Vigil For Terri Schiavo

There is a war on terror happening in this country, everyday escalating to new and horrible heights. Our culture believes that aging or disability, the need of the aid of others, is somehow a vile evil necessary of extermination. We are a culture obsessed with youth and beauty, constantly bombarded with information that supports the idea that if you are fat, ugly, skinny, tall, short, slim, or not from the right family or race, that happiness will forever elude living and that the only way to find it is to get as close as you can to societies definition of desirable existing. Those not fitting the mold are doomed to inadequate lives within a culture that only wants to cater and resemble the 5% of the population that have perfect forms and lives.

Life's not always that picture perfect or peachy crème. Whose to decide what is a life worthy of living and enduring In this country many believe there is no room for any but those that can fit the perfect model of acceptable being and lifestyle. Last month I wrote about Terri Schiavo's struggle to live. Well this month on November 22nd one Judge George W. Greer of Clearwater, Florida decided that Terri was not worthy of a existence because in his mind her life was unworthy of continuance. He ruled that on January 3, 2003 at 3 p.m. that her feeding tube be removed and she be allowed to thirst/starve to death in front of her parents and nursing staff. Any attempt to stave off emaciation, which could take up to 14 days, should be disregarded by court authority. He has once again sided with Michael Schiavo, the current husband and guardian of Terri future. Her parents have been fighting against the system and Michael for years now trying to prove that their daughter deserves attempts at improving her lifestyle instead of the blatant disregard in her treatment and rehabilitation. She is considered less than human and not afforded the same inalienable rights extended to all others.

The Schindlers have fought without success to have Terri placed in their guardianship so that they could try to help her in her quality of living and not hinder life so much that death seems a more plausible solution to current condition and environment. With new and independent examination, there is now more pressing evidence that caters to the possibility that Terri may have in the past been a victim of domestic abuse and that maybe her husband is responsible for sustained injury. There is speculation that Michael Schiavo, being responsible for Terri's condition, is trying everything in his power and fortune to find grounds for Terri to be legally exterminated; because he might be afraid that if someone takes the time to learn communication with Terri, that she might blame him for her condition. If that were true then to have Terri legally murdered would be the saddest end to a story that has taken on the strangest Hollywood scenario.

If Michael Schiavo is responsible, it might explain why he is going through such lengths, time, and effort to insure her termination rather than focus on therapy and rehabilitation- things that would provide her pleasure. Why wouldn't he just allow her parents (who so obviously love her dearly) to have guardianship and aid their own daughter into as comfortable and as joyous a life as possible unless there is something to hide. He already has another girlfriend and daughter that he can place his focus on, get on with his own life and living. Wouldn't he after 12 years get tired of the whole legal process and court battle with Terri's own parents that it would be almost ridiculous to endure. He does stand to gain $700,000, but he has spent a fortune trying to pay right to die experts and professionally opinioned doctors/speakers to back his claim that it would be better for Terri to die. No one knows the truth except maybe Michael and Terri herself.

It is now up to us as a community, advocates, and human beings to bring full attention to Terri's plight as it is also a plight of our own. I, or you, could be next and things are already out of hand. Though there's a war out there with terrorists and fanatical groups, there is a war right here affecting specifically people with disabilities and the aging public. This war is rarely televised on CNN or ever the headlines of front page news or the main featured news story. This is a silent war with doctors, judges, and policymakers deciding right to life issues without the input opinion of those they directly impact with their decisions. We cannot allow this to go on uncontested. Sign up with Not Dead Yet to learn more on the details at

It will get worse before it gets better only because it's not a featured topic of everyday discussion. In this culture we fear death so we don't talk about it. We ignore situations like aging and disability until life fortunes us in those directions. We are forced into advanced age and disability without the necessary knowledge, preparation, and existing framework necessary to make long term care a pleasant and joyous experience. Unwilling we are forced to deal with situations as they are- limited and lacking. The way we treat the end of life scenarios in this country only promises inadequacy. Each one of us will face this issue directly with time, so we better deal with it now so as to insure some quality at the end of living.

For further information or to organize a vigil observance in your community, please contact Rus Cooper-Dowda at or Roy T. Sniffen at