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If I didn’t know better, I’d think the heavens are crying. Perhaps they are. Florida is being inundated as the progression of hurricanes continues its destruction.
Ironically, while media focus on evacuations aimed at saving lives, the Florida Supreme Court ruled 7-0 last week, that a helpless young Florida woman should die. Her name is Terri Schindler-Schiavo.
I take that back. Not just die. Be killed.
That is what’s involved when a person is denied food and water. That person will die a prolonged, painful and horrible death. According to the black-robed justices of the Florida high court, that’s exactly what should happen to Terri.
It will be done for a sole and not-so-subtle reason: to cause her to die.
Memo to the court: If this murder isn’t prevented, Terri’s blood will be on your hands.
The background. Terri Schiavo is brain damaged, but she is awake and sleeps. She breathes on her own, attempts to speak and recognizes family members when they’re allowed to see her. That happens only rarely because her husband refuses to allow Terri’s parents and siblings to visit. When they do, a policeman is present.
In 1990, Terri suffered some kind of trauma. Reports that it was a blood-chemical imbalance or eating disorder are inaccurate. No one knows what happened that night in her apartment with her husband, but oxygen to her brain was cut off for a short period causing brain damage. She was 26.
Terri was hospitalized, had some therapy and seemed to be improving. There were successful malpractice lawsuits with a $1.4 million verdict for her and $600,000 for her husband, Michael. He is her legal guardian.
Then the problems started. He moved her to another facility for only custodial care and began to keep her family away.
Terri didn’t get the recommended physical therapy nor the routine physical care any patient should have – dental, antibiotics when sick, and physical therapy to get her off the feeding tube and reanimate her limbs.
Terri’s parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, grievously unhappy at what was happening to their child, sought help from the courts. For the next 14 years, Michael battled them, consuming their lives and nearly bankrupting them.
Michael Schiavo used the settlement money, which was supposed to be used for Terri’s rehabilitation, for his legal fight to keep the family out and have Terri’s feeding tube pulled. He claims she wouldn’t want to live this way but there’s no clear proof and no written intention.
He refuses to allow Terri’s parents to become her guardians. He refused to allow her to receive Communion. He refuses to allow Terri to be divorced from him despite the fact that he’s lived with another woman for nine years and has two children by her. He presents himself to the media as a loving husband.
A lower court order last fall ordered the feeding tube removed – it was. Six days later, the legislature passed a law, called “Terri’s Law,” giving Gov. Jeb Bush the authority to order the tube reinstated. He did, it was, Terri survived. Michael challenged it and appealed to the high court.
That court didn’t rule on the morality of the situation, nor the humanity. They were clinically and coldly legalistic and it appears, miffed that a judicial decision was challenged.
Their decision was to protect their turf and Terri be damned, or perhaps I should say, be dead.
Here’s what Chief Justice Barbara Pariente said: “It is without question an invasion of the authority of the judicial branch for the Legislature to pass a law that allows the executive branch to interfere with the final judicial determination in a case.” (My emphasis.)
Silly me. I thought the legislature was supposed to make laws and the judiciary to interpret. I never realized courts were infallible.
The justices said it was simply an issue of separation of powers. Despite family grief, Justice Pariente said, “But our hearts are not the law, what is in the Constitution always must prevail over emotion.”
So the judges ruled Terri Schiavo be killed. A doctor or nurse, who is supposed to protect life, will take a step to kill a helpless patient.
The decision is not only immoral on the face of it, it is doubly so because it directs others to carry out a death sentence without due cause on a helpless, innocent human being.
If this comes to pass, the court, the lawyers, the American Civil Liberties Union and Michael Schiavo will be responsible for Terri’s death and also the deaths of others with cognitive disabilities who will be killed the same way as their families and lawyers use this case as precedent. Every living person, able or not, should be afraid. Very afraid. We’re all in danger from this immoral and illegal decision, which makes it easier for someone to decide who lives or dies, when, and under what conditions.
Gov. Bush has 10 days to ask for a rehearing or to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
Terri Schiavo lives – day to day. She has survived a mysterious injury, 14 years of medical neglect and mistreatment, the actions of her husband and the backhand of the courts. On that basis alone, she deserves to live.
God help her.
And help us too, if we allow her murder to take place.