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Schiavo--life and death?
March 19, 2005 7:22 AM   Subscribe

An Objective Legal Look (and more) on Schiavo-- As a Florida law blogger, I have created this page to help people understand the legal circumstances surrounding the Terri Schiavo saga. In my view, there continues to be a need for an objective look at the matter. There is an unbelievable amount of misinformation being circulated. Links to all court decisions, timelines, questions and answers (some shocking)...you name it. All the info available on this tragic situation.
posted by amberglow (165 comments total)

 
deleted thread here (some good links inside)
posted by amberglow at 7:27 AM on March 19, 2005


and daily updates on his main page, with links to all the local and national news coverage, pretty much.
posted by amberglow at 7:32 AM on March 19, 2005


Wow, a lot of stuff I didn't know just skimming the page (the fact that the husband was offered millions to walk away from the case, for example). Thanks for the post, I wouldn't have pursued this info otherwise.
posted by crazy finger at 7:37 AM on March 19, 2005


I found out yesterday that my dad, a radiologist, almost got involved in this case a few years ago.

Terry came through his hospital for an MRI. The tech, for personal political reasons, ran some extra unauthorized tests, and tried to convince all the hospital's radiologists that they *had* to read them. They all refused to look, not wanting to get tied up in a court case.

But there was this one elderly doctor who should have been taken off the official staff list years ago. He had lots of money problems, though, so the hospital would bring him in every once in awhile to do some extra work, out of sympathy for his position. So he got called to read the extraneous tests. He didn't actually have the expertise to know what he was looking at; nuclear medicine didn't exist when this guy was in school and he'd never done a fellowship on it. Now that doctor is a hired gun for the woman's parents, arguing that there are signs of life.

My dad said that all the scans he read showed what the court decided: she's brain dead.
posted by jbrjake at 7:50 AM on March 19, 2005


There is no doubt that this is a tragic case, and I am in favor of allowing Terri's life support to be stopped (as she supposedly wanted, according to the husband; and she's brain dead). It is difficult for me, though, to find anything wrong with allowing her parents to keep her alive just in case (except that Terri may not have wanted it that way). I think it's just difficult, emotionally, to imagine myself in that situation with a loved one - but I know what my loved ones would choose.
posted by crazy finger at 7:59 AM on March 19, 2005


Well, it's the husband/guardian who gets to make the decisions legally, and there's no question that her brain has liquified. There's no chance of recovery or any kind of life as we know it--except if you consider an empty shell with a beating heart life.

I think using this tragic situation to score political points is completely and utterly abhorrent and reprehensible. If her life had any meaning, it's losing it now due to politicians.
posted by amberglow at 8:19 AM on March 19, 2005


The thing I don't understand is that the parents keep arguing that with therapy she could come around. They have had 15 years to try to perform such therapy. Eventually doesn't the lack of results prove that it's not going to work.
posted by drezdn at 8:20 AM on March 19, 2005


It is difficult for me, though, to find anything wrong with allowing her parents to keep her alive just in case

Frankly, I've become convinced that there has become a damn good reason: the rapid emotional and psychological degeneration of Terri's family. To be blunt, they're driving themselves insane in a rapidly-widening spiral of denial.

They seem unaware of the concept that regardless of what they do, their daughter is going to die. While I understand their sadness over her loss, I can't even imagine what the damage will be to them if after all this, their daughter is allowed to "live" and they plunge further into madness as they hope for years on end that brain matter can magically regrow itself.

For all the talk from Michael Schiavo about needing to "move on with his life," it's nothing compared to how badly Terri's parents need to.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:23 AM on March 19, 2005


I think using this tragic situation to score political points is completely and utterly abhorrent and reprehensible. If her life had any meaning, it's losing it now due to politicians.

ABC News has obtained talking points circulated among Republican senators explaining why they should vote to intervene in the Schiavo case. Among them: "This is an important moral issue and the pro-life base will be excited..." and "This is a great political issue... this is a tough issue for Democrats."
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 8:24 AM on March 19, 2005


This is all very sad, but it's also much more straightforward than I had previously thought. The rumours and media tidbits were all very confusing. Thanks, amberglow.
posted by blacklite at 8:31 AM on March 19, 2005


re: politicization, it would be really nice if, in the future, the Democrats would point out what the Republicans do in situations like this and how completely hideous it is. but, oh well. pipe dreams.
posted by blacklite at 8:32 AM on March 19, 2005


Full disclosure, I'm Catholic, I believe that it is always wrong to end a persons life prematurely.

Most (or all) of the comments in this thread and circling this debate in general refer to Terry as if she was still alive. Is she? Her body is alive there is no doubt of that. But are we nothing more than our bodies?

Her meaningful, biographical, life ended almost 15 years ago. She has no biological life. There is no person lying in that bed in a nursing home.
posted by oddman at 8:35 AM on March 19, 2005


I don't see why the Democrats can't just refuse to get involved either way. It's not an issue that should be dealt with on the Federal level and the Democrats should just refuse to participate in the charade that it is. If it comes up to vote, they could abstain.

Also, I think Republicans I mistaken on how much this will help them, it may rally younger pro-life voters, but they would have voted GOP anyway. Many older pro-life voters that I know now believe in the right to die.
posted by drezdn at 8:38 AM on March 19, 2005


Here's an interesting statement from Michael Schiavo from 03, the last time they pulled the plug, detailing his attempts to coax some sign of life from his wife.
posted by CunningLinguist at 8:46 AM on March 19, 2005


i'm crying from that, Cunning.


oddman (or anyone), what's the official Catholic view on this stuff? Is life just the heartbeat, or the entire "life"? If there's no person there to actually be Catholic, or confess, or observe, or be faithful, or love God or whatever, what's the rule?
posted by amberglow at 8:51 AM on March 19, 2005


Great resources, amberglow, thanks so much! I second what crazy finger and blacklite said - there has been so much crap and noise surrounding this issue, and this is a good source to point people to for the facts.

Also, thanks for the talking points link XQUZYPHYR. I don't know how any self-respecting republican can put up with all the rovian manipulation and bullshit.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:54 AM on March 19, 2005


My dad said that all the scans he read showed what the court decided: she's brain dead.

She's not brain dead.

Let's be careful with language: 'brain dead' has a specific medical meaning. Terry Schiavo does not meet brain death criteria.

Briefly, brain death means no brain activity. Period. That includes breathing, because breathing is mediated by the brain. Terry Schiavo is breathing on her own, without a ventilator. Therefore, she is not brain dead.

Brain death is not controversial. In most, perhaps all US jurisdictions, brain death IS death. Period. The patient can be taken off the ventilator. The patient will not breathe, and the heart will stop shortly. R.I.P. No court appeals, no nonsense. In fact, it is considered the crime of 'abuse of corpse' to leave the patient on the ventilator.

I have no specific knowledge of this case, but Terry Schiavo appears to be in a persistent vegetative state. Here is where the controversy arises. Any number of other patients in a similar condition have become entangled in the legal system when their living relatives disagreed among themselves, or with their patient's doctors, about how to properly treat or not treat them. Anyone remember Karen Ann Quinlan? Terry Schiavo's isn't the first case like this and certainly won't be the last.

One lesson we can all learn: decide how you would want to be treated if this should happen to you, GET IT IN WRITING, and tell all the important people in your life. Don't put it off. "In the midst of life -- "
posted by Slithy_Tove at 8:58 AM on March 19, 2005


Interesting that, even though raised Catholic, she had made comments that were taken to be a de facto living will. I suspect that John Paul II hasn't
posted by temporicide at 9:02 AM on March 19, 2005


thanks, amberglow.
and anyway, the RudePundit post you linked over in MeTa tells everything one needs to know about the case.
posted by matteo at 9:06 AM on March 19, 2005


temporicide,
Wojtyla has repeatedly stated, in public and in private, that he sees his illness as a kind of martyrdom, a via crucis if you want, so one must assume that, even if he gets critical and is aggressively kept alive anyway, he at least chose that path when he was a rational, sentient human being.
the Schiavo problem is quite different. not to mention, the political noise being made about it is kind of, well, suspicious
posted by matteo at 9:11 AM on March 19, 2005


As an aside from this sad situation, I note that Shakespeare repeatedly indicates in his plays that when a woman leaves her family to be with a husband, she is essetially under his care and guardianship. Sure, times have changed, but it is the husband and no longer the family that is responsible. We can see this in fact when we look at a will or a death of a spouse: it is the husband who inherits all but that which is specifically set aside for others.

What is totally rotten is that the House of Representatives, traditionally spouting States Rights etc and keep govt out of things should in this insance try to impose itself to overturn or change a ruling made by a court...That disgusts me.
posted by Postroad at 9:23 AM on March 19, 2005


I'm suprised that the party that stands for the sanctity of marriage and for states' rights is trying to get the federal government to overrule her wishes (as determined in court and sustained on appeal) and those of her husband and legal guardian.

From the June 2003 [PDF] opinion of the Second District Court of the State of Florida:
Although the physicians are not in complete agreement concerning the extent of Mrs. Schiavo's brain damage, they all agree that the brain scans show extensive permanent damage to her brain. The only debate between the doctors is whether she has a small amount of isolated living tissue in her cerebral cortex or whether she has no living tissue in her cerebral cortex.
See also:posted by kirkaracha at 9:28 AM on March 19, 2005


Matteo,
The Schiavo problem is not different -- she chose when she was sentient, as various judges have found in looking at the evidence. I do agree that the circus is unseemly.
posted by temporicide at 9:32 AM on March 19, 2005


I note that Shakespeare repeatedly indicates in his plays that when a woman leaves her family to be with a husband, she is essetially under his care and guardianship.

This is also how many people read the Bible [Mark 10:7&8]:
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and cleave to his wife; And they twain shall be one flesh: so then they are no more twain, but one flesh.
posted by kirkaracha at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2005


This I did not know (emphasis mine):
Rather than make the decision himself, Michael followed a procedure permitted by Florida courts by which a surrogate such as Michael can petition a court, asking the court to act as the ward's surrogate and determine what the ward would decide to do. Michael did this...

