The Truth about the last days of Terri Schiavo

Christina Ryan Claypool

Publication Date: May 01, 2020

Now that Terri Schiavo is dead, we can all get on with our lives. Terri was great news fodder for awhile, but many Americans are tired of hearing each other’s views about her plight. After all, none of us were there.

This opinion was reinforced for me when I happened to watch the closing commentary on CBS "60 Minutes" with Andy Rooney on Sunday April 10, 2005. The curmudgeonly journalist displayed newspapers from all over the globe that bore the image of Pope John Paul II that evening. In brief, he said he was glad that at least they replaced the pictures of Terri Schiavo, mentioning that we had seen enough of them.

Rooney was mistaken though, as Americans didn’t see any photos of Terri Schaivo’s last days; rather shots of her from earlier times. After all, media wasn’t allowed to take pictures or video to record her dying. However, Fr. Frank Pavone sat with her during her last days, and acted as a spokesperson for her family. On Friday April 8th at both the Fort Wayne Allen County Right to Life office and later at the University of St. Francis, the Catholic priest gave a firsthand account of what he witnessed.

Fr. Pavone, who is the national director of Priests for Life, told the crowd gathered in one of the university’s auditorium’s that, it is "absolutely a lie that she died gently and peacefully." The clergyman, who was ordained to the priesthood in 1988, said that he has sat at countless deathbeds, but had never seen one like this. He said that Terri Schiavo’s eyes frantically darted back and forth, and she panted while her mouth remained open.

He admitted that Schiavo was severely disabled by a brain injury of undetermined origin, nevertheless Pavone referred to the words of the late Pope John Paul II, who once wrote, "Life is good, not only when it is healthy, but also when it is sick."

However, Pavone disputed the fact that Ms. Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state, as did Florida neurologist Dr. William Chesire, who filed a petition that stated Terri was most likely in a "minimally conscious state." The priest cited several examples he had witnessed during the six years that he acted as an advocate for the Schiavo family. He said she smiled when her father teased her, and he also saw Schiavo "return her father’s kiss." "Most amazing," Pavone said was that, "When I put my hand on her head and prayed, she closed her eyes; when I finished and removed my hands, she opened her eyes."

According to the nationally-known priest, the issue was not about Terri Schiavo’s lack of a living will, but rather about the moral question regarding the worth of her life. "Terry was not a dying person," Pavone remarked. The "problem ultimately was discrimination and prejudice." He said that it would be unethical to starve someone disabled even if they indicated that this was their wish, referring to the fact that the provision of food and water is not a medical act but a humane treatment. He suggested a better legal recourse would be to "appoint a healthcare proxy to speak for you when the circumstances" arise. Although, the priest cautioned that it must be someone you trust implicitly to know your wishes.

Pavone, who is known nationwide for his work in the pro-life movement, cited the 1973 Supreme Court decision of Roe vs. Wade as a precursor for Schiavo’s situation. "What the killing of Terri Schiavo says to the pro-life movement is ‘We saw this coming.’ Roe vs. Wade defined out of existence an entire segment of the human family," Pavone explained. By defining babies within the womb as "non-persons" this legislation has "physically destroyed in numbers beyond any tragedy."

Another tragedy, the Holocaust of European Jews during World War II caused a 69-year-old South Carolina woman named Eva Edl to be arrested for trying to get a cup of water to Schiavo. Edl, who is a Holocaust survivor was separated from her parents, then interned in a Yugoslavian camp. Pavone said that remembering the pangs of hunger and thirst prompted her to be one of many arrested.

As for Pavone, the irony of a vase of roses filled with water near the dying woman’s bedside will not soon be forgotten. Not long before her death, the priest said he could not even dip his hand into the water and wet Schiavo’s dehydrated mouth as at least one police officer was stationed in the room at all times. Sometimes, two or three officers were there "standing vigil to make sure nobody violated the court order that she wasn’t to be given a drop to drink."

Fr. Frank Pavone told more tragic details, and insight on the significance of Schiavo’s death for society’s future; but it would take a book to record it all. My prayer is that Fr. Pavone will write that book, with a title like "The Truth about the last days of Terri Schiavo."

After all, more than six million European Jews were killed by Hitler, and over 40 million babies have been aborted. Over two decades ago, my own aborted child was among those victims, opening a doorway of unbearable pain and grief that was finally healed through relationship with Jesus Christ. How many millions of Terri Schiavo’s will there be, if we don’t do something now?

Christina Ryan Claypool is a speaker and author of the book, "Forgiven finding peace in the aftermath of abortion," available on She appeared on CBN’s 700 Club in February. Contact her at

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