Your quick, once-a-day look at disability rights,
and the movement toward full community inclusion around the world.
Tuesday, October 21, 2003
Year IV, Edition 163
This front page features 5 news and information items,
each preceded by a number (#) symbol.
Click on the"Below the Fold" link at the bottom of this page for 39 other news items.
QUOTE OF THE DAY:
"I dont think I can describe the way I feel right now. It's been unreal."
--Bob Schindler Jr, brother of Terri Schiavo whose feeding tube was replaced late Tuesday by order of Florida Governor Jeb Bush
# ADVOCACY / FAMILIES
Terri Schiavo Back On Feeding Tube;
Advocacy Efforts Work To Spare Terri's Life
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 21, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo is receiving food and water through a feeding tube installed into her stomach late Tuesday.
Doctors reinserted the tube at a local hospital, under order of Governor Jeb Bush, six days after it had been removed.
"I'm ecstatic she's being fed again," said her brother, Bob Schindler Jr. "I dont think I can describe the way I feel right now. It's been unreal."
Bush was granted authority by the state legislature to order the feeding tube replaced just a few hours earlier in the day. The Senate voted 23-14 to pass a measure that was specifically written to save Terri. The House then approved it with a 73-24 vote. The governor signed the bill into law and issued the order about one hour later.
George Felos, attorney for Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, immediately filed a request for an injunction to stop the feeding tube from being replaced. Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George Greer, who had consistently sided with Schiavo for the last several years, rejected the request. Felos' request with another state court was also denied.
"We won," Terri's father, Robert Schindler, said after the ruling. "Terri won."
Whether the feeding tube will save Terri's life was not clear late Tuesday. According to family members, her kidneys had begun shutting down and her circulation had been impaired during the six days she went without food or water.
Disability rights groups and right to life groups celebrated cautiously, noting that the law is expected to be challenged through the same courts that ordered her feeding tube removed. Their grassroots efforts were the primary force that pressured Bush to intervene in the case. During the past few days, the governor received tens of thousands of messages from around the world asking him to stop Terri's starvation death.
Terri collapsed in February 1990 at age 26 from a chemical imbalance and was without oxygen for several minutes. Some doctors have said that the damage to her brain left her in a "persistent vegetative state" from which she cannot recover.
Michael Schiavo claims his wife told him before her collapse that she would not want to live "by artificial means". In 1998 he petitioned the court for permission to have the feeding tube removed. Until Tuesday night, the courts had consistently sided with Mr. Schiavo.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought to keep their daughter alive and have rehabilitative therapies tried. Several medical professionals have claimed that Terri is not in a vegetative state, and that she could benefit from therapies -- including speech and swallowing therapies -- which her husband has denied her for several years. Video tapes also show Terri apparently laughing, smiling, interacting with family members, and following basic directions less than two years ago. The Schindlers accuse their son-in-law of abusing and neglecting Terri, and suspect him in bringing about her initial collapse.
The law giving Bush the power to order the feeding tube replaced also directs the Circuit Court to appoint a new guardian for Terri.
Activists holding a 24-hour vigil in front of the hospice where Terri has been kept for the past few years cheered as an ambulance took her to the hospital to have the feeding tube replaced.
"Brain-Damaged Fla. Woman Receiving Fluids" (Associated Press via ABC News)
"Vote was a tough one for area lawmakers" (Pensacola News Journal)
Media Goofed On Schiavo Facts; Disability Message Not Heard
Commentary by Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
October 21, 2003
SPOKANE, WASHINGTON--Tuesday's headlines said it all -- all wrong, that is:
"Hospital resumes coma patients food" (Associated Press via CNN News),
"Schiavo Back On Life Support" (Tampa Tribune).
The U.S. media, which virtually ignored Terri Schiavo's case until she began to starve to death last week, has shown how wrong news services can be.
Whether one frames the issue as Terri's "right to live" or her "right to die", the American media simply failed to give readers the correct information so they could make up their own minds.
Take the first headline, for instance. Several news agencies have referred to Terri as being in a coma or being comatose, which suggests that she is unconscious. The doctors involved in her case have never said Terri is in a coma. While several doctors testified that she is in a "persistent vegetative state" -- which is not the same as a coma -- the Schindlers claim to have affidavits from many more doctors saying she is not "vegetative", and that rehabilitation should be tried to see if she can recover some of the function she has lost.
While there will always be debate over what Terri's brain experiences, the fact is that her brain regulates all of her bodily functions on its own, except allowing her to eat by mouth.
The next headline, which contained language similar to others over the last several days, claims that Terri is being kept alive by "life support". This presents readers with images of a person on a ventilator or other machine, and improperly takes readers into the realm of "heroic measures".
The fact is Terri is being given nourishment and water through a feeding tube installed through her stomach wall. Hundreds of thousands of people across the country receive their food and water this way for years.
At the same time that the media has gotten important facts wrong, it has also failed to look into circumstances that ought to have raised the eyebrows of any respectable journalist.
Why, for example, did Mr. Schiavo place his 30-something wife in a hospice when doctors said she could easily live into her 50s? Why not a nursing home or her own home? Hospices ordinarily only accept people in the terminal stages of an illness with less than six months expected to live. Did the fact that an exception was made at this hospice have anything to do with the fact that Mr. Schiavo's attorney was on its board?
For years, disability rights advocates have been pointing out these irregularities. Why have reporters missed them?
How did Terri's story turn into a "right to die" debate, lumped in with the anti-abortion debate?
As Terri's situation gained national attention, why were the messages of disability advocates largely unheard?
I don't know.
What is clear is that our role -- as disability rights advocates -- to educate lawmakers and the journalists who influence public opinion and public policy is more crucial than ever.
We are horrified that thousands of people with certain disabilities are judged 'better off dead'. We are frustrated that the cost of health care is rising at the same time that "assisted suicide" is gaining popularity and legal approval.
Terri's reprieve this week may or may not be a temporary one. It is likely we will have to rally again in the near future to keep her husband and the courts from starving her. Those who oppose her right to continue living may be better organized next time.
Most importantly, however, we must continue to speak out and work with our state and local governments, and to educate others.
The fact is, any of us could be in Terri's situation in a heartbeat.
The world needs to hear our voices.
# ADVOCACY / FAMILIES
Statements By Schiavo And Schindlers
October 21, 2003
TAMPA, FLORIDA--Terri Schiavo's husband and guardian, Michael, issued a statement Monday to the Cybercast News Service explaining why he wants his wife to die.
Terri's parents immediately gave their own response to Schiavo's statement.
"Statements Regarding the Terri Schindler Schiavo Dispute" (CNS News)
# TODAY'S FEATURED WEBSITES
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express)
"Robert Wendland" (Inclusion Daily Express)
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Dave Reynolds, Editor