Human life is always precious and sacred. This is a fundamental tenet of the Orthodox Christian tradition. Each and every human being is created in the image of God the Creator, and can never cease to be loved by God. The highest measure of a quality of life is our personal relationship with God, and this relationship endures the best and worst conditions in which human beings may find themselves. It even endures physical death in this age, continuing in the age to come. Orthodox Christians are greatly saddened by the condition of Terri Schiavo, and must be saddened by the decision of other persons to purposely end her life by the withdrawal of the basic care of feeding and hydration.
As a gift, life is always to be respected, nurtured and defended by Orthodox Christians. It is not an abstract principle to be debated. We affirm that we are called to be wise stewards of this gift. This prohibits the conscious destruction of life at any stage in the human life cycle, and demands loving care at every stage, for ourselves and especially for the lives of others.
We acknowledge that there are times when artificial life support is more expressive of a fear of death than concern for loved ones in tragic circumstances. We affirm that in light of the body functioning only by artificial and mechanical means, when it is unable to sustain life on its own in any manner, the cessation of such means is often acceptable, since this is not actually causing death. We do not view feeding and hydration in such terms, for in the case of Terri Schiavo and others who are in similar conditions, death is not imminent as long as the body is nourished.
Therefore, the removal of Mrs. Schiavo from feeding tubes so as to hasten her death can in no way be accepted or supported. Doing so demonstrates a blatant lack of wise stewardship of God's sacred gift of life and an extraordinary means of hastening her death by starvation.
Prepared With The Blessings Of His Eminence Metropolitan Iakovos Of Chicago
Contact: Greek Orthodox Metropolis of Chicago Sanctity of Life Ministry
Fr. Nicholas W. Jonas, Coordinator 708-974-3400