They Killed My Sister Terri Schiavo, Now They Kill Other People They Don’t Consider “Persons”

Opinion   |   Bobby Schindler   |   Jun 29, 2023   |   3:52PM   |   Washington, DC

Decades before this mindless debate about redefining a “woman” surfaced, secular humanists were redefining a “person.”

The American professor Dr. Joseph Fletcher, who died in 1991, was recognized as one of the most distinguished bioethicists of modern times. As recorded by bioethicist Wesley J. Smith, in his article Joseph Fletcher’s Dark Dreams Becoming Our Reality, Fletcher introduced what is today referred to as personhood theory—the false dichotomy between humans and persons.

According to Smith, Fletcher originally asserted a difference between “’truly human beings’ and the ‘sub-personal’—those among us whom we should deem of little consequence because of their lesser capacities” in his 1975 essay “Indicators of Humanhood” that was published in the prestigious Hastings Center Report.

While Fletcher with his malevolent passions introduced personhood theory, it was the notorious Peter Singer, an internationally known bioethicist and former Princeton University professor, who mainstreamed this philosophy. As a result, most bioethicists today subscribe to the notion that there are human beings who are not persons. This has, indefensibly, had a grave impact on many people.

So, who are these miserable souls, miraculously losing their status as people—or persons? Those who have no self-awareness, cannot think rationally, or lack any meaningful mental ability, to name just a few. Under these criteria the unborn, the newborn, those with Alzheimer’s, the cognitively disabled, and those with developmental disabilities are all considered nonpersons, and as such, can be killed with the blessing of the medical community and government authorities.

Giving to this interpretation, when my sister, Terri Schiavo, sustained a brain injury, she fell into the status of human nonperson, which unbeknownst to my family, contributed to the outcome of her case.

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For those who do not remember, Terri had a mysterious accident in 1990 at the age of 26, while home alone with her husband, Michael. She went several minutes without oxygen, which resulted in a brain injury. Terri was not in a coma, she was not “brain dead,” and she did not need the assistance of any “machines” to live. However, she had difficulty swallowing and needed a feeding tube for food and water.

Sadly, less than two years of caring for Terri, Michael, who was her legal guardian, became involved with another woman and successfully petitioned the court (with perjured testimony) for permission to deliberately kill Terri by having her feeding tube removed. Terri died an unjust and agonizing death by dehydration. It took almost two weeks.

Personally, I had never heard of Peter Singer or personhood theory until my family became embroiled in Terri’s case. This is well illustrated in the 2005 public debate between Wesley J. Smith and Professor Bill Allen, a bioethicist at the University of Florida:

Wesley Smith: “Bill, do you think Terri is a person?”

Bill Allen: “No, I do not. I think having awareness is an essential criterion for personhood.”

I believe that Fletcher and Singer’s original intent—dehumanizing the person, so the killing can be rationalized—played a significant role in my sister’s case, and continues to shape popular culture in general.

For example, in 2010, the hugely popular adult animated sitcom Family Guy, created by Seth MacFarlane, featured an episode called “Terri Schiavo: The Musical,” the intention of which was to mock Terri. The episode opened with a mellifluous skit performed by preschool students to an audience of friends and family. I won’t go into detail because it is vulgar, but Terri’s medical condition was grossly misrepresented with the students singing that she had “mashed potato brains,” and repeatedly referring to her as a “vegetable.”

A 2014, article by The College Fix’s Mairead McArdle exposed anecdotal evidence that college students support “post-birth abortion,” suggesting that children up to five years of age could be put to death because they are not sufficiently “self-aware” to be considered “persons.”

In 2018, a video surfaced of a University of Tennessee Knoxville student who rationalized support for the infanticide of two-year-old children because they were not sufficiently “sentient.” The student said “Without communication, we have no way of knowing if you are sentient or not. It’s no different than this tree. It’s alive, but is it sentient? I don’t know. I cannot communicate with it.”

Learning of this radical idea while Terri was still alive when I spoke at medical (and law) schools following her death, I would highlight personhood theory as part of my presentation to forewarn the students about this extreme ideology.

Without fail, students would approach me after my presentation and share that personhood theory was already part of their curriculum. Moreover, they were using Terri’s case and her brain injury as the textbook example of someone who was a human non-person.

Historically, U.S. healthcare has had its share of difficulties, but it still has some of the best-trained and most caring doctors and nurses you can find. However, our healthcare system can no longer be trusted because it’s been infiltrated by an anti-Christian ideology.

Today, most doctors either perform or support abortion; not treating babies who survive an abortion; assisted suicide; denying or withdrawing life-giving care; intentionally starving their patients to death; and gender surgery on minors. These medical practices are simply not acceptable in a civilized society. They are a fundamental violation of the Hippocratic Oath and biblical teaching.

We have no way of knowing the untold number of patients who have been affected and hastily killed by medical professionals who are progressively disassociating from our founding Christian values but, with over 6,000 U.S. hospitals (not including nursing homes and hospices), and more than 34 million people admitted to these facilities every year, one can imagine patients falling prey to unscrupulous doctors who practice in a utilitarian healthcare system.

This is why you should find pro-life, pro-family doctors who recognize our God-given human dignity. Additionally, you should legally appoint a principled and resilient healthcare agent as a medical durable power of attorney so that they can manage your care and make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them yourself.

After all, it is one thing for a man to pretend to be a woman, but it’s a another when a doctor kills you pretending you are not a person.