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Terri Schiavo Would Not Want To Go Against Catholic Church, Her Parents Argue
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
September 15, 2004

TALLAHASSEE, FLORIDA--While the Florida Supreme Court considers the legality of a law keeping Terri Schiavo alive, her family is trying a new tactic to spare her life.

Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, has claimed that his wife told him, before her 1990 collapse, that she would not want to live by "artificial means". Mr. Schiavo has used this as the reason to ask courts to allow him to have her feeding tube pulled so she will die of starvation and dehydration.

But Terri's parents, who have been battling to keep her alive, now argue that their daughter would not want to die in that manner, especially in light of recent proclamations by the Roman Catholic Church.

According to Cybercast News Service, Bob and Mary Schindler filed a 28-page memorandum of law citing "a substantial change in circumstances that the court must consider" in deciding whether to set aside the 2000 order that originally gave Mr. Schiavo permission to have his wife's food and water withdrawn.

The Schindlers were referring to a March 2004 address by Pope John Paul II, in which he said that giving food and water always represents "a natural means of preserving life" and that its use should be considered "ordinary and proportionate and as such morally obligatory."

Terri was a devout Catholic for all of her young life. The memorandum asserts that she would "never willingly defy the Holy Father's teaching by consenting to conduct that is now morally forbidden by the Church." Allowing her to die in this manner now would, therefore, violate her rights guaranteed by the U.S. and Florida Constitutions, as well as Florida statutory and common law, it claims.

Terri, 40, collapsed and was without oxygen for several minutes in February of 1990. Several doctors have testified that she is in a persistent vegetative state, that she cannot meaningfully interact with her environment and will not recover. Mr. Schiavo first petitioned a local court in 1998 to have Terri's feeding tube removed so she would die.

Terri's parents, and several other doctors, believe Terri is responsive and interacts with her surroundings and would benefit from therapies that her husband has refused to allow. They have gone head-to-head with Mr. Schaivo and his attorney to keep her alive.

Mr. Schiavo did not mention what he now claims were Terri's wishes during a 1992 malpractice suit, at the same time that he presented evidence regarding the cost of a life-long care plan. That malpractice trial brought more than $700,000 for Terri's care during her natural life, which medical experts agreed could last several decades.

The Schindlers and others suggest that Mr. Schiavo has abused and exploited his wife -- before and after her collapse. They have pointed out that he should be removed as her guardian, especially in light of the fact that he has been living with a woman, whom he refers to as his "fiancée" and with whom he has fathered two children, for nearly a decade.

Mr. Schiavo was successful in getting a local court to allow Terri's feeding tube removed last October 16. Governor Jeb Bush, with the urging of disability rights groups and right-to-life advocates, championed "Terri's Law" through the Legislature, allowing him to order the feeding tube reinserted six days later.

Mr. Schiavo challenged the law, arguing that it violated Terri's right to privacy, and threatened to undermine the separation of powers provisions in the Florida Constitution. The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on August 31.

Disability rights groups have been following Terri's situation for years, arguing that allowing her to die by starvation would reinforce the message that the lives of people with certain disabilities are not worth living. A coalition of 18 disability groups filed an amicus ("friend of the court") brief supporting Bush in the Supreme Court case.

"What we're worried about is that medical professionals and families will get the idea that it's OK to starve to death and dehydrate people with severe cognitive disabilities," Diane Coleman, president of the disability rights group Not Dead Yet, told the Los Angeles Times.

"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)
Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation

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