On September 6th, 2021, Jean-Pierre Adams died at the age of 73. You would have never heard of Adams if not that he was a former French professional soccer player. However, what made Adams’ death newsworthy was that his extraordinary wife Bernadette dedicated her life to caring for Jean-Pierre when he sustained a brain injury after knee surgery complications.
Jean-Pierre never regained full consciousness and for 39 years he was dependent on his wife for care. From the day Bernadette brought Jean-Pierre home she was at his bedside, never at any time contemplating ending his life by removing his feeding tube. She taught the world a lesson of unconditional love.
Sadly, we don’t hear enough of these stories. Certainly, there are families who are caring for the “Jean-Pierre’s”, but the reality is that the media – and more troubling – our health care systems, are inculcating the public into their earthly worldview, fostering a culture that accepts the denial of life-affirming care, even if the “care” is ordinary – food and water – based on a person’s utility, as was in the case of my sister, Terri Schiavo.
In fact, it was 18 years ago on October 21st, 2003, when the Florida Legislature passed a bill granting the governor, Jeb Bush, the power to reinsert Terri’s feeding tube after it had been removed for six days. That day marked the beginning of my family’s experience with corporate media and how they would launder the truth of Terri’s situation and condition with “right to die” propaganda.
For those who do not remember, in 1990, at 26 years old, Terri experienced brain injury after a still unexplained collapse while at home alone with her husband Michael, who subsequently became her guardian due to Terri’s dependence on care.
By 1993, and now estranged, this godless husband decided he wanted Terri’s million-dollar medical trust fund that was established as a consequence of her collapse but needed Terri dead to receive the trust. Therefore, in 1997, he hired a death-infatuated, new-age attorney to expedite the process, petitioning the Florida court for permission to inhumanly dehydrate and starve Terri to death.
In 2000, the case went to trial and was heard by George W. Greer, a weak judge who refused to consider Michael’s egregious conflicts of interest, his motive, and how he pre-planned my sister’s death. Instead, Greer pitied him, ruling to remove Terri’s feeding tube based on the thinnest legal standard: Michael’s hearsay evidence, allegedly from before Terri’s collapse, that she would not “want” to live disabled.
As the case grew publicly, the media turned a blind eye to the same evidence as the judge and felt no further investigation of Terri’s case was needed as far as Michael’s conflicts, her “hopeless” condition, or the veracity of Michael’s claim that she “wanted” to die.
The reporting of Terri’s case became so one-sided that the highly esteemed journalist Nat Hentoff, an atheist and civil libertarian columnist for the Village Voice, published an article lamenting the reporting of Terri’s case as the worst case of journalistic malpractice he’d ever observed.
Terri's case is still relevant today because of the unending deceit in her case and the misinformation reported to the public regarding the prognosis of the medically vulnerable, particularly brain injured persons.
It is what motivated my family to establish the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network in response to Terri’s death in March 2005, to advocate for families who want to provide care for their loved ones. Indeed, not a week goes by where we don’t get calls from families after they’ve had all decision-making control stripped from their hands by strangers.
Most Americans do not realize that hospitals and the medical community have approved formal futile care policies, referred to as “Futile Care Theory,” which essentially permit physicians’ and medical ethicists' – strangers – final treatment decisions rather than families when making these choices for loved ones.
In most cases, these decisions are not medical determinations but rather quality of life assessments. Namely, it is not the patient, or the family, but cadres of disconnected bureaucrats who are deciding whether the patient’s life is worth living.
Take for example, the false narrative about Terri and that she was “brain dead”, beyond all hope of recovery, kept alive by machines, and artificial life support. The media and court disregarded questions like why did Michael, shortly after the million-dollar trust was established for Terri, unexpectedly change his mind about caring for her and become hellbent on ending her life?
The media hardly mentioned, despite having access to her medical files, that Terri was beginning to speak while receiving rehabilitation, or videos that were available proving the lies about my sister’s cognition, or the affidavits from prominent neurologists that Terri could have benefited from therapies that were available but were denied by Michael.
Meanwhile, as therapies are denied to the cognitively disabled and other medically defenseless, institutions that once looked after them are now abdicating that responsibility.
For instance, in Terri’s case, Bishop Robert Lynch, Bishop of the Archdiocese of St. Petersburg, had the duty to protect Terri. Instead, he permitted a Catholic priest to testify on Michael’s behalf that the teaching of the Church permitted the withdrawal of Terri’s feeding tube, knowing it was illicit and in violation of Catholic teaching.
Bishop Lynch’s indifference towards Terri’s death perverted the teachings of the Church and opened the door to grave public scandal as others in a similar condition are being deliberately killed because of the confusion that still exists about this issue.
Terri’s case uncovered the utilitarian activities that were in place then, and still today, as we continue to cruelly eliminate our medically weak. Unfortunately, there does not exist any real public outrage or pushback.
But this should not come as a surprise if you know the grim history of the United States support of eugenics when it comes to the weak - just read U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas concurring opinion in Box v. Planned Parenthood of Indiana and Kentucky, Inc.
Tragically, this eugenics philosophy is ubiquitous, openly advocated by the media, Hollywood, health care administrators, bioethicists, politicians, academia, the medical community, and others not to mention a growing segment of our nation.
It is why the media continues lying about Terri’s condition and other medically “burdensome” persons to advance this utilitarian ideology - the insignificance of human equality or that we are created in His Divine Image.
This is what makes Jean-Pierre and his wife Bernadette’s story so special because she understood that regardless of the life-changing accident that altered their lives, her love and care for her husband did not change, especially when he needed her love and care most.
Even though my family failed in our efforts to protect Terri, our work as patient advocates is to help families who want to do what Bernadette did for her husband, standing as a barrier to the heavy-handed coercion to kill their loved ones to which these families are subjected.
We want to give them the chance to care for their loved ones when the world keeps saying no because diminishing the intrinsic value of our most vulnerable brothers and sisters will never be a solution to improve health care.