 2005- All Rights Reserved