April 16, 2005
Taking Action for Clara Against the Odds - Schiavo-Like Case Addressed by Local PastorTopics: Action Items
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Story - Thirty Days without Food
Pastor Guillermo Espinoza knows that he is fighting against the odds for the life of Clara Martinez, a stroke victim who has been purposefully deprived nutrition for close to 30 days. As pastor of a church in her neighborhood, he has chosen to speak out on her behalf.
Following a debilitating stroke one and half years ago, Clara has been incapacitated but able to consume water orally. She was cared for in the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center and an intermediate care facility before being taken to her home.
Until recently, she received nourishment through a gastro-intestinal tube that was connected to an external pump. As reported by La Raza, her husband Salvador Martinez, 35 years old and also Mexican, resolved that his wife should not live "artificially". He signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" order to keep her from being revived artificially and and is now withholding nutrition.
According to Espinoza, a doctor disconnected the pump but left the tube in place with the hope that her husband would change his mind. She has apparently lived for the past four weeks on water alone.
Clara's mother, Gregoria Ruano, is a member of Espinoza's church and disagrees with her son-in-law's decision. She, together with other family members, brought the situation to Espinoza's attention are seeking help from the community.
Espinoza, 68, is from Bolivia and was converted to Christianity by U.S. missionaries at a young age. He received theological training both in his native country and the United States and was sent to Chicago as a missionary to the Hispanic population approximately 30 years ago. He is the pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Hispana [Hispanic Evangelical Church at 4340 W. 87th St.] and serves as a hospital Chaplain.
He has only known Clara in her present state and has ministered to her mother and aunt for a little over one year.
Espinoza described Clara's husband as resolute, claiming that Clara would not want to live in her present state. However, no documents exist that reflect this sentiment. "The only thing her husband is saying is that 'I don't think my wife would want to live as she is now. Her mother didn't know about it,'" Espinoza explained.
Clara and her husband live with her mother and their two children, ages five and seven. The husband works full-time and Clara is cared for by her aunt, her mother and an outside caregiver. Until her nourishment was withheld she was in good health. "She is weak now but was very strong," Espinoza said.
Members of her mother's church regularly visit Clara and her family and Espinoza often meets with them to pray, sing and read the Bible.
When asked about Clara's ability to respond Espinoza replied, "Last week when we were in her house we were singing and I talked to her and I said, 'Can you hear me? If you can, close your eyes.' And she did, she was responding."
Espinoza said he has witnessed Clara react similarly to other questions.
According to Espinoza, Clara also moves her arms and her eyes and responds to her mother by moving her head. However, he was uncertain about her actual diagnosis. La Raza reported that her doctors determined her condition to be "irreversible."
Some suggest that Clara is being relieved from a life of suffering. To this Espinoza replies, "Is she suffering? For sure, NOW she is suffering," Similarly, he doesn't see a death precipitated by starvation as dignified. "We have to define dignity. Dignity for whom? For the husband? From the ethics perspective?" he stated. "Taking away her food for more than twenty days - what are they doing? They are killing her little by little, they are destroying her body ... that is a crime ... is that dignity?"
His motivations for fighting to keep Clara alive are two-fold. "First of all," he explained, "Life has been given by God and only He has the power to take it away. Second, I am a chaplain in a local hospital and see a lot of people in this condition. This could affect them."
He described one woman he regularly saw who was in the same condition as Clara yet now is talking, smiling, and singing. "She had a stroke," he explained, "It took two years to recover."
Espinoza sees his role clearly as a missionary and pastor to the Martinez family, and especially Clara. "As a minister I have a duty and responsibility to help people and teach the Word of God. This is not my opinion. I go by the Bible." He added that his ministry is to both the soul and the body.
After failing to convince Salvador that his decision to starve his wife was wrong, he attempted to contact television stations, including local Hispanic networks. "There was no interest," he said. Finally, Jorge Medores editor of a Chicago Newspaper called "La Raza" picked up the story. Other media outlets are beginning to follow suit.
Earl Appleby, Director of Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia, has offered his services to the family. He writes, "May God bless Pastor Espinoza for raising his voice in defense of Clara Martinez's God-given right to life. Our compliments to Mr. Mederos and La Raza for exposing this covert crime in the making, which is no longer hidden thanks to their professional reporting."
Posted by tim at April 16, 2005 12:50 PM
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