Afterwards, the trial court determined that, even applying the "clear and convincing evidence" standard -- the highest burden of proof used in civil cases -- the evidence showed that Terri would not wish to continue life-prolonging measures.
Since 1998, this case has not been a battle between the parents and the husband (as I had believed from the news), but between the parents and the court.
posted by mischief at 9:33 AM on March 19, 2005


Congress tries to protect Terri Schiavo
posted by LMB at 9:56 AM on March 19, 2005


This comment makes an interesting point.

As has been observed, Terri Schiavo has been kept alive through the proceeds of a medical malpractice suit that was filed after she became in a persistent vegetative state. It is my understanding that the money has about run out. The same Republicans screaming about keeping her alive want to stop malpractice suits, or at least cap the very damages that are keeping her alive. They also want to cut funds for Medicaid, what would keep her alive when the money runs out.
posted by drezdn at 10:05 AM on March 19, 2005


I admit I didn't read past "As a Florida law blogger".
posted by First Post at 10:14 AM on March 19, 2005


If I were Michael Schiavo, I would fight for her right to die. Unfortunately as I indicate above, he gave up that fight by placing the decision in the court's hands. In effect, this is now a parents' rights case, with the parents fighting the court to decide the fate of their daughter after her husband surrendered his rights.

As such, I am now on the parents' side, because courts should not make such decisions when close family members who are competent want to intervene (even if they are christian conservative assholes).
posted by mischief at 10:19 AM on March 19, 2005


I think Congress is afraid because, if the Court allows the killing of brain-dead Floridians, it may become open season on a large segment of Congress or, indeed, the rest of the state.
posted by temporicide at 10:34 AM on March 19, 2005


if there is a heaven, how come they are hell bent on keeping her away from it longer?
if there is a soul, why are they trying to keep hers trapped inside a useless body without any means of expression?
if republicans stand for personal freedoms, civil liberties and limited government, why are they shitting on those very values?

i half wonder if these people ever actually analyze their belief structures and compare to their convictions/endeavors.

also, they should make every sick fuck trying to keep her alive sign to being kept in the same condition should it happen to them.
posted by Tryptophan-5ht at 10:43 AM on March 19, 2005


Postroad As an aside from this sad situation, I note that Shakespeare repeatedly indicates in his plays that when a woman leaves her family to be with a husband, she is essetially under his care and guardianship. Sure, times have changed, but it is the husband and no longer the family that is responsible. We can see this in fact when we look at a will or a death of a spouse: it is the husband who inherits all but that which is specifically set aside for others.

Well, I'm reading this argument on another board, and I find it disturbing how some people take for granted that her parents are acting in her best interests, but her husband is not.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 10:52 AM on March 19, 2005


Tryptophan-5ht : " if there is a heaven, how come they are hell bent on keeping her away from it longer?"

You want an honest answer, or just being flippant?

Honestly, to make the decision to allow her to die would, in some people's opinion, make them culpable of killing her, which is a mortal sin, and for which one can go to hell. So doing something to hasten her ascent to heaven would send them to hell, while delaying it would allow both to go to heaven.

It's not my belief system, so I don't agree with their initial premises, but there you are.
posted by Bugbread at 10:53 AM on March 19, 2005


I am now on the parents' side, because courts should not make such decisions

But it was Michael's choice to put the decision in the hands of the court, not the parents. Michael chose the court to decide, and they have now, several times.

Also, the actions of the Congress are despicable and I hope that their grotesque circus will backfire.
posted by crazy finger at 10:55 AM on March 19, 2005


I think Congress is afraid because, if the Court allows the killing of brain-dead Floridians, it may become open season on a large segment of Congress or, indeed, the rest of the state.

Can we extend that to our persistent vegetative executive branch? AND Los Angeles, like Bill Maher says, anything to get the freeways moving faster...

Joking aside, i fear that if something similar would happen to me or my "wife", we would be unable to carry out verbal wishes. I feel that using this "person(carrot)" as political capital is reprehensible.
posted by schyler523 at 10:56 AM on March 19, 2005


Honestly, to make the decision to allow her to die would, in some people's opinion, make them culpable of killing her, which is a mortal sin, and for which one can go to hell.

This is precisely the moral delema that has been knocking around in my noggin' for several days. Removing the feeding tube "seems" cruel, like a murder. But it's only really an innaction to a predisposed situation. She's dead already. No one now, 15 years after the fact can be seen as or held culpable for killing the dead. Put another way, you can attach electrodes to the recently deseased and presuambly make them bounce around lifelike for as long as the nerves don't turn to mush. Turning off the current wouldn't be at all considered "killing" a corpse. Terri's biggest nerve has already done that, the mush thing. This body is not alive, self sustainable. Nobody need worry about the blame for a killing here.
posted by Wulfgar! at 11:08 AM on March 19, 2005


I think Congress is afraid because, if the Court allows the killing of brain-dead Floridians, it may become open season on a large segment of Congress or, indeed, the rest of the state.

I likes your style.
posted by AlexReynolds at 11:10 AM on March 19, 2005


"Michael chose the court to decide"

As I said, this is not a decision for courts when other family members are competent to make such decisions. If the husband wants to give up his right to decide, fine, but that decision should have then passed to other family members not to a court. The law that allowed this is wrong.

Whether a minor or an adult, parents should have some say when their children cannot speak for themselves (and in this case, their spouse chooses to allow someone else to make that decision). This is just another case of courts interfering with families without need.

If the parents want to take over the bills of keeping her alive, then let them. Theresa's done for, she doesn't know the difference, her welfare is not a factor.
posted by mischief at 11:13 AM on March 19, 2005


mischief : " If the parents want to take over the bills of keeping her alive, then let them. Theresa's done for, she doesn't know the difference, her welfare is not a factor."

Hadn't really thought about it that way, but reflecting on that: if the argument is that she's effectively dead, and just has bodily functions continuing on, then what would the opposition to keeping her on machines be? It's not really affecting "her". If it's just a matter of her "dignity" and "volition", well, people are fooling themselves if they think they have any control over that when they die. I want to be laid out in a field when I die, but I realize I'll probably be put in a box and buried or set on fire, and I don't pretend to have any control over it. And people may make fun of me and tell dirty limericks at my funeral, removing my dignity, but dignity is rarely something you have control over even in life, let alone death.
posted by Bugbread at 11:24 AM on March 19, 2005


mischief: As I said, this is not a decision for courts when other family members are competent to make such decisions. If the husband wants to give up his right to decide, fine, but that decision should have then passed to other family members not to a court. The law that allowed this is wrong.

As I understand it, he was not empowered to act on her verbally stated wishes as if they were a living will without going through the courts.

Whether a minor or an adult, parents should have some say when their children cannot speak for themselves (and in this case, their spouse chooses to allow someone else to make that decision). This is just another case of courts interfering with families without need.

Well, I read this somewhat differently. This legal process has given the parents every opportunity to make the case that Terri Schiavo would have wanted, and wants today a different course of action than she stated during her life. They have had multiple opportunities to make the case that her condition is not that bad and that there are strong possibilities for recovery.

This is not about what her guardians want. It's about what she wanted at the time of her death, and the evidence seems to point toward the opposite conclusion of what the parents want.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 11:35 AM on March 19, 2005


Without a Living Will, it becomes 'he said, she said'. Not leaving one was her mistake.

Your entire argument is based on the standing law, and as I said, that law is wrong. None of these proceedings since 1998 should ever have been conducted, because ...

Michael Schiavo should never have forfeited his right to decide over to the courts. If he had held on to his right to decide, Schiavo's parents would have had no say whatsoever. Through that law, all he did was open the door for her parents to push this issue into the murkiness that it has become.
posted by mischief at 11:55 AM on March 19, 2005


My wife and I have discussed this issue after reading about this case. We both have told each other we would not want to live in such a state.
God help anyone who stood between my wife living in a state she considers abhorrent and my responsibility for her.

The parent's POV I understand - completely disagree with, but I get it.
Mischief - I grant it looks like he gave up those rights to the court, but from my perspective he did everything he could do as properly as he could do it. Perhaps he was concerned that it might look like his motivations weren't pure. Which is one of the things he is being attacked for (money motivation, etc.)
I'd have done it differently, but perhaps I'm not as conscientious a man.
(My wife wouldn't want me to spend the rest of my life in prison, but...)
Legal quibbling aside I'm so tired of those candy-ass protesters pushing their morality on people and the bullshit polticians who exploit these people's pain. And where does someone get the balls to offer a million dollars to a man to forsake his own wife? I'd stomp that SOB until I wore through my boots and then get a new pair. Have people lost their minds? Is there no sense of outrage?
posted by Smedleyman at 12:10 PM on March 19, 2005


Is it just me or the problem isn't so complicated ?

1. she can't decide for herself..darn she can't even verbalize
any coherent tought

2. therefore we can't possibly know what she would prefer, to live or die

3. (afawk) additionally there's no written and beyond doubt proof that she wanted to die in such a situation..but the whole concept of what she may have wanted is a rather weak one when it comes to a live/death situation in which she _never_ regained consciousness.

In other circumstances I'd probably let the parents or the husband decide, even take some risk for her ..but

3. the outcome is absolutely predictable, no food = death
4. somebody literally has to pay for her living

So the root of the problem is the usual very stupid one..money and resources. The solution is glaringly easy, community must pay for her life or show how glaringly idiot they are by letting money and time consideration prevail over their own life, represented by Terri this time.

While it may seem like an appeal to emotions it's a pure act of pure responsible egoism..in Terri conditions, would you rather:

1. have one person (the husband) who is (not without merit) maybe tired of caring for a person that's no longer able to express any emotion or tought _decide_ for your life

2. have parents, who may think the most humane solution is euthansy or no euthanasy depending on point of view, decide for your life ?

I'd rather help build a society that cares for me when I'm deep deep shit like Terri is right now. It's not wishful thinking, if you think how egoistic it is.
posted by elpapacito at 12:14 PM on March 19, 2005


1. she can't decide for herself..darn she can't even verbalize
any coherent tought


elpapacito, this is an incorrect starting point. The cognitive portions of her brain are nothing but goo. She can't vocalize a coherant thought because she isn't having any thoughts at all.
posted by Wulfgar! at 12:32 PM on March 19, 2005


It it amazing that apparently the most personal and agonizing medical decisions cannot be made by the spouse with the assistance of doctors and clergymen, but instead are destined to be entrusted to a bug exterminator.
posted by JackFlash at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2005


All this squabble points out is, regardless of which side you take, sign a Living Will.
posted by mischief at 12:45 PM on March 19, 2005


mischief: Without a Living Will, it becomes 'he said, she said'. Not leaving one was her mistake.

Of course. That has not been a question. What is the question is how should we determine the will of the patient in the absence of a living will?

Your entire argument is based on the standing law, and as I said, that law is wrong. None of these proceedings since 1998 should ever have been conducted, because ...

Michael Schiavo should never have forfeited his right to decide over to the courts. If he had held on to his right to decide, Schiavo's parents would have had no say whatsoever. Through that law, all he did was open the door for her parents to push this issue into the murkiness that it has become.


I can see that. On the other hand, I do think there needs to be some checks and balances to prevent guardianship abuse.

elpapacito: 3. (afawk) additionally there's no written and beyond doubt proof that she wanted to die in such a situation..but the whole concept of what she may have wanted is a rather weak one when it comes to a live/death situation in which she _never_ regained consciousness.

Well, there certainly is no written proof. However, there certainly seems to be enough evidence to make it clear in the two trials regarding this point.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:48 PM on March 19, 2005


bugbread writes: Honestly, to make the decision to allow her to die would, in some people's opinion, make them culpable of killing her, which is a mortal sin, and for which one can go to hell. So doing something to hasten her ascent to heaven would send them to hell, while delaying it would allow both to go to heaven.

The mortal sin analysis of why people are so struck over "allowing her to die," and conflating it with "killing her," is amazing, as it turns out, it's not just that they care about her, but that they just might care about their own souls more is amazing... (a philosophy teacher once said, only an athiest can be truely selfless...)

of course the same same sort of letting die (un)action happens all the time with baby's who are born alive, but really won't survive past a couple weeks, so the same "comfort care," allowing to die: withholding food/ treatment is given as an option to the parents (*god forbid if religious conservatives find out what's been going on in neonatology wards across the country for years*)

But if the same line of reasoning is carried through we're definately responsible for the TENS OF THOUSANDS of people who die everyday without adequate food or water. Sigh, I wish religious fundamentalists all became utilitarians.
posted by stratastar at 12:49 PM on March 19, 2005


therefore we can't possibly know what she would prefer, to live or die

This has already been legally determined and upheld on appeal. The Florida court decided in February 2000 that "clear and convincing evidence" shows she would choose not to receive life-prolonging medical care. The decision was based on comments Terri Schiavo had made on several separate occasions to different people, including her mother.

The decision was upheld by the Second District Court of Appeal in January 2001, and the Florida Supreme Court denied review of the Second District's decision in April 2001.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:53 PM on March 19, 2005


But mischief, it's not Michael's fault that the law was wrong. We might *wish* he hadn't done what he did, but if it was his only legal choice at the time, we can't really look back in retrospect and said "well, you should have broken that law/ launched a challenge against it/ etc." Awfully unfair.

So the idea that then Terri's parents are the ones we should be supporting just does not logically follow. I can dislike the starting or underlying premises of a problem all I want, but it doesn't mean I can ignore them without creating a total logical disconnect. (Of course, you may be a Watsonian while I'm a staunch Doylist.)
posted by livii at 1:47 PM on March 19, 2005


wulfarg!: it's not incorrect, it's incomplete at worst because she really can't verbalize coherent tought..but notice I didn't even care to point out part of her brain turned into liquid..because it is NOT relevant. Imagine yourself in a coma ; your brain isn't apparently goo yet, but you surely couldn't express your will any better then Terri can.

Now, who cares if your brain is goo or water or
whatever , is it so important ? It becomes relevant if one thinks that the subject is faking the lack of ability, but that's not our situation.

kirkjobsluder: technically there may be some evidence leading to the conclusion that , indeed, she MAY have wished to die. But can we consider that legal finding as binding, considering that the outcome of the legal finding is a life or death AND considering there's no coming back from death ? We may as well , but what makes some people so darn sure that it's THE way to go ? Can they reverse the course and repair an evaluation error that can only lead to ONE outcome, know as death ?

Quite obviously they can't..it's not even a religious matter, it's more of a medical matter as they can't restore one medical condition if they leave the person without care for a time long enough.

kirkaracha : Have you considered the possibility that the comments she allegedly made were done in a condition that wasn't her present one ? Oh wait..that's exactly what they are, old comments ! We can only infer what she may have choosed , but we can't ask her...how unfortunate indeed, so mmhh it's ok if somebody kills her. I also find it interesting that you didn't choose to challenge my statement, but rather and appropriately choosed to point out that what she would have preferred was _legally determined_.

I would probably second a court finding in other instances (for instance court deciding for a minor whose will isn't always considered as binding) but not in a life/death one in which the mere fact a court can dedice about a person life without ANY way to repair error/omission increasingly seems insane.
posted by elpapacito at 2:06 PM on March 19, 2005


Erm. Objective? *Shakes head*

As a foil to this, read
Starving for a Fair Diagnosis
. This woman, if allowed to live, is not out of medical options.
posted by ten-fifteen at 2:49 PM on March 19, 2005


"if it was his only legal choice at the time" : In my interpretation of that lawyer's blog, that was not his only legal choice; he could retained the right to make the decision. This wasn't the kind of law he could 'break', instead it gave him the option to act as a bystander and let someone else make his decision for him.

That 'someone' else was a court, and as we have seen countless times when something this contentious enters the court system with the court itself as an interested party, all hell breaks loose.
posted by mischief at 3:16 PM on March 19, 2005


And, to make it worse, Congress Announces Deal in Schiavo Case

The bill is either H.R. 1332, passed in the House on the 16th, or S 653 ES, as passed by the Senate on the 17th.

Judging by the report, I suspect it is the Senate version, which is written to apply soley to this case, not the House version, which would apply to other cases, should they crop up.
posted by eriko at 3:47 PM on March 19, 2005


To: House Government Reform Committee
From: James David Velleman
Re: My Advance Directive

Having discussed with my wife how I wish to be treated in case of irreversible brain injury -- a private matter that I choose not to air here -- I hereby inform you of my refusal, in advance, to respond to any subpoenas with which I may be served while in a persistent vegetative state. Since I will not in those circumstances be able to assert this refusal, or my preference to be held in contempt of Congress, I am asserting them publicly now, in the hope of forestalling such ghoulish theatrics on your part, which would richly deserve my contempt. Should this hope be frustrated, I have instructed my physicians and my attorney to deny you access to my hospital room.

posted by monju_bosatsu at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2005


This woman, if allowed to live, is not out of medical options.

OK, what if those options are explored and the diagnosis is the same?

What if the MRI indeed shows that she had no brain left, that it is mere spinal fluid in the cranium. Is it OK to remove the feeding tube then?

What if the therapies recommended by these 50 board-certified neurologists are undertaken - and there's no improvement. Is it OK then?

Or is it never OK? Is it a matter of a beating heart=life, in all cases?

It is an absolute fallacy to try and turn this into a "she can get better" case. She ain't getting better. And who shall pay for all of these therapies? Why, Medicare, of course.

Does this society really have an obligation to keep all people in such a state on life-sustaining measures indefinitely, regardless of cost or how those resources might be better spent on those who have a realistic chance of actually, y'know, recovering?
posted by kgasmart at 4:20 PM on March 19, 2005


I agree with the lawyer-- it's a tragic case for all involved. Except for the politicians. This is cynical grand-standing at it's worst. So I feel bad for the remains of this woman, her husband, her parents, for Floridians, and all of us who live with Bill Frist as the senate majority leader.

If the born-agains would like to save lives, they could champion the rights of AIDS orphans. They're using this woman in a cold, cynical way.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:21 PM on March 19, 2005


oops-- grandstanding at its worst. /blushes and pours another beer./
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 4:32 PM on March 19, 2005


She has soup for brains? And there's some sort of question as to what should be done?

It's things like this that make me think I should be boss of the world. Surely
posted by five fresh fish at 6:22 PM on March 19, 2005


It's things like this that make me wish DeLay was in her situation. And everyone else who's using this for political gain, or to raise money (as Pat Robertson and others are).
posted by amberglow at 6:29 PM on March 19, 2005


TalkingPointsMemo:...Do DeLay, his supporters in Congress, and those Men of God so conspicuously on display down in Florida really propose to picket every intensive care unit, nursing home, and hospice in America to ensure that no family facing Schiavo's situation is allowed to let their loved one die? Is Congress really going to legislatively ban natural death so long as some theoretical means is available to continue it? Oh no, says James Sensenbrenner, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and DeLay's prime enabler in this weekend's grandstand play: the "emergency" legislation is "narrowly targeted" and not designed to set a precedent.

In other words, this is pure political exploitation of a private family conflict that's become a media sensation, even though it involves a very common, if, for the people involved, agonizing event.

As such, the GOP's Schiavo intervention is of a piece with other cynical efforts by Bush and his supporters to signal support for a "culture of life" without much regard for logic and consistency. It's a whole lot like the Bush position on human embryo research, as a matter of fact. Many thousands of human embryos are created each year in fertility clinics; it's only when it is proposed that these certain-to-be-discarded embryos be used for life-saving research that the Hammer comes down and Congress is asked to take a stand for life. Wouldn't want to inconvenience or embarass possible Republican voters utlilizing those fertility clinics, right?

But this time, I suspect the transparent cynicism of the we're-absolutists-on-life-if-it's-in-the-news posture of the GOP may backfire. It is very hard to pose as a pro-family, pro-states-rights, anti-Washington political party when you call Congress into an "emergency session" to interfere with the laws of Florida and the prerogatives of one poor husband trying to respect his wife's wishes. If, as we are told, George W. Bush is about to lend his authority and signature to this disgraceful exhibit of overweening government power, the persistant media idea that he's just a genial well-meaning man who happens to preside over a party of loony extremists and corrupt hacks needs to die a natural death.

posted by amberglow at 6:44 PM on March 19, 2005


Nothing turns a frown upside down faster than picturing Tom Delay and friends(is MC Hammer acceptable?) in a persistent vegetative state. Thank you amberglow!
posted by schyler523 at 6:54 PM on March 19, 2005


Myths about the Terri Schiavo case-- ... 2. There are new treatments that might help Terri

Despite what Terri's parents say, there are no new treatments that could help their daughter. Anyone who claims that he can improve Terri's level of consciousness is a quack. You can't treat a brain that isn't there.

3. Terri's collapse is unexplained and/or suspicious

In an attempt to discredit Michael Schiavo, Terri's parents and their supporters are circulating unsubstantiated rumors of abuse and even accusations of attempted murder.
...

posted by amberglow at 10:28 PM on March 19, 2005


I'm glad to know that the United States Congress has enough spare time to hold an extra session to keep one person alive a little longer. Obviously there is no terrorism threat or social security crisis if they have so much time to meddle in family affairs.
posted by drezdn at 10:36 PM on March 19, 2005


all right, stupid question: why is the legislative branch's passing a law directly targeting this woman not considered a bill of attainder, and therefore prohibited by Article I, Section 9, Clause 3 of the U.S. Consitution?
posted by Vetinari at 11:27 PM on March 19, 2005


Because a bill of attainder sentences you to a punishment, and neither Congress nor the courts are likely to view the preservation of at least nominal life as a punishment, even if you or I might argue otherwise.

A bill that affects one person in some arguably-helpful way is called a private bill, and they're entirely constitutional. Less common now than before -- they were really common after the civil war when they were used to provide pensions to widows -- but still perfectly kosher. They're mostly used for immigration matters now.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:09 AM on March 20, 2005


Vetinari - you stole the 'bill of attainder" comment right out of my head.
I'm sure that bill will get shotgunned down by the judiciary though.

My favorite line from the latest article:
"A woman is being starved to death, and I have to do something," said Brandi Swindell, 28, from Boise, Idaho. "There are just certain things that you have to do, that you have to try."

Gee Brandi, I'm glad your sure this is the most important cause you could put your efforts into right now.

(Only slightly related: are THESE guys aware of the monty python-esque implications here?)
posted by Smedleyman at 12:11 AM on March 20, 2005


"It's things like this that make me think I should be boss of the world."

Five Fresh Fish: I hereby appoint you Final Arbiter of Taste and Judgement.(from Schizopolis)
posted by schyler523 at 12:41 AM on March 20, 2005


The two things that would probably benefit Terri the most at this point:
1) a divorce
2) stem cell therapy.
Oops, I'm sorry, she's Catholic.
posted by tfmm at 5:42 AM on March 20, 2005


OK, what if those options are explored and the diagnosis is the same?

What if the MRI indeed shows that she had no brain left, that it is mere spinal fluid in the cranium. Is it OK to remove the feeding tube then?

What if the therapies recommended by these 50 board-certified neurologists are undertaken - and there's no improvement. Is it OK then?


I'm all for the right to die, but it does seem very strange to me that these things wouldn't be tried before the fight to remove the tubes! I mean, yes, after they didn't work, then you have a reason to argue, but why jump the gun?

I have had at least 3 MRIs in my life - they aren't that unusual or complicated as tests, and it is really shocking if it's true she hasn't ever had one. Likewise, if board certified neurologists have ideas, shouldn't they be tried? It's not like they're turning to crystals and potions or something.

Again, the right to remove the tube is important to me and I absolutely support living wills, blah de blah, but to look at this case as an individual circumstance rather than symbolic of a larger issue, I simply don't understand why all possible tests & therapies haven't been undertaken. If it's really so obvious that her brain is mush, why not let the parents get a little more substantive proof by having an MRI that will clarify that fact?

This case is really sad, and there's hardly any outcome which would be positive, but it looks like it's turned into a political pissing match rather than an honest assessment of the individual situation.
posted by mdn at 7:59 AM on March 20, 2005


Those things were established in court--court-appointed and other doctors did examine her and show her cerebral cortex was liquid. They tried all sorts of treatments--he flew her all over trying things. This has been going on for years and years. They clarified the facts ages ago, and reclarified them and reclarified them.
posted by amberglow at 8:04 AM on March 20, 2005


I'm all for the right to die, but it does seem very strange to me that these things wouldn't be tried before the fight to remove the tubes! I mean, yes, after they didn't work, then you have a reason to argue, but why jump the gun?

Because it is absolutely, 100% irrelevant and unnecessary. The CAT scans of her brain show a 30-40% loss of brain tissue. Demanding an MRI would provide nothing but higher detail of the loss of brain tissue- it's like looking at an amputated limb and demanding an x-ray- there's nothing there to analyze. Her brain is gone.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 10:08 AM on March 20, 2005


Reverend Johansen says that Terri Schiavo has never undergone an MRI. Jbrjake says she came in for an MRI at his father's hospital, and that his dad, a radiologist, saw the scans personally.

Can someone clear this up, please, before we continue arguing this point?
posted by skoosh at 10:58 AM on March 20, 2005


from the questions and answers section: Through the assistance of Mrs. Schiavo's treating physician, Dr. Victor Gambone, the physicians obtained current medical information about Theresa Schiavo including high-quality brain scans. Each physician reviewed her medical records and personally conducted a neurological examination of Mrs. Schiavo. Lengthy videotapes of some of the medical examinations were created and introduced into evidence. Thus, the quality of the evidence presented to the guardianship court was very high, and each side had ample opportunity to present detailed medical evidence, all of which was subjected to thorough cross-examination. It is likely that no guardianship court has ever received as much high-quality medical evidence in such a proceeding.
posted by amberglow at 11:09 AM on March 20, 2005


the parents and their supporters have said many things about her--that she tries to talk, that he beat her and that's why she's brain-damaged, that she responds when they talk and is aware and smiles...they're not true.
posted by amberglow at 11:13 AM on March 20, 2005


here's a doctor's view on what an MRI would show: ... When ever a part of the body is severely and irreversibly injured it tends to atrophy (shrink). In the case of Ms. Schiavo, CAT scans have shown that ever since her cardiac arrest her cerebral cortex (that outer layer of the brain that allows us to think and to be conscious and self aware) has atrophied so much that little is left and the rest has been replaced by cerebrospinal fluid.

If one of these functional MRI tests were done on Ms. Schiavo to see if her brain could react to external stimuli there would not be enough of her brain left for the MRI to detect such a reaction. Any reactions that are seen in Ms. Schiavo's brain during such a test (in the deeper autonomic areas) would likely just confuse the issue since we still have no way of knowing if these reactions mean that there is consciousness and would draw attention away from what we do know; that the thinking part of Ms. Schiavo's brain is gone thus making consciousness extremely unlikely.

What's more is that Dr. Bernstein points out that the study in question used patients who were in a minimally conscious state and by definition, patients in such a state are still capable of awareness. Terry Schiavo is in what is clinically described as a Persistent Vegetative State in which the brain damage is so severe that there is no conscious self-awareness. ...

posted by amberglow at 11:16 AM on March 20, 2005


She's had some sort of electrical implant put in her brain as part of an earlier attempt at therapy. Assuming that the implant is still there, any MRI would kill her. MRI is a huge magnet and NO metal can be in the room during an MRI...the magnet will take it. So anyone with a pacemaker or any metal implant (including...actually, especially a brain implant) can't have it. They'd have to do brain surgery to take the implant out to do the MRI.

Anyways, the MRI is unnecessary. CT scans are of a good enough resolution to show major damage...all an MRI would do is give a picture with better resolution of the major damage.
posted by jaredm at 12:01 PM on March 20, 2005


Bush fan and InstaPundit buddy Richard Bennett writes in his blog:
3/20/2005
Bush embarasses the nation

Posted by Richard @ 4:08 am

The President of the United States and leader of the free fucking world can think of nothing better to do with his time than extend the fifteen-year coma of this poor vegetable?
I need my head examined for voting for this idiot.
ouch.
posted by matteo at 12:20 PM on March 20, 2005


CBS News--Trial By Legislation: ...QUESTION: So the years of state-court litigation would be wiped off the map, as if it never took place?

ANSWER: If Congress gets its way, yes. That's why the legislators in Washington put the words "de novo" into the legislation, so that the federal courts would not be bound by anything the state courts in Florida had done. Terri Schiavo's parents still would have to convince the federal judge that her rights are being violated, and they would have to have the medical evidence to back that up (which they did not have in the state case), but the state case would not act as a mandated precedent in federal court.

QUESTION: What does that concept do the regular give and take between the court systems, the idea of comity and cooperation between judges?

ANSWER: It destroys it. But that's the whole point of this Congressional action. ...

posted by amberglow at 12:29 PM on March 20, 2005


time to remember Nancy Cruzan maybe? (US Supreme Ct. Case)
posted by amberglow at 1:53 PM on March 20, 2005


This has been going on for years and years. They clarified the facts ages ago, and reclarified them and reclarified them.

If there really are 50 board certified neurologists who disagree with the court's conclusions, that seems as if perhaps the facts are not as absolute and indisputable as we might like them to be. I think it is worth remembering that while some people are certainly overly optimistic, and hold onto hope when there is seriously nothing left to realistically support hope, there is the equally damaging predisposition toward pessimism and giving up on people. My mother has MS, and is living in england, and her docs over there seem to have basically resigned themselves to her condition without attempting to affect it. They basically provide nursing care; they don't give her any meds, or steroids, or any of the newer therapies that have been coming out; they seem to just think, eh, nothing can really be done. This may ultimately end up being the case, but the fact is, there are medications and treatments on the market.

Basically, I understand that she may be beyond help, but I think you have to rage against the dying of the light before you accept fate. Now, of course, perhaps that has been adequately done with terri schiavo and it's just propoganda from the refusing-to-accept-reality side, but the idea that she never had an MRI struck me as a pretty weird...

Reverend Johansen says that Terri Schiavo has never undergone an MRI. Jbrjake says she came in for an MRI at his father's hospital, and that his dad, a radiologist, saw the scans personally.

interesting. It would be interesting to find out the truth here.

the parents and their supporters have said many things about her--that she tries to talk, that he beat her and that's why she's brain-damaged, that she responds when they talk and is aware and smiles...they're not true.

I understand that people exaggerate and even lie to support their views, but your simple statement that they're lying isn't evidence enough on its own.

Any reactions that are seen in Ms. Schiavo's brain during such a test (in the deeper autonomic areas) would likely just confuse the issue since we still have no way of knowing if these reactions mean that there is consciousness and would draw attention away from what we do know; that the thinking part of Ms. Schiavo's brain is gone thus making consciousness extremely unlikely.

