The Terri Schiavo Circus

I really hope they don’t re-insert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube for the third time.  I’m against that on two levels, legally and logically.

Legally, the husband is the guardian, so the decision is his.  Period.  That’s all there is to it.  It’s not President Bush’s decision or Congress’ decision or her parents’ decision.  She is incapacitated (far beyond that, in fact) to the point where she cannot think or make decisions on her own, so her legal guardian -- her husband -- gets to make the decision.

Logically, it isn’t a question of "life" or of Terry Schiavo "dying" because she is no longer alive, according to the doctors, who unlike Bush or her parents or Congress, are actually qualified speak on the matter:

At this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral spinal fluid.  Medicine cannot cure this condition ... Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state...

Terri Schiavo is no longer a conscious human being.  Reflexive means that whenever she moves, her body is responding automatically to external stimuli without any mental processing of the stimuli nor of her response to it.  The only "life" present in Terri Schiavo’s body is the same kind of simple cellular life present in plants -- they grow towards sunlight automatically, not because they think "hm, sunlight looks good, let me slowly grow in that direction from now on."  It is merely a reflex; it isn’t supported by any conscious decision-making process, because plants contain no such facility, and neither does Terri Schiavo.

It is not morally wrong to "kill" Terri any more than it’s wrong to "kill" a plant, because neither is alive in the Biblical sense.  And this is not the same as killing an unborn baby, because babies are not in a permanent "unconscious, reflexive state" as are plants and Terri Schiavo.

I’m all for "favoring a presumption of life" in unclear cases, and for the first few months, or a year, maybe even a couple years, I would say this MIGHT have been an unclear case.  But now, 15 years later, this case is no longer unclear: "Theresa will always remain in an unconscious, reflexive state."

Posted by Anthony on 32 replies

Comments:

01. Mar 23, 2005 at 08:30pm by Brian:

This is a BIG let down coming from an otherwise bright source. This is a real disservice to this site. Your legal and logical approach of looking at this is very close minded. The federal government exists for the well being of all of its citizens. Because of his most basic obligation to protect every American, the president did the right thing. If parents are not qualified to speak out against the murder of their child, who is. If a human just grew from a seed in the dirt with some sun and a little water you might be right but since the life of man was breathed into them by God as they were made in His image, your simplified analogy is weak. If you had some proof that her living breathing body had no soul this would not be such a big deal. Since no such proof exists, why would you take the chance of killing someone.
And I don’t mean to judge, but if a husband has children with another women while his wife is waiting to be killed he does give up his decision making "rights" concerning her.

02. Mar 23, 2005 at 09:18pm by Anthony:

Quoting Brian:

This is a BIG let down coming from an otherwise bright source.  This is a real disservice to this site. Your legal and logical approach of looking at this is very close minded.

How about instead of name-calling, you actually address the issues?

Quoting Brian:

Because of his most basic obligation to protect every American, the president did the right thing.

Terri Schiavo has rights that the president and congress are trampling all over.  Every person has the right to refuse any medical care they wish, and Terri chose to make Michael her legal guardian.  The government is now attempting to overturn Terri’s own decisions.

Quoting Brian:

If parents are not qualified to speak out against the murder of their child, who is.

The parents have stated that they would keep Terri alive via feeding tube even if Terri specifically asked not to be kept alive that way.  The Schindlers are not acting in Terri’s interest, they are acting in their own interest.

Quoting Brian:

If you had some proof that her living breathing body had no soul this would not be such a big deal. Since no such proof exists, why would you take the chance of killing someone.

No proof exists that you have a soul either.  I personally believe that God has taken her soul -- I don’t believe God has left this person’s soul in her body for 15 years while her mental facilities of thought and reason and memory are literally physically absent from her skull -- but that isn’t the crux of the matter for me anyway.

Quoting Brian:

if a husband has children with another women while his wife is waiting to be killed he does give up his decision making "rights" concerning her.

That’s false.  The courts have consistently ruled that the decision lies with the legal guardian.  And as I said, the parents have plainly stated that they are not interested in carrying out Terri’s wishes.  Michael is being painted by conservatives as a big bad guy, but he has no incentive to continue to fight for the removal of the feeding tube other than that he actually wants to carry out Terri’s wishes.  There is no longer any money in it (if there ever was), he stands to gain nothing, and he’s being demonized all day long.  The parents have offered to take over the costs and everything -- why wouldn’t Michael agree to that, unless he believed it wasn’t what Terri wanted?

03. Mar 23, 2005 at 10:29pm by Brian:

If you are so concerned about the law you must know that since she had no recorded or written living will this IS a matter that requires the intervention of the courts. As for the president and congress trying to make sure that all is being done fairly before murder is gotten away with, what rights were being violated? Marriage was not thought up by human politicians and judges so their version of a husband’s rights was not what I was referring to.
There is no way for you or me or anybody to know why Michael is so looking forward to the death of his wife. No one needs to help him look bad. If you do some research on both sides you might understand, but as long as you hold laws and science as the standard you will continue to get it wrong.

