11 years after Terri’s death, ‘medical treatment’ threat grows

By Bob Unruh

Terri Schiavo prior to her brain injury.
Terri Schiavo prior to her brain injury.

Most Americans whose breakfast may have included coffee, juice, yogurt, cereal, toast or ham and eggs might be surprised to learn that the nutrition in those food items is legally considered “medical treatment” for many disabled people who can’t receive nourishment without a feeding tube.

That legal determination is a life-and-death matter, warns Bobby Schindler, whose sister, Terri Schiavo, died 11 years ago Thursday after a judge ruled a care center could withhold medical treatment, which resulted in the removal of her feeding tube.

It took her 13 days to die.

WND has been reporting on Schiavo’s story since 2002 – far longer than most other national news organizations – and exposing the many troubling and possibly criminal aspects of the case. WND’s in-depth coverage features more than 150 original stories and columns.

On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of Terri’s death, Schindler wrote in LifeNews.com that his sister was “cognitively disabled and had difficulty swallowing” after suddenly collapsing in her home.

He blasted Circuit Judge George W. Greer of Pinellas County, Florida, for ruling “to kill Terri, despite her mother and father pleading with [her husband], and the court, to allow them to take her home.”

Schindler noted that guardian ad litem urged Judge Greer to refuse the dehydration request.

Get the book that powerfully and comprehensively tells “Terri’s Story,” or “Fighting for Dear Life,” both available at the WND Superstore.

On Wednesday, Schindler, who now runs the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network in honor of his sister, told WND the ruling at the time was startling.

But he said what’s alarming now is the fact that it’s now legal in all 50 states to do exactly what was done to Terri.

He said a feeding tube is regarded as “extraordinary care” even though it does nothing more than provide the food and water everyone requires to live.

Anyone could find themselves needing that kind of care, should there be a sudden, incapacitating illness or an accident, as a “bridge to help you recover,” he said.

But he said a court can now determine that such “extraordinary” treatment should not be continued.

His sister’s case, he said, ended up “opening a Pandora’s box for the vulnerable and at-risk patients.”

Further aggravating the problem is the advent of Obamacare, which given the government more control over health-care decisions, Schindler said.

“We’re going to see more and more health care rationing,” he said. “They’re going to decide what treatment we get.”

And critical decision makers, such as hospital representatives, now are looking at issues through an accountant’s eye, he warned.

“Decisions are being made now in the best interests of the hospital,” he said. “It all comes back to costs and hospital profitability.”

Also now, he warned, the issue of brain death and organ donation is imposing further pressure on incapacitated patients and their families.

“They had to create a way to make it easier to get at people’s organs,” he said.

So the result was a “brain death” diagnosis in which surgeons declare that death has occurred and organs can be transplanted.

The decisions sometimes are made so quickly, there’s really no time to see whether a patient may recover, he said.

A year ago, on the 10th anniversary of Terri’s death, WND columnist Gina Loudon pointed out that at the time Terri’s feeding tube was removed, she was able to swallow and laugh and “was not in a persistent vegetative state as the media indicated.”

Terri collapsed in her Florida home in 1990 for unknown reasons and was taken to a hospital by first responders who feared she was dead. She was comatose for a time, then started responding and was moved to a care center. Her parents and brother say she was getting better.

Then there was a deterioration in Terri’s condition. Schindler alleges it happened after his sister’s husband, Michael Schiavo, started dating and cut off Terri’s therapy. Michael Schiavo eventually petitioned the court to withdraw medical treatment, which included food and water, Loudon noted.

The case brought to kitchen tables across America the plight of the seriously brain injured, their rights and whether or not they are cognizant of their surroundings. The Florida Legislature gave then-Gov. Jeb Bush the authority to intervene in the case, and he ordered the feeding tube reinserted. But Bush was overruled by the state Supreme Court, and the U.S. Supreme Court refused the Schindlers’ request to hear the case.

Get the book that powerfully and comprehensively tells “Terri’s Story,” or “Fighting for Dear Life,” both available at the WND Superstore.

Loudon wrote: “Alarmingly, several similar cases have developed since Terri’s death in which coma patients suddenly awakened, sometimes telling stories of having been able to hear people talking about them while in the coma.”

WND reported earlier on the case of Martin Pistorius, who in the 1980s fell into a coma. In a vegetative state for 12 years, he now talks, uses a computer and is mobile in a wheelchair. During those 12 years, he was aware of his surroundings and remembers conversations, including one time when his mother said, “I hope you die.”

A few years ago, a woman was in a short coma due to a medical condition, and her husband made the difficult decision after several days to halt her life support. She immediately became restless, woke up and said, “Get me out of here. … Take me to Ted’s and take me to the Melting Pot,” naming two Mexican restaurants.

ABC News reported several years ago a college student horribly injured in a car pileup and in a coma was being reviewed as an organ donor after months of unconsciousness. Suddenly, one night, he wiggled his fingers, and soon he was moving around in a wheelchair and talking.

A study from Northwestern University found patients in comas “recovered consciousness significantly faster and had an improved recover” when they heard their family members telling familiar stories.

“No one disputes that whatever led to Terri’s collapse landed her in a disabled condition in a hospital with a brain injury,” Loudon wrote. “Some compare the case to the highly publicized cases of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan. Unlike, Schiavo, however, Quinlan was on a respirator, and Cruzan was on full life support.

“Cruzan’s own family fought to have her life support removed. That is what distinguished the Schiavo case in the mind of many. All Terri required to live was food and water.

“But since food and water were determined to be ‘medical treatments,’ they ultimately were withdrawn on a court order March 18, 2005, and she died two weeks later, March 31,” she wrote.

Husband Michael Schiavo has commented to Politico, calling the ordeal a “living hell” for him, and he blamed Jeb Bush, whom he described as vindictive and untrustworthy.

Michael said of Bush: “He should be ashamed. And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

Bobby Schindler said then that Obamacare is one of the most frightening developments he’s seen.

The definition of “medical care” was fundamentally changed, and that definition jeopardizes people like Terri, he said.

“How can you look at an administration that does not value life at any stage and think that they are going to … protect people that they are targeting to kill?

“It’s just common sense here,” Schindler said. “Look at the progression of this ‘right to die’ agenda. This culture is killing our most vulnerable. How can we expect them to look out for people … like Terri when they are looking out for their best interest, which is money, cost?”

He continued: “This is happening every day. … People don’t realize that what happened to Terri … She wasn’t terminal, she wasn’t sick, she wasn’t dying.”

Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the battle to save the life of Terri Schiavo, including more than 150 original stories and columns.


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