Saturday, April 16, 2011

Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation Partners with Care Facility

A press release last week announced that New Beginnings Medical Center in Medford, New York, will be "dedicated to the memory of Terri Schindler Schiavo." The partnership -- and the Terri Schindler Schiavo Life & Hope Network -- signal in the release that this is the first of a new effort to bring medical facilities into greater partnership with opponents of removal from artificial nutrition and hydration.

The work of the Schindler family on behalf of the "congnitively disabled" has until now been in raising awareness and advocating for those families who object to medical institutions and other family members who seek removal of patients from feeding tubes. Their efforts were reinforced by the Catholic Church's change to the Ethical and Religious Directives that govern all 624 Catholic hospitals in the US in November, 2010. The new guidelines state that artificial nutrition and hydration is "comfort care" and not medical treatment, despite the surgical insertion required for feeding tubes, and therefor removal is up to the hospital (subject to direction from the local bishop) and not the patient's advance directive wishes nor the wishes of the family.

By positing that persistent vegetative state patients are vulnerable to a "culture of death" that seeks to kill them off and that the creation of "safe havens" for such patients is necessary, the Network and it's affiliated care facilities are challenging society's understanding of brain death, disability, autonomy, patients' rights, and the definition of life. From the release:

New Beginnings is a state of the art outpatient rehabilitative facility for Veteran's, Traumatic Brain Injury Survivors and other cognitively and physically disabled persons. It is designed to provide rehabilitation, management and recovery services in an exceptional, stimulating and safe environment.

"We are dedicating New Beginnings Community Center in Terri Schindler Schiavo's memory," said Allyson Scerri, New Beginnings Founder and President. "This is our way of honoring Terri's memory, her battle for proper treatment as a cognitively disabled person, and all others who did not have the chance for rehabilitation," she added.

"We are truly blessed by the vision of New Beginnings Community Center. We believe that this grand opening will set an example for health care facilities across the country to begin to fully understand that just because someone experiences a cognitive disability, and their physical appearance may change, their human dignity does not," stated Bobby Schindler, Executive Director of Terri's Life & Hope Network and brother of Terri Schiavo.

One of the goals at the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network is to partner with care centers that provide assistance for brain injured individuals and support for their families.

"This is a very special event for our family and our network. We are delighted to know that New Beginnings will be a great resource and safe haven for those that have experienced a brain injury. The underlying message is that there always remains hope for these patients and their families," stated Suzanne Vitadamo, Director of Development of Terri’s Life & Hope Network and sister of Terri Schiavo.

"We remain optimistic that this will be the first of many extended health care facilities to embrace a 'safe haven' concept of care which will not deny any treatment or therapy to the cognitively disabled and traumatic brain injury survivors," Vitadamo added.

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