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Linda Evans Shepherd is a Christian author and speaker and the president of Right to the Heart Ministries, and publisher of the ezine Right to the Heart of Women that goes to over 6000 women leaders of the church. Linda is also the host of the nationally syndicated radio feature, Right to the Heart, heard on over 150 outlets a day.

See www.LindaAndLaura.com for more information about Linda’s attempt to speak out on behalf of Terri Schiavo.

See http://www.righttotheheart.com/Shepherd_KWGN_9pm.wmv for a video clip of Linda and Laura.

 
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Mother of Severely Disabled Child Speaks Out on Terri Schiavo

By Linda Evans Shepherd
Guest Columnist


CBN.comToday we mourn the passing of an innocent soul, Terri Schiavo, sentenced to die by the Florida courts for the crime of PVS (persistent vegetative state), which may have been a false diagnosis.

Sixteen years ago, my then 18-month-old daughter Laura was also given a false diagnosis of PVS as well.

“Scientifically speaking, you can’t tell pvs from coma,” I challenged the medical community at the time.

Nevertheless, their recommendation was to pull the plug on Laura and to diagnose me as being in a state of denial. I stood firm and kept Laura ‘plugged in.’ “God can take Laura if He wants her, He doesn’t need me to pull her plug,” I’d said.

Happily, time proved the doctors to be in the wrong about my mental state as well as my daughter’s state of PVS when she finally awoke from her coma, happy to be alive but severely brain damaged, like Terri.

Hard to believe, but a false diagnosis of PVS happens up to 43 percent of the time. This is a frightening discovery as pvs appears to be the newest capital crime.

Terri Schiavo was issued an “Order of Execution” from Florida Judge George Greer even though she had not been re-evaluated for pvs in more than five years. That original evaluation consisted of a bedside observation and did not take place in a clinical setting. My question is, was Terri even awake during her exam? Did she dislike the doctor and therefore decided to give him the cold shoulder? My daughter has often done that very thing to members of the medical community in Denver.

Still we have to ask, why didn’t the courts allow a reevaluation? This is especially puzzling as doctors and scientists are learning the brain can regenerate itself. At least, that’s what one neurosurgeon told me after viewing an MRI of my daughter’s brain that showed remarkably less damage than the MRI taken 14 years earlier.

I for one believe Terri was not PVS, but alert enough to respond and communicate to her friends and family.

Pam Hyink, a certified speech and language pathologist in private practice in Boulder, Colorado, who had sent Judge Greer a signed affidavit on Terri’s behalf, had seen the videos of Terri and agreed that her PVS diagnosis was false.

Said Hyink, “In my 34 years of practice in working with the disabled, there is no question in my mind that Terri Schiavo communicated. I feel Terri could have been taught to use body language such as eye gaze, tongue signals, head turning or eye blinks in order to communicate in consistent ways.”

Terri’s husband has argued that Terri would not have wanted to live her life ‘incapacitated.’ Did Terri share that same opinion? Why didn’t anyone ask her? According to her family, Terri was never given any speech or language communication therapy. Why not? Why was half a million dollars, earmarked for improving the quality of her life, spent in court to end her life?

“Terri needed a fair chance, a fair and appropriate evaluation by a communications specialist,” Hyink said.

I agree. Pam Hyink helped my own brain-damaged daughter utilize her tongue signals and taught her how to communicate effectively. Today, 18-year-old Laura has about the same level of alertness as Terri had and communicates very well with her signals. I am absolutely convinced that Terri, if she’d been given a chance, could have communicated effectively as well. Once she learned to communicate, she could have answered questions like, “Do I want to live?” Instead, the court and her husband kept her silent.

My daughter has taught me that the profoundly disabled have a purpose, even if only to love and to be loved. Terri had that as her “quality of life.”

As a citizen, I believe the order of execution — to be starved to death — was inhumane and unconstitutional in a land whose citizens are created equal.

Judge Greer stopped the feeding of Terri by spoon, even disallowing ‘swallowing,’ which is a voluntary action. Does this mean all disabled people who need a spoon feeding can be executed if society decides the quality of their lives is not to its liking? I shudder to think that even the elderly population of nursing homes could be extinguished on these grounds, unless we change our laws.

As the mother of a similarly challenged person, I realize that Terri’s crime of being disabled is one that has been committed by millions of Americans. If we don’t stand up to protect these precious persons, who will? And who will draw the line at who is too disabled to live? Considering that the elderly and disabled population was the first group targeting by death during the Nazi holocaust, we have to ask, where does this stop? If we as a society are unable to protect the innocent, we will lose our very soul.


Linda Evans Shepherd is a Christian author and speaker and the president of Right to the Heart Ministries, and publisher of the ezine Right to the Heart of Women that goes to over 6,000 women leaders of the church. Linda is also the host of the nationally syndicated radio feature, Right to the Heart, heard on over 150 outlets a day.

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