Skip

Terri Schindler Schiavo Starts Dying Today
October 15, 2003 6:07 AM   Subscribe

Terri Schindler Schiavo's death by starvation and dehydration is scheduled to begin at 2:00PM today, barring some sort of unlikely intervention. Despite compelling evidence that Terri is conscious of what is happening to her, and a Friend-Of-The-Court brief filed by Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the Florida courts have refused to block the removal of Terri's abdominal feeding tube. She will die in agony over the next two weeks or so.
posted by DWRoelands (48 comments total)

 
Michael Schiavo says he is carrying out his wife's wishes that she not be kept alive artificially. The Schindlers say she responds to them and could be rehabilitated with therapy, despite testimony from court-appointed doctors that she will never recover.

from here.
posted by angry modem at 6:19 AM on October 15, 2003


This is a tough case, because I haven't seen any objective reporting on what Terri's condition actually is. Her husband believes, and convinced the court, that Terri is essentially in a permanent vegetative state. Her family, on the other hand, fervently wants us to believe that she is alert and responsive.

For my part, I tend to believe the husband, partly because the court agrees with him after seeing all the available evidence, and partly because I can't believe, absent more than mere speculation, that her husband would fight so hard for her death if she was actually alert and responsive.

On the other hand, what is this death by starvation crap? The courts have equivocated between the right to die and the obligation not to do harm, and have somehow settled on the nonsensical proposition that it would be better to simply let the patient starve to death. Wouldn't it be more compassionate to help a patient die with some dignity, i.e., quickly with little or no pain?
posted by monju_bosatsu at 6:20 AM on October 15, 2003


I would guess that letting her die quickly is not an option available to the courts, but yeah, it certainly seems more civilised to do the job quickly. Getting a law passed to do so may prove not to be so easy though.
posted by biffa at 6:33 AM on October 15, 2003


Terri Schindler Schiavo's death by starvation and dehydration is scheduled to begin at 2:00PM today, barring some sort of unlikely intervention.

When I read this first sentence I thought it was referring to an example of extreme performance art. Then I read the rest of the post and realized it wasn't. Then I thought about it and realized that yeah, actually, it was, in its own sad way.

on preview: I pray that all of the parties find peace, each in their own way.
posted by alms at 6:44 AM on October 15, 2003


Where's Jack when you need him? (Kevorkian that is)
posted by a3matrix at 6:45 AM on October 15, 2003


Wouldn't it be more compassionate to help a patient die with some dignity, i.e., quickly with little or no pain?

If she's really in a persistent vegetative state, is she mentally capable of being in pain? Is there even a her there to suffer any more, or has her identity disintegrated?

Personally, I wouldn't trust Blue Cross or Kaiser to do the right thing by me if killing me was cheaper. Maybe Sweden could make legal euthanasia work, but allowing it in the US seems like a recipe for getting palliative care un-covered lickety split.

I prefer the legal fig-leaf of allowing terminal patients to receive doses of pain medication that run a nontrivial (ie, 50--95%) chance of killing them. As in, "This will probably kill you, but it will relieve your pain with certainty." Then their death remains a tragic "accident," not something that the HMO can legally work towards.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:46 AM on October 15, 2003


Many doctors have testified that she is NOT a vegetable. The husband's appointed doctors say she is. The husband is also wanting to marry a new woman, whom he's lived with for 7 years. I think we can say he might have some interest in letting her die.
posted by agregoli at 6:48 AM on October 15, 2003


The husband is also wanting to marry a new woman, whom he's lived with for 7 years. I think we can say he might have some interest in letting her die

I'm sure he could arrange a divorce or annulment if that's all he wanted.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2003


Some of the wording implies to me that the family feels that the husband had something to do with her permanent vegetative state, so to them there's some irony in her husband being in the position of deciding her fate. I can't know enough about this case to even know what to think, it's loaded on all sides, and as such there's varying degrees of truth and untruth.

