Saturday, February 26, 2005

The New Crisis E-Letter Is Out

And it's mostly about Terri, with some remarks by yours truly, such as this regarding the lack of leadership coming from the Bishop of St. Petersburg, Robert Lynch:
"To put it bluntly," Fr. Johansen told me, "Bishop Lynch has been invisible on this matter for the last couple years.

Brian Saint-Paul, the editor of Crisis, also pays me the compliment of calling my Janaury 2004 Crisis article "Killing Terri Schiavo" "the single best overview of the debate" he's seen.

I also offer some thoughts as to what we can do in this situation to help, such as:

"Pray, not just for Terri but for Michael Schiavo and his lawyer, George Felos. After all, people's hearts can be turned."

Since the ruling comes down [yesterday] -- a Friday in Lent -- Catholics have a special opportunity to offer up a sacrifice. Don't underestimate the power of this season."

You can subscribe to the free Crisis e-letter here.

Another Way You Can Help

Several people have e-mailed me asking if I needed help with my travel expenses.

Well, as I wrote last week, this trip was originally planned as a vacation to visit my Mom (who lives near Orlando), with a side trip to visit the Schindlers. Obviously, I wouldn't ask anyone to subsidize my trip to visit Mom, as worthy a woman as she is.

However, with the developments in Terri's situation turning out the way they have, I've had to make changes in my plans in order to be able to spend more time with the Schindlers. So I am incurring additional expenses for travel, lodging, etc., that I hadn't planned on. I've also had to change my plane reservations, and that was a major expense.

So, if you'd like to help out, I'll gladly accept it. As in October of 2003, any moneys I receive over and above my additional expenses will be donated to The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation. St. Blog's was very generous back '03, with a contribution of over $2,000 going to Terri's Fight.

If you want to make a contribution, you can do so via PayPal. Just click on the PayPal icon below:

You can use either a credit card or, if you're a PayPal member, an "instant transfer" from your checking account. It's better to use the instant transfer if you can, because I get charged a fee for credit card transactions.

If you're not comfortable with doing the on-line thing, send me an e-mail and I'll tell you how to send me a check the old-fashioned way.

Thank you very much!

How Can He Continue As Guardian?

That's the question a well-respected neurologist asked me yesterday about Michael Schiavo.

I was interviewing him for an article I'm working on about Terri, and he readily admitted that up until the last week or so, he hadn't followed her case very closely. He told me that he had the impression that the case had become a vehicle for the "right-to-die" movement (which it certainly is). He also said that given the Schindlers' willingness to take care of Terri, he couldn't understand why there was even talk of ending her life. "In the medical community", he told me, "there's generally a default position to preserve the patient's life in doubtful cases, especially when there are family members willing to bear the burden of caring for the patient."

In the course of our conversation, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused these tests.

There was a moment of dead silence.

"How can he continue as guardian?", the neurologist said in a tone of utter incredulity. "He refused a non-invasive test? How can they be debating a life and death decision without these tests?"

He explained to me that the use of the MRI and PET scans are considered standard for diagnosing brain injuries. He told me that he wouldn't dream of making a diagnosis in a case like Terri's without those tests. I told him that CT scans had been done, and were the basis for the finding of PVS.

The doctor snorted, and said, "A head CT is useful in cases of trauma, in an emergency room situation, but it only gives you a tenth of the information an MRI does." He said, "people trying to do the right thing want the best and most complete information available. We don't have that in Terri's case."

He said, "I can't believe intelligent people are debating this woman's life without these tests."

Doctor, you're not the only one wondering...

So Michael and Judge Greer, just why won't you permit an MRI to be done on Terri?

I'm In Florida

Well, I arrived in Florida OK Thursday night. I spent Thursday night with my Mom, then went down to Tampa.

Sorry not have put up anything 'til now, but my laptop chose yesterday morning, of all times, to have a meltdown on me. So I've been incommunicado (at least on the web) since then.

I'll try to get some posts up over the next few days, but not having the laptop is a major hindrance.

By now I'm sure you've all heard about the three-week "stay" on the removal of Terri's feeding tube. The good news about this, of course, is that Terri has a three week reprieve, and the Schindlers have more time to pursue other options, while Terri is safe for the present.

