Today marks the eleventh anniversary of the grotesque death by starvation and dehydration of Terri Schindler Schiavo. Her courageous brother wrote today “The inhumanity of what happened to her will never be forgotten.”
And, yet, I suspect, for many pro-lifers, especially those new to our Movement, Terri’s name is only a vague memory, if even that. Eleven years is a long time.
The irony is, as Bobby points out, that his sister’s ghastly death foreshadowed the head-first leap off a moral cliff we see in places like Belgium, the Netherlands, and (perhaps most foreboding) Canada. NRL News Today has written, or reposted, dozens and dozens of stories illustrating how the lives of the medically vulnerable have been recklessly and inhumanely cheapened.
If I may, I would like to use this somber occasion to recall for readers who may not know what happened in 2005 and in the process to update comments I’ve made about Terri, her brave parents, and her siblings. As you will see whenever I looked at Terri, I could never, ever get another death by starvation out of my heart and mind.
When your life revolves around trying to stem the anti-life tide that has swept away over
I had been at National Right to Life only few months when the case of an Indiana baby—“Baby Doe”—became a topic of intense national debate. As the letter to the Movement that we reprint from President Reagan explained, when this little boy was born in 1982, he needed only routine surgery to unblock his esophagus which would allow him to eat. Except Baby Doe had Down syndrome.
“[A] doctor testified, and a judge concurred, that even with the physical problem corrected, Baby Doe would have a ‘non-existent’ possibility for a ‘minimally adequate life,’” President Reagan wrote back in 1984. “The judge let Baby Doe starve and die, and the Indiana Supreme Court sanctioned his decision.”
As I wrote at the time,
“Up until the time that tiny newborn baby died of starvation I took my pro-life commitment very seriously but impersonally. Baby Doe’s unnecessary death forever changed that for me, and I’m sure for many others as well.”
I did not learn of Baby Doe’s lethal plight until near the very end of his very brief life. But it was the exact opposite with Terri Schindler Schiavo’s ghastly ordeal.
When Terri died on March 31, 2005, having been denied nourishment for 13 agonizing day, the 41-year-old’s starvation death brought to an end—in one sense, at least—a tumultuous, eleven-year battle between the Schindler family and Terri’s estranged husband.