"By order of the government, a healthy young woman was denied food and water until she died."
(Nashville, TN) - The story of Terri Schiavo caused a nationwide uproar that garnered the attention of the worldwide media, the U.S. Congress, and even the office of the President of the United States. The ethical and cultural implications of her case are still being felt throughout society and continue to spark debate. In the newly-released documentary, The Terri Schiavo Story (Franklin Springs Family Media), previously unexplored facts of the case are revealed through in-depth interviews with participants on both sides of the issue. Hosted by author and speaker Joni Eareckson Tada, who became personally involved in the case in 2005, The Terri Schiavo Story sheds new light on the controversial decision that led to the death of a 41-year-old disabled woman.
In 1990, at the age of 26, Terri Schindler Schiavo suffered a mysterious cardio-respiratory arrest for which no cause has ever been determined. She was diagnosed with hypoxic encephalopathy - a neurological injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. Terri was placed on a ventilator, but was soon able to breathe on her own and maintain vital function. She remained in a severely compromised neurological state and was provided a PEG tube to ensure the safe delivery of nourishment and hydration. On March 31, 2005, Terri Schindler Schiavo died of marked dehydration following more than 13 days without nutrition or hydration under the order of Circuit Court Judge, George W. Greer of the Pinellas-Pasco's Sixth Judicial Court.
Veteran producer and director Ken Carpenter felt the story deserved to be re-told, but he did not anticipate the amount of new information that would come to light. "Working on this project made clear to me that we need to keep Terri's story alive. Our children need to know the lines were drawn when our government and court system let Terri die."
Joni Eareckson Tada, herself disabled after a diving accident which left her a quadriplegic in a wheelchair and unable to use her hands, says what happened to Terri 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," says Tada. "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."
Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler, was interviewed at length in the documentary and is now involved in helping families in similar circumstances through The Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation. 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," says Schindler, "and realize the atrocity that it was and that anyone who claims that her death was 'peaceful' and 'painless' is lying. 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 first hand, the outcry would have deafened Florida and the world."
Tada was on the front lines with Terri'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," says Tada. "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... we must not allow them to become eroded. For when we do, we are jeopardizing the rights of us all."
Originally produced as an episode for the Joni & Friends television series, Franklin Springs Family Media felt the story was compelling enough to produce as a stand-alone project. Their decision was recently justified when The Terri Schiavo Story won the Jubliee Award for Best Documentary at the San Antonio Independent Christian Film Festival.
For more information and to view a trailer for the new documentary, visit: www.TheSchiavoStory.com.