Years After Terri Schiavo Was Starved to Death, the ACLU Still Trashes Efforts to Save Her

Opinion   |   Bobby Schindler   |   Jun 18, 2015   |   5:08PM   |   Washington, DC

Now that former Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, has officially announced his candidacy for president, many of the same people and groups who maligned him for trying to protect my sister, Terri Schiavo, from being starved and dehydrated to death, are once again doing the same.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) is one of those organizations.

Responding to Governor Bush’s announcement, the ACLU felt it was necessary to remind us of their position when in 2003, Governor Bush intervened trying to help Terri.

“He (Gov. Bush) attempted to use the machinery of state government and then, through a special law enacted by Congress and signed by President George Bush, the machinery of the federal government and federal courts to intrude into an intensely private family tragedy.”

Terri was an innocent disabled woman sentenced to death by Florida Circuit Court Judge, George Greer. Contrary to what the ACLU wants you to believe, it was only after Terri’s estranged husband, Michael Schiavo, petitioned the court for permission to deny his wife her food and water that this “intensely private family tragedy” became an “intensely public family tragedy”.

For those who do not remember, Terri was 26 years of age when she collapsed – while home alone with Michael Schiavo – experiencing what is still an unexplained brain injury. As a consequence of her collapse and subsequent brain injury, Terri had difficulty swallowing and therefore needed a feeding tube to receive food and water.

However, Terri was not brain dead, nor was she in a coma or in the need of any machines to help keep her alive. Terri was not dying and could have quite possibly lived a normal life span with her brain injury. In fact, Terri was, at times, able to communicate, which is evidenced by the videos of her responding to commands, and the notes in her medical files that she was beginning to form words when receiving rehabilitation just after her collapse. Sadly, it was Michael Schiavo (Terri’s appointed guardian) who decided to stop all of the therapy that was improving her condition. Nonetheless, from the beginning, our family’s only position was to bring Terri home and care for her just as she was.

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Tragically, the court ruled in Michael Schiavo’s favor and his request to end her life. In response, our family (as I believe any family would) was put in the position of doing everything in our power to try and stop this tragedy from happening. This included reaching out to Governor Bush, asking for his help.

Ironically, if Terri would have been a death row inmate, the ACLU’s position regarding her court ordered death would have been very different.

Indeed, take note of the ACLU’s statement when it comes to death penalty cases:

“The American Civil Liberties Union believes the death penalty inherently violates the constitutional ban against cruel and unusual punishment and the guarantees of due process of law and of equal protection under the law. Furthermore, we believe that the state should not give itself the right to kill human beings – especially when it kills with premeditation and ceremony, in the name of the law or in the name of its people, and when it does so in an arbitrary and discriminatory fashion.”

As Governor, it was Governor Bush’s duty to try and protect Terri, one of his constituents, and fight against any violation of the constitution – Terri’s cruel and unusual punishment (death by dehydration and starvation); in addition, guarantee Terri’s due process of law (Terri never had an attorney representing her. In fact, incredibly enough, Judge Greer acted as her default guardian. A clear conflict of interest).

The truth is, if Terri’s case was a death penalty case, the pressure on Governor Bush to stop her death would have been beyond anything our family was doing, or Governor Bush, for that matter. Not to mention the unyielding support we would have received from the ACLU.

Certainly, if the ACLU had the integrity to admit its hypocrisy and fight for the rights of our disabled, it would stay very busy, because what happened to Terri happens every single day, not just in the United States, but globally.

For example, take the recent case of Vincent Lambert.

Lambert experienced a profound brain injury seven years ago after a motorcycle accident. His wife and some siblings agree with a doctor’s recommendation that his life should end. But Lambert’s parents and other siblings say he is showing progress and needs better care. On June 5, a court ruled that the decision to stop intravenously feeding Lambert did not violate European laws.

Unless this court ruling is overturned, Lambert will undergo the same slow, agonizing and cruel death as Terri, a process that could take as long as two-weeks, as it did in Terri’s situation.

No matter what argument you want to raise in an attempt to defend the killing of our medically vulnerable, it’s simply attempting to rationalize something that can never be rationalized.

Think about it, we rightly send to prison anyone who tortures an animal by starving them to death, and we scream “cruel and unusual punishment” for lethally injecting someone who committed a heinous act on another human being(s). But an innocent disabled person? They can’t be killed fast enough, as it’s perfectly legal in all 50 states to deliberately starve and dehydrate them to death. Stand in the way of it happening, and get ready to be viciously attacked.

So let the ACLU continue to spew its hypocrisy, condemning Governor Bush or anyone who courageously stands for those who have no voice against the growing voice and agenda of evil in this world. Because anyone who has any sense of morality or decency and understands what it means to treat someone with love and true compassion, sees this for what it is.