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UPDATE: Terri Schiavo

post #1 of 55
Thread Starter 
Governor of Florida Orders Woman Fed in Right-to-Die Case


TALLAHASSEE, Fla., Oct. 21 — Six days after the feeding tube of a brain-damaged woman was removed in a case that pitted her husband against her parents, Gov. Jeb Bush ordered it reinserted on Tuesday after the Legislature empowered him to do so. The extraordinary step overrides years of court rulings.

The woman, Terri Schiavo, was to receive intravenous hydration on Tuesday evening, after a day of wrenching debate in the Legislature. Mrs. Schiavo was taken by ambulance from a hospice to a hospital in Clearwater, near Tampa, where doctors could not begin feeding her until she was adequately hydrated, her sister, Suzanne Carr, said.

"I'm overwhelmed, I'm grateful, I'm scared," Ms. Carr said. "I will sleep like a baby tonight, once I hear she's O.K. But we know this might not be over."

Lawyers for Mrs. Schiavo's husband, Michael, promptly challenged the governor's stay, seeking an injunction in the Sixth Circuit Court. Late Tuesday, a judge denied the request for an immediate injunction, saying he needed time to review the law.

Mr. Schiavo has sought the removal of his wife's feeding tube since 1998, testifying that she told him she would never want to be kept alive artificially. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought Mr. Schiavo every step of the way, exhausting their legal options only last week. They have made videos of their daughter, now 39, appearing to smile, grunt and moan in response to her mother's voice and to follow a balloon with her eyes.

But most doctors say that people in vegetative states make such gestures involuntarily and that they have no cognitive function.

In the Capitol on Tuesday afternoon, an impassioned, often angry debate about whether the Legislature had the moral and legal authority to pass the measure sounded more like a group therapy session than a governmental dialogue. Many lawmakers drew on their own religious beliefs and experiences with death, sometimes choking up as they described the drawn-out illness of a parent or spouse.

Senator James E. King Jr., the Republican who is Senate president, gave all the senators applications for living wills. He urged them to fill out the forms immediately and to circulate such forms among their constituents.

"I really do hope that we've done the right thing," Mr. King said after the Senate passed the measure, 23 to 15. "I keep on thinking, what if Terri didn't want this to happen at all? May God have mercy on all of us."

Other lawmakers said that the Legislature was blatantly violating the separation of the executive and legal branches, and that they were ashamed of the measure, especially because the Legislature had not heard evidence in the complicated case and many lawmakers were only learning details about it this week.

"This chamber is not the appropriate place to be the trier of fact on an issue that just came to us this morning," said Senator Steven A. Geller, a Democrat from Hallandale Beach. "You need to think of the precedent we are setting here."

Unlike most people at the center of right-to-die cases, Mrs. Schiavo is not elderly, comatose or hooked up to a respirator. Florida's so-called right-to-die law allows courts to consider testimony about the wishes of someone on life support if the person left no written directive.

Although she can breathe on her own, Mrs. Schiavo has depended on the feeding tube for sustenance since 1990, when her heart stopped temporarily because of what some doctors diagnosed as a potassium deficiency. She was 26 and had not signed a living will. For the last few years, she has resided at Hospice House Woodside in Pinellas Park, about 20 miles southwest of Tampa.

On Monday, Mr. Schiavo, who has not granted interviews for months, released a long statement explaining why he wanted his wife to die and saying that he, like the Schindlers, was grieving. He said that he had sought a cure for Mrs. Schiavo for years, even experimenting with implanting electrodes in her brain to stimulate its function.

Mr. Schiavo also said that his wife had been tested three times to see if she could swallow food on her own and had failed. When Mr. Bush submitted a friend-of-the-court brief on behalf of the Schindlers a few weeks ago, he argued that Mrs. Schiavo should undergo such tests before being allowed to die.

"I never wanted Terri to die," Mr. Schiavo said in the statement. "I was hiding behind my hope and selfishly ignoring Terri's wishes."

