Terri Schiavo Died One Year Ago Today — A Look Back

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 31, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Terri Schiavo Died One Year Ago Today — A Look Back Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
March 31, 2006

Pinellas Park, FL (LifeNews.com) — Terri Schiavo died a year ago today. She passed away after enduring 13 days of a painful starvation and dehydration death that six state and federal courts declined to prevent.

While her family still remembers a loving daughter and sister, her death was the beginning of a renewed debate about euthanasia and end of life issues.

Terri died on a Thursday morning at Woodside Hospice, and Paul O’Donnell, a Franciscan monk who had been a spokesman for the Schindlers during the two weeks of agony she endured, confirmed her death that fateful day.

"It is with great sadness that it’s been reported to us that Terri Schiavo has passed away," he told reporters.

Terri’s Medical Condition Very Serious Before Death

Earlier in the day, Terri’s brother, Bobby, saw her the most in her last 48 hours, described her as "very gaunt" in a morning visit and noted that her medical condition deteriorated rapidly the night before.

"It’s her 14th day without food and water. You can imagine, it is not a pretty sight," he said shortly before her death.

Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, Bobby and sister Suzanne Vitadamo were in Terri’s hospice room visiting with her until about 10 minutes before she died.

Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life visited Terri Thursday morning with her family. He said Bobby and Suzanne were ”sitting there praying, holding her hand, stroking her hair."

Michael Told Terri’s Family to Leave

Although Terri’s parents and family were with her 10 minutes before she died, Terri’s estranged husband Michael prevented them from being with her at the moment of her death.

O’Donnell indicated that, at the end of their scheduled one hour visit, police instructed them to leave.

"At that point, they pleaded with the police — the police were acting under the orders of Michael Schiavo – that Michael allow them to stay in the room as Terri was about to pass away," O’Donnell said.

The Schindler family agreed to be in the room at the same time as Michael, if that would persuade him to let them stay. Police passed on the plea to Michael, who denied it and instructed police to threaten them with arrest if they did not comply with his wishes to leave.

"They not only escorted them out of the room, but also off the hospice property. Within ten minutes, it was reported that Terri passed away," O’Donnell said.

Terri Tried to Say She Wanted to Live

Almost a week before her death, Terri tried to tell a family attorney that she wanted to live.

Barbara Weller, one of the attorneys for Terri’s parents, told the disabled woman, "Terri, if you would just say, ‘I want to live,’ all of this will be over."

Weller said Terri desperately tried to repeat Weller’s words.

"’I waaaaannt …,’ Schiavo said. Weller described it as a prolonged yell that was loud enough that police stationed nearby entered the hospice room.

"She just started yelling, ‘I waaaannt, I waaaannt,’" Weller explained.

Terri Responsive Until Death, Prayed With Family

In one of the more remarkable evidences that Terri was responsive and interacting with her family, a Catholic priest who prayed with the Schindler’s before Terri’s death said the disabled woman closed her eyes for the prayer and opened them when it was complete.

"She was very responsive — closing her eyes when I said, ‘Let’s pray together, Terri,’ opening them up after the prayer," Father Pavone said.

He indicated Terri was smiling and "returning the kiss of her father" as well as "turning her eyes to me when I spoke to her."

Terri Never Wanted to Die

Though her former husband Michael alleged Terri told him numerous times she didn’t want any extra measures taken to keep her alive, a close friend of Terri’s disputes that claim.

Diane Meyer told the courts that Terri never would have wanted to die this way.

After viewing a documentary on Karen Quinlan, another disabled patient who was the center of a national euthanasia debate, Terri said courts and doctors wouldn’t know what Karen wanted.

"Where there’s life, there’s hope" Terri told her friend.

Neurologists: Terri Wasn’t PVS

Before her death, two leading neurologists said Terri was not in a persistent vegetative state.

Dr. Joseph Fins of New York Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center reviewed Schiavo’s medical records for the Florida Department of Children and Familles.

Fins indicated Terri’s condition may have been misdiagnosed and that she was more likely in a state of minimal consciousness rather than a PVS patient as courts and many media outlets alleged.

Dr. William Cheshire of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, also believed Terri was minimally conscious rather than a PVS patient.

Media Anticipated Terri’s Death

CBS News came under fire for prewriting and posting to its news web site a story claiming Terri Schiavo had died — three days before her death.

"Surrounded by stuffed animals and medical equipment in her small hospice room in Pinellas Park, Fla., Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo died," the pre-written story said.

CBS News spokeswoman Sandy Genelius told LifeNews.com that the story was "a draft that was stored on the web site" but not intended to be accessible to the public. She said the story was accidentally saved to a portion of the web site accessible to search engines and she told LifeNews.com that CBS News "removed the story as soon as the error was discovered."

Courts Refused to Stop Terri’s Euthanasia Death

Circuit Court Judge George Greer initially ordered Terri’s death in 2000 and her feeding tube was removed twice before. The second time, Florida Governor Jeb Bush lobbied state lawmakers to pass a bill that would allow him to protect Terri’s life.

They did, but the bill was ultimately declared unconstitutional.

During the third time Terri’s feeding tube was removed, Congress passed legislation to protect Terri and the measure received President George W. Bush’s approval.

However, three Florida and six federal courts ignored the bill’s mandate to halt Terri’s starvation and hold new trials related to the Schindlers’ lawsuit.

Related web sites:
Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation – https://www.terrisfight.org