Fighting for Terri Part 6

One of the most pervasive myths about Terri Schindler-Schiavo's condition is that she is in a "persistent vegetative state," which is, according to the definition assigned when the term was coined in 1972, "wakefulness without awareness". It is most commonly mis-associated with the concept of brain death, wherein the victim has no higher brain function whatsoever, and must be maintained by life support equipment.

Terri is not in a persistent vegetative state, as videos available at the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation website attest. She responds to her mother, smiling brightly whenever she enters the room. She is able to track a balloon held up by a physician. She responded to a swab test, her face evincing dislike of the intrusion. She opens her eyes upon request, and makes gutteral responses to questions posed to her.

This woman is not a "vegetable". She is severely limited due to the fact that she has received next to no rehabillitation in the wake of brain injury, but we must nevertheless remember that multiple doctors have signed affidavits attesting that Terri may well increase functionality with rehabilitation.

Time is running out to save Terri. Nutrition and hydration are to be denied her starting this Friday. Judge Greer has even ruled that she may not be given anything by mouth (horrific irony: it is partially the contention that Terri cannot feed herself which fuels Michael Schiavo's fight to see her dead; apparently, Greer is so eager to see her pass on that he would deny her even the chance at a last-minute miracle of self-sufficiency).

There are several things to do if we are to rally together to save Terri, and others like her. The website linked above has a list of Action Items for us to do.

Fortunately, House Bill 701 has passed through committee at this time, and is scheduled to be heard on the floor by Thursday. Floridians: get in contact with your representatives to get them to push this through favorably -- not just for Terri, but for anyone who is disabled without a Living Will in writing.

Not so good, but still defeatable, Florida House Bill 523 seeks to repeal prohibitions from allowing hearsay from interested parties to be heard in disabled-persons guardianship proceedings. In other words, it would allow self-serving hearsay testimony to be considered by the judicial system in cases like Terri's, where guardians or would-be guardians can get away with claiming that the incapacitated "once commented" that they would or would not like life support measures.

If you live in Florida, and oppose this bill, this post at BlogsforTerri has contact details so that you may express your displeasure.

At the national level, the Incapacitated Person's Legal Protection Act needs to get pushed through as quickly as possible. Citizens outside Florida, who want to make sure that Terri's case has its chance in Federal Court need to get in touch with their local representatives to rally their support for the bill. Go here to locate your elected Representatives and Senators. Get on the horn with them today.

If Terri Schindler-Schiavo is starved to death, it will be a serious miscarriage of justice, a stain upon our national soul, and a dangerous precedent, as future cases regarding the fate of the incapacitated among us may well hinge off Judge Greer's misguided rulings.

A civilized culture DOES NOT starve the disabled to death. This is a cruel end which the public would loudly damn if it were applied to a death row inmate, or even a dog. Why is it "all right" to do it to Terri and others in her condition who cannot speak up for themselves, and who have left no written Living Will in their wake? A civilized society must assume that all citizens desire life, unless someone has left written instructions to the contrary.

posted by Linda on March 15, 2005 06:12 PM

Pray that history won't repeat:

In 1984, a baby in Indiana was born with Downs Syndrome. Steve Taylor wrote a heartbreaking song about this.

"A baby was born in Bloomington, Indiana with Down's Syndrome, and despite numerous outside pleas for adoption, the parents and doctors agreed to allow Baby Doe to starve to death. I began writing this song with a sense of outrage that points a finger at those responsible and demands justice. But the more I thought about what had happened, the more I realized that I shared in the blame--that my silence had helped to clear the way for Baby Doe's suffering and death. 'Baby Doe' is only a song of hope if it causes people to take a stand and say, 'Never again.'"

-- Steve Taylor

Posted by: Greg at March 15, 2005 08:48 PM