T Nation

Terri Schiavo: More Grandstanding

Is getting “face time” and grandstanding now the “Modus Operandi” of Congress?

First the “Steroid Trials”…now this…

I think that Schiavo’s husband said it best:

“Congress doesn’t give a damn about Terri…it’s all about Politics…”

What a shame…

Mufasa

IMHO “Right to Die” issues have been hovering just under the surface of the political arena of abortion. The two are virtually joined at the hip, ethically in most people’s eyes. Given the current administration’s feelings about abortion it’s not difficult to see where this will end up.

Shameful indeed, Mufasa.

I don’t like the steroid trials, but at least the feds have a bit of interest in MLB, being that it grants MLB an antitrust exception.

I am still trying to figure out what the hell our Congress has to do with this very local event?

Someone answer me this:

Who in their right mind would want to live life in a vegatative state?? Thats worse then life in prison withour parole. How many of you could stand doing that even?

A good summary of my perspective:

Schiavo case puts human dignity on trial
By Douglas Groothuis
March 5, 2005

In a hospice in Pinellas Park, Fla., lives a young woman who is quite alive, yet quite unlike most of you reading these words. Since 1990, she has not been able to swallow or to communicate as most of us do.

However, she smiles and cries, kisses her parents and utters a few simple words. She is not on life support. She receives nutrition through a tube instead of chewing and swallowing. She is not in a coma. She is not in a persistent vegetative state as defined by Florida law.

Advertisement

She is much loved by her loyal parents and other relatives. She is a living human being, one who needs more care than most, but a human being nonetheless. (According to her parents, she left no instructions on how she would want to be treated in such a situation and does not now want to die.)

Yet Michael Schiavo wants his wife, Terri, dead. After winning a considerable amount of money through malpractice lawsuits, Schiavo did not invest the money in his injured wife’s rehabilitation, as he had promised.

Instead, he paid lawyers to have her feeding tube removed and so kill her by the slow and awful death of starvation. If his plan succeeds, Michael Schiavo will finally have his way with a wife he long ago abandoned. He now lives with another woman who has had two children by him. Yet he unjustly holds legal authority over Terri’s life and death.

Terri’s parents have been combating Michael Schiavo’s lethal ambition for years. But recently the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear the case. So, Michael Schiavo pressed on. A Florida judge has now given the parents a few weeks to pursue other legal avenues to save their daughter’s life, including tests to determine her mental state. Allegations that Michael Schiavo may have caused the injury to his wife are also being investigated. Terri Schiavo, who is not a criminal, has been given, in effect, a brief “stay of execution.”

Whatever the legal outcome, the case of Terri Schiavo exposes a disorder at the heart of American law and morality. It is the moral malady of dehumanizing human beings by shearing them of their dignity and moral standing simply because they fail to live up to arbitrary standards of normality.

Michael Schiavo and his lawyers are claiming that Terri Schiavo’s life is not worth living. Her “quality of life” is just too poor - at least by their standards. Therefore, she must die.

To anyone familiar with Nazi history, this should send a chill down the spine and a stab to the heart. When Hitler put into effect his vision of a Third Reich, he began to exterminate those deemed unworthy of his new civilization: first the handicapped and the gypsies, and then, of course, 6 million Jews, as well as thousands of Christians. These were lives “not worthy to be lived.” They did not fit with the vision of a “master race.”

One might argue that we are far from a Nazi mentality. We uphold our Constitution, hold free elections and strive to honor human rights. We have a president, not a Fuhrer. Indeed. But Hitler’s regime was not built in a day. Civilizations invariably tend to drift from their founding ideals, unless chastened and held accountable to higher standards.

Remember Martin Luther King Jr.'s clarion cry, taken from the Declaration of Independence, that “all men are created equal,” including African-Americans.

For 30 years, American law has permitted the deaths of over a million unborn humans a year through legalized abortion. Some now defend infanticide, and the debate continues over the legality of “partial birth abortion,” which is really a form of infanticide, since the baby is viable and partially delivered.

Today Terri Schiavo is on death row, along with many vulnerable people like her, awaiting the outcome.

