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Mar 31 2005

Theresa Marie Schiavo

161terrischiavo.jpgTheresa Marie Schiavo died today. How some can see this as a "victory," I don't understand. Unfortunately, the issues surrounding her death are a lot like the abortion issue, in that most people have very strongly held beliefs which are not easily swayed by short little snippets of argument. And, for reasons I don't entirely understand, the fight over Terri's life became divided along political lines with the left fighting to kill her, or as they would argue "let her die," and the right fighting to keep her alive. Discussion of the issues is complicated by the fact that most people, including myself, do not know all the facts of the case. Given that lack of information, one would think that people would err on the side of letting someone live. But, bizarrely...grotesquely...the left rallied around efforts to kill Terri.

One of the primary problems in discussing Terri's case is that many people simply have the issues confused which, not surprisingly, results in inappropriate conclusions. I've heard and read a hundred times, "Well, I wouldn't want to live that way." People who express this are stating a personal fact that is wholly irrelevant to Terri's situation. It's best to just walk away as logical discussion is not likely to follow. The primary issue is what did Terri want and what should be done when there is no objective evidence of her desires?

There was no written evidence of what Terri wanted to be done in her situation or in any similar situation. Five people testified as to Terri's verbally expressed desires: Terri's mom and one of Terri's friends who said she would want to live and Michael, Michael's brother and Michael's sister-in-law who said she wouldn't want to keep on living. Some people find her mother and friend more credible, while other people are more inclined to believe Michael's brother and sister-in-law. Personally, I think it's a wash between the four of them, which leaves us with Michael.

Terri and Michael were married in 1984 when Terri was just nineteen. How many people reading this would want the person they were dating/married to when they were nineteen to decide their fate when they were forty-one? In 1990, when Terri is twenty-six, she suffered a heart attack which deprived her brain of oxygen. Michael argued that the heart attack was caused by a potassium imbalance brought about by bulimia which doctors failed to diagnose.

Now presumably at this time, Michael was well aware of Terri's desires not live in the condition she was in. But, there is one absolute fact that any plaintiff or attorney knows: if you are going to sue someone, you will get a lot more money on behalf of a person who needs a lifetime of therapy and medical support than you will for a corpse. Jury verdicts are many times greater if you injure someone who is going to suffer a lifetime of disability than if you simply kill someone. Whether this is right or wrong is irrelevant, it's just a fact.

So, Michael kept his mouth shut about any desire of Terri to have her feeding tube pulled and instead testified about the lifetime of medical care and therapy Terri needed. As a result, in 1992, Terri was awarded $250,000 in a settlement with one of her physicians. A jury awarded more than a million dollars against another physician which was later settled with about $300,000 going directly to Michael and about $750,000 being put in a trust fund specifically for Terri Schiavo's medical care.

However, despite a million dollars in the bank for Terri's medical care, Michael never authorized and, in fact actively prohibited, Terri from receiving any physical therapy or basic medical care. In 1994, Michael wouldn't allow treatment of a urinary tract infection and sometime around 1995 he even put an end to Terri's teeth being cleaned. A lot of sites have long lists of many items of basic care and simple humanity which Michael deprived Terri and which I've not seen refuted anywhere.

Then, in 1998, Michael asked the court to authorize the removal of Terri's feeding tube presumably after having just remembered that Terri had clearly expressed to him before her injury her desire not to live the way she had been for the last eight years.

Finally, we get back to the real issue. Before she was injured, did Terri express her desires and were those desires to have a feeding tube removed despite not being terminal and not requiring any other "life support"? Remember, what you or I would want is not relevant. And, try and stay logical for a moment...what Terri would have wanted, but did not express, is also irrelevant. The only thing that counts, the only issue, is what did Terri actually state were her desires?

With the less-than-credible witnesses tied at two to two, it all comes down to Michael. Also, consider that Michael has since found another love with whom he has two children. I actually don't at all fault him for moving on, but you can't have it both ways. You can't move on with your life and still make life determining decisions for your prior spouse. That just makes no sense.

Now for just a little legalese. The standard which the courts must determine whether Terri expressed her desire to have her feeding tube removed is by "clear and convincing" evidence. This is the highest burden in a civil case. It means that, even if everyone agreed that it was more probable than not that Terri would want her feeding tube pulled, the court still could not order removal. Only if the evidence was clear and convincing that such were her express wishes, would it be proper to allow her to die in that manner.

It is my contention and that of many conservatives that under the clear and convincing standard, looking at the case as a whole, and being cognizant of the very narrow primary issue, there is insufficient evidence to support the pulling of Terri's feeding tube and allowing her to die.

[This post is not finished.]

