Anyone familiar with the Fox channel’s satiric show ‘Family Guy’ already knows how irreverent its writers are about real family values and things like respect and common decency, which is growing increasingly uncommon. Just like common sense.

There was none of either – decency or sense – in a recent episode of that show when they tastelessly and offensively ridiculed Terri Schiavo and her end-of-life ordeal that gripped the nation before she passed away, five years ago. Her family’s foundation, which works tirelessly to protect and defend the cognitively impaired, and educate the public who about science, medicine and law we all need to know, made an outcry against the Fox series and commercial sponsors who would support such a degrading show.

In this sketch, Schiavo is mocked and the memory of the suffering she endured ridiculed – portrayed as someone on a number of mechanical life support systems. She is referred to as a vegetable. Both inferences are false regarding Terri’s case! The sketch ends with characters calling for pulling the plug.

Terri’s brother, Bobby Schindler stated: “My family was astonished at the cruelty and bigotry towards our beloved sister, and all disabled people that we witnessed in this show. My first thought was how this attempt at satire must have been enormously difficult and painful for my mother.

“After further thought, I realized that using my deceased sister as fodder for satire also validates what our family has been saying for many years. There is growing, deep-rooted prejudice against people with brain injuries and other cognitive disabilities. This sort of bare-faced bigotry is dehumanizing to those with disabilities and cruel to those who work tirelessly to ensure that people with disabilities are provided the proper care, protection and respect. People are not vegetables.”

Terri Schiavo was not kept alive on mechanical life support. She made use of a feeding tube after some doctors determined it safer for her than swallowing food and fluids on her own.

“The depiction of Terri in The Family Guy episode on March 21 is not only inaccurate,” states Schindler, “it seems to take the position that certain people are simply not worthy of receiving medical care because they are viewed as burdens on the health care system.”

And that’s a road we’re about to go down with the sweeping health care legislation now signed into law. Experts familiar with it predict health care rationing – to a degree we have not seen in programs like Medicare and Medicaid – are certain in the forseeable future, and the most vulnerable and needy citizens will be the ones denied limited and costly health resources. The culture of misinformation and distortion in both news and entertainment media are sometimes callous and indifferent, but sometimes worse….when they craft their messages to re-shape public opinion to see cognitively impaired human beings as dependent, costly and of less value than other classes of what they would call ‘healthy.’

Health and care have become increasingly relative terms. When it’s your relative, funny how treatment matters more.

Sheila Liaugminas

Sheila Liaugminas is an Emmy award-winning Chicago-based journalist in print and broadcast media. Her writing and broadcasting covers matters of faith, culture, politics and the media....