Larry Elder

Is it not possible that both sides in the Terri Schiavo case are acting in good faith?
One side pits Michael Schiavo, the husband and legal guardian of his severely brain-damaged wife, Terri Schiavo, against the other side, the parents and siblings of Terri Schiavo. Her parents insist that no, she never said that she would rather die than live in her current condition, which is described by some as a persistent vegetative state, by others as comatose, and still by others as "severely brain-damaged."

 In any case, Terri Schiavo failed to leave written instructions as to her preferences, and we have only Michael Schiavo's word (and that of two other witnesses -- his brother and sister in-law) that Terri Schiavo at one time said something to the effect of, "I wouldn't want to live like that." Terri Schiavo collapsed in 1990 after suffering a heart attack.

 Terri suffered a cardiac arrest, apparently caused by a potassium imbalance -- perhaps due to bulimia -- which led to brain damage from lack of oxygen. In 1990, she fell into a condition that has now persisted for 15 years. In 1993, Michael Schiavo won over a million dollars in a medical malpractice suit. The court ordered $750,000 to be placed in trust for Terri's care.

 Michael wants Terri's feeding tube removed. Terri's family, including her father and mother, Bob and Mary Schindler, protested, and began a series of litigation that included numerous Florida state court hearings. The matter went up to the Florida Supreme Court, as well as the United States Supreme Court, and in every case, the Schindlers lost.

 Enter the U.S. Congress. Congress passed a special law giving the Schindlers standing to hear her case in federal court. The law did not demand the reinsertion of the feeding tube, nor did the law change the burden of proof. The federal judge, however, refused to grant a temporary restraining order asserting, among other things, that the Schindlers would not likely win on the merits.

 The real question is this: Who owns Terri Schiavo?

 The answer is that Terri owns Terri. And, in a case like this, when the patient suffers this level of incapacitation, does the law allow for an appointment of a legal guardian to carry out Terri's wishes? The Florida courts assigned Michael guardianship, and state laws allow a vehicle to challenge the appointment as well as the decisions of the guardian. This is precisely what the Schindlers did.

Larry Elder

Larry Elder is a best-selling author and radio talk-show host. To find out more about Larry Elder, or become an "Elderado," visit