February 22, 2005

What If This Was Our Daughter or Sister or Wife? What If It Was "Only" A Stranger's Life?

My wife heard last night the sad and horrible news of the death of one of her dearest friend's daughter. We grieve for that wonderful family, whose kindness to others - including my wife - has never known any limits. Having been fortunate enough to be present at the birth of our three children, I cannot imagine anything more painful than having to bury one's child.

And that leads to a related story about Terri Schindler-Schiavo, which has been in and out of the news for a while now. Last week, however, a posting by Greg Wallace got my attention. Here is an excerpt:

She is not dying. She has no terminal illness. She is not in a coma. She is not on life-support equipment. She is not alone, but rather has loving parents and siblings ready to care for her for the rest of her life. She has not requested death.

Yet a battle rages regarding whether Terri Schindler-Schiavo should be starved. She has sustained brain injuries and cannot speak or eat normally. Nevertheless, the only tube attached to her is a small, simple, painless feeding tube that provides her nourishment directly to her digestive system.

Her legal guardian is her husband, who already has another woman -- by whom he also has children. He wants Terri's feeding tube removed. Of course, he could simply allow her to be cared for by her parents and siblings, and get on with his life, but he refuses...

Some say that Terri's family should "let her go." But this is not a matter of "letting her go," because she isn't "going" anywhere. If, however, she is deprived of nourishment, then she would slowly die in the same way that any of us would slowly die if we were deprived of nourishment. It is called starvation.

What makes this an even more poignant human love story is the content of a written settlement offer made by Terri's family to her husband, Michael, on October 26, 2004. You can find the letter here. In that letter, her immediate family offers to:

Take Terri home and care for her at their own expense.

Never to seek money from her husband, Michael, including from past malpractice awards. He would also be able to keep all assets from their married life.

Sign any legal documents allowing her husband to divorce her, should he desire that, while still allowing him to retain all rights to her estate upon her natural death in the future as if he was still married to her.

Allow Michael to retain visitation rights, if he so wished.

Forgo any and all future financial claims against Michael.

Michael has rejected their offer; the only acceptable outcome for him is to see Terri dead.

The love of this family for their daughter and sister is reinforced in postings here and here by fellow Rhode Islander, Chuck Nevola.

I would also encourage you to return to the family website for more on this case.

Going back to Greg's original posting and taking the issue to a more philosophical level:

If the courts permit that to happen, then why should that permission apply only in Terri's case? There would be no way to limit it to her case alone. Countless others would follow, and their deaths would be described as "letting them die" instead of "killing them." Where, indeed, does the state get the authority to starve people? Court decisions permitting this lack all authority, as Pope John Paul II teaches in "The Gospel of Life" (section 72). These decisions cannot be obeyed, because they are not binding on the conscience and are in fact acts of violence.

A horrible day is upon us: Michael Schiavo will have the legal right to begin starving Terri to death today.

This ghastly outcome should be neither the values nor the law of America. But it is now on the verge of becoming just that.

What would be our response if this was our daughter, our sister or our wife? Could our response be muted just because Terri Schindler-Schiavo is a "stranger" to all of us? Why should there be any difference?

Or, consider this: What if, by some awful twist of fate, one day you personally were in Terri's place and your family was stopped from saving your life, caring for you, and showing tender love for you? And what if everyone else was "too busy" to care?

I hope our society will find a greater respect for the preciousness of all human life - regardless of whether they are family, friends or someone we have never met. Let's begin by saving Terri Schindler-Schiavo's life.

Comments, although monitored, are not necessarily representative of the views Anchor Rising's contributors or approved by them. We reserve the right to delete or modify comments for any reason.

I share your horror at letting someone kill another.

However, it appears that she had wanted to be let to die earlier on (unless I'm misreading something). Other stories mention that:

"...In October 2003, she went without food or water for six days before Gov. Jeb Bush pushed through a new law letting him order the tube be reinserted."

Does this not appear to be a case where someone manifested an intention not to keep on going?

More information welcome...

Posted by: Israel Silverman at February 22, 2005 2:03 PM


Although I can't believe that it was 2003 (time does fly), the six days that you cite were the climax of a previous round in the fight to save Terri's life. The courts had given her husband the go-ahead for the kill, and the process was six days underway before Gov. Bush was able to step in.

