Terri Schiavo

Asked in last night’s debate to name a regret, Sen. Barack Obama said he would like to take back his vote authorizing Congress to intervene to save the life of the brain-injured Florida woman Terri Schiavo.

Schiavo, on whom WND reported extensively, died of starvation and dehydration in March 2005, two weeks after a federal judge ruled her husband could order doctors to withhold food and water.

Her parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, battled unsuccessfully through Florida’s state courts and federal courts to spare her life. She was not on artificial life support but needed a feeding tube to eat and drink, a measure her husband opposed.

Congress got involved by allowing the Schindlers to argue their case in federal court after their appeals in state courts failed. The Senate approved by unanimous consent a compromise plan that the House later endorsed and President Bush signed.

But during last night’s Democratic presidential candidate debate with Sen. Hillary Clinton, Obama confirmed he believed congressional intervention in Schiavo’s case was wrong.

“When I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo,” Obama said. “And I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families. It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped,” he said.

“And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better,” Obama continued.

A priest who was with Schiavo during her final hours later told WND that many in society don’t understand the difference between a futile treatment and a futile life.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life said even healthy people, if brain-injured, are in danger under the current case precedents.

“Terri left no indication that she wanted to be deprived of food and water. Yet the courts insisted that this happen. Nor was Terri lacking a family ready to care for her, without complaint. Yet they were not allowed to,” he said.

According to LifeSite News, Obama also said during an April 2007 debate that he should have fought to cut off Schiavo’s food and water earlier.

“And I think I should have stayed in the Senate and fought more for making sure [that Schiavo’s parents were not allowed to pursue arguments in federal court],” LifeSite quoted Obama saying in the previous debate.

Since Schiavo’s death, the Schindler family has set up the Terri’s Fight foundation to help disabled and elderly patients get medical and legal care and other assistance they might be denied.

“Many people fear that they will be given all kinds of machines and medicines against their will,” Pavone told WND. “What they should fear is exactly the opposite, namely, that even when they indicate that they want appropriate treatments, these will be denied them.

“Laws vary from state to state,” he said, “but one of the most dangerous flaws in the law is that which considers food and water to be ‘medical treatment’ rather than ordinary human care. When we return from a meal, we don’t say that we just ‘returned from our latest medical treatment,'” he said.

Those who advocate a “right to die” needn’t worry, Pavone said. “You won’t miss out on it.”

On his website, he got to the point specifically.

“In the case of a person who is not dying but whose physical or mental functioning is impaired, the question often arises as to whether we should ‘keep them alive’ by feeding them,” he wrote. “But there is no more of a doubt about keeping that person alive than about keeping alive anyone else who is not impaired! There is no underlying cause of death in this case. To fail to feed such a person is to introduce a new cause of death, namely, starvation.”

Pavone also suggested that as soon as there is the “right” to voluntary euthanasia, “you automatically and immediately introduced non-voluntary euthanasia, that is, killing people without their having asked for it.”

“The reason is simple: A person should not be deprived of a ‘right’ simply because they are not able to ask for it. This is especially easy to understand when the ‘right’ is freedom from suffering. Why should someone suffer just because he cannot vocalize his desire to die?”

“This also leads to involuntary euthanasia, the killing of people although they want to live. The reasoning that leads to this conclusion is that the patient is not in a position to properly evaluate what is best for him/her in the circumstances – so we will step in and do what is best,” Pavone wrote.

Diana Lynne, who authored “Terri’s Story: The Court-Ordered Death of an American Woman,” reported that Michael Schiavo said his wife was suffering from bulimia nervosa at the time of the still-unexplained 1990 collapse that left her injured.

He alleged verbal abuse can trigger the eating disorder, and he accused Terri’s father of such abuse, a charge described by family members as “offensive.”

The accusation appeared to be an attempt to turn the tables on the family, who in 2002 uncovered a report of a full-body bone scan done on Terri that indicated she had sustained several broken bones and led the interpreting radiologist to conclude she was the victim of abuse.

WND also reported during the case that Michael Schiavo’s testimony about Terri’s collapse also varied from day to day. While telling the police he found her body lying face down, he later testified he found her on her back. He stated in interviews over the years she collapsed at around 5 a.m., but he told the medical examiner it was 4:30 a.m. In some versions of his account, he was awakened to the thud of Terri hitting the floor, in others he was already awake and getting out of bed “for some reason.”

Michael Schiavo was awarded a judgment of $750,000 for continuing care for his wife, but WND reported court records show he spent $456,816 of the total on lawyers pursuing her death.


Special offer:

Order your copy of “Terri’s Story” from the people who brought it to you – WND and WND Books.


Related stories:

Dad, mom fight over starving brain-damaged daughter

‘No such thing as a worthless life’


WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organizations – and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.

Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.