controversy over allowing woman in coma to die

I have been hearing bits and pieces about this woman who has apparently(?) been in a lengthy coma, Terri Schiavo. Her parents want her to keep getting tube feedings while her husband wants her to be allowed to die.
Story on cnn about it:
http://www.cnn.com/2003/LAW/09/23/comatose.woman.ap/index.html

The parents have a webpage at http://www.terrisfight.org where they insist that she is responsive and that she just needs better rehab care to improve.
What would you say is the justification for not letting the family try to rehab her before they remove her feeding tube? If she was given therapy, either she would get better or she wouldn’t, and it seems to me then the controversy would be settled. If Terri is in a coma it seems unlikely that she is aware enough to be suffering from staying alive so why not let them try to get her to eat on her own?
I’m curious to see what others think of this case.

The woman doesn’t appear to be “in a coma.” She appears to be conscious and aware of her environment and responsive to other people. According to the website, “Terri smiles, laughs and cries. Terri recognizes voices and responds. At times, she vocalizes sounds, trying in her best way to speak.”

Let’s not kill her.

Yeah. She doesn’t seem to be quite in a “vegetative state” to me either.

There’s a big difference, too, between being allowed to die and being killed.

Termination of medical care is one thing. What we’re talking about here, though, is food and water. Dying this way is very painful and inhumane.

She should be cared for.

Some severely brain-damaged people can make facial expressions and noises even though all higher function has been destroyed. Desperate families sometimes interpret this as evidence of consciousness and responsiveness when it really isn’t. It’s not much more than reflex and primitive stimulus-response reaction.

Without knowing more about the facts of the case, I don’t think we can accept either side as presented.

At the risk of sounding callous, who is picking up the tab?

Too bad this woman got dealt a bad hand. But IMO at present she is consuming far too many resources - both monetary and emotional. Just because existence can be prolonged through technology and expensive care does not mean that it should be.

According to the website, the husband got a settlement of about three quarters of a million dollars which was explicitly designated by the courts for the care of his wife. As she has no will and is obviously not in a condition to make, he would inherit all of that money should she die legally.

I pray to whatever god or gods there may be that no one like you will ever be in a position to make such a life-or-death decision for me or anyone I care deeply about.

Yes, they’re called “liberals.”

The facts of the case are pretty clear. She does in fact show awareness of her surroundings and responds to people. This isn’t a borderline case. She may be severely brain damaged, but she is * not * a vegetable. Let’s not kill her.

Polecat -

That website was set up by her parents, who are desperate for her not to be in a coma, and to be responsive.

Unless you’re suggesting that the husband wants her to die just so he can get the money.

I think without talking to her doctors, there is no way to say that the facts are clear.

Well, that’s a safe bet, whatever gods you choose to pray to.

I “pray” that you are able to foot the bill for your prolonged care. And I hope you derive some satisfaction over having your worthless continued existence dominate the lives of those you used to love.

It’s a tough, tough thing to declare someone’s life worthless.

A bad thing, too, to have someone’s death on your hands.

I don’t think you need to believe in God to agree that playing him is a bad idea.

In this case, what we’re talking about is letting someone die of thirst. If you do it to a newborn, it’s murder. It is a far cry indeed from termination of medical care or life support.

I agree - euthanasia would be far more humane.

Individuals with no higher brain activity (operating solely on subcortical reflexes) have responses to noises and interactions like voices, hand stroking, and bright lights.

The problem is that there’s no “awareness” of these things in any mental sense. The body is merely responding to stimuli in a very basic and elementary sense. It does not imply consciousness, the ability to feel pain, emotions, the ability to recognize loved ones, or any other kind of humanity. Prick the body with a pin, and it might flinch away, but the mind feels nothing. There is no more mind.

Do you have any idea how difficult it is for medical staff to convince grieving families that the behaviors they perceive as responses from their loved one are just reflexes? Nurses and doctors are with the patient constantly – they can tell what things the patient responds to, and they’re not blinded by desperation and love.

I’d put my money on that statement being true. The circumstances surrounding her initial collapse have always been described as ‘mysterious’; they never really determined what caused her condition.

I submit, for your perusal, an interesting document. This is an affadavit from one of Terri’s former nurses. A few brief excerpts from the affadavit:

I’ve been following this case on and off for many years now, and all indicators point towards the husband looking to do her in for the remainder of the settlement money. There’s not nearly enough left for it to be worth his time at this point, but I suspect he’s still pushing for her death to cover his own ass now. He’s got a mistress on the side, already had a kid with her and another one on the way.

This case is just altogether disgusting no matter which way you look at it.

Salient points:

Terri collapsed over ten years ago, and has not, at any point, received any kind of therapy whatsoever. No attempts at therapy were ever even allowed by her husband. How can we know what kind of recovery she may have been capable of making if no attempt was ever made?

Michael Schiavo claims it was never his wife’s intent to be kept under this standard of living, however she did not have a living will. He claims he is fighting for what she would have wanted, and has so far successfully fought for the right to end her life. Without a living will, though, how can we truly know what her intentions may have been? Should not the courts err on the side of life in a situation like this? Do we now open ourselves up to the possibility of fighting to terminate those with what we may consider a ‘lesser quality of life’ than our own, whether or not they can give voice to their own opinion?

Also, another interesting document regarding the case showing a breakdown of just where the $700,000.00 originally awarded has gone. Keep in mind, though that this article was written in 2001, and there have been many subsequent court dates since, so I doubt there’s much of anything left from the remainder of the settlement.

Another article

I’m torn on this one. On the one hand, the woman has been in a coma for ten years. On the other, it’s not like she can’t breathe on her own. They’re talking about starving her to death, which could take about two weeks.

I understand the parents are petitioning for a divorce from Michael, which means they would take over as guardians. I think they’re a little desperate to see any sign of improvement in their daughter, but how many people recover from a coma after that long? Yes, I know there was a man earlier this year who woke up after what, 12 years or so? But it’s not like it’s an every day occurrence.

I guess a distinction has to be made as to whether Terri has passed beyond “existing” to “living.” I think I’m going to depend on the doctors to make this decision, since they are not biased like the parents. But does that still give them the right to starve her to death?

This is a tough one.

This is why I will be sure to have a DNR on file if at all possible.

Actually, that’s a contestable point. She laughs, talks, makes sounds, and turns her head to follow movement. I’d hardly call that being in a coma. You can see videos of her taken by doctors and hospital staff here.

Definitely a call to think about a living will, though.

Actually, that’s a contestable point. She laughs, talks, makes sounds, and turns her head to follow movement. I’d hardly call that being in a coma. You can see videos of her taken by doctors and hospital staff here.

I wouldn’t be too sure about that one, either:
Conflict of Interest Charged in Florida Euthanasia Case

Definitely a call to think about a living will, though.

Yeah - that affadavit sure seals the matter. No reason a fired employee would say anything bad about anyone. Heck - it is a notarized document. It has to be true!

Yet, for some reason, despite the husband’s repeated publicly stated hatred for his wife, his unambiguous desire for monetary gain, and the wife’s clear evidence of sentience, and with the death nurse patrolling the hallways, removal of the feeding tube has repeatedly been authorized.

Yep, the courts are wrong, and the care facility is in on the plot. No one is in the right except the poor fired nurse, the parents who are viewing this objectively, and their dedicated attorney working “nearly” pro bono.

And the man is clearly a demon for having a relationship with another woman over the past decade plus. What a beast!