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Terri Schiavo

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You may have heard of this woman. She's been braindead for years because of some accident that she had, and she's alive only through a feeding tube. Doctors have pretty much determined that she will never get better. Her family claims that she has started trying to communicate, but, from what I understand, most doctors do not. Her husband wants the tube removed, but her family does not. Supposedly, before this happened, she expressed that she would not want to be kept alive artificially, although that is nowhere in writing. What should happen to her? My personal belief is that the tube should be taken out. They've had years to prepare for the death of a loved one who is, essentially, dead already, and there is nothing to gain from keeping her biologically alive.

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That's what I think too, but in the face of the fact that she's practically already dead, I don't think "who is related how" really even matters.

It does matter. An individual has the right to choose how such circumstances are to be handled in regard to his own life. Part of the relationship of marriage is that a spouse is responsible for exercising this right on the individual's behalf in the absence of a will. In the absence of a spouse, this responsibility is transferred to one's nearest relative. The fact that she's "practically dead" should definitely be taken into consideration by her spouse, but how he chooses to treat that fact is up to him. Morally, he should decide based on what he believe's her wishes should have been.

If being "brain-dead" is an absolute criterion of whether or not she should be kept on life support, apart from her husband's evaluation of that fact, then it would be proper for the doctors to step in and remove her from life support regardless of her or her husband's wishes. Of course, this is not the case.

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Supposedly, before this happened, she expressed that she would not want to be kept alive artificially, although that is nowhere in writing.
This is really the essence of it. Then the matter becomes one of fact: whether the husband speaks truthfully or, less cynically, did he understand her expression of her wishes. His statements should be disregarded only if there is compelling evidence that he is acting against her wishes. This is why you should put it in writing.
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And also his motive. He has nothing to gain from her death; the insurance money is long out, there is no estate and he's already had children in another relationship. It's really a political football with the conservatives trying to score political points with the voters over a woman's suffering.

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And also his motive.  He has nothing to gain from her death; the insurance money is long out, there is no estate and he's already had children in another relationship.  It's really a political football with the conservatives trying to score political points with the voters over a woman's suffering.

If the woman really is brain dead, she isn't suffering.

In any case, in the absence of a previous desire to discontinue life-sustaining treatment, the living or non-living body of a brain-dead individual should be treated as property and sole ownership granted according to the rules of inheritance. The only determination the courts are responsible for is determining the inheritor. If a totally paralyzed individual is not brain dead, the state cannot force any party to care for him, so custodianship falls to the first willing party, if any.

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If the woman really is brain dead, she isn't suffering. 

In any case, in the absence of a previous desire to discontinue life-sustaining treatment, the living or non-living body of a brain-dead individual should be treated as property and sole ownership granted according to the rules of inheritance.  The only determination the courts are responsible for is determining the inheritor.  If a totally paralyzed individual is not brain dead, the state cannot force any party to care for him, so custodianship falls to the first willing party, if any.

Surely then the suffering of the family. The courts have determined time and time again that it's the husband who is the party with control, not the parents. My comment was more directed at the legistlature and Governor Jeb Bush who are using this tragedy for political gain. I think it's inexcusable.

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The choice should be left up to her husband. Genetic relationships do not constitute a claim to decide the fate of her life. A marriage does.

Spouse is ALWAYS legal next-of-kin. Unfortunately in these cases the medical practicioner can come up for so much legal grief that they're reluctant to do ANYTHING without a court order. Supposedly, it's ultimately their decision and thus their responsibility.

There was recently a case with an organ procurement agency in, I believe, Texas, that procured organs from a gunshot/suicide victim (he had a bullet in his brain). The coroner, who, in my opinion, is a complete bastard (pardon the vulgarity) came in later and ruled it as a HOMICIDE because they "didn't wait long enough".

Keep in mind that you have to procure organs from heart-beating donors. There was rather a bit of hue and cry about "selling body parts", etc. on the radio. Frankly it made me sick and I think the coroner should lose his license. We (speaking for the tissue industry in general) are honest people and we want to save lives, not take them.

*cough* Please pardon the digression, but things like this make me bloody furious.

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I don’t think her feeding tube should be removed, and I know if I was in her position I wouldn’t want to be dismissed into non-existence. Terri is not brain dead; three out of five doctors testified in 2002 that Terri was in a vegetative state with no hope of recovery. I don’t like the notion of “no hope of recovery” and think they should hold out for medical advancements (especially when there’s a party willing to take responsibility for her).

The cause of her condition has come into question in recent years, many pointing to a strong possibility of abuse from her husband. In 1992 Michael Schiavo, Terri’s husband, won a malpractice suit accusing doctors of misdiagnosing his wife. The jury awarded $700,000 for Terri’s care and an additional $300,000 for Michael. If Terri dies, Michael will receive what is left of the malpractice suit (I believe somewhere around half of the $700,000) and her estate (I don’t know the status of her estate). It seems like he has much to gain from her death.

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Actually, this is an issue that I have put much though into. My last quote in my signature deals with this. Yet, I think the line has been smeared I guess you would call it. What is Life? Is the mere survival, being an empty shell, having to be on life support, really life or living life? If anybody is a Metallica fan listening to the song One. This song deals with this issue, figuring you have a soldier who has no arms, no legs, his sight is gone, his hearing is gone, and his smell and therefore his taste is gone, but his mind is intact. So what type of life is this man to lead? What type of life is this? When does valuing life as such just goes too far and goes from being a value to the mundane?

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Terri Schiavo appears to have none of the qualities that allow her to pursue a life of any semblance of quality.  Congress has no moral right to make that determination for her.

You seem to have made that determination for her, just in the other direction.