What I find reprehensible though is that it's OK for somebody to kill a second party via starvation but it's not OK for somebody to choose to end their own life on their own terms. If somebody, regardless of how much they suffer, says they want an overdose of barbiturates then they're viewed as mentally unstable and suicide is wrong 'cause the bible says so and... If somebody else decides that this person has suffered enough then it's ok.
posted by substrate at 6:56 AM on October 15, 2003


An interesting name in this link: Randall Terry.
posted by grabbingsand at 7:03 AM on October 15, 2003


arrange a divorce or annulment if that's all he wanted.

maybe thats not all he wants? "Should she die, her husband will inherit what is left of Terri’s $750,000 medical fund."

Couldn't Terri's parents try and get an annulment? The husband has a child with his new fiance, he's obviously moved on and shouldn't be the guardian of Terri.
posted by dabitch at 7:04 AM on October 15, 2003


I think we can say he might have some interest in letting her die.

I'm not entirely sure that we can (from this information alone anyway).

She dropped into this state thirteen years ago, and the husband waited until 1998 to file the petition to remove feeding. That doesn't seem like an outright callous decision to me. As for the new girlfriend, after 4, 5, or more years of living with your husband or wife in a vegetative state, I imagine that a great number of people might be ready to move on with their lives.

It's an awful decision to have to make either way, but before condemning the guy, you do have to admit that the woman's parents have an equally "biased" interest in keeping her alive - even though it's not clear if it's in her best interest.
posted by trivirgata at 7:05 AM on October 15, 2003


There was a fascinating article in the NYT Sunday mag a few weeks ago (sorry, for pay now), not about this specific case, but about people in vegetative or reduced mental states.

A few key points from the article:
1. The clinical definition of "vegetative" does not mean completely unresponsive--vegetative people open and close their eyes, moan, and sometimes show vague signs of responding to their environment.

2. PET scans of some vegetative people are pretty much indistinguishable from those of healthy people. It seems clear that at least some mental funtions in some vegetative people are still active.

3. Some vegetative people can be talked into a more responsive state--not walking around and reciting Shakespeare, but able to communicate.

The upshot of the article was that we don't really know what's going on in there. I saw a 60 minutes thing about Schiavo some time ago, and frankly, Michael Schiavo creeped me out.
posted by adamrice at 7:16 AM on October 15, 2003


Is it possible to get a divorce or annulment without the consent of the other party? I would assume so, under these medical circumstances, but I don't know. And yeah, he'll get a lot of money if she dies. I DO accept that he's ready to move on. I hope I would be, in a similar situation. But it doesn't seem like she needs to DIE for him to do so.
posted by agregoli at 7:20 AM on October 15, 2003


precisely what I was thinking, agregoli. The part about him refusing/preventing them from giving her medication when she had inflammations creeped me out too.
posted by dabitch at 7:26 AM on October 15, 2003


I'm not a doctor, but the videos posted on the family's site don't look like permanent vegetative state to me. If she was my family member & responding like that, I too would have a very hard time accepting such a diagnosis. I think it's fairly insane that the judge won't allow her to be tested for the ability to swallow.
posted by palegirl at 7:36 AM on October 15, 2003


Errr, she's been in her current state (whatever it may be....) for 13 1/2 years now. I think it's safe to say that if you haven't recovered in 13 1/2 years, you aren't going to recover - this is as good as she's going to get. She can't feed herself, can't speak, can't move voluntarily, and does not have the brain activity associated with conscious thought.

The courts in this case have heard sworn testimony from all of Schiavo's non-religious caregivers, that universally said they observed nothing indicative of conscious thought from her over many years. The court-appointed doctor agreed that she's in a persistent vegetative state. Now, miraculously, whenever the non-religious types leave the room and only religious right-to-lifers are in the room, they say (to the press, not sworn testimony) that they observed her sitting up, jumping rope, playing parcheesi, etc. Uh-huh.

