Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo
December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005
Today marks the tenth anniversary of Terri Schiavo's death.
It's hard to believe ten years have passed.
She died after her family lost a prolonged, contentious battle for her right to live. Terri's parents, Mary and Bob Schindler, lost their precious daughter, and her siblings, Suzanne and Bobby, lost their beloved sister.
What haunts me about Terri's death is that she was not terminally ill. She was not dying. Michael Schiavo successfully fought in court to have his wife starved and dehydrated to death. She was sentenced to die.
On Nightline, March 15, 2005, while Michael Schiavo was on his media blitz to win over public opinion, he said:
"Terri will not be starved to death. Her nutrition and hydration will be taken away."
For me, that statement sums up the twisted lies of the Culture of Death proponents and the brutality of Terri's court-sanctioned murder.
There was so much disinformation disseminated about Terri's condition, before and after her death.
The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, a group dedicated to "Helping Families Fight for Those Who Cannot Fight for Themselves," provides straightforward answers to frequently asked questions about Terri, her life and death.
These facts are important in understanding the wider social ramifications of Terri's death:
Was Terri dying?
No. Terri suffered from no terminal disease or condition and her cognitive disability did not jeopardize her life in any way. She was simply a physically healthy woman with a brain injury.
Was Terri brain dead or in a coma?
No. Brain death is not a catch phrase used to describe a persons condition but rather an authentic medical diagnosis determined when respiration and other reflexes are absent. Coma is a profound or deep state of unconsciousness. An individual in a state of coma is alive but unable to move or respond to his or her environment. Terri was neither brain dead, nor was she in a coma.
Were there any machines keeping Terri alive?
Absolutely not. Contrary to media reports, Terri did not require life sustaining equipment such as a ventilator. The only thing keeping Terri alive was the same thing that keeps every one of us alive – food and water.
Was this an “end-of-life” issue?
No. Terri’s case should not be confused with legitimate end-of-life cases in which patients are terminally ill and imminently dying. As already stated, Terri was neither ill nor dying.
Was Terri in a Persistent Vegetative State?
No. Despite Judge Greer’s ruling, and in keeping with the 40 medical affidavits submitted to the court, all evidence proves that Terri was not in a PVS. Terri’s behavior and ability to interact with her surroundings did not meet the medical or statutory definition of persistent vegetative state.
Did the autopsy prove that Terri was in a Persistent Vegetative State?
No. The autopsy was unable to determine whether or not Terri was actually in a persistent vegetative state. In fact, on three separate occasions, the report stated that an autopsy is unable to determine if a person is in a persistent vegetative state because the person must be alive in order to make such a diagnosis. The autopsy did prove that that, prior to Terri's death, she was physically healthy and would have lived a long life had she not been dehydrated over a period of two weeks.
Were Terri’s parents able to make any decisions regarding her medical care or well being?
No. From 1993 until her death, Terri’s parents were not allowed to participate in her care. As guardian, Michael Schiavo had 100% control over Terri. He refused to allow her parents to help their daughter in any way. In fact, during the final weeks of her life, Terri’s parents were informed that if they so much as tried to give her a drop of water, or provide comfort care in any way, they would be arrested by the armed police officers who guarded her room 24 hours a day.
Was Terri receiving any rehabilitation in the years prior to her death?
No. Terri was essentially warehoused and abandoned from 1992, when Michael Schiavo ordered all rehabilitation and therapy stopped, until her dehydration death in March of 2005. This was in spite of the fact that countless doctors said Terri’s condition could have improved with continued rehabilitation and therapy – and that her condition had been improving while she was receiving therapy.
Why did the court allow Terri to be killed?
Permission to starve and dehydrate Terri to death was granted based on hearsay evidence that surfaced almost eight years after her collapse, alleging that she wanted to die.
Did Terri have an advance directive?
No. Terri had no written advance directive that indicated her wishes. The court allowed her to be killed based only upon hearsay evidence provided by Michael Schiavo, his brother and his sister-in-law – ignoring testimony by Terri’s biological family and lifelong friends to the contrary.
Was there money involved?
Yes. A trust fund of nearly $800,000 was established and earmarked for Terri’s rehabilitation and therapy, with Michael as the inheritor in the case of Terri’s death. Tragically, the bulk of this money was instead used to pay Michael Schiavo’s attorney fees in his quest to end her life.
Did the court recognize the money Michael Schiavo stood to inherit as a conflict of interest?
No. In fact the court failed to acknowledge that not only was Schiavo’s monetary interest a conflict, but that he had moved on with his life, was engaged to be married to another woman, and already had children with the other woman. In short, his role as guardian was rife with conflicts of interest.
Did Terri have her own attorney?
No, she did not. In fact, the judge in this case defaulted as her guardian/attorney.
Was it appropriate for Congress to step in to assist in Terri’s case?
Absolutely. Congress has every right to pass laws that prevent the deaths of innocent persons.
Was this a private family matter?
No. Michael Schiavo chose to take the matter out of the realm of privacy by introducing it to the courts in 1998. It was Terri’s family who reached out to Congress for help in saving her life. Michael had essentially already started a new family with his fiancé and children.
What did the law passed by Congress actually do?
It gave Terri the right to a federal review – for a federal judge to make sure that her due process rights had not been denied. This is the same right given to all prisoners on death row.
After Terri died of dehydration on March 31, 2005, President George W. Bush remarked:
I urge all those who honor Terri Schiavo to continue to work to build a culture of life, where all Americans are welcomed and valued and protected, especially those who live at the mercy of others. The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to protect the weak. In cases where there are serious doubts and questions, the presumption should be in the favor of life.
