You don’t even have to turn to the first page—just look at the front cover, where Michael proclaims, “My two babies were threatened with death. I was condemned by the president, the majority leaders of the House and Senate, the governor of Florida, the pope, and the right-wing media. . . . I didn’t respond to their attacks. I didn’t confront their lies. Until now.”
Well, a quick Internet search turns up page after page of Michael’s vigorous responses on Nightline, Larry King Live, and other venues, most of it very confrontational.
Why would he respond now? Books sales and talk shows are a lucrative business.
This turns out to be typical of the way things work in Michael Schiavo’s world. As readers of the book soon discover, Schiavo’s opponents deserve all the venom he can spew on them. To Michael Schiavo’s mind, nobody could possibly have a good reason for wanting to let Terri Schiavo live in her condition. So he paints his opponents as biased, liars, downright insane. Just as the book cover indicates, the pope, the president, the governor of Florida, Terri’s family, and several cranks who sent Michael death threats—which, by the way, I know from experience happens in these kinds of cases—are all lumped into the same category: people who opposed Michael’s noble crusade to kill his wife. Noble? Or was he after collecting the insurance money and marrying the woman he was living with? Michael Schiavo’s world, if you believe his book, is like the old Westerns where the good guys wore white hats and the bad guys all wore black hats and twisted their mustaches a lot.
Joking aside, Michael Schiavo’s world is a dangerous and scary place, a place where the “survival of the fittest” is taken to a whole new level—a place where a badly brain-damaged woman should have her food and water taken away simply because she is badly brain damaged and her husband says she would not want to live that way. It’s a place where it’s easy for even a registered nurse like Michael Schiavo to confuse food, which everyone needs, with the kind of life support, like a respirator, which his wife did not need. It’s a place where, as Schiavo is accustomed to saying with a straight face, taking someone’s food away is not starving her to death; it’s simply allowing her to die peacefully and painlessly. (Why a hospice needs to administer morphine to a person dying painlessly is something that Schiavo does not bother to explain, like so many other issues.)
The scariest thing about Michael Schiavo’s world is that he, and so many of his partisans in the media and the public, do not want to give the benefit of the doubt to a comatose person. Now, I admit that many people today think well of Michael and less of those of us who defended Terri Schiavo since the autopsy showed that she had been brain-dead when she was in a comatose state. But that’s beside the point. Our concern was with safeguarding the process and giving her the benefit of the doubt. After all, you can’t do an autopsy until the person is dead, and then it is too late to correct mistakes.
Reading Schiavo’s book is a sobering reminder that we must never give up our fight to guard the rights of the weak and the voiceless, or one day we will all be living—and dying—in Michael Schiavo’s world.
This is part six in the “War on the Weak” series.
Kathryn Jean Lopez, “Debating Terri’s End,” New York Post, 30 April 2006.
Michael Schiavo and Michael Hirsh, Terri: The Truth (Dutton, 2006).
Mary Schindler, Robert Schindler, Suzanne Schindler Vitadamo, and Bobby Schindler, A Life that Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo—a Lesson for Us All (Warner, 2006).
MaryClaiare Dale, “Schiavo, Quinlan discuss end-of-life issues,” Portsmouth Herald Health News, 4 May 2006.
“Before fight over death, Terri Schiavo had a life,” CNN, 25 October 2003.