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Date Posted: 10:54:51 03/23/05 Wed
Author: Jean
Subject: What Will Happen to Terri Schiavo?

The Rutherford Institute

I have a question.
What is the difference between this and an abortion if the unborn baby is severaly handicapped?
Or is there no difference?
They are not taking her off of a breathing machine.
They are removing a feeding tube so that she will starve to death/dehydration.
IMHO an abortion would be kinder since it wouldnt take days to kill the handicapped unborn baby.
It will take Terri days to die from no food or water!
If I did that to my dog I would be arrested!
Once again we are not talking about removing a breathing machine from a compleatly brain death person..we are talking about starving to death a woman whos brain has been injuried horriblely...but she sleeps and wakes, she smiles, she is not brain dead...she is alive.
So my question.
How is abortion wrong and this ok?
Is this kind of like doctor assisted suiside? and is that ok?

I fear what this is going to do IF she is allowed to be killed in this way.

If I had a baby that was born with serious mental handicaps and decided to end its life by not feeding him/her I would go to jail for murder.
How would this be different then what is being done to Terri.

Will these things be allowed if they are allowed to end Terris life in this matter?
What kind of slippery slope with this start?

I know many claim this is a states issue...but I thought the constitution was to protect LIFE!
That trumps a states right to allow an inocent woman to be straved to death!
Dont it?
What good is the constitution if it does not protect our very life.
No court has charged Terri with a capital crime of which she has been sentanced to death.
Wouldnt an injection be kinder then straving her to death?

this is very sad.

If this is allowed how soon will follow the state deciding for instance that a ward of the court in a situation like Terri wont be starved to death in a like matter(feeding tubes removed), could it be taken to the next step? Could we in our life time see the putting down of the handicapped, the disabled the elderly?
I know it seems farfetched....but is it?

In my mind when it comes to protecting our life...if the state refuses to do it it becomes the federal government to protect that life under the constitution.

How very sad for all of us....how sad what this could start and something our children and beyound will have to deal with!

Feeling no Blessing in this.

What Will Happen to Terri Schiavo?

By Andrew Flusche

On February 25, 1990, Mrs. Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped because of a potassium imbalance. Since that time, she has been bedridden, unable to eat or care for herself (She currently resides at Hospice Woodside in Pinellas Park, Florida). In medical terms, Mrs. Schiavo lives in a state of minimal consciousness. She breathes on her own, her heart pumps by itself, and she can move some of her muscles. However, Terri Schiavo has also received her nutrition through feeding tubes for 15 years. And though she only shows limited responses, her parents and other family members continue to visit her.

Unfortunately for Mrs. Schiavo, trouble also lurks at her door in the form of her husband, Michael Schiavo, who has tried to remove her feeding tubes since 1997. After dozens of court appearances, numerous briefs and other filings, and intervention by the Florida legislature and governor, Mrs. Schiavo still lives today. However, attorneys for her husband maintain that the feeding tubes can be legally removed on February 22. On that day, the Second District Court of Appeals is expected to issue its final order, sending the case back to the Circuit Court and causing the current stay on removing the feeding tubes to expire.1 Because of these legal developments, Terri Schiavo may not have much longer to live.

What Is the Legal Background?
End-of-life decisions are among the most difficult one must make. These decisions become much more complicated when our loved ones disagree about what is in our best interest. In complex cases like Terri Schiavo’s, the courts have established legal rules that govern these decisions. To further understand Mrs. Schiavo’s case, a short description of these rules will be of assistance.

In a similar case of a minimally conscious patient, the United States Supreme Court said, “[i]t is assumed that a competent person would have a constitutionally protected right to refuse lifesaving hydration and nutrition.”2 In conjunction, the courts have developed a doctrine of “substituted judgment” for incompetent patients. “Under this doctrine the court substitutes its judgment for what it finds the patient, if competent, would have done.”3 This method does not attempt to determine what the best interests of the patient are, but what the patient would actually decide if able to. Because the patient cannot make his decision per se, circumstances dictate that the question about what the patient would choose be submitted to a court. The court then acts as surrogate decision-maker.

