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February 23, 2005

Bottom line on Terri Shiavo ...

I haven't posted on this issue before. It's a modern Greek tragedy, or almost a Shakespearian mystery fraught with sorrow, twists and accusations. I've read of the updates from time to time and it all came back to a basic question I had and couldn't find an answer for.

Why was this really in court at all? Has our judiciary really lost so much respect, not only for the Rule of Law but for the actual history and philosophy behind Western law, that this event should have dragged on and on and on through the courts for years?

I've been following the story on a few blogs, Straight up with Sherri, La Shawn Barber and the latest by Kevin at Wizbang. In reading and commenting in Wizbang it struck me the very basic things that are lost in the arguments that revolve around Terri's condition or Michael's motives or the how the court ruled. Let me restate here my sentiments in those comments.

I think even debating whether or not she is PVS (permanent vegetative state) is irrelevant. Please understand, her condition is IRRELEVANT. Her parents and her siblings are willing to care for her.

This issue is "she can be cared for" VS "she can be killed." And killed in a very cruel manner (death through starvation is not fun. I've seen pics of kids starved to death by their "parents" in the course of my job and I hope never to see it again.) This should not have caused more than a moments consideration by the court.

I'm a very firm believer in the Rule of Law ... and I also recognize that the LAW does good when it serves as a vehicle for morality. When it fails to serve the moral good, it becomes BAD law ... be it Jim Crow laws, or whatever judicial ruling that allows a man with an obvious conflict of interest to withdraw, not extraordinary life support, but basic food and water.

Somehow, I see this as the equivalent of the ancient practice of leaving helpless and unwanted infants outside to die of exposure and starvation.

Terri may be helpless, but she is not unwanted.

UPDATE Looks like Terri has gotten a reprieve. Sherri is on the case. Do read her blog.

Posted by Darleen at February 23, 2005 07:24 PM


Darleen, your statements about Terri Schiavo both here and on Wizbang are lightyears beyond "top notch." I have thoroughly enjoyed reading what you've had to say and hope to read more. You definitely have a gift.

Posted by: Jinx McHue at February 23, 2005 09:12 PM


Thanks for your help in bringing attention to the Terri Schiavo case!

You ROCK!!!


Posted by: Sherri Reese at February 24, 2005 03:51 PM

I am impressed you would make the stand FOR life. A close friend of mine has been a nurse for years and tells me here are to be no heroic measures to keep her alive should she be comatose for an extended period. The one thing she insists is not to remove nutrition and liquid feeding. Without it a person dehydrates and if they have even the slightest bit of awareness, without liquid feedings they feel like their whole body is on fire. I think you have made a good call.

Posted by: teaspoon at February 24, 2005 08:22 PM

Darleen, you most certainly ROCK and thank you for speaking up for Terri...You hit the bottom line right on target and as a person myself who a week ago had not taken the time to look at the videos of Terri intereacting with her environment and the multitude of court documents and thought Michael was the victim...shame on me :-) due to the McStories put out ther over the years...I encourage those who are arguing with you to take a look at the facts and come up with their own opinions...Very nice job..

Posted by: Crystal CLear at February 24, 2005 11:18 PM

A worthy CoTV post.

I really like your comment:

I'm a very firm believer in the Rule of Law ... and I also recognize that the LAW does good when it serves as a vehicle for morality. When it fails to serve the moral good, it becomes BAD law ...

I am a planner who has written more than my share of ordinances. I only wish that morality was the only thing driving the creation of flaws.

Posted by: VARepublicMan at March 9, 2005 07:20 PM

I agree: Terri's condition truly should not matter. She is alive, and therefore, to starve and dehydrate her to death would be murder. It is a crime to do that to an animal. Why is it ok for a human? And all on the say-so of one man, her husband, who stands to gain by her death. It's a crazy world we live in. No harm would be done to allow her loving family to care for her. If she is killed, a dangerous precedent is set. And I will weep for her.

Posted by: Karen at March 17, 2005 07:36 PM

All those who fall for Michael Schiavo's statements would be fabulous targets for con-men everywhere. Do they really believe him???? They could be sold anything.

