The South Jersey Catholic Medical Association co-sponsored a presentation by Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo, who was at the center of one of the first public and legal battles surrounding End of Life issues. The event was held at Rowan University’s School of Osteopathic Medicine, on April 11, in the Academic Center Auditorium. The school’s Student Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians put the program together to expose students and faculty to one family’s experience with End of Life issues and the complications that can arise.

With great care and compassion, Bobby Schindler introduced the audience to his sister as he prefers to remember her, as a young, beautiful and vibrant woman. He described the Terri he knew and grew up with, projecting a large picture of her before her health problems began, on a screen in the front of the room, a stark contrast to the picture splashed throughout the media during the height of the Schiavo controversy, which showed a woman looking far older than her years.

Terri Schiavo was found unresponsive in her home, by her husband, at the age of 26. From that time until her death on March 31, 2005, from starvation as the result of removing her feeding tube, she and her family were at the center of the legal and ethical issues surrounding the end of life. Issues such as who and what determine the quality and value of a person’s life, and who should make decisions involving the care of a person who cannot speak for themselves. Is nutrition and hydration considered “extraordinary” means of life support? And what happens when family members disagree, should the court system be making decisions about whether a person in a hospital should live or die?

After his presentation, Mr. Schindler answered questions from the audience, who were visibly shaken by his family’s experience at the hands of the medical community and the court system. And while learning the science for caring for patients is paramount to the purpose of a medical school’s curriculum, the ethical issues surrounding that care should warrant some attention as well, as these are the issues that may very well impede the care that is available to a patient.

As a result of his family’s experience, Bobby Schindler and his family began the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network which assists families dealing with a medical community that seems quick to diagnose a patient as being in a “persistent vegetative state”, and therefore can deny therapy, treatment and nourishment, rather that dedicate time and resources to help a patient who cannot help themselves.

If you would like to know more about the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, their website address is The work of this organization goes on in Terri’s memory as they continue to “affirm human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable”.

Terri Schiavo – Age 26                                                            Terri Schiavo – After PVS Diagnosis

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By:  Karen Fisher of VITALity Catholic Healthcare Services