Mass Will Mark Sixth Anniversary of Terri Schiavo’s Death

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Feb 17, 2011   |   3:56PM   |   St. Petersburg, FL

Ave Maria University, a Florida-based Catholic college, will again host the annual National Mass for Terri’s Day, an event designed to mark the anniversary of the death of the disabled woman whose husband euthanized her.

Terri was killed on March 31, 2005 when her former husband won a protracted legal battle against the Schindler family for the right to disconnect her feeding tube.

Doctors who examined Terri say she was not in a persistent vegetative state and that her condition could have been improved has she been given access to more medical care and rehabilitative treatment.

The International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo was established in 2007 and is observed each year on March 31, the date of Terri’s death at the hand of her former husband Michael. Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, will again join Terri’s family as they remember the life of the woman who became a victim of a 13-day starvation and dehydration death.

Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, told the purpose of this day is to foster education, prayer, and activism regarding discrimination against the cognitively disabled, and advocacy for people in situations similar to what Terri and her family faced. 

“We must continue to raise the awareness of the potential threat of hospital ‘ethics committees’ across the country that are seeking to remove basic care, food and water even from those who are not terminally ill. Right now, in all but ten states, doctors and hospitals have been empowered to disregard advance directives even in cases when they call for treatment that is just food and water,” he noted.

“With the growing concern of health care rationing and the government wanting to get involved in our health care decisions, this issue will get much worse,” he said.

Following Terri’s death, the Schindler family created the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network to protect the rights of people with cognitive disabilities. It has communicated with and supported more than 1,000 families, and has been involved in hundreds of cases where it has helped disabled people get the care and medical treatment they deserve.

“No family should ever have to witness what my family witnessed, watching a loved one slowly dehydrate to death,” Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri’s sister, told previously. “We want Terri’s day to remind us all that persons with disabilities are never burdens and should be treated with nothing but our unconditional love and compassion.”

The groups say the event isn’t limited to just pro-life advocates or disability rights activists, but to anyone with a heart for patients who deserve appropriate medical care and respect. They hope participants in the day will pray, that local groups will conduct educational activities or get youth involved in essay contests or organize letter to the editor campaigns or writing letters to elected officials.

They also hope people will volunteer at their local hospital or hospice and will spend time with a disabled friend or loved one.

“Those of us who were with Terri will never forget her life and her death,” Fr. Frank Pavone, the head of Priests for Life, said. “For the sake of all the vulnerable, it is critically important that those who never knew Terri likewise remember the lessons that God taught us through her.” [related]

A documentary about Terri’s life that presents facts that the mainstream media distorted has been getting rave reviews. Franklin Springs Family Media has put out a  documentary called The Terri Schiavo Story that it says provides previously unexplored facts of the case through in-depth interviews with participants in the saga. The documentary is hosted by author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, who became personally involved in the case in 2005 and is herself disabled because of a diving accident.

The National Mass for Terri’s Day will take place on Thursday, March 31st at 5:00 p.m. at Ave Maria University.