On December 4, 2023, MSNBC Films aired Nick Capote’s documentary Between Life & Death: Terri Shiavo’s Story. As a lawyer seeking to remove Terri’s feeding tube in the year 2000, my memory is sorely prompted. Internationally acclaimed, fostering Culture Wars, this “right-to-die” case provoked substantial American political involvement. Florida Courts including the Supreme Court; Federal Courts; Governor Jeb Bush; Florida State Legislature; and the President of the United States, George W. Bush, were all engaged.
Personally, this case changed my life! Currently, the documentary is triggering a phenomenon of notable self-reflection. As a mature, woman lawyer who works with financial matters, real property, and estate planning for clients, my direct participation in the “Schiavo” case, and now as the matter is revisited through the contemporary documentary, my self-discovery is enhanced through fundamental and imperishable insight.
The following is a memo I wrote immediately after the first trial.
Walking out of the courtroom in February 2000, I was attacked by both bitter and sweet emotions. My law partner husband and I had presented an excellent case and since the other side had not, I expected to win. The judge would render his decision within a week. The sweetness of winning subsided as a bitter taste told me that something wasn’t right. This case should never have come here. It should never be in court. I thought.
Excusing myself, I entered the safety of the women’s restroom down the hall from the courtroom where I had spent the previous week. Two couches filled the lobby area. I sat on the sofa in front of a Ficus tree. Most onlookers had left the courthouse. The trial was held in the historic courthouse due to lack of space in the new Clearwater, Florida court facilities.
What have I done? I believe in allowing Terri to die. She’s suffered in a Persistent Vegetative State for 10 years! But. fighting in court is all wrong.
The dispute between Terri Schiavo’s husband/guardian, and her family is mounting. Winning in Court disregarded, and dishonored the parents. Resentment carries the family to war.
I felt tortured. Courts are established to resolve conflict, not generate it. As an Officer of the Court, obliged to follow the rules, I feel that I helped generate the conflict.
Thoughts plagued me. There must be another way.
“You need some time. You need to think,” I said to the weary face in the mirror.
Now, more than twenty years later, at this time of overt national and world-wide conflict, the sparking of more cultural incitement at home troubles my sense of peace. I became a Certified Mediator, wrote “The 7 Laws of Inner Peace,” formed The Institute for Peaceful Solutions, and presently support End of Life Options. What now?
Could our community work together?
We are experiencing the longest night, the Solstice. We welcome the light. HOPE lives in the light.