"Why I believe in divorce" is not a column I would have anticipated writing—especially at the unveiling of National Marriage Protection Week. You see, divorce is at the root of many societal ills; just not this one.
The case is regarding Terri Schindler-Schiavo, a 39-year-old Florida woman who became disabled following an unexplained incident 13 years ago. Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, have spent their retirement fighting for her life. But it's worth it, they say, when they see her smiling face light up every time they see her.
They love her, but don't have any say in her care because she is still legally married to Michael Schiavo—Terri's legal guardian.
The problem? Terri's husband, Michael has been living with another woman he calls his "fiancée" for nearly ten years. He's even fathered a child by her, and there's another on the way. Can you say "conflict of interest?"
According to a sworn affidavit, Carla Sauer Iyer, R.N., who cared for Terri at the Palm Garden of Largo Convalescent Center from April 1995 to July 1996, Michael isn't all too pleased that his wife is still alive. He was frequently overheard to say statements like: "Has she died yet?" and, "When is that b---- going to die?" Just the kind of guardian any father would want for his daughter.
Why doesn't he just divorce her and move on?
Well, one theory is that not only is Michael her legal guardian, he is her rich legal guardian. He was awarded over a million dollars in a malpractice settlement $750,000 of which was earmarked for Terri's rehabilitative care. Except the money never went for Terri's rehabilitative care; it is being spent on legal fees to remove all of her care—including her food and water.
Question: How do you get rid of your wife and still keep all of her money?
Surprisingly, it takes only three easy steps:
1. Hire an attorney that thinks starving a disabled woman is a good idea. Enter George Felos. At an appeals court hearing in August 2001, Felos set a high standard for personhood: "The litmus test," he said, "is whether or not a person can bring a spoon to their mouth." Nice guy—setting a standard for personhood that would empty out every nursing home, rehab and daycare center in the country.
2. Find a neurologist who thinks starving a disabled woman is a good idea. Enter Ron Cranford. He's declared more people to be "vegetables" than you'll find at the salad bar in a Bob's Big Boy. A clever strategy when you want to throw people away as easily as you would scrape off your plate.
3. Find a judge who thinks starving a disabled woman is a good idea. Enter Judge George Greer of Florida's 6th Circuit Court who has ordered Terri to be starved to death beginning yesterday, Wednesday, Oct. 15 at 2 p.m.—despite the plea from Terri's parents and Governor Jeb Bush to try and feed her by mouth before starving her outright. But Judge Greer didn't know if that would work. He doesn't know, because he wouldn't let them try it. By the way, Judge Greer is up for re-election. Not sure how you'd vote? Try skipping food and water for a week and see how you feel.
But wait, there's more. According to Iyer's sworn affidavit, "Any time Terri would be sick, … with a … fluid buildup in her lungs, colds, or pneumonia, Michael would be visibly excited, thrilled even, hoping that she would die. He would say something like, 'Hallelujah! You've made my day!' … 'I'm going to be rich!' and would talk about all the things he would buy when Terri died, which included a new car, a new boat … among other things."
Starvation and dehydration is so brutal, so agonizing, we wouldn't do it to the most hardened criminal on death row. In fact, if you did it to a dog, you'd go to jail for cruelty. But for a disabled woman, that's another matter. When Terri made her wedding vow, "till death do us part," I'm pretty sure this is not what she had in mind.
So let's review our choices:
Starve a dog: Go to jail. Do not pass "go;" Do not collect $200.
Starve a disabled woman: Collect $1.3 million, a new car, a new boat, and a new family.
But before Michael can take that new boat for a test run, lawyers on Terri's behalf are working on filing for divorce. Pick a reason, any reason, adultery and starvation, are two that come to mind. Don't get me wrong, I'm against divorce as a rule, but if given a choice between divorce or death by starvation and dehydration, I can tell you which curtain I'd pick. My closing argument before the court? Duh.
Janet Folger is the founder and president of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based Faith2Action. Views expressed in Speaking Out do not necessarily represent those of Christianity Today.
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Terri Schindler-Schiavo's family has a web site with lots of information and many links.
Florida Governor Jeb Bush filed a petition to the court appealing for Terri's life.
Cybercast News Service has been following the story closely. Among its stories:
WorldNetDaily's Sarah Foster has been following the story, and her archive is here.
Focus on the Family's CitizenLink has a story.
Christian Broadcasting Network has a story.