March 31st will mark the eleven year anniversary of my sister Terri Schiavo’s mandated court ordered death by starvation and dehydration. Her death took nearly two weeks. The inhumanity of what happened to her will never be forgotten.
At the age of 26, Terri experienced a still unexplained collapse while at home alone with Michael Schiavo, who subsequently became her guardian. After a short period of time, Michael lost interest in caring for his brain-injured, but otherwise healthy, young wife.
Terri was not dying, and did not suffer from any life-threatening disease. She was neither on machines nor was she “brain dead.” To the contrary, she was alert and interacted with friends and family, and started to speak—all before her husband abandoned his wedding vows, warehoused her in nursing homes, and eventually petitioned the courts for permission to deliberately starve and dehydrate her to death.
Michael falsely portrayed Terri’s situation as a “right to die” or “end of life” issue. After years of legal maneuvers, on the order of Judge George W. Greer, Terri was deprived of water and food and after 13 days, died on March 31, 2005 of marked dehydration.
For reasons that are still difficult to explain or appreciate, Terri’s case received international attention. Notwithstanding all of the people and organizations who were working to prevent Terri from falling victim to those who are love-sick with death, Terri was brutally killed. In spite of the involvement of the President of the United States, the Pope, the Governor of Florida, celebrities, dozens of pro-life and disability rights organizations, and the millions of people worldwide, no one was able to stop Terri’s cruel death.
Unbeknownst to my family and the general public, the removal of feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled had already been occurring for years. Indeed, despite the awareness Terri’s case raised, and the outrage it caused, nothing much has changed to stop this practice. In fact, it is getting significantly worse.
A powerful lobby is setting this agenda which is committed to changing the health care system so that bureaucrats, rather than family members, will decide who will and who will not receive medical treatment. Consequentially, every single day there are countless medically weak patients who are being illegally and legally euthanized. Given the fact that we are all going to face our own “end of life” issue, we are all at risk of having our lives prematurely ended. To our own peril, most of us have been indoctrinated into believing, or just don’t care, that it is okay to allow strangers to decide our fate.
How was this accomplished?
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Food and water via feeding tubes was once defined as basic and ordinary care. Today, it is extraordinary care or medical treatment. Because of this change, it is legal in every U.S. State to remove or deny feeding tubes from individuals, resulting in a death by dehydration and starvation.
Ethics committees exist throughout our health care system and are oftentimes given the unilateral power to decide whether or not a patient is going to receive medical treatment when there is a dispute between the family and the hospital. This is even if the person themselves is requesting their care to continue. Recently, there was a case in Texas where a young man was filmed, literally begging for his life. The hospital’s ethic committee didn’t care and aggressively acted to stop his treatment.
It gets worse. Just last month, in a shocking poll, The Journal of Medical Ethics published a survey revealing that 76% of the neonatologists thought it was ethically permissible to issue a ‘Do Not Attempt Resuscitation’, without asking or notifying the parents when they ‘felt it impossible’ for the child to survive.
In 2015, 26 states were considering legalizing physician assisted suicide. And due in large part to all of the media attention given to Brittney Maynard, who was advocating physician assisted suicide, California became the fifth state to legalize this practice.
Looking to Europe, and in particular the Netherlands, Wesley J. Smith recently wrote that the mentally ill, Alzheimer’s patients, babies with serious disabilities or terminal illnesses, the elderly “tired of life”, people with disabilities, the chronically ill, the terminal – are all now killed by doctors. Moreover, Smith explains how patients are killed by the term defined as “termination without request or consent.”
In Canada, Smith wrote that their Supreme Court has recently permitted euthanasia for virtually any diagnosed condition that causes ‘irremediable suffering’— a term that includes ‘psychological pain,’ disability, and suffering that is deemed irremediable because alleviating treatment is refused by the patient. Tragically, Smith concludes, Canada has embraced a culture of death perhaps even more radical than what has infected Belgium and the Netherlands.
Unsurprisingly, money is driving such evil. We need to be finding better ways to help the person who is suffering – not eliminate the sufferer.
In response to Terri’s death, my family established the Terri Schaivo Life & Hope Network in an effort to help raise awareness, educate the public and most importantly, help families whose loved ones are in need of protection from this anti-life culture and a growing hostile health care system.
Since that time, we’ve been involved in thousands of situations, validating the need to fight the mistreatment and killing of our most medically vulnerable. We will continue providing hope to those subjected to a society that has wrongly deemed these innocent persons hopeless.