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Wednesday, March 22, 2006


A Sad Anniversary


The end of this month marks the anniversary of the judicially-ordered killing of Terri Schiavo, age 41, carried out at the behest of her husband who was living with another woman and his Scientologist lawyer.  She was not brain-dead.  She could breathe on her own.  Yet despite the best efforts of Terri's family and the pro-life and disability-rights communities, the courts ordered Terri Schiavo to be killed by dehydration.  Rush Limbaugh described the day as "the day our country hit rock bottom."  One year later, it is still an apt description.


Terri Schiavo left no written instructions nor a living will, so the courts relied on Michael's word, conveniently ignoring the obvious conflicts.  Her husband Michael promised to care for her for the rest of her life when he filed suit for insurance money after her collapse, a suit that he won.  Then, seven years into the process, he suddenly remembered that Terri had supposedly told him that she did not want to live in the kind of state she was in.  His only two witnesses to this were his family members.  He violated his responsibilities as her guardian and he had obvious conflicts of interest.  It didn't take him long after Terri's death to marry his live-in girlfriend with whom he has two children.  Terri's parents were willing to care for her for the rest of her natural life, as Michael had once promised to do.  All he had to do was step aside as guardian.  He would not do so.


Terri Schiavo never got a PET scan, an MRI, or a thorough neurological examination, by order of her loving husband.  Even death penalty inmates get complete medical tests.  Nurses who cared for Terri testified that Michael had asked, "Is she dead yet?" and that they had found syringes in her room after his visits.  He was the one who ordered her physical therapy cut off in 1993.  And it was Michael Schiavo who prevented the family from being with Terri when she died.  And the autopsy report by Dr. John Throgmartin reported that the good doctor could neither confirm nor disprove a diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state.


Terri never was permitted to have her own lawyer to represent her.  That was only one violation of her fundamental civil rights.  Yet the compassion-mongers didn't care.  Where was the American Civil Liberties Union?  It was serving as co-counsel for Michael Schiavo.  So much for its claims to be a defender of civil liberties with no other agenda.


It was not until 1999, nine years after Terri Schiavo fell into her condition, that the state of Florida made it legal to cut off nutrition to non-dying patients.  Yet the petition to remove her feeding tube was presented in 1998.  Talk about ex post facto law!  And many of the members of the advisory panel were co-workers of Michael's attorney George Un-Felos, at the Florida Hospice of the Suncoast.  Mr. Un-Felos was the chairman of the board of the hospice.  Anything to drum up a little business, eh?


And why did the liberals who are always claiming a superior compassion for groups of people like the disabled so eagerly support Michael Schiavo in his effort to make sure his wife was killed as soon as possible?  Virtually every disability rights organization in the country filed briefs in Terri's behalf.  A few liberals, such as civil liberties writer Nat Hentoff and Rev. Jesse Jackson, supported Terri's family.  But most supported Michael.


And what is perhaps most offensive of all is that this cruelty was presented as compassion by the people who are always lecturing the rest of us about compassion.  They should be ashamed, but they don't know how.


Are we going to become a society in which the disabled, the elderly, and whoever else is inconvenient is killed?  If we do not stand up and make sure that there are no more Terri Schiavos, we are in serious danger of becoming just that kind of country.  It is our responsibility to make sure that Terri Schiavo did not die in vain, that there are no more Terri Schiavos.  Decency and compassion demand it.

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