Terri Schiavo Is Not My Sister

From Holden:

But she could have been. I’ve been struggling for days with my thoughts on this, fighting to balance my desire for anonymity with my need to express how personal the issue of a family’s decision to end the life of a loved one is for me. So here goes.

When my sister, my eldest sibling, was 41 (the same age as Terri Schiavo is today) she suddenly developed a large aneurysm next to her brain stem that, after emergecy surgery, left with some paralysis and slurred speech. One week later the distended artery in her brain burst, spraying blood onto her brain stem.

As the neurologist explained to my mother and I that night, when the blood vessels feeding that important part of her brain were sprayed with blood from the hemorrhage they contracted, seizing up like a clenched fist around her brain stem. This left her unconscious and unable to breathe on her own.

She had no will, living or otherwise, and had never married. My mother and I, together with no input from any minister, lawyer, congressman, senator or president, decided that my sister would not want her body to be kept alive in this manner.

That was actually an easy decision. The entire episode was extremely traumatic, from the first call from the friend she was dining with when the aneurysm struck, to watching a medical team rush into her cubicle in the ICU to remove her heart, liver, kidneys, corneas, long bones, certain tendons and ligaments, and portions of her skin after we made the decision to withdraw life support, to the endless hours we spent cleaning out her apartment, keeping a few momentos and photos, donating her clothes, kitchenwares, and some furniture to a local women’s shelter, throwing out the rest. We were constantly reminded of someone who loved her life, who wanted to hold onto life and live it to the fullest. But the decision to end her life was easy, it was made for us when that artery in her brain burst.

How much more horrible would the whole experience have been if a family member had disagreed and the government stepped in, I can’t imagine. Frankly, I doubt I would be able to contain myself. I don’t know how Michael Schiavo does it, I would be foaming at the mouth and thrashing out at all enemies, genuine and perceived, where I him.

I do have some sympathy for the Schindlers. But I feel they are letting their daughter down as a result of a selfish desire to hold on to a person who no longer exists, to avoid the pain of a final farewell. Their healing will begin when Ms. Schiavo’s life finally ends.