Friday, March 18, 2005

More on Terri Schiavo and her Battle to Live

From Today's "The Cowl" of Providence College, by Blog co-writer Leslie Nevola:

We see it almost every week on Law & Order-a woman comes upon a large sum of money, and her husband kills her to reap the financial benefits. On TV, the man is prosecuted and convicted for his actions. But what happens in real life?

Ask the parents of Terri Schiavo, and the account you hear may not be so optimistic. To understand the kind of hopelessness they feel, you need to know the whole story.

Now 41 year-old Floridian Terri Schiavo suffered a heart attack in 1990, and with it, severe brain damage leaving her unable to care for herself. This necessitated the use of a feeding tube, since Terri was unable to feed herself. For 13 years, Terri has undergone numerous therapies, none of which proved very effective. She was also awarded $1,500,000 via malpractice suits in 1992, according to the website devoted to her cause, The money from the lawsuit settlements went toward Terri's continued care. Thirteen years later, she now resides in hospice care.

But you have not heard the whole story yet, by far. CNN reports-as do other sources-that Terri's heart attack may have been caused by bulimia. In 1993, Terri developed a urinary tract infection, and her husband Michael Schiavo attempted to prevent treatment for it-an action that would lead her to die. The same year, he signed a DNR release for Terri-a "do not resuscitate" order, meaning that if Terri ever took a severe downturn requiring "extraordinary measures," she would not be revived, and instead allowed to die. Michael claims Terri had had a conversation with him about DNRs before the attack and had said that if something ever happened to her, she did not want to be kept alive by artificial means.

1997 was the year that tipped off the court wars for Terri's life still going on today. In May of that year, Michael Schiavo went to a judge, and got permission to remove Terri's feeding tube. For eight years, Michael has been fighting with Terri's parents, the Schindlers, for Terri's life. Some years, judges have ruled that the feeding tube may be removed. In some cases, it has been, only to be put back in by an overturned decision. During that time, Michael Schiavo's actions have been questioned, even those before Terri's attack.

Allegations of abuse have been leveled against Michael; some even say his verbal abuse caused her bulimia. Terri's parents have had to fight to get access to their daughter, and even to have access to her medical records. Many times, they have tried to retain guardianship from Michael, to no avail. Doctors have come in to examine Terri. Some have found her to be in a "persistent vegetative state," meaning that she has no ability to recognize or react to stimuli. Other doctors have declared that she does indeed react to stimuli, stating she "lights up" when her parents, nurses, and other visitors enter her room. A lot of the argument surrounding Terri's case is focused on the issue of her "official state," under the idea that if she is actually vegetative, her life may be ended by way of starvation through the removal of her feeding tube- the end result Michael Schiavo is fighting for.

The most recent major court decision regarding the Schiavo case was on March 8 and 9th of this year, when Florida Sixth Circuit Judge George Greer ordered Terri's feeding tube to be removed on March 18-this Friday. The order includes barring further medical tests to determine Terri's true condition, and disallowing Terri's parents from feeding her after her tube is removed. If the judge's order remains intact after the many appeals that are sure to follow, Terri Schiavo will begin a lengthy starvation until death on March 18, 2005. Thus far, one appeal to save Terri's life has already been overturned. This past Friday, Judge Greer denied yet another attempt to stay Terri's execution.

I do not think I need to say much more on this issue: the facts speak for themselves. I should add that Michael Schiavo has already moved on with his life-he now has two children with his girlfriend of 10 years. But he does not yet have Terri's money. Let us all pray fervently that Terri's story is a triumph rather than a tragedy; a story Jack McCoy would be proud to be a part of. If a husband can kill his wife, take her money, and get away with it, I tremble for the human race.

Please go to and see how you can help save Terri's life.

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