« Peter Johnson on Malkin & Colmes | Main | Updated - Calling Governor Rod Blagojevich »

April 16, 2005

Taking Action for Clara Against the Odds - Schiavo-Like Case Addressed by Local Pastor

Topics: Action Items

Action Item - Please distribute:

  • What: Join Pastor Espinoza at a Prayer Meeting

  • Why: To pray for Clara Martinez (who has been without food for 29 days) and make known her plight to the community

  • Where: 3939 West 59th Place, Chicago (near Pulaski Avenue)

  • When: 3 pm Central Time - Sunday, April 17

Story - Thirty Days without Food

Pastor Guillermo Espinoza knows that he is fighting against the odds for the life of Clara Martinez, a stroke victim who has been purposefully deprived nutrition for close to 30 days. As pastor of a church in her neighborhood, he has chosen to speak out on her behalf.

Following a debilitating stroke one and half years ago, Clara has been incapacitated but able to consume water orally. She was cared for in the University of Illinois at Chicago Medical Center and an intermediate care facility before being taken to her home.

Until recently, she received nourishment through a gastro-intestinal tube that was connected to an external pump. As reported by La Raza, her husband Salvador Martinez, 35 years old and also Mexican, resolved that his wife should not live "artificially". He signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" order to keep her from being revived artificially and and is now withholding nutrition.

According to Espinoza, a doctor disconnected the pump but left the tube in place with the hope that her husband would change his mind. She has apparently lived for the past four weeks on water alone.

Clara's mother, Gregoria Ruano, is a member of Espinoza's church and disagrees with her son-in-law's decision. She, together with other family members, brought the situation to Espinoza's attention are seeking help from the community.

Espinoza, 68, is from Bolivia and was converted to Christianity by U.S. missionaries at a young age. He received theological training both in his native country and the United States and was sent to Chicago as a missionary to the Hispanic population approximately 30 years ago. He is the pastor of Iglesia Evangelica Hispana [Hispanic Evangelical Church at 4340 W. 87th St.] and serves as a hospital Chaplain.

He has only known Clara in her present state and has ministered to her mother and aunt for a little over one year.

Espinoza described Clara's husband as resolute, claiming that Clara would not want to live in her present state. However, no documents exist that reflect this sentiment. "The only thing her husband is saying is that 'I don't think my wife would want to live as she is now. Her mother didn't know about it,'" Espinoza explained.

Clara and her husband live with her mother and their two children, ages five and seven. The husband works full-time and Clara is cared for by her aunt, her mother and an outside caregiver. Until her nourishment was withheld she was in good health. "She is weak now but was very strong," Espinoza said.

Members of her mother's church regularly visit Clara and her family and Espinoza often meets with them to pray, sing and read the Bible.

When asked about Clara's ability to respond Espinoza replied, "Last week when we were in her house we were singing and I talked to her and I said, 'Can you hear me? If you can, close your eyes.' And she did, she was responding."

Espinoza said he has witnessed Clara react similarly to other questions.

According to Espinoza, Clara also moves her arms and her eyes and responds to her mother by moving her head. However, he was uncertain about her actual diagnosis. La Raza reported that her doctors determined her condition to be "irreversible."

Some suggest that Clara is being relieved from a life of suffering. To this Espinoza replies, "Is she suffering? For sure, NOW she is suffering," Similarly, he doesn't see a death precipitated by starvation as dignified. "We have to define dignity. Dignity for whom? For the husband? From the ethics perspective?" he stated. "Taking away her food for more than twenty days - what are they doing? They are killing her little by little, they are destroying her body ... that is a crime ... is that dignity?"

His motivations for fighting to keep Clara alive are two-fold. "First of all," he explained, "Life has been given by God and only He has the power to take it away. Second, I am a chaplain in a local hospital and see a lot of people in this condition. This could affect them."

He described one woman he regularly saw who was in the same condition as Clara yet now is talking, smiling, and singing. "She had a stroke," he explained, "It took two years to recover."

Espinoza sees his role clearly as a missionary and pastor to the Martinez family, and especially Clara. "As a minister I have a duty and responsibility to help people and teach the Word of God. This is not my opinion. I go by the Bible." He added that his ministry is to both the soul and the body.

After failing to convince Salvador that his decision to starve his wife was wrong, he attempted to contact television stations, including local Hispanic networks. "There was no interest," he said. Finally, Jorge Medores editor of a Chicago Newspaper called "La Raza" picked up the story. Other media outlets are beginning to follow suit.

