WASHINGTON – Bobby Schindler, the brother of Terri Schindler Schiavo, has joined the pro-life leaders expressing support for Charlie Gard in his struggle to live.
Gard is an 11-month-old British infant who suffers from a rare genetic mutation of mitochondrial DNA depletion syndrome. The infant has brain damage, is blind and deaf, and needs a ventilator to breathe.
Britain’s High Court has ruled that Great Ormond Street Hospital, where Charlie is being treated, should take him off life support and let him die, which is against the wishes of his parents.
They have raised more than $1.8 million to bring Charlie either to the U.S. or to Rome for treatment, but the British government has denied them permission even to travel with Charlie.
Recently, many influential members of the pro-life movement have spoken out on Charlie’s behalf, including Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life.
Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, agrees that Charlie’s case is not being handled correctly.
Schiavo died in 2005 after a court ordered removal of her feeding tube and water at the request of her husband. Since that time, Schindler has devoted himself to defending medically vulnerable people.
“Because of the nature of their fight, and the day to day uncertainty whether their child will live or die, [Charlie’s case is] reminiscent of my family’s fight to save my sister, Terri,” Schindler told WND.
Schindler believes Charlie’s struggle is vitally important in the larger struggle of parental rights against encroaching government influence in end-of-life decisions.
“I think it’s obvious to any normal observer of the news surrounding Charlie that this is a simple case of fit and competent parents being denied the right to care for their son, and an aggressive medical and legal system intent on imposing its will rather than empowering the weak and vulnerable – in this case, Charlie and his parents,” he said.
“Once these types of decisions are enshrined into its precedent – the notion, as we are seeing in Charlie’s case, that parents are not fit to determine how best to care for their son – people realize that the same thing could happen to them, and that it has literally been stated that it’s in Charlie’s best interest to die.”
On Thursday, Justice Francis, the British judge overseeing Charlie’s case, will consider new evidence presented by Charlie’s parents and hospitals in the U.S. and Italy that have volunteered to help.
He will then decide whether to lift a ban on Charlie traveling, allowing the hospitals to try to help, or order Charlie’s life support turned off so that he dies.
“Hopefully, the judge delivers a judgment that’s guided by hope and not a false sort of pragmatism that would really just be hopelessness,” Schindler said.
He sees a disturbing rise in cases like Charlie’s, which he attributes to cost-cutting initiatives.
“We currently live in a health-care system that is hyper-focused on controlling costs in terms of providing treatment,” he said. “The problem, it seems to me, is that decisions are now made on the premise that instead of providing long-term ‘costly’ care, it is much cheaper to deny care, especially if the hospital decides that the treatment is not going to have much success.
“Sadly, since we established the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network after Terri died, we are seeing an increase in situations like Charlie’s, which are often described as medical futility-denial of care cases,” Schindler continued. “Undoubtedly, with rising concerns in the costs, and bioethicists and ethics committees making quality of life judgments, persons need to understand the potential risks they may face and the real possibilities of being denied wanted, needed and helpful treatment.”
Schindler warns that people should learn more about their own medical rights, in case a situation like Charlie’s or Terri’s should ever happen to them.
“It is especially important today to know your rights as a patient,” he said. “Not only if you are admitted to the hospital, but whomever you appoint as your health-care surrogate that they know your rights, in the case you don’t have the capacities to make medical decisions yourself. It could be the difference whether you receive the care you need.”
Schindler believes that prayers and positive encouragement through social media are the best ways to help the Gard family through this difficult time.
“I remember the comfort my family received from the tremendous popular support we received from people all around the world, and I wanted to share that experience with them,” he said. “Most importantly, pray for Charlie’s parents, and for Charlie so that the judge grants this precious little child the opportunity to receive treatment.”
WND reported earlier this year on the 12th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo. The media and her husband, Michael Schiavo, asserted Terri was in a “persistent vegetative state,” but her parents and brother, Bobby Schindler, insisted otherwise, claiming she was able to swallow, laugh and express love for her family.
In 1990, Terri, at age 26, collapsed in her St. Petersburg, Florida, home for a reason that still hasn’t been explained and was taken to a hospital by first responders who feared she was dead. She was comatose for a time, then started responding and was moved to a care center. Her family members say she was getting better before her court-ordered starvation.
WND has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002. Read WND’s unparalleled, in-depth coverage of her life-and-death fight, including more than 150 original stories and columns.