Terri Schiavo Survives Nightmare Sentence

There has always been one group of people with power to control outcomes for another; treating them depending on how they viewed them. Those who have authority to make decisions, impose rules laws regulations, not always taking into consideration what is necessarily good for those for whom decisions are made. On Aug. 22, 2003 a seven-member Florida Supreme Court unanimously refused to review Terri Schindler Schiavo's case and sent it back to probate court. Judge George Greer scheduled a hearing for Sept. 11 to set date for removal of her feeding tube.

On February 25, 1990 Terri, age 26, suffered massive brain damage when she collapsed at her home under unexplained circumstances. She suffered cardiac arrest and slipped into a coma. When she came out two months later, she was severely brain damaged and unable to walk, talk, or eat. This has lead to a decade long battle between Michael Schiavo, her husband and legal guardian, and her parents, the Schindlers.

On Sept. 2, 2003, U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara, in Tampa scheduled an emergency session when Michael Schiavo ordered his wife Terri removed from Morton Plant hospital where she was being treated for a severe infection to a hospice before she had been stabilized of her condition. Two weeks prior Terri was taken to the same hospital because she was coughing up blood and appeared to have aspiration pneumonia. She was returned to the hospice less than a week later, again before she had fully recovered.

Florida Governor Jeb Bush intervened on her behalf because he was "disturbed" by rumors of Michael Schiavo's actions related to Terri's current care. He wrote a letter to Judge Greer requesting a delay in removal of Terri's feeding tube until certain issues were investigated. He specifically cited Michael's request to disallow treatment. Bush urged Greer to ensure that "no act of omission or commission be allowed to adversely affect Mrs. Schiavo's health before the September 11th hearing you have set. No one involved should be permitted to circumvent due process or the court's authority in order to achieve personal objectives in this case."
Michael Schiavo, her husband, in a 1992 malpractice trial was awarded by jury $1.3 million dollars. Of that money, Michael received $300,000, lawyers' fees paid, and about $750,000 put in trust to pay for Terri's rehabilitation. Because Terri's insurance had run out, the need to restart therapy was used by Michael to persuade jury into settlement. However, once the money was in the bank, Michael deprived Terri of any kind of rehabilitation and even placed a "do not resuscitate" order on her chart. He denied her antibodies several times when she had life threatening infection and even barred Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski, Terri's Catholic priest from seeing her and performing Saraments.
Michael claims that Terri would not have wanted to live this way and is determined to have her feeding tube removed. He hired right to die lawyers to aid him in persuading the court systems that removing Terri's feeding tube and allowing her to starve and dehydrate for 10-14 days until she dies, is the best thing for her. He insists that he loves her anytime anyone from media, TV, radio, or newspaper calls for an interview, and yet never voluntarily mentions that he lives with his new fiancé and has 2 children by her, or that they have been together for 8 years. Neither does he mention that only about $50,000 of the $1.3 million dollars won in Terri's malpractice suit, has been used on Terri's behalf in the five years following the jury verdict. Since 1998, Michael Schiavo has expended $650,000 not for therapy, but primarily for lawyers in his efforts to see Terri killed.
Over a dozen prominent doctors and therapists have stated that with therapy she could be rehabilitated, against three doctors who maintain she essentially is comatose and will never recover. This case challenges the right to life and quality care of every person born into and alive now in America. Should someone deem you unworthy of life, the consequences can be a horrific. Even now in hospitals across the nation, parents are told that babies born with deformation, mental or physical disabilities are not worthy of life and that their only hope would be to live all their days in nursing homes or mental institutions. They then get parents to consent to removing babies from life support systems that allow children to die from dehydration or starvation. Babies are literally allowed to cry, whine, and beg for nourishment that they are denied because our society does not value children or people with disabilities.
Terri's parents the Schindlers have been battling their son-in-law over the care and custody of their daughter. They want Terri's guardianship transferred to them so that they can look after her well being and provide for her the measures that would assure her further joy and happiness in life. Michael Schiavo refuses to grant them guardianship because he is intent on seeing her executed. The question remains- Why is it so important for him to have Terri die? Is it the hundreds of thousands of dollars he stands to gain from her death or it something more? Could it be that he is responsible for her current condition and does not want her to be rehabbed to the point that she could speak or communicate in some other way that perhaps he tried to harm her and is in truth responsible for her current condition? Why, won't he allow Terri speech or cognitive therapy, or just go on with his life and his new family.

