LEWISTON – If Terri Schiavo could talk, she’d beg people to be allowed to die, says Sylvia Lane.

“I would think that being trapped in her body,” she said, “with no way to communicate and no control over events or surroundings would be torture.”

“Just the lack of control alone would be terrifying – and frustrating,” she added.

Lane said Monday that she has a sense for what’s going on in Florida, where Schiavo is nearing the end of a 15-year-long journey. Schiavo is severely brain-damaged because her heart stopped in connection with an eating disorder, and she has been kept alive by being force-fed through a tube in her stomach. Her husband and her parents have been battling in the courts over her right to die or to be kept alive.

Lane’s son, Mark Weaver, was at the heart of similar court proceedings, although they weren’t initiated by his mother or family.

Instead, the state stepped in on one instance, and in another instance the man who stabbed him twice in the back then slit his throat stepped in.

“It was a case of two drunks coming together on the streets of Lewiston,” said Lane in recalling the warm evening of May 25, 1985.

One of those drunks, she added, was her son. The other, his assailant. An exchange of words led to a fight. That in turn led one man to seek a weapon, leaving the other at death’s door.

“‘I think I’m dead.’ Those were the last words he ever said,” Lane recalled. They were uttered to someone at a local store as Weaver clutched his throat. Right after, he fell to the floor, drowning in his own blood.

“He was dead,” said his mother, “but they brought him back at the hospital using heroic measures.”

Back to life, but what a life. Months in a coma initially, then after waking, a persistent vegetative state. Tubes sticking out from his stomach kept him fed and hydrated, but he couldn’t talk, and couldn’t even blink his eyes to suggest he recognized someone.

Lane went to court to try to have her son’s wishes respected. She was met by resistance on two fronts.

The man who stabbed and slashed Weaver feared that if Weaver were allowed to die, he could be charged with murder.

“That would have been double jeopardy,” said Lane. The man had already been convicted of aggravated assault. He wouldn’t have faced a new charge, she said, although the state attorney general’s office wouldn’t acknowledge that.

Also standing in the way of Weaver’s wants was then-District Attorney Janet Mills, said Lane. Mills didn’t want the Probate Court to decide such a life-or-death issue. “She wanted to make it adversarial,” Lane said, “she wanted it to go to Superior Court.”

Lane, another son and Weaver’s best friend each swore in affidavits that Weaver told him he’d never want to be kept alive by extraordinary means.

His was the second such right-to-die case to originate in Lewiston. The first involved Joey Gardner, a Sabattus man severely injured in a car crash in 1987, two years after Weaver was stabbed but two years before he won his right to die.

A third local case involved Chad Swan, a Turner youth also severely hurt in a car wreck.

Eventually, Lane prevailed in the courts and Weaver’s feeding and hydration tubes were pulled.

“As soon as those tubes came out you could see he was at peace,” Lane said.

Mark Weaver died at his mother’s home surrounded by family and friends on April 9, 1989, nearly four years after he was stabbed.

“I’m a big advocate for the right to die,” she said Monday evening.

And Terri Schiavo should be allowed to exercise that right, she added.

Lane said she’s also a big believer in living wills.

“I have mine,” she said. “Everyone should.”


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