04. Mar 23, 2005 at 10:43pm by Brian:

And another thing, just because the laws allow a person to choose to die in some emergency cases that does not make it moraly right for someone to commit the murder. The law allows plenty of things that are just wrong. The laws get changed and misinterperated all the time but morality does not depend on the situation.

05. Mar 23, 2005 at 11:22pm by Anthony:

Quoting Brian:

If you are so concerned about the law you must know that since she had no recorded or written living will this IS a matter that requires the intervention of the courts.

Of course, and the courts have consistently ruled in Michael’s favor.  My beef is with the fact that conservatives are doing underhanded crap -- calling Terri as a witness to a hearing so that she must be protected under special witness provisions and therefore cannot have the feeding tube removed -- to circumvent the court’s numerous rulings simply because they don’t like the rulings.

Quoting Brian:

As for the president and congress trying to make sure that all is being done fairly before murder is gotten away with, what rights were being violated?

Terri’s right to decline treatment, which the courts have found to indeed be what she wanted, and Michael’s right to carry out her wishes.

Quoting Brian:

Marriage was not thought up by human politicians and judges so their version of a husband’s rights was not what I was referring to.

When you get married before the state, you agree to let your spouse be your legal guardian should you become unable to act on your own behalf.  If you don’t like that, then have a church-only marriage (still valid before God) that doesn’t involve the state -- but you don’t get to move the goalposts after the game is over just because you’ve lost.  And the thing is, it’s not even the spouses who are trying to do this, it’s third parties outside the marriage.

Quoting Brian:

There is no way for you or me or anybody to know why Michael is so looking forward to the death of his wife.

But since a decision must be made one way or the other, we have courts where advocates for both sides present their best case and a judge/jury makes a decision.

Quoting Brian:

just because the laws allow a person to choose to die in some emergency cases that does not make it moraly right for someone to commit the murder.

Is it morally right to force medical care upon a person who doesn’t want it?

06. Mar 24, 2005 at 12:09am by Brian:

Starving any person to death is immoral. Since she can’t speak it is just his word. Feeding a person is not extraordinary care, and that is not medical care being forced on her. When I married Heidi I did not give her permission to kill me if I get to be a bother. Michael is only one person saying she wants to be dead while tons of her family and friends testify that she would never agree to this kind of thing. Why are you so bent on defending this guy?

07. Mar 24, 2005 at 12:29am by Heidi:

OK, I am going to jump in here for a minute.  Anthony, some trees and plants are protected by law and you can go to jail for starving a cat.... Our laws should protect those who can’t speak for themselves - how do we know that Michael is a fair representative for her?  The courts are able to remove guardians and appoint them to protect individuals in need - I have had to intervene under court mandate several times - to ensure that the individual is protected - even from their guardians and powers of attorney.
It seems to me to be quite a leap to say that because her husband is her legal guardian - he is able to make this decision - to deny food - despite her parents wishes to care for her - do you really think they are acting selfishly? 
I would want a say -- if she was my daughter.  Speaking of my daughter - - she is crying for me.....

08. Mar 24, 2005 at 12:35am by Anthony:

Quoting Brian:

Feeding a person is not extraordinary care

The question is not whether injecting liquefied food into a person’s stomach is extraordinary.  The question is whether artificially prolonging Terri’s life is consistent with her wishes.  And yes, a feeding tube is an artificial method of nourishment.

Quoting Brian:

When I married Heidi I did not give her permission to kill me if I get to be a bother.

No one is claiming that, and such sensationalist nonsense only makes your point of view look more unreasonable.

Quoting Brian:

Michael is only one person saying she wants to be dead while tons of her family and friends testify that she would never agree to this kind of thing.

Then why do the courts keep finding otherwise?  What makes you think you know more about the case than the people who are actually listening to the testimonies?

Quoting Brian:

Why are you so bent on defending this guy?

I’m not.  Why are you so bent on demonizing him?

09. Mar 24, 2005 at 12:40am by Anthony:

Quoting Heidi:

Our laws should protect those who can’t speak for themselves - how do we know that Michael is a fair representative for her?

We don’t know, so we have courts to hear both sides and make a determination.

Quoting Heidi:

The courts are able to remove guardians and appoint them to protect individuals in need

Indeed, and for good reason.  But no court in this case has found that to be necessary, and the case has appeared before multiple courts.

Quoting Heidi:

It seems to me to be quite a leap to say that because her husband is her legal guardian - he is able to make this decision - to deny food

To deny artificial life support, which is what a feeding tube is, and which the courts have found to be against Terri’s wishes.

Quoting Heidi:

despite her parents wishes to care for her - do you really think they are acting selfishly?

Again, they have claimed that they would keep her alive artificially even if she specifically requested not to be.  So yes, I think disregarding her wishes as a matter of course is selfish.

10. Mar 24, 2005 at 01:27am by Brian:

Nourishing a person with food and liquid is not artificial, the delivery of nourishment has many possibilities, and a tube is not high tech. If you are the expert that you are trying to sound like you must have seen or heard her wishes which would have to be very specific to avoid this kind of thing. If not how can you say that she wanted to be starved? You regularly disagree with the way our laws and courts work so why are you giving them such authority? The fact many courts have gotten involved does not make killing a person more right. Each new time this gets to the courts all they are trying is the way the previouse judge handled it. They are not repeatedly hearing Michael or her friends, family and medical attendants. If you read what you have been saying you can’t honesly say that you are not defending this guy. I am not demonizing him he has done that on his own by his actions.
By the way just because you are the legal guardian of a person that doesn’t mean you have to provide anything they ask for. As a guardian you are supposed to protect that person by definition.

