The Terri Schiavo case was a big turning point for Glenn and his views on life and the rights of the disabled. Back when he was a DJ in Florida, Terri Schiavo’s story was making national headlines. She had been in a coma for ten years, and her husband wanted to remove her feeding tube. At the time, Glenn said on air that he sided with the husband and disagreed with her parents who wanted to keep their daughter alive. But a listener called in and convinced him to think about it. A few days later Glenn was back on radio telling people just how wrong he was. On radio this morning, Glenn spoke with Terri’s brother Bobby Schindler about his sister and what he has done to fight for the rights of the disabled.
GLENN: If you are a long-time listener of this program, you remember the plight of Terri Schiavo, the really long-term listeners, those that have been with me since I was on WFLA remember I was on the wrong side of the Terri Schiavo case and I remembered what the listener said to me last night. The listener called me on a Friday, and I was against the Schindler family. I was saying pull the plug, pull the plug. A listener called me and said Glenn, you are thinking about this all wrong.
I say, how is that?
Because there's no plug to pull.
What are you talking about?
I just want you to think about this. Is food and water life support? Is that a medical procedure?
I said, well --
Just think about that this weekend and pray on it.
STU: I got to go to commercial.
GLENN: So I promised him I would think about it, and I came back that Monday, and I announced that I was wrong, and nobody in radio at the time -- I don't think anybody does now. They just look over and just stop talking about it. And I said no, I have a responsibility. I was wrong and I misled people, and so I tried to make it up to the family and to Terri and tried to do the right thing. In the end, they did take the life support away from Terri Schiavo and they stopped feeding her and starved her to death, over, I believe, a three-week period.
Some good has come from that. Bobby Schindler is here with us now Terri's brother.
SCHINDLER: Hi, Glenn. Thanks for having me.
GLENN: What did you do, Bobby, before this?
SCHINDLER: I was teaching high school at Tampa@lick.
GLENN: So you are just a regular high school teacher, and now you are the head of a major organization that stands up for life, for people who are in a persistent vegetative state. You want to tell us a little about that?
SCHINDLER: I'm sorry. Sure. We saw -- our battle with Terri lasted better part of five years. It really started in '93, when Michael started his pursuit to end Terri's life, but we saw the danger that people like Terri were in, and the families who were scared to death of the same thing happening to loved ones caring for their loved ones in similar conditions to my sister, so our family just felt, I guess a responsibility to continue to advocate for these people. That's what we did. We started a non-profit. We didn't know what we were getting ourselves into. The calls we have been safe receiving the past ten years have grown significantly and it's an indication to us that our health care system is really targeting these people, Maying on these people that are medically vulnerable and we are trying to do what we can to protect them.
GLENN: You are giving an award on Tuesday. Tell me about the family.
SCHINDLER: The award is going to mother of Kyle Dantzler. Bridgett Henson is her name. Her son went in for a transplant surgery. As a result from that, he developed some complications and lost oxygen to the brain, and experienced a profound brain injury. The mother was just battling with the hospital for a better part of the year to get proper treatment. We got into the case and we have been trying to help her. Her primary goal was to get him transferred to a facility close to her home in Atlanta. This was happening in Philadelphia. So we're working with the families trying to do that, but just her story and so many others that we have received over the years, it's just chilling to hear the pressure and how hospitals are just looking at these people and treating them really as an inconvenience and the best them for them would be to kill them.
GLENN: I'll tell you, I don't know if you saw the -- I know you were on the show and you were in the green room and everything else, but I don't know if you saw the thing we put together about Pennhurst Hospital. It is truly frightening. People should watch this. See if I could post it on Facebook or online, but something I found a couple months ago, and it started in 1908, went to 1976, and we were just shoving -- the Progressive era took anyone that had any defect -- one person we showed on an admitting paper, a little kid, he died an old man in Pennhurst, and his only thing his father swore out and said I want to put him in the home, he has one seizure and also said "poon" instead of "spoon," and they hospitalized him his whole life.
And this system was lock them up and forget them. And it was a horror show what was happening in this hospital. And I'm so afraid that we're headed back that direction, we are not seeing people for people. We are not having compassion. We are seeing them as a burden on our society, and that's what happened in the Progressive era around the turn of the century. They saw these people as burdens and why should I pay for them when it's -- when they're not going to turn around and get any better, so why are we paying for them? Are you concerned about that at all?
