Editor’s note. This can be heard at www.prolifeperspective.com
The court-ordered starvation and dehydration death of Terri Schindler Schiavo seven years ago was truly a watershed moment in our nation. Millions of people both here and around the world became aware of Terri’s situation. They also suddenly faced the reality that we are willing to treat those with disabilities as if they are expendable.
They realized that our society had already paved the way for Terri’s death with years of legal maneuverings that left the value of vulnerable patients like Terri open to interpretation based on some archaic so-called “quality of life” ethic that has slowly weaved its way into the fabric of our society. At the same time, that so-called ethic has been used to create a legal precedent for depriving disabled patients of food and water.
The truth about Terri needs to be presented to the public repeatedly. The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has dedicated March 31st – the anniversary of Terri’s death as “the International Day of Prayer and Remembrance for Terri Schindler Schiavo, and all of our vulnerable brothers and sisters.” Because the anniversary falls on Easter, Terri’s family is marking the anniversary with a mass celebrated by Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput and a gala featuring former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin,
Terri’s family recommends that individuals and churches use the day – and surrounding days – to help make others aware of the right to life. If individuals and groups like National Right to Life take the opportunity, we can change the hearts and minds of people who felt that Terri’s death was the compassionate thing to do.
Activities Terri’s family recommends are spending time with disabled friends or relatives, volunteering at a nursing home or hospital, writing letters to the editor in remembrance of Terri and filling out a Will to Live.
The Will to Live is a pro-life living will developed by National Right to Life in the early 90s and works like many “living wills.” However, it differs in that it makes a presumption for life-saving medical treatment. There is a Will to Live for each state and the District of Columbia that complies with the various state laws governing such advance directives. Because these laws change routinely, the forms are constantly updated to make sure they are in compliance and that they clearly express your desire to receive life-saving medical treatment.
(You can go to www.nrlc.org/MedEthics/WilltoLiveProject.html to find links to state-specific Will to Live forms.)
Terri’s death was a tragedy that should never have happened.
In videos of Terri released by her family, it is clear that Terri was very much alive. CNN correspondent Jeff Greenfield captured what we all felt watching the videos of Terri. He said: “And this is what has given that videotape such potency. If there’s any doubt at all, the argument goes, you must resolve it on behalf of life. Whatever the medical facts, it is not hard to understand why the average person looking at those images sees them as at least raising doubt.”
The videos did more than raise doubt, they provided Americans with the opportunity to see a life worth living.
Terri’s Day honors not only Terri’s life but also our commitment to the right to life. Terri’s death clearly showed the clash between the culture of life and the culture of death.
Honoring Terri’s memory gives us a chance to change our culture by changing hearts and minds. I want to encourage you to visit the website of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation at www.terrisfight.org and find out what you can do to honor her memory.
We have learned a great deal from a woman who supposedly had such a poor “quality of life” that she deserved to die. It is my hope that, in years to come, we will honor her memory and celebrate her life by protecting those who cannot speak for themselves.