- One of the disadvantages of writing a column like this
is the lag time between creation and publication. As I write this, Terri
Schiavo is entering the fifth day of her forced starvation. By the time
you read this, she will either be back on her feeding tube, or she will
be dead. I pray that it's the former. But, regardless of the outcome of
this case, the information given about Terri by the media has been so grossly
distorted that I simply must do what I can to correct the record.
- The public has been told that Terri Schiavo is a "vegetable"
- a shell of a person in what is called a "persistent vegetative state"
(PVS). They say that her brain is "mush" (an actual quote), and
that she is unaware of her environment and unable to communicate at even
the most basic level. We are also told that she had expressed her desire
to be removed from life support if she were ever in such a state. Her husband,
supposedly out of love for her, claims to be striving to fulfill her wishes
and relieve her of the burdensome life she leads. Her poor, misguided parents,
on the other hand, are portrayed as delusional saps who canít let
go. They desperately cling to the false hope Terri will somehow "pull
out of it."
- Where shall I start? First of all, Terri's brain is not
"mush." She is able to communicate. People in a "persistent
vegetative state" make meaningless noises and movements. Those who
haven't studied the case closely dismiss her actions as typical PVS activity.
But numerous people, including three nurses charged with her care, have
testified to the contrary. One nurse testified that Terri clearly said
"hi" to her whenever she entered the room. She said that Terri
also told the nursing staff she was in pain by saying something that sounded
like "pay." (She couldn't apparently pronounce the "n"
sound.) She had distinct signals to notify nurses when she had soiled her
adult diaper or started her period.
- Most heartbreaking of all, Terriís attorney reports
that, the day the feeding tube was removed, she looked directly at Terri
and said, "If you could just say 'I want to live,' this would all
be over." Terri immediately became agitated, and began loudly saying,
"I waaaaa . . . I waaaa . . ."
- Second, Terri is not completely reliant on the feeding
tube. She is able to swallow water. Nurses have testified that she had
also been fed orally, but that her husband Michael had ordered she be fed
by tube instead. And, chillingly, Judge Greer's order didn't just require
that the feeding tube be removed. It expressly forbids anyone from feeding
her orally, from giving her water, or even putting ice chips to her mouth.
- That, my friends, isn't just "removing extraordinary
means." It is an active order to starve someone to death.
- This is made all the more chilling by the fact that,
before this starvation began, Terri wasn't dying. She was simply a disabled
woman who needed assistance in order to eat.
- But isn't that what she wanted? It certainly doesn't
look that way to me. She had no written directives. Her husband claims
that she had privately expressed her wishes to him. But there were no witnesses
to that conversation, and several of her friends have testified to the
contrary. Apparently she had been vocal in her opposition to Karen Ann
Quinlan's parents' decision to take their daughter off her respirator.
As Terri allegedly said, "Where there's life, there's hope."
- Why would her husband say such a thing? Well, a disturbing
pattern is emerging there, too. Terri's brother and several friends have
testified that Terri had expressed to them her intention to divorce Michael.
They had a "violent" fight on Feb. 24, 1990, the night before
her - what would one call it - incident? She was found, in the early morning
hours, on the hallway floor with her hands around her neck. The cause of
her brain damage has never been determined. Michael has ordered those medical
records sealed. Michael Schiavo, two years later, won a $1.5 million settlement,
which he pledged would go to Terri's care. All of her rehabilitative therapy
stopped immediately thereafter, by Michaelís order.
- Several nurses have testified that Michael's behavior
around the nursing home was odd. He would frequently ask "Is she dead
yet?" and "When is that b---- going to die?" Nurses who
made positive notations on Terri's chart found those notations removed
by the next day. For a long time, Michael instructed that there be no sunlight,
no radio and no television in Terri's room.
- Since the early 1990s, Michael has been living with another
woman with whom he has fathered two children?
- This is not a "right to die" case. This is
a "right to kill a disabled woman who can't speak for herself"
case. God help our nation if this is the way we choose to treat our weakest
and most defenseless members.
- For more information, go to www.terrisfight.net.
- Copyright ©2005 Arlington Catholic Herald. All