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February 25, 2005

Schiavo attorney justifies client's adulterous relationship; Christian ethicist says marriage vows don't include starvation

Topics: Terri Schiavo's Life Counts

- Florida Baptist Witness via email from Schindler press office
Today is the 15th anniversary of Terri Schiavo's mysterious collapse. This poignant article by Joni Hannigan so strongly reinforces why Terri should be with the people who love her and not the ones who would rather see her dead.

Michael Schiavo simply won't give up on trying to remove his 41-year-old disabled wife's feeding tube, his attorney said after a court hearing extending a stay in the case until 5 p.m. EST today.

George Felos, the "right-to-die" attorney representing Schiavo told Florida Baptist Witness his client "deeply loves Terri" and cares about her despite cohabitating openly with his fiancée, Jodi Centonze, since 1995. The couple now have two children together.

p "He simply is not gong to walk away from that promise he made to [Terri] when she said, 'Honey, don't keep me alive like that,'" said Felos, describing statements made to a guardianship judge after winning a $1.3 million malpractice settlement for his wife's care.

That promise however, is not on the same level with the promise he made when he and Terri exchanged wedding vows in 1986--according to Felos who said it is "subjective opinion" and "cruel hearted" to think Schiavo walked away from his wedding vows.

"I think it's hard-hearted to say to somebody whose spouse has Alzheimer's, or whose spouse has had some catastrophic accident, that they are consigned to a life of loneliness and then can't form other relationships. That's a moral judgment and you know, I think people have different views on it."

Christian ethicist C. Ben Mitchell, a professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago, told Florida Baptist Witness Felos' assertions miss the mark.

"Calling a romantic affair that results in two children while one is married to another person, 'forming other relationships' is like calling premeditated murder 'morally problematic,'" Mitchell said, in response to Felos' remarks.

"The vow to love another person in the covenant of marriage neither includes violating the covenant through adultery nor withdrawing the the basic necessities of life--like food and water--when maintaining them might allow the spouse to recover," Mitchell continued. "In this case, I have to trust the integrity and purity of Terri's parents' inclinations above Mr. Shiavo's."

Documents show Michael and Terri's marriage to have been unique in that as a practicing Catholic she received a special dispensation to marry Michael, who is not Catholic, in a marriage mass where they exchanged vows.

In 1990, exactly 15-years-ago, Terri became brain damaged when her heart stopped beating in the family home an her brain was deprived of oxygen. For nearly a decade her family--including parents and brother, Bobby, and sister Suzanne--has been at odds with Michael over whether Terri can improve. According to her parents and others close to the case, she has been kept mostly isolated--and all attempts to rehabilitate were ordered stopped by Michael.

Terri's adherence to her faith remains a matter before the courts. Last year, an attorney for her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, asked Judge George W. Greer to reconsider his February 2000 order authorizing the removal of her feeding tube in light of a statement made by the Pope against removing food and hydration in cases similar to Terri's.

And though Terri attended girls-only private Catholic schools through high school, as well as regularly attending mass with her parents before her collapse, the court has so far failed to indicate they will recognize what could potentially be moral decisions consistent with the views of her faith, rather than those of her husband.

Tom Brodersen, husband of Pat Anderson, a former attorney for the Schindler family, told Florida Baptist Witness he believes the result of Michael's pursuit of Terri's death and his encasement of her in a hospice where people are sent to die, has left her lonely and without stimulation.

"She married the man for love and she lay there all alone while Michael took his love down the street and lavished it on another woman," Brodersen said. "Somebody younger who wasn't disabled."

Brodersen, who has degrees in speech pathology and law, was on the short visitor's list for a period of time after his wife took the case in 2001. After introducing himself to Terri by leading a trio with her parents, singing, "Those were the Days," Brodersen said the normally shy Terri appeared to accept him as one of the family and did not ignore him as she does people she is not familiar with.

"I was struck by how lonely Terri is," Brodersen said. "She is shockingly lonesome."

Brodersen said he was not allowed to continue to visit with Terri after a mix-up in visitation occurred over two years ago, but recalls putting to use his knowledge of speech training and broadcasting during his visits--even getting her to clearly articulate a pattern of "yes and no" type communication.

