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Guest Commentary!The Martyrdom of Terri Schiavo

By March 31, 2010Sanctity of Life
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Editor’s Note: The following is reprinted with permission. It originally appeared on Dr. Mostert’s Disability Matters blog, March 30, 2010,


Since 1990 in the state of Florida, persons condemned to death have a choice of how their death sentence will be carried out. The condemned have the option of electrocution or the less spectacular (and presumably less painful) lethal injection.

One thing is certain: People are executed by the state as punishment for heinous and reprehensible crimes. Nobody gets the death penalty for speeding or shoplifting. Or for being sick, for that matter.

Well, maybe for being sick. Read on.

There was one execution in Florida that transcended the electric chair or the fatal needle, and, equally, had the full weight of Florida law. That legal weight came from Florida Judge Greer, who declared from the bench that Terri Schiavo must die.

Judge Greer issued a death sentence just as effectively lethal as any handed down for murder. It was a legalized medical execution for the crime of being severely neurologically disabled.

But unlike condemned criminals in Florida, Terri was not permitted to choose her method of execution. Instead, Greer, with Terri’s husband and lawyers cheering from the sidelines, imposed execution by starvation and thirst.

I think one could make a compelling argument that the electric chair and lethal injection are less painful ways to die. They are certainly shorter than the 16 days it took Terri to lose her battle against a stacked deck.

As with Florida’s criminally condemned, Terri was surrounded by uniformed law enforcement officers, vigilant lest someone give her a sip of water. They were Greer’s proxies on the scene. They’re not called “law enforcement officers” for nothing.

Terri’s appeals were denied. The people who spoke for Terri were overwhelmed by the pro-deathers.

So, Terri is dead. Executed.

Terri’s dad, Bob Schindler, is dead. His collateral sentence was a broken heart.

Mary Schindler, Terri’s mom, presses on. How, I have no idea.

Bobby and Suzanne labor in the trenches at the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation. If you know them, as I am so very privileged to do, you know that they, too, are broken-hearted, their wounds bound by their love for Terri and their family, and the incredible commitment to never, ever, let Terri’s execution be forgotten.

They labor against things they shouldn’t have to.

Like prominent disability organizations who sanctimoniously gather their hurt feelings around their memberships, pouting about how they think they were treated when they went to the aid of a desperate family, yet still comment on everything Terri to bamboozle their membership that they were the good guys and the Schindlers nothing more than unsophisticated hicks – both then and now.

Like President Obama, who, on February 26th, 2008, in a presidential candidate debate, had this to say about his time in the US Senate:

When I first arrived in the Senate that first year, we had a situation surrounding Terri Schiavo, and I remember how we adjourned with a unanimous agreement that eventually allowed Congress to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families. It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped. And I think that was a mistake, and I think the American people understood that that was a mistake. And as a constitutional law professor, I knew better.

So, Mr. President, you regret that you’re on record saying that executing Terri was wrong, but then tell us that it really wasn’t wrong. Saying it was wrong was a mistake.

Thanks for nothing, Mr. President.

OK, at least we know you’re a pro-deather.

Still, here we are five years later.

Disability groups trash the Schindlers.

The President of the United States thinks intervening to help avoid Terri’s execution was a mistake.

Now what?

Here’s what:

Never, ever, let Terri’s memory and her martyrdom be forgotten.

Contact the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation and at the very least encourage Mary, Suzanne, and Bobby.

Better still, they need your financial and volunteer help – don’t wait to give it to them.

We can’t save Terri, but we sure as heck can save others in her situation, and there are thousands.

Bob, Mary, Bobby, Suzanne, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Without your love for Terri, without your very special roles as advocates for those with disabilities, the world would be a bleaker and more dangerous place for the disabled.

Terri’s is home. We are here.

We will always remember.

We will never forget.

We will fight on.

Dr. Mark Mostert is director of the Institute for the Study of Disabilities and Bioethics (ISDB) and a professor in the School of Education at Regent University in Virginia. For more information about ISDB, please click here. Dr. Mostert is the creator of a powerful website called “Useless Eaters” which “examines disability as a genocidal marker in Nazi Germany.”