Let Us Never Forget

Today marks a dark moment in America’s history. Terri Schiavo succumbed to 13 horrific days of being denied food and water.

Withholding nutrition and hydration is a brutal and sadistic way to kill a human being. It wouldn’t be done to an animal, and if it were, there would be swift retribution. But during March of 2005, Terri Schiavo died from this inhumane court sanctioned death sentence.

Shortly after Terri’s death, I traveled with a film crew to St. Petersburg, Florida to interview Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents and her two siblings Bobby and Suzanne. Our goal was to keep Terri’s memory alive and support their new organization, the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation.

We taped two episodes. The first dispelled the myths surrounding Terri’s condition and death. The second featured their efforts to protect other patients like Terri.

Four years later, they consented to a follow-up interview even though Bob had suffered a stroke which impacted his health. Later, Bobby shared that I was the only person his dad trusted enough to do an interview with the family.

Bob seemed to grieve the most deeply. Men are wired by their Creator with a strong desire to provide for and protect their family. His inability to protect Terri from intentional death left a gapping wound on his heart, and in our follow up interview Bob addressed this.

Joni Eareckson Tada, with the Joni and Friends International Disability Center is both a good friend and one of the nation’s most eloquent spokespersons for the disabled. I asked her to reflect on the anniversary of Terri’s death and she gave this call to arms.

Joni Eareckson Tada

“As I reflect on national trends since the tragic death of Terri Schiavo, I’m calling for a stronger stand in shoring up tougher protections for Americans with cognitive disabilities. Sadly, her death opened a floodgate of policies that have endangered countless Americans with disabilities including making it easier for court-appointed guardians to withhold food and water from those they are charged to protect.”

Currently, I serve as Chairman of the Board of Directors for the organization and asked the family to share some memories about Terri and their dauntless effort to save her life, including what they want Americans to remember about Terri.

Mary said, “As a mother, I wish people would have had the opportunity to know my daughter. Terri was funny, with a contagious laugh, a fighting spirit, and an undeniable will to live.”

Bobby expressed amazement at how deeply his sister continues to impact others. “It has been 16 years since Terri’s death, and I am astonished by the number of people who continue to contact my family, not only deeply disturbed how Terri was deliberately killed, but how she continues to touch hearts and impact the lives of so many.”

Bobby, Mary, Suzanne

Suzanne wants people to know that Terri was loved and valued. “The most important thing for everyone to remember about Terri is that she was a daughter and a sister. She was loved and an important member of our family. And no disability makes someone’s life disposable.”

When asked about their most vivid memory during the battle to save Terri’s life, Mary reflected, “For almost two weeks, my family had to witness Terri being purposely starved and dehydrated to death, and there was nothing we could do to stop it.”

Bobby was impacted by the many others who felt like him. “The countless number of people who were unable to make sense of the fact that our courts would sanction an American citizen with a cognitive disability to be starved and dehydrated to death.”

For Suzanne it was the horrible images that she could never forget. “My most vivid memory is the last few minutes I had with Terri in her room, minutes before she died. That horrific vision will forever be seared into my brain.”

Joni sums it up perfectly. “As never before, may Terri’s passing re-energize the pro-life movement in safeguarding people with disabilities – never should a profound cognitive disability serve as a license to kill!”

Please pray for Terri’s family today as they observe another anniversary punctuated with both cherished and traumatic memories.

Defending innocent human life,

Bradley Mattes
President, Life Issues Institute

Life Issues Institute is dedicated to changing hearts and minds of millions of people through education. For 30 years, organizations and individuals around the world have depended upon Life Issues Institute to provide the latest information and effective tools to protect innocent human life from womb to tomb.

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7 thoughts on “Let Us Never Forget

  1. I have never forgotten the talk that Bobby gave some years ago to the conference of the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children (SPUC) in England. His description of his sister’s death stays with me. It was a privilege to meet Bobby – such a humble man.

  2. Why did the courts order this, and who petitioned it? I really don’t understand how this could have come to happen ! How old was Terri? Was it an in home death? There is alot of unanswered questions with this article!

  3. I remember when That happened. It was horrible to think about what they were doing to her. And I felt so helpless and angry. May God bless her family and grant them peace. And I pray that No other family would have to go through that.

  4. I was there outside praying. I even took off time from work. That was the beginning of the worst part of my disability. It’s been 16 years since I could walk even a little bit. Now I can’t walk at all. What’s going to happen to me? I’m disabled and some people going to treat me like trash.

  5. So sad. A precious innocent soul taken at the hands of our corrupt judicial system. I went through a similar situation with my precious niece in 2018. The head neurosurgeon came into the ICU room and told Ashley (my niece) that she would make it but it would be a long road to recovery. Unlike your situation at the hands of the judicial system, Ashley’s denial to food and water was at the hands of her mom and Palliative Care doctors. Her dad and I chose life for Ashley no matter how long her road to recovery, but her Healthcare Power of Attorney was her mom and we could do nothing but watch Ashley deteriorate. It was and still is very gut wrenching for me and her dad. But she just like your precious daughter/sister/friend is home with our Lord, never to suffer again. You’re in my prayers

  6. I don’t know what we’re called upon to do in situations like that of Terri, where grave, irreparable damage is done to us personally, our loved ones, or our country, unless we act.

    On the one hand, we are bound by our legal system- an unbreakable commitment to law and order,which stands between us and chaos, war, and anarchy.

    And on the other hand, our revulsion of inequity -dark and selfish-dare I say evil- and our seeming duty to serve what God requires of us and what is good.

    What to do?

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