Five years ago today, the world watched in stunned sadness as a young woman who had been declared to be in a “persistent vegetative state” was intentionally starved to death by order of a Florida court.
Terri Schindler Schiavo was 27-years old when she collapsed in her St. Petersburg home on in 1990. After efforts at rehabilitation were not successful, her husband, Michael Schiavo petitioned the court to have her feeding tube removed. Her parents objected to the starvation/dehydration death of their daughter, and thus began a long legal fight to save Terri’s life that played out dramatically in the public square.
Operation Rescue joined with the Christian Defense Coalition and numerous other pro-life groups in the spring of 2005 for a vigil outside the Pinnellas Park nursing home where Terri was held. While Christians prayed, protested and drew the public eye to Terri’s plight, her family engaged in every desperate legal option available to prevent Michael from killing their daughter, sister, and loved one. Their brave efforts involved the Florida legislature, both houses of Congress and President George W. Bush, who personally signed an order moving Terri’s case to the jurisdiction of the Federal Court. Once the U.S. Supreme Court denied hearing the case, legal options were exhausted.
It was a drama that was heavily covered, sometimes minute by minute by the news media. Americans were transfixed by the dramatic plight of this young woman and the family who fought so valiantly to save her.
Finally, in March, 2005, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, and she passed away on March 31, 2005, having suffered death by dehydration by order of Judge George Greer.
Terri’s ordeal caused Americans to stop and reflect of the value of each individual life, and on the system that would order the death of a woman whose only crime was suffering brain damage. In the end, the brave fight for Terri’s life by her family and by pro-life Christians who came in droves to Pinellas Park, Florida, to stand by Terri that warm spring five years ago did make a difference. They pricked the conscience of America. It was a start.
However, today, more people who share Terri’s condition continue to suffer death starvation/dehydration in nursing homes and other facilities across the nation. Few protections have been implemented for the protection of the innocent men and women who cannot speak for or defend themselves. Five years after Terri’s tragic and brutal death, we are reminded that there is still much work to do in her memory.
May Terri rest in peace, but for as us, our struggle continues until all innocent life is valued and protected.
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