11. Mar 24, 2005 at 03:22am by Anthony:

Quoting Brian:

Nourishing a person with food and liquid is not artificial

A feeding tube inserted into a person’s stomach is an artificial method of nourishment by definition, because it isn’t a natural method of nourishment.  If you are going to deny that, then you are beyond reason.

Quoting Brian:

and a tube is not high tech

That’s only your opinion, but it’s irrelevant regardless.

Quoting Brian:

her wishes which would have to be very specific to avoid this kind of thing. If not how can you say that she wanted to be starved?

Because that’s what the courts keep finding, that she didn’t want to be kept alive this way.

Quoting Brian:

You regularly disagree with the way our laws and courts work so why are you giving them such authority?

I’m not giving anyone any undue authority.  A person has a right to refuse medical treatment, which is not at all an uncommon occurrence, the only difference in this case is that Terri’s parents are claiming that isn’t what she wanted.  So there is a conflict, and the way to resolve such conflicts is to present them to a court, and the courts keep ruling that the parents’ contention is false.  That’s how disputes get resolved; I’m not against that.

Quoting Brian:

If you read what you have been saying you can’t honesly say that you are not defending this guy.

I didn’t say I’m not defending him, I said I’m not "so bent on" defending him, as you said.  I’m not "so bent on" anything here, despite the fact that you are trying to make me look crazy because I disagree with you.

I’m only defending him in as much as I’m pointing out that the courts have continually found in his favor, after Terri’s parents have bent over backwards to try to get different rulings from different courts and tried to get the legislature involved and all of it has failed.

Quoting Brian:

By the way just because you are the legal guardian of a person that doesn’t mean you have to provide anything they ask for. As a guardian you are supposed to protect that person by definition.

That’s not true:

Florida Statute 765.102 (3):

[T]he Legislature declares that the laws of this state recognize the right of a competent adult to make an advance directive instructing his or her physician to provide, withhold, or withdraw life-prolonging procedures, or to designate another to make the treatment decision for him or her in the event that such person should become incapacitated and unable to personally direct his or her medical care.

Florida Statute 765.101 (10):

"Life-prolonging procedure" means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function.

12. Mar 24, 2005 at 08:02am by Brian:

Big deal on those statutes you found, it is still just Michaels word alone that is being found to be good enough reason to kill her. Her right to die would be guaranteed better if she had something written up legally. Just like you I don’t frequent court hearings. I do however have access to news outlets and informative shows. One of the biggest problems legally with Michael’s account of Terry is that it only amounts to "hearsay" and that is not supposed to be taken as fact. I don,t think you look crazy for not agreeing with me, the crazy part is that your view on this is so very out of line with your normal moral standards and based so heavily on legal ones. That is sad. Your arguments sound more in line with the ACLU or Planned Parenthood or that doctor who helps to kill old people. How do you define guardian? I’m sure you could find a definiton some other place than the dictionary. You can respond if you want, but I’m done. This is too dissapointing.

13. Mar 24, 2005 at 08:07am by Kev:

Can’t we all just get along?

But seriously, this is a tough case. I’m not sure what to make of it myself. On the one hand I relate this case to an abortion. The human involved is not asking to be killed and has no say about it. There may be a chance that Terry will snap out of it, even if it is a long shot. On the other hand, when somebody is considered the legal guardian, they are the ultimate decision maker for that person, at least under the law. I don’t mean to state the obvious, but this is a tough case. And I definitely can relate to both sides. That said, I hope that a fair decision can be made, even though I do not have the wisdom to know what is fair in this case.

14. Mar 24, 2005 at 10:14am by Rolly:

Woh!  There is some heavy debate going on here.  It seems we have two sides of a coin here, one being should we use science and logic to determine if death has already occurred, or should everything be done to keep Terriís heart beating.  I donít see removing the artificial sustenance as killing her, but enabling whatís left of her body to die.  This is a philosophical debate in this age of medical technology.  If we were living 100 years ago, we would not be having this discussion, because she would have been long since dead.  However much one might want to, itís difficult to apply the Biblical ďThou shalt not killĒ as a hard and fast rule.  I personally feel that she is already dead, and the sustenance is merely allowing her to exist in a zombie like state.  Her body is in a severe state of atrophy, and the food tube is only allowing her muscles the means to stay nourished longer as she physically rots away, from the inside out.  She is dying a slow death because science can keep her heart beating, and she is being allowed to die even slower with the feed tube.  For all we know, God could have taken her soul long ago, and us stupidly smart humans are just keeping the heart of carcass beating.  Mr. Stone, our high-school science teacher at High Point once told us that tests have been done where a person was weighed on an extremely sensitive scale just prior to and just after death.  The dead body weighed slightly less, and therefore this is physical proof of the soulís existence.  Too bad this technique canít be used in a case like this, if itís really true.  It seems it would end alot of debate, but after total death has occurred for Terri, of course.