The videos on the family site are the results of videotaping hundreds of hours of therapy sessions. They're not showing you the hundreds of times she has been asked to do something and did nothing, or did something completely random. She does make random body movements from time to time and statistically speaking, some of those correspond to times when she is being asked to do something. (Try instructing a cat: sometimes the cat will do what you want, but it's just a coincidence.)

It's really great that her (strongly religious) family has enlisted a bunch of (strongly religious) supporters to back them in their belief that she should be kept alive. But make no mistake about it: there's zero chance of recovery. Terry Schiavo died in 1990, and isn't coming back. Not even the family truly believes that. The question at hand is whether bodily functions and life at a cellular level, no matter how limited, is worth sustaining at any cost, or whether at some point we recognize that life without thought is no life at all. Distorting that question and making it hard to consider rationally are a minor amount of money at stake (less than $100,000 - I doubt this is really a factor for either side), the religious beliefs of many of the people Schiavo's family has involved, and their willingness to lie to the press in order to demonize Michael Schiavo. (And to the original poster: linking to WorldNetDaily for information about a religious issue is like linking to the National Enquirer for information about space aliens.)
posted by jellicle at 8:10 AM on October 15, 2003


linking to WorldNetDaily for information about a religious issue is like linking to the National Enquirer for information about space aliens

thank you, jellicle -- physical therapy via cellphone with the people at GalaxyWave, or whatever? please. the key thing that irks me about the parents' case is, what of the fact that Terri herself did not want to be kept alive artificially? if they were her guardians, rather than her husband, would they be fighting against her wishes in the same way?
posted by serafinapekkala at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2003


If her parents are willing to care for her, why doesn't Schiavo get a divorce and let them take responsibility for her? I don't understand why he can't relinquish his rights in the matter to them and let them deal with the situation in the way they see fit, rather than insist that her food and water be terminated.

Also, let me remind everyone that situations like this should inspire all of us to make a Living Will.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:33 AM on October 15, 2003


Given that she asked not to be kept alive artificially this seems like a no brainer. When you say that, aren't you basically saying, "I don't want to lie in a hospital bed for 13 years being kept alive with a feeding tube and causing pain and anguish for everyone who loves me."?

Hasn't she in fact asked for this sort of treatment to not be continued?

If I make a request that I not be kept alive under artificial means, and then my family keeps me alive anyway, I swear I'll haunt them into insanity.
posted by y6y6y6 at 8:34 AM on October 15, 2003


Serafinapekkala, the problem is that we don't actually know what Terri Schindler Schiavo's wishes in the matter were. Her husband now says "she wanted to die with dignity". When he was on the stand in the malpractice suit, he said "she wanted to get better".

Living Wills, people. Living Wills.
posted by Sidhedevil at 8:35 AM on October 15, 2003


I've thought about this dilemma a bit.

After consideration, I have have made clear my wishes in case I enter a brain damaged condition. My first power of attorney goes to my wife. She is the one person I have specifically chosen to be my family. She understands my wishes better than anyone else.

As a second, I have chosen my brother to decide things if my wife is unable to do so.

My parents are specifically disallowed from these rights. Why? Because I am their child. There is nothing they would not endure or attempt to save me from leaving this world. I feel that their unconditional love would prevent them from making the critical judgement of whether or not I was still the person I was or whether my body simply didn't realize it was time to die. Personally, I feel my body should go when my mind, the essence of who I am, is gone.

My family would need closure and the ability to move past my death. That would not be possible if my lay in a hospital bed.

After reading a bit about the case, it's not an easy one to take a side on. I tend to side with the people ready to let her body die. From what I read, her mind is gone. If she wanted to die if her mind was gone, it is her husband's duty to see her will carried out.

