Nine years ago, most of North America was captivated by the legal drama surrounding Terri (Schindler) Schiavo. The Florida woman sustained severe brain injuries in 1990 after her brain was deprived of oxygen. As a result, Schiavo relied on a feeding tube for nutrition and hydration. Schiavo did not have a living will. Her estranged husband Michael, and parents Mary and Bob Schindler, became involved in a heated legal controversy over Schiavo’s fate that would last a decade and a half. While the Schindlers wished to care for her, Michael Schiavo maintained that Terri would not have wanted to live in such an incapacitated state. The feeding tube was removed on March 18th, 2005. Thirteen days later, on March 31, Terri Schiavo died of extreme dehydration.
It has been nine years since many pro-life activists have heard from Terri’s family, but her death has not put an end to their mission to advocate for the dignity of every human being. Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, told The Interim that “we’ve been very active. Shortly after Terri’s death, we established a non-profit.” Originally known as the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network exists to “help families in a similar situation as ours.” They take “thousands” of calls from families of people who face feeding tube removal, which would deprive them of food and water. The Network can direct clients to a variety of attorneys, depending on the state in which they live. The organization has connections in 300 American cities as well as approximately nine other countries.
Schindler called Bill 52, the “medical aid in dying” legislation which recently passed in Quebec, “indicative of a culture of death” and greater euthanasia legalization movement occurring across the US and internationally. These activists are “doing what they can…to put the vulnerable at risk.” His organization does not usually deal with “assisted suicide” measures, however. Instead, the focus in on food and water, which are no longer considered “ordinary care” for those with severe disabilities.
The pro-life movement has seen a huge increase in youth involvement over the past few years. Can the anti-euthanasia facet of the pro-life movement expect the same? “I think so. The pro-life movement has been wonderful in establishing a variety of organizations for youth to be active against abortion.” Schindler credits the work of groups such as Students for Life of America, and suggests that activists who focus on euthanasia have been given “a model to follow.” Young people can embrace this aspect as readily as anti-abortion activism if they are able to work with groups who educate the public. Public knowledge of euthanasia and related issues is becoming increasingly important. “It’s happening much more than people realize.” he said.
Ultimately, Schindler believes that the cure for the anti-human mindset in Western society is “to find God again. Much of our society, nation, & world is detached from faith in Christ & God. Therefore, we place more value on material things than on human life.” We need to educate the public, raise awareness, and change hearts. “People with disabilities and the elderly do not lose their dignity or value over a physical change. We’ve become a ‘quality of life’ society. When you devalue life through abortion and euthanasia, it’s just going to put more people at risk.” Schindler paraphrased Mother Teresa as he described the role many pro-life advocates play: “All we can do is speak the truth. People will accept or reject it.”