Posted by: Sly at March 17, 2005 07:41 PM

Actually, many many forms of research show that the process that the body takes once a feeding tube is removed, the body is in a much better place (and yes, I know all of you are thinking " how could the body be in a better state? It is dying and wasting"). Facts are, the body actually is in less pain and has very little response or discomfort following NG withdrawl (I also lightly add that I am a nurse and I am on a medical ethics board). Most people forget that being in a vegetative state is very taxing on the body: NG (tube feeding) is not exactly good for the body (in fact it leads to a lot of discomfort, the bowels, actually the whole GI system, are/is constantly distressed); not to mention the PT and OT that has to be done for the woman; the woman has to be cared for continuously; if this is not to be included in "suffering," then I don't know what is.
Please, just remember that there is a VAST difference between comparing starving children and a woman who has been in this state (dare I also mention for 15 YEARS!) regardless of the discussion on whether she is in PVS. Also, there is medical interventions in any case that can be applied to the ability not to suffer after a tube feeding is removed: pain being the most significant and obvious application. In cases where you have a DNR order, you still can provide many measures - again, comfort being one of the biggest. Again, this makes this waaaay different than a case that holds no water when you compare Shiavo's case to kids who suffer. That in itself is just insensitive.

On that note, it IS relevant whether she is in a PVS or not...this is where the legal argument of guardianship and power of attorney lies: her parents say no to the removal; her husband (who has guardianship by law) says the past 15 years is not the decision Terri would have wanted. It is relevant because if she were deemed competent she would have the option of deciding for herself and people decide to have their NGs removed every day. If she was just diminished capacity, there would be no question that this life was not beneficial to Terri and no one would have a right to deprive her and her husband the decision to remove the NG tube. It is also relevant because PVS warrants having everything being done for Terri. Everything...her parents want her to be sitting up, then she has to be moved to a sitting up position. Her parents want her to be fed, there is staff who have to do this for her and care has to be planned for her. There is nothing DEPENDENT on Terri, other than she is the body who has this being done to her. Right to life means having a life and having benefit to the person that holds the life.

My question is always to the right to lifers who argue for the NG to stay: if you believe so much that a god gave her life and is keeping her living, what is the big to do about letting her succumb to the condition that was god given (by your argument). What would naturally happen (by god's will) is that she would waste away. It isn't natural to keep her alive when her circumstances would have caused her to die in the same way. My argument is not that there should be no medical intervention. There is a big difference between taking heart medication to help your heart and keeping a person living whom would succumb otherwise (especially when she is dependent on many people, many people who are NOT her family, and don't even get me started on the financial dependency and how many people could have been afforded extension to their own lives who were competent and not dependent on others). More over, why interfere with the decision that is her husband's to be made. It is not mine and it is not yours. If you ever were in the situation of having to make this decision, I hope that you would be allowed to make the decision that you were granted, whether that be for yourself or for your spouse. Is it just "bad law" because it goes against your values and your beliefs or is it "bad law" because it does not provide the benefit it protects? I think, according to your views, you view it as a bad law because you disagree with it for yourself...but this is not about yourself, it is about Terri Shiavo.

And then you make the statement "Terri may be helpless, but she is not unwanted."
Again, you only say that because you disagree, not because it is benevolent or beneficial. You don't think Mr. Shiavo does not want Terri? Have you yourself ever been in the situation to see what that is like to have someone have their SELF taken away, meaning their laughing, heck even their cries, the interaction you have with them as a person. Many people have had this happen to a loved one: parents who are at end of life are often so different from the person they once were, if not just apparent from dementia, let alone every life process taken away like Terri's was. Just because you end the suffering and work to let the suffering end, does not mean that Terri is unwanted. Again, this is very insensitive of you to say.
Additionally, others below the first message have said, for example "her husband, who stands to gain by her death," that what is at issue for her husband gaining. That is just ludicrous. The man has stood by for 15 years. Think to yourself how long 15 years is, and think about giving up a huge portion of that 15 years to a woman you used to be with, you love, who used to engage in conversations with you and tell me he hasn't already given up enough and you really tell me he has "so many things to gain by her dying." Yes, it is called gaining peace and solstice. It is called being able to find peace and know that Terri has been relieved of her suffering. All you see on the news is pictures of Terri "smiling" and blinking...you don't see everything these people have to go through for her every moment of a day. You don't realize that her "smile" is actually what happens when muscles atrophy in the face (dare I remind you of 15 years of atrophy) and not because of an emotion Terri is displaying.
Seriously, I am not trying to insult you, nor the people on this forum. I just think you really need to think about how much this means to that one family and the millions of other families that will have to make similar decisions in the future.

