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Published: Wednesday, 8/10/2005

Belated tribute to Mr. Schiavo

FINALLY, some personal support and honor for Michael Schiavo. He suffered much abuse for honoring his wife Terri's wish not to be kept alive if she couldn't sustain herself. The abuse came from her family, and big-hitters like the Vatican, President Bush, and the President's brother, Gov. Jeb Bush in Florida.

The Guardian of the Year Award given the 42-year-old man this month came from the Florida State Guardianship Association. Most of its members are people whom judges name to represent those deemed too incapacitated to act on their own.

Terri Schiavo had been in a vegetative state, one confirmed by autopsy after her death, for more that 15 years. Her parents fought to keep her there for as long as she lived, being fed and hydrated intravenously. They sadly saw themselves preserving her life - a life without intelligence or communication - not prolonging her death.

Michael Schiavo's commitment to honor his wife's wishes despite public scrutiny and hostility, the group said, reflected the professionalism and feeling with which guardians named by courts daily carry out their duties.

"We see a lot of situations where family steps away. He stuck by. He didn't walk away," an association officer commented. Mr. Schiavo was also called "an ordinary guardian who carried out his duties in extraordinary ways."

Early after his wife collapsed from unknown causes, he trained to be a nurse to better care for her, and he took her to California for experimental treatment that proved ineffective. Courts repeatedly backed Mr. Schiavo's actions, and public polls reflected that politicians who butted in miscalculated. Most Americans did not appreciate their intrusion into such delicate family matters.

Court-appointed guardians' jobs are to carry out the wishes of the incapacitated person. Living in a vegetative state is one option. Dying with dignity is another.

History likely will be kind to Michael Schiavo, who, in disconnecting his wife from feeding and hydration tubes, followed her wishes that her death not be an ongoing event.

It was a painful decision for him, but one that families make daily in emergency rooms and intensive care units in hospitals throughout the nation. Their right to make it must be forever preserved.



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