15. Mar 24, 2005 at 02:03pm by Anthony:

Quoting Brian:

Big deal on those statutes you found

I knew that was coming.  You make a false statement, then when it’s proven wrong, claim the issue doesn’t matter.

Quoting Brian:

it is still just Michaels word alone that is being found to be good enough reason to kill her.

No, it isn’t.

In re GUARDIANSHIP of Theresa Marie SCHIAVO, July 11 2001:

We note that the guardianship court’s original order expressly relied upon and found credible the testimony of witnesses other than Mr. Schiavo or the Schindlers.  We recognize that Mrs. Schiavo’s earlier oral statements were important evidence when deciding whether she would choose in February 2000 to withdraw life-prolonging procedures.  See

765.401(3), Fla. Stat. (2000);  In re Guardianship of Browning, 568 So.2d 4, 16.  Nevertheless, the trial judge, acting as her proxy, also properly considered evidence of Mrs. Schiavo’s values, personality, and her own decision-making process.

Quoting Brian:

Her right to die would be guaranteed better if she had something written up legally.

Her right to refuse treatment exists independent of any documents.  Her will would be made more clear with documentation, but absent that, having a court hear both sides present their best evidence is the only way to arrive at a conclusion.

Quoting Brian:

One of the biggest problems legally with Michael’s account of Terry is that it only amounts to "hearsay" and that is not supposed to be taken as fact.

That may be what the media says, but that doesn’t make it true.  The court record says otherwise.

Quoting Brian:

the crazy part is that your view on this is so very out of line with your normal moral standards

No, it isn’t.  My view is that the government should not be in the business of forcing medical treatment on people who don’t want it.

Quoting Brian:

Your arguments sound more in line with the ACLU or Planned Parenthood

First of all I disagree, but in any case, I’m not going to fall in line with the camp that I’m "supposed" to fit in with when my conscience tells me that camp is wrong.

Quoting Brian:

How do you define guardian?

In the way that applies in this context, which is the way Florida law defines it.

16. Mar 24, 2005 at 04:30pm by John Schreier:

First question:
Is euthanasia wrong?

Second question:
Is euthanasia different than suicide?

Third question:
Is suicide wrong?

Answer Key: (for those at the edge of their seat)
1. Yes
2. No
3. Yes

17. Mar 24, 2005 at 04:42pm by Anthony:

Administering a drug to kill a person is wrong.

Forcing medical care (the surgical insertion of a feeding tube, for example) upon a person who does not want it is wrong.

Refusing medical care is not wrong.

Dying a natural death is not wrong, regardless of whether other people would like to perform a medical procedure that would prolong your life/death.

18. Mar 24, 2005 at 06:16pm by Mike:

For the sake of brevity, I’m just going to ignore the back and forth going on here and just respond to the original post.  First off, let me just say that I’m not going to get on my high horse and say you’re a less moral person because we disagree on this.  I personally think she should be allowed to live.  Do I know for certain this is the right course of action?  No.  As you know, I’m not a "shades of gray" kind of guy, but I there really isn’t an option here that I’m completely comfortable with.

As for the legality of having Michael Schiavo deciding Terri’s fate - you’re right.  It’s his decision to make by Florida law.  I do find the fact that he only remembered what he claims was Terri’s wish seven years after the accident and right around the time he became involved with another woman very suspicious.  Keep in mind this is also after he had sued for medical malpractice so that he would have money for her rehabilitation that, as I understand it, he never allowed to happen.  I find the guy more than shady, and if he actually had a hand in Terri’s injury (as her siblings suspect), then I would assume he would be stripped of his custody rights.  Also, keep in mind that it’s also legal to stab a baby in the back of the neck and suck it’s brain out as long as it’s partially inside the mother.  Just because it is legal does not make it right.

The only other thing I would add is that I really cringed when you compared Terri to a plant.  That case to kill her is not too far away from the argument for abortion in the early phases of pregnancy (they can’t feel it, they have no personality, etc).  If she is like a plant then she can’t feel pain and she’s not aware of her condition.  If that’s the case then I see no harm in allowing her to live and at least attempt to rehabilitate her.  The only condition in which I could see ending her life justified is if she is, in fact, aware of her condition.  If that is indeed the case then starvation is an incredibly cruel way to do it.  The only difference between depriving her of food and depriving her of air through strangulation is that if they strangled her it wouldn’t take so long.

I could go on, but I’m going to leave it at that for now.  The bottom line for me right now is that I’m terrified that the death squad targeted unborn babies yesterday, is targeting the disabled today, and will target the elderly and retarded tomorrow.

19. Mar 24, 2005 at 08:03pm by kim:

This is just a terrible situation all around. I don’t even really know where to begin. I disagree with the notion that Terri is like a plant, mostly because I don’t believe that your soul leaves your body before you die (and there are all kinds of biological things, but I don’t want to get into that now).