It most definitely was not an instance in which she had ceased eating with the intention of suicide.

Posted by: Justin Katz at February 22, 2005 9:29 PM


You are sadly very confused.Accurate interpretation of the quote you cite is "She went without food for six days" means her Guardian (her estranged husband) had her feeding tube removed with court sanction..Terri did not remove her own feeding tube..her hands are in contracture and not useable. She never said, "kill me" or "starve me"....indeed, she has demonstrated a persistence in life and an insistence on living...When asked to demonstrate her comprehension to simple tasks, she abounds in enthusiastic compliance. This woman does not want to die. When forewarned via a phone held to her ear that if she did not get out of the hospice , Michael and his lawyer would kill her...she literally thrusted her body out of the arm chair with her startled father catching her before she hit the floor. This woman does not want to die.... The affidavits of experts in Rehabilitative Neurology and the affidavits of 10 medical professionals who provided care for Terri, who concurred that Terri is not vegetative were IGNORED by Judge Greer.
On March 18th again "she will go without food" solely because her feeding tube will be removed, NOT because she refused to accept food. Judge Greer has stated "No one is to feed this girl". Not by tube , not by spoon.....even if she begs for food, Judge Greer?

Isreal....be more careful when you read.

Posted by: Jo Marley at February 27, 2005 5:26 PM

While we all should be more careful when we read, as an editor, I know that writers should choose words to clarify not mislead. Just as I know, as a patient advocate in the fight against euthanasia, that the DMC (dominant media culture) generally favors the Culture of Death.

My commendations to Anchor Rising for its first-rate writing--writing that clarifies--on the fight for Terri.

Please call on me whenever I may lend a hand.

Earl E. Appleby, Jr.
Director, Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia (CURE)

Posted by: Earl E. Appleby, Jr. at March 1, 2005 6:02 AM

Terri has been on a life support system for about 15 years now. To remove the feeding tube at this point would be, in my mind, murder. Terri has been terribly abused by her husband and the system by having her feeding tube removed twice already, having been denied visitation by her biological family, having decisions made for her by her 'so called husband' who vowed to take care of her in 'sickness and in health,'having been discrminated against by not allowing her to receive the Sacrament of Holy Communion, by not recognizing her 'person-hood' as a living human being, etc.,etc. We read and hear daily of custodial rights being removed from parents who abuse their children or pet owners who abuse their children. Why cannot the custodial rights be removed from Michael Schiavo who has been abusing his wife for some 15 years at this point. She is confined to bed with capable caretakers seeing to her needs and a loving biological family willing to step in and taking over these responsibilities. All the reports I have seen never make any mention of Michael Schiavo attending to any of her needs.....instead he seeks her death? In his case I would classify this as a 'premeditated' action and he should be listed with the worst murderers......
Not being a lawyer, I don't know if this judge can be removed from this case? I pray that he would have a change of heart and search "the law" for some other avenue to save Terri's life.

Marianne Prabel

Posted by: Marianne Prabel at March 2, 2005 11:42 AM

It is very evident that after Terri spent two years in her “broken” state of consciousness that here husband was ready to “dispose” of her. He had grown tired of his vows of “for better or worse” and was plotting to engage the “till death do us part” clause of the contract.

Posted by: Freaki at March 22, 2005 5:12 PM

Attached is an email that I have been sending to Florida State Senators and Gov Bush. I plan to send them to businesses next. I am hoping to get support from others around the country to do the same and boycott goods and services in Florida. Here is the email:

Good Morning, Senator Portilla.

My name is Elaine Georgas, and I reside in Mobile, AL. I am a 51 yr old wife, mother, and registered nurse. For the record, I am appalled at what is happening regarding Terri Schiavo. Not only do I have concerns from a nursing point of view, but I once was in a situation like Terri's after I was hit by a train in 1978.

I have decided that this case is really all about money (Michael receiving his settlement and all of the pro-euthanasiaists saying that it is too COSTLY to keep Terri alive). Since it is about money and not about human rights, I have decided to boycott any and all goods and services coming out of Florida and in Florida.

