Terri Schiavo: My Sister’s Regret

First appeared in Townhall.com, available here.

Recently, and for the second time in less than a year, presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama stated that his greatest regret as a Senator was not objecting to a vote that was intended to help save my sister from being dehydrated to death.

Senator Obama went so far as to say that this type of “inaction” (failure to speak out against the Senate’s unanimous consent to allow Terri the same due process allowed the most vicious of criminals) can sometimes prove to be just as costly as taking action. One has to wonder what could possibly have been “more costly” than the loss of innocent human life.

At a Democratic rally in Florida in February 2006, Senator Hillary Clinton scolded the Republicans in an effort to single them out for intervening in Terri’s situation, even though the effort to save her passed the Senate with bi-partisan support.

In an August 2006 interview with Esquire Magazine, Senator John McCain said the following: “I understand the frustrations a lot of Republicans feel. We’re not representing their hopes and dreams and aspirations. We worry about Ms. Schiavo before we worry about balancing the budget.”

One of these candidates will be our next President, and the fact that they can make such statements with little to no fanfare from our secular media, or any noticeable outrage from the general public, is a chilling reminder of how far we have drifted as a nation.

It would be interesting to see if there would have been a similar reaction—or lack of one—if, at the time of Senator McCain’s service to his country, a ranking U.S. senator made this comment: “I understand the frustrations a lot of Americans feel. We’re not representing their hopes and dreams and aspirations. We worry about saving POWs like John McCain before we worry about balancing the budget.”

How is that statement any different than what John McCain said about Terri? Terri was an American citizen and was supposed to be protected. But she wasn’t. In fact, we treat animals better than we treated her. Her country failed her, and despite Senator Obama’s remark, that inaction can be “costly” for Terri paid the ultimate cost—her life. Now others like her face the same type of treatment unless our leaders do more to protect them.

There is a lethal bigotry against the disabled in our country and it’s getting worse, in particular against the cognitively disabled—human beings who are being killed every day in our nation. If left unchecked it will likely threaten the lives of everyone who is not able-bodied. This is especially problematic when you have potential leaders who have made it abundantly clear that they are going to do nothing to protect the value and dignity of people like my sister.

I often wonder if our presidential candidates would make such insensitive and callous comments if this were their child or if they had ever known someone like Terri.

Perhaps they could take time to visit my parents and see the agony and torment that remains with them every single day as a result of having to needlessly watch their disabled child slowly killed by dehydration and starvation.

Maybe as president they could explain why my parents were told by the armed police guarding Terri that if either of them tried to give her ice for her bleeding lips they would be arrested immediately.

Maybe my parents could remind all three candidates, who are parents themselves, that a mother and father value nothing in life more than their children and want only to love them unconditionally and protect them in every way possible—a right you can no longer take for granted.

March 31st will mark the third anniversary of my sister’s brutal death. Sadly, it is a day that reminds me of what our nation has become, bringing back horrible images of a hideously inhumane death and how the judge who sentenced Terri to die also, in essence, sentenced my parents to death with her.

Senator Obama said that his biggest regret was allowing Congress to try to help my sister. I wish I could ask Terri about her biggest regret, because as things turned out I’m certain that hers would have been that she was born in an America where life is no longer viewed as precious and worthy of protection.

As I think about the future of our nation I can’t help but remember the words of one of our founding fathers, Thomas Jefferson: “The care of human life and happiness and not their destruction is the first and only legitimate object of good government.”