Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of October 13, 2003
Canadians fight for Terri's life
Disabled Florida woman slated to starve to death
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Canada may be considering an asylum request on behalf of a brain-disabled Florida woman scheduled to die by court-ordered starvation beginning Oct. 15.
Edmonton MP David Kilgour recently made that request on behalf of Terri Schiavo, who has been in a semi-vegetative state for the past 13 years.
Kilgore said he recently filed a letter to Immigration Minister David Coderre asking the minister to consider granting "temporary asylum" to the woman until the matter could be resolved.
"Canada has a reputation for caring about human beings and given all of the facts of the case, as I understand them, it seems to me this is one where Canada should show its human face," Kilgour said from Ottawa Oct. 7. "I realize that this (type of asylum request) is a very rare thing to happen and I hope the minister will show the kind of people and country and government we have in Canada."
Coderre could not be reached for comment Oct. 7 but Susan Scarlett, spokeswoman for the department of citizenship and immigration, said, "a response to Mr. Kilgour's letter would be forthcoming."
Petition for asylum
Mark Pickup, director of HumanLifeMatters, an Edmonton-based ministry for the disabled, said he petitioned Kilgour for asylum on behalf of Schiavo because "as Christians we are supposed to uphold life in the midst of a culture of death."
The disabled right-to-life advocate met Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, in 2001 while speaking at a prayer breakfast in North Carolina.
"The right thing to do here is to offer a chance to a woman that is condemned to die," he said. "If this asylum request succeeds, we will embrace her here. We will give her all the therapies that she has been denied in the U.S., where she is being subjected to discrimination on the basis of her disability."
A judge in Clearwater, Fla., has set Oct. 15 as the date to begin the starvation death of Terri Schiavo, the 39-year-old woman whose husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, is eager to remove the feeding tube his wife depends upon for sustenance.
Probate Judge George Greer of the Pinellas-Pasco Circuit Court also denied a request by the woman's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler of Gulf Port, Fla., asking that their daughter be allowed an eight-week trial of speech, occupational and physical therapy and that she be taught to swallow food so she could be spoon-fed once the feeding tube is removed.
But on Oct. 6 things began to swing in Schindler-Schiavo's direction when Florida Gov. Jeb Bush filed an amicus memorandum into the federal proceedings of the woman, basically siding with her parents' position.
In the 12-page document the governor cites several Florida statutes in support of allowing Schindler-Schiavo to be weaned from her feeding tube and to receive sustenance orally. Bush said that careful consideration should be given to "removing artificial life support and the deliberate killing of a human being by starvation and dehydration."
After a sudden collapse attributed to cardiac arrest in February 1990 at the age of 26, Schiavo suffered brain damage, which cost her the ability to communicate her thoughts and feelings clearly.
Michael Schiavo, her husband, won $750,000 for his wife's future medical care and rehabilitation in a 1992 medical malpractice suit, but has been working since 1993 to have her removed from a feeding tube that provides nutrition and hydration.
But Schiavo, who has resided the previous 13 years in various Florida health care facilities and is currently in a hospice, is far from brain dead.
Terri was 26 years old when she suffered brain damage from a sudden collapse.
Terri receives her food and water by means of a feeding tube. Her other bodily functions are physically stable. Terri smiles, laughs and cries. She recognizes voices and responds.
At times, she vocalizes sounds, trying in her best way to speak. Terri is not on a respirator or any artificial life support. Terri has not had any progressive rehabilitation or arousal therapy in more than 10 years.
Schiavo's husband claims his wife told him to forgo artificial life assistance years before brain damage occurred.
But the woman's parents and siblings have said for years that Terri recognizes them and tries to communicate, and over a dozen prominent doctors and therapists have sworn in testimonies and affidavits that she could be rehabilitated if allowed to receive therapy.
The problem, Pickup and family allege, is that she has been denied proper rehabilitation, despite the funds provided for that purpose. If her feeding tube were removed, Schindler-Schiavo would die by dehydration or starvation in 10 to 14 days.
In a trial, initiated Feb. 11, 2000 by Schiavo's husband, Judge Greer upheld Michael Schiavo's right as legal guardian, allowing him, and not her parents, to select the woman's doctors and the life-extending medical treatments that she is supposed to be receiving.
Schiavo's parents have petitioned against all such rulings based upon the allegation that their daughter's husband may have caused his wife's medical status to suffer through potential abuse and subsequent secrecy about her treatment and location. Nevertheless, an appeals court again sided with Greer's ruling earlier this summer. As a result, the woman's feeding tube was to be removed Aug. 25, and all lifesaving medical treatments were to cease.
As reported by Ability Magazine, the Aug. 25 deadline touched off a frantic attempt on the part of family members and supporters to petition Florida Gov. Bush and the Florida Supreme Court for a hearing. To spare their daughter's life, the Schindlers have turned to the Internet, among other measures, to rally support.
In response to the Schindler's cry for help, more than 27,000 e-mail messages flooded Bush's office asking for his intervention in the Schiavo-Schindler case, Ability Magazine reported. The action prompted Bush to write a letter to Greer recommending that a guardian ad litem be appointed, and that Schiavo-Schindler's medical treatment continues.
But in a subsequent ruling Sept. 11, Greer ruled again in favour of Schindler-Schiavo's husband and guardian, stipulating that Schindler-Schiavo receive no speech therapy for the purpose of learning to receive hydration and nutrition orally. Instead, the judge has ruled that the woman's feeding tube be removed on Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.
Plea for help
Once again, family and friends are asking for the public's help. At stake is whether the courts defer to Michael Schiavo's wishes as legal guardian, or the woman's family and their desire that she survive to receive more aggressive rehabilitation.
"We have to keep Terri alive," Schindler-Schiavo's father Robert Schindler recently said in a public letter. "Terri does not deserve to have her precious life cut short."
Pickup, the HumanLifeMatters director, hopes Bush's most recent intervention may lead the courts to side with the Schindlers.
But he is also hoping Canada will offer asylum to the woman. If that happens, the Christian community must rally together to arrange a new home for Terri, Pickup says. "We can plan for quality physician and nursing care and a church family."