Earl Appleby, Director of Citizens United Resisting Euthanasia, has offered his services to the family. He writes, "May God bless Pastor Espinoza for raising his voice in defense of Clara Martinez's God-given right to life. Our compliments to Mr. Mederos and La Raza for exposing this covert crime in the making, which is no longer hidden thanks to their professional reporting."


Posted by tim at April 16, 2005 12:50 PM

Articles Related to Action Items:


So am I understanding this correctly? Clara's *own mother,* who opposes her euthanasia, takes care of her while the husband works? The mother must, in that case, be giving her water and must know what she can take. I see no reason--not even legally--why the mother should not start giving her milk and orange juice, chicken broth, etc.--stuff that has nutrition in it--instead of just water. And she might as well march right out to the grocery store, buy a can (or whatever) of Ensure, prepare it, and spoon or syringe that into her while she's at it. What's he going to do? He's not even there much of the time if he works full time. He's depending on the mother to take care of Clara while he's not there and carry out his "no food" orders. Maybe she's under the impression that she's obligated legally to obey him here. I doubt very much that that is so, but if it is, she certainly is morally obligated to commit civil disobedience in that case.

I wonder if there is a confusion here and it is _his_ mother that is caring for Clara.

Or could it be in part a cultural issue--the idea that the husband/male "must" be obeyed? (I'm not speaking as a feminist here but just trying to conjecture why the mother would cooperate if she opposes this and is at home alone with Clara for hours.)

Posted by: Lydia at April 16, 2005 1:50 PM

Excellent point. Is any one out there who knows the status on this?

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 16, 2005 1:57 PM

Yes, Clara lives in her mother's home [actually mother lives with Clara in husband's home]. I'd like to know more about the arrangement but have not been able to talk to the family (yet). There is no confusion about who is taking care of her and one can only speculate about why the mother apparently feels (more speculation) she cannot do anything.

What is not speculation is that Clara's life is in danger.

Posted by: tim at April 16, 2005 1:58 PM

Thank you, Tim, for keeping your finger to the pulse for us. I will be praying for Clara along with the others and if you find out any more about this, please let us know.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 16, 2005 2:16 PM

I took an hour to pray in spirit with those in the prayer meeting for Clara in Chicago, but am back now.

Lydia, just a clarification...I think I saw that the article stated that Clara's husband "took her off of her feeding machine". Now, I don't know what that is. It might be a feeding tube, then. Please read the whole article at the original source, again. NOT THAT THIS SHOULD MAKE ANY DIFFERFENCE AT ALL! The point is no one should ever be killed by starvation. Or by dehydration for that matter.

And, since she is still receiving water, by mouth to my understanding, does this mean she can in fact receive Ensure, milk, OJ, broth etc? Seems like it should mean this.

Posted by: juleni at April 16, 2005 2:32 PM

Mary and Lydia, reposting this from the comments section in the article below this one (with an update concerning having juries). Here is my question:

So, the following:

1.Shelters. Guardians in the form of those who stand for life, and are willing to take on guardianship for those without such a trusted guardian available among their loved ones.
And a "pro life seal of approval" for nursing homes and long-term care facilities, willing to act as transfer facilities, voluntarily.
And we, the bloggers as a current 'shelter' of sorts - at least a life raft of a kind - for those brought to our attention, such as Clara, right now!

2. Put forward legislation in states where allowing "clear and convincing" evidence has not become watered-down, for it to be *strong* evidence, absolute (written)evidence (with informed consent if possible), before such a thing as removal of nutrition and hydration be allowed.

3. Put forward legislation for *juries* to be involved in any and all such so-called "right to die" cases, so that the people may be involved in deciding the case.

Am I listing the main suggestions so far?

Posted by: juleni at April 16, 2005 2:38 PM

So far and only lacking Suzanne's comment on the negotiability of
food and water, and that's a big one. Also putting an end to litigating over lives as if they were things.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 16, 2005 3:00 PM

Thanks, Tim.

On the case, Juleni: Yeah, I read the original article at LaRaza before reading it here. It sounds like she had a G-tube and the port is still there. The husband just unscrewed the outside part of the apparatus, including the pump feed (which is usually done when it isn't in use anyway) and isn't making use of the possibility of tube feeding, though he could. But she must be drinking a good bit of water by mouth to have survived this long without dying of dehydration. So there's no question they are giving her some serious hydration by mouth. It's entirely possible the G-tube was just put in for ease of care in the first place; it's a lot easier and faster to feed a helpless person that way than by spoon or syringe. But if she's getting enough water not to die of dehydration, it certainly seems that she could take something more nourishing.