I am encouraging friends and relatives to do the same and am contacting as many newspapers around the country to report this grass roots boycott.

I will be contacting Florida senators, house members, Governor Bush, and businesses such as Disney World and Sea World. Let's just see how well Florida does without tourist trade and other monies helping their economy.

My prayers are that you will be filled and blessed with the wisdom of the Lord; that you would be blessed to have the mind, eyes, ears, and heart of the Lord towards Terri; and that you would be blessed to understand the Lord's Prayer when it says "....Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven" (let God take Terri when it is His will, not man's will).

I believe that Terri has a purpose on earth: to wake-up America to stop euthanasia and to stop the innocent blood from being shed because of money. How much is a human being worth?

Senator Portilla, I believe that you also have a purpose on earth. God has put you in your position at this very time for a very specific reason. Your purpose is to intervene on Terri's behalf. Someone needs to have courage and be brave and stand up for Terri and others like Terri (children who have CP, the severely retarded, to mention a few).

Senator Portilla, let that person be you. Have the courage to fight for a life not for money. I beg of you to err on the side of life and not death. Don't let Terri be one of the five people you meet in heaven.


Posted by: Elaine at March 23, 2005 11:12 AM

What is going to happen to those children who were arrested today for trespassing at Terri Schiavo's hospsice? I hope they are removed from custody of their father, who obviously is incapable of caring for children. He's a x-tian fundamentalist, so obviously he is a mental defective.

Posted by: Robert at March 23, 2005 9:40 PM

What's happening to Terri is a culmination of years of subversion, obfuscation, and obstruction within the judiciary. Starting with Karen Anne Quinlen and Nancy Cruzan, the steady slide down this slippery slope has continued.

Today, we are witnessing the slow motion, state sanctioned execution of an innocent person through a most heinous death, starvation.

We must all take care at this point to protect our own conscience and soul; we must make our stand clear in our own mind so as not to be dragged further down this slope into the depths of darkness and sin.

Posted by: Charles Vance at March 24, 2005 9:46 AM

Robert, Regarding the children arrested in front of Terri's hospice.(a joke of a place) Maybe the father was just trying to teach his children about humanity which is certainly out of favor in todays sad society. He may want them to be caring human beings which sure won't fit in with the Nazi agenda we are headed for. One thing for sure, those making these inhumane decisons will be of an age to be the future targets of these apathetic people we are breeding. It will backfire. I think your thoughts are misquided.

Posted by: Linda at March 25, 2005 8:39 PM

Myths About Theresa Schiavo Debunked
In no particular order of stupidity:

Michael Schiavo tried to kill his wife. Terri's nurse said so.

If you want to believe this you must also believe that practically every person involved in Mrs. Schiavo's care conspired to cover up attempted murder. The court did review the affidavit of one Carla Iyer, registered nurse who claims:

- Mrs. Schiavo was lucid.
- All of her notes indicating Terri was lucid were mysteriously deleted.
- She saved Mrs. Schiavo's life after her husband "injected her" with insulin.
- A fellow LPN was possibly killing patients.
- She was fired after she told police about all these crimes.

The court found Ms. Iyer's tales "incredible" which is legalese for "bullshit". In order for her claims to be true everyone from Mrs. Schiavo's doctors, to the police, to Mrs. Schiavo's parents, had to decide to cover up for Michael Schiavo.

Theresa Schiavo is lucid.

I do not wish to be disrespectful here, but I am dealing with people determined to ignore cold facts, so I will be blunt. Mrs. Schiavo is about as lucid as your average Venus Flytrap. She responds reflexively to some stimulus, but there is NO willfull, deliberate or conscious actions.

The cerebral cortex of Mrs. Schiavo's brains was destroyed 15 years ago due to anoxia (oxygen starvation) brought about when her heart stopped beating due to a potassium imbalance. The cerebral cortex is responsible for all higher brain functions. It is the part of the brain that makes you "you". It allows you to think, it contains your personality, your language and and voluntary motor functions. Without this part of your brain you are like a computer with no operating system. They can boot you up in the morning, but you pretty much just sit there and do nothing except consume electricity.

Theresa Schiavo could get better.