I want to point out that Terri’s condition (the potassium imbalance that initially caused her heart to stop) was most likely caused by bulimia nervosa. Terri’s father (and siblings apparently) deny that this condition existed in spite of the fact that she manifested a bunch of the characteristic symptoms (i.e. the rapid loss of 56lbs, excusing herself to use the bathroom after every meal, ceasing to menstruate). Terri’s friends suspected she had a problem, but her family denies this condition and blames Michael for Terri’s collapse. I don’t think that many people (especially young people) truly understand the serious ramifications of eating disorders. I’m bringing this up, because I think that if Terri’s condition was caused by Michael’s abuse it would have been brought to light. All the evidence points to the fact that Terri’s own negligence was the cause of her collapse. It’s extremely tragic that nobody around Terri knew CPR to circulate oxygen to her brain and prevent the extensive damage.
At this point, Terri’s prognosis is very poor. Most neurons are not like other cells (that is, they do not regenerate after they’ve been destroyed).

Given her situation, I think it’s entirely possible that she would refuse care if she could. I also think it’s possible that she discussed this matter with her husband and not her parents. Perhaps she only told Michael because she wished for him to be her legal guardian in such an instance. I know of couples who have asked their spouses to give the "do not resuscitate" order if they have no chance of avoiding brain damage.

You do have the right to refuse care for anything. I was very surprised to learn that you have to get permission before administering the Heimlich Maneuver for someone who’s choking. I agree with Rolly, in that if modern medicine didn’t exist (no matter how "technologically advanced" you consider a feeding tube), Terri would have died long ago. So the question as far as I’m concerned is: when do we decide if the technology is helping us or just prolonging suffering?

I consider that giving Terri the feeding tube to begin with was not "extending her life," but "prolonging her death." Perhaps in the beginning, there was hope of at least some recovery, but there has been no progress for 15 years.

I agree that starvation is a terrible way to die (ironically, all evidence points to the fact that this all started with Terri starving herself to death). IF you believe that Terri can feel herself starving (which is highly unlikely given the extent of her neurological damage) who’s to say that she’s not otherwise in excruciating pain every day? Again, I’m fairly convinced that Terri can’t feel anything right now.
I also feel that continually removing and re-inserting the feeding tube is extremely cruel.

The truth is that none of us know. I put a lot of faith in the institution of marriage and I’m inclined to believe that Terri told her husband she didn’t want to live if she was ever incapacitated (I know plenty of people who feel that way). I don’t consider the refusal of care such as a feeding tube to be suicide or euthanasia . It is not the same as having someone administer a lethal dose of medicine. I also don’t think that refusing a feeding tube is the same as refusing to eat and get proper nourishment. It’s merely allowing your body to die.

Abortion, murder, suicide, and euthanasia are all completely separate issues. I don’t think this situation falls under any of those categories.

There’s a lot more I could say, but I think I’ll just leave it at that for now.

20. Mar 24, 2005 at 09:17pm by Anthony:

Quoting Mike:

First off, let me just say that I’m not going to get on my high horse and say you’re a less moral person because we disagree on this.

Thanks.

Quoting Mike:

I do find the fact that he only remembered what he claims was Terri’s wish seven years after the accident and right around the time he became involved with another woman very suspicious.

I agree, that is suspicious.

Quoting Mike:

Keep in mind this is also after he had sued for medical malpractice so that he would have money for her rehabilitation that, as  I understand it, he never allowed to happen.

For the first couple years after her heart attack, she was at multiple rehabilitation centers and received physical therapy, speech therapy, and even some "promising" experimental therapies, none of which helped at all.  And since then the courts have heard from all kinds of experts who say that there is no hope of rehabilitation.

Quoting Mike:

if he actually had a hand in Terri’s injury (as her siblings suspect)

But no evidence has been presented to support that contention.  The only thing even resembling evidence is a bone scan -- not brought to light until 12 years after the heart attack -- possibly showing trauma, but that was rejected by the court, and apparently the trauma would have resulted from Terri’s bulimia and the CPR.

Quoting Mike:

Just because it is legal does not make it right.

Of course, but it doesn’t make it wrong either.  I don’t think either of those statements are particularly useful though since I’m not claiming legality implies morality.

Quoting Mike:

The only other thing I would add is  that I really cringed when you compared Terri to a plant.

The comparison is accurate because plants are in a permanent unconscious reflexive state just like Terri is.

Quoting Mike:

That case to kill her is not too far away from the argument for abortion in the early phases of pregnancy (they can’t feel it, they have no personality, etc).

The crucial difference is that babies outgrow that, they develop feelings, develop a personality.  That difference makes the abortion comparison invalid -- the whole point is that Terri’s brain is largely gone, is never coming back, she is unconscious and in a permanent reflexive state, and has not improved in 15 years.

Quoting Mike:

If she is like a plant then she can’t feel pain and she’s not aware of her condition.  If that’s the case then I see no harm in allowing her to live

No harm to you or me, but if it were your wife’s body, dead other than at the basic reflexive biological level, and whom you know didn’t want to be kept alive artificially, then it would probably be very hard for you, and very morbid and grotesque, and wrong, to allow her to continue in this way.

Quoting Mike:

and at least attempt to rehabilitate her.

Again, it’s been tried and the medical consensus now is that there is no hope of that.

Quoting Mike:

The only condition in which I could see ending her life justified is if she is, in fact, aware of her condition.  If that is indeed the case then starvation is an incredibly cruel way to do it.

