Saturday 17 September 2011

My sister's killing was the Roe v Wade of euthanasia, says Bobby Schindler

Donna Nicholson, director of SPUC Scotland, has kindly sent me her report (below) of Bobby Schindler's keynote address to the SPUC 2011 annual national conference this morning:

Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, said his sister's death was the "Roe v Wade of the euthanasia movement in the States." Bobby talked of his family's battle to keep Terri alive after a court ruled that her food and hydration be withdrawn back in 2000.

The high profile case hit the headlines around the world at the time but despite huge international support Terri's family lost their battle for her life and were forced to watch her starve and dehydrate to death.

Bobby recalled his sister's plight for delegates stating that in the first 2 years following her collapse her medical records noted that her rehabilitation treatment was working and she was starting to speak. "We were very hopeful about these tiny steps," he recalled.

Following a malpractice lawsuit in 1992 Terri was awarded $1.5m for her treatment and her husband Michael was awarded $600,000. Bobby said it was after this ruling and receiving the monies that things changed for Terri: the relationship between Terri's husband Michael and the Schindler family broke down and all communications stopped in 1993.

Shortly after this the family learned Michael had requested nurses not to provide Terri with antiobiotics for an infection. They refused. He then moved her to another facility with the same request. Those nurses also refused. By 1998 he had engaged a pro-euthanasia attorney and the family received a letter stating that they would seek to have Terri's food and fluids removed and that Terri had wanted this. In 1999 legislation was changed in the state to define food and fluids as medical treatment.

Terri's case went to trial in 2000 and the judge ruled in favour of Michael Schiavo despite the serious questions about her living will or that Michael was set to inherit the money from her death. Bobby said:
"I'm still to this day amazed at the publicity Terri's case received specifically because it was already happening every day. Before the case Terri was very much alive, but the media protrayed her as as someone whose quality of life was so poor that this action was in her best interests. Even medics were surprised at how responsive she was despite being neglected for so long. My sister wasn't brain dead. They call this an end of life issue but it isn't. Terri was very much alive. It became an end of life discussion when she wasn't at the end of her life."
According to Bobby Schindler what happened to Terri is now ordinary practice across America. It has even been argued that the definition of articifical feeding should be expanded to include more than a feeding tube but also spoon feeding and that even bringing a tray to patients as diet must receive medical approval. Bobby told the conference he estimates hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people are now directly affected by the sort of thing that happened to Terri, and that's not even looking at terminal sedation cases or other ways of putting people to death. Bobby said:
"We now decide who lives and who dies on a quality of life judgement."
He also said some vulnerable people are now being described as 'non-persons' by many academics in the States. He added:
"The biggest thing we're up against is apathy, people don't care until it happens to someone they know."
He also said the pro-euthanasia lobby is now very powerful and has the backing of a media willing to distort the truth and a growing insensitivity towards people like my Terri, compounded by the language people use to refer to the vulnerable. Language like 'vegetable' should be abolished from our vocabulary, he said, as it serves no purpose but it's entrenched in our mentality and is validated by our mainstream media.

Bobby ended by recalling the experience of his family as they watched over Terri in her final weeks. He said:
"Our family had to watch Terri die of dehydration, watch her deteriorate."
When people ask what she looked like at that time he says he can only compare her to victims of Auschwitz. Her appearance, he said, was horrific. She had blood pouring in her eyes in the last days. It was disturbing to watch and not a peaceful way to die. And for Bobby the most heart wrenching thing was watching my parents.

To compound the family's grief George Philos, Michael's attorney, gave a press conference after Terri's death and said she'd never looked so beautiful as in the last week of her death.

Since Terri's death her family has formed the Life and Hope Network to help other families in the same situation in the US and around the world. Bobby ended:
"We're all in this battle together. If we can't have regard for life how can we have it for anything else."
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