|Terri Schiavo's Right to
By L.A. Morris, senior editorial advisor
The National Ledger
Commentary - The Corner Office
P.O. Box 1212
Apache Junction AZ 85217-1212
If anyone ever deserved a second chance, it's Terri Schiavo, the central figure in a battle for the rights of the handicapped. She has no idea of the controversy swirling about her, and has been unaware of the fight for her life since she collapsed of a potassium deficiency in 1990. As those who follow her case know, there were questions at the time of her collapse as to what caused it that have never been answered. But regardless of the why and how, Terri's collapse starved her brain of oxygen, and she has never been mentally or physically revived past a semi-vegetative state.
Her husband, Michael, tried for a time to help his wife, but gave up after awhile because doctors told him she'd never recover beyond her current state. Two years after her collapse, about 3 months after being awarded $600,000 in a malpractice suit in 1993, Terri's husband Michael began what was to become a 12 year odyssey to have her life ended. He has repeatedly ordered medical staff to withhold treatment for potentially fatal infections, refused her vital ongoing therapy, had her parents and sister blocked from seeing or caring for her, and had her feeding tube either removed or under threat of removal.
In 1997, two months after a judge ruled her feeding tube removed for the first time, Terri's husband Michael announced his engagement to another woman. Since then, no less than six attempts to have Terri's life ended have been made, and with the recent Supreme Court decision not to review her case, she now faces almost certain death at the hands of her husband. Her parents have struggled to have Michael Schiavo removed as her guardian. And activist judges with a penchant for oneupsmanship, along with lawyers with a thirst for euthanasia law, and an ACLU with little regard for civil rights, have turned this case into a travesty of justice while tragically overlooking the most glaring facts.
According to Florida state law, it is a "no fault divorce state requiring only an assertion of an "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage." In other words, you do not need to prove cause for a divorce. The court will issue a decree of divorce by simply stating that the marriage is "irretrievably broken."
In October 2003, lawyers for her parents filed an unsuccessful motion for the divorce of their daughter from Michael Schiavo in an attempt to have him removed as her guardian. It seems extremely logical to ask the question: If Terri were able to speak for herself, would she want to be married to a man who was ready to leave her for dead as soon as he found another woman? Michael Schiavo moved on with his life less than 2 years after Terri's collapse. Now Terri should be allowed to move on with hers. Michael has compromised his own integrity and rights as her husband and guardian by violating his marriage vows. He has engaged himself to another woman while married to a helplessly disabled individual, had children with that woman, and is co-habitating with her as if they were already married. This is in complete violation of every marriage law I can find, and civil liberty, disability rights, and woman's rights advocates should be screaming bloody murder.
Terri should be allowed fully represented due process to protect her rights as a wife, and allowed to divorce the man who, under the most reprehensible of circumstances, has committed adultery against her. He can no longer be trusted to have her best interests in mind, and she has the inalienable right to expect her basic rights as a human being to be honored.
I have searched high and low for Florida law regarding the rights of the disabled in divorce. But it occurred to me that, in Terri's case, it doesn't matter. Michael Schiavo has openly demonstrated that the marriage is irretrievably broken by his own actions. In Florida, the only requirements to getting a divorce are: 1) that the marriage be declared by one of the partners as irretrievably broken, and 2) that the declaring party be a resident of the state of Florida for six (6) months prior to filing the petition. Both of these are requirements are met, one by Michael, the other by Terri. For any lawyer worth his salt, this is a case where law can and should be written.
Terri has the right to move on with her life by divorcing Michael, and having a 50-50 settlement written up for an equitable distribution of leftover assets, including any insurance money realized upon her natural death. This would leave her to the loving care of her parents, who have fought as valiantly as any mother and father would to protect their child, and deserve the right to continue caring for their little girl. We need to allow them the comfort of knowing they did all that could be done to ease Terri's suffering, and to provide her with a dignified life, and death. I would want no less if it were my child.
No one should be allowed to deny anyone unable to speak for themselves the same basic rights as the rest of us. Terri needn't die, and no judge or lawyer should be allowed to starve her to death simply because she's stuck being married to an unfaithful, manipulative man. It's long past time for Terri's rights as a wife and a woman to be honored. When do we give voice to her right to move on?
Someone, please -- help this woman.
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Copyright 2005, The National Ledger.
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Police Report 2-25-1990 Terri's Collapse:
Terri's 1991 Bone Scan: