Terri Schiavo Case – Frequently Asked Questions

Was Terri dying?

No. Terri suffered from no terminal disease or condition and her cognitive disability did not jeopardize her life in any way. She was simply a physically healthy woman with a brain injury.

Was Terri brain dead or in a coma?

No. Brain death is not a catch phrase used to describe a persons condition but rather an authentic medical diagnosis determined when respiration and other reflexes are absent. Coma is a profound or deep state of unconsciousness. An individual in a state of coma is alive but unable to move or respond to his or her environment. Terri was neither brain dead, nor was she in a coma.

Were there any machines keeping Terri alive?

Absolutely not. Contrary to media reports, Terri did not require life sustaining equipment such as a ventilator. The only thing keeping Terri alive was the same thing that keeps every one of us alive – food and water.

Was this an "end-of-life" issue?

No. Terri's case should not be confused with legitimate end-of-life cases in which patients are terminally ill and imminently dying. As already stated, Terri was neither ill nor dying.

Was Terri in a Persistent Vegetative State?

No. Despite Judge Greer's ruling, and in keeping with the 40 medical affidavits submitted to the court by doctors, all evidence proves that Terri was not in a PVS. Terri's behavior and ability to interact with her surroundings did not meet the medical or statutory definition of persistent vegetative state.

Did the autopsy prove that Terri was in a Persistent Vegetative State?

No. The autopsy was unable to determine whether or not Terri was actually in a persistent vegetative state. In fact, on three separate occasions, the report stated that an autopsy is unable to determine if a person is in a persistent vegetative state because the person must be alive in order to make such a diagnosis. The autopsy did prove that that, prior to Terri's death, she was physically healthy and would have lived a long life had she not been dehydrated over a period of two weeks.

Were Terri's parents able to make any decisions regarding her medical care or well being?

No. From 1993 until her death, Terri's parents were not allowed to participate in her care. As guardian, Michael Schiavo had 100% control over Terri. He refused to allow her parents to help their daughter in any way. In fact, during the final weeks of her life, Terri's parents were informed that if they so much as tried to give her a drop of water, or provide comfort care in any way, they would be arrested by the armed police officers who guarded her room 24 hours a day. 

Was Terri receiving any rehabilitation in the years prior to her death?

No. Terri was essentially warehoused and abandoned from 1992, when Michael Schiavo ordered all rehabilitation and therapy stopped, until her dehydration death in March of 2005. This was in spite of the fact that countless doctors said Terri's condition could have improved with continued rehabilitation and therapy – and that her condition had been improving while she was receiving therapy.

Why did the court allow Terri to be killed?

Permission to starve and dehydrate Terri to death was granted based on hearsay evidence that surfaced almost eight years after her collapse, alleging that she wanted to die.

Did Terri have an advance directive?

No. Terri had no written advance directive that indicated her wishes. The court allowed her to be killed based only upon hearsay evidence provided by Michael Schiavo, his brother and his sister-in-law – ignoring testimony by Terri's biological family and lifelong friends to the contrary.

Was there money involved?

Yes. A trust fund of nearly $800,000 was established and earmarked for Terri's rehabilitation and therapy, with Michael as the inheritor in the case of Terri's death. Tragically, the bulk of this money was instead used to pay Michael Schiavo's attorney fees in his quest to end her life.

Did the court recognize the money Michael Schiavo stood to inherit as a conflict of interest?

No. In fact the court failed to acknowledge that not only was Schiavo's monetary interest a conflict, but that he had moved on with his life, was engaged to be married to another woman, and already had children with the other woman. In short, his role as guardian was rife with conflicts of interest.

Did Terri have her own attorney?

No, she did not. In fact, the judge in this case defaulted as her guardian/attorney.

Was it appropriate for Congress to step in to assist in Terri’s case?

Absolutely. Congress has every right to pass laws that prevent the deaths of innocent persons.

Was this a private family matter?

No. Michael Schiavo chose to take the matter out of the realm of privacy by introducing it to the courts in 1998. It was Terri's family who reached out to Congress for help in saving her life. Michael had essentially already started a new family with his fiancé and children.

What did the law passed by Congress actually do?

It gave Terri the right to a federal review – for a federal judge to make sure that her due process rights had not been denied. This is the same right given to all prisoners on death row.

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