Terri Schiavo Is Not A Vegetable By Mary Beth Bonacci
One of the disadvantages of
writing a column like this is the lag time between creation and publication. As
I write this, Terri Schiavo is entering the fifth day of her forced starvation.
By the time you read this, she will either be back on her feeding tube, or she
will be dead. I pray that it's the former. But, regardless of the outcome of
this case, the information given about Terri by the media has been so grossly
distorted that I simply must do what I can to correct the record.
The public has been told that
Terri Schiavo is a "vegetable" - a shell of a person in what is called a
"persistent vegetative state" (PVS). They say that her brain is "mush" (an
actual quote), and that she is unaware of her environment and unable to
communicate at even the most basic level. We are also told that she had
expressed her desire to be removed from life support if she were ever in such a
state. Her husband, supposedly out of love for her, claims to be striving to
fulfill her wishes and relieve her of the burdensome life she leads. Her poor,
misguided parents, on the other hand, are portrayed as delusional saps who canít
let go. They desperately cling to the false hope Terri will somehow "pull out of
Where shall I start? First of
all, Terri's brain is not "mush." She is able to communicate. People in a
"persistent vegetative state" make meaningless noises and movements. Those who
haven't studied the case closely dismiss her actions as typical PVS activity.
But numerous people, including three nurses charged with her care, have
testified to the contrary. One nurse testified that Terri clearly said "hi" to
her whenever she entered the room. She said that Terri also told the nursing
staff she was in pain by saying something that sounded like "pay." (She couldn't
apparently pronounce the "n" sound.) She had distinct signals to notify nurses
when she had soiled her adult diaper or started her period.
Most heartbreaking of all,
Terriís attorney reports that, the day the feeding tube was removed, she looked
directly at Terri and said, "If you could just say 'I want to live,' this would
all be over." Terri immediately became agitated, and began loudly saying, "I
waaaaa . . . I waaaa . . ."
Second, Terri is not
completely reliant on the feeding tube. She is able to swallow water. Nurses
have testified that she had also been fed orally, but that her husband Michael
had ordered she be fed by tube instead. And, chillingly, Judge Greer's order
didn't just require that the feeding tube be removed. It expressly forbids
anyone from feeding her orally, from giving her water, or even putting ice chips
to her mouth.
That, my friends, isn't just
"removing extraordinary means." It is an active order to starve someone to
This is made all the more
chilling by the fact that, before this starvation began, Terri wasn't dying. She
was simply a disabled woman who needed assistance in order to eat.
But isn't that what she
wanted? It certainly doesn't look that way to me. She had no written directives.
Her husband claims that she had privately expressed her wishes to him. But there
were no witnesses to that conversation, and several of her friends have
testified to the contrary. Apparently she had been vocal in her opposition to
Karen Ann Quinlan's parents' decision to take their daughter off her respirator.
As Terri allegedly said, "Where there's life, there's hope."
Why would her husband say such
a thing? Well, a disturbing pattern is emerging there, too. Terri's brother and
several friends have testified that Terri had expressed to them her intention to
divorce Michael. They had a "violent" fight on Feb. 24, 1990, the night before
her - what would one call it - incident? She was found, in the early morning
hours, on the hallway floor with her hands around her neck. The cause of her
brain damage has never been determined. Michael has ordered those medical
records sealed. Michael Schiavo, two years later, won a $1.5 million settlement,
which he pledged would go to Terri's care. All of her rehabilitative therapy
stopped immediately thereafter, by Michaelís order.
Several nurses have testified
that Michael's behavior around the nursing home was odd. He would frequently ask
"Is she dead yet?" and "When is that b---- going to die?" Nurses who made
positive notations on Terri's chart found those notations removed by the next
day. For a long time, Michael instructed that there be no sunlight, no radio and
no television in Terri's room.
Since the early 1990s, Michael
has been living with another woman with whom he has fathered two children?
This is not a "right to die"
case. This is a "right to kill a disabled woman who can't speak for herself"
case. God help our nation if this is the way we choose to treat our weakest and
most defenseless members.