So, first of all, this admits that consciousness is "extremely unlikely", not "impossible". That seems a significant difference to me. If the brain is literally mush, then a scientist would say that consciousness is simply not among potential capacities. This case seems to be a little more complicated than that. Second, if certain reactions would "confuse" the issue, because we would have no way of knowing whether these reactions indicated consciousness, isn't that precisely the reason to do them? If the issue can be "confused", ie, if it's actually scientifically difficult to tell whether the potential for conscious thought exists, isn't that exactly what we want to know before ending her life?

She's had some sort of electrical implant put in her brain as part of an earlier attempt at therapy. Assuming that the implant is still there, any MRI would kill her.

The other article linked above said that could easily be removed to allow for the scan.

Anyways, the MRI is unnecessary. CT scans are of a good enough resolution to show major damage...all an MRI would do is give a picture with better resolution of the major damage.

If board certified neurologists disagree over the extent of the damage, why not get the best data available?

I guess in the end, I just don't really understand the motivation of the husband in this case. If she is really brain dead, then she isn't suffering, is she? She is gone. If the parents are really intent on attempting to care for her, what is really the harm in allowing them to do so?

He has already clarified his position that he does not believe she's in there, so he can mourn and move on, and allow the family to deal with the loss in their own way. If this were a case where the state was not allowing the family to let someone die because it was illegal, and they were essentially forcing individuals to care for a corpse, I would 100% support a reversal of the law. But here, it is private parties with differing interests. The interest of michael schiavo in being allowed to mourn & move on is not impeded by the parent's interest in continuing to care for what they still consider to be their daughter, whereas the reverse cannot be said. The interest of terri schiavo doesn't apply if she's actually already dead; the only complication then becomes, what if she's partly conscious but suffering/frustrated by the limited life she's forced to lead, but that doesn't seem to be the argument the husband's side is making.
posted by mdn at 2:02 PM on March 20, 2005


I guess in the end, I just don't really understand the motivation of the husband in this case. If she is really brain dead, then she isn't suffering, is she? She is gone. If the parents are really intent on attempting to care for her, what is really the harm in allowing them to do so?

The interest of michael schiavo in being allowed to mourn & move on is not impeded by the parent's interest in continuing to care for what they still consider to be their daughter, whereas the reverse cannot be said.

And what's up with having funerals all of a sudden? Why are we wasting perfectly good bodies that could easily be given to children to play with and talk to and dress up and play makeup with? God, my parents were so selfish- I wanted to have pretend tea-time with Gramma some more!

Jesus, mdn. The guy might, you know, love her and want her to be sent to rest in dignity and all that ridiculous stuff. I mean, can you imagine what it would be like if people wanted to exploint this poor woman as their plaything?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 2:23 PM on March 20, 2005


DeLay right now on CNN is saying she talks and laughs and that the husband is keeping her locked up in the hospice and that he doesn't let her go outside. "She's just mentally challenged, like millions of people leading active lives" he just said. How dare he?

mdn, you don't keep a woman without a brain alive simply to make her parents happy. That's not right either. We have laws and procedures for a reason, and they have been followed already--more than followed.
posted by amberglow at 2:24 PM on March 20, 2005


The other article linked above said that could easily be removed to allow for the scan.

Are you referring to the Rev. Johansen article? If so, I'm not really sure that he knows how "easy" it is to remove the implants. Taking out a thalamic implant involves going deep into the brain (the thalamus is basically located right in the middle) to take the implant out. Going to the thalamus means going through brain tissue on the way to the thalamus...which usually involves destroying some tissue on the way to the thalamus. It's likely that tissue would be destroyed in this surgery...and if the whole point is to keep whatever is left of her brain intact, this seems like a mistake.

If board certified neurologists disagree over the extent of the damage, why not get the best data available?

Why do they disagree? Have they even seen the CT scans? We don't know if the neurologists contacted have any idea that there's a thalamic implant in her head...if they knew that, would they still say that she should get MRIs? In the Johansen article, there's no evidence that the neurologists quoted even know that there's an implant.

(Actually, Dr. Morin, quoted in the article isn't a neurologist, since he's a PhD, not an MD. And the Johansen article completely fails to state how extensive the damage is, based on the CT scans. According to court documents, the only debate is whether she has NO cerebral cortex or very little cerebral cortex. Either way, that's a huge amount of damage, something easily noticeable via CT.)
posted by jaredm at 2:25 PM on March 20, 2005


The House is voting at midnight tonight, and if there are enough votes, Bush will sign immediately, and in Florida the lawyers have petitioned the courts to immediately put the tube back in at that time (which would be the 3rd time). Then the court cases start all over, and eventually it may go to the Supreme Court, like Cruzan's case.
posted by amberglow at 2:36 PM on March 20, 2005


Schiavo, Hudson, and Nikolouzos
posted by amberglow at 2:52 PM on March 20, 2005


And what's up with having funerals all of a sudden? Why are we wasting perfectly good bodies that could easily be given to children to play with and talk to and dress up and play makeup with? God, my parents were so selfish- I wanted to have pretend tea-time with Gramma some more!

What child would want to keep grandma's corpse around? I would allow a kid to spend more time around a dead body if it really seemed to help them, but I just don't see that becoming an issue.

Jesus, mdn. The guy might, you know, love her and want her to be sent to rest in dignity and all that ridiculous stuff.

Does it really seem equivalent to you? This situation is quite simply tragic, and as I said before, I don't really see an answer that would be good, but to me it seems less to ask of michael schiavo that he not be allowed to put the body in the ground, than to ask of the parents that they be forced to put it in the ground when they believe it's premature to do so.

Again, I'll reiterate that if it were the state suggesting that the family had a responsibility for keeping the body alive when no one believed she was "in there", I'd completely support the ruling being overturned. But here, we're speaking of two individual parties, both with extremely close ties to the patient. Yes, let's assume michael schiavo loves her and wants her to have a 'dignified' death. But aren't we also obligated to assume that the parents love her and honestly believe her to be responsive? If you believed your daughter to be alive, wouldn't ending her life be just about the most difficult thing you could be asked to do? I don't see that the husband not getting to bury her is equally traumatic. Yes, closure is important, but closure is important for the parents, too, isn't it?

I dunno, I didn't mean to become the devil's advocate for the opposite side, as I honestly don't know the details well enough, and in general I expect I would be likely to make a decision more like michael schiavo has than one like the parent's (even if the possibility of some flicker of consciousness were going on, if brain damage were extensive & irreversible, I'd be inclined to let go of the shell). But if someone who shared equally in their love for the person in question had strong convictions about keeping them alive, I would just explain my position to them, try to convince them why it would be healthier to let go, etc, but ultimately, i would not force them against their most passionate desires and stated needs to do what I think is best.

posted by mdn at 3:03 PM on March 20, 2005


oh frk. sorry, missed a closing tag, apparently. Hope the above is still readable...
posted by mdn at 3:05 PM on March 20, 2005


"First they came for gay marriage, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't gay. Then they came for the right to choose, and I didn't speak up because I wasn't a woman. Then they came for Muslim-Americans, but I didn't speak up because I wasn't Muslim. Then they came for the Schiavo family, and I didn't speak up because I didn't have a family member who was dying. Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me." [AMERICAblog | March 20, 2005]
posted by ericb at 3:11 PM on March 20, 2005


We don't know what kind of relationship she had with the parents throughout her life. We don't know that they were close or anything, and shouldn't discount all the people whispering in the parent's ears for so long (Randall Terry and his ilk). What if the parents never liked Michael and thought she should never have married him? What if they're just crazy? ...

We do know for sure, that Michael spent years getting treatment for her and taking care of her, even learning how in school, and flying her all over for any treatment that promised even a speck of hope.
posted by amberglow at 3:14 PM on March 20, 2005


but to me it seems less to ask of michael schiavo that he not be allowed to put the body in the ground, than to ask of the parents that they be forced to put it in the ground when they believe it's premature to do so.

"I'll be upset if you do" is no excuse to not put this woman- and her husband- out of their respective miseries.

Saying the parents are "forced to put it in the ground" is like saying we're "forced" to have any family member die. It happens. This isn't a case of happy, it's a case of abject denial. Schaivo's parents are upset because they haven't done what Michael has- accepted that their daughter is dead. For this, the husband is punished?

You're essentially arguing that Michael should concede his and his wife's beliefs because someone else might be more upset about it than him.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 3:33 PM on March 20, 2005


"I'll be upset if you do" is no excuse to not put this woman- and her husband- out of their respective miseries.

If the woman is dead, she's in no misery.
The husband's only misery is a lack of closure.
Amberglow's statement above says what's agreed is that it's "extremely unlikely" that she's conscious.
Therefore, it doesn't seem completely unreasonable - ill advised, most likely, easily naive, but not utterly and blindly irrational - for the parents to see what else can be done.

Basically, it seems to me to be playing into the "right to life" movement's hands to fight so hard to put her down. Why not just let them try for 20 years until they eventually realize the hopelessness?

You're essentially arguing that Michael should concede his and his wife's beliefs because someone else might be more upset about it than him.

a) it's not just "someone else"; it's the parents! Do you know how people feel about their children? b) one side or the other will have to concede something. One side has to concede an abstract belief. The other side has to concede the life of someone they love.

yes, I understand that you/we don't believe her to be alive in any meaningful sense. But the parents will still have to undergo the trauma of what will to them be the killing of their child. that seems worse to me than michael undergoing the pain of knowing the shell of his former wife is being fed and dressed up instead of resting in peace. My own stance is that I would rather undergo the pain of the latter than inflict the pain of the former on others.
posted by mdn at 3:52 PM on March 20, 2005


No parent ever wants to lose a child--That has nothing to do with the rights of the spouse, or the law, or anything. I'm sorry to say this, but too bad for them. They'll move on eventually, and the lasting damage they're doing to our legal system will stand as an unfortunate testament to their love--And other families will start imitating them, and demanding the same treatment--from congress and the courts, ignoring the wishes of spouses and other guardians.