In Terri's case, there were serious doubts and questions. Nonetheless, she was sentenced to death, an agonizingly slow-motion execution. That atrocity happened even though we had a pro-life president in the White House.
Now, of course, we have Obama in the White House, the most radical anti-life president to ever occupy the Oval Office.
On February 26, 2008, in Cleveland during a Democrat primary debate between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, candidate Obama invoked Terri Schiavo.
Nat Hentoff wrote a piece about that for Jewish World Review.
In none of the endless presidential candidates' debates has there been a meaningful discussion of the rights of disabled Americans. However, in the Feb. 26 debate in Cleveland, Barack Obama casually and ignorantly revealed his misunderstanding of the basic issue in the highly visible and still-resonating official death sentence of a disabled woman, Terri Schiavo. I have repeatedly called her death the result of "the longest public execution in American history."
When moderator Tim Russert asked Hillary Clinton and Obama if "there are any words or votes that you'd like to take back ... in your careers in public service," Obama answered that in his first year in the Senate, he joined an agreement "that allowed Congress to interject itself (in the Schiavo case) into the decision-making process of the families."
Obama added: 'I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better."
When he was a professor of constitutional law, Obama probably instructed his students to research and know all the facts of a case. The reason Congress asked the federal courts to review the Schiavo case was that the 41-year-old woman about to be dehydrated and starved to death was breathing normally on her own, was not terminal, and there was medical evidence that she was responsive, not in a persistent vegetative state.
So if Obama had the opportunity to take back a vote he cast in his years in public service, it would be the one he cast to offer a disabled woman the right to a federal review – for a federal judge to make sure that her due process rights had not been denied, the same right given to all prisoners on death row.
Obama said, "I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better."
Clearly, Obama is on the wrong side when it comes to promoting a Culture of Life and safeguarding the civil liberties of the weak and vulnerable.
Obama actually regrets voting to grant Terri the right to a federal review before being sentenced to death. He regrets having voted to support Terri's right to due process. I find that extremely troubling.
Obama's regrets about granting Terri Schiavo due process and his attitude about the value of her life are even more disturbing given the passage of government-run health care.
Ezekiel Emanuel, one of Obama's top advisers on health care and brother of Rahm Emanuel, takes this stance:
[Health services should not be guaranteed to] individuals who are irreversibly prevented from being or becoming participating citizens. An obvious example is not guaranteeing health services to patients with dementia.
People like Terri won't stand a chance of receiving treatment or being treated with dignity when health care becomes rationed by the government. They will be denied services because funds are limited. The disabled and the elderly will lose under ObamaCare, as it moves towards its goal of government-run health care, a single payer system.
Terri's dramatic experience deeply touched so many people, even though nearly all of us were witnesses from afar. For me, her story helped clarify the value of life and what I consider to be our moral obligation to protect the weak and disabled. Her devoted family's desire to care for her and their efforts to save her life were truly inspiring.
Terri's story is a lesson in love.
The struggle for life to prevail, when engulfed in a Culture of Death, is a challenging but morally imperative endeavor.
When speaking of his sister's plight, Bobby Schindler recalls the words of Thomas Jefferson: "The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government."
Obviously, Obama is no Thomas Jefferson. We've seen the energy Obama puts into his assault on the dignity of human life. Our work to counter his extremist agenda is more important now than ever.
Although today is a sad day, we can honor Terri's memory by continuing to work to build a lasting Culture of Life; keeping in mind the words of Cardinal Jose Saraiva Martins, that "an attack against life is an attack against God."
On this tenth anniversary of Terri's death, I pray that her mother, her siblings, her other family members and her friends find comfort and peace.
I also remember and pray for Terri's dad, Robert Schindler, who passed away in August 2009, and Brother Paul O'Donnell, who passed away just a little over one month ago.
Prayer in Remembrance of Terri Schiavo
Lord God, I thank you today for the gift of my life,
And for the lives of all my brothers and sisters.
I know that life is always a good,
and that it never loses its value
when it is beset by weakness or injury.
Lord, thank you for the life of Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
Even in her suffering and death
She revealed Your glory
and truth that life is always sacred.
As I remember Terri, I also commit myself
to be active in the pro-life movement,
And never to stop defending life
Until all my brothers and sisters are protected,
And our nation once again becomes
A nation with liberty and justice
Not just for some, but for all,
Through Christ our Lord. Amen!
Observe Terri's Day, March 31, 2015.
Activities for Terri's Day!
Suggested Activities for Individuals, Parishes and Schools For Terri's Day:
---Say the Prayer in Remembrance of Terri daily, the week before and after Terri's Day.
---Hold a Memorial Service and/or Mass on Terri's Day.
---Conduct or participate in a parish or school essay contest about what happened to Terri, and the issues surrounding care for the disabled and their right to life.
---Create and publicize a website in honor of Terri.
---Invite a speaker to your school, parish, or community organization to address issues surrounding the care of the disabled.
---Organize a letter writing campaign in remembrance of Terri by one or more individuals to local papers or blogs.
---Spend time volunteering at a nursing home or hospital.
---Spend time with a disabled friend or relative.
---Write to or visit elected officials regarding legislation that would increase protection for people facing circumstances like Terri did.
---Fill out, and make others aware of the "Will to Live".
---Register to vote and participate in elections. Challenge candidates on their views regarding Terri and those who face the same challenges and dangers she did.