Though each human is entitled to the basic rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, with the intrusion of law and other outside forces, these rights are re-defined for those under “unusual” circumstances. Case in point: the Terri Schiavo Case of this passing year. While the case outstretched from her collapse in February of 1990, it is more widely known for the feeding tube removal dispute publicized throughout 2004 and 2005.Terri’s parents, the Schindlers, and her former husband, Michael Schiavo, were in constant dispute over Terri’s care. Four years after Terri’s collapse, Michael met his current wife and had a relationship with her which resulted in two children (AP). Though he was still legally married to Terri, he justifies this relationship with the notion that she “departed this Earth February 25, 1990,” the date of her heart failure (AP). Meanwhile, when undergoing therapy, it is recorded that Terri uttered the word “mommy” on more than one occasion (AP). Mr. Schiavo became aware of this marginal progress and abruptly ended all therapy. The Schindlers begged for Michael to reinstate Terri’s therapy, but he denied their request and then diminished their contact with their daughter (Terri Foundation).
Michael led a malpractice suit against Terri’s doctors claiming that they failed to detect an eating disorder he feels caused Terri’s collapse (Terri Foundation). Michael received an upwards of $300,000 for his loss of spousal consortium and Terri was granted 1.5 million dollars while $780,000 was put into a trust for her future medical care, Michael Schiavo was left with over a million dollars.
The battle of removing Terri’s feeding tube went in and out of the courts starting in May of 1998 with Michael’s petition to withdraw life support. He stated that as a couple they had once watched a film depicting someone on mechanical life support. According to Sciavo, Terri had told him she would never want to live in that way (AP). The movie in which mechanical life support was used referenced it as “tubes,” “oxygen,” etc. Since a feeding tube was not the type of life support viewed, does Michael’s claim of her wishes even apply to this scenario?
In the beginning of the dispute, a temporary guardian was appointed and found that Terri was not in a persistent vegetative state. He was later dismissed under the precept that he and Michael disagreed on his findings. A replacement was never called and Judge Greer ruled even with medical evidence from various doctors stating otherwise, that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state (Terri Foundation).
The truth: when Michael Schiavo found that Terri was beginning to recover, he then expelled all therapy. He ignored repeated attempts from the Schindlers to take up guardianship on Terri’s behalf, while harboring a relationship with another woman and conceiving two children. Michael Schiavo’s claim to Terri was of control and of his feeling of obligation. With Terri’s death in March of 2005 he was no longer obligated. He cut his ties once and for all and soothed his conscience with the idea that it was what she wanted. He then married the weekend of Jan. 21, 2006. Less than a year since his wife’s death, his mourning period was inherently short. He started a new life long ago, and the only loose end left to “put to rest” was Terri. Her existence would only have reminded him, of the life he wished to leave behind. Once she didn’t exist, that life didn’t either. With her death, he was freed.
Laura Valentin is a student at West Chester University