President Bush himself signed a Texas Law that lets hospitals decide to pull the plug, no matter what the parents or spouses want. The parents here have made this bigger than just them and Terri and the husband, and we're all going to be paying for it for decades to come.
posted by amberglow at 4:01 PM on March 20, 2005


The parents have also made some extreme (to put it mildly) comments about the lengths they would go to keep her alive.--
From the report: "Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive . . . at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open-heart surgery. Within the testimony, as part of the hypothetical presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it."

posted by amberglow at 4:09 PM on March 20, 2005


The husband's only misery is a lack of closure.

And his dead wife being used as a hand puppet for several people with an agenda. You're arguing the emotions of the parents while saying you know exactly what the husband's are for the purpose of saying they're not as important.

yes, I understand that you/we don't believe her to be alive in any meaningful sense. But the parents will still have to undergo the trauma of what will to them be the killing of their child. that seems worse to me than michael undergoing the pain of knowing the shell of his former wife is being fed and dressed up instead of resting in peace. My own stance is that I would rather undergo the pain of the latter than inflict the pain of the former on others.

Again, emotionally-driven non-logic. If a convicted murder was sentenced to die, and the victim's parents wanted him to be executed, regardless of your opinions on the death penalty in general would you argue that the killer not be executed solely because his parents wanted him to live? After all, the victim's already dead, what should it matter to the family of the victim if the killer lives or not? As you just said, "their only suffering is a lack of closure," but for the killer's family, again, in your words, "they're his parents!"
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:36 PM on March 20, 2005


the parents will still have to undergo the trauma of what will to them be the killing of their child. that seems worse to me than michael undergoing the pain of knowing the shell of his former wife is being fed and dressed up instead of resting in peace. - mdn

You are forgetting that this whole situation involves three parties, not two- Terri Schiavo as well as her parents and her husband. Florida's court system already determined with 'clear and convincing' evidence that Terri had expressed she would not want life-prolonging care in this situation.

So, do Terri's parents wishes trump her own? At what extent do you take it? Your own Living Will ripped to shreds by your parents because they can't 'let go', or accept that you preferred to die in this situation?
posted by id at 5:28 PM on March 20, 2005


There are people involved in this debacle that are clearly mentally ill. It's the only explanation that remains the least bit palatable.
posted by five fresh fish at 6:01 PM on March 20, 2005


the House's insanity is live on CNN now.

and digby gets it right again: ... And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don't read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.

This is why we cannot trust the mainstream media. Most people get their news from television. And television is presenting this issue as a round the clock one dimensional soap opera pitting the "family", the congress and the church against this woman's husband and the judicial system that upheld Terry Schiavo's right and explicit request that she be allowed to die if extraordinary means were required to keep her alive. The ghoulish infotainment industry is making a killing by acceding once again to trumped up right wing sensationalism. ...

posted by amberglow at 6:20 PM on March 20, 2005


emotionally-driven non-logic.

Sorry if that wasn't clear, but I wasn't attempting to make a legal argument; I was explaining why I don't really understand michael schiavo's motivation here. The parents do sound like nutballs, and perhaps terri schiavo made it explicitly and abundantly clear that she would have detested being kept alive in this situation, but the argument is not that she's suffering or frustrated, but that she's already dead, and in that case it is purely symbolic what is done with her body.

Maybe I'm just not appropriately appreciating how important that is to some people. If we accept the argument of michael schiavo's side that she's already dead, then essentially this a question along the lines of the family burying someone who wanted to be cremated, or vice versa, which I understand is significant, but which at the same time does seem to happen from time to time without the supreme court getting involved.
posted by mdn at 6:30 PM on March 20, 2005


thank god a Democratic Rep. just brought up the Texas law Bush signed.
posted by amberglow at 6:34 PM on March 20, 2005


and her brother is on CNN again speaking about "misinformation" and affidavits from doctors that say she can get better.

this is really sick.
posted by amberglow at 6:40 PM on March 20, 2005


the brother thinks she should be on the House floor during this debate and that the husband is hiding her....unbelievable.

someone's going to try to kill the husband--i'm sure of it.
posted by amberglow at 6:41 PM on March 20, 2005


I know your blood is boiling right now, amberglow, so I just want to take this time to say thanks for the awesome FPP. I've been trying to keep out of the media circus on the issue, and it was enlightening to have a non-partisan look at the facts of the case so I could make an informed decision.
posted by rafter at 6:46 PM on March 20, 2005


I think it's really important, rafter--if Congress gets away with this, all American families will lose power to make the decisions that rightfully belong to them. It's not the state's decision to make. This kind of thing will happen to all of us someday (and in my family and many others, it's happened already). I hope to God this is ruled unconstitutional.

And that's not even taking into account the ghoulishness of DeLay and his buddies, using this situation the way they are.
posted by amberglow at 6:56 PM on March 20, 2005


CNN finally put a bioethicist on. There's no person there, she says. And this Congress thing will have a profound effect on all Americans, she says.
posted by amberglow at 7:32 PM on March 20, 2005


The cause of the cardiac arrest was adduced to a dramatically reduced potassium level in Theresa's body. Sodium and potassium maintain a vital, chemical balance in the human body that helps define the electrolyte levels. The cause of the imbalance was not clearly identified, but may be linked, in theory, to her drinking 10-15 glasses of iced tea each day. While no formal proof emerged, the medical records note that the combination of [Theresa's] aggressive weight loss, diet control and excessive hydration raised questions about Theresa from Bulimia, an eating disorder, more common among women than men, in which purging through vomiting, laxatives and other methods of diet control become obsessive.

Am I the only one who notices the irony involved here-- That the issue is whether the parents should have the right to continue to feed her through a tube? Isn't it just obvious what Terri's wishes would be???
posted by leftcoastbob at 8:30 PM on March 20, 2005


yup, leftcoast. It's clear to most of us. Some people have said that this is just another control thing by the parents (Terri was heavy growing up), but we'll never really know.
posted by amberglow at 8:32 PM on March 20, 2005


mdn: a) it's not just "someone else"; it's the parents! Do you know how people feel about their children?

Yes, but since when have parents and brothers and sisters of an individual had more of a say so in such matters than his or her spouse? Seriously. When in American history, or the history of legal decisions derived from statutory and British-derived common law the world over, has this ever been the case?
posted by raysmj at 8:37 PM on March 20, 2005


mdn: It's also explained in the FPP that the whole matter is out of the husband's hands by now. A court made the decision, based on testimony from the husband, the family, doctors, medical information, etc. If he wouldn't have agreed to let the whole thing go before a judge, in my understanding, his decision would have been considered final.

In short, try reading the part of the link FAQ thingie that states:

Why did Terri’s husband get to make the decision about whether she should live or die?

Michael Schiavo did not make the decision to discontinue life-prolonging measures for Terri.

posted by raysmj at 8:46 PM on March 20, 2005


this Rep. Wasserman from FL is great..she's clearing up the Republican's lies now.
posted by amberglow at 9:07 PM on March 20, 2005


I don't believe that this situation will indeed cause the precedent that amberglow eludes to (Republicans encroaching upon our individual civil rights). In fact, if it's true that this is simply a partisan grab for attention (to divert attention from a failing attempt to reform Social Security, which is killing the Republicans in the polls), then the Democrats are falling for this, hook, line, and sinker.

Once again, they're (the Dems) are taking this issue at face value, which would be the legal/Constitutional aspect. Unfortunately for them, and for the pseudo legal scholars among us, this particular direction holds no clout among the Americans who actually give a rat's ass about this issue. No one here seems to be arguing that the Republicans are using this issue to generate a frenzy within their base (the 2006 elections are just around the corner and if the rumors are true, SS will not see any even minor reforms between now and then), then it should be obvious to all of us that we (the Dems) should let this go. We can't win this debate (for the same reasons we couldn't win the gay marriage debate or the national security debate; the issue was framed in such a way that only one side was right).

The fact the Democrats are arguing to let someone die is morally reprehensible, regardless of the situation (which is obviously being manipulated to suit the Repub. agenda). I cannot, cannot, cannot believe how fucking petty the Democrats have become. It's a sad state of affairs when extremely intelligent thinkers think an intellectual debate over "living wills" and "states' rights" will win over "right to life" with a full grown adult.

Can anyone say "wedge issue"? AGAIN?
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:28 PM on March 20, 2005


it is a grab for attention and a diversion, but it'll have very real effects if it passes.

they're voting now.
posted by amberglow at 9:33 PM on March 20, 2005


It's done--it passed.
posted by amberglow at 9:38 PM on March 20, 2005


but it'll have very real effects if it passes.

My power's out, so I have no idea how the vote is going, but this feels EXACTLY like the gay marriage amendment, which was another attention grab used to polarize the voting base. The fact that so many states passed anti gay marriage laws is immaterial to the fact that there was no mandate for a Constiutional amendment. The same logic applies here. If states pass laws that restrict the options available in these types of situations, so be it. It's their right, and they'll have to answer to their constituents. However, the fact that this had made national headlines when Congress has no jurisdiction is categorical proof that a passed law will have no effect than to mobilize their base, which is being fueled by the "outrage" of Democrats. If Democrats simply ignored this situation altogether, there would be no enemy except for the husband. As it stands now, the entire party looks likes it condone euthanasia, which is not a pretty color to be painted.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 9:43 PM on March 20, 2005


They're waking Bush up to sign it tonight--he rushed back from his "ranch", and they're having the Federal Court down there in Tampa order to put the tube back in tonight and until the court cases get decided. They're starting all over again from the beginning, but Federal this time.
posted by amberglow at 9:48 PM on March 20, 2005


"the American people have fewer family rights now"--Wasserman on CNN now.
posted by amberglow at 10:04 PM on March 20, 2005


She's terrific, amberglow. One small light in the darkness.

This is nauseating. These are dark and ignorant times we live in.
posted by madamjujujive at 10:19 PM on March 20, 2005


yup. : <

Bush just signed it.
posted by amberglow at 10:32 PM on March 20, 2005


From cradle to grave, fundamentalist Amerika wants to control every moral decision you make, as we get closer to Congress/Bush passing yet another law that takes away choice...

Can't Bush be impeached for making a mockery of privacy encoded into the Constitution?