Pastor Espinoza and the mother, etc., need something clear that they are asking for, legally--perhaps that someone else be declared guardian, for example. They sure aren't going to change the husband's _mind_, that's obvious.

Juleni--you have the main suggestions. I'm a pessimist by nature. You will be too if you approach a few ostensibly (and perhaps really, on some issues) pro-life legislators in your state with a suggestion for that kind of legislation. They'll turn us down, cold, I'd bet.

I got a newsletter from my town's pro-life group the other day with the most discouraging, wishy-washy, confused little article in it from one of our "pro-life" legislators (who also happens to be a doctor) on the Terri Schiavo case. E.g. He confused "futile" food and water that doesn't actually nourish the body (because the body is shutting down) with so-called "futile" food and water that is supposedly "pointless" because the person is never going to recover consciousness. A deadly confusion!

Best to all.

Posted by: Lydia at April 16, 2005 3:17 PM


That's why I want US to do what WE can and not to count on politicians and beaurocrats.

Posted by: mary et. al. at April 16, 2005 3:22 PM

Lydia - how horrible (the "futile" confusion).

I am so sorry to hear that. I can understand your feeling discouragement in the face of that.

Here is a story that was emailed to me yesterday, which may be encouraging, to not give up, and I hope it will encourage you, also:

"Innocent Man Writes His Way Out of Prison After 62,000 Letters"

Wrongfully convicted of a cab driver's 1987 murder, Anthony Faison
wrote 62,000 letters over 12 years in an effort to find someone who
could find the truth that would set him and his friend, Charles Shepard, free.

" After responding to a pickup call in Brooklyn at 5 a.m. on March 14, 1987, Jean Ulysses was found by a passing police car in his cab dying from a single bullet fired through his right cheek. Contacted by detectives looking for leads, police informant Nicky Roper suggested they talk to Carolyn Van Buren. She told the detectives that she saw Anthony Faison, who lived on the street where the murder took place, shoot the cab driver during a holdup while his best friend, Charles Shepard, acted as a lookout. Professing their innocence, the two men were arrested and tried. There was no physical evidence that linked them to the murder, and Ms. Van Buren's testimony was the sole "evidence" of any kind against the men. Although she admitted she was a drug user and that she drank 10 beers on the night of the shooting, the jury believed her story.

On May 31, 1988 the jury convicted Mr. Faison and Mr. Shepard of second degree murder. The two men were sentenced to life imprisonment. When Anthony asked for a sentencing delay to marry his pregnant girlfriend, his request was denied by New York State Supreme Court Justice Robert Kreindler. He said: "In the eyes of the law he is legally dead." Another disappointment was that Anthony's two-year-old daughter was sent to live with foster parents.

After being imprisoned for a year, Anthony began to write letters to anyone and everyone who he thought might be able to help exonerate Charles and him. Over the next 12 years Anthony doggedly hand wrote an average of 14 letters a day, 7 days a week. He wrote to members of Congress, senators, lawyers, law enforcement officials, state legislators and strangers. His nickname among inmates and staff alike was "The Writer."In describing his letter writing, Anthony said: "There were weekends where I'd just stay in for 48 hours straight. Cook in the cage, eat in the cage. And when Monday morning rolls around, I may have 60 letters."

Carefully logging each letter in a notebook, Anthony placed a red check next to each letter that was answered. In January 1999, Anthony noticed a new name posted on the prison's law library bulletin board: Michael S. Race, a Long Island private investigator with 23 years experience as a homicide detective. Anthony wrote Mr. Race a four-page letter, mentioning that Ms. Van Buren had AIDS and if she died without recanting her testimony he might lose his only chance to be exonerated.

In February he received a response. Michael Race had taken Anthony's letter seriously, and it inspired him to search for, locate, and interview Carolyn Van Buren. In his letter Michael Race wrote: "She admits that the whole story is a lie!" Ms. Van Buren admitted that Nicky Roper had cooked up the scheme for her to testify against Anthony and Charles, and they split the $1,000 police reward. Her retraction was backed by physical evidence. Ms. Van Buren testified that she saw Anthony shoot the cab driver while standing on the driver's side of the cab. That couldn't be true, however, because the driver's door was locked and the window was up and unbroken when the police arrived. So the shooter must have been in the back seat and used the unlocked rear door to leave the cab. Continuing on his one-man instigation, Mr. Race found Nicky Roper. He admitted coaching Carolyn Van Buren about identifying the two men.