But all the evidence says that the part of her brain responsible for consciousness is gone.  And on the other hand, it is a completely natural way of dying, and it’s the way many terminally sick people choose to die.  I have read that when you die from dehydration, it’s actually quite peaceful:

[H]ospice workers and hospice physicians and nurses will tell you if you interview them (as I have as a journalist, extensively, for many years) that dehydration is actually the most natural death in the world.

Essentially, once there is no more water to process, urination output turns dark, then ceases altogether. Then, toxins begin to build up in the kidneys, and move into other organs and systems. Physicians believe that these toxins even produce an "endorphin effect," a natural response -- sort of nature’s morphine -- that paves the way for death.

Meanwhile, hospice workers also will tell you that the people with the most agitation and evident discomfort in dying are those who have been artificially hydrated in a hospital setting before coming to hospice. The medical director of HospiceCare of Boulder and Broomfield Counties in Colorado says that of "thousands" of terminal cases she’s worked with through hospice, those who have been artificially hydrated to extend life are in the most discomfort during the dying process. Such treatment, in such cases, is "not prolonging life," she says, "but prolonging death."

...

Quoting Mike:

The only difference between depriving her of food and depriving her of air through strangulation is that if they
strangled her it wouldn’t take so long.

Actually, there’s a huge difference, since starvation is a natural way of dying, doesn’t require a murderer, and is (according to the evidence) in line with Terri’s wishes.

Quoting Mike:

I’m terrified that the death squad targeted unborn babies yesterday, is targeting the disabled today, and will target the elderly and retarded tomorrow.

That’s a lot of emotionally charged rhetoric.  There is no "death squad" here; this case has arguably received more due process than any other case in the history of our country.  And to call Terri "disabled" is quite a stretch -- a person missing an arm is disabled; a person missing the part of their brain responsible for thought, and in a permanent unconscious reflexive state, is entirely different.

21. Mar 24, 2005 at 09:52pm by Anthony:

Quoting Kim:

I disagree with the notion that Terri is like a plant, mostly because I don’t believe that your soul leaves your body before you die (and there are all kinds of biological things, but I don’t want to get into that now).

Obviously there are vast biological differences between different species; the point of my comparison was that Terri’s mental capacity as determined by the doctors is the same as that of a plant: permanently lacking consciousness and only able to effect motion through reflex.

Quoting Kim:

I want to point out that Terri’s condition (the potassium imbalance that initially caused her heart to stop) was most likely caused by bulimia nervosa.

That is what the court found, and that’s why Michael won the million-dollar medical malpractice lawsuit.

22. Mar 24, 2005 at 10:56pm by Mike:

Well, I’m not going to do a point-by-point rebuttal.  You raise some good points that I hadn’t thought about.  I was under the impression that there was disagreement about Terri’s chances for rehabilitation, however, the majority of news sources that I’ve had time to listen to definitely have a side in the matter.  I’m no doctor, so I don’t know.

As for the death by starvation thing, maybe eventually you have a feeling of euphoria, but being as I’m uncomfortable after three hours without food, I can’t imagine that the experience is all they’re saying it is.  Again though, what do I know?

Finally, as to the "death squad" comment - perhaps a bit hyperbolic.  I should have gone with "euthanasia proponents."  I guess it was just my way of making the "slippery slope" argument.  You can call it "emotionally charged" if you want, but one needs only look at the Netherlands to see how this can get out of hand.  (I should also note that the slippery slope argument can certainly be applied to the case against extending the jurisdiction of the Federal courts over this matter).

As I’ve said, I’ve gone back and forth on this about a dozen times in my head.  I respect your opinion and I hope you understand why I have misgivings about this situation.  You compromise once and it only makes it easier to compromise in the future.  OK, I can’t believe I just paraphrased Jack Bauer in this post.  That means I’m a sad man and that it’s time to go.  You get no more backpedaling from me tonight!

23. Mar 25, 2005 at 12:56am by Anthony:

Quoting Mike:

I was under the impression that there was disagreement about Terri’s chances for rehabilitation, however, the majority of news sources that I’ve had time to listen to definitely have a side in the matter.

I came across this page which has lots of information about the history of this case, and is also one of the few unbiased sites I’ve seen on the matter (i.e. reporting the facts with zero opinion).  It says this:

The trial court heard testimony from five experts: two selected by Michael, two selected by the Schindlers, and one independent expert selected by the trial court. The two experts selected by Michael and the independent expert agreed that Terri was in a persistent vegetative state and that her actions were limited to mere reflexes. The two experts chosen by the Schindlers disagreed, but the trial court found their positions not credible.
...
The experts also disagreed about whether any treatment could improve Terri’s condition. The two experts selected by the Schindlers each proposed a potential therapy method, but the trial court rejected both of them based on "the total absence of supporting case studies or medical literature."

In other words, yes, the experts chosen by the parents disagreed with the independent expert and with Michael’s experts, but there was no evidence to back up their dissenting assertions.  It continues:

Affirming those decisions, the Second District explained that it, too, reviewed the videotapes of Terri in their entirety as well as Terri’s brain scans. The appellate court explained that it not only affirmed the decision but that, were it to review the evidence and make its own decision, the court would reach the same result reached by the trial court.

