Why say no to life?

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A few days ago I wrote a bit about Headline News's coverage of Terri Schindler-Schiavo and the U. S. Supreme Court refusal to hear an appeal in her case, apparently clearing the way for her husband Michael Schiavo to remove her feeding tube and allow her to starve to death.

Dawn Eden published a letter purporting to be from Michael Schiavo (actually it was a satirical piece written by her mom), which generated a lot of comment, including a protest by someone going by the handle "Tulsa Human", complaining that the piece is one-sided and unfair and ignores the "key fact" that "the courts have ruled consistently that Terri Schiavo is in a Persistent Vegetative State, and has been for over 14 years."

I replied in a comment:

I think I speak on behalf of many humane Tulsa humans in thinking that Rachel Rose's satire fits Michael Schiavo's public actions to a "T".

Mr. Schiavo's behavior bears an uncanny resemblance to the pro-abortion types who say a child would be better off dead than adopted out to a loving family. Terri has her parents and a whole community ready to care for her, if her husband would only let them. I understand that he has withheld money for rehabilitation, rehab that might have allowed her to regain the ability to swallow and restore her ability to function in other regards, and might yet if it were permitted to go forward. Someone explain to me why he doesn't step aside and hand her over to the care of those who love her.

It turns out he was given exactly that opportunity, under very generous conditions. Today, Terri's parents, the Schindlers, released the text of an offer (in PDF format) that they made to Michael Schiavo's lawyers back on October 26, 2004. In the letter, Terri's parents and sister ask Michael Schiavo to let them take her and care for her. In return, they would not seek any money from him, they would allow him to keep all the assets of the marriage, including the malpractice awards. If he chose to divorce Terri, he would still inherit, upon her death, any money he is now entitled to as her husband. Terri's parents would forego any legal action against Michael. Terri's parents would be open to any other term Michael might wish to include, short of paying for his "previous legal fees and costs." In short, he could wash his hands of the whole matter, move on with his life, and he would not lose any money in the bargain. For all the grief he has caused Terri's parents, this was an extremely generous offer for them to make, and clearly it was made with no other motive than to do all they can to save Terri's life and to seek to improve her condition.

Michael Schiavo's attorneys verbally refused the offer. Terri's parents hope that he will reconsider.

The website terrisfight.org has a timeline of Terri's ordeal and addresses some of the myths in the case, including:

  • that she is in a persistent vegetative state -- she displays voluntary action and interacts with her environment
  • that she is on artificial life support -- as a letter to the Miami Herald (registration required) says, "There is nothing artificial about getting fed."
  • that years of therapy haven't helped -- her husband has denied her therapy since 1991.

Regarding Tulsa Human's claim about Terri being in a persistent vegetative state (PVS): This article from Crisis magazine describes one neurologist's observations from 12 hours spent testing Terri -- observations that are inconsistent with a PVS diagnosis.

The neurologist, Dr. William Hammesfahr, a specialist in brain injuries, believes there is hope for Terri if she is allowed therapy:

Hammesfahr believes not only that Terri Schiavo is not in a PVS, but that she is treatable and could recover at least some of her former faculties. He believes, for example, that with proper therapy, Terri could once again swallow normally and take solid food by mouth. He has repeatedly advocated that Terri be given this therapy, but Michael Schiavo, who has complete control over Terri’s medical care, has steadfastly refused to allow it. The evidence for his contention, Hammesfahr explained, is that Terri does not drool. “The average human being produces one-and-a-half to two pints of saliva a day. If you can’t swallow it, you drool,” he said. “Terri can swallow that amount of her own saliva, which means that she can swallow liquids.” If Terri can swallow liquids, he reasons, it is quite likely that she can learn to swallow solid food again, which, of course, means she would no longer require tube feeding.

The article also touches on a British study in which 40% of PVS diagnoses were in error -- the misdiagnosed patients had cognitive function, but were unable to communicate because of other disabilities. The article mentions a couple of cases of recovery from diagnosed PVS, including Kate Adamson, who was fully aware of her surroundings, but unable to communicate, when they removed her feeding tube:

I could see and hear everything going on around me, and I had no way...of communicating with anyone…. I was completely paralyzed…. When the feeding tube was turned off for eight days, I was—thought I was—going insane. I was screaming out [in her mind], “Don’t you know I need to eat?” ...Michael [Schiavo] on national TV had mentioned last week that it’s a pretty painless thing to have the feeding tube removed. It is the exact opposite. It was sheer torture...

An "exit protocol" that was prepared in anticipation of the removal of Terri's feeding tube in 2003 will give you a sense of the agony involved in being allowed to starve and dehydrate to death.

No one deserves that kind of death.

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Friday, Terri Schiavo's parents, Robert and Mary Schindler, asked Judge Greer to void his 2000 order giving Michael Schiavo permission to stop providing nutrition and hydration to Terri. Their argument Read More

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This page contains a single entry by Michael Bates published on January 28, 2005 9:33 PM.

Sound advice for dealing with the media was the previous entry in this blog.

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