The bad news is that Judge Greer seems more determined than ever to put the mechanism of death into motion. Mary Schindler told me of Judge Greer's remarks: "He said there would be no more stays, no more motions, no more delays."

"No more stays" or "delays", Judge Greer? We'll see about that.

Thursday, February 24, 2005

I Leave For Florida Today

As I mentioned last week, I am travelling to Florida. This trip started out as an ordinary visit to see my Mom in Orlando, with a visit to the Schindlers "on the side". Now, obviously, I've changed my plans around so as to be with the Schindlers as much as possible. I'll be arriving, perhaps by Providence, just in time for the moment of decision Friday.

I'll be there, on hand with Bob & Mary when the hearing is held. I'll be there, on the "front line", with those keeping vigil for Terri. And I'll keep you posted as to further developments.

Blogging will be scarce until sometime tomorrow morning, as I travel this afternoon. Keep Terri (and me) in your prayers.

Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Terri's Reprieve Extended Until Friday Afternoon


Surprise Intervention At Hearing Today

Mary Schindler informed me a little while ago that Judge Greer has extended the stay on removal of Terri's feeding tube (news story here) until 5:00 PM Friday. Judge Greer did not make any rulings today, but said he needed more time to consider the arguments, and would issue a ruling on Friday.

In a surprise move which, so far, none of the news services seem to have reported, an attorney from the Florida Department of Children & Family was present in Judge Greer's courtroom, and indicated that that Department intended to intervene in Terri's case.

Mary Schindler said that she and her family, as well as their attorney David Gibbs, did not expect this development. She told me that the DCF intervention was not made at their behest. "None of us have been in contact with them, and they hadn't contacted us before today", Mary said. "We've been after them for years to step in and investigate, but so far they hadn't done anything."

When I asked Mary if she thought that the DCF intervention was put in motion by Governor Bush, she said "I think that's possible, but I don't know. The first I knew of it was in court today, and we're still trying to find out what it means."

As Mary described the proceedings, apparently the DCF attorney at one point announced her presence, and presented Judge Greer with some papers, which she described as indicating the Agency's intent to intervene in Terri's case. The DCF attorney then asked if she could address the court. Judge Greer's repsonse, Mary said, was "Absolutely not." Judge Greer then made some remark about the papers "being on [his] desk", but indicated that he was not necessarily going to take official notice of them, saying "I don't know if these have been properly filed or not."

Mary told me that the DCF attorney indicated that their intent to intervene and investigate was based on "abuse". Whether that remark referred to the allegations that Terri's condition is a result of Michael's abuse of Terri, or to his actions as Terri's guardian, is not clear.

At this point, the Schindlers themselves are trying to obtain more information about this development. As I learn more, I will pass it along here.

Will the Department of Children and Family successfully intervene? That could be the ray of hope the Schindlers have been praying for.

Update (7:45 PM EST): News Stories on DCF Intervention

The news of the DCF intervention has started appearing on the news services:

Fox News Story(based on AP wire)
LifeNews Story
Reuters Dispatch

The Schindlers are "elated" at the prospect of the DCF intervention. Predictably, Michael Schiavo's attorney George Felos is unhappy, saying that the intervention "reeks of the intervention of politics into the case and is an affront to the court."

Of course, coming from Mr. Felos, remarks about "affonts" to the court are a little rich, seeing that he was only able to get Michael Schiavo's confabulations about Terri's supposed wish not to be kept alive in her condition into court by violating (with Judge Greer's connivance) rules of civil trial procedure.

George, this intervention isn't about politics. This move could cost Governor Bush politically. Rather, it's about giving Terri the justice of which she has so long been deprived.

Tuesday, February 22, 2005

Terri Given Reprieve Until 5:00 PM Tomorrow

I just spoke on the phone to Terri's sister, Suzanne Vitadamo, and she informed me that Judge Greer has granted the Schindlers' request for an emergency stay on the removal of Terri's feeding tube.

Judge Greer's order is in effect until 5:00 PM tomorrow afternoon.