Quoting Mike:

As for the death by starvation thing, maybe eventually you have a feeling of euphoria, but being as I’m uncomfortable after three hours without food, I can’t imagine that the experience is all they’re saying it is.  Again though, what do I know?

Yeah, I certainly have no first-hand experience with it, but I do know that it is a common way for terminally ill people to choose to die.  And I know that people fast / go on hunger strikes for a day or days, and I’ve never heard of it being painful, only uncomfortable (i.e. you’re hungry).

We are talking about death here, and I don’t think anyone’s claiming it’s a pleasurable experience -- only that compared to the alternative (succumbing to whatever disease is killing you, being forever trapped inside a body that can’t move or think or whatever), many people prefer to simply stop eating.

Quoting Mike:

Finally, as to the "death squad" comment - perhaps a bit hyperbolic.  I should have gone with "euthanasia proponents."  I guess it was just my way of making the "slippery slope" argument.

Well yes, I realized that, but the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy; I wasn’t expecting you to call that as support for your comment.  It’s more than a bit hyperbolic to claim that the streets will run with the blood of the elderly and the retarded if Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube isn’t re-inserted.  People who are retarded are not physically missing their cerebral cortex, they are not permanently unconscious, and they can move in ways which are not merely reflexive.  Ditto and more for the elderly.  For the Schiavo case to be any kind of precedent, the circumstances cannot be so vastly different.

Quoting Mike:

I should also note that the slippery slope argument can certainly be applied to the case against extending the jurisdiction of the Federal courts over this matter.

I’m not sure I understand you here.  Are you saying that it’s dangerous for the feds to claim jurisdiction here because it sets a precedent allowing them to overrule state’s rights in other cases?

Quoting Mike:

I respect your opinion and I hope you understand why I have misgivings about this situation.  You compromise once and it only makes it easier to compromise in the future.

I agree, with the qualification that Terri Schiavo’s death does not exist in a vacuum.  There are very particular circumstances here, she is far beyond "disabled," and every court that’s heard the evidence has ruled that death is consistent with her wishes anyway.  In any event, I respect your point of view as well.

24. Mar 25, 2005 at 10:03am by kim:

Hey there. I didn’t intend to be captain obvious with my assertion about the biological differences between humans and plants. I was merely trying to say that I think the analogy is over-simplified. As I said before, I don’t think your soul leaves your body until you die. I may be incorrect in that assumption, but since nobody knows the truth I think it’s best to "err on the side of caution."
Futhermore, my point in mentioning Terri’s bulimia was that her family denied the existence of the condition and accused her huband of doing something to cause the heart failure. The family is in denial about the cause Terri’s condition and it seems they are also in denial about the severity.

25. Mar 25, 2005 at 11:17am by Mike:

Well, the slippery slope argument is only logically false if you agree with that site’s definition of it:  that one event *inevitably* brings about another.  I’ve always defined the slippery slope argument as one event makes another event *more likely* to happen.  It’s very possible that this case will have no ramifications outside of Terri Schiavo, but the Netherlands did not get to the point where they are euthanizing retarded children in one fell swoop.  Radical changes like that rarely occur over night. 

Will the US ever get to that point?  Maybe, maybe not.  All I’m saying is that we have to be guarded about the impact this will have.  If I’m wrong, I’d rather be on the side of letting Terri live.  I hope it’s an isolated incident, but if it does have a lasting impact on our society, it will not be one that increases the value we place on human life or one that reigns in the power that the Federal courts hold over state issues.  These media circuses tend to shape people’s attitudes.  The next time the case may be less morally ambiguous and people may be less outraged about it.

The only other question I have (and this has no bearing really on the argument, I’m just curious), is are you 100% certain that the argument you’re advancing is the correct one?

26. Mar 25, 2005 at 06:03pm by Anthony:

Quoting Mike:

Well, the slippery slope argument is only logically false if you agree with that site’s definition of it

It’s not just that site; that was simply the first result when I googled for it.  Any course in logic will tell you that the slippery slope argument is a logical fallacy precisely because the definition of the argument is that A implies B without proving the causality in the implication.

Quoting Mike:

that one event *inevitably* brings about another.

Inevitability is the defining characteristic of the slippery slope: we shouldn’t do A because then we will have no choice but to also do B.  If instead you say, "we shouldn’t do A because then we might also want to do B," that is not the slippery slope.  The whole point (and thus the name) is that once you start sliding, you cannot stop even if you want to.

Quoting Mike:

I’m terrified that the death squad targeted unborn babies yesterday, is targeting the disabled today, and will target the elderly and retarded tomorrow.

Quoting Mike:

Radical changes like that rarely occur over night.

I rest my case : )  My point is, it’s not a slippery slope because we will not be in some kind of uncontrolled slide; each case will be decided based on the circumstances and there is no reason that if we let Terri die today then we must kill seniors and retarded persons in the future.