Yes, theoretically, in a parallel universe, two hundred years in the future where Star Trek is actually real, Dr. McCoy could travel back in time and stumble across Mrs. Schiavo and give her a pill (which she couldn't swallow, since swallowing is a conscious action) and she would regrow her cerebral cortex. Mr. Spock would then find the keeper of her katra and restore her personality via a Vulcan Mind Meld™.

But, short of that, no, she won't get better.

But people have come out of these types of situations before. I read in Reader's Digest about this guy who was in a coma/vegetative state who suddenly started writing a novel...

Stop! This is an "apples and oranges" situation. The folks you have read about suffered physical trauma to their brain, usually as a result of falls and car crashes. The cerebral cortex was damaged, but still there. Mrs. Schiavo's cortex is not damaged, it is DEAD. The brain tissue died from lack of oxygen. In fact, the cortex has shrivelled and liquified. Bottom line? You can't think with what isn't there!

Future medical advances, like stem cell research, could help her regrow dead brain tissue.

Yeah, like stem cell research is blazing along in Bush's America. That issue aside, such things are WAY in the future. Also, assuming such a technology showed up courtesy of Dr. McCoy's vacation layover in this dimension, and you regrew the dead brain tissue, the tissue would be BLANK. The unique essence that was Theresa Schiavo has been lost forever. It was lost 15 years ago.

Nothing is going to change this. Not Wendi Freisen hypnosis CDs, not Bob with a truckload of Enzyte™, and not Benny Hinn and a Holy Ghost Machine Gun (pat pending).

Senator Bill Frist, who is a heart surgeon, said Terri's diagnosis was wrong and he looked at the tapes and she wasn't really in a vegetative state.

1) Dr. Bill is a quack. Why do I say that? Because only a quack would diagnose a person he has NEVER met, never mind examined.

2) It's Mrs. Schiavo to you.

3) While Dr. Bill is a medical doctor (or at least he plays one in the senate), he is NOT a neurologist or a neurosurgeon. He is not qualified to make ANY diagnosis of Mrs. Schiavo's condition. Bill Frist is also a jackass, but this does not qualify him as a pack animal.

4) Dr. Bill is using Mrs. Schiavo as a tool to pander to the religously insane side of the Republican party. In 1989 Frist advocated changing the definition of "brain dead" to include anencephalic babies. Anencephalic babies are in the same state as Terri Schiavo except that she suffered a physical trauma that put her into a vegetative state while the anencephalic babies are born that way.

So, when not serving as a US senator, he believes that people like Mrs. Schiavo should be allowed to die so their organs can be harvested to help people who have a chance at a normal life.

Michael wants his wife dead so he can collect the money from her settlement.

1) The fund was exhausted years ago. This charge was made back in 1998 and was found without merit by the court. Michael had at the time formally offered to surrender his wife's trust fund to independent administration. He would in no way benefit from the money.

It also worth noting that Mrs. Schiavo's care is now paid for with Medicaid, a program the Holy Republicans are bent on cutting.

2) That's Mr. Schiavo to you.

Michael Schiavo wants his wife dead so he can marry another woman.

Mr. Schiavo could have divorced his wife long ago and married anyone he wanted. Mr. Schiavo started dating again at the insistance of his in-laws who encouraged him to get on with his life. Mr. Schiavo went so far as to introduce women he was dating to his in-laws.

Michael Schiavo abused his wife and neglected her care.

Dr. Wolfson, the court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem who spent a month investigating the Schiavo case found that Mrs. Schiavo received outstanding care from both her parents and her husband. In fact, he noted in his report that after 13 years in a bed, she had never ONCE developed a bed sore. The medical professionals out there will tell you that this is indicative of near miraculous care.

Theresa Schiavo's parents are evil.

No, they just love their daughter. They have allowed their love to cloud their judgement so much that they have become the pawns of outside groups with political agendas who are lying to them and giving them false hopes.

Michael Schiavo petitioned the court to kill his wife.

No, he asked the court to step in (in accordance with Florida law) and determine whether life support should be stopped. The court, acting as a proxy, ruled that Mrs. Schiavo was in a "persistive vegetative state", had no hope of getting better, and had told people at various times (funerals) before her accident that she had no desire to be kept alive in such a state.

