Each year, near the anniversary of her death on March 31st, I write to honor my sister, Terri Schiavo. For those who do not remember, in 1990, at the age of 26, Terri experienced a still-unexplained collapse resulting in a brain injury while at home with her husband, Michael Schiavo, who later became her legal guardian.
From the onset, most in the media propagandized Terri’s case and condition and even the intent of my family who simply wanted to bring Terri home to care for and love her. Some of the falsehoods that continue to be reported are that Terri had a terminal condition, needed “machines” to keep her alive, was maintained by artificial life support, was in a coma, and the most absurd notion that she was “brain dead”.
All of these are lies. Terri simply needed nutrition as we all do. For Terri, she received her nutrition through a feeding tube because she had difficulty swallowing as a result of her injury. Terri responded, communicated, exhibited joy, and brought joy to her family.
Sadly, after a few years, her husband Michael lost interest in helping to care for Terri. He began cohabitating with another woman and together they had two children. After he made the decision to starve Terri to death, they married.
Michael refused to consent to allow my family to care for her, instead going to court to ensure her death, making him free to remarry. Terri’s life was intentionally ended in 2005 when a judge ruled in Michael’s favor to remove her feeding tube. During the legal proceedings, Michael perjured himself to the court stating that Terri once told him that she “wanted to die” if she were incapacitated. Her starvation death lasted almost two painful and horrific weeks.
My family did not want Terri’s needless death to be forgotten so we established the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network to serve as patients’ advocates. The Network created and runs a National Crisis Lifeline for families to contact when their loved one is threatened with removal or denial of care.
We immediately started receiving calls for help and this has continued for our 15 years of existence. For example, in 2019, we were involved in 186 cases helping individuals and families who contacted us in crisis. This was a 20% increase from 2018. Since our inception, we have served over 3,000 families, connecting them to resources they need to fight for their loved ones in their time of need.
We’ve been involved in many types of family battles including several highprofile national and international cases like Canada’s Baby Joseph, France’s Vincent Lambert, England’s Charlie Gard, and the United States’ Jahi McMath.
Follow LifeNews.com on Instagram for pro-life pictures and videos.
These families and thousands of others are confronted with the health care system removing basic care from their loved ones as a rising “quality- of-life” mentality continues to influence our medical ethics and the type of care patients receive.
During Terri’s five-year legal battle, we were introduced to countless families who were caring for their own “Terri”. These people were denied the therapies and rehabilitation services they desperately needed for their brain injuries, without which the person has little chance of recovery.
There is also the growing issue of patients being admitted to hospitals and being given a diagnosis – sometimes within just a few hours or days – that they have no-chance to improve and they are not eligible for care or treatment. This news is then shared with their families with a “deadline” for them to locate an alternate facility for transfer. If no other facility is willing to take the patient, the hospital enforces their decision to stop treatment, subsequently ending the life of the patient.
Ironically, often times, to transfer these patients a tracheostomy is required and since the hospital has determined the patient is not eligible for care, this necessary procedure is denied so no other facility is able to take the patient. Thus, the initial diagnosis becomes a death sentence – a lethal catch-22.
As more and more families share similar stories of their struggles to protect their medically powerless loved ones, my family began a plan to develop a brain injury treatment and recovery center in Terri’s memory for these cognitively injured patients.
For the past three years, we have been working with Catholic Healthcare International (CHI) and its Casa USA leadership team to implement the vision to replicate St. Padre Pio’s healthcare model in the Diocese of Lansing, Michigan.
The initiative is for the following: A Padre Pio Home for The Relief of Suffering Hospital; a School for the Relief of Suffering Catholic Medical School; a Santa Maria delle Grazie Pilgrim Shrine; a Worldwide Perpetual Eucharistic Adoration Program to provide constant prayerful support around the world in the presence of the Eucharist; and finally, a Terri Schiavo Home for the Brain Injured.
We envision the Terri Schiavo Home for the Brain Injured to be a state-of-the-art facility that will serve as a refuge for the medically vulnerable brain-injured—in particular, those who have been misdiagnosed—proving that these patients are capable of a meaningful recovery.
This facility would also serve as a “safe haven” for families who desperately need to transfer their loved one out of harm’s way. Indeed, this center will serve to honor the memory of my sister and bring to these patients and caregivers new hope for compassionate care.
Most importantly, this facility will work to establish—in the words of Saint John Paul II—a Culture of Life by recognizing the human dignity of those like Terri, defeating the culture of death mindset that continues to target our most medically defenseless brothers and sisters.
We know our work to protect our medically helpless will never end and recognize the need to build and prepare for the future. We invite you to come alongside us and become a Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network ally, recognizing the increasing crisis in healthcare. Please join us as this critical work to protect our most vulnerable continues.
LifeNews Note: Bobby Schindler is the brother of Terri Schiavo and president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.