Posted by: Bri at March 18, 2005 01:01 PM

To those who think that it is acceptable for Terry Shiavo to die by dehydration and starvation, and that it is less painful to experience this than having a feeding tube in, then you need to read about the case more.
If Terry were suffering from this feeding, she would show pain, since her nurse reports a pain response when she is menstrating.

However, Terry has shown her family that she is able to laugh and smile when they are there, and she only becomes unresponsive when her husband is around.

If Terry, disabled as she is, is able to percieve pain, but is not in constant pain, then this procedure is going to hurt. I have experienced both chronic dehydration and starvation in the past, and can assure you that it is very painful, and not something that sould be done without pain medication. But Mike, the saint of the euthanasia set, intends to let Terry do this death without benefit of Morphine drip, and experience the thing au natural. I would not do this to a dog, or a serial killer, for that matter, but apparently a man who has a common law wife with kids is considered to be a impartial judge as to whether his wife will suffer from lack of water and food.

I pray that if I am in a similar condition that my killer wuld at least have the common decency f putting the pillow over my face, or putting some rat oison in my IV drip, and not take me out that slow and painful. But apparently this death is less stressful and less painful than being kept alive, and I am not some nurse practiced in killing folk, so what do I know?

Posted by: Jonathan at March 18, 2005 04:04 PM


Are you a case nurse on Terri's staff?

Otherwise, please don't lecture on what is or is not her facial expressions. Its like someone looking at a 6 mo old infant and saying the smile is just gas. Some of the video I've seen shows Terri's eyes tracking. That's not something like Karen Quinlan, a truly PVS victim, does. Guess what, my ex mother-in-law WAS an RN who had Quinlan as one of her patients during the last several years of Quinlan's life. She was permanently curled into a fetal position and NEVER opened her eyes.

Terri never ever told anyone she wanted to be euthanized if she was in such a condition. Her husband only brought up her "secret" conversation to such an desire more than two years after her incident. And the size of the malpractice award was based on his testimony that he'd take care of her the rest of her life, her life span estimated at 50 years. Within a year or so of his receiving that award he started trying to kill Terri. And yes, I use the word "kill" deliberately because that was what he was trying to do by denying her therapy and even antibiotics for a UTI.

The law must/should err on the side of life when a person has NOT left clear instructions via a living will or DNR and when family members (in this case her own parents) are willing and able to take over her care.

Greer showed himself prejudiced against Terri the moment he dismissed the attorney who briefly represented Terri herself declaring HE ALONE would decide what's "best for her." This is the kind of power you wish to support?

Funny, Scott Peterson gets to go through years of careful judicial review by different sets of judges to avoid any similar scenario of a judge acting from personal prejudice.

What capital crime did Terri commit?

Posted by: Darleen at March 19, 2005 09:03 AM

Did anyone ever just stop and think that we (the public, the judges, the doctors, Terri's family and even her husband) prevented God's will from being done? I believe everything happens for a reason. I believe babies are born and die for a reason. I believe children and adults are struck by horrific illness and accidents for a reason. Do I like it, no, of course not. But I believe in God's will. There is no way that God would have struck down Terri in the way he did unless he had a better plan for Terri. And I don't mean the plan of being dragged though the court system for 15 years. Artifical means of feeding Terri have prevented God's plan from following through.

Stop and think. Why did God create the union between man and woman? So that man and woman could become one. A married couple share confidences that even the parents of those idividuals may not know about. Do I share my deepest confidences with my parents? NO, I share them with my husband.

In reading an above comment, it states Terri's husband kept Terri alive for the purposes of receiving a settlement. If there was wrong doing on the part of Terri's original care that put her into this state, then the husband had every right to do what he did. And he also had the right of preserving the woman he married and not the woman that she had become. She is being preserved artificially. Yes, she can breath and has bodily functions, but is she the vibrant young woman she used to be. No, and she will never be again, not even with a feeding tube. Life is tragic and things happen for a reason.

