Remembering Terri Schiavo

In 1990, a 26-year-old woman named Terri Schiavo went into cardiac arrest in her home in St. Petersburg, Florida. After her husband called for help, Terri was successfully resuscitated, but sustained significant brain damage from being unconscious for so long and the restriction of oxygen to her brain. She was in what was labeled as a “persistent vegetative state”. Her husband Michael was appointed by a court as Terri’s legal guardian.

For several years, Michael brought Terri to different experimental treatments to stimulate her nervous system, but nothing seemed to work comprehensively. As time went on, Michael became detached from Terri and her family, the Schindlers. He had come into some money via a malpractice suit on Terri’s behalf and began living with another woman whom he intended to marry.

In May of 1998, Michael Schiavo petitioned to have the feeding tube removed from Terri and halt all provision of nutrition and hydration for her in her vegetative state.

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After a grueling, seven-year legal battle, Judge George Greer’s original ruling in favor of Michael Schiavo was upheld and Terri’s feeding tube was removed on March 18, 2005. She passed on March 31 after what the Schindlers’ witness described as a horrific death by starvation and dehydration.

Recently on Morning Air, John Morales hosted guest Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo to speak on Terri’s legacy and why we can never forget her story.

Bobby pointed out the inconsistency in the legal system where if someone were to starve an animal to death, you would be federally prosecuted and face the full extent of the law. And yet, people like Terri are treated like a waste of resources and can be euthanized at the behest of someone else. While euthanasia is only legal in 9 jurisdictions, it is settled law that the spouse has the right to make decisions on matters of life and death when a patient is incompetent.

John asked Bobby why Terri’s feeding tube was considered “medical treatment” instead of “basic care”, care that must legally be provided to all patients, regardless of state. Well, it was unprecedented. Terri’s case set the standard, and to this day, a feeding tube that provides basic food and water is treated the same way as a ventilator: medical treatment, extraordinary care. The Catholic Church still maintains that the provision of food and water is basic care, and it has very clear teachings on euthanasia, as well as all matters involved in the ending of a human life.

“The administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural way of preserving life… not a medical procedure,” said Pope St. John Paul II.

Following the death of Terri and the ensuing legal battles, the Schindlers started the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. Over the years, they have been contacted by thousands of families in distress because they are facing similar situations. The Schindlers have been able to direct these families to the right legal and medical resources so that they can try to beat these cases that threaten to take yet another life.

Bobby pointed out that much of the modern healthcare conversation revolves around cost and burden. When the financial cost or logistical burden of taking care of somebody becomes greater than the caretaker is willing to put up with, they start looking for a way out. They reprioritize their values and while a person’s life should always be at the top, it starts slipping down the list. That type of mentality results in a eugenic-focused culture. No longer are the weak, the disabled, or the handicapped protected. If they prove to be a burden, they are deemed unfit to be kept alive.

Pope St. John Paul II, who died just two days after Terri did, dedicated his life to promoting a culture of life and love, something that we obviously struggle with to this day. Abortion is legal across the nation, euthanasia is still legal in some states, and the death penalty is legal in 27 states in some capacity. But the fight is not over. Far from it. People across the world like the Schindlers are determined to make a difference, and so are we. Every man, woman, and child has a right to life, disabled or not.

Lynn Vincent, #1 New York Times Best-Selling author of Heaven is for Real, just launched a podcast called LAWLESS: Not every crime is against the law. As explained by Bobby Schindler, this podcast will expose everything that took place behind the scenes and document the entire Terri Schiavo case from start to finish in a 13-episode series.

Listen to the full segment below:

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John Hanretty serves as a Digital Media Producer for Relevant Radio®. He is a graduate of the Gupta College of Business at the University of Dallas. Besides being passionate about writing, his hobbies include drawing and digital design. You can read more of his daily articles at relevantradio.com and on the Relevant Radio® app.