A Day to Remember Terri Schiavo

Interview with Her Brother, Bobby Schindler

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By Carrie Gress

ST. PETERSBURG, Florida, MARCH 31, 2008 (Zenit.org).- By putting a face on the evil of euthanasia, Terri Schiavo has saved the lives of others, says her brother, Bobby Schindler.

In this interview with ZENIT, Schindler, the executive director of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, talked about the first annual "Terri's Day" celebrated today.

Q: What is Terri's Day, and how did it get started?

Schindler: Terri's Days is a collaborative effort with Father Frank Pavone of Priests for Life to remember Terri and, for lack of a better way of saying it, her horrible death. We wish to remember Terri annually on the day of her death, and to pray for Terri, but also to remember that there are others like her.

To get involved, people can go to our Web site. There are many things that can be done to remember Terri. Anything from just saying the simple prayer posted on the Web site, to having a type of a remembrance service, praying the rosary or going to adoration, or by visiting someone who is disabled.

The day is also to raise awareness that there are others like her, and how their lives are in jeopardy in the United States today.

Q: What does your family want people to remember about Terri's life and witness?

Schindler: Many viewed my sister as having no value because of her disability but in the end, isolated from the world and denied all but the most basic contact, Terri touched and continues to touch the lives of millions.

She reached hearts with the message that human life is precious simply because it is human life. She inspired members of congress and the clergy, as well as countless average citizens whose lives will never be the same. She put a face on the evil of euthanasia and in doing so has saved many others from a similar fate.

Q: Have you see any definite response by Catholics, either clergy or laity, since the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith released the "Responses to Certain Questions of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Concerning Artificial Nutrition and Hydration"?

Schindler: The growing trend, secularly, is to keep pushing whether someone should live or not based on their quality of life. I definitely see a growing attitude, to justify and rationalize killing people with disabilities particularly in our nation. It is quite frightening.

I do think, however, that Terri's case has really brought this issue to light and I think there is more discussion about it now than there was prior to her death.

You have to remember that before Terri died this was happening and I just think people didn't realized it, but now after Terri's case, people can't say they don't know about it. The deliberate dehydration of those who are cognitively disabled continues to happen every day.

Since Terri's case, Pope John Paul II's allocution in 2004, and the reaffirmation of the importance of feeding and hydrating the dying by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2007, I think there is more discussion and more clarity on this issue.

Simultaneously, however, we are also seeing some segments of our faith dissenting. There still is confusion, convoluting the issue when it is quite clear in a situation like my sister's, when someone only needs food and water, we are obligated to care for them.

I think there is more discussion on this, but is anything being done to stop it? That's the more important question, to which my answer is no. I think we are seeing the laws that are doing less and less to protect those with disabilities than passing laws to protect them.

Catholics need to continue to be more vocal about this issue, because it is clear it is not going way.

Q: Benedict XVI recently said that if society removes suffering, it also removes compassion, leading to an inhumane society. How have you seen in your own life the Pope's words put into action?

Schindler: I have certainly seen the inhumanity. People need to know how horrific it is to watch somebody die by dehydration. For two weeks that we had to watch my sister die, it is impossible for me to describe the inhumanity of a death like Terri's. My parents have to live with that for the rest of their lives. They are still suffering terribly from having to see their child die that way.

Suffering, however, is a part of life, but it seems to me that our society is trying to do all we can to eliminate it, seeing it as something bad, and doing everything we can to remove it from peoples' live.

Suffering is something we all try to avoid, but sometimes suffering finds us, and when it does we have the opportunity to imitate Our Lord. After all, when suffering found Christ, he didn't run from it or attempt to end his life to avoid it. He took up his cross and carried it. When we look at suffering in the way Christ teaches us, then we understand why it was right to try to save Terri -- and why it's right today to save others like her.

But to look at suffering, or to look to kill someone to alleviate or remove the suffering from their lives, is not a form of compassion. Killing has become an act of compassion in our country.

Once you define killing as an acceptable answer to suffering, then you are defining killing as something that is good. And once killing is proclaimed a good, the ability to protect life is gone.

Q: Having been a caretaker, many would say that Terri was a terrible burden on your life. How would you respond to this? How did you see it make you more compassionate, as the Pope says suffering with other does?

Schindler: Caring for someone shouldn't depend on what someone can or can't do. Many that care for people like Terri look at them as treasures. They enable us to show our love and our compassion because they are entirely dependant on us to care for them. And what other way do can we show our love than to care for somebody who is completely vulnerable to us?

Regretfully, others decide that the disabled are inconvenient since they are not able to give anything tangible back, and therefore killing them is justified. Common sense has been lost.

The question comes up all the time, "Would you want to live this way?" No one would choose live with a disability if they had the choice, but there are people living with disabilities and there are people in conditions similar to my sister. The question is what are we going to do to care for them? Unfortunately, the answer for many is, that the inconvenient don't deserve to live.