Friday, March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo's case: an emotional rollercoaster for all concerned

The story of Terri Schiavo is a true conundrum. Without going into too much detail, here is the situation:

  • Terri has been in what is termed a “persistent vegetative state” for 15 years.
  • She can breathe on her own, but is unable to feed herself, and has a feeding tube.
  • Her husband Michael has legal medical responsibility for her.
  • He says she expressed an unwillingness to be on life support, and he wanted to remove the feeding tube that has been supplying her sustenance for all these years. Friday the feeding tube was removed.
  • Courts at the state, state appellate, and federal level have either approved the right of the husband to make medical decisions for his wife, or have refused to review the case, meaning that the husband is legally able to remove the feeding tube, and commence the process of starvation that will end her life.
  • Doctors say that this process is not a painful one, and that Terri will lose fluids and enter a coma and will die a quiet, peaceful death.
  • With the feeding tube removed, she will likely pass on within two weeks.

Other factors, however, enter into this situation that make it so much more than a mere legal matter:
  • Terri’s husband has a common law wife and two children. It is not being unfair to him to say that he is Terri’s husband only in the legal sense. He does not function in any way as her husband.
  • Terri’s parents believe that with medical intervention she can progress to where she can eat without the feeding tube, and 30 doctors reportedly have confirmed that.
  • There is a disagreement as to what medical event put Terri in this current state, and therefore what the chance is for her to improve.
  • She has never had the assistance of a MRI to help ascertain her exact medical condition.
  • The parents want to assume legal medical responsibility for her.
  • A timeline for this case from the original medical problem on the Schindler family’s Web site.

Some opinions and questions:
  • This should not be a matter for the U.S. Congress.
  • The most important factor in this matter should be the preservation of life, so long as that life is one of cognizance and awareness, and one which does not involve suffering, if that can be absolutely determined.
  • Legal issues must not be allowed to bring about an end to a life that has human value, meaning that there is awareness and intellectual functionality in the person.
  • In cases where it is difficult to determine whether awareness and intellectual capacity exists, we must ALWAYS err on the side of life.
  • Why won't Michael allow Terri's parents to assume legal medical responsibility for her?
  • Why hasn't Michael gotten a divorce from Terri?
  • Is it true that at one point in her therapy that Terri was able to walk with assistance and talk a little bit, but that Michael ended the therapy? If so, why?
This is a very complex and emotionally draining case, if you really get into it. How it ultimately is resolved is important, not just for Terri Schiavo and her family, but for all of us. What is the harm of taking a little time to re-evaluate Terri's condition? What is the harm if she lives for a little while longer, or for year's longer? She is not suffering, and it is possible that she can improve with therapy.

Let's give Terri the benefit of the doubt.

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