Terri Schiavo has to die? Why?

Posted by: ST on March 18, 2005 at 11:44 pm

Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock the last 24 hours, you’ve seen, heard, and/or read about the Terri Schiavo case out of Florida. Despite an 11th hour attempt by the US Congress to halt the impending court-ordered removal of her feeding tube, a Florida judge ordered today – shortly after Congress’ attempt – that the removal proceed. So it has proceeded. Here’s what will happen to Terri over the next two weeks:

The general process of death for patients whose food and hydration tubes are withdrawn:

_Day One: The percutaneous endoscopic gastrotomy tube, which is placed through the skin and into the stomach, is removed in a simple surgical procedure. Patients who do not have mental cognition to have a sense of thirst or hunger will not be uncomfortable.

_ Days Three to Four: Urine output decreases and patients begin to lose normal body secretions. The mouth begins to look dry and the eyes appear sunken. Patients will look thinner because the body tissues have lost fluid. Their heart rate gradually goes up and their blood pressure goes down. In some patients, dehydration releases endorphins in the brain that create a state of euphoria.

_ Days Five to 10: People who are alert have a marked decrease in their alertness. Respiration becomes irregular with periods of very fast and then very slow breathing. Some patients will become restless, while others will be less active. For patients in a persistent vegetative state, there may be no discernible change in their movements.

_ Days 