It was unclear who the prime mover behind the bill was: Mr. Bush, who has publicly sided with Mrs. Schiavo's parents and tried twice before to intervene on their behalf, or Johnnie B. Byrd Jr., the Republican speaker of the House, who is running for the United States Senate and courting conservative votes. Some supporters of the Schindlers said on Tuesday that Mr. Bush had approached Mr. Byrd about taking up the bill, but Mr. King, the Senate president, said it was all Mr. Byrd's doing.

Mr. Byrd was eager to claim credit for the measure, which passed the House 73 to 24. "I was chewing on his leg," he said of his 11th-hour efforts to get Mr. King to take up the legislation in the Senate. The Legislature was supposed to discuss only economic development in this week's special session, but Mr. Bush expanded the agenda on Monday to include the Schiavo case after Mr. Byrd expressed eagerness to take up the issue.

Legal scholars questioned the constitutionality of the bill, which was written to apply only to Mrs. Schiavo. Courts are often skeptical about legislation that benefits or burdens only one person, even when its impact is only prospective. Such legislation is often attacked as a denial of equal protection and due process.

The legal situation becomes even more tangled, the scholars said, when the legislation is not only retroactive but seeks to undo a judicial action. That can give rise to a showdown between the legislative and judicial branches. Historically, the courts have tended to win those fights.

Lars Noah, a law professor at the University of Florida who specializes in medical technology, said the new law was unconstitutional.

"The legislation interferes with the judicial power," he said. "The Legislature is not writing new rules. It's trying to unsettle a vested process."

The legislation authorizes Mr. Bush to issue a "one-time stay," but it does not specify what, precisely, he is staying, to whom he would issue the stay or what power he has to enforce it. For that reason, too, Professor Noah said the measure was problematic.

"This is going to perplex medical professionals who are trying to honor the patient's wishes as best they understand it," he said.

In a brief conversation with reporters on Tuesday, Mr. Bush shied away from questions about whether the bill was constitutional, saying it was not for him to decide.

"These are unique circumstances," he said. "I don't think you'll see me or the Legislature on a regular basis passing laws that deal with individuals or handfuls of people."

Mrs. Schiavo's parents have waged a public-relations war as well as a legal one, and tens of thousands of people around the world have joined their case, bombarding the governor and legislative leaders with e-mail messages and phone calls. Mr. Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, said earlier this month that the governor was making an appeal to the right wing of his party, especially to religious conservatives, by inserting himself in the Schiavo case.

Randall Terry, a prominent anti-abortion advocate who founded Operation Rescue, has been at the Schindlers' side for much of the last week, holding prayer vigils in front of Mrs. Schiavo's hospice and comparing Mr. Bush to Pontius Pilate for not halting the death.

Mr. Terry said he preferred an early version of the bill, which would have put a broader moratorium on deaths by starvation and dehydration. The Senate insisted that the original bill be amended so that only Mrs. Schiavo could be affected. The final bill allows the governor to step in only in cases in which a patient has no living will, is in a persistent vegetative state, has had a feeding tube removed and has a family member challenging the removal.

Michael Vito, the fiance of Mrs. Schiavo's sister, Ms. Carr, said that Mrs. Schiavo's eyes had been open when the family visited her on Tuesday afternoon at Hospice Woodside in Pinellas Park, but that she looked gaunt.

"She had very dark circles under her eyes and looked very drawn," Mr. Vito said. "The feeling is we are cautiously optimistic."
post #2 of 55
Barbara Bush needs to hold a family get together. She should sit her sons side by side and then KNOCK their fool heads together! What in the world is going on? I thought it was doctors that were supposed to want to "play God" not politicians! Having been there, done that in the very recent past my opinion is to let the poor woman go! Her family (other than her husband) is suffering from delusions and selfishness!
I've seen the tapes of this woman and she isn't there anymore. I'm saying this from experience. Even if she was there, it's a quality of life issue. What kind of life is she going to have? None. We're not talking about compromised quality of life, we're talking NO quality of life.
post #3 of 55
what her family is doing is TERRIBLE! the woman has been in a coma for 13 (?) years now! if she wanted to die, which her husband would know, why keep her living as a veggie? no one really wants that...let her die with her dignity, rather than force feeding her and hoping that one day she'll magically wake up.

