JUSTICE IN AMERICA DEHUMANIZING THE DISABLED
Editorial - Bob Schindler
Did you know in our country, the law can be manipulated to allow a husband or a wife to legally murder their spouse? It can easily be accomplished IF- their spouse is disabled and If- they are recognized by the court as the spouses legal guardian.
Its not that difficult. Oversimplified, (using the husband as an example) sometime during the day he can go to court, get the courts stamp of approval, then go home, have dinner with his girlfriend and plan how to use the money he will inherit when his wife dies. The only chance the wife has to survive, is for someone outside this intimate death circle to object. But, that is not a guaranteed formula for success.
In some primitive cultures, its acceptable for husbands to abuse or kill their wives. In our culture, we consider that conduct barbaric. However, throughout the United States, it is permissible for a husband of a disabled wife to decide to end her life by deliberately depriving her of food and water, causing his wife to die of starvation.
Closer to home, it is happening to a member of our family,. In Florida where Michael Schiavo, husband of Terri Schiavo and partner of another women (who is the mother of his child), has with the help of his paid selected medical experts persuaded a court that his wife would be better off dead. And, unbelievably, this is all very legal. A Florida Judge sentenced Terri to die of starvation.
How Could This Happen?
Over the years, a slow, relentless movement has been covertly programming society to dehumanize people with disabilities. History teaches us that entire groups of people have been victimized, most frequently based on ethnicity or race. And it also teaches us that, before they become victims, members of the targeted class are portrayed as subhuman. That is what is taking place now. People with severe disabilities are just the newest class of people deemed to be subhuman. We pay great lip service in this country to disability rights, but as the degree of a persons disability increases, the level of legal protection that person receives decreases-.
"First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist - so I said nothing. Then they came for the Social Democrats, but I was not a Social Democrat - so I did nothing. Then they came for the trade unionists, but I was not a trade unionist. And then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew - so I did little. Then when they came for me, there was no one left who could stand up for me." Martin Niemoeller survived 7 years in Nazi concentration camps.
Isnt There Justice In The Legal System?
When Terris husband petitioned to end Terris life, the court set the stage for the battle of the medical experts. These are experts whose opinions about Terris abilities would influence the court to determine whether she lives or dies.
But who are these experts that play such a vital role in determining an individuals fate? Generally, these experts are paid- professionals, who will slant their opinions according to their employers wishes. Theoretically, they could testify on an issue one day and their testimony on the same issue could be 180 degrees apart the next day, depending on their clients instructions. Incredibly, the courts justify their determinations predicated on the testimony of these -for hire- professionals.
In Terris trial, a high profile neurologist was one of those socalled experts selected by Michael Schiavo to testify on his behalf to have Terri die. This neurologist travels the country and is routinely the imported star expert witness in virtually all high profile cases surrounding the removal of food and fluids. He has a track record of consistency when it comes to dehumanizing severely disabled people and advocating that they be denied food and fluids, no matter how provided.
Under oath, his statements over the years are a study in bigotry. For example:
* In the Cruzan case (Missouri), he testified that, even if a severely brain-damaged individual can take food by mouth, spoon-feeding is denied because to spoon-feed the person would be totally inconsistent with what is wanted (i.e. the disabled persons death).
* In the Martin case (Michigan), he denigrated Michael Martins ability to participate in simple card games or to select colors and numbers. He even said the mans smiles were meaningless.
* In the Wendland case (California), he claimed that Robert Wendlands abilities to operate his own wheelchair, draw circles, turn pages and write the first letter of his name did not indicate mental awareness, but were bizarre, not unlike the activities of a trained dog.
* In Terris case (Florida), in what he admitted was an incomplete exam, he asked Terri to follow a balloon with her eyes as he moved it about the room. When she complied, moving her head from side to side to keep the balloon in her line of sight, he exclaimed, There we go! Thats good! Thats good! Nonetheless, he later testified that she wasnt really seeing it, she only looked like she was looking, and she was totally lacking in mental awareness.
In both the Martin and Wendland cases, the courts wisely found that the vulnerable spouses should not be starved and dehydrated to death.
But, even though 10 physicians are on record with the court saying that Terri was aware and her condition could improve with therapy, the Florida court wasnt interested. They embraced the claims that Terri has no mental awareness. Yet the trial Judge (and appeal Judges) saw videos showing Terri closely watching her familys movement, verbalizing in response to questions, responding to simple commands, and laughing when listening to her favorite music.
In reality, Terri condition is far from the legal guidelines permitting starvation deaths. The truth is Terri was sentenced to death for the crime of being disabled and dependent. You see, Terri fits into the category of people mentioned for whom protections are extremely limited. Our society is now conditioned to evaluate people based on their quality of life. This philosophy says people who are different, as are many in the disabled community, are unacceptable and unworthy of living.
Please Consider This
* If that person happened to be a convicted murderer on death row, the courts in our country would never authorize starvation as a method of carrying out the court ordered death sentence. Starvation in unacceptable in that it is too cruel.
* Starvation death of an animal is also unacceptable to our society. If a man were to cause his pet dog or cats death by withholding food and water from it, he would be prosecuted for abuse. Yet, if that same animal abuser wanted to starve his wife to death, most likely the courts would approve.
Where Is The Conscience of Our Judges?
Starving a human being to death is cruel and insane. If any person whether that person is a healthy or a severely disabled individual is denied food and any fluids, that person will die an intensely painful death within 5 to 21 days.
I am confident you will understand why I feel very strongly about this issue. The severely disabled woman, who is currently facing a court imposed starvation death sentence, is my daughter Terri-
What Has Happened To The Morality in Our Beloved Country?
<Back To The Saga of Terri Schiavo Page
There are NO statute of Limitations on MURDER!
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