March 31 marks eight years since Terri Schindler Schiavo’s death. Terri passed away after being deprived of all forms of nutrition and hydration for nearly 14 days. The passage of time has not eased the fact that Terri’s death was a profound injustice.
Terri’s case still evokes strong emotions: grief for the loss of her life and horror at the precedent set by allowing her to die as she did. Our legal system allowed a helpless woman who was disabled, but conscious and not suffering from any life-threatening condition, to be starved and dehydrated to death despite strong evidence that she would have wished to live.
Legally, the Schiavo case hinged on the ruling made by the Circuit Court for Pinellas County, Florida on the sufficiency of the evidence. The court held that evidence presented by Terri’s husband Michael concerning casual statements Terri had made in the past were sufficient “clear and convincing” evidence of Terri’s wish to die rather than be dependent on a feeding tube for sustenance. At the same time, the court refused to consider countervailing evidence of Terri’s wishes presented by her parents, who were convinced their daughter wanted to live. Life Legal Defense Foundation (LLDF) was honored to be part of the legal effort to support the Schindler family effort to save Terri. (More information on Terri’s case is available at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network).
“The law is intended to protect the innocent and vulnerable among us,” comments Dana Cody, LLDF’s President and Executive Director, “In Terri’s case, the courts made a mockery of the legal standards intended to protect people like Terri. On the anniversary of Terri’s tragic death, LLDF reaffirms its commitment to protecting all people, especially if they are unable to speak for themselves due to age or disability.”
For information on how to protect yourself should you become incapacitated, take a look at LLDF’s sample Advance Directive.
If you are an attorney with an interest in representing those who are facing disputes over the provision of life-sustaining care, LLDF has a seminar to help prepare you for the legal issues you will face, “Active Killing: What the Law Allows;” the seminar will be available online in the near future. Notification of its availability will be sent to our email list. If you are not on the mail list, please subscribe below, or contact the LLDF office.