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2016 SPUC Youth Conference Speakers: Part I

Posted by Rhoslyn Thomas on 22 January 2016

The 2016 Youth Conference (11-13th March) is an opportunity to hear from some truly inspirational pro-life speakers! Here we take a look at the first three:

Bobby Schindler

Those who have a particular interest in euthanasia and assisted suicide are almost certainly familiar with Bobby Schindler and his work.

At the 2016 Youth Conference, Bobby will be speaking about his family’s struggle to save his sister, Terri Schiavo. The story of Terri’s death is heartbreaking and frightening, not least because she was killed in one of the most slow and painful ways possible – by starvation and dehydration.

Anyone who has heard the personal testimony of Bobby cannot fail to be profoundly moved by it. Below are the details of Terri’s story.

Illness and therapy

In 1990, at the age of 26, Terri suffered a mysterious cardio-respiratory arrest for which no cause has ever been determined. She was diagnosed with hypoxic encephalopathy - neurological injury caused by lack of oxygen to the brain. Terri was placed on a ventilator, but was soon able to breathe on her own and maintain vital function. She remained in a severely compromised neurological state and was provided a PEG tube to ensure the safe delivery of nourishment and hydration.

Michael Schiavo, her husband, was appointed as Terri’s plenary guardian, making him guardian of Terri herself and her property.

Following Terri’s injury, she was moved to various rehabilitation centres where her carers reported that she had shown encouraging signs and had spoken during physical therapy sessions. However, after 1991, all therapy was stopped.

Following a successful medical malpractice case against Terri’s doctors, Michael was awarded $600,000 for loss of spousal consortium and over $1.5 million to Terri. Of this, $780,000 was placed in a trust to provide for Terri's future healthcare and therapeutic needs, which Michael would inherit upon Terri’s death.

'15-year nightmare'

This marked the beginning of an almost 15-year nightmare for Terri’s family, who were determined to give Terri the best care possible and protect her life until natural death. In 1995, Michael employed right-to-die litigator George Felos, who campaigned vociferously for the removal of all Terri’s food and fluids by gastric feeding tube.

From 1998 to 2005, a series of petitions, motions and appeals were exchanged back-and-forth between Felos and Terri’s family, involving numerous judges, Congress and the former Governor of Florida Jeb Bush (who intervened in an attempt to save Terri).  The final terrible result came on the 5th of February 2005 when Judge George W. Greer set the feeding tube removal date for the 18th of March 2005. He further ordered that Terri may not receive hydration or nutrition by mouth.

On the 31st of March, 2005, On March 31, Terri Schindler Schiavo died from severe dehydration after almost 14 days without nutrition or hydration.

To hear Bobby’s full testimony, come to hear him speak at the SPUC 2016 International Youth Conference: https://www.spuc.org.uk/get-involved/events/youth-conference-2016

Colin Harte

Colin Harte attended his first SPUC conference in 1983, later completing an internship with SPUC and then going on to work for them during the campaign for Lord Alton’s bill in 1988.

Colin went to stay with Alison Davis at her home in Dorset for two weeks but ended up staying for 24 years as her carer and friend.

He completed his doctorate at Exeter University some years later and also authored a book, Changing Unjust Laws Justly: Pro-Life Solidarity with "the last and the least".

Colin will be speaking at the 2016 International SPUC Youth Conference on the subject of Alison Davis and the so-called ‘right to die’.

Alison Davis was born with Spina Bifida – a condition which worsened throughout the course of her life. She later developed osteoporosis, arthritis and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Towards the end of her life, Alison was in excruciating pain which could not be helped by any form of pain relief. Nevertheless, Alison loved her life and embraced her suffering whilst working to protect all human life, especially those with disabling conditions like her own who were at risk from experimentation, abortion and euthanasia.

Alison worked for SPUC from 1983 as head of the Handicap Division (which was later renamed No Less Human, now run by Janet Secluna Thomas) and spoke about pro-life issues all over the world (one of her talks, entitled 'My story: From Atheism to Catholicism, embracing the Sanctity of Human Life' can be seen here).

Attempted suicide and friendship

Though Alison was a passionate proponent of the protection of human life from conception to natural death, she had not always been of this opinion. Indeed, Alison had been a pro-abortion feminist, especially during her years at university. In the mid-1980s her life fell apart and, she repeatedly tried to commit suicide. Were it not for her friends, including Colin, she would probably have succeeded in doing so.

Alison wrote of her suicide attempts:

"I tried various methods: large overdoses of various drugs and cutting my wrists seriously. I was determined to succeed then, especially on one occasion I particularly remember. I had taken a large overdose of painkillers and cut my wrists badly with an old rusty penknife which had escaped the general removal of sharp objects. I then drank a whole bottle of Martini, lay down in bed, cuddled my favourite teddy bear and waited to die. Fortunately for me (at the time I thought most unfortunately) my friend Sue arrived shortly afterwards.

"My door was never locked at that time and she let herself in, found I was losing consciousness and called the emergency services. I was taken to hospital and treated against my will. The doctors waited until I lost consciousness then treated me anyway. If euthanasia had been legal then, I would have requested it with no hesitation at all, and if Living Wills had been legally binding, I would certainly have written one, refusing all life saving treatment. I would have satisfied all the supposedly "strict criteria" which pro-euthanasia groups want, and which are mandatory in places where euthanasia or assisted suicide is legal."

"I think I want to live"

Alison eventually overcame this period in her life through discovering her love for those who were neglected and denied love and affection.

She wrote in an article for The Observer:

"I went to India with Colin Harte, my full-time assistant, to visit a new project to help disabled children, little knowing that it would change my life forever. Many of the children are so disabled they can barely manage to crawl in the dust. They are unwanted and unloved by their families, but it is true to say that they saved my life. The first time I visited the children they called me "Mummy." They hugged and loved me, and as I was playing with them, I suddenly loved them all, overwhelmingly and fiercely, as if they really were my own. When we left I said to Colin "I think I want to live." It was the first time I had thought that for over 10 years."

Come to hear Colin speak by booking your place here: https://www.spuc.org.uk/get-involved/events/youth-conference-2016

Clare McCullough

Clare McCullough is the director of The Good Counsel Network. The Good Counsel Network was founded in 1997 to reach out to women who had decided to have an abortion in order to offer them real alternatives.

While at university, studying English, Clare spent some time volunteering at SPUC as well as helping out at Pro-Life vigils outside abortion 'clinics'.

Clare was chosen as Catholic Woman of the Year in 2005-2006 in recognition of her pro-life work.

She has given numerous talks in schools, groups of young people and to religious leaders. She recently appeared on EWTN's ‘The Three Wise Women’ television programme.

Whilst running the Good Counsel Network she has helped to save thousands of babies from abortion, housed hundreds of mothers and founded an ultrasound service as well as an intern programme, all while running a very successful counselling centre in central London (http://www.goodcounselnetwork.com/).

She is happily married to Stuart, from Wales, and they are home-schooling their son, Nathanael.

You can hear more about the Good Counsel Network's work from Clare at the 2016 Youth Conference : https://www.spuc.org.uk/get-involved/events/youth-conference-2016

To be continued...

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