The court found all the evidence "clear and convincing" and ordered her feeding tube removed. The COURT did this, not Michael Schiavo.

A feeding tube is nourishment, not life support.

Not according to Florida law:

Life-prolonging procedure" means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function.

§ 765.101(10)

The video tape I saw shows her reacting to people.

The video you saw was edited to give that impression. It was culled from hours of video where Mrs. Schiavo did absolutely nothing. Random or reflexive reactions do not demonstrate cognition.

Removing the feeding tube is a cruel thing to do. She will be in agony, dying of hunger and thirst.

No. The part of Mrs. Schiavo's brain that would register pain of this sort is gone. Medical professionals describe the death as peaceful.

Further reading:

Abstract Appeal - Timeline and excellet source of court rulings

Dr. Jay Wolfson's Guardian Ad Litem report

Q&A on legal issues in Schiavo case

Bio of Theresa Schiavo

Death when a feeding tube is withdrawn is "placid"

Posted by: Mr. Green at March 26, 2005 12:51 AM

All of you so obsessed with one American's hospice transition should have a good look at the suffering caused by the War in Iraq, courtesy of George W. Bush.

There are over 1500 dead soldiers, 30,000 injured on the U.S. side, 100,000 dead and who knows how many injured on the Iraqi side.

Posted by: Collin Baber at March 29, 2005 11:01 PM

In a recent development in Florida, the vegetative Terri Shiavo muttered the following utterance to an attorney present at her bedside:


Dagon finds it rather ironic, not to mention highly comical, that armies of religious picketers are fighting to feed a woman who caused her own massive brain loss by binging and purging. That's right, Terri, just look at all the weight you've gained in the last 15 years of us CURING YOUR BULIMIA.

Yes, the sight of the ghastly, shriveled Shiavo has prompted more pitiful outpouring than twenty primetime commercial spots of pot-bellied Ethiopian "don't-cha-wish-we-had-abortion-here" kids with flies eating out their eyeballs. Dagon even feels bad for Terri when he recalls that her greatest achievement in the last decade was to follow a balloon around the room with her eyes. Just remember though Terri, "It's what's on the inside that counts (even if you don't have an inside)."

BULLSHIT. Dagon learned somewhere around 3rd grade that the inside is just the confectionary on the jelly donut (Terri, want a jelly donut?). Put it this way: If Terri were hot, guys would be lining up to picket the hospice and fight for who got to bang her first. If Michael Shiavo would get his wife a haircut (damnit), some Gucci earrings, and maybe a Prada purse to hold her colostomy bag, there wouldn't be scores of you mouthbreathers feeling so sorry for her.

Fact is, people get taken off life-support every day, and not all of them have the combined cognizance of two chocolate laxatives. So why don't you all just go plan another weekend revival retreat instead of butting in on a private family case that is 15 years old.

Dagon Akujin (http://www.livejournal.com/users/dagonakujin/4894.html)

Posted by: Dagon at March 30, 2005 1:04 PM

what more do you think President Bush and Governor Bush could have done? did you want then to break the law and go to jail? if they had broken the law and gone to jail , it still would not have removed Terri from that hospice. can you think of any other President or Governor that would have stuck their neck out to help only one person? surely you don't believe President Clinton ,John Kerry or John Edwards would have done what they tried to do for Terri , you should be happy we have the two of them on our side,. it took lot of courage and human compassion knowing no matter if they chosen not to get involved they were going to take all the blame . there was honestly nothing more they could have done for Terri.
the blame belong to Judge Greer and Michael Schiavo they held all the cards

Posted by: taylor at April 4, 2005 9:27 PM

That has to have been a very hard thing for the husband to do given the circumstance, i think though we have to ask ourselves what was his promise to his wife, we will never know that, and I hope I'm never faced with his choice.

Posted by: M. A. L. at August 19, 2005 11:24 AM

That has to have been a very hard thing for the husband to do given the circumstance, i think though we have to ask ourselves what was his promise to his wife, we will never know that, and I hope I'm never faced with his choice.

Posted by: M. A. L./4931 at August 19, 2005 11:27 AM