Unfortunately the debate is not about her desires for herself, it has become about the desires of the parents.
posted by Argyle at 8:39 AM on October 15, 2003


Do we have proof she asked not to be kept alive? The only mention of that I saw was said by the husband (who wants her dead). How much therapy has she had over those years? The family seems to say not enough, they've been blocked by the husband and courts. I'm not saying she'll ever be normal, but she seems a lot more conscious than a lot of other cases I've seen. While the husband is her guardian and is following proper channels here, it seems wrong considering his position of possible gain. Why do this to her family?
posted by agregoli at 8:40 AM on October 15, 2003


what really bothers me is (and yes, I'm aware that the parents site is obviously biased)

Terri was awarded $750,000 from this suit and an additional $250,000 from a separate malpractice lawsuit. The money was awarded to Terri for her care and rehabilitation and to be placed in a Medical Trust Fund. Terri’s husband received his personal award money and Terri’s medical fund money in early 1993. From the date he received the award money in 1993, Michael Schiavo has denied Terri any rehabilitation treatment....Her husband has directed that Terri only be sustained in a nursing home which is contrary to the intent of the award money.

So for 13 years, she's simple been strapped to a feeding tube. That's it.
posted by dabitch at 8:52 AM on October 15, 2003


What a tragic situation all around. But having seen "Talk to Her" last year, I know *exactly* how to cure Terri!

My parents are specifically disallowed from these rights. Why? Because I am their child. There is nothing they would not endure or attempt to save me from leaving this world.

*My* parents would take one look at the bill and then race to be the first to shut off life support.
posted by Slothrup at 8:58 AM on October 15, 2003


This seems to me a clear case of the biological family refusing to accept reality and subsequently being used as pawns by the right-to-lifers. Terri has no chance of meaningful recovery after 13 years, as has been pointed out. Also death by starvation even when one is conscious is not as bad as you would think. After the first few days (depending on stores of body fat and glycogen) the body becomes ketotic, supressing hunger. This is the way some of the more extreme weight loss diets work.
posted by TedW at 9:06 AM on October 15, 2003


Oh, and while the motives of the husband way or may not be suspect, he couldn't possibly get an entire team of doctors, nurses, and so on to go along with his plan of withoulding feeding if it were clearly contrary to the patient's interests.
posted by TedW at 9:08 AM on October 15, 2003


Sure he could.
posted by agregoli at 9:11 AM on October 15, 2003


Ok, that was kind of lame of me. What I meant is that nurses and other caretakers would have no choice if it was court ordered, correct?
posted by agregoli at 9:16 AM on October 15, 2003


Jellicle - I invite you to visit the terrisfight.org website and view the videos for yourself. She responds to verbal stimuli, smiles, laughs, and follows a balloon with her eyes in response to a doctor's instructions. To me, that's not a person in a "persistive vegetative state".

For the record, I'm an atheist. My stance on this issue has absolutely nothing to do with religion. I linked to WorldNetDaily because none of the five major news outlets (ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, MSNBC) have been following the case with any regularity. The most up-to-date information available on the net is at WorldNetDaily.
posted by DWRoelands at 9:20 AM on October 15, 2003


This is one of the most misleading FPPs I've seen in a long time. It links to exactly one possibly credible news source (Yahoo!). The other sources it links to were set up by people who clearly have no respect for the rule of law—the Schindlers—as they have violated court rulings on multiple occasions.

The only sympathy I have for the parents comes from the fact that they surely are believing that she's conscious and responsive, despite the professional medical opinions of nearly 20 doctors, because it's what they want to believe.

It's got to be hard to let go, and I hope I'm not ever in such a situation, but the rule of law should not be impeded by those who aren't willing to face reality.

on preview: There's little to no possibility that anything on terrisfight.org is impartial, especially given that it contains phrases like "Terri’s death will be by painful starvation" when there's no evidence that she can feel pain or any other sensation. It also seems shocked and surprised that "Michael Schiavo will not permit any doctor to examine Terri other than the doctors he selects," even though that happens to be under the scope of his authority, as he is her guardian. The parents have tried and failed to get a different guardian appointed by the court.