this is rather scary, because the last time he called, DH and i were discussing this, and how neither of us would want to be a veggie in a comatose state; both of us agreed that if such a thing were to happen, we'd want the plug pulled. it's sickening to think that at our age, we'd have to go through the trouble of signing a living will...

i agree Kids, Barbara needs to get off of her butt and knock around those dumb-a$$ children of hers!!! Jeb and the legislature had NO RIGHT AT ALL to do any of that!
post #4 of 55
hear, hear kidsncats. whats wrong with people - you wouldnt do that to a cat (or any animal for that matter. )
post #5 of 55
I also saw videotape of this woman. She did not look to be in a coma to me. She seemed to be responding to her mother. This case shows so clearly why living wills are a must. You must let your decisions be known in writing. Her husband gains from her death financially.
I think we should not judge these people. They are doing what they think is right for their daughter. I just feel sadness when I think about the agony they are in.
post #6 of 55
The whole thing is sad. I agree with Nora - we do not know the full story.
post #7 of 55
Often with brain trauma people will "respond" to noise and flashy things. They aren't responding as you or I would respond. It is reflex. I know this from experience having watched my mother do the same things. They will "watch" a TV screen, but change the channel to something they hated when they were aware and there is no response, they still "watch".

Aside from the debate about whether she's in a vegetative state or not, I raise the quality of life issue again. What kind of life is this for her? Again, I speak from experience. My mother had a severe stroke. She lost the ability to speak and the use of her right side. She was in a coma for a week. She DID come out of the coma. Want to know what her response was? Was it "Thank you for not unplugging me?" NO. She grabbed her husbands collar and yanked him to her. Her best friend was in the room and asked "Are you pi$$ed at him?" Mom nodded. She was FURIOUS that they had ignored her wishes. She was aware for about 2 weeks before her 2nd stroke(two weeks in which she was furious and depressed). She again lapsed into a coma. Did my stepfather comply with her wishes about being "unplugged?" Nooooooo. Mom was a special case in that she was also a leukemia patient, her leukemia was deemed untreatable shortly after the 2nd stroke, and my mother was FINALLY let go. They withheld nutrition though not hydration and she passed quietly.

I have been EXACTLY where this husband is. At the "family meetings" about Mom, I was one of the ones screaming to respect her wishes. It is an awful feeling, but it was what my mother wanted. I had almost nothing to gain financially from letting her go.

Mom never wrote down her wishes, but she made them known. My stepfather was unable to let go, which is where her family is I'm sure. Though I don't feel that excuses ignoring what she would have wanted.
post #8 of 55
I think that the lesson here for all of us is to make a living will, now, not under some stressful situation, and make sure family knows about it.

I am glad that with my mother, we did not have a family argument about what to do. And I was with the hospice nurse, my father and my mother when the nurse explained, and had Dad sign the DNR order. That is very difficult to do. I am just glad that we had a wonderful nurse to help.
post #9 of 55
The problem with this case is that only the husband is saying that he knows what he wishes are. The parents are saying that she said no such thing. So - it is a problem of his word against theirs. The parents do not gain financially from her death or life. This is their child - they brought her into the world - they should have some say.

My father has a DNR and we all know it. There is and will be no argument. We will do as he wishes.
post #10 of 55
Mr. Schiavo has sought the removal of his wife's feeding tube since 1998, testifying that she told him she would never want to be kept alive artificially. But her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought Mr. Schiavo every step of the way, exhausting their legal options only last week. They have made videos of their daughter, now 39, appearing to smile, grunt and moan in response to her mother's voice and to follow a balloon with her eyes. But most doctors say that people in vegetative states make such gestures involuntarily and that they have no cognitive function.
Obviously, this is extremely difficult for Mrs. Schiavo's parents and husband, and it's very sad that they have been disagreeing so strongly and so long about this. I agree that the best thing anyone can do is to make their wishes known in a living will ASAP.
post #11 of 55
What a nightmare. I only hope that her wishes are respected, and that she is not suffering pain during this time. I guess this is a lesson that we all (this poor woman was only 26!) need to make a living will to make our wishes known NOW.