I feel terrible for the parent's of Terri, but why would anyone think that their child would want to lay in a hospital bed for the rest of their NATURAL life, have their diapers changed, and be fed through a tube. Did you ever see a stroke victum who cannot speak. You can see it in their eyes that they are "there" and want so badly to speak, but cannot.

I may sound like a religous fanatic, but I am not. I keep hearing that this is about Terri, but is it really? It makes every married couple stop and think, what would my parent's do if this happened to me. Would my parents turn on my husband? What if I don't have my wishes in writing? Would my parents be so presumptious to think that I would want to live like Terri? Would anyone want to "live" like Terri?

Posted by: NLB at March 21, 2005 09:14 AM

NLB, I completely agree with you! I can see your point and validity without resorting to thinking you are a religious freak. You seem to put into words everything that I mean too.

As a reply to Darleen, you are right that I am not a nurse on this case, but you seem to forget that this case has a profound affect on the cases that I do treat. If you want to simplify it, the law is that the husband is the one who has the designation to make the decision, and I can't help but feel that as much as you want to talk me down because I cannot speak on behalf of Terri by being present in her own case, this does not designate that I am frivolous or incorrect when I talk about physiological evidence and physiological signs, even if they are generalized by normal patterns that evident in most cases of incapacity, if not all. You have to recognize that you cannot speak on her behalf in the way that you criticize for me if you cannot recognize that what I am saying may also be true... you are right, one cannot know unless they are there (so either your or my comments are biasedly supported regardless).

My point is that, even upon admitting this, you have to recognize that 15 years is long enough if things are as I state (and I even concede that if things are as you state, that is 15 years long that I still don't recongize how you can say that benefit of life and quality of life are still enough to overcome the suffering Terri has been in for 15 years) and this is a direct result of the law being vulnerable. If this was not the case, then we would probably have never heard of the case, and you have to recognize that the law is the purveying factor here.

Hands down, you must also admit that Terri is not who she once was and this may be something she never would have wanted to be put through, whether she directly stated it or not (let's face it: how many couples have never had this "talk," yet their spouse would know, more than anyone, that this was/was not what they wanted?). If you want to start bringing up how Terri's husband refused treatment, maybe you should try to be less quick to jump to conclusions that he is forcing undue harm. Most likely he is just trying to let natural processes be what they are and not intervene: especially when he is watching the measures already being taken that just add to suffering.

Let's say things do go as you say they should. Patients, families, etc. will all suffer more consequences than there are here: even if I/you do designate whom I/you want as a guardian, the possibility exists that anyone can act against them and this case is what will be grounds for them to act legally on it. It is much easier to prove/act on these cases to revoke the decision to succumb than it is to fight for the ability to make the decision to stop the measures to allow death to take process. Hence, why we are here, and why these things keep perpetuating.

Your decision to keep life measures going are protected (even when there is no possible way for you to be able to afford the care), and will continue without threat to your decision being carried out: why can't you just accept that not everyone will make the decision that you will make? Isn't that what we really are talking about?

Posted by: Bri at March 21, 2005 12:38 PM

I'm glad I found this. As much as this is not my business, much like everyone else, I feel the need to comment.

I'm outraged. I'm horrified. I can't imagine the courts, federal or otherwise stepping into my business like that. I can't imagine my parents undermining the authority of my husband in such a matter and anyone, absolutely anyone and everyone, not telling them to butt-out.

I am grateful for the legislation in Oregon, short lived as it might be, for the right to die. I hope that I never have the opportunity to use it... but I feel safer knowing that it is there and that should I so choose, given the correct/incorrect circumstances (depending on your point of view) I would/could be provided with a means by which to end my life in a 'humane????' fashion.

Michael... God love you. Amazing stamina! I'm pulling for you. I feel your pain... not completely, not even a smidgen, and thank God for that. I'm hoping that you find the strength and endurance to take this one ALL the way to the mat.

You are speaking for all of us right now... speak up... I need to hear you all the way in Oregon.

Posted by: b at March 21, 2005 05:20 PM

Excuse me, Bri are you GOD ??? Nobody has a right to end life, but God. There is a reason that Terry is still alive.