Why is no one in power pointing out what a waste of resources this is, that our elected officials are wasting time on this (heretofore decided) issue?
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:49 PM on March 20, 2005


SeizeTheDay: What exactly did the "Democrats" do in regard to this situation? They aren't unified in Congress. They're hardly doing anything. We're facing a potential major constitutional crisis over a family matter and the Democrats in a position to do something are mostly silent, as you'd prefer them to be. So what's with your posts here? Do you just like spouting what you think is a contrary opinion? Do you have any clue as to what you're talking about, or did you come up with this opinion on the spot?
posted by raysmj at 5:17 AM on March 21, 2005


Has anyone seen a poll on this? Is there any chance this morbid, shameless spectacle could backfire on the GOP?
posted by CunningLinguist at 5:33 AM on March 21, 2005


You know, there's that Bill Hicks routine about pro-lifers:

"If you're really so committed to stopping death on this planet, stop blocking abortion clinics, lock arms and block cemetaries."

Never in a million years did I actually think they'd do it.
posted by Remy at 5:39 AM on March 21, 2005


We're facing a potential major constitutional crisis over a family matter

There's a good reason why the Supreme Court won't touch this case, despite multiple attempts to get them involved. Scalia has already claimed a lack of jurisdiction, and if there was a Justice who would intervene based on "family matters", it would be him or Thomas.

Frankly, I completely agree with the husband that this issue is a private matter that should be kept private. The more attention Democrats give this matter, the less private it will be. Whether or not Schiavo dies is irrelevent. She's a pawn in this game and her specific outcome should not be at issue. Again, if the Repubs are using this purely for political gain, which no one seems to disagree with, then it's obvious that Democrats should let this blow over and focus on more important issues. They need to start picking their battles better, instead of letting Republicans control the issues and their framings.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 5:58 AM on March 21, 2005


Fox News Poll: As Terri Schiavo's parents continue their fight to extend her life, a FOX News poll finds a majority of Americans agree with a Florida judge's ruling that her feeding tube can be removed. Additionally, in the same situation, most would not want to be kept alive artificially. ...


The same Administration that pushed this just tried to cut Medicaid, which is what's paying for her care, well after stopping payment for other people in her situation. Florida Medicaid normally offers hospice coverage for those with a life expectancy of no more than six months, but Schiavo has received assistance from the state for the last two years. (Slate)
posted by amberglow at 6:00 AM on March 21, 2005


I want to see polling about Congress butting in....I guess it's a bit early. Jack Cafferty on CNN is going apeshit about it and I'm wondering how many agree with him.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:11 AM on March 21, 2005


If federal judge James Whittemore agrees with Greer, the GOP will say it's because Clinton appointed him and we'll see "Democrats Killed Terri" signs.
posted by CunningLinguist at 6:18 AM on March 21, 2005


they're already saying that...see Americablog's post on the FRC's mass email (with audio of Terri): "If Congress fails to act in time, Terri's demise will be the legacy of those Democrats who have chosen to march to the beat of the radical, anti-life drumbeat of the left."

Democrats=Death is how they're spinning it, but Bush didn't lift a finger to save lives by stopping Osama even after the August warning when he was on vacation. He rushed back to DC for this?
posted by amberglow at 6:35 AM on March 21, 2005


SeizeTheDay: Again, the Democrats in power aren't making a big deal about it, on the whole, so why do you keep saying so? I think they should be making a bigger deal over it, but there is the "give them enough rope to hang themselves" angle, which is I hope what they're trying right now, instead of being silent due to fear. I'm not sure that it'll work, though. They get enough media play, and next thing you know everyone believes their crap.
posted by raysmj at 7:05 AM on March 21, 2005


Then, if you don't answer their crap, you'll be accused of not having a position.
posted by raysmj at 7:06 AM on March 21, 2005


Again, the Democrats in power aren't making a big deal about it, on the whole, so why do you keep saying so?

Did you watch the debates on the floor over this past weekend? Just because they aren't the favorable opinion being portrayed by the media doesn't mean that they aren't hanging themselves by becoming involved.
posted by SeizeTheDay at 7:07 AM on March 21, 2005


Why do I have the feeling that this won't backfire on the Republicans even though it is obvious pandering?

Meantime, 70 percent of Americans say Congress' action was inappropriate and 67 percent thought the elected officials were trying to keep Schiavo alive were doing so more for political advantage than out of concern for her or the principles involved, according to a poll conducted for ABC News. The poll was conducted by telephone on March 20, among a random national sample of 501 adults. The results have a 4.5-point error margin. The sampling, data collection and tabulation were done by TNS Intersearch of Horsham, Pa.
posted by leftcoastbob at 7:10 AM on March 21, 2005


SeizeTheDay: Can you rephrase that? It's not clear what you were saying. Seriously. Meanwhile, Congress has a large number of Democrats, and many of them weren't in D.C. at the time of the vote. The leadership has said that members can vote their conscience and there is no official party line. Here are the final vote results on the bill the president signed here.
posted by raysmj at 7:23 AM on March 21, 2005


What the congress is doing is upsetting, but I just can't get excited about the cause here, I'm sorry. The right to end frustration and misery by death is important. The right to stop feeding people who are for all practical purposes already dead just seems superfluous. What is to be gained?

again, I basically feel like the 'right-to-die' people are just playing into the hands of the fundies here. This is not a good example of why we need right-to-die laws. It makes it look as if the main concern is, we shouldn't keep spending medicare on people who are probably already dead anyway.

The whole thing is depressing. Didn't mean to become so much of a devil's advocate here, but I feel like we're losing touch with the details of issues and getting all excited about broad symbolic stuff.
posted by mdn at 7:48 AM on March 21, 2005


What is to be gained? How about respect for the American state and federal judicial systems, and the Constitution? Respect for the privacy of family matters? The ability to keep Congress from getting involved in crap like this in the future?
posted by raysmj at 7:55 AM on March 21, 2005


The family is now suing her husband, the judge, and the hospital. Unfuckingbelievable.
posted by Remy at 7:57 AM on March 21, 2005


When are the reasonable, rational, humane citizens of the USA going to take back their country?
posted by five fresh fish at 8:51 AM on March 21, 2005


And of course, the Vaticon has now put their two cents in, saying only God should decide when a human being lives or dies. Gee, if that's true, maybe they should stop taking the Pope to the hospital every time he sneezes. Ya know, leave it up to God.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 9:00 AM on March 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


I live in Washington (state) and just called my allegedly liberal congressman, Brian Baird (D) to let him know that although I have supported him and actively campaigned for him in every election he has run in, I will not only not support him any more, but I won't even vote for him because he was one of 47 Democrats who voted for this bill.

Weasel. I'm pissed.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:10 AM on March 21, 2005


Vaticon

Heh.
posted by jaronson at 9:50 AM on March 21, 2005


If they had left it up to God in the first place, Terri (and the Pope) wouldn't still be alive. This is what happens to humans in an age of advanced medical care. Just because you can keep people alive doesn't mean you should, or have to.

mdn: the 'right-to-die' people ?!?

How about the right to make your own decisions about your life? the right to control your body?
posted by amberglow at 10:16 AM on March 21, 2005


this is a great great idea: ... In other words, the GOP just guaranteed every American universal health coverage. And if that's not what they're guaranteeing, ask them why not? Is the Terri Schiavo case about the "culture of life" - or is it simply about Tom DeLay and the radical right grandstanding when they don't really give a damn about anybody's life?

Some enterprising Democrat should write up the Culture of Life Act (Terri's bill) immediately and introduce it, guaranteeing universal health coverage to ensure that every American is guaranteed their "culture of life."

posted by amberglow at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2005


Vaticon
Opps, accident, I swear.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:25 AM on March 21, 2005 [1 favorite]


ABC NEWS: Poll: No Role for Government in Schiavo Case : Federal Intervention in Schiavo Case Prompts Broad Public Disapproval

March 21, 2005 --  Americans broadly and strongly disapprove of federal intervention in the Terri Schiavo case, with sizable majorities saying Congress is overstepping its bounds for political gain. ...
posted by amberglow at 12:23 PM on March 21, 2005


Way up near the top of the thread amberglow asked about the Catholic position. Here's a good article.
The Catholic church does not require that extraordinary means be applied to sustain the life of an ill person. It does not support keeping a person alive at all costs. But the boundaries have shifted with advances in modern medicine, and the definition of extraordinary is ever-changing.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 12:43 PM on March 21, 2005


mdn: the 'right-to-die' people ?!?

How about the right to make your own decisions about your life? the right to control your body?


sorry, whatever you want to call the movement, which, as I've said numerous times, I consider myself a member of. I simply don't think this case is a good example of why we need these rights. In this example, no one is suffering! Those who are fighting to let her life end are arguing that she's already gone and the family is delusional.

The right to control your body is vital when you occupy your body. Once you're gone, I appreciate that it's respectful to follow the wishes of the dead, but as I said above, it's analogous to burying someone who wished to be cremated. Yes, it's disrespectful, but if you failed to write down what you wished, then it seems as if it wasn't so utterly vital to you after all, and in that case, I can't see getting so worked up about it. If all we have is hearsay that she would have preferred cremation and instead her parents bury her, do we really need to call the supreme court about it?

The reverse point has more at stake - they believe she may actually still have something going on. Yes, there's apparently spinal fluid taking most of her cerebral cortex, but there have been cases where limited brain tissue can do more than we expect, and if people honestly think she's responding, and no one thinks she's suffering, then I just don't really see the point in actively fighting to stop her from being fed.

Basically, I would not get involved either way. The passive approach here is to accept what happened and let her die. But if someone else wants to keep her alive, it's no longer passive; then you have to actively fight against someone for her death, & I don't see why that's worthwhile.
posted by mdn at 1:04 PM on March 21, 2005


It's worthwhile because we're all going to be there someday.

And the precedent this sets affects how we'll be treated, no matter which side you're on.
posted by amberglow at 1:15 PM on March 21, 2005


It's worthwhile because we're all going to be there someday.

Or not. Which was my point as well. While I also agree with your sentiment, I disagree with this particular case being used as a springboard. I really disagree that this particular case will have any bearing on the case for/against euthanasia. In retrospect, I believe that we will all see this as a power grab, which is why I think taking this too seriously is detrimental to the cause (right-to-die).
posted by SeizeTheDay at 1:28 PM on March 21, 2005


"What's in it for them"

The vatican and the administration are pro-life for similar reasons - cheap labor. Of course they want to control whether you live or die. The accounts of what happened to slaves in the American south who attempted suicide are very instructive as to the mindset of these types of people.

