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Newsweek Advocates for Patients Like Terri Schiavo, on 'Edge of Consciousness'

Contact: Tom Shakely, Executive Director, Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, 855-300-4673, ext 3, tshakely@lifeandhope.com

PHILADELPHIA, May 3, 2016 /Christian Newswire/ -- In the latest issue of Newsweek, Aimee Swartz contributes her startling and welcome voice in reporting on medically vulnerable patients "living on the edge of consciousness."

In her reporting, Swartz tells the story of Maggie Worthen -- a young college-aged woman whose story is so similar to Terri Schiavo's as to be uncanny. Like Terri, Maggie collapsed and became unconscious, unable to speak or move. Like Terri, Maggie initially recovered with the assistance of a ventilator and the benefit of time. Like Terri, Maggie relied on a feeding tube after recovering the ability to breathe naturally, without machines. 

Like Terri, Maggie was given very little rehabilitation before being called "vegetative," resulting in her disqualification from further insurance. Like Terri, Maggie was sent to a nursing home where she continued to show signs of life and consciousness.

Unlike Terri, Maggie's supportive physician had her transferred to a facility where she was deemed "minimally conscious." Unlike Terri, Maggie benefited from aggressive rehabilitation that let her regularly communicate with family, friends, and medical staff before she died in 2005 after an illness.

What is most remarkable about Newsweek's feature on these medically vulnerable Americans is the absence of any mention of Terri Schiavo, whose own struggle for rehabilitative services and basic care and against premature death at the hands of an unsupportive husband dominated the attention of the nation in 2005, the same year that Maggie died.

Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of the vision of medical ethics at Weill Cornell Medical College in New York, is quoted by Newsweek: "Patients like Maggie are routinely misdiagnosed and placed in what we euphemistically call 'custodial care' where they have no access to any treatments that might help them recover or give them a chance of engaging with others..." Newsweek underscores the remarkable fact that "research suggests that 68 percent of severely brain-injured patients who receive rehabilitation eventually regain consciousness and that 21 percent of those are able to one day live on their own."

Bobby Schindler, president of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and brother of Terri Schiavo, reflected on Newsweek's reporting: "Like Maggie Worthen, during my sister's brief rehabilitative period, she began to improve before her husband Michael unilaterally cut off that treatment. This improvement wasn't merely the contention of my parents or me. It's improvement that was documented in my sister's medical records -- her starting to speak on her own with responses like, "Mommy" when seeing our mother, or "stop" when experiencing pain, in addition to other simple words. These concrete signs of improvement are exactly the sort of improvement so many contend is impossible for patients marginalized as "vegetables," and why I'm so pleased that Newsweek is highlighting their struggle.

As it has since its founding, the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network upholds human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable -- people who too rarely benefit from supportive family members, physicians, and medical staff. We're reminded of Terri Schiavo's insight that, "where there's life, there's hope." 

Newsweek has done a service to the nation in highlighting the incredible opportunity for patients too regularly deemed to be without hope.

The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, was established by the family members of Terri Schiavo to uphold human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable. This mission is expressed by affirming essential qualities of human dignity, which include the right to food and water, the presumption of the will to live, due process rights for those facing denial of care, protection from euthanasia as a form of medicine, and access to rehabilitative care. The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has supported more than 1,500 families and has directly advocated hundreds of cases since its founding. Visit lifeandhope.com to learn more.