Imagine that your married child or sister suffers an unexplained collapse while home alone with her husband, who becomes her legal guardian. You try to discover what happened to her – you believed her to be a healthy 26-year-old woman – but the only information you receive is her ominous discharge diagnosis from the hospital: hypoxic encephalopathy – brain injury caused by oxygenation starvation to the brain
Your loved one is not dying. She does not suffer from a life-threatening disease. She is not on a machine or “brain dead.” She has not suffered a heart attack and tests show she was not on drugs. In fact, she interacts with you when you visit. After a short time in physical therapy, she even begins to say words.
You offer to take responsibility for your loved one, but after a couple years – in which her husband moves your loved one to another state, receives a substantial jury award, and marries another woman – he moves your loved one to a nursing home, and ultimately denies you the ability to see her. He also petitions the court for permission to deny her food and water – which will result in a painful death by starvation and dehydration – saying she would not want to live in such a condition. Despite an epic fight in the courts, a judge eventually grants this request and for 13 days, you must stand by as your loved one dies a slow and painful death.
Bobby Schindler does not have to imagine this. He lived it. This is a synopsis of the story of his sister, Terri Schiavo, who died in 2005 after a 15-year battle.
“Her name is seared into the national memory as a face of the right-to-life movement,” Schindler says today, “but many are now too young to remember her witness.”
However, the Schindler family will never – can never – forget. In memory of Terri, the family founded the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, whose purpose is “to uphold human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable.” Since its founding in 2005, the Network, where Terri’s mom and sister also work, has advocated for and assisted more than 2,500 medically vulnerable patients and families. The Network’s services – which include patient and family advocacy, attorney and physical crisis referrals, spiritual and emotional support, advanced directive guidance, and ethical guidance – are available to any at-risk individual or family by calling 1-855-300-HOPE (4673) or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
More than a decade after this tragedy, EWTN will commemorate “Terri’s Day” with two special events. First, Philadelphia Archbishop Charles J. Chaput will celebrate Mass at 8 a.m. ET, Friday, April 7, with encores at noon ET and 7 p.m. ET. The Mass is part of an annual day of prayer and outreach, which focuses on medically vulnerable patients and families who must fight for their right to proper care. Archbishop Chaput will speak during the Mass about issues impacting America’s medically vulnerable.
Father Mitch Pacwa will also interview Bobby Schindler and Archbishop Chaput about the fate of individuals who are treated as less worthy of care and medical treatment by the healthcare industry. However, you will have to wait to see that one. It’s scheduled to air at 8 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 28 on “EWTN Live” – so mark your calendars.
Thanks to her loving family, Terri’s life and legacy means that the medically vulnerable now have hope of receiving the help that Terri herself was denied in her lifetime.
Note: On this same day as Terri’s special Mass, the Network is pleased to present two related programs. First, at 10 a.m. ET, Friday, April 7, EWTN will air “Death With Dignity? A Closer Look at Euthanasia.” This program provides an exploration of the moral, political, and personal aspects of the euthanasia and features candid interviews with proponents of euthanasia as well as poignant accounts of victims of involuntary euthanasia.
Second, don’t miss “Vulnerable: The Euthanasia Deception,” a chilling look at the effects recent euthanasia and assisted suicide laws have had on society. This program, featuring personal testimonies and expert legal and medical analysis, airs 5 p.m. ET, Friday, April 7.