Saturday, March 31, will mark the two-year anniversary of my sister Terri Schiavo’s death by dehydration. Not a day passes that my family does not think of my sister and relive the horrific images of her needless and brutal death at the hands of those who deliberately set out to kill her.
As hideous as it was, the truth is, long before Terri’s case made headlines, the removal of basic care – food and water – was becoming commonplace. It continues to happen every day across our country oftentimes in cases, like Terri’s, where the patient does not suffer from any life-threatening condition.
Much of the problem that exists stems from a blind acceptance of misinformation that has moved us from a firm belief in the sanctity of life to a “quality of life” mindset, which says that some lives are not worth living.
This shift, what I call lethal bigotry, began with the medical community, has infiltrated our judiciary and is taking over our nation. People are making decisions in place of God, while even many Catholic leaders remain silent despite the Church’s teaching and the pope’s constant reminders that God alone is the arbiter of life and death.
The sad fact is we have become a nation that spends billions trying to find the perfect body, while ignoring the condition of our collective soul; where altruism seems to be a thing of the past, and moral relativism has become a bona fide religion.
Combined with a popular media selling the notion that killing people in certain conditions is an act of compassion, one can understand why people with disabilities are in danger.
My sister’s case is a perfect example. Look how the popular media presented Terri’s story, abandoning any attempt at objective or ethical reporting in their rush to justify her death. In an effort to dehumanize Terri, they repeatedly reported she was in a coma, brain dead, a “vegetable” and that the autopsy proved she was in a persistent vegetative state, all of which are patently false.
All one has to do is watch the videos of Terri to see how alive she was. If that’s not enough, more than 40 medical affidavits stated Terri wasn’t in PVS and/or could have been helped with new medical technology.
The media chose to ignore all of this, instead reporting what Terri wasn’t able to do and referencing a doctor who took pride in the moniker, “Dr. Humane Death.”
They painted a story of a husband’s unconditional love as he carried out his wife’s “wish” to die, completely ignoring the fact that there was no evidence of this and that Michael essentially abandoned Terri as soon as he began living with his new wife-to-be.
They framed this as a strictly pro-life issue, ignoring the 30 disability groups publicly supporting Terri’s life.
They quoted Catholic priests who agreed with her “husband’s” position, despite the fact this was completely contrary to Catholic teaching.
Completely unaware of their own hypocrisy, they commended Christopher Reeve’s wife, Dana, and rightly so, for her dedication in caring for her husband, while vilifying my parents for wanting to do the same thing for their daughter.
In the same vein, they repeatedly questioned the intent of our legal team while glossing over the fact that Schiavo’s attorney, George Felos, admitted in his book to having violent images of bludgeoning his wife to death.
They chastised former Gov. Jeb Bush for doing his job by trying to stop the two-week dehydration death of an innocent disabled woman, but praised him when he placed a moratorium on death row executions after a lethal injection went 15 minutes too long.
They justify the destruction of embryos to produce stem cells (ignoring both the success of adult stem cells and that embryonic cells have produced no cures), reporting that their use will improve the lives of the disabled, and at the same time they work to convince the public that it is OK to kill the very same people they say this research could cure.
And, finally, they paid more respect to and had more compassion for a racehorse than they did my sister.
To this day, every story in which a person emerges from a condition similar to Terri’s, or an advance is found to help the severely brain-injured, is an opportunity for the media to remind us that, of course, “this is nothing like the case of Terri Schiavo.”
Should we be surprised with what is happening when we have so easily bought into what our popular media is promoting? Or that even people like Bill O’Reilly, who claim to be both conservative and Catholic, can be so ignorant on this issue as to raise the idea that if someone “costs” taxpayers too much money, it should be OK to kill them?
This is the same propaganda used by the medical community in Nazi Germany immediately prior to the Holocaust when hospitals were used to kill at least 200,000 handicapped, mentally ill and others who were deemed physically or mentally inferior.
Unfortunately, I don’t know if people realize how the mainstream media influences their everyday lives, or the scope of what is happening in our hospitals. Perhaps, more accurately, they just don’t care.
With tens of thousand in conditions similar to and even worse than Terri’s, we should be alarmed. While many would prefer not to educate themselves on this issue, the cold reality is that one day this “quality of life” approach could very well impact their families, as it did ours.
We will never forget Terri.
This is why, in the years since Terri’s death, we have worked, through the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to protect the lives of the vulnerable. We are developing a nationwide network of attorneys and physicians to help families in desperate situations, whose loved ones are in danger of being killed … for the simple reason that they don’t meet some arbitrary and subjective “quality of life” standard. We will continue fighting against those that threaten the lives of the disabled, until all are protected.
Terri and others like her should be a constant reminder to all of us that caring for the disabled is never a burden, but is instead an act God’s unconditional love.
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Bobby Schindler now works for the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, Center for Health Care Ethics in St. Petersburg, Fla., an organization dedicated to promoting the Culture of Life, embracing the true meaning of compassion by opposing the practice of euthanasia.