The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network upholds human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable.
We express this mission through public advocacy of essential qualities of human dignity—which include the right to food and water, the presumption of the will to live, due process against denial of care, protection from euthanasia as a form of medicine, and access to rehabilitative care—as well as through 24/7 Crisis Lifeline service to at-risk patients and families.
Right to food and water
Every person deserves food and water, regardless of their physical circumstance. We affirm food and water as basic and ordinary care, and reject the dangerous classification of food and water as as extraordinary medical treatment when delivered artificially. A patient is able to breath and survive on his or her own often still requires food and water delivered by tube due to handicap or other impairment—sometimes lasting a short time, and other times lasting for a long time. No one should ever be starved or dehydrated to the point of death, and in no circumstance should the denial of food and water be treated as a legitimate medical practice.
Presumption of the will to live
In moments of medical crisis when a patient is unable to communicate, and when their life hangs in the balance, they deserve to be treated with a presumption of their will to live by their caregivers. It's not uncommon for life and death decisions to be made within minutes of a patient entering a hospital—a "brain death" diagnosis, for instance—that results in the cessation of life-saving (or even life-sustaining) treatment in favor of the immediate harvesting of organs and resulting death of a patient. Yet in times of medical crisis, minutes, hours, and sometimes even days matter. Especially when a patient cannot communicate, it is legitimate to presume a will to live on behalf of the patient. Given enough time, many presumed hopeless can make extraordinary recoveries.
Due process rights against denial of care
Should strangers be able to decide whether a patient lives or dies? We believe patients and families in crisis who have to make life and death decisions should be able to do so in peace, and without the pressure of an overzealous group of doctors, hospital ethics committees, or insurers deciding whether someone deserves to be denied life-sustaining care simply because their care is expensive.
Protection from euthanasia as a form of medicine
Euthanasia is not medicine. Suicide, including physician-assisted suicide, is not medicine. Every patient deserves protection from euthanasia being treated as a form of medicine. Wherever euthanasia is normalized as a form of medicine, it becomes one of a variety of options presented to patients and families facing crisis. Yet physicians have historically never endorsed consciously bringing about the death of a patient. And we believe no patient should be pressured into making a decision where their choice of avoiding assisted suicide could be frowned upon by a physician, hospital, or insurance company that would prefer they take the less costly route in the face of a potentially terminal diagnosis, rather than spending every moment they can alive with those they love, and who love them.
Access to rehabilitative care
There can be a thin line between hope and hopelessness in moments of medical crisis. Even those whose chances are slim, or worse, who find themselves abandoned by their physicians, hospitals, or insurance companies, deserve a fighting chance at rehabilitative care and recovery. In the pursuit of happiness there is often struggle, and we believe no one is truly without hope. Everyone deserves access to meaningful rehabilitative care.