Quoting Mike:

All I’m saying is that we have to be guarded about the impact this will have. ... I hope it’s an isolated incident

It’s not a question of being isolated; the fact of the matter is that Terri is in a very specific and extremely far gone (permanently unconscious) state, AND all the evidence has indicated that she didn’t want to be kept alive artificially.  Every case is "isolated" by its circumstances, and you cannot apply one case’s outcome to another case with entirely different circumstances.

Quoting Mike:

it will not be one that increases the value we place on human life or one that reigns in the power that the Federal courts hold over state issues.

If Terri dies because the evidence says she didn’t want to be kept alive artificially, that does not devalue human life.  And from what I understand, the feds have opted to stay out of the decision (the Federal courts, that is; Bush did intervene though), so how does that increase the power of the feds over state issues?

Quoting Mike:

These media circuses tend to shape people’s attitudes.

Absolutely:

Quoting Matt Conigliaro:

If you’ve read the trial court’s original decision regarding Terri’s wishes, then you know the court considered five persons’ testimony of what Terri supposedly said to them about what she wanted. That’s the supposedly inadmissible hearsay. Some say it shouldn’t have been admitted. Others say it can’t amount to clear and convincing evidence. "It’s not in writing!" they say, as if writings aren’t hearsay, or that a writing would eliminate any controversy. (More on that oft-repeated fallacy in a later post.)

I’ve addressed this issue countless times in emails, but the email flood has gotten too large in the last couple days to respond to each one, and this issue continues to bother people. It doesn’t help that the media haven’t figured it out. I wish they would. They’re supposed to be doing a public service.

It’s a shame that more citizens aren’t inclined to go online and read the actual evidence in the court proceedings, but you can’t actually fault them for it; however it’s just plain wrong for the media to not do so.  Because of the media’s incompetence, many citizens are completely clueless about the basic facts of this case.

Quoting Mike:

The next time the case may be less morally ambiguous

Do you really believe this case is morally ambiguous?  Perhaps you believe the court made the wrong decision regarding Terri’s wishes, but I think morally the case is clear: either you believe that a person has the right to decline life support, or you don’t.

Quoting Mike:

are you 100% certain that the argument you’re advancing is the correct one?

In my initial post I didn’t even address the question of the morality of (refusing) life support, because I took it for granted that everyone believed that it is morally wrong to keep someone on life support against their wishes.  I have no doubt that I am "correct" in that belief.  I’m not 100% certain that Terri’s soul has left her body (though I do believe that), but I am not predicating my argument on that belief.

27. Mar 26, 2005 at 10:07am by Anthony:

Not that it’s exactly applicable since Terri Schiavo is unconscious, but Bill Quick has a personal account of a painless death via starvation/dehydration:

Quoting Bill Quick:

He died a few days after losing consciousness. My sister was with him up till the end. She told [me] he showed no signs of pain and, in fact, the only signs of distress she’d seen were when they first tried to make him eat, and he pushed the utensils away from his mouth.

I know from personal experience that after three days or so of no food, the body shifts into ketosis and loses appetite. (I used to use that very technique to speed ketosis in the Atkins diet). There is no pain involved in this state, merely a lack of hunger.

I understand the distress of Terry Schiavo’s family, and their supporters - and those who would use her death as a tool to advance other agendas. But the constant drum-beat about Schiavo’s "painful, agonizing, tortured" death by starvation and dehydration is hooey.

His post is in response to an LA Times article indicating the same thing.

28. Mar 27, 2005 at 06:45pm by Anthony:

If you have any interest at all in this case, you’ll find two documents in particular very interesting and informative.  The first is the 2000 court order where it was determined that Terri would not want to be kept alive via feeding tube, and the second is the 2003 Wolfson Report prepared for Florida governor Jeb Bush and the court.  You could read them both in about an hour -- the first is only 10 pages; the second is 40 but it’s double-spaced -- and it’s definitely worth it to learn the actual facts of the case and thus dispel the myths and hype surrounding the case.  I’ll probably post some quotes from both documents here in the next day or two.

29. Mar 31, 2005 at 09:23pm by kelsey:

[deleted for ignoring the entire thread before posting]

30. Mar 31, 2005 at 10:02pm by Anthony:

Kelsey, you showed up and wrote four lines of pure nonsense, all of which had already been discussed and proven wrong in this very thread.  You stayed for less than six minutes.  If you’re not going to bother reading the conversation, then don’t bother commenting on it either.  That’s just inconsiderate.

31. Apr 2, 2005 at 01:10pm by kelsey:

hah that’s a good one. 
well it was rreaaallly long.  and yes, i can be an inconsiderate person.  but you’re just condescending.  and it’s actually very unflattering for you.  so good luck with that ;)

32. Apr 2, 2005 at 10:20pm by Anthony:

Quoting kelsey:

well it was rreaaallly long

My point exactly.  Posting without reading the thread indicates the mentality that everyone else’s comments aren’t worth your time, yet your own comments are somehow worth much more.

Quoting kelsey:

and yes, i can be an inconsiderate person.  but you’re just condescending.

My comment wasn’t condescending.  You just said yourself that it’s true.

Quoting kelsey:

and it’s actually very unflattering for you.  so good luck with that

When a person comes to my blog, ignores an entire thread and then makes an uninformed comment on it, then resorts to a childish ad hominem attack, her opinion means nothing to me.

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