SCHINDLER: Yeah, I think it's much worse. I think what you described is probably happening at different facilities across the country. I went over to Austria to speak and I went into a facility where they were killing the medically and physically inferior. That's what it was inscripted on the wall over there. This was back prior to the holocaust, talking about this attitude by the German doctors and how they were systematically killing those that were medically and physically inferior. I look at what's happening now in the calls we receive and what happened to Terri, and it's the same thing. There are so many parallels, Glenn what was happening then and now. For me to sit back and see the ordinary attitude that we have with starving and dehydrating to death people because they have a disability and the elderly -- and these people are not dying like Terri, they are not hooked up to machines, they simply need to be cared for. How we have grown accustomed to or accepted that it's okay to Kyle these people and one of the most barbaric ways, by starving and dehydrating --
GLENN: Tell me what you sister went through when they starved her and
SCHINDLER: It's -- well, I'm going to try -- the graphic nature of Terri and how she deteriorated is probably something I will never describe. It got so bad, three or four case before she did die, we refused to let me mom go and see her. It was horrible, Glenn. Something nightmares are made up. Toward the end, there was blood pooling in her eye, her skin was turning different shades of colors she was breathing so fast, it was like she had just been outside sprinting. I could go on, Glenn. If you look at those pictures we see from concentration camps, it remind me of my sister, but I believe my sister's -- what we saw in her experience was worse. I have a piece coming out, Glenn, and I will release an image of my sister from my family. I plan to do this before the 31st. I hope people look at it. It is my best recollection of what she looked like. There's a lie out there, that this is a peaceful hand painless way to do. That's absurd. This is the death of dignity.
PAT: Barbaric. Since your sister was starved to death, there's been several people who have made the news after coming out of these supposed vegetative states, that had no quality of life, the same thing was argued, pull the plug, let them die with dignity, all those things. And several of them, including a guy we just interviewed a couple weeks ago, Martin Pistorous have come out of it -- he came out of it after twelve years and is living a productive life. Have you seen these stories? Do you see others in that situation? And is that something --
SCHINDLER: Yes. We see it when it makes news, and when people call us. It seems hospitals are making decisions much quicker new than they used to, determining within hours -- even hours that someone will
have no recovery. Pressuring the family to stop life support. And this is what we are talking about. Our medical rights being eroded. Seems the shift that's occurred, where decision-making power now is resting in the hands of hospitals and physicians rather than family members. That's what should frighten us all. No longer do we look out for the best interest of the patient. We are looking out for the best interest of the hospital. That always comes done not bottom line, so I think decisions are being made with cost in mind, and much quicker decisions are being made to end a person's life than they have been in the past.
GLENN: The one thing I learned from Martin -- and I know you know him -- is he heard everything that was happening around him. He was locked in hell and he heard everything. It must make you feel good knowing what your family did and how you spoke around her and that she probably heard you. And knowing that she knew how much you loved her.
SCHINDLER: There was no doubt. We were with my sister when she was in this condition for 15 years. We know how alive and responsive she was. At times, she was able to communicate with us, at least at some level, but Glenn, from all those people that have emerged from this PVS, like Mr. Pistorius and others that we read about, even some we have come to know, none of them ever said when they were in this condition, they wished they didn't want to live this way or someone killed me. All these people would have emerged. Seems they are all happy they are alive and now they are living life to the fullest.
GLENN: This is Terri's brother, Bobby Schindler. Thank you so much for everything that you guys are doing, and thank you for your friendship for all of these years and being willing to stand. I will tell you, I don't think I have ever seen a family that's gone through more than you guys. Just an average family that has weathered an unbelievable storm for as long as you have, and I have tremendous respect for you and your mom and your whole family. You are just great people.
I'm going to be up in Philadelphia. It is the 10th anniversary of the death of Terri Schiavo on the 31st, so I will be in Philadelphia at the Life and Hope Award Gala. Tickets are available at lifeandhopeaward.com. This is going to be an important speech, an important night, and I hope that you would come and join us and help fund life, but more importantly, bring a friend and bring your family and meet like-minded people, brave, brave people, and be on the side of good and right and righteousness. It is lifeandhopeaward.com. Go there now, grab your tickets. Life and Hope Award. It is happening on Tuesday. That's this coming Tuesday, the 31st, in Philadelphia. Where is it going to be -- where exactly is it being held?
SCHINDLER: At the Union League, downtown Philadelphia.
GLENN: Kind of a nice place to go into as well. Thank you very much Bobby. We will see you next week.
SCHINDLER: Thanks. God bless you.