Whether there are more Terri Schiavo’s suffering a torturous death by starvation and dehydration these days, or we’re just hearing more about them these days is uncertain. But the manner of such death should be made clear, and the media are certainly not doing that.

The latest case we know of is the ‘bride in a coma’ story. She was young and just married. But what we know through the media is incomplete about Trisha Rushing Duguay’s death is incomplete.

Just 27 years old, she had continued living, remarkably, for eight weeks after her husband and family had, according to her wishes, removed her feeding tube.

Trisha’s father, Jim Rushing, announced the news in an e-mail to family and close friends.

“Trisha has finally departed us on this physical journey to take her branch onto her spiritual journey. This journey has been 132 days in length 56 of those days off of life support. We know that not only her love & caring for others, but the sheer volume of prayer that has occurred will truly help her along this new path. Thank you.

That volume was generated through media coverage of this dramatic story and social communications media that spread it. The good news is that it generated a tremendous amount of prayer. The darker side of this story didn’t make it into the news coverage, as Terri Schiavo’s brother tried to warn people. Bobby Schindler writes:

Terri’s Life & Hope Network expresses concern with the manner in which some media outlets are portraying the situation, treating Trisha’s prolonged death and going without food and hydration-for over 7 weeks now-as an act of compassion.

I think it is important to be reminded that dying this way is not compassionate, peaceful or pleasant. My family witnessed, first hand, something quite the opposite. Terri went through almost two weeks without food and water before she died, and it was heartbreaking. Her death was cruel and barbaric and she suffered horribly. We must continue to educate the general public that food and water is basic and ordinary care and despite ones intentions, it does not change the nature of the act.

That’s a vital point. Food and water are not medical treatments, they’re ordinary care, no matter how they are redefined. People are very confused about this. Conscientious, faithful people are looking for moral guidance in making end of life decisions, and it’s available for all people concerned with preserving and respecting human dignity when it can be toughest to discern that process.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....