The Schindlers have another hearing in Judge Greer's court at 2:45 PM tomorrow, at which time it is expected that he will rule on the Schindlers' motion for a new stay, as other legal issues are still pending in the courts. Among those issues still pending is the Schindlers' petittion to remove Michael as guardian, based on his failure to fulfill the requirements for guardians as specified in Florida law.

That petition has been pending in Judge Greer's court, without a ruling, for three years.

Suzanne and the other Schindlers have visited Terri today, and she is doing well.

My Article "Saving Terri's Life" Available Online

I don't know how I've managed to forget to put this up 'til now, but my article published in the November 2004 issue of Catholic World Report, "Saving Terri's Life", is available online.

The article relates the story of how I came to be involved with the effort to save Terri, and some of my experiences with the Schindlers, including the lamentable lack of public witness and support from Catholic clergy in the Tampa-St. Petersburg area, including Bishop Lynch himself.

Read it and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 21, 2005

Bob Schindler: "There Is NO Stay"

I've been on the phone most of the evening with Bob & Mary Schindler and Msgr. Ted Malanowski, regarding Terri's situation and their strategy in light of Michael's announced intention to remove Terri's feeding tube tomorrow afternoon. As the linked story relates, upon learning that the Florida Second DCA would not delay issuing it's mandate tomorrrow, George Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, informed the Schindlers that Michael was going to make good on his intention to begin starving Terri. It seems that no sooner than I asked the question "What will Michael Do?" that Michael, in effect, answered saying "I'm going to start killing Terri at the earliest possible moment."

So I was surprised to see a follow-up story at BlogsForTerri and Hyscience claiming that Judge Greer had issued a stay barring Michael's removal of the feeding tube until Wednesday's hearing "is held to determine if the stay in effect from Greer’s 2000 death order should remain in place."

I've spoken to Bob again, and he assures me that NO such stay has been issued. These reports are apparently based on a story in The Empire Journal. Bob told me that after their attorney, David Gibbs, filed his emergency motion against the removal of the feeding tube, a reporter mentioned something to Mr. Gibbs about Judge Greer "issuing a stay." Mr. Gibbs immediately went to Judge Greer's chambers to find out what was going on, and was told that Judge Greer had not and would not issue a stay, and, furthermore, that the Judge "refused to make any ruling until Wednesday's hearing."

I have e-mailed the people at BlogsForTerri, Hyscience, and Empire Journal to apprise them of the true situation.

So, Terri's life is still hanging in the balance, and at this point, barring something stopping him, Michael will follow through on his murderous intent tomorrow afternoon.

Judge Greer Postpones Hearing Until Wednesday

What Will Michael Do Tomorrow?

According to the Hyscience Blog, the hearing on Bob & Mary Schindler's request to extend or renew the Stay on removal of Terri's feeding tube, which was to have taken place at 2:30 this afternoon, has been postoned until Wednesday.

In a related story, the Florida Second District Court of Appeals, in an all-too-predictable ruling, denied the Schindler's motion for that court to delay issuing its ruling on their "Papal Appeal", which was based on Terri's First Amendment rights as a Catholic.

What this means is that the Second District Court will issue it's ruling tomorrow, and thus the stays on Michael removing Terri's food and water will expire. Since Judge Greer won't hear the Schindler's motion until Wednesday, Michael may have a "window of opportunity" to remove Terri's feeding tube.

Will he do so? Will he attempt to present Judge Greer with a fait accompli? How badly does he want Terri dead?

Catholic Doctors Issue Statement on Terri Schiavo:

"There is no rational justification, moral or medical, to withdraw food and water from Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo."

In a statement released Saturday, the Catholic Medical Association referenced the consistent Catholic teaching regarding nutrition and hydration, recent Papal teaching, as well as developments in MRI technology which shed new light on Terri Schiavo's condition.

The Statement can be found here. It isn't yet up on the CMA website, but I received it from Robert J. Saxer, MD, Executive V.P. of the Catholic Medical Association. Also of note is the CMA's 2003 Statement on Terri's case.