People seem to have this image of Terri Schiavo in their head where she's hooked up to all this life support equipment with no perception of the world around her. The fact of the matter is she's only hooked up to a feeding tube, and supposedly reacts to stimuli (obviously in a very basic form). She isn't a burden on anyone else (her family has repeatedly said they will care for her allowing her husband to just run off), so why is there such eagerness to pull the feeding tube?

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The fact of the matter is she's only hooked up to a feeding tube, and supposedly reacts to stimuli (obviously in a very basic form). She isn't a burden on anyone else (her family has repeatedly said they will care for her allowing her husband to just run off), so why is there such eagerness to pull the feeding tube?
Plants also react to stimuli, so that isn't a very convincing argument. The counter-argument is the evidence (slight, admittedly) of an oral advanced directive to the effect that she did not wish to be made to hang on in a persistive vegitative state. I haven't seen any eagerness to pull the tube, but perhaps you have some information to the contrary.
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Her tube has already been pulled.

The focus should be on whether or not she would want to continue to live. This decision must be made by considering evidence from 15 years ago, before she went into a vegetative state. I think that her husband would be the best judge of what her will would be. However, I'm curious as to why he doesn't want to take a polygraph test.

Just for the record; If I'm ever in this situation, pull the tube.

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supposedly reacts to stimuli (obviously in a very basic form)

So what? Any animal does that. It is not a sign of a conceptual consciousness at work.

I've seen the videos of Terry "reacting to stimuli", and I am not impressed any more than by a cat watching a fly buzz around the room. There is nothing human in her head anymore.

To live as man qua man, one needs a conceptual faculty, the ability to choose values, and the ability to gain/keep them. Terry has NONE of those, and never will. Brain cells cannot currently be grown or replaced, and even if we could there's no way to integrate them physically into her existing brain and "tie it all together". That technology is a looooong way off, if its even possible.

Basically, she is no more valuable than any pet, and has to be cared for just as if she was one. People put down sick dogs and cats all the time and its not in the papers or debated in philosophic forums.

The only difference is, this pet has an estate, so motives are questioned. Is he doing it because it was her wish when she was human, or is he doing it because he wants the money? But the motive doesn't change the fact of Terry being nothing more than pet with no hope of ever being anything more. So I say as an answer to the motive question -- who cares? It doesn't matter.

Edited by TomL
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What's really sad is that the only options legally open are: 1) keep her "alive" in this vegetative state indefinitely, or 2) pull the feeding tube and let her die of starvation and dehydration, a process which (based on what I've read) could take a couple of weeks and has to be agonizing if she's still capable of any degree of feeling. If Congress was going to pass a law directed specifically at her case, it should have directed that she be given a painless lethal injection when the feeding tube was removed.

For the record, if I'm ever in that position, pull the tube and give me the Black Capsule.

Edited by Rex Little
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So what? Any animal does that. It is not a sign of a conceptual consciousness at work.

To live as man qua man, one needs a conceptual faculty, the ability to choose values, and the ability to gain/keep them. Terry has NONE of those, and never will.

I never said that reacting to stimuli is a sign of a coneptual consciousness at work. My point was she is conscious, but at a level where she becomes someone else's property.

Since there is no written statement that she would not want to be kept in this state and her family is willing to take on the responsibility of her, why did the feeding tube have to be removed? Why can't the family keep her alive in this low level state in hope of some sort of medical breakthrough? It really doesn't matter to me, I'm just wondering why the husband is so reluctant to let the family care for her.

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I answered that question in the final sentence of my previous post. There is no moral consequence as to whether the husband keeps her alive or not, because she is not a person any longer, and never will be again. Morals properly only apply to people.

(That said, I do not condone the abuse or neglect of animals. I have several pets and love them all. :thumbsup: )

I think if the parents want to keep Terry as a pet, then there ought to be a legal way for the husband to retain the estate and give only the lump of flesh known as "Terry" to the parents as he could give anyone a pet as a gift. Unfortunately for him, if he wants to get the property, the law forces him to kill the poor thing.

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Before removing her life support, the following has to be determined:

1. That she clearly expressed a full intention of not wanting to continue living in a vegatative state. This would require clear proof. Without written proof or some type of hard evidence (a recording, for example), I do not see how this could be determined.

2. That she actually is in the vegatative state that she indicated she would not want to live in. Is there any hope for recovery? If so, then she probably would not want to be cut off from life support.

If sufficient proof exists for #1, and doctors confirm #2, then her life should be ended. If there is any doubt on either, removing her from life support would be wrong. While trying to figure this out, her own resources should be used to keep her alive (of course, in accordance with her will).

An interesting question on this would be if someone goes into a vegatative state, do they retain their rights, and therefore ownership of their assets? Are they still humans with individual rights or are they demoted to the status of an animal? If the later, and if they do not stipulate in a will that they want their resources to keep themselves alive if they enter a vegatative state (or if they don't even have a will), should it be assumed that they'd want the money to go to that purpose, or should the money be passed along to the spouse/family members?

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You seem to have made that determination for her, just in the other direction.

Nonsense. That is for her husband to make. I merely expressed the opinion that it is not up to Congress.

People seem to have this image of Terri Schiavo in their head where she's hooked up to all this life support equipment with no perception of the world around her. The fact of the matter is she's only hooked up to a feeding tube, and supposedly reacts to stimuli (obviously in a very basic form). She isn't a burden on anyone else (her family has repeatedly said they will care for her allowing her husband to just run off), so why is there such eagerness to pull the feeding tube?

Perhaps euthanasia or assisted suicide would be more appropriate.

She has no quality of life. Her senses are non-functional. And she is a burden upon her family. Perhaps her parents ought to take her out of hospice and assume responsibility for her life, rather than burden the courts with this issue any longer.

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