Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Passion of Terri Schiavo

Published April 20, 2005

I wanted to write about Holy Week, but as we go to print, Terri Schiavo will be in day three of her court ordered death by starvation unless legislation to protect her life was passed last Friday. Most Christians recognize this to be the week before Easter when the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ is observed around the world by all of Christendom. However, I am saddened and sickened beyond reason. My sadness is for a stranger who in any other circumstance could be my sister or my daughter. Maybe in some mystical way, she is. It seems she is walking her own Calvary in a legal dispute.
I’ve received numerous requests for prayers for Terri Schiavo, the young disabled woman in Florida, who will die at the hands of a Florida court, by means of starvation and dehydration, commencing Friday March 18 at 1:00 PM. Handed a death sentence, yet innocent of any crime, Terri is guilty of being a disabled person. If she were a dog she’d get more consideration.
Terri Schiavo sustained a brain injury which has disabled her to the degree of those people who suffer from cerebral palsy. She is a warm person, fully aware of her surroundings, affections and dislikes. Somehow by a twist of fate and a team of lawyers working for her estranged husband, she has no voice and no protection in a land where protections are guaranteed by the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Mr. Schiavo has refused to allow Terri’s exposure to the outdoors, physical therapies to aid her speech and eating, and has even refused her dental care since 1995. As a result she has lost 5 teeth due to decay.
One judge court… ruled that she must die by starvation March 18 because her estranged husband wants her to die. This estranged man has a new common law wife and a couple of children with her, plus one emotionally estranged judge and a plethora of lawyers pitted against a grieving family who are begging the court’s mercy and protection over the life of their daughter. This is happening in the United States and in countries around the world. Without any further protective legislation being passed to protect the rights of the disabled, I am afraid it’s coming to a state near you.
Terri’s parents, Mr. & Mrs. Schindler went before the Florida judge last week again, something they’ve been doing since Terri’s mysterious 1991 injury over disputes as to the nature and quality of her care. In what has become a rubber stamp denial of the Schindlers and their requests, one wonders if Judge Greer even reads the pleadings on behalf of Terri Schiavo. Judge Greer said that they could not give their daughter water or food when the feeding tube is removed at 1 PM. They could not bring her home to die. They could not assist or comfort her in any way. This judge has neither viewed video recordings of Terri nor allowed her presence in his court. He does not want to hear any more testimony from physicians who have petitioned the court on Terri’s behalf who claim that given the latest therapies, she will most likely be able to be rehabilitated to speak and eat on her own. The experts in the field testify in pleadings, that she will gain improvement in motor function if treatment is carried out as recommended. Her husband’s neglect is criminal in that regard. Terri’s room at the rehab facility is watched by an armed guard 24 hours a day at the expense of her husband so that no one interferes with the neglect of his wife.
In addition to her husband’s denial of reasonable medical care for her ongoing rehabilitation, the court has denied her religious freedoms by denying her reception of Holy Communion for the last 15 years, but as she dies, they will finally grant her reception of the final Sacraments. This was the only concession made to the Schindlers last week.
It will most likely take 10 days to two weeks for Terri Schiavo to die. The body shuts down painfully as it is starved and dehydrated. The lining of the stomach dries up, the mucous linings in the nasal passage becoming painfully dry and blood vessels burst due to lack of hydration. The internal organs wither away painfully and then finally after a long and agonizing process the heart and brain will cease to function.
This is not Nazi Germany or the Sudan, this is going to happen in Florida. No one wants to talk about it. You will not turn on the evening news to hear about it. In a politically correct world, you will not hear about Terri Schiavo because this sort of thing is happening across our land and has been happening with increasing steadiness in recent years. Hollywood glorified it gushingly in the movie “Million Dollar Baby”. Ironically, last week a very wealthy individual in Los Angeles offered Michael Schiavo one million dollars to back away from Terri’s death order and allow her family custodial care. Rejecting the offer, his stance is clear, he wants her dead, cremated and gone.
One should question whether Michael Schiavo is still a husband when he denies her family visitation, when he denies treatment her physicians recommend for her, when he denies her access to the outdoors and fresh air, when he will not allow his wife’s teeth to be cleaned. One would think it ceased when he took a common law wife and started another family.

This is murder of a handicapped person. The slope of euthanasia in this country is getting more slippery and the court is run amok. The precedent in this case is tragic. Disabled persons are losing their place, voice and personhood in this society. Terri Schiavo is a victim of the callousness of an estranged husband who wants her dead, an apathetic Judge and medical personnel who are willing to cooperate with whatever the court tells them to do.

Terri is that woman or man you see in a wheelchair or at school who has cerebral palsy. She could be your sister or your mother. Shame on Michael Schiavo & Judge Greer and anyone who believes this is sympathetic and compassionate.
Tammy Maher is a resident of El Dorado Hills and bi-weekly columnist for the Mountain Democrat. You can reach her at

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