The Jewish and Christian traditions, which, despite their detractors, in fact lie firmly at the base of Western civilization, do not praise civilizations according to their military power, their wealth or their prestige. Rather, they judge a society by their treatment of the hopeless, the helpless and the desolate - the people that the Hebrew Scriptures refer to generally as “widows and orphans.”

Terri Schiavo has been effectively widowed by an uncaring, unjust and cruel husband. Will she be orphaned by an equally uncaring, unjust and cruel society as well?

[quote]HouseOfAtlas wrote:
Someone answer me this:

Who in their right mind would want to live life in a vegatative state?? Thats worse then life in prison withour parole. How many of you could stand doing that even?[/quote]

seriously, the 30 percent of her brain now replaced with fluid in never coming back, and think of all the logistics in bringing her before congress…very disturbing.

If you’re a sorry assed husband that just wants to be done with the ‘situation’ - it’s easy to walk away with no regrets - especially if you aren’t the one taking care of her.

It’s quite a different story if you are her parents. Who is suffereing by letting Terri live? Why does a judge need to order the starvation of a defenseless person? When the sanctity of life is soiled with the likes of activist judges, something has to be done.

For once I think that the U.S. Congress stepped up and did what needed to be done for the sanctity of life.

Well said, RainJack!
I was going to keep out of this one…since the last thing I need right now is getting into another long drawn out argument, but you’re dead on. I was in favor of “pulling the plug” on her…until I started reading about the case.

Well said, Rainjack…

Wow…

If I have one piece of advice for my Nation friends it’s this:

No matter HOW young and/or healthy you may be right now…GET AN ADVANCED DIRECTIVE WRITTEN UP NOW!!!

With mine, I have taken the decision of this kind of thing out of the hands of a) my family and b) certainly politicians and judges. Instead, it is in the Professional Opinion of:

  1. An Intensivist

  2. A Neurologist

  3. A Physician involved with the immediate issue at hand (e.g. a Neurosurgeon in the event of significant head trauma).

(I considered a Religious opinion…but defining what the Almighty would want gets one into a VERY slippery slope that can lead to judges and politicians getting involved in a very personal decision).

The three must:

  1. Agree

  2. Agree on the issue of “quality of Life”. (Yes…that’s a WIDE OPEN judgement call).

  3. The decision is to be based on “cold” medical facts/opinions, and that if one of the panel wishes to get into “moral/ethical/religious” judgements, they would be replaced.

  4. Their decision is final on the course of medical action to take.

My original intent was to take these VERY tough decisions OUT of my families hands…but now, I CERTAINLY don’t want the decision in the hands of Politicians…

Mufasa

(Note: YOUR directive can be made up in whatever way you wish…this is the way I have set-up of mine…If you want protestors, judges and politicians invloved, then go for it…)

Definitely set up a living will if you want something besides the utmost effort to be given to your resuscitation and/or keeping you alive, in whatever state.

Some states require not only a living will, but also a Power of Attorney (POA) designating someone to carry out your wishes. Thus, it is important to grant your POA to someone whom you know will carry out your wishes.

That said, this case has some disturbing facts associated with it. Firstly, Schaivo’s husband has refused to answer the question of whether he will be the beneficiary of a life-insurance policy that will pay out of his wife dies. Secondly, the woman, while she has been described as “vegetative”, is not brain dead, and responds at some level (depending on who is telling the story) to stimuli, and to her family. Thirdly, Schaivo’s husband didn’t bring up the supposed wishes of his wife until after she had been in this “vegetative” state for over 6 years – suddenly, he remembered she had expressed the view she wouldn’t want to live like this. This occurred some time around the time he took up with his second “wife” (I don’t know the legal status of the relationship, but they have two kids). The husband also apparently turned down a $1 million payment from a businessman in CA who offered him that amount to reliquish her guardianship to her parents. Finally, for some reason the husband has refused to get CAT-scans and other diagnostics that would reveal more about her true mental condition.

