“Forgive them Father, they know not what they do,” stated Bobbie Schindler, brother of deceased Terri Schiavo. By now, the entire country has been inundated with the saga of Schiavo?s fight for life. But now the legal options to have her feeding tube reinserted have been exhausted. Terri Schindler Schiavo died on Thursday morning, March 31, 2005.For over a decade, Terri Schiavo lived in what some doctors call a “vegetative state,” sustained by a feeding tube that provided nutrients to her body.
Please note that Terri could breath on her own without the assistance of a respirator, and when you normally consider “pulling the plug” on a sick person, it is in reference to the respirator in most cases. This was not true for Terri.
In our world, not just our nation, we hand-feed millions upon millions of people for various reasons. Do we question the existence of life for these people? I do not believe this was a fight over Terri?s nonexistent “living will.” Rather, it was a fight for the right to live or die, depending on how you view the situation. Shouldn?t we, as the great American culture, side with life?
This past week, I watched an interview on the Fox News Channel with a woman who had een in a “vegetative state” for
almost as long as Schiavo. While Schiavo was considered a waste of space, this woman claims to have been completely aware of her surroundings and to have overheard all of the conversations held in her hospital room.
Inside, she said, she was screaming out, but could not communicate.
Luckily, her husband did not give up the fight when doctors said it was impossible for her to recover. Today, she is partially paralyzed but she is alive.
In Schiavo?s case, there were doctors who claimed that there were other options available that had not been tried. Two of the three doctors who sat on the panel which the court selected to investigate Schiavo?s status found that she did show signs of life, disputing the claims of a permanent vegetative state.
Congress passed a bill which was signed into law by President Bush that allowed the parents of Schiavo to seek new legal channels through the federal system to provide a new trial to take another look at the situation.
Unfortunately, this did not help, since none of the federal courts would take the chance at reinserting Terri?s feeding tube and re-opening the investigation like Congress requested. The Florida courts denied Governor Jeb Bush?s request to move custody from Michael Schiavo, Terri?s estranged husband, to the Florida social services system.
Terri?s parents ran out of options, and their daughter died. What I do not understand is why Michael Schiavo would not give custody of Terri to her parents.
Her parents wanted to do everything to keep their daughter alive, as well as trying other options at rehabilitating her. The interesting thing is that a year after Terri?s collapse, Michael Schiavo started a new life with another woman, to whom he engaged and had two children with. Michael Schiavo also won a million dollar malpractice suit from Terri?s collapse, and at that time he was working to restore her to full heath. After he won the suit, however, he brought his “death wish” out of the closet.
In the end, Michael Schiavo forced Terri?s family out of her hospice room as she took her final breath.
If Michael wanted to be released from his past life, why not give Terri?s family the chance to save their loved one? Why not hand custody to the people who wanted to stay by her side? Terri was alive and breathing on her own. I would never have discounted her as a human being. Starving a person to death is a crime. This was not a partisan issue.
The Reverend Jesse Jackson made one of the best statements in this case in a live press statement on Fox news. “Mercy” as Jackson put it; this was about mercy and preserving life. “The essence of civilization is that the strong have a duty to preserve the weak,” President Bush said. We must “work to build a culture of life.”
Terri has left our nation with a few decisions to make. First, are we going to allow the judicial system to overpower the will of the people? Congress took action and passed a law to open a new trial for Terri Schiavo. The courts did not do as the law stipulated, and the 11th circuit court of appeals even mocked Congress for becoming involved. Our Constitution empowers the government to protect the lives of the innocent; therefore, our representatives in Congress passed a law to make sure all avenues were investigated in this matter.
The appeals court simply mocked this, mocking the representatives of the citizens of the United States and hence mocking the will of the people. Second, we must recognize the difference between life and death. A feeding tube is significantly different than a respirator.
Lastly, but most important: are we going to continue to allow death to supersede life? Just as many medical professionals, including Terri?s own nurses claimed that she was responsive even as the doctors claimed she was in a persistent vegetative state. When there is such a hung jury on the conclusion, we must choose life.
We must build a society based on the virtues of hope and of life. Hope, in the sense that there is truly a glimmer of significant possibility, and in Terri Schiavo?s case, that was evident in the many medical professionals claiming the possibility of her significant rehabilitation and the 2002 examinations showing physical improvements since her collapse. Life, in the sense that when a human being is disabled, we come to their aid not as executioners, but with our strength and support. We must embrace life, not death. In remembrance of Terri Schindler Schiavo, 1963-2005.
Rick Loughery is a junior majoring in political science.