Thursday, March 30, 2006

Family members of the late Terri Schindler Schiavo commemorated the anniversary of her death, which is today, and announced the creation of a foundation in her name to combat euthanasia.

The foundation’s mission will be to eliminate the persistent vegetative state, the condition that doctors said Mrs. Schiavo was in, as a diagnosis for patients, said her brother Bobby Schindler.

But the foundation, which also will have a separate lobbying organization, will seek to have feeding tubes classified as ordinary care for hospital patients and to make people aware of the need to have advance directives or living wills in case they cannot communicate their wishes late in life.

“We lost in our battle to save Terri, but we believe it is incumbent upon us to save the lives of others from this culture of euthanasia and choosing death instead of life,” said her mother.

Mrs. Schiavo’s parents, Robert and Mary, her brother and sister Suzanne Schindler-Vitadamo yesterday spoke of their work in the past year to build support for the foundation and the book they have authored on Mrs. Schiavo’s life: “A Life that Matters: The Legacy of Terri Schiavo — a Lesson for Us All,” the proceeds from which will be donated to the foundation.

Mrs. Schiavo died of starvation and dehydration March 31, 2005, after living 15 years in what doctors call a persistent vegetative state, unable to feed herself or communicate with others. She slipped into a coma in 1990 and never recovered her higher mental functions.

Her husband, Michael Schiavo, who won a legal fight with her family to have her feeding tube removed, said his wife had told him that she would not have wanted to be kept alive in that way.

Members of Congress, the Catholic Church and President Bush all spoke on behalf of saving Mrs. Schiavo’s life as the family battled the decision in court, and Congress returned from Easter recess to pass bills to stop the euthanasia.

Sen. Sam Brownback, Kansas Republican, was the only member of Congress to stand with the family yesterday, and he pledged to continue the fight to protect life.

“Terri’s plight highlighted the core question about the protection of human life: Does the dignity with which we treat individuals depend on their physical and mental status as human beings,” Mr. Brownback asked.

“Once we go down the path of valuing some lives more than others, of saying that people with disabilities don’t have the same dignity and right to life as others, there are few means not justified by the sinister end of a disability-free society.”

The National Pro-Life Action Center bought 600 copies of the family’s book at a cost of $10,000 as a donation and plans to distribute them to every member of Congress, top White House officials and all Supreme Court justices. The foundation is based in St. Petersburg, Fla., and the family has been on a speaking tour to talk about the Schiavo case and euthanasia.

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