MIDDLETOWN — Citizens in states all over the country need to be aware of efforts to remove their medical liberties, a pro-life activist said April 28 in Middletown. Bobby Schindler, whose sister, Terri Schiavo, died 17 years ago after a protracted legal fight about her medical care, addressed the annual dinner for Delaware Right to Life.
What happened to Schiavo is happening every day in our healthcare system, Schindler said. Treatment decisions have shifted from families to healthcare providers, ethics committees and others.
Schiavo, who lived in Florida, collapsed in early 1990 and was diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, which her parents and other family members disputed until she died on March 18, 2005, at the age of 41. In 1998, her husband, Michael, petitioned a Florida court to remove her feeding tube, saying his wife would not want to continue to live that way. Her parents objected, saying their daughter was conscious, but in 2001, a court ruled in Michael Schiavo’s favor.
Her feeding tube was removed in April 2001 but reinserted within a matter of days. For the next four years, her case played out in various courts and among the American public. Michael Schiavo ultimately prevailed in court, and Terri Schiavo died 13 days after her feeding tube was removed.
Since her death, Schindler said, the American public has been exposed to laws that devalue human life. The forces behind this legislation have not gone away, he told the audience.
“They have grown in power and arrogance,” he said. People, he continued, “are forced to watch their loved ones barbarically die.”
He suggested that patients find a pro-life doctor whose values align with their own, and that they appoint a healthcare agent. He urged people to educate themselves about the reality of healthcare today in the United States.
In Delaware, Right to Life officials mentioned two bills that need attention. One, House Bill 140, introduced last June and voted out of committee in January, would permit terminally ill residents to seek assisted suicide. It has not been scheduled for a vote in the house. The other, Senate Bill 235, introduced in March by Sen. Bryant Richardson, “asserts a separate and independent compelling state interest in unborn human life that exists once the unborn child is capable of experiencing pain,” according to the bill’s summary. It has been assigned to but not acted upon by the Senate Legislative Oversight and Sunset Committee. Delaware Right to Life noted that a rally in support of SB235 is scheduled for early June in Dover.
Schindler recalled the “look of horror” on his sister’s face the day she died. Her lips were blistered, and her skin was jaundiced, but also had patches that were blue. Blood pooled in her eyes.
“What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of horror on her face,” he said.
His father, Robert, never forgave himself for not stopping what happened to Schiavo, Schindler said. Robert Schindler, 71, a Philadelphia native, died in 2009.
Her family created the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network “to serve medically vulnerable people at risk of being marginalized rather than supported in love,” according to the website. Bobby Schindler is the president. He said at the Right to Life dinner that the network has been able to help approximately 4,000 families.
Despite the dark subject matter, there is hope, he said. One way to increase that hope is to bring more religion into our culture.
“We know that politicians aren’t the answer for stopping this. It’s coming back to Christ,” he said.
He urged the attendees to support Delaware Right to Life on all life issues, not just abortion. That includes fighting efforts to legalize assisted suicide, and to ensure that every patient has the right to food and water.
For those who want to know more about the Terri Schiavo case, Schindler said to listen to the podcast “Lawless” by investigative journalist Lynn Vincent. He said Schiavo was responding to treatment in the early 1990s, beginning to speak with aggressive rehabilitation. Michael Schiavo, after working with her family and promising to honor his wedding vows, stopped the rehab in 1992. The Schindlers protested the diagnosis of a persistent vegetative state until the day Terri Schiavo died and continue to do so.