I'm not talking about the protest drones or the chanting cadres of fanatics - just the folks in the shadows. More people = greater distribution of resources = more power for those who control those resources.
(And of course lesser shares of those resources for each individual = ignorance, etc. unless you mimic how those in power act and viciously grab resouces for yourself - but then of course, your supporting the system that forced you down in the first place)

You don't think it's that important to them because they actually care about life do you? There are millions of people starving, dying, etc, etc, even as we blog, the amount of human suffering they could address is legion, but this case serves the agenda so they jump on it regardless of the suffering it mainfestly causes and the 'will of the people' they're supposed to represent.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:31 PM on March 21, 2005


"The right to control your body is vital when you occupy your body. Once you're gone ...if you failed to write down what you wished, then it seems as if it wasn't so utterly vital to you after all"

- Why then is necrophelia illegal?

"But if someone else wants to keep her alive, it's no longer passive; then you have to actively fight against someone for her death, & I don't see why that's worthwhile."

Or more on the point - why shouldn't her husband have sex with her? He is her husband. He could do all sorts of perverted things to her she would never have wanted to do in life, why would that be wrong?
We don't know she wouldn't have agreed to a gangbang with 80 bikers. And if she isn't there anymore, who does it hurt?

mdn people can believe whatever they wish. In this case it runs contrary to the current science that she will recover and also runs contrary to the dignity by many accounts (enough for several court rulings) she wished for herself.
One of the reasons to - for example- not believe Elvis was still alive is that a man of such an ego would not have faked his death "straining at stool."
How we die, to some of us, is as important as how we live. While in this specific case she did not leave a living will, many people don't. It's on my 'to do' list, but if I get hit by a car today I could see myself in that same position.
If I cannot live as I please let me die as I choose.
The government won't even do that anymore.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:46 PM on March 21, 2005


The ever-excellent Dahlia Lithwick shows, in today's Slate, why the legal issues in this case are of the most dire sort. What's at stake in this Constitutional battle goes beyond any "right-to-die" vs. "culture of life" arguement.
posted by raysmj at 2:23 PM on March 21, 2005


that was good, ray--thanks.

and thanks DA for the Catholic info.
posted by amberglow at 3:29 PM on March 21, 2005


great thread, thanks.
posted by semmi at 3:33 PM on March 21, 2005


I had this rant that I'd been working on all day...but in preview, I realized it was one of those GYOFB rants...and thus, it went there instead.

To summarize: this isn't about "saving Terry", this is a blatant grab for control of power away from the states and the individual. The parents and their media machine are funded by a national anti-abortion group with financial ties to the Republican party. The Republicans have already circulated the memos on how to take advantage of the case, and the talking points to use. (Not that most of the bum-licking, groveling curs that are the Democrats are much better mind you.)

This was a slickly marketed, well packaged, superbly chosen case, designed to devastate the systems of checks and balances. And it worked.
posted by dejah420 at 7:17 PM on March 21, 2005


Why then is necrophelia illegal?

necrophilia is normatively debasing. There are no conditions under which necrophilia is considered respectful or reasonable to the dead (in our culture). Feeding someone is not normatively debasing.

The only reason this is considered disrespectful here is because it is supposedly in opposition to her wishes. Thus, my analogy above, of a family who buries a body that, when alive, had expressed her wish to be cremated, is more accurate. Likewise, burying trumping cremation is the right way for the analogy to go, because as in this case, it is choosing the less destructive option over the more destructive one, despite the expressed desires of the dead for the one which, in simple, practical terms, is less conservationalist (not conservative in political terms, but conserves less of what currently is, ie, a breathing body, or in the cremation analogy, a formed body).

However, the wishes were not expressly and objectively stated in a way which can be reviewed now. All we have is hearsay, which relies on what could have been offhand or misinterpreted comments.

I figured out another analogy that helps explain my discomfort with this case: to me it seems analogous to someone being able to force someone else to have an abortion. I am pro-choice, and personally believe that a fetus has no meaningful experience; I would have no problem having an abortion, and believe that no one should be forced to undergo the burden of nurturing something they do not want and do not believe to be meaningful yet. Likewise, I do not believe anyone should be forced to care for a brain-dead body: the state must allow families to turn off machines if they believe that no one is home anymore.

However, the only person who has the right to decide to have an abortion is the person burdened with the pregnancy. A husband cannot force his wife to have an abortion. Even though I do not think a fetus experiences anything meaningful, I think the person who cares for the fetus has enough emotional investment in the case that she should not be forced to have an abortion if she does not want one, even if her husband doesn't want the child.

In this case, the family is willing to take over the burden of caring for Terri. They want to. I agree that she is probably not experiencing anything meaningful. But why force her family to go through what for them will be traumatic, the equivalent of an abortion for someone who considers a fetus living in some meaningful way? I would not have a child my husband did not want, but nor would I attempt to force my wife to have an abortion she did not want.

I also have a technical question: if her feeding did not require any medical equipment, would the family still be barred from giving her food? Is it because the means are considered artificial, or simply because the family is not allowed to provide care for her, that the feeding tube was removed?
posted by mdn at 10:38 AM on March 22, 2005


If her condition was such that she didn't need a tube, we wouldn't be talking about this.
posted by sonofsamiam at 10:41 AM on March 22, 2005


So you're saying it's the first case, then, that it's specific to the extent of brain damage, not just a case of custody. (I'm not asking if she were conscious, just if she could swallow without a tube. She breathes without a respirator, so is technically in a state between "brain dead" where she couldn't breathe on her own, and "coma" where she would be able to swallow on her own, although coma is different because it doesn't involve involuntary reflex movements like opening eyes, etc...)

I'm just trying to clarify why the parents don't have the right to feed her if they want, ie, if they were medical technicians and could produce & insert a feeding tube on their own, they presumably would still not be allowed to do so.

I guess the answer is that judges have determined, based on the testimony of michael schiavo, that terri schiavo specifically would not want them to do so, which is reasonable enough except that hearsay seems like a dangerous thing to base such decisions on. But if this is the case, then it is decidedly not a question of the husband's jurisdiction vs. the parents' jurisdiction, but rather of the medical condition and the will of the patient. I think these two interpretations have been mixed in the discourse (many on this thread have gone on about spousal rights), which has muddied the issues a bit.

Anyway, sorry for going on about this so long. It combines a lot of fairly interesting issues, and as I said, I feel like both sides have handled things poorly, so I've been compelled to respond, perhaps more negatively than necessary.
posted by mdn at 11:24 AM on March 22, 2005


I'm hesitant to post on this, because it's hitting *way* too close to home right now, but ...

My family just decided to take my mother off life support last week. By the time I got to the hospital to see her, she was, in all senses, gone, but they had her on various blood pressure medications and ventilators to keep her body technically alive.

Walking into that hospital room, I "knew" (whatever that means) that my mother's spirit/soul was no longer there, and seeing her hooked up into those machines and wearing that horrible hospital gown and stuck in a sunless room where strangers (nurses, doctors, students) could just walk in and out as they wished felt to me like they were doing horrible, obscene things to my mother's corpse. I never really understood the huge outcry against the Iraqis who hung up the American corpses a few years back until this week. "They're dead, what difference does it really make?", right? Believe me, if you've loved that body, if it physically pains you to see the horrors they're subjecting that body to, it makes a difference.

My mother had no living will, but she had always talked about not wanting to end up hooked up to tubes, and once the doctors said there was no hope, her entire family, thankfully, agreed to end her misery. Because what they were doing to her body would have made her miserable, and it was certainly agonizing to watch. I also cannot believe she would have wanted us to see her like that, or to remember her like that. And while I'm sure it will fade, right now the image of her body hooked up to all those machines, blood coming out of the side of her slack mouth where the tube went in, hair matted down to the pillow, is the image I'm carrying around of her. As I'm sure you can guess, it's not the image I would have chosen.

To say, "She's dead, so her husband should just move on" discounts any love he may once have had for her. I would never, ever, ever wish anyone to see their loved one chained up in the hospital like that. I could not continue on with my life in any meaningful way if my mother were still "living" like that, because I would feel an overwhelming duty to her memory and to her physical body to end her pain and degradation.
posted by occhiblu at 12:14 PM on March 22, 2005


mdn - yeah, the necorphilia comment was kinda flippant - sorry.

I do consider this artificial prolonging as debasing though, universally if not personally.

I do see your point on the abortion analogy, but I would say it is not a question of life but of human dignity.
posted by Smedleyman at 2:19 PM on March 22, 2005


occhiblu, it was very moving to hear your story. I am so sorry for your loss.
posted by madamjujujive at 8:47 PM on March 23, 2005


We did it for my grandma and father, occhiblu--it's hard, but it lets them go. i hope it'll be done for me when necessary.

the big thing with me is that i'm not sure they're not still there (or imprisoned there), soulwise, if the body's being kept alive without any of the things that make a life a "life" (brain, consciousness, movement, emotion, feeling, thinking, etc). the person that was Terri, for instance, is clearly gone, but i don't think, on a basic level, for me, that she's moved on, or at rest at all yet--nor can she be with tubes keeping her alive. It's a theological thing i guess, with me--and i see it as a prison, even if she's not conscious of it.
posted by amberglow at 9:24 PM on March 23, 2005


Who owns your life?
posted by semmi at 10:48 PM on March 24, 2005


Does anyone remember Nancy Cruzan or Karen Ann Quinlan? Both women suffered from persistent vegetative states, and both families petitioned the courts to end their lives humanely.

Quinlan's family finally won the right to remove her ventilator, only she continued to live for another ten years. Cruzan's family eventually won the right to remove her feeding tube, and she lived a month. Read this for a concise summary of both cases. It has some interesting links to other sites as well.
posted by cass at 9:17 AM on March 28, 2005


I remember, and many others do too, cass. It's a pity the Schindlers don't.
posted by amberglow at 5:34 PM on March 28, 2005


Terry Schiavo's Blog
posted by panoptican at 2:45 AM on March 29, 2005


She passed away. How long till her death makes the front page?
posted by trharlan at 6:54 AM on March 31, 2005


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