Revisiting the Schiavo Case

Article excerpt


Among the Democratic Party leaders rallying around Ned Lamont against their former vice-presidential candidate, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, is a different kind of celebrity, Michael Schiavo the former husband of the late Terri Schiavo. His indication to what he claimed were her wishes drove him to succeed finally in removing her feeding tube.

Mr. Schiavo pointedly reminded Connecticut voters that Mr. Lieberman has supported the president and congressional Republicans in passing emergency legislation involving federal courts in an attempt to save Terri Schiavo's life while he, Michael Schiavo, was respecting her wishes which she could no longer communicate to die.

Connecticut voters were not informed that Democrats as well as Republicans were in favor of intervention by federal courts, including Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, who is deeply knowledgeable about disability rights.

Nor, of course, did Mr. Schiavo, while on the hustings, mention that when the feeding tube was removed, Terri Schiavo was not terminal, was breathing naturally on her own and, according to several of the neurologists who had examined her (others disagreed), was not in a persistent vegetative state. And not only her parents and siblings witnessed that though she could not speak, Terri was responsive.

I covered the Terri Schiavo case for more than four years, going against nearly all of the other media in emphasizing and documenting that this was not a "right to die" case, but a disability-rights case. And that's why many leading disability-rights organizations filed legal briefs unreported by most of the press on her behalf.

Terri Schiavo was indeed brain-damaged, but her husband had stopped all testing and rehabilitation for her in 1993 (Terri died in March 2005). For years, Michael Schiavo while "devoted" to his wife's wishes was living with another woman, with whom he had two children. (He has since married her.) As for what Terri Schiavo's wishes were if the time came when she could not speak for herself in the winter 2005 issue of the University of Minnesota Law School's "Constitutional Commentary," Notre Dame Law School professor O. Carter Snead reports that, at a January 2000 trial, five witnesses testified on whether she would have declined artificial nutrition and hydration (water) in the state she was in.

Terri's mother and a close friend of Terri said (as another friend has also confirmed) that Terri would have wanted these basic life needs. …