While making the end-of-life decision, the surrogate “can decide to forego life-sustaining treatment only on the basis of clear and convincing evidence.”4 The surrogate must carefully evaluate all available evidence regarding the patient. In Florida, as in other jurisdictions, when there is a question as to the patient’s wishes, the surrogate must “err on the side of life.”5 In the case of Terri Schiavo, the surrogate has clearly not abided by this default rule.

Michael Schiavo has utilized this court process in his attempt to bring an end to the life of his wife. In February of 2000, Florida Circuit Court Judge Greer ruled as a surrogate for Terri Schiavo that her feeding tube should be removed.6 Mrs. Schiavo’s parents, the Schindlers, appealed the ruling, but the appellate court affirmed Judge Greer’s ruling that there was clear and convincing evidence that Terri Schiavo would choose to remove her feeding tube.7 However, as discussed later, there is not much evidence regarding Mrs. Schiavo’s wishes for the removal of the feeding tube so the court should have chosen life. The Schindlers have persisted in their battle to save their daughter, but the courts have favored Michael Schiavo’s plan to remove his wife’s feeding tube, labeling her in a persistent vegetative state.

Is Terri Schiavo in a Persistent Vegetative State?
The court refers to Terri Schiavo as being in a persistent vegetative state, but what does that really mean? According to the Florida Statutes, “’Persistent vegetative state’ means a permanent and irreversible condition of unconsciousness in which there is: (a) The absence of voluntary action or cognitive behavior of any kind. (b) An inability to communicate or interact purposefully with the environment.”8 As noted above, Terri Schiavo currently cannot feed herself or interact with her environment in the ways that most people take for granted. However, she does not lie in her bed without “any” cognitive behavior. For example, Mrs. Schiavo recognizes her family members, can blink when asked to, and exhibits emotions such as smiling.9 Nevertheless, the courts have deemed these simple actions insufficient to qualify as cognitive behavior.

Furthermore, a recent medical study suggests that current medical diagnoses of patients in persistent vegetative states may be inaccurate. According to a study published in the Journal of Neurology, minimally conscious patients exhibit similar brain activity to healthy patients when a loved one recounts shared stories and experiences.10 While the study admittedly examined only two patients, doctors obtained similar results when examining seven other patients in the same manner.11 Unfortunately for Terri Schiavo, this study will need to be performed on many more patients and must be reviewed by the medical community before it can have any weight as a legal argument. However, the study does suggest that minimally conscious patients may indeed have cognitive activity; they just cannot express themselves in ways that we recognize.

What Would Terri Schiavo Want?
The main obstacle in determining what Mrs. Schiavo would want to happen in this situation is that she had not executed a living will at the time of her accident. As the appellate court further observed, “She had been raised in the Catholic faith, but did not regularly attend mass…. Her statements to her friends and family about the dying process were few and they were oral.”12 Finding only minimal evidence of her wishes, the appellate court upheld the circuit court’s ruling that Terri Schiavo would want her feeding tubes removed.

Another dilemma in ascertaining what Mrs. Schiavo would want hinges upon the definition of life support. In 1990, at the time of her accident, the Florida legislature had specified that “[t]he term ‘life-prolonging procedure’ does not include the provision of sustenance” unless otherwise stated in a living will or other end-of-life directive.13 Thus, any statements that Mrs. Schiavo might have made before her accident would probably not support the conclusion that she would not want her feeding tubes removed. Stating that she would not want to be on life support or to have life-prolonging procedures in place would most likely mean that she would not want to be on a ventilator or other medical machines of that nature.

