Terri Schiavo suffered catastrophic brain damage in 1990 due to a misdiagnosed illness and lived in a persistent vegetative state until her body died on March 31, 2005, thirteen days after doctors disconnected her permanently implanted hydration/feeding tube.
Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael, disagreed with her parents for many years about her care. After several court battles, Michael, Terri's legal guardian under Florida law, won the right to carry out Terri's expressed wishes.
Terri's final battles included last minute intervention by ethically challenged Tom DeLay and the Republican U.S. Congress. Congress passed a law specifically aimed at forcing reconnection of Terri Schiavo's artificial tube. President George W. Bush suspended his Texas vacation to sign the bill into law. However, state and federal courts, including the U.S. Supreme Court, refused to overturn the earlier decisions despite Congress's attempts to circumvent judicial review.
American public opinion overwhelmingly opposed the Republicans' intervention in one family's private and painful medical situation. Both Bush's and Congress's favorability ratings fell dramatically as a result. (Bush's ratings fell to a new record-low for his presidency. Congress's ratings fell to Clinton impeachment levels.) Corporate media outlets, such as CNN and Fox News, devoted seemingly endless hours to the Terri Schiavo story with willful disregard for the truth, thrusting known crackpots onto the air. These channels also all but ignored concurrent hard news such as a deadly Indonesian earthquake and disturbing new U.N. statistics on Iraqi childhood malnutrition (which has doubled since the 2003 Invasion of Iraq).
Some media outlets did report actual news. The Los Angeles Times noted that Tom DeLay's own family faced a similar decision with his father's care. In that case DeLay decided his father should not be kept on a ventilator after a serious tram accident. Of course Congress did not intervene in the DeLay Family's private decision. (And, in another bout of hypocrisy, DeLay successfully sued the manufacturer despite his support for tort reform.) Other media reports noted that George W. Bush signed a Texas law which allows medical facilities to override family wishes and remove life support from terminally ill patients.
The Miami Herald reported that Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the President's brother, nearly caused a violent constitutional crisis when he ordered state law enforcement to take Terri Schiavo into custody. When local law enforcement informed their peers that they would uphold the court decisions, state law enforcement backed down.
Hardcore "Christian" fanatics at first lauded the two Bushes (and DeLay) but then fiercely criticized them for their inability to "save" Terri Schiavo's body. The Schindlers (Terri's parents) hired spokespersons Randall Terry and Larry Klayman who both lashed out at their fellow Republicans, dividing the party. On the other side, Connecticut Republican Congressman Christopher Shays observed, with remorse, that his party had descended into theocracy.
The Democratic Party's elected officials mainly stayed out of Terri Schiavo's private affairs, although some were slow to understand public opinion and common sense. Former Democratic presidential candidate Jesse Jackson, Sr., was one notable exception. Jackson joined the media circus outside Terri Schiavo's Florida hospice, insisting that officials forcibly reconnect her body to hydration and feeding machines.
- Theresa Schiavo entry in Wikipedia