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February 27, 2005

Should Michael Schiavo be Terri's Guardian?

Topics: Legal affairs

Generally when someone is incapacitated and in need of a guardian to make decisions for them, a spouse is a natural choice. Very early on in Terri Schiavo's case her husband, Michael was appointed her guardian.

Yet as the years have gone on, Michael Schiavo's attachment to Terri has changed. He is still legally her husband, yet he lives with another woman with whom he has had children. If he was single, she would be called a common law wife. As it is, he apparently calls her his fiance.

Now, I realize that fiance is a euphemism these days. It is used to distinguish between a girlfriend whom one dates and a girlfriend with whom one lives. It has a far more respectable sound than, "the woman I shack up with." It speaks of honorable intentions, to someday in the vague future make the union legal and upright.

Yet in this case, the relationship between Michael Schiavo and his fiance ought to be sufficient cause to reconsider his guardianship relationship with Terri Schiavo. That emotional tie and self-sacrificing love and the faithfulness to vows that make a spouse the natural choice as a guardian of an incapacitated person's best interests seem to be absent here. He now has intentions to marry another woman, even if they are vague intentions about a vague future. Certainly that future marriage has to be after Terri's death if he is unwilling to divorce her.

Even if one assumes the best of Michael Schiavo and assumes that he feels Terri's death would be in her best interest because her life as it is must be intolerable, even if he is frustrated by the years of legal wrangling out of cencern for her, and not his own needs, one cannot explain his behavior toward her. Why, if she must be kept alive while legal issues are settled, doesn't he let the nurses clean her teeth? Why does he order her window shades down at all times, banish cards, flowers and family pictures from her room, and not allow her to be taken from her room at all? Why doesn't he allow her testing and therapy that may increase her functioning and even help her to swallow and speak? Is he really concerned for her suffering? One would think that if he truly wanted to reduce her suffering, he would not add to it in these ways.

My point is this: The emotional ties and vows of duty that are normally present between a husband and a wife, and make a spouse a good candidate for a guardian, seem to be absent in this case. Michael Schiavo appears to have moved on with his life in many ways, and the continued battles over Terri's case--her continued exisitence--are preventing him from having a normal life with his current lover.

Yet there are other people who are natural candidates for guardians. That is, people who have a blood relationship to the incapacitated person, people who have a life-long loving relationship. Terri has people like this in her life. She has parents who have a tender love for her and are devoted to her care. She has a brother who has made great personal sacrifices of his time and energy to advocate for his sister.

Isn't it time now to reconsider the guardianship of Terri Schivo and let those care for her who are most likely to sacrifice their own best interests for hers?

(Cross-posted at Wittenberg Gate.)

Posted by dory at February 27, 2005 8:38 AM

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Michael Schiavo trivilizes everything that I do for a living. I have been a nurse for over 20 years. In my profession, I have nursed people back to health and also had the privilige of journeying with patients as they face their death. I also did this with my late wife who suffered for 25 years with MS...that is Muliple Sclerosis not Michael Sciavo.

Posted by: Matthew Hartt at February 27, 2005 6:52 PM

Well said Dory. There was an article in The Philadelphia Inquirer today from Susan Bauers (sbauers@phillynews.com) that was titled 'Schiavo debate taps into faith, fear' that I felt compelled to reply to. You should send your post to her as it lays out the situation beautifully. Here is my email to her.

Re: Schiavo debate taps into faith, fear Sunday Feb. 27, 2005

One 'fundamental premise' that appears to have been overlooked is the issue of her guardianship. Why is someone permitted to be her guardian that clearly does not have her best interests & welfare at heart? Why has the majority of the malpractice settlement won on her behalf been spent on trying to end her life, and little, if any, on attempting to rehabilitate it? Why is she in a Hospice facility for terminal patients and not in a nursing home? This whole "right to die" issue would be moot if only she could eat on her own.

If this were a minor child, people would be outraged over her neglect and lack of standard rehabilitation. Let her family love and care for her, as they have offered to do, at their own expense. Let's not accept hearsay evidence from a highly questionable source be the foundation of the Court's decree that this is her wish, to end her life in this manner. I find it ironic that very few of us could go hours without eating or drinking, and yet many are asking for her to go weeks without sustenance. What has this society come to? There is a vast difference between performing heroic care and providing humane care. Personally, I would be all too willing to have this return to a private issue and out of the public forum, but to accomplish this, the court needs to remove her current guardian and choose one who doesn't have a vested interest in her dying.

Posted by: I hope. at February 27, 2005 7:37 PM

I believe Terri's husband has been a husband in name only. Legally, he has abandoned her and abandoned spouses have recourse against those who have literally abandoned. He has started another family and that is in essence, divorce.

Posted by: Sherry at March 18, 2005 9:49 PM

Michael should not be considered terri's legal
guardian. He gave up that right when he took on a new family. Who made him judge over life and death. I thought that right belonged to God. What does he care if Terri's parents want to take care of their daughter. This is a sad day in history when someone' life is determined unworthy based on their mental capacity.

Posted by: irene bishop at March 19, 2005 9:09 AM

I believe the gaurdianship should be handed over to Terri's family.For they will be there for her always with their genuine love for her. I will continue to keep Terri and her family in prayer.
Love and Lord bless

Posted by: Debbie at March 21, 2005 1:13 PM