Dr. James Dobson on Schiavo Saga

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," March. 31, 2005, that has been edited for clarity.

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SUZANNE VITADAMO, SISTER OF TERRI SCHIAVO: We assure you that you can be proud of this remarkable woman who has captured the attention of the world.


HANNITY: That was Suzanne Vitadamo, Terri Schiavo's sister, earlier tonight speaking, as we continue on this special edition of "Hannity & Colmes."

Now, in just a few minutes, we're going to be joined by some of the nurses that spent a lot of time around Terri Schiavo taking care of her. And they contradict what many say when she was in a persistent vegetative state.

I'm also going to play a tape for you that was recorded by Terri Schiavo's father that many people say proves that, in fact, Terri was alert, aware, and conscious. We'll get to that in a few minutes.

First, joining us from Focus on the Family, Dr. James Dobson is with us today. Dr. Dobson, thanks as always for being with us.

JAMES DOBSON, FOCUS ON THE FAMILY: Sean, thanks for having me on. And I would like to compliment you and Alan for keeping this story before the American people. It's a very important story. And you've done a wonderful job of covering it.

HANNITY: You know, one of the things that is more shocking than anything else, Dr. Dobson — and I've been in the media now, I guess, since 1987 — it's been a long time — the issue of whether or not she had bulimia is in dispute, the issue if she had a heart attack. There were no enzymes that were true of myocardial infarction. That is in dispute in this case.

You know, what happened that night is in dispute when she collapsed. Terri's wishes are in dispute in this particular case. Why did Michael wait seven years whether she was in a persistent vegetative state? Only one finding of fact repeated over and over again. It is stunning that she did not get a fair, real, complete second hearing.

DOBSON: You know, you said it just before the break that every aspect of Terri's story has been in dispute. Everything is subject to interpretation. And I don't know what we can believe.

But I do not believe that this woman allegedly made a statement 20 years ago saying that she wanted to have a feeding tube pulled out if it was ever in place and that she would like to starve to death and die of dehydration. That is not in dispute in my mind.

HANNITY: Even the manner of her death — we just had Father Pavone, who was literally with her, you know, just minutes before she passed away - - said, "If the American people saw this, they would have been horrified at what they saw, her panting, gasping for her last breath."

But yet Mr. Felos, the attorney for Michael Schiavo, describes it as calm, peaceful, a gentle death. "I've never seen her so beautiful. The look of peace, of beauty upon her." Even that is in dispute, Dr. Dobson, in this case. And I can't imagine panting for breath is comfortable, peaceful, or gentle.

DOBSON: You know, Sean, I was on a medical school faculty and assigned to a big hospital. And death, especially prolonged death, is usually a pretty ugly thing. It's not as peaceful as he said. And I can't imagine this woman just sort of floating off into eternity without going through great pain and great difficulty. And I do not believe those who say otherwise.

HANNITY: Well, let me ask you this, because we talk as conservatives about a culture of death. I don't know if you've had an opportunity to read the writings of Mr. Felos, and, frankly, bordering, frankly, on bizarre, you know, his ability to talk to or communicate with another woman that was dying and that he was going to do everything he could for this woman, et cetera, that's been widely reported.

Where are we now in this culture and this battle? I can't tell you — it breaks my heart that we have failed her in this way. And this woman died needlessly. And on every level, the courts, the legislature, everybody failed her.

DOBSON: Well, it is tragic. And it will have implications for years to come. I really believe that this is the slippery slope that we've talked about. What has happened to Terri has sent a cold chill down the backs — a shudder, if you will — of disabled people around the country.

I talked this afternoon on our radio program to Donny Erickson Tata (ph), who is herself quadriplegic. And she said that this has had a chilling effect on not only those who are disabled but their family members. If it happened to Terri, it can happen to them.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Dr. Dobson, it's Alan Colmes. To compare Terri to anybody else...

DOBSON: Hi, Alan.

COLMES: Good to have you on the show, sir. To compare to anybody else who happens to be disabled with other kinds of ailments is not necessarily analogous.

And you talk about prolonged death. There are those who believe that what she has gone through for the past 15 years was a prolonged death. And let me put up a FOX News/Opinion Dynamics poll out today asking the American people whether the removal of the feeding tube was an act of mercy, 54 percent, murder, 29 percent, 70. There were 11 not sure. Most people believe that this was an act of mercy to stop what was a prolonged death.

DOBSON: Alan, I went to some effort this afternoon to find out how those questions are asked of the American people. And I have in front of me the question. This is from ABC News.

COLMES: This is our poll I'm talking about.

DOBSON: I understand that, but it's a similar situation. "Schiavo suffered through" — now this is what they say to the people they're polling — "Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years." That sounds like she was on a respirator.

"Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Do you support the decision to remove Terri's feeding tube?" Of course the majority of the people said yes to that. They can imagine themselves in that situation.

COLMES: I understand, sir. And I understand that you are — but I'm talking about not the ABC poll, I'm talking about the FOX News poll. That is what I'm referring to. And when you don't like the results of a poll, you can easily criticize it. Most Americans, by almost every poll done, feel this way.

DOBSON: Well, I think the American people have been greatly misinformed about what Terri has gone through. They envision her there on a respirator with absolutely no reaction to the people that are around her. That's not what I hear has happened.

Hey, Sean, I've been on your show five times talking about this subject. May I ask you a question?

HANNITY: Sure, but really quick.

DOBSON: Tell me why it has been so important to you — you're a good man. You're a loving man. I like you as a man. Why have you been so anxious to see this woman die? What's wrong with letting her parents take her and take care of her?

HANNITY: That's for Alan, I think, is who you're asking.

DOBSON: That was Alan.

COLMES: Oh, you're asking for me? I'm honoring the law, which you often call rule of law, what the courts have said, what the overwhelming majority of neurologists have said, and what her wishes were, as determined by about 33 different court decisions and the Supreme Court decision to remand it back to those very decisions.

HANNITY: All right. Dr. Dobson — and there was only one finding of fact in this conflicting testimony all over the place. Dr. Dobson, thank you as always for being with us. And we appreciate your time tonight.

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