It seems to me that the attitude of the parents is that the law is fine and dandy, but only if subject to their favorable interpretation of reality.
posted by oaf at 9:36 AM on October 15, 2003


agony? she feels 'agony'? i wonder where the poster stands in this matter?
/sarcasm
posted by quonsar at 10:15 AM on October 15, 2003


I think we can say he might have some interest in letting her die.

yeah..he also saw the woman he loved deteriorate for years. hell, death'd be better, in my book.

I'm sure he could arrange a divorce or annulment if that's all he wanted.

yup..in florida you only need 2 or 3 years of a person being declared mentally incapacitated in order to get a divorce.

i've seen michael schiavo on the local news...he's creepy. and he probably wants the money...which he legally is entitled to, you know....even if he got a divorce.

and let's be clear about something...florida law is CRYSTAL CLEAR that a feeding tube is an artificial means of keeping somebody alive....it's legally equivalent to a ventilator or whatever it is you would 'pull the plug' on. the schindlers have been fighting him for years about doing something legal.
posted by taumeson at 10:20 AM on October 15, 2003


Agregoli-following a court order in this matter is very much a gray area. Generally, court orders allow the discontinuance of futile therapy without fear of legal repercussions but they do not mandate it. Generally also, they cannot force anyone to do anything they feel is wrong, but can require that care be transferred to someone who will go along with the court's wishes. According to what I have read, this most recent decision by the federal judge was simply that he did not have jurisdiction to stop removal of the feeding tube.

As far as evidence regarding Terri's wishes, I do not know what it was, but it was evidently enought to persuade an earlier judge (Greer) that removing the tube was cosistent with her wishes.
posted by TedW at 10:41 AM on October 15, 2003


I'm sure that evidence was following her guardian's sayso. Which is his right, but is still creepy. And he wouldn't be entitled to all of that money in the event of a divorce, right? I know there are lots of legal complexities in this case. I just think it's shocking how these things end up being played out. It's a tough call when decisions have to be made for the benefit of an individual who can't make them for themselves. And I'm surprised at the people saying "face reality" to the parents. Obviously, they've had years and years to do so, and haven't made that step. But they also know that not everything that could be done for her (physical therapy for example) has been done for her, so I support them. If everything had been done and they were still thought she could get better, then, well, I'd be inclined to say "wake up" to them myself.
posted by agregoli at 11:18 AM on October 15, 2003


Her parents are so concerned for her rights, yet have released to the media a videotape of her following a balloon with her eyes. I doubt she gave permission for this video to be taken and/or publicized. In fact, as of this morning, her father was being held in contempt of court for "leaking" the videotape.

Hypocrites.
posted by archimago at 1:24 PM on October 15, 2003


What a bizarre point to attack. If her parents believe (as they do), that she realizes her situation and wants to live, then it is an easy leap to assume she would want to use any means necessary to prove so to the world.
posted by agregoli at 1:52 PM on October 15, 2003


I have to agree here that Living Wills are the way to go. I have one that I carry with me as well as the ones on record at my attorney's office and in the bank safe. If I meet the Harvard Criteria for brain death...then I'm done...don't sentence me to a machine. God forbid that any of us should ever find ourselves in a position similar to this one, but it illustrates why having a caring, compassionate avenue out of life is imperative to a well orchestrated culture.

Wouldn't it seem ethically cleaner to administer a level of painkillers that would stop a person from breathing than to allow them to disintegrate physically in this situation? Even with higher brain function disengaged, the animal body still feels pain...and to allow, nay encourage, that pain bespeaks a level of barbarity that seems, to me, to be unforgivable.
posted by dejah420 at 1:55 PM on October 15, 2003


My semen is far too precious to be wasted just because the rest of my body decided not to due their jobs. Word!
posted by billsaysthis at 2:11 PM on October 15, 2003


I think it's safe to say that if you haven't recovered in 13 1/2 years, you aren't going to recover - this is as good as she's going to get.

