WHEN TERRI SCHIAVO collapsed in 1990, causes unknown, she could have had no idea that 13 years later people the world over would know her name and care very much about whether she lived or died. Yet what began as a private tragedy--a vivacious young woman stricken in the very prime of her life with a brain injury that left her profoundly disabled--has become a story heard round the world. (see No Mercy in Florida)
In case you are one of the few people who still do not know about the controversy, Terri's husband Michael requested--and received from Judge George Greer of the 6th Circuit Court in Clearwater, Florida--the right to dehydrate Terri to death by removing her feeding tube. This despite open and notorious financial and personal conflicts of interest and acts taken in disregard of Terri's welfare that should have caused Michael to be removed as her guardian. These conflicts include his engagement to a woman with whom he has one baby with another on the way and his refusal to allow efforts at rehabilitation that might allow her to eat without the feeding tube--all despite promises to a medical malpractice jury that he would attempt to rehabilitate her. Instead, once the jury award was received, Michael refused all rehabilitation, forcing Terri to simply lie in a bed for 10 years.
Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have fought for their daughter's life tenaciously, spending virtually every dime they have. But over five years, the courts, one-by-one-by-one, turned their
backs. And despite testimony by credible medical experts that Terri might still relearn to eat by mouth, Judge Greer refused to even allow her that opportunity. Terri's feeding tube was pulled, per Judge Greer's order, on October 15, 2003.
In most cases, that would have been that. But the Schiavo case is no normal case. While the story was virtually ignored by the mainstream media--perhaps because the case illustrates vividly the dangers of the so-called "right to die"--talk radio once again rose to the fore and generated a firestorm of opposition to the dehydration. Led by nationally syndicated radio host Glenn Beck, and including other conservative and Christian talk radio hosts such as Janet Parshall, Sean Hannity, Jane Chastain, and Janet Folger, and promoted vigorously by the nation's politically liberal disability rights community as well as by numerous Catholic bloggers, a grass-roots movement in the last few months has produced tens of thousands of emails, phone calls, and letters to Governor Jeb Bush's office begging him to intervene to save Terri's life.
BUSH WAS CLEARLY MOVED BY TERRI'S PLIGHT. He wanted to do the right thing but hesitated, doubting he had the legal authority to order Terri's food and water restored. First, he wrote a letter to Judge Greer asking him to reconsider and appoint a guardian ad litem for Terri. But there had already been a guardian ad litem appointed in this case who had recommended that Terri not be dehydrated. Judge Greer ignored the recommendation, and now Terri no longer has a guardian ad litem. True to form, Greer also ignored the governor.