Micheal Shiavo has moved on in his life. He has a new women and kids. I would want my husband to do the same, but divorce me. The special bond they once shared many years ago is gone.

I wish Micheal Shiavo would have used his time, engery, and money to help Terry live. Just think of where Terry could be today. Now Micheal Shiavo is watching his wife starve to death. What a man!! He must really love her ?????

Posted by: Dena at March 24, 2005 07:11 AM

DId anyone also forget..that Terry's husband wants her cremated IMMEDIATELY after death? Or that HE had been accused of possible spousal abuse even BEFORE she ended up paralized? The medical doctors who took care of her, when she was first in this condition said that she had injuries of broken bones, and some of the broken bones were in her neck..The doctors even said they thought a strangulation was one of the things that PUT her in this state.

So when she passes on, and her husband gets exactly what he wants, and she is immediately cremated.....he's off the hook, isn't he? There can be NO investigation when there is NO autopsy. He even said he wanted No Autopsy.

Did anyone ever stop to think of WHY that is.
I will be the first one to say I feel if she is to die, then God will see to that.....but as many have said...We don't even treat our dogs like this. And if you went out on the street and did this, You'd get the death penalty for it.

Hell, even Death Row inmates get better treatment than this. A lethal injection would even be more humane. At least then, she would only suffer pain for a short instance. Somehow, the whole idea of the COurt saying it's okay to starve her to death, to "let her die in peace".....THEY say...Is THE most disgusting thing I've ever heard of.

Or to give her pain meds? So she isn't going through starvation. That would be much more humane.

Why are we to think we're God? Maybe when it happened, she should have had peace THEN. But no, our society said we should keep her alive THEN...and now we think we have the right to help her die by starvation?

It reminds me of what Hitler did in the concentration camps...he starved them. In MY opinion, the Court system that did this to her..as well as her husband, are no better than Hitler.

If the Court manages to do this, our whole way of life is going to be very scary. watch out world, Big Brother is here:(

Posted by: Melody at March 24, 2005 08:12 PM

I am just so deeply saddened over our court system, and all of this..I just cannot find the words. Terry, even though You may not know it, You are in my Prayers every night. And Your family is deeply inbred in My heart:(

Goddess, Please watch over Terry, whether she lives through this or passes on. Wrap her ni Your loving arms, and Give her peace no matter what happens.
Please also give her family strength, as I am sure they need it now more than ever.
Grant Justice where it is needed.
Thank You, and Blessed Be

Posted by: Melody at March 24, 2005 10:41 PM

I am compelled to post my comments about this case. What sort of a country is the U.S. that it would allow hearsay in a court of law on this matter, yet not allow hearsay on any other legal proceedings.

What sort of a country is the U.S. that it would order anyone to be starved to death, while mass murderers would be forced by court order to be fed through a tube should they go on a hunger strike while in prison?

This is a shameful display of ignorance and discrimination against a disabled woman.

Thank God I live in Canada.

Posted by: Donna at March 26, 2005 06:02 AM

Regarding Terri; for a woman whose husband says she would not want to live in her condition, she has certainly lived a long time.
First for fifteen years and now for over ten days with no food and no water! I've heard that this could be called the 'Will to Live.'
God bless you Terri!

Posted by: Dawna Tully at March 28, 2005 11:28 PM

I just need to comment on the irony of this case. Here's a woman who seemed to get in this state by starving herself and now her parents are forcing her to be fed. I do not think that this young woman would have wanted for her family mother, father, brother and sisters to have put their lives on hold for her or to exhaust all their financial means. Because they are paying for all this correct. And they would be paying out of pocket all her care even when her fund runs out. If she were to live another 15 years they would have the funds to care for her. God did not make a feeding tube, we created it, we go against him in so many ways. If this were to happen to me I would not want my husband to go through the chaos, and burden of caring for my non functioning soul. It is funny how she is only responsive when here family is there and how she speaks when they are there. Perhaps they should take the judge there so he can here her when she's asking to be kept alive and plastered on millions of TV's in the state that she's in. If my parents put me on show this way I would have no words for them.

