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Death Doesn’t Have The Last Word

December 3, 2008

COMMENTARY
© By June Maxam

North County Gazette
Chesterton, New York

Today, Dec. 3, would have been the 45th birthday of Terri Schindler Schiavo.

But on March 31, 2005, shortly after 9 a.m., Terri died as a result of the long, painful and barbaric process of the court-ordered execution by starvation when her estranged husband Michael Schiavo removed her feeding tube which provided her nutrition and hydration.

Terri Schiavo had committed no crime, she just received food and water in an alternative manner than the norm. Judge George Greer, the executioner, had even refused to allow that Terri be given food and water by natural means after the feeding tube had been removed. Florida Statutes specifically prohibit anyone from denying an individual food and water.

Many called it court-sanctioned murder and it has set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country allowing family members or guardians who believe an individual can no longer be productive in society to simply get a court order to end their life.

Terri Schiavo collapsed at her home under suspicious circumstances in 1990 at age 26. After her husband received more than $2 million from medical malpractice settlements, he withdrew all rehabilitation services from Terri and petitioned the Probate Court of Greer to withdraw her feeding tube, willfully and intentionally causing her death by dehydration over a torturous 13 days as the whole world watched, preposterously claiming that it would be Terri’s wish to die that way.

Although Terri left no living will, after he received the malpractice money, instead of taking her home and caring for her for the rest of his life as Michael Schiavo had told the jury he would, once he got control of the money, he suddenly remembered that 10 years earlier she had made a statement that she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means, a self-serving hearsay statement which Greer endorsed as clear and convincing evidence as the basis to sanction judicial homicide even though her family and close friends disputed his claim.

Her parents, Mary and Robert Schindler Sr., brother Bobby and sister Suzanne battled Michael Schiavo in court for nearly 10 years, arguing that she was not in a persistent vegetative state as Greer had decreed. Her family, who knew her the best, said she would not want to die in such a manner.

Although Congress passed a bill that Palm Sunday nearly four years ago and President Bush quickly signed it into law that should have granted Terri’s family a de novo review of their case in the federal courts, there was no de novo review. The legislative intent of the bill was for the feeding tube to be reinserted while the matter was reviewed in the federal courts. However, the courts refused to grant an injunction to stop Greer’s death order and the family did not receive the full review of the case in the court as Congress and the President intended.

The parents repeatedly met with defeat in the courts in their efforts to save their daughter’s life. Michael Schiavo said that she would not want to live by artificial means. However, Terri’s demonstrated will to live strongly dispelled that assertion and was grounds by itself for the reinsertion of the tube.

On March 18, 2005, when her family and attorneys arrived at the hospice where she had been virtually imprisoned for five years to tell Terri that the feeding tube was being removed, she valiantly and desperately conveyed that she wanted to live. Although attorney Barbara Weller, who represented Terri’s family along with David Gibbs of The Gibbs Firm, and Terri’s sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, presented affidavits to the court expressing Terri’s wish, Greer refused to accept it, saying it was too late. Although he claimed to be acting in her best interest and as her guardian ad litem, Greer had never personally visited Terri Schiavo nor had he ever asked her directly what her wishes were. That was a direct violation of the law as he could not legally act as her guardian and the judge.

The tube’s removal resulted in a slow, agonizing death by dehydration over 13 days while the whole world watched, horrified that such a cruel and unusual punishment could occur in our free Republic—sanctioned, endorsed and yes, ordered by the courts—against a person who had done no wrong, who was a victim of the system and maybe of her husband.

Suzanne said her sister had “shown the world what perseverance and determination are all about.”

The euthanasia cult needed a guinea pig to set the stage to rid society of what they perceive are burdens to the system of Social Security, to Medicare and Medicaid. Terri Schindler-Schiavo was a test case-a foundation for the culture of death to rid society of escalating health care costs and the ever rising related costs by eliminating society of the disabled, the elderly and those who “strain” the system….those who become burdens on their families. Not all families in today’s society are as loving and caring as the Schindlers.

It was clear cut case of euthanasia, a decision made by Michael Schiavo to kill his disabled, handicapped wife.

Terri unwittingly became a worldwide celebrity for right-to-life causes of disabled persons. “She showed us how to live. She showed us the gift of life and how we should share it,” said Monsignor Thaddeus Malanowski who gave Terri her last rites.

At Terri’s funeral Mass, the homily was given by Father Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life.

Fr. Pavone became a familiar figure in the court-ordered dehydration of Terri Schiavo as a friend of her family, and one of the few people who was on Terri’s visitors’ list and therefore able to access her room. He appeared frequently in the media on the family’s behalf during the ordeal. Following Terri’s passing, Fr. Pavone was blunt in his description of her final hours as “an agony unlike anything I have ever seen” and has since not backed down from his characterization of her death as murder.

“For so many people, going through this short and confusing life, the human story is birth, life and death,” he said. “Beyond that, they cannot see, and beyond that, they have no hope.”

“But for Christians, he said, the story is life, death and resurrection. They know the grief they feel at the passing of a loved one will be transformed into joy.

“We join with Terri’s parents in thanking God for the gift of her life,” Father Pavone said. “We are with you.”

“God calls us to go forth from this place to ensure that Terri, who had such difficulty speaking - will speak louder than ever to this world…..God calls us to go forth from this place and build a culture of life”.

“The Holy Father makes it so clear that any human demand or decree that violates human rights is no law at all”.

“We must work so that what happened in this tragic place will never happen again.”

“God calls us to go forth from this place so that those who suffered like she did, those who are disabled like she was, may know they are not forgotten, they are not alone, that we love them and will be with them every moment of their lives”.

“Death does not have the last word.” 12-03-08

2008 Clippings

Priests for Life
PO Box 141172 • Staten Island, NY 10314
Tel. 888-735-3448, (718) 980-4400 • Fax 718-980-6515
mail@priestsforlife.org