Advocates File Brief Supporting Terri Schiavo's Right To
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
February 25, 2003
ST. PETERSBURG, FLORIDA--Thirteen years ago, Theresa "Terri" Schiavo had a heart attack which caused her to go without oxygen for five minutes. She has been considered by many doctors to be in a "chronic vegetative state" since then.
Terri's parents say she laughs at jokes, turns her head, smiles, cries, moans and drinks water. They have been fighting in the courts against Terri's husband in order to keep her alive. If Terri dies, Michael Schiavo stands to gain part of a $700,000 malpractice judgment.
On Monday, 12 disability rights groups, a university affiliated policy center, a patients' rights group, and two people who have experienced severe brain injury filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief supporting Terri's right to food, water and treatment.
The disability rights groups that signed the brief include:
Not Dead Yet, ADAPT, American Association of People with Disabilities, Center for Self-Determination, Center on Human Policy at Syracuse University, Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund, Half the Planet Foundation, National Council on Independent Living, National Spinal Cord Injury Association, Self-Advocates Becoming Empowered, TASH, World Association of Persons with Disabilities, and World Institute on Disability. The Hospice Patients' Alliance, along with Dr. James Hall and Rev. Rus Cooper-Dowda, also signed in support of Terri and her parents.
"A judge's order to terminate the life of a woman with severe disabilities is not a private family matter," said attorney Max Lapertosa in a media statement. "Terminating Ms. Schiavo's life support would not be possible without the authority of the courts. This case reflects whether our society and legal system values the lives of people with disabilities equally to those without disabilities."
The issue hits home with Rus Cooper-Dowda, a minister, journalist, and free-lance writer who survived a severe brain injury.
"In 1985, my situation was much like Terri's," Cooper-Dowda wrote. "The hospital staff and my (ex) husband had written me off as being as good as dead, as someone who would never regain any kind of 'meaningful' function."
"Since then, I've earned a Master's degree and had a son. Having a son would have surprised them, too, since those same physicians had earlier pronounced me sterile."