March 31st will mark the five-year anniversary of the needless death of my sister, Terri Schiavo.
It is difficult to believe this much time has passed since that horrible event which will be forever seared into my memory.
I wish I could say things have changed for the better since my sister’s death or that people with cognitive disabilities are now better protected in response to the horror she had to endure.
Tragically, however, it seems the rights of the brain-injured, elderly and others are still being violated.
All one has to do is look at what happened just last week. On March 21st, Fox aired an episode of The Family Guy that featured a "sketch" called "Terri Schiavo: The Musical." I was astonished at the producer’s cruel bigotry directed towards my sister and all cognitively disabled people.
Sadly, although more offensive than what my family has seen in the past from the media since Terri died, the bald-faced ignorance expressed in that episode of The Family Guy was nothing new. In fact, all signs indicate that we have embarked on a very disturbing path.
There is no disputing that Terri’s life – and death – had an astonishing impact on our nation. Our family still receives letters, emails and phone calls almost every day from people who tell us how Terri’s story touched them in profound ways, particularly when they come to know the facts.
Indeed, it was because of my family’s experience trying to protect Terri that we realized how all persons with similar cognitive disabilities are completely vulnerable to state laws that currently make it “legal” to deny them the most basic care – food and water.
This horrifying realization was why we established Terri’s Foundation. In Terri’s name, my family now works to protect tens of thousands of people with similar brain-injuries from having their fundamental freedoms taken away by an aggressive anti-life movement hell-bent on portraying severely disabled and otherwise vulnerable human beings as nothing more than “useless eaters”.
If the amount of phone calls we receive is any indication, what happened to Terri has become common. I think most people have no idea how our individual rights to make decisions about basic care like food and water, antibiotics, etc., have been so dramatically eroded. This not only includes family members advocating for loved ones but also protecting oneself by medical directive.