Is it just me, or have the executive and legislative branches of our government been stepping all over the judicial branch lately? Whatever happened to separation of powers?
post #12 of 55
Thread Starter 
My prayers and thoughts are with Terri
post #13 of 55
Originally posted by tuxedokitties
Is it just me, or have the executive and legislative branches of our government been stepping all over the judicial branch lately? Whatever happened to separation of powers?
This is honestly the part of this whole story that bothers me the most. It sets a frightening precedent-if you don't like what a court decides, pass emergency legislation and get it shot down. What happened to crafting a bill, debating and voting on it? Very scary.
post #14 of 55
I am outraged by this on so many levels I don't even know where to start.

Beyond going against this woman's apparent wishes, and keeping her alive with no quality of life; beyond the apparent selfishness of parts of her family; beyond any financial gain the husband may incur (although I doubt after 13 years of intense medical care, he would actually gain much of anything - I would venture a guess that the majority of any life insurance paid out would go directly to the hospital) - the legal and political ramifications of this action are dumbfounding.

The government at this level has NO right to interfere in the matters of individuals and families. That is for the courts and ONLY the courts to resolve. It doesn't matter how many votes it will garner for the legislators, this was beyond their scope of power.

And then for them to turn this into a Christian, moral argument.... There is the whole separation of church and state thing that they have apparently forgotten. This isn't a Biblical argument. Biblically, the parents of the woman have no standing.

Genesis 2:22-24

22 Then the LORD God made a woman from the rib [10] he had taken out of the man, and he brought her to the man.
23 The man said,

"This is now bone of my bones
and flesh of my flesh;
she shall be called 'woman, [11] '
for she was taken out of man."

24 For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.
Now, perhaps that is taken out of context since Biblically women also have no standing legally.

But regardless, under the current political climate the United States is quickly becoming the Theocratic Nation. It feels to this non-Christian that the Right to Freedom of Religion is changing to being Allowed Freedom of Religion. I am NOT OK with legislative rulings based soley on Christian Dogma.
post #15 of 55
Having lost both parents to cancer and seeing how their quality of life deteriorated towards the end, I wouldn't wish this upon anyone! Mom wanted home hospice so that she couldn't be in a situation where a hospital forced life support measures on her (mom was a wise woman). We all set up living wills after her death to formally document our DNR wishes, although I understand that if not done properly, there can be loopholes in these (have a lawyer look at it if you set one up on your own).

I'm sad for the family and angry at the government.
post #16 of 55
Originally posted by tuxedokitties
Is it just me, or have the executive and legislative branches of our government been stepping all over the judicial branch lately? Whatever happened to separation of powers?
The current administration has thrown it out the window. Ditto separation of church and state.
post #17 of 55
Read these articles. Has Mike Schiavo done right by his wife? Do you think he has given her the proper care she deserves? I do not think so.

post #18 of 55
I am wondering something after reading those articles - how exactly did she end up like this? Just collapsed? Stroke? What?
post #19 of 55
She collapsed from a chemical imbalance, and I think it also had something to do with her heart. It's on MSNBC's home page today.
I think that the court should respect her husband's wishes and let her go. She has been in a vegetative state for the last 10 years. Honestly, I wouldnt want to be in a vegetative state. The parents need to realize that she won't be normal ever again. I think it is horrible that the gov't is interveaning in this case. Also about the his against the parents word ... maybe it's possible she never got around to telling them or never had that discussion with them, but that doesnt give them the right. Sorry, but this is my opinion. I would be royally pissed if someone tried to keep me alive on tubes if I were like that and went against my wishes. By keeping her alive, it's just tormenting everyone
post #20 of 55
If this woman did make it clear that she didn't want to live like this (and who would, for one month, let alone 10 years) then I think she should be allowed to die with dignity. IF being the operative word here.

