Terri Schiavo’s brother urges Texas House members to reject SB 303

I'm Terri Schiavo's brother, Bobby Schindler. I just wrote to members of the Texas House, warning them about the danger of SB 303, that allows hospitals to terminate the care of patients despite the wishes of the families or even the patient.


If Texas allows Senate Bill 303 to become law, the acts that led to the death of my sister will only increase in Texas.


Will you please read my letter and tell Texas legislators to protect Life and vote no on SB 303?


Dear Texas House Members,


My sister, Terri Schindler Schiavo, and the horrendous acts that took her life represent the tragic logic of the slippery slope of futile care policies, similar to the one enshrined in current Texas Advance Directives Law (Chapter 166.046 of the Health & Safety Code).


On March 31, 2005, Terri finally succumbed to dehydration and starvation because her estranged spouse and those entrusted to protect and care for her rejected her value as a disabled human.


Since Terri’s intentional death by dehydration, my family and I have established a foundation, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, through which we advocate for patients and families who fall victim to the same quality of life judgments to which our beloved Terri was subjected.


The hospitals and personnel and locations may be different than Terri’s, but the story is often the same: An unelected body of hospital or facility caregivers, strangers to the patient and deciding in secret, impose their own value judgments about a patient’s life and illness and then determine that continued wanted medical care should be withheld or denied.


"Futilitarian ethics" seems to be growing in hospitals and care centers across America, and the powerful medical lobby has become more aggressive in codifying policies that jeopardize the lives of the disabled and dying.


Current Texas law is one such threat, and our foundation has been involved in helping a number of patients navigate through the futility review process and transfer to another facility. The alternative is a process of imposed death in which all power is in the hands of the treating facility.


Recently, I was made aware that proponents of a dangerous bill, Senate Bill 303, are using Terri’s photo to manipulate the truth about the bill and to confuse messaging about the dangers of SB 303.


I eagerly signed a joint letter opposing SB 303 that remains our firm opinion today. I have studied the legislation, and remain vehemently opposed to that bill. While recognizing that TADA needs reform, but I consider SB 303 to be worse than current law by expanding the power of hospital ethics committees over the lives and deaths of its patients by specifically authorizing imposition of DNR orders without consent of the patient or family, and requiring them to file a written appeal, this at a time of family crisis.


No one in my family authorized the usage of Terri’s photo or name in conjunction with SB 303. In fact, we urge you as legislators and protectors of the most vulnerable to oppose SB 303. In addition to further embedding the futilitarian mindset, SB 303 does nothing to restore any due process rights for patients. The hospital ethics committee is stacked with its own personnel and associates, yet they, with a clear conflict of interest, have the final say over a patient’s life and death with no outside checks and balances.


If you allow Senate Bill 303 to become law, the acts that led to the death of my sister will only increase in Texas. The decision to end my sister’s life unnaturally was based on quality of life judgments vs. clinical medical judgments. The calls to our foundation from Texas families feature the same conflict: value judgment on the patient has supplanted objective medical evaluations.


My sister lived for 13 days after the third court-ordered removal of her feeding tube. Texas SB 303 would sanction removal of artificial hydration and nutrition based on the following criteria—all of which were used to end Terri’s life. Under Section 7, Section 166.046(e), artificially administered food and water does not have to be given when the treatment—according to the hospital panel—would:


(1) hasten the patient's death;


(2) seriously exacerbate other major medical problems not outweighed by the benefit of the provision of the



(3) result in substantial irremediable physical pain or discomfort not outweighed by the benefit of the provision

of the treatment; or


(4) be medically ineffective in prolonging the patient's life.


These criteria are broad and leave too much room for interpretation. “[N]ot outweighed by the benefit,” “substantial… pain or discomfort,” and “seriously exacerbate” are quality of life, subjective decisions imposed by the facility and physicians, not medical or clinical assessments.


Do not let what happened to Terri happen to patients in Texas. I urge you, State Legislators, to protect the most vulnerable, the disabled, and the dying from hastened death by rejecting SB 303 and the House version, HB 1444.


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