All quite troubling. The husband has at least the possibility of multiple reasons to want her dead, there is no written record of her wishes, no one else recalls these wishes, the supposed oral wishes were not communicated for multiple years after the accident, and she is not brain dead and being kept alive by life-support to help her breath. They’re proposing to kill her by drugging her and then dehydrating and starving her.

On the other hand, I really don’t see how this case is a federal issue, unless there is a Constitutional principle on which this case rests. The argument that this touches on the due process clause of the 14th Amendment is a weak one, in my opinion. However, it is the same type of reasoning that was applied in civil-rights cases in the 60s, particularly the cases that touched on private contracting. In fact, the argument that it is “government action” that allows the doctor to remove the feeding tube is identical to the argument that it is “government action” to enforce a private contract with a provision that would bar someone from selling a piece of property to blacks in the future. [BTW, please don’t misinterpret this to conclude I disagree with the result of the civil rights cases – I disagree with the particular process and legal reasoning, but am happy about the specific result – much how some people feel about Roe v. Wade].

Just because there is a problem doesn’t make it the federal government’s responsibility to intervene.

I would think it would be incumbent upon the FL legislature to address this issue (which, as I said, I find highly troubling), not the U.S. Congress.

I agree, Mufasa, people should definitely have a directive made out. Personally, I say keep me hooked up to whatever machines for as long as it takes. But I respect those people who just want to go.

As far as the Schiavo case, I tend to agree with Bush on this… if there’s a doubt, we should err on the side of life, not death.

I don’t have any problem in letting her die. Her husband has been offered a million dollars to divorce her, but he won’t because I really do think he is trying to do what is best for her. Her family… I just don’t understand their selfishness. If you’ve ever lost someone slowly, you it is selfish to want their pain prolonged just so you can keep your hope alive.

What I don’t get is why she has to starve to death. Put her down humanely.

It sounds like she’s brain dead right?
I originally thought it was horrible too, to keep her lying there. But if she’s gone, she has no idea of anything. If thats true, then her husband should let her parents figure things out. He can sleep well knowing she’s completely unaware of her condition. Her parents really need this for whatever reason…
It’s a very sad situation.
Or course, its impossible to known how anyone would really feel unless they were directly involved…

[quote]000 wrote:
It sounds like she’s brain dead right?
I originally thought it was horrible too, to keep her lying there. But if she’s gone, she has no idea of anything. If thats true, then her husband should let her parents figure things out. He can sleep well knowing she’s completely unaware of her condition. Her parents really need this for whatever reason…
It’s a very sad situation.
Or course, its impossible to known how anyone would really feel unless they were directly involved…[/quote]

She is most assuredly not brain dead. She is brain damaged, but responds to stimuli. A nurse testified she could even feed her other than by the tubes, but the husband made her stop and demanded she be fed solely through tubes.

This distinction is actually of fairly large importance to this case - she doesn’t require machines to stay alive.

[quote]000 wrote:
It sounds like she’s brain dead right?
I originally thought it was horrible too, to keep her lying there. But if she’s gone, she has no idea of anything. If thats true, then her husband should let her parents figure things out. He can sleep well knowing she’s completely unaware of her condition. Her parents really need this for whatever reason…
It’s a very sad situation.
Or course, its impossible to known how anyone would really feel unless they were directly involved…[/quote]

she’s not though.
She’s got some awareness.
As much as a child.
She’ll feel it when she starves to death. She’ll feel her lips cracking from dehydration. She’ll feel the blood dripping from her nose as her mucus membranes dry out.

[quote]rainjack wrote:
If you’re a sorry assed husband that just wants to be done with the ‘situation’ - it’s easy to walk away with no regrets - especially if you aren’t the one taking care of her.

It’s quite a different story if you are her parents. Who is suffereing by letting Terri live? Why does a judge need to order the starvation of a defenseless person? When the sanctity of life is soiled with the likes of activist judges, something has to be done.

For once I think that the U.S. Congress stepped up and did what needed to be done for the sanctity of life.[/quote]

rainjack:

Very nicely stated, I agree! However, you should realize that “the sanctity of life” has already been sullied by abortion.

