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Schiavo’s death focus of documentary

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–A new documentary, “The Terri Schiavo Story” hosted by Joni Eareckson Tada, features in-depth interviews with participants on both sides of the 2005 death by dehydration of the 41-year-old disabled woman in Florida.

Terri Schindler Schiavo died of dehydration on March 31, 2005, following more than 13 days without hydration or nutrition under a Florida circuit court order obtained by her husband Michael. In 1990, Schiavo, then 26, collapsed of unknown causes and subsequently was diagnosed with hypoxic encephalopathy — a neurological injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. She remained in a severely compromised neurological state until the court order was enforced to remove her feeding tube.

The documentary originally was produced as an episode for the television outreach of Tada’s ministry, Joni & Friends. In a news release distributed by Franklin Springs Family Media, the company said it believed the story was compelling enough to produce as a stand-alone project. In 2008, The Terri Schiavo Story won the Jubliee Award for Best Documentary at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.

Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, were among those interviewed in the documentary.

Joni Eareckson Tada, herself disabled in a diving accident as a teenager which left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair and unable to use her hands, said what happened to Terri Schiavo continues to affect disabled citizens.

“The story remains relevant because there are countless people like Terri Schiavo whose lives are in grave danger because of unclear custody and guardianship laws,” Tada said in the news release. “Plus, more states (under futile care policy directives) are quietly removing the feeding tubes from brain-injured people when families abandon their responsibilities. Feeding tubes are providing basic care, not medical treatment.”

Tada was on the front lines with Terri Schiavo’s family in 2005, helping lead the protests that eventually landed in the halls of the U.S. Congress.

“I hope that people understand that Terri Schiavo’s story is really our story,” Tada said. “We have a special obligation to protect the weak and vulnerable in our society. We have a responsibility to uphold their human dignity — because we are of equal dignity, we are not at each other’s disposal.

“The weak and the vulnerable need their rights safeguarded and protected…. [W]e must not allow them to become eroded. For when we do, we are jeopardizing the rights of us all,” Tada said.

Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler, was interviewed at length in the documentary. Now helping families in similar circumstances through The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation (www.terrisfight.org), Schindler believes the truth about his sister’s death has been distorted and hidden — until now.

“Our hope is that people will learn the truth about what happened to Terri and realize the atrocity that it was and that anyone who claims that her death was ‘peaceful’ and ‘painless’ is lying,” Schindler said.

“It is because of the truly inhumane nature of death by dehydration that when people are killed this way it is always done behind closed doors in the strictest secrecy. I wholeheartedly believe that if the public had been allowed to witness Terri’s suffering firsthand, the outcry would have deafened Florida and the world.”

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, and David Gibbs, head of the Florida-based Christian Law Association, also were among those interviewed for the documentary.

Land, who as president of the ERLC is a champion of pro-life issues, said, “As human beings we don’t have the right to take on god-like qualities and start deciding for others when the quality of their life has diminished to the point that they no longer deserve protections that we give to more healthy, more productive people.”

Gibbs, who served as legal counsel for the Schindler family, said Schiavo should have been given a chance to live, noting in the documentary, “Whether she [Terri] would ever get better or not, in the condition that she was in, she was as alive as any person watching this show.”

The documentary also features an interview with Pat Anderson, the Tampa attorney who fought on behalf of Terri Schiavo, and photographs provided by Joni B. Hannigan, managing editor of the Florida Baptist Witness newspaper.
Reported by the staff of the Florida Baptist Witness (www.FloridaBaptistWitness.com). For more information about the documentary on Terri Schiavo, go to www.theschiavostory.com.

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