My mother died of cancer. About 6 months before her death, she pulled me aside and said that if she ended up in a coma, that she didn't want to live that way. If her parents (my grandparents) tried to intervene and stop my stepfather from letting her go, she wanted me to tell them how every day was painful for her and that they had no idea how bad it was since they weren't around on a daily basis.

Her heart did stop one day, she was brought back in a coma state. We all said our goodbyes and let her go. Thankfully noone was in disagreement about that.

I agree Heidi, after 10 years of daily hospital and hospice care, the husband is not going to be making out like a bandit. I don't feel like he is being driven by money. For 10 years he has put his life on hold, looking for a solution (if you can believe what you read) and if there is no hope of her ever coming out of this, he deserves to have closure. I can't imagine the agony of spending 10 years in suspended animation, not able to move back or forward in your life, frozen in a nightmare.
post #21 of 55
Terri suffered heart failure in 1990. Whether her husband is after the malpractice money or not is moot to me. This woman is NOT going to get any better. To me it's a clear case of her parents just not wanting to let go. In the article I read today, one doctor said that where her cerebral cortex sgould be is nothing but a blackhole of spinal fluid. We are bombarded with this story in the news, as it takes place in the Tampa Bay area.
post #22 of 55
I cynically think this is an action by the Bushes to placate the rightwing Republicans who haven't been happy with some of the more middle of the road things he has done. It is hard to find a web reference on this topic which is not related to the Christian right, groups against assisted suicide, and groups against abortion. All of these issues now seem twisted together in this case.

Having worked in hospitals, the process of taking a person off of 'life' support is a complex one, usually handled by an ethics committee which has representatives from many disciplines. I worked in a Catholic hospital where people were taken off of life support, because there was an acknowledgment that the body was now just a shell. This is one area that no MD takes lightly. The woman's husband has been trying to take her off of lifesupport for several years now, and multiple neurologists have testified that she is brain dead. The court appointed neurologist agreed as well. I have not read anywhere that any of the medical institutions that she has been in, have gone to court in support of the parents.
post #23 of 55
This is very sad, because it has become a political issue. In that many many people are using this case to lobby for their point of view. It should never have come to this, the individual tragedy being exploited by politicians and groups with a political agenda.

The difficult issue at hand is whether she should be taken off life support. That is very painful to decide. The other issue is who gets to decide that!

My own personal feelings aside, I can understand why the parents feel the way they do. And I cannot decide whether this woman should be kept alive in her current state. But neither should the government in this case! The hospitals have a well managed process by which these decisions are made, all the time. And that process is what should prevail, not intervention by lobbyists and governments who have something else to gain.
post #24 of 55
This is such a difficult and painful case.

What's right, medically? On one side are the doctors who strongly assert that there's no chance for recovery. And yet other docs claim that there's a possibility for some minor improvement. I remember this case -- a woman who recovered after a 16-year vegetative state, where no one thought she would ever awaken. She's still brain damaged, but she's able to recognize and interact with people and her now-grown-up children.

What's right, emotionally? Whose love and feelings should count more? The parents love Terri and have known her all her life, and are obviously willing to take care of her as long as it takes. But her husband knows her intimately as an adult, and says that they've even discussed this sort of scenario with Terri wanting a DNR. Who knows best? (While allegedly he's now living with another woman, that doesn't mean anything -- it's been 13 years and it'd be natural for him to move forward).

I have to admit that I'm disturbed by the reports that her husband put her in a hospice where she has gotten no rehabilitation over the past ten years, despite the malpractice suit funds that were supposed to be used for that express purpose. There are also vague claims that he may have caused the injury in the first place; doctors say that she did have a "stiff neck" possibily indicative of a strangle attempt. Do I believe this? I dunno. Anyone can accuse anyone of anything, and in a battle like this, things are bound to be pretty darn ugly.