The liberals have no respect for the unborn, why should anyone now respect someone who is simply injured with only a small chance of any sort of recovery. Did you ever notice how one thing leads to another? It’s a slippery slope that we now travel…yep.

In my view, this issue isn’t about right or left, Christian or non-Christian. It’s about the government sticking its nose in people’s private lives, which I think is the worst evil imaginable. On a personal level I actually believe in many Christian values (although these are not necessarily limited to Christians): I think abortion is wrong; I think a married couple with children should think long and hard before getting a divorce; I don’t know for sure whether or not it’s “okay” to be gay, but they don’t harm me so I don’t care.

The thing is, I don’t think that the government should be sticking its nose in any of these areas. I would rather live with the “evil” abortion and gay people being allowed to marry than to have to live with a government that says what people can and can’t do with their personal.

If not for “activist” judges telling the legislatures that they do not have the power to pass certain laws, we would instead have activist legislatures who would legislate all aspects of our lives. Our individual rights are not given to us by the Constitution; our rights are inherent. The Constitution is what gives government its power and sets limits on that power. Unfortunately, this distinction is lost on both Democrats and Republicans.

End of libertarian rant.

Interesting take on the situation from James Q. Wilson in today’s WSJ editorial section:

Killing Terri

By JAMES Q. WILSON
March 21, 2005; Page A16

Terri Schiavo is not brain dead as far as anyone can tell. If you are brain dead, you have suffered an irreversible loss of all functions of the brain. If agreed to by at least two physicians, that means you are legally dead, such that your organs can be harvested to help other people.

Instead, Ms. Schiavo is in what many physicians call a “persistent vegetative state” (PVS). That means that she lacks an awareness of her self or other people, cannot engage in purposeful action, does not understand language, is incontinent, and sleeps a lot. To be clinically classified as being in a PVS, these conditions should be irreversible. But from what we know, some doctors dispute one or more of these conditions and believe that it is possible that whatever her symptoms, they are not irreversible.

Her condition is hardly unique. In 1995, when the American Academy of Neurology published its report on people in a persistent vegetative state, it found that there were as many as 25,000 adults and 10,000 children in this country who suffered from PVS. Based on the best studies the Academy could find at the time, some adults in a vegetative state 12 months after a devastating injury or heart failure could recover consciousness and some human functions. The chances that such a recovery will occur are very small, but they are not zero.

If they are not zero, then withdrawing a patient’s feeding tubes and allowing her to die from a lack of water and food means that whoever authorizes such a step may, depending on the circumstances, be murdering the patient. The odds against it being a murder are very high, but they are not 100%.


Many people, myself included, have allowed life-support systems to be withdrawn from parents who have no hope of recovery. My mother was going to die from cancer, and after all efforts had been made to help her, my sister and I allowed the doctors to withdraw the devices that kept her alive. She was dead within hours.

My case, and that of countless other people who have made that decision, differs from that of Terri Schiavo in two important ways. First, the early death of my mother was certain, but no one can say that Ms. Schiavo will die soon or possibly at any time before she might die of old age. Second, all the relevant family members agreed on the decision about my mother, but family members are deeply divided about Terri.

These differences are of decisive importance. When death will occur soon and inevitably, the patient does not starve to death when life support ends. Since there was no chance of our mother living more than a few more days, what my sister and I did could not be called murder. When death will not occur soon, or perhaps for many years, and when there is a chance, even a very small one, that recovery is possible, people who authorize the withdrawal of life support are playing God.

And in Terri’s case, they are playing God when they do not have to. Her parents have begged to become her guardians. Her husband has refused. We do not know for certain why the husband has refused. I doubt that he wishes to receive for himself the money that still exists from her insurance settlement and, apparently, he has offered to donate that money to charity. Perhaps, being a Catholic, he would like her death to make him free to marry the woman with whom he is now living. Or perhaps (and I think this is the most likely case) he does not want his wife to live what strikes him as an intolerable life.