He has time and time again refused anyone to assist Terri in anything that might better her prolonged outlook on life. Why not just allow her parents, who love her dearly, to take over her care. It seems to me if he loved her so that he would allow her parents and others to try and do all they could for her. Why then would he fight so hard to be allowed to subject her to death by starvation and dehydration unless he has something to hide, and Terri's death means secret kept.

On Oct. 15, Judge George Greer, a federal circuit appeals court judge sided with Michael Schiavo and allowed her feeding tube to be removed and the countdown to Terri's horrible bout begin. Had it not been for disability and right to life advocates across the country imploring the media blitz that brought national attention to her plight, Terri might not have survived the ordeal that disconnected her from life supports for 6 very cruel days. It could have been her execution by a justice system that is supposed to protect and uphold the rights of citizens subject to its laws. This judicial system would have failed her in an atrocious manner had we not bombarded the Florida legislature and Governor Jeb Bush with phone calls and email requests to stop this horrible deed set to take place. Terri had done nothing to deserve such cruel and unusual punishment and we could not just stand by and let it happen.

It was Oct. 20, 2003, an emergency session of Florida legislatures met, proposing "Terri's Law." At 10:10 p.m. the House passed the bill. 3:30 p.m. Oct. 21, the Senate passed the bill with revisions. 4 p.m. the House gave final approval and at 4:30 p.m. Governor Bush signs the bill into law. In less than 24 hours, "Terri's Law," gave the Governor authority to place a moratorium on the dehydration deaths of certain cognitively disabled patients, including Terri. At 9:15 p.m. Terri began fluids and eventual feeding.

She nearly died, forced to endure nightmare experience, while family and advocates looked on hoping that some miracle would come into play and save her innocent life. Her father and mother, forced to witness the gravity of it all, could not believe their daughter was having her life threatened by law and denied their love because of court opinion. I have watched this case for a very long time now and have written 3 articles and dozens of commentaries to news publications, legislatures, and television shows about her and our own right to quality in life. When word was first sent of Judge Greer's decision to allow her death I was initially shocked and then later appalled. I could not believe that Judges in our State and Federal judiciary systems, held such views as to disregard people with disabilities any kind of worth or belief that we would want to live in condition different than the assumptions of 'normality.'

In our history, people with disabilities have been denied every kind of right to life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness one can imagine possible. Our government and culture has overlooked our most basic right to quality in life, access to community based services, jobs, public transportation, housing; entertainment, education, as well as the most basic accommodation such as bathrooms or entrance into other's homes and businesses while at the same time sending us to institutions and facilities that under-mind our basic integrity, freedom to choose, will to live as well as placing us at the mercy of experimental science and medicine that would legally inflict brutish treatments such isolation, binding, electric shock, and drug therapy just to subdue our peculiarities.

And now there is growing sentiment to allow physician assisted suicide in instances of want or necessity as decided by guardians, family, doctor, or circumstance. Isn't the Hippocratic oath about saving lives. I think more what needs to be considered is why people would want to kill themselves or why circumstances would lead some to want or wish for suicidal measure. I feel what would be seen is that people do not want to live lives involved with high degrees of pain, loneliness, or in settings where they are allowed no control of decisions which affect them, or in places that do not care for them in a healthy, quality of life promoting way.

As it stands now Michael Schiavo is appealing the right of the Governor to step in and prevent Terri's death by starvation, dehydration. However, the Federal court has granted petition to hear motion to remove Michael Schiavo from guardianship citing abuse, neglect, and adultery. Circuit Judge George Greer, who has primarily handled this 10-year court battle between Michael Schiavo and the Schindlers; has consistently ruled in favor of Michael Schiavo, but recently denied request by Schiavo's attorney to dismiss the motion. Still not over everyone please include Terri and the Schindlers in your prayers.