Terri Schiavo Wouldn't Go Against Pope's Wishes, Parents
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
July 22, 2004
TAMPA, FLORIDA--If she could speak for herself, Terri Schiavo would not want to die by starvation because it would violate the pope's recently stated position on euthanasia, her parents said Tuesday.
Bob and Mary Schindler filed a court motion asking a state judge to stop Michael Schiavo's attempts to have his wife's feeding tube removed. The Schindlers want Mr. Schiavo removed as Terri's guardian. They claim that he has abused and exploited their daughter, and that he wants her to die for his own reasons, not hers.
Mr. Schiavo has insisted for years that his wife told him before her 1990 brain injury that she would not want to live "by artificial means". He petitioned the courts in 1998 to allow him to remove the gastronomy tube that provides Terri with food and water.
Her feeding tube was removed last October under a court order. It was replaced six days later under "Terri's Law", which was rushed through the Legislature by Governor Jeb Bush. Mr. Schiavo then sued the governor for violating Terri's privacy rights and the Florida Constitution. That suit has been accepted by the Florida Supreme Court, which will hear arguments on the case August 31.
In the court documents filed Tuesday, the Schindlers claim that Terri, a Catholic who was raised in the Church and who received 12 years of religious schooling and instruction, "does not want to commit a sin of the gravest proportion by foregoing treatment.''
They referred to a statement by Pope John Paul II on March 20 in which he condemned as immoral the practice of withdrawing food and water from people who are legally incapacitated because of severe brain injuries. Providing food and water is not artificial medical intervention, the pope said, but is natural, ordinary and appropriate for any person, regardless of disability or illness.
"If this is knowingly and deliberately carried out, this would result in a true euthanasia by omission," the pontiff said during a conference on ethical dilemmas in medicine.
Pat Anderson, the Schindlers' attorney said, "Terri wants to live. Terri wants to do what the pope has instructed her to do, which is basically what God has instructed her to do."
Mr. Schiavo's attorneys argued that it would be "pure speculation" to assume what Terri might say or think about the pope's position.
Also on Tuesday, Pinellas Circuit Court Judge George W. Greer ruled that the Schindlers can question under oath Mr. Schiavo and the fiancée with whom he has fathered two children. Greer said videotaped depositions from the two could be taken in early August, but that no copies could be distributed.
Mr. Schiavo and some doctors have claimed that Terri has been in a "persistent vegetative state" -- that she is not aware of her surroundings and cannot improve -- since she collapsed and her brain was without oxygen for several minutes 14 years ago. Terri's parents and other medical professionals believe that she is aware of her environment, that she tries to interact with them, and that she could improve with therapies.
Disability groups have been actively following Terri's situation for several years. Many see her case as one of thousands in which the rights of a person with certain disabilities to continue living are compromised or ignored by third parties -- such as guardians and health care professionals -- who would rather let them die for their own reasons, and by courts that have placed privacy concerns above a person's right to live.
"Pope Calls Removal Of Feeding Tubes 'Immoral'" (Inclusion Daily Express -- March 25, 2004)
"Terri Schiavo's Right To Live" (Inclusion Daily Express Archives)