The intolerable life argument has support from many doctors and bioethicists. They claim that a person can be “socially dead” even when their brains can engage in some functions. By “socially dead” they mean that the patient is no longer a person in some sense. At this point their argument gets a bit fuzzy because they must somehow define what is a “person” and a “non-person.” That is no easy matter.

By contrast, physicians have unambiguous ways of determining whether a person is brain dead. This means that brain death is a very conservative standard and, if it errs, it errs on the side of preserving life.

Some people believe that all of these issues can be resolved if everyone signs a living will that specifies what is to be done to them under various conditions. The living will is supposed to determine unambiguously when a “Do Not Resuscitate” sign should be placed on a patient’s hospital chart. Terri Schiavo had not signed a living will. If she had, we would not be facing these issues.


But scholars have shown that we have greatly exaggerated the benefits of living wills. Studies by University of Michigan Professor Carl Schneider and others have shown that living wills rarely make any difference. People with them are likely to get exactly the same treatment as people without them, possibly because doctors and family members ignore the wills. And ignoring them is often the right thing to do because it is virtually impossible to write a living will that anticipates and makes decisions about all of the many, complicated, and hard to foresee illnesses you may face.

For example, suppose you say that you want the plug pulled if you have advanced Alzheimer’s disease. But then it turns out that when you are in this hopeless condition your son or daughter is about to graduate from college. You want to see that event. Or suppose that you anticipate being in Terri Schiavo’s condition at a time when all doctors agree that you have no chance of recovering your personhood and so you order the doctors to remove the feeding tubes. But several years later when you enter into a persistent vegetative state, some doctors have come to believe on the basis of new evidence that there is a chance you may recover at least some functions. If you knew that you might well have changed your mind, but after entering into a PVS you can make no decisions. It is not clear we would be doing you a favor by starving you to death. On the contrary, we might well be doing what you might regard as murder.

There is a document that is probably better than a living will, and that is a durable power of attorney that authorizes a person that you know and trust to make end-of-life decisions for you.

Terri Schiavo’s case could be decently settled by a judge who recognizes that there is some small chance of recovery and that several family members are willing to take responsibility for managing that process in hopes that a recovery of even small human features will occur. The judge in Florida ignored this and ordered her feeding tubes removed. The Florida appellate courts have not stayed his hand, and the U.S. Supreme Court, perhaps for want of jurisdiction, has not intervened.

This is a tragedy. Congress has responded by rushing to pass a law that will allow her case, but only her case, to be heard in federal court. But there is no guarantee that, if it is heard there, a federal judge will do any better than the Florida one. What is lacking in this matter is not the correct set of jurisdictional rules but a decent set of moral imperatives.


That moral imperative should be that medical care cannot be withheld from a person who is not brain dead and who is not at risk for dying from an untreatable disease in the near future. To do otherwise makes us recall Nazi Germany where retarded people and those with serious disabilities were “euthanized” (that is, killed). We hear around the country echoes of this view in the demands that doctors be allowed to participate, as they do in Oregon, in physician-assisted suicide, whereby doctors can end the life of patients who request death and have less than six months to live. This policy endorses the right of a person to end his or her life with medical help. It is justified by the alleged success of this policy in the Netherlands.

But it has not been a success in the Netherlands. In that country there have been well over 1,000 doctor-induced deaths among patients who had not requested death, and in a large fraction of those cases the patients were sufficiently competent to have made the request had they wished.

Keeping people alive is the goal of medicine. We can only modify that policy in the case of patients for whom death is imminent and where all competent family members believe that nothing can be gained by extending life for a few more days. This is clearly not the case with Terri Schiavo. Indeed, her death by starvation may take weeks. Meanwhile, her parents are pleading for her life.

Mr. Wilson has taught at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine and is the author of “The Moral Sense” (Free Press, 1997).

[quote]doogie wrote:
What I don’t get is why she has to starve to death. Put her down humanely.[/quote]

Withholding food and water does not mean withholding pain medication and measures to provide comfort. I don’t know about other states, but Colorado’s living will form specifically includes these provisions for providing comfort and relief from pain. She will most likely receive heavy doses of pain medication. She will not feel a thing, if she can perceive pain at all.