Posted by: gina at March 29, 2005 08:23 AM

Wow Dawna that sounds pretty harsh. First of all there is no proof that this was brought on by an eating disorder, that was just a presumption. However there were allegations of abuse before this even happened. As for her family, would you give up on your daughter if there was reason to believe that her husband physically abused her, then once she is in this condition he claims that she wouldn't want to live like this??? Meanwhile while this is going on he has a child with a woman who he was seeing before Terri's misfortune. Then he claims he wants to be with Terri forever but as soon as a settlement comes in to help pay for her treatments he denies her from it. Within a year he had taken her wedding band and engagement ring and had it made into a ring for himself. He wanted her to be starved back then. He is a disgrace to man!!!!

Posted by: Michelle at March 29, 2005 04:09 PM

Bri, your intelligence scares me. Is Terri suffering or not? If she has "suffered" for 15 years in her condition...then why do courts say she has no cognitive thought? She either can suffer or she cannot. You cannot have it both ways. She is either suffering through her condition for fifteen years...or she hasn't felt a thing, no emotion at all.

I cared for a family member for a number of years in a very similar situation to Terri Shiavo. I personally cleaned this person daily. This person could not respond to the environment, etc. It wasn't about any false hope of this person returning to cognitive thought...it was about caring for a loved one until they died.

I believe that God expects us to care for each other. I believe that God expects me to help someone rather than say, "God has brought this upon this person and I will stay my hand". I also believe that God expects me to help even when the person may have brought upon themselves their own terrible condition. I would encourage you to search the will of God a little further for an understanding of this concept.

The "unwanted" dialogue was interesting. The point wasn't that someone didn't want Terri anymore. That is obvious. The point was someone does want to care for her and is willing and able to care for her. It appears to many that he has moved on to a new relationship. I do not deny him that reasonable response. Again, if she is incapable of suffering, then he is not watching her suffer. Let him move on, and let Terri be cared for by those that wish to care for her. (Or are you suggesting that he is still suffering and wants it to stop?)

b, I hope the government does stop the unnecessary killing of someone. I thought that was a reasonable response of government. There is scanty evidence that Terri wanted to die by starvation and dehydration.

Posted by: rob the slob at March 30, 2005 04:40 PM

"God did not make a feeding tube, "

True enough, but God gave humankind free will including the will to make medical interventions preventing otherwise early deaths. The TV pundits who support this starvation of Terri do so on the premise that Terri was being kept alive artifically. Following that line of reasoning, everyone who is taking prescribed cholesterol medication, cardiac medication, dialysis, insulin, everyone who undergoes heart bypass surgery and any other type of live saving medical intervention is also being kept alive artifically. Should we all be starved to death?

Michael Shiavo is a horrid excuse for a human being and one who has gone to great lengths in his quest to convince obtuse US courts to sanction the murder of an innocent human being.

Posted by: Donna at March 31, 2005 03:52 AM

ok this whole terri thing is just really sad. i feel bad for all involved. to be quite honest i have not kept up on the sutuation at all. i only watched the news a couple times when they had half mentioned her. and let me say this first, i believe in someone dying when they are meant to die, not with help. is this that situation, i think so, but who am i? one thing that i did notice on the news was that all they showed were pics of her from past years. the most recent one i ever saw was from 2002. now this could be because i did not see enough of the new footage. did anyone else see more recent ones? and if not, why is this? i was just wondering because it was odd to me. i am not arguing right or wrong, just wondering about that. but i guess that is all pointless now that she is gone. my sincere sympathy to the family. that is all.

Posted by: just curious at March 31, 2005 08:42 AM

Odd how you first say that her condition is irrelevant, then liken the case to abandoning children to starvation. Clearly the you do care about the latter's condition and by implication care about the former's. Face it: what bothers you is that you think Terri Shiavo is still alive. The rule of law? Hooey! If you were convinced, as you should be, that their is no Terri Shiavo here any more, you wouldn't give a damn about the rule of law (which says, of course, that the judge's ruling is law when appeal is exhausted).
But suppose there is a flicker of consciousness struggling beneath the threshhold of perceptual awareness. Do you think the condition is benign? You know, it could be a nightmare beyond all imagining. And, finally, what if she one day awakened to the world only to live out her life in a wheel chair, unable to move, talk, think beyond the level of a child and no hope for improvement: I'm sure Terri would appreciate your..your...stupidity!!

Posted by: steve at April 2, 2005 02:12 AM