By Lori Bredemeyer, Managing Editor
The last time doctors say Terri Schiavo was conscious of her surroundings, George H.W. Bush was president, the Berlin Wall and the Soviet Union had just fallen, and The Simpsons had just premiered.
She has missed out on 15 years of her life, and her parents want to prolong her dismal existence.
Terri suffered severe brain damage in 1990 when a chemical imbalance caused her heart to stop beating, cutting off oxygen to her brain. She can breathe on her own now, but she is being kept alive with a feeding tube, and court-appointed doctors have said she is in a persistent vegetative state.
Her husband, Michael, agrees with the doctors and wants to disconnect her feeding tube, which will allow Terri to finally die. Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, disagree and have been locked in a bitter battle with Michael since the late ’90s over the issue.
Terri’s feeding tube has been removed twice, once for two days in 2001 and once for six days in October 2003. The second time, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush rushed Congress to approve a new law that allowed him to require doctors to reinsert the tube. The Supreme Court later said the law was unconstitutional and refused to reinstate it last month.
In the most recent development, Circuit Court Judge George Greer extended a two-day stay to March 18, giving the Schindlers three more weeks to file appeals and order medical tests. The decision was made Feb. 25, the 15th anniversary of the day Terri collapsed. If everything continues to move forward, the tube will be removed March 18.
Terri’s family has suffered emotionally, physically and financially through these years, and Terri herself also has endured enough.
Michael says Terri never wanted to be kept alive artificially, and as her husband and legal guardian, he knows best what she would have wanted. He has the right to remove the feeding tube, and the courts, her parents and Bush should step out of the way and allow this to happen.
Family members turn off the machines that keep their loved ones alive every day when they believe recovery is unlikely. With our technology, many people could be kept alive for years without having any normal brain function. But to spare the person’s dignity and save the family’s emotions and finances, families often choose, sometimes very quickly, to turn off machines and end the suffering of everyone.
Terri has been in this state for 15 years. She isn’t the same person that her family knew and loved, and she most likely never will be.
Instead of drawing this drama out longer, on March 18, the courts, the Schindlers and the doctors should allow the feeding tube to be disconnected so that Terri can finally die in peace.