Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Which Side is “Saving Terri”?

In reading the full report from Jay Wolfson, the Guardian Ad Litem appointed by Jeb Bush to review the entire history of the case and make recommendations, I came across this very disturbing passage. It concerns testimony from Terri’s family in 2000 in one of the many appeals they’ve filed to reverse the court’s decision:

Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that appeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. Throughout this painful and difficult trial, the family acknowledged that Theresa was in a diagnosed persistent vegetative state.

Two things jump out from this. First, that the family acknowledged that she was in PVS even as late as 2000, something they now claim, on the basis of one obviously dishonest doctor (Hammesfahr) who falsely claims to have helped people “far worse than Terri” and a second doctor (Cheshire) who admitted that he had no evidence to support him but merely had a “sense” of her “presence”, that she is not in PVS. Second, that the family simply doesn’t care what Terri wanted, that even if they agreed that she would have wanted to be allowed to die, they would keep her alive even if they had to subject her to amputation of all of her limbs. That’s just ghoulish, isn’t it? For all those people clamoring to “save Terri”, it’s looking more and more like she needs to be saved from her own family. As well meaning and understandable as they may be, they seem to think that Terri is a prop in their life to be kept around for their own enjoyment no matter what she would have wanted.


  1. #1 raj
    March 29, 2005

    This is slightly orthogonal to the post, but it might be instructive to know just how many people have died–just in the US alone–over the last couple of weeks while this whole sorry episode has played itself out.

    Mark my words: someone is making money off this case. That’s why it has gotten so much attention. Follow the money.

  2. #2 Social Scientist
    March 29, 2005

    someone is making money off this case.

    No kidding:

    List of Schiavo Donors Will Be Sold by Direct-Marketing Firm

    The parents of Terri Schiavo have authorized a conservative direct-mailing firm to sell a list of their financial supporters, making it likely that thousands of strangers moved by her plight will receive a steady stream of solicitations from anti-abortion and conservative groups.


  3. #3 Aaron M
    March 29, 2005

    they seem to think that Terri is a prop in their life to be kept around for their own enjoyment no matter what she would have wanted.

    Incidentally, that’s what jumped out at me from the correspondence posted the other day at Freespace.

    I perceive my daughter as a part of my own body and blood, I am the one who has given her life and will never let someone else take it away from her!!!!!!

    There’s to be a disturbing attitude of children-as-property going on here. The old joking threat of “I brought you into this world and I can take you out of it” appears to have become “I brought you into this world and only I will decide when you get to leave it.”

  4. #4 Dave S.
    March 29, 2005

    Mark my words: someone is making money off this case. That’s why it has gotten so much attention. Follow the money.

    Of course. Think of the book advances, the speaking/Diane Sawyer-interview fees, my gosh the TV movie deal(s). If Jessica Lynch and that girl kidnapped in Utah whose name I forget deserve a crappy TV movie, the Schiavo case has to be worth a couple.

  5. #5 Steve Reuland
    March 29, 2005

    I hate to say it, but I’ve about lost most of my respect for the Schindler family, even though throughout this affair, I’ve felt very sympathetic for them despite any disagreements I may have had.

    First, they want to keep Terri alive in spite of the fact that she has no mental facilities and has no hope of recovery. Fine, I can understand that. It’s not the choice I would make, but it’s understandable.

    But then it turns out that they want to keep her alive in spite of her own wishes, even to the point of whittling her down to litte more than a torso with a brain stem. That strikes me as selfish and, and to use Ed’s term, goulish.

    When it really gets bad though is when they start slandering Michael Shiavo by accusing him of being in it for the money, in complete contradiction to the fact that he doesn’t stand to gain any money, has repeatedly said that he would donate any inheritance to charity, and has turned down huge sums offered by rich benefactors. This hasn’t stopped the Schindlers’ supporters from endlessly repeating the smear, however. We even have the unsubstantiated accusation of spousal abuse, which is even sleazier, though I don’t know that the Schindlers were behind those claims.

    Worst of all, they have allowed this case to become a cause celebre for the Religious Right, which guarantees that it will be turned into a circus of clowns and crazy people spewing ridiculous rhetoric and making asses of themselves. And the Schinders haven’t exactly been passive when it comes to the zoo-like atmosphere that’s been erected around all this; they hired anti-abortion extremist Randal Terry as their spokesman, and have seemingly encouraged every insane conspiracy theory and wild accusation out there. Whatever chance Terri might have had of dying with dignity is long gone.

    Now it turns out that the Schindlers have given their supporters list to a direct marketing firm so that it can be used to solicit money from them for unrelated causes. Did they get the permission of each and ever donor first? Was this just about politics all along?

    I wish I could say that it’s shocking to see people who so self-righteously claim to occupy the moral highground act in such a manner, but sadly, I’ve grown used to it.

  6. #6 Lynn
    March 29, 2005

    So many things are done in the name of Christianity.
    Being a Christian means being unselfish and thinking of the other person first.
    The “Golden Rule”
    I have lost all respect for Terri’s parents. This reminds me of Bates keeping his mother’s dead body by the window in a rocking chair. If that sounds gross to most of you well just think about the condition of Terri’s brain. Terri isn’t in that shell any longer.
    I told Ed to just watch what happens when her body is allowed to die, The fussing will start over her remains then. Well folks it has started already.
    I also predicted they would want an autopsy but thank God Michael has asked for it before they did.
    Unfortunately we are far from hearing the end to this.
    Terri being the shy person she was must be looking down at this circus in horror.

  7. #7 KeithB
    March 29, 2005

    And now Jessie Jackson has entered the fray. Can’t he just stick with Michael Jackson?

    I heard that Michael Schiavo was the medical examiner for Pinella’s County and was going to perform the Autopsy. Is that true?

    At the very least there was some indication of conflict of interest during the autopsy.

  8. #8 Tony
    March 29, 2005

    I read this excerpt elsewhere a long time ago, and lost respect for the Schindlers.

    Something that needs to be said: For all the slander and trash that’s been thrown his way, Michael Schiavo has behaved in an exemplary fashion. The Schindlers have not let slide any chance to diss him via their publicity-seeking goons, and he’s never sunk to their level.

    It’s obvious they’re deluding themselves about Terri’s so-called consciousness, but he’s never called them up on it.

    To all those who accuse him of committing adultery: He formed a new relationship five years after Terri’s heart attack, when it was clear she would never regain her higher cognitive function, and was encouraged to do so by Terri’s own family. That he has stuck with her to honour her decision through this all the opprobrium says a lot about his character.

  9. #9 Ed Brayton
    March 30, 2005

    Tony, I’m inclined to agree with you. I have compassion for the Schindlers and what they’re going through. I understand the emotional difficulty they are in, I’ve been there myself not once but twice, with my mother and my uncle. But the deeper I delve into it, the more inclined I am to be appalled by their behavior. I think they are being incredibly selfish. Having had to carry out the wishes of a loved one who wanted to die in such circumstances, I can tell you that my first, last and only priority was to make sure that her wishes were carried out. At some point, you simply have to subordinate your will to theirs; anything less is violating their rights and their dignity.

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