"I had started out kind of trying to replicate some of the things done before," Brodersen recounted, like trying to get Terri, who is said to be functionally blind, to move her eyes in different ways. That didn't seem to be one of Terri's strengths, however.

"But she had really good vocal control," Brodersen said.

It didn't take him long to help Terri develop a moan that would be long and drawn out and a moan that would start and stop. One long moan for "yes" and two for "no" he said.

"I started out trying to have her hold a moan like she would hold it when singing," Brodersen recalled. "You have a beautiful voice, I told her, to encourage rather than discourage. With a little prompting she would hold the note."

Brodersen said he was impressed, though admitted the court had dismissed earlier videos and reports of Terri's articulation as pure reflex.

Some doctors have said Terri is in a Persistent Vegetative State and has no awareness of her surroundings. Brodersen disagreed. He said Terri learned quickly and responded to two questions he posed to her on the last day he visited. He asked Terri if she was ten feet tall and if the color of her skin was purple. For the first answer, he said she moaned twice.

"I was delighted because obviously she understood the instructions and did her best to follow them and had the cognition to form a correct response to that question, sai Brodersen. "So it was a context appropriate answer."

In a somewhat repetitive sense, Brodersen said he again explained the process to her, with both her mother and father in the room.


"I asked Terri are you purple and she furrowed her brow like she was concentrating really hard and spontaneously she whispered the word, 'no.'"

Later that same day, Brodersen said Terri again said "no" when she was asked if she was thirsty and he came to the conclusion that working on a system of repetitive moans was probably unnecessary and so he begin to work on a helping her to say "yeah" for "yes" since she had already said no.

Other instances where Terri appeared to recognize music and even be inspired by a Gregorian chant convinced Brodersen that Terri could not be considered unfeeling or simply put, a "vegetable," he said.

I guarantee you unless she was drugged or under the weather, if her dad called me and held the phone to her ear, Terri would give that telephone her fullest attention and laugh," Brodersen said. "Terri Schiavo is a friend of mine and it really is that simple."

A decision is expected from Judge George W. Greer today on an emergency stay that will prevent Michael Schiavo from removing his wife's feeding tube while motions and appeals in the case continue.

Supporters plan vigils at the Woodside Hospice in Pinellas Park and a protest is planned outside the office of attorney George Felos, in Dunedin.

Focus on the Family founder and chairman Dr. James C. Dobson issued the following statement Wednesday after Florida Circuit Judge George Greer issued a stay preventing the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube for two more days:

"The same judge who may eventually sign Terri Schiavo's death warrant today issued a temporary reprieve allowing her feeding tube to stay in place for at least two more days.  This decision is not overly comforting, however, as Florida Circuit Judge George Greer has consistently proven himself to be no friend of Terri Schiavo, her family or of human life when you consider his history of rulings in this case. Thankfully, he has today seen fit to give her more time to live and her parents more time to defend her right to life.

"The courts, including Judge Greer's, have no moral authority to cause a vulnerable, disabled person like Mrs. Schiavo to die due to dehydration - which will be the result if her feeding tube is removed.  Today a crisis has been averted, but only for 48 hours.  Florida Gov. Jeb Bush is to be applauded for his promise to defend Mrs. Schiavo's life.  We pray that he, and those who stand with him, will be successful."

It has also been reported that in recent statements on Vatican Radio, Cardinal Renato Martino, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, said: "If Mr. Schiavo succeeds legally in causing the death of his wife, this not only would be tragic in itself, but would be a grave step toward the legal approval of euthanasia in the United States. ...No one can be the arbiter of life except God Himself."

Outside of the Woodside Hospice on Wednesday, Dominique, who declined to give her last name, said indeed America is in danger of becoming like her native Poland, where she said euthanasia has gained a strong following.

Declaring that "euthanasia is bad," the disabled woman balanced a sign on her electric wheelchair while reading her Bible.

"It's terrible. This should not happen," she said in accented English. "[Terri's] a human being and she's created by God and only God can take her when it is right."

Speaking of the biblical teaching about how the poor, the widows and the downtrodden are to be taken care of--Dominique said God will show mercy in the same way mercy is extended to others.

"God knows when it is time for Terri to come home."

Posted by Hyscience at February 25, 2005 11:31 AM

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