Was there not a recent story about a guy who awoke from a coma after 19 years? The daughter who was born after he went into the coma was a sophomore in college when he came back to consciousness. No one, not Michael Schiavo nor the Schindlers are capable of predicting what Terri's ultimate fate will be without the intervening act of removing her feeding tube -- that's the act that makesthe difference, that's the only thing that is guaranteed to have a predictable outcome.

Beyond Michael Schiavo's conflict of interest, beyond the involvement of outside parties on the Schindler's side, it's hard not to be concerned about the lack of conclusive evidence to support the idea that Terri Schiavo cannot feel pain. Because she cannot express a sensation of pain does not mean that she is not suffering, and when the stakes are this high it seems the height of cruelty to presume that lack of expression is the equivalent of lack of experience.

That courts have repeatedly chosen, in a situation with such conflicting evidence, to err on the side of death instead of life, of possible protracted suffering instead of a comfortable -- if discomfiting -- existence is beyond boggling and truly more than a little scary.

But most of all, I'm sickened because Terri Schiavo is now being treated less humanely than an animal. Were she a dog and someone else decided that she shouldn't live any longer -- and really, that's what's happened here -- she'd at least be given the mercy of a quick, painless exit, a quick shot and an easy slumber. If she were an animal being slaughtered there'd be at least a nominal attempt at stunning her or knocking her out before the kill. But as a human being whose body and mind have turned against her, she's supposed to nobly suffer, for no reason whatsoever.

Write down your wishes, people. Don't let someone with an ax to grind or something to gain exert their will over you when you're at your most vulnerable. Don't let anyone else suffer over you like the Schindlers suffer over their daughter tonight.
posted by Dreama at 8:45 PM on October 15, 2003


Was there not a recent story about a guy who awoke from a coma after 19 years?

Yes, and he had brain activity, I believe. She hasn't had brain activity since the war in Iraq. No, the other war in Iraq. [not IraqFilter]
posted by oaf at 8:55 PM on October 15, 2003


What a bizarre point to attack. If her parents believe (as they do), that she realizes her situation and wants to live, then it is an easy leap to assume she would want to use any means necessary to prove so to the world.

It's not bizarre at all. They are supposedly concerned for her rights, but they are choosing which rights, and they are not legally responsible for making the choices she cannot, her husband is. What about her right to privacy? They have nothing to prove to "the world." Only the courts. Releasing the tape to media is shameless.
posted by archimago at 6:05 AM on October 16, 2003


They're trying to garner support from "the world" for their cause, by using the evidence they have available to them. I see nothing wrong with that. Privacy is the least of their concerns, and, in their eyes, hers.
posted by agregoli at 7:46 AM on October 16, 2003


Privacy is the least of their concerns, and, in their eyes, hers.

That doesn't make it okay to release illegally recorded videotapes.
posted by oaf at 7:52 AM on October 16, 2003


Exactly, agregoli. They are deciding which of her own rights they are fighting to uphold and which to usurp based on what they want. Just because privacy is not a concern of theirs doesn't mean it's okay to step on that right. And there is no way thay they can claim they no what she wishes, as far as any of her rights are concerned, videotape or feeding tube.
posted by archimago at 12:19 PM on October 16, 2003


Jeb Bush just issued an emergency gag order in this case.
posted by alms at 2:59 PM on October 21, 2003


Actually it's a do not gag order. It's to keep the feeding tube in.

[hate to make fun of horrible circumstances such as this, but this metafilter, and that's just how we deal with it.]
posted by zpousman at 3:13 PM on October 21, 2003


It doesn't necessarily make it right, but in their eyes it's justifiable, and in my eyes, it's understandable.
posted by agregoli at 11:01 AM on October 23, 2003


« Older Sport is the winner   |   Lego Master Builder search Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments



Post