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The silence over Terri

Editor’s note: Diana Lynne’s powerful, comprehensive book on Terri Schiavo’s life and death, entitled “Terri’s Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman.” is available at WorldNetDaily’s online store.

Terri Schiavo would be 42 today, if she had not been dehydrated to death per court order.

Instead of the happy squeals and vocalizations the brain-damaged woman was known to utter, the deafening silence of loss haunts her loved ones on this anniversary of her birth.

Many Americans prefer the silence. The very mention of the name, “Terri Schiavo,” elicits groans from those “burned out” on what they view as simply an overblown news story.

“I do not understand why you keep pumping the glory of her death,” wrote one WND reader in response to continuing coverage of the familial tug of war over the incapacitated woman’s life that made history when Congress and President Bush took the unprecedented steps of intervening in the seven-year court battle.

“Let it go, and let the woman rest in peace,” scolded another reader.

Others express exasperation and anger:

“EVERYONE I have asked if they would like to live as Terri did would choose NOT TO. Would you?”

“Do you really think that it is within Jesus’ teachings to keep a brain dead woman alive for 15 years? Is that really life?”

“Why would any sane person want to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state, or a state of persistent minimal consciousness, or in a state of intractable pain near the end of a terminal condition?”

“Terri died the morning her brain stopped working.”

“The Terri Schiavo situation was a political game in which a woman who should have died long ago was used as a political pawn and still is.”

The e-mailed sentiment is telling and exposes a largely uninformed and misinformed public, which WND’s continuing coverage seeks to correct. Fundamental facts of the case in the minds of readers contacting WND are consistently botched, overlooked or ignored.

Setting the complete record straight can’t be done in one column. But in response to the above sampling of quotes, the facts of the case are that Terri Schiavo was not brain dead. Her brain never “stopped working.” She was not in “intractable pain.” Other than during her monthly menses when her moans prompted caregivers to give her medication to ease her discomfort – something neurologists maintain people in a persistent vegetative state don’t feel – Terri Schiavo was resting in peace before her death. She didn’t need to be “let go.”

Incidentally, can denying an incapacitated woman so much as an ice chip over the course of 13 days while her organs slowly shut down and her skin shrivels away from her bone be characterized as “letting her go”?

Terri Schiavo was not dying. Her medical examiner estimated she would have lived another decade if she had not been forced to die through the removal of her gastric feeding tube and the accompanying court-ordered withholding of oral hydration and nutrition.

Contrary to popular belief and media reports, Terri Schiavo was not being “kept alive” by life-support machines. She could breathe and maintain blood pressure on her own. Many believe that if it were her will to die, she would not have lived in her condition for 15 years, defying odds estimated at 1 in 75,000 by the American Academy of Neurology, if she were truly in a persistent vegetative state.

Terri Schiavo was not “near the end of a terminal condition.” George Felos, the right-to-die attorney hired by Michael Schiavo to pursue the removal of his wife’s feeding tube, argued she was “terminal” because she could not swallow and relied on the feeding tube for nourishment. Should we consider the other estimated 125,000 adults and 10,000 children in America who similarly rely on assisted feeding to be “terminal”? Should we “let them go”?

Is it our decision to make? Even if “EVERYONE I have asked” would not choose to live in Terri Schiavo’s condition, do we have a right to end the lives of others based on our preferences?

What about what Terri wanted? Her death wasn’t ordered by the court based on her will, but rather her adjudicated will. As such, there’s room for human error on the part of the judge, and on the part of Michael Schiavo and his siblings who argued casual statements Terri made years prior to her brain injury were tantamount to an oral advance directive.

WND has repeatedly reported the Schiavos’ testimony was disputed by Terri’s own siblings and parents, and three women – including two former girlfriends of Michael Schiavo – filed court affidavits asserting he confided in them he didn’t know what his wife wanted. WND has also pointed out that Michael Schiavo, himself, expressed a bit of horror when withdrawal of the feeding tube was first suggested to him in 1993 by responding,” I couldn’t do that to Terri.” It was only after Schiavo teamed up with Felos that removing the feeding tube became the moral imperative.

But e-mails from readers indicate they don’t want to be bothered by the facts. Their minds are made up on the issue. Most often, opinions were formed on the issue based on personal experiences with ailing relatives or friends and projected onto the Terri Schiavo dilemma.

Which brings me back to the silence. Those who favored Terri’s death seek silence. They consider the debate over whether it’s appropriate to end the life of a disabled person without his or her explicit permission to be over.

James Youngblood, a 28-year-old self-described “proud supporter” of Terri Schiavo, continues to troll for information on the case to post on an AOL message board. He reports his postings meet with considerable hostility.

“I along with two others … try to keep her memory alive and spread the truth about what actually happened,” Youngblood shared with WND. “The board is very active and there are almost a dozen supporters of Michael Schiavo. … They continue to attack us daily saying that all of our posts are lies. Their comments are very evil. They degrade our character and constantly degrade the many supporters of Terri Schiavo.”

To be sure, Youngblood has plenty of like-minded pen-pals.

“I would say Terri’s death was legalized murder,” wrote one to WND.

“The euthanasia genie is out of the bottle now. It remains to be seen in this deviant society how people deal with this fact,” observed another.

Youngblood vows to “not let America forget about [Terri Schiavo] or the evilness of the court’s doing.” But he needs help and urges others to speak up and break the silence.

In the words of another WND reader: “This travesty should be kept alive and in the public eye at least as long as the criminals who perpetrated it are living out their condemned, self-serving existences on this earth.”