Even if Terri Schiavo had said that she would want sustenance revoked in a situation like this, the courts have ignored a vital component to her rights: she can change her mind. The Schindlers brought up this argument in their amicus curiae brief for the Florida Supreme Court. They argued:

[I]f a new drug or adult stem cell therapy were to be developed that could restore Terri to full cognitive function, it would be absurd to pursue her alleged prior wishes to withhold food and fluids instead of asking whether Terri, considering subsequent medical developments, might not rather wish to continue with food and fluids after all.14

This argument focuses on the important distinction that the surrogate decision-maker must exercise substituted judgment, not judgment in the best interests of the patient. Since a competent patient can change his or her mind about discontinuing treatment, it stands to reason that an incompetent patient can do likewise. By not taking into account what Mrs. Schiavo’s present-day decision would be, the surrogate is not exercising proper substituted judgment. Her guardian, however, does not seem to mind.

Should Michael Schiavo Be Her Guardian?
Throughout all of these legal proceedings, Terri Schiavo has been represented by her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo. However, there are certain conflicts of interest that raise doubts about Mr. Schiavo truly being a good guardian for his wife. First, he has been living with another woman for 10 years, with whom he has fathered two children. Mr. Schiavo has also argued against divorcing his wife. It stands to reason that if he divorced his wife, he would lose any claim to the money left over from her medical malpractice lawsuit.

In addition, Mr. Schiavo has shown wanton disregard for his wife’s health, most notably by denying antibiotic treatment for a potentially fatal urinary tract infection in September of 1995, and refusing to allow other medical treatments for her. According to the Florida Statutes, Michael Schiavo’s failure to provide Terri Schiavo with basic medical treatment for her infection makes him guilty of neglect of a disabled person, which is a third degree felony.15 Yet throughout all of this, the courts have refused to remove Michael Schiavo from his guardianship position, causing the tragic and inhumane situation for Terri Schiavo today.

What Is the Humane Result?
Terri Schiavo’s case presents a myriad of legal issues that truly have life or death consequences. A severely disabled woman lies in her hospice bed while family members, lawyers, and courts battle over whether she should live or die a slow death of starvation. Among all of these legal arguments, the humane result emerges. Since Terri Schiavo did not execute a living will to direct what would happen in this situation, nor did she emphatically explain to her family what she wanted to happen, the courts should default to life and save Mrs. Schiavo. Removing Mr. Schiavo as guardian seems to be the best way to save Terri Schiavo’s life.


1) See Associated Press, Terri Schiavo's feeding tube could be removed Feb. 22, attorney says (Feb. 9, 2005), available at http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/southflorida/sfl-0209terryschiavo,0,3142746.story?coll=sfla-home-headlines (last visited Feb. 9, 2005).
2) Cruzan v. Director, Missouri Dep't of Health, 497 U.S. 261 (1990).
3) In re Guardianship of Barry, 445 So. 2d 365, 370-371 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1984).
4) In re Guardianship of Browning, 543 So. 2d 258, 273 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 1989).
5) Id.
6) See A comprehensive Timeline and Archive of the Terri Schindler-Schiavo case, Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation available at http://www.terrisfight.org/timeline.html (last visited Feb. 9, 2005).
7) See In re Guardianship of Schiavo, 780 So. 2d 176 (Fla. Dist. Ct. App. 2001).
8) Fla. Stat. § 765.101(12) (2004).
9) See Myths versus Facts, Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation, available at http://www.terrisfight.org/myths.html (last visited Feb. 10, 2005).
10) Benedict Carey, Signs of Awareness Seen in Brain-Injured Patients, N.Y. TIMES, Feb. 8, 2005, available at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/02/08/science/08coma.html?ei=5099&en=1a8d6900db5e4350&ex=1108443600 (last visited Feb. 10, 2005).
11) Id.
12) In re Guardianship of Schiavo, 780 So. 2d at 180.
13) 1990 Fla. Laws ch. 223.
14) Amicus Curiae Brief of Terri Schiavo's Parents Mary and Robert Schindler Supporting Appellant and Filed with the Consent of the Parties, Bush v. Schiavo, 885 So.2d 321 (Fla. 2004).
15) Fla. Stat. § 825.102(3)(a)-(c) (2004).

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