Terri Schiavo. Her name is seared into the national memory as a face of the right-to-life movement, but many are now too young to remember her witness. This site serves as a tribute to Terri’s memory and a resource for those looking to understand what her life was like, what happened to her, and why we should remember.
At the age of 26, Terri experienced a still unexplained collapse while at home alone with Michael Schiavo, who subsequently became her guardian. After a short period of time, Michael lost interest in caring for his brain injured, but otherwise healthy, young wife. Terri was not dying, and did not suffer from any life-threatening disease. She was neither on machines nor was she “brain dead.”
To the contrary, she was alert and interacted with friends and family—before her husband subsequently abandoned his wedding vows, warehoused her in nursing homes, and eventually petitioned the courts for permission to deliberately starve and dehydrate her to death. Michael finally testified, after many years of legal maneuverings against the Schindler family, that his wife had told him prior to her accident that she would not have wanted to live in a brain injured condition.
This hearsay evidence led to Terri’s right to life instead being portrayed as a “right to die” or “end of life” issue. On the order of Judge George W. Greer, Terri was deprived of water and food and after 13 days, Terri died on March 31, 2005 of dehydration.
Terri’s parents and siblings, supported by hundreds of thousands who witnessed to Terri’s right to life in the years before her court-ordered death, have advocated since Terri’s death for thousands of medically vulnerable patients and families at risk of being marginalized rather than supported in love.
“An Introduction to Terri Schiavo’s Story” is excerpted from the Joni & Friends feature “The Terri Schiavo Story.” The full hour-long feature is available to stream in two parts:
In this two-part episode, we present the story of Terri Schiavo. Her family’s long and highly emotional struggle to save their daughter’s life eventually came under the harsh glare of a worldwide media spotlight, the US Congress and the office of the President of the United States. The final outcome left us with difficult questions about critical ethical issues. Here, Joni Eareckson Tada and leaders of the Joni and Friends Christian Institute on Disability respond with a Biblical perspective on these life and death questions that affect us all.