I believe that people have the right to decide on the type of care they should receive in case of a tremendously debilitating, devastating accident or illness. Sometimes nothing can be done. Earlier this year, my sisters and I had to make a DNR decision for my Pop, who spent a week in a drug-induced coma after injuring his spinal cord in a fall and then developed pneumonia. The doctors kept having to give him more and more medications to keep him alive. Finally we agreed that the doctors should slowly increase his morphine (to keep him pain-free) and not continue to push new medications to restart his heart. The end came shortly after, thankfully peaceful.

So as awful a decision as it is, I respect and empathize with those who feel the time has come for no extraordinary measures. However, what bothers me most is the form of life support they are attempting to deny her. If she were attached to a respirator that was doing the breathing for her, and had no ability to remain alive on her own, that would be one thing. If, as with my father's situation, it was a case of having to force the heart into continuing to beat, I'd also understand that decision.

But removing nutrition and fluids? That feels wrong. It's starving and dehydrating her to death, by all accounts a horrible, painful way to die. Food and water are necessities, normal everyday things that everyone needs to survive. It seems cruel and unusually inhumane to me. I mean, we wouldn't accept that as a method for ending our cats' lives -- we'd charge people with abuse if they withheld food and water!

On yet another hand (see how much I waffle???) ... the people who are in favor of keeping her alive are rightwing zealots such as Jeb Bush and Randall freakin' Terry. And for me, any issue on which I find myself aligning with reactionary people like that needs some serious reconsideration!

So in summary, I don't know what to think or feel. All I know is that it's awful, and one more reason that people need to create Living Wills that spell out in detail what measures they want used.
post #25 of 55
This case brings up bad memories for me. My grandmother died of breast cancer in 1982. She had congestive heart failure right before she died, and the hospital revived her against her wishes. I have never seen a person more pissed off than she was. She survived a little over 24 hours after her resuscitation, which, by the way, was absolutely not what she wanted or had put in writing. The hospital totally ignored her "living will". I know it goes against the teachings of many religions, but I'm now in favor of euthansia. I have had pets put to sleep, and was present when a close friend with terminal pancreatic cancer was (illegally) euthanized by a doctor. I can only describe it as an act of mercy. Abuse is possible, certainly, but seeing a beloved person or animal going through agony really makes you think about what is "humane" or "inhumane". We are all going to die at some point, just to make room for the coming generations. Isn't it better to go without pain, fear, and the guilty feelings of being a "burden"? That's what I wish.
post #26 of 55
jcat, this brings up unhappy memories for me, too. My mother was diagnosed with metastatic colon cancer in my freshman year of college. For almost two years she and my dad fought her illness, but unfortunately it was a fight they couldn't win. During Christmas break my junior year of college, the doctors discovered that despite their efforts, the cancer had spread. Mom was put in a hospice and given weeks to live. While she was there, she and Dad signed a living will and a DNR (do not resuscitate) order. Because Mom had been getting major doses of pain control, the ethics committee of her hospice were reluctant to sign off on the orders. It took the testimony of her doctors, her nurses, my father and her spiritual counselor (a wonderful Fransiscan Friar, Brother Christopher) before they would recognize her wishes. I think that nowadays, too many care facilities are worried about potential lawsuits to recognize the wishes of patients. And that's sad-my Mom knew her battle was over, and wanted to end it in the way she wanted. Maybe we need to give more weight to what the patients want.
post #27 of 55
Thread Starter 
I still say that if she would have drawn up a will this whole
thing could have been avoided - even so i still feel sorry
for Terri and her family.it's not that easy to let go
post #28 of 55
She was so young at the time that she probably didn't give it a thought.
post #29 of 55
From what I understand, the nursing home porvides Terri's care for free. All I can think of is not wanting that to be me plastered all over tv like that. It certainly is sad that a politician uses it to garner support for his job and scary that some law was thrust into existence overnight.
post #30 of 55
All I can say is this: What else did you expect from a Bush? They have this old fashioned Bible thumping belief system going on. At least when it comes to human rights.

Of course that woman should have the right to die with dignity. However, no Bush is gonna care about basic human dignity. It's sad, but it doesn't surprise me one little bit!
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