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February 13, 2007

The Media Continues To Get It Wrong on Terri Schiavo

Topics: Media

Here is a response from Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler, to an article by Steven Pinker, "The Mystery of Consciousness," appearing in a recent issue of TIME magazine.

Mr. Pinker,

I found the premise of much of what you wrote in your essay, "The Mystery of Consciousness," to be very troubling. However, I wanted to respond specifically to the comment you made regarding my sister, Terri Schiavo.

You said, "And if these questions have answers, would they change our policies toward unresponsive patients--making the Terri Schiavo case look like child's play?"

Your assertion that Terri was unresponsive is patently false.

I want to first stress that my family always held that it should have made no difference whether Terri was unresponsive or not. She was a human being, a person worthy of being cared for and loved, and no one should ever have to prove whether or not they deserve to be fed. However, contrary to what you wrote, Terri was very responsive.

I urge you to watch the videos of my sister, review the more than 40 doctors' affidavits submitted to the court, fully read the autopsy report, or simply believe the testimony of my family to understand that Terri was not only responsive, but that labeling her as having been in this dehumanizing, unscientific, and lethal "vegetative" state was also erroneous.

I am reminded of what author Wesley J. Smith recently wrote regarding the media.

"They [the media] often seem to decide the story first and then fit the facts to their perception. Once the story line is determined, facts that belie their take--even very important and pertinent facts--are often ignored or barely mentioned. Then, reporters who may come late to the story rely on the earlier reports and hence, regurgitate the skewed story line, until error often becomes perceived fact. As a consequence, a materially false impression is left for people who don't follow these matters closely."

When it comes to Terri's situation, this couldn't be more accurate. I am convinced more everyday, evidenced by articles such as yours, that there exists a conscious effort by the popular media to continue to try and justify killing my sister and others like her as being the "right" thing to do.

What is so frightening, however, is that our indifferent public is, and will continue to be, persuaded by articles such as yours, buying into the rationale that it is acceptable to kill the disabled because their IQs are not high enough.

Finally, perhaps you can explain to my family, particularly my parents, what you were implying by your "child's play" comment, because I am having a difficult time trying to understand what you meant.

Surely you could not be so insensitive as to think that parents having to fight so hard to simply care for and love their innocent disabled daughter was trivial. Nor, I am sure, were you trying to suggest that forcing my parents to slowly watch their daughter die a horrific death by dehydration and starvation over a period of 13 days, was merely "child's play"?

Because I can hardly imagine that anyone with any sense of human decency or genuine compassion would describe my sister's or any similar situation that way.

I would encourage you, along with other members of the media, to remember that Terri Schiavo is not just a name to be used to further your agenda. She was a living, breathing, feeling human being deeply loved by her family and her death is a tragedy with which we continue to live every day of our lives.


Bobby Schindler

A key statement by Bobby is that the "assertion that Terri was unresponsive is patently false". It goes without saying that Terri Schiavo was not brain dead despite incorrect reports by various media outlets. For example, here's a patently false statement that recently appeared in Patriot News:

The issue received national attention when courts and Congress became involved in the decision on whether Terri Schiavo, a brain-dead Florida woman, should have her feeding tube removed.
Unfortunately, this type of error is common and results, in part, from the misinformation that was used to motivate Terri's death via starvation/dehydration.

Posted by tim at February 13, 2007 12:48 PM

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All of you who contribute to this blog deserve a heartfelt thank-you. It would have been easy to stop the effort once the initial battle to save Terri's earthly life was lost, saying we did the best we could.

But the issue remains, dangerous and insidiously creeping through our culture with the persistent misrepresentations in the MSM. To save our values we need the faith-based perseverence of dedicated writers such as those who contribute here.

Many blessings to you.

Posted by: American Daughter at February 17, 2007 11:06 AM