In an April 2000 deposition Mr. Roper said he wanted to get even with Anthony Faison who was a construction worker, for refusing to recommend him for a job where he worked. In April 2000 Michael Race also learned about a letter received in August 1988 by Kimiyo Strawder from her then boyfriend, Arlet Cheston. Ms. Strawder told Michael that Mr. Cheston had written to her about "two guys from around the way that are doing time for a murder he committed." Riding in the cab's back seat, he said he "did what he had to do" after the driver refused to give him his money. Although Ms. Van Buren's retraction, Mr. Roper's deposition and Ms. Strawder's information seemed to be compelling new evidence exonerating Anthony and Charles, a Court refused to vacate their conviction. The denial of that appeal was one of a dozen rejected by various Courts during the course of the men's case. Lawyer Ron Kuby had also received one of Anthony's letters, but he didn't take an interest in his case until Michael Race contacted him.

Focusing on 11 fingerprints recovered from the cab that didn't match those of either Anthony or Charles, Mr. Kuby petitioned a judge on April 20, 2001 to order that they be compared with Arlet Cheston's. The order was granted, and the tests revealed that two prints from the cab's glass partition were similar to those of Mr. Cheston. He was arrested on May 11, and his confession that night to Mr. Ulysses' murder was videotaped. His confession accomplished what a dozen appeals over 13 years had failed to do. On May 14, 2001, Justice Kreindler, who 13 years before had said that Anthony was "legally dead," ordered the immediate release of Anthony Faison and Charles Shepard.After their release the two men filed a $60 million wrongful conviction suit against the state. Anthony is trying to regain custody of his daughter, who is now 15, and his son by his ex-girlfriend who is now 13. Charles can now be more than the absentee father to his son that he was for 13 years. Considering their life sentences, Anthony Faison and Charles Shepard had a fairy tale ending to the tragic injustice inflicted upon them. Yet the two men would have had no chance to rebuild their lives if Anthony had let tens of thousands of unanswered letters stop him from continuing to try to find the one person on the outside who could, and would be willing to assist Charles and him to find the evidence that would prove their innocence. If Anthony had quit after 5,000, or 25,000, or even 60,000 letters, he wouldn't have provided Michael Race with the chance to give the crucial helping hand that led to them walking out of prison as free men.

Anthony explained his persistence by saying: "My philosophy was this: The only way I will get out of prison is to write myself out. And I lived by that. And that's exactly what I did." The 62,000 letters that Anthony wrote are carefully logged in 10 notebooks, and the entry to his fateful letter to Michael Race has a red check next to it."

Also, thank you so much for explaining to me about the food situation for Clara, and I agree that surely they could give her some nutritional fluids, quite certainly. Although I don't know the whole situation - how threatening the husband may be, etc. (or if they are already trying to give her some nutritional fluids and just keeping it secret at this time, but feel it is not substantial enough). Really, I don't know. I am just brainstorming what the situation could be. We'll have to wait for more news, I am sure. Hopefully Clara's mother and the pastor will be able to clearly state what they want, legally. In any case Clara needs to be fed if alive!

Where there is life, there is hope, yes and where there is life, nutrition should naturally follow!

Posted by: juleni at April 16, 2005 4:57 PM

Tim, thank you for the update of the date for the prayer time! I will be praying tomorrow as well!

Posted by: juleni at April 16, 2005 9:30 PM

Thanks to everyone for you comments and concern for Clara. Earl has verified that it is the husband who owns the home - I misinterpreted Pastor Espinoza.

I've been told that the husband kept the information about what he is doing from everyone, including his family, and that everyone is horrified. "Will someone do something?" is now the question.

Lydia noted that Pastor Espinoza and the mother, etc., need something clear that they are asking for - I agree. They don't know what to ask for, they just want someone to help and feel powerless.

There is much happening in the background. I plan to post the name of at least one politician who lives within blocks of Clara. His press agent promised to get back to me but never did.

Anyone that can attend the prayer meeting today (Sunday) PLEASE do so.

Posted by: tim at April 17, 2005 3:21 AM