Posted by Don |


  1. #1
    Lori Berang said on April 4, 2005 | Reply

    AS I followed and read the heartwrenching struggle regarding Terri , I found myself in utter disbelief.How could doctors, nurses, lawmakers and legislatures stand and watch this innocent woman be " legally Murdered"? That is , after all, exactly what hapenned! Anyone including myself ( No legal and minimal medical background) could clearly see what was really going on.
    Why was Micheal Schiavo allowed to remain her gaurdian , after he pleaded and swore during the malpractice suit and then SECURED IT, that the money was for her needed treatment and rehabilitation; but then refused her treatment, tests, medicine for infections, and even the human caring of the simple task of cleaning her teeth!
    How could ANYONE with even a minute portion of a functioning brain not see that he wanted her death in any manner he could get it?
    How could a Judge, SWORN to uphold the law sit on the bench and deny this woman basic human civil rights, deny her the barest opportunity of a chance? How could this Judge say that Micheal and his family presented a clear and convincing case that Terri would have wanted to die.
    It was stated that Terri was unaware of her environment and did not feel pain... if that is the case why was she given Morphine ( a pain medication)?
    If she was unaware of her surroundings, Why was it reported that he placed a note on the TV in her room that the Tv was not to be turned on to the news on a particular day, that her story was to be aired. If she was truly unaware what would it have mattered if the TV blared the News? Evidence shows the money he claimed was for her rehabilitation and treatment was used for attorneys to win the right to kill her! Over half the money! And the Judge ordered the attorneys be paid with Her rehabilitation money...!!!
    If this is an example of what our judicial system has become, and no judge would overrule or stop this horrible torture, if this is an example of what our hospitals , nursing homes and legislature has become, and even worse.. if this is how WE the citizens of this country have become.. that we sit back , without all the true facts, without demanding hard core evidence... ( A signed Living will or statement of the patient herself)...
    Or without the evidence of NEW RECENT tests..(FACTS).
    Then we are truly headed for another Holocaust..
    A holocaust where the innocent disabled....elderly or? are LEGALLY MURDERED or as the " More gentler version that has repeatedly been shoved down our throats" They are allowed to die Peacefully" .. The dignity of " not interrupting the death process" isn't that what Filo's said?
    Bottom Line? There was no evidence to substantiate pulling her feeding tube...There was evidence, Growing evidence that Terri had been DENIED the mere chance of rehabilitation by her " gaurdian" .
    The only way to assure that Terri did not die in vain is for the people to SCREAM loudly until those in power hear and pass any and all bills to prevent this cruelty from EVER happening to anyone again!
    But, somehow, I do not believe anything will be done.. Terri's sad and cruel tortured death will be swept under the " rug". not mentioned except in fleeting and then with the most compassion regarding her death.. with the persistent statement " permanent vegetative state" a constant deliberate subliminal... to make her torture and death more palatable to the masses.
    THe judge who broke the law, violated the constitution and was personally set on assuring her death.. will remain a judge.. no penalty.. no impeachment...
    the situation will just be shushed.. so that over time Terri becomes a sad memory... that no one quite got all the facts about.
    So the next Terri we hear a passing news report on.. will not require the slightest interest from the mass. it will become everday.. as they switch the channel. That is the agenda, it seems, which is the only conceivable reason that anyone, judge, doctor, nurse or politician would stand back and allow this atrocity.
    NO one still has gotten the message.. Murder and Torture was just committed , with Millions watching.. and no one intervened. WE the public witnessed a Televised Legal Public EXecution, complete with gaurds to assure the penalty was carried out. A silent Court order: a Panel of " experts" have found the patient to be unable to feel, communicate and/or interact appropriately" and as the patient is unable to present any defense to the contrary, therefore For being unable to interact with society and/or communicate as we deem Fit and appropriate to indicate " humanity exists" the patient will be confined to the room under gaurd.. without food, water until such patient is dead!" Terrible to voice it that way.. but the evidence that is steadily being exposed substantiates this far more than her Gaurdian's statement that he " suddenly " remembered she Supposedly would not have wanted to live AFTER Securing the money!
    What a sad and pitiful society we have become.. No better than those other societies that killed their " undesireables".
    Nurses and doctors were " afraid 'to treat and care for their patient, afraid for their jobs! So now it appears that people with money ( even if that money was really for his spouse) can now order doctors and nurses to refuse to care for their patient, in fear of their jobs. Hmmm, whatever happened to the Famous , Symbolic "Hypocratic Oath" and the doctor who " would cause no harm".?
    Hmm, removing food and hdydration causes no harm? Hmm, that's news! THe new ERA " Hypocratic Oath" must have been revised and must now read" Cause no harm, UNLESS there is a question whether the patient would want to be harmed, Or unless causing harm is seen beneficial to ?" How pitifully sad ! Nature's animals kill out of necessity. we the " higher Society" justify senseless death and torture.
    So once again.. society proves, if you have money.. regardless of where or how you got it...
    one really can do anything and not only get away with it... but gain a whole following!

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A Schiavo parallel from BatesLine

Mark Steyn writes in the Spectator (free registration required) about a case from California in the 1990s which was very similar to Terri Schiavo's case: [Robert Wendland] was injured in an automobile accident in 1993 and went into a coma. Under state ... Read More