By Debbie Shelley

The Catholic Commentator  

Patient advocacy is urgently needed to combat a cultural trend in which profit and convenience are valued more than human life, according to Bobby Schindler, president of the non-profit organization Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network.  

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Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, spoke about the importance of healthcare advocacy during a presentation, “Why Terri’s Life Still Matters,” at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge on July 10.  Photo by Debbie Shelley | The Catholic Commentator 

 

Schindler, who spoke at Our Lady of Mercy Church in Baton Rouge on July 10, founded the organization that helps medically vulnerable families to honor his sister, Terri Schiavo, whose case gained national attention after she collapsed at her home on Feb. 25, 1990 and was left with a profound brain injury. After years of legal battles, Schiavo’s estranged husband was given permission to have her feeding tube removed, and she died 13 days later, March 31, 2005.  

“We really need to pay attention and understand exactly the direction of our healthcare today. Because it seems to me although there’s some wonderful doctors out there and there are some wonderful facilities that will care for us, it seems to me that we’re moving in a direction where hospitals now are out for their best interests rather than the patient,” said Schindler. 

“And we’re seeing this before our eyes in cases that we receive, hear about everyday. Nothing shocks me anymore,” said Shchindler, whose organization has been involved in more than 3,000 individual cases, as well as calls and questions about health ethics and advanced directives.  

He said overall the health care system has become so massive and is primarily driven by economic power, both of which compromise people’s wellbeing.  

“It is also the state of our culture today. We’ve seen everything. The devaluation of life and how our human dignity is being attacked,” said Schindler.  

The same organizations and language used to support abortion, that a person is not a “human being,” are involved in issues that devalue human life at all stages, according to Schindler.  

“Once we devaluate the human being, it’s a matter of time before it spills over into the cultural divide.  And we are in need of protecting people – the elderly, the disabled and those with brain injuries who are becoming more and more vulnerable because legislation is being passed that puts more and more power in the hands of clinicians, hospitals and insurance companies than in the hands of the patient,” he said.  

Schindler noted physician-assisted suicide is legal in eight states, which can open opportunities to take advantage of, and coerce vulnerable elderly adults and the disabled.  

“We have to fight for the life of the unborn, but we’re also losing the battle to protect ourselves,” said Schindler.  

He showed a video of his sister responding to verbal cues, such as to open her eyes, which he said for the most part were ignored by mass media or explained away. He said the mass media took on an approach that was negative toward Schiavo’s case and her family and was more sympathetic to her estranged husband. Additionally, he showed a syndicated cartoon that mocked Schiavo, which drew gasps of shock from the audience.   

Watching Schiavo slowly die was painful for her family, Schindler said.  

“Our family witnessed what no family should witness,” said Schindler  

He said the approach of his organization, which takes medical cases on an individual basis, is advocacy and education to navigate the maze of legal medical issues.  

“There’s a lot of frightening decisions being made and our medical rights are being eroded before our eyes,” said Schindler.   

He said, “The best way people can protect themselves is by appointing a health care surrogate, durable power of attorney, that we trust who is going to stand in and speak for us in case we become incapacitated … and that person needs to be someone who has the ability and capability to be tough with these clinicians and these hospitals.”  

He also encouraged people to have an advanced directive making known their wishes concerning medical care should they become incapacitated.  

The Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network provides patient and family advocacy; attorney and crisis physician referrals; emotional and spiritual support; advanced and directive care; and, ethics guidance.  The group also has a national hotline at 1-855-300-4673 (HOPE) and lifeline@lifehope.com. For more information about the foundation, visit lifeandhope.com.