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Remembering Terri Schiavo

Joy from despair: Bobby and Kristina Schindler on their recent visit to Brisbane. The late Terri Schiavo’s brother was a keynote speaker at the recent Cherish Life Queensland’s Hope for the Future Conference. Photo: Paul Dobbyn

Joy from despair: Bobby and Kristina Schindler on their recent visit to Brisbane. The late Terri Schiavo’s brother was a keynote speaker at the recent Cherish Life Queensland’s Hope for the Future Conference. Photo: Paul Dobbyn

By Paul Dobbyn

TRULY the Lord works in mysterious ways as Bobby Schindler, brother to the late Terri Schiavo, testified when he spoke at Cherish Life Queensland’s Hope For the Future Conference in Brisbane.

Just over a decade ago, he and the rest of his family were devastated by his sister’s agonising death 13 days after her hydration and nutrition systems were removed on the order of a Florida court.

Mrs Schiavo’s death in 2005 followed a series of court battles which started soon after the 26-year-old collapsed with a neurological injury at her Florida home in the early hours of February 25, 1990.

Mr Schindler, determined his sister’s death would not be in vain, set up the Philadelphia-based Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network.

From this tireless crusade, Mr Schindler found new love and support from Kristina whom he married last year.

“I first met Kristina speaking at a pro-life meeting in Cincinnati about five years ago,” he said.

“This was through a mutual friend who was organising the event.

“Kristina was married at the time but her husband sadly developed an aggressive cancer several years ago.

“We met up again soon after his death and two years later were married.

“It’s our one-year anniversary tomorrow – we were married by Archbishop of Philadelphia (Charles) Chaput.

“Without the support of Kristina and my Catholic faith, it would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, to continue the battle to save other families from suffering as mine did.”

Mr Schindler gave an idea of topics he would cover as keynote speaker at CLQ’s Hope for the Future Conference the following day, May 16.

He and other pro-life advocates spoke in Queensland’s Parliamentary Annex.

The speakers were: Carolyn Mongan – All in the name of choice?; Dr Terry Kent – RU-486: It can be reversed!; Paul Ninnes – Real Talk; Paul O’Rourke – Changing hearts with Emily’s Voice; and Teresa Streckfuss – Why carry a dying child?

“The thing that needs to be remembered is that Terri was not dying when her hydration and nutrition were removed,” Mr Schindler said.

“She was on a ventilator for the first few weeks after her collapse but was ultimately taken off mechanical life support and had been breathing on her own ever since.

“Terri had also been able to start saying a few words after intensive therapy.

“All of this should have been enough to put her out of harm’s way but it wasn’t.

“After only a year of therapy, Terri was ‘warehoused’, that is, she received no further treatment of this kind.

“Yet since then I have seen people recover from similar medical situations to Terri’s.”

Mr Schindler said a combination of court actions by Mrs Schiavo’s  guardian and husband Michael, and what were most likely cost-saving measures in her hospice care, led to the decision which ultimately caused his sister’s death.

“On March 18, 2005, my sister, Terri Schiavo, began her thirteen-day agonising death after the feeding tube – supplying her food and water – was removed,” he said.

“Terri was cognitively disabled and had difficulty swallowing and therefore needed a feeding tube.

“Terri was not on any ‘life support’, nor was she sick or dying.

“Nonetheless, she received her death sentence ordered by Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer, of Pinellas County, Florida.”

Mr Schindler said since his sister’s death things had “gotten worse” in the treatment of patients in similar situations.

“Indeed, the calls from families for help have increased, and increased significantly, as the years have passed,” he said.

Mr Schindler said “money which is at the root of most evil” was a major factor.

For example, he suspected the harvesting of organs in the healthy for huge profits was a growing problem.

“The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network seeks to raise public awareness of the looming culture of death, and to educate the public about care potentialities,” he said.

“These events can just as easily occur in Australia as they now are in the United States.

“Most important, however, is to help families in situations similar to what we experienced – loved ones in danger of being killed, like Terri.

“What will be forever seared in my memory is the look of utter horror on my sister’s face when my family visited her just after she died.”

While visiting Queensland as guest of CLQ, Mr Schindler also spoke in Bundaberg last Sunday (May 17) and Mackay on Tuesday (May 19).

He was then due to speak at a Family Council of Victoria event in Melbourne.

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