Statement of the Catholic Medical Association Regarding
the Provision of Artificial Nutrition and Hydration
in the case of Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

The mission of the Catholic Medical Association (CMA) is to uphold the truth of the Catholic Faith in the science and practice of medicine. In July 2003, the CMA published a statement regarding the provision of artificial nutrition and hydration in the case of Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo. The circumstances surrounding this case have been widely publicized. In 2003, after summarizing the ethical directives found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church and the Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care, we concluded that based upon the current teaching of the Church the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration could not be justified.

Two subsequent events compel us to update our former statement to uphold the truth and defend the life of Mrs. Schindler-Schiavo.

In March 2004, Pope John Paul II addressed an international congress of health care professionals convened in Rome to discuss the scientific advances and ethical dilemmas in the vegetative state. In the statement by the Vicar of Christ, “Life Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State,” he declares clearly and unequivocally that “the sick person in a vegetative state still has the right to basic health care…the administration of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act…Its use furthermore, should be considered in principle, ordinary and proportionate, and as such morally obligatory…Death by starvation or dehydration is, in fact, the only possible outcome as a result of their withdrawal. In this sense it ends up becoming, if done knowingly and willingly, true and proper euthanasia by omission.”

This papal statement makes it absolutely clear that the withdrawal of food and water from Mrs. Schindler-Schiavo constitutes euthanasia, a gravely immoral act. We would add furthermore, that it represents a violation of her constitutionally protected right to life and a violation of her religious freedom as a Catholic.

Second, recently published data in the journal Neurology indicates that magnetic resonance imaging can be a very powerful tool in the evaluation of “awareness” in patients with severe neurological injury. The findings were so remarkable Dr. Joy Hirsch, director of the Functional MRI Research Center at Columbia University Medical School and an author of the study, said, “The most consequential thing about this is that we have opened a door, we have found an objective voice for these patients, which tells us they have some cognitive ability in a way they cannot tell us themselves. The patients are more human than we imagined in the past, and it is unconscionable not to aggressively pursue research efforts to evaluate them and develop therapeutic techniques.”

These two events, the definitive papal statement and the scientific evidence of new diagnostic techniques required to adequately assess the severely brain injured patient, support our former conclusion in July 2003. There is no rational justification, moral or medical, to withdraw food and water from Mrs. Terri Schindler-Schiavo.

Finally, we recognize that many will not agree with our conclusion. In a country that legally justifies the destruction of innocent human life in its most vulnerable stage of development, within the womb of the mother, it will come as no surprise that our courts have failed to defend her right to life. The darkness of death shrouds the conscience of America.

Therefore, we conclude this statement by making a sincere appeal to all who do agree with us. Please join us in prayer on behalf of Terri, her family and our country; that by the Grace of Almighty God some intervention will save her life and save us from the inevitable consequences if she were euthanized.

Contact Information:

Catholic Medical Association
1241 Highland Avenue
P.O. Box 920480
Needham, Massachusetts 02492
Tel: (781) 455-0259
FAX: (781) 455-0357

Terri Schiavo And The Collapse of Secular Democratic Liberalism

The Old Oligarch hit a home run last Friday with a post titled "Terri Schiavo and Dei Filius". When I saw the title my first thought was "what the heck does a document from Vatican I have to do with Terri Schiavo?" Well, the difference between a real theologian like O.O. and an amateur like me is that he sees connections between our lives and theological truth which never occur to me until I read his essay and think "wow, he's on to something."

There's too much good stuff in his essay to try to reproduce here, but in a nutshell, the O.O. traces the devolution from the Reformation's exaltation of private judgment, to the Enlightenment's concept of the self-legislating moral conscience, to the modern Western notion of the self-defining person, cut loose from its Christian anthropological moorings. Hence our contemporary concept of the person has become almost plastic in meaning, at the whim of those who have the power to enforce their defintion. As O.O. writes:
Today, the lethal workings-out of that project are being carried out in the case of Terri Schiavo, whose avaricious, murderous husband will be permitted to starve her to death by the State of Florida. The lawyer even has the audacity to state that no legislator or legislation of any kind can attempt to save her without being "unconstitutional." His statement is true -- if "constitutional" is shorthand for "the bleeding-edge definition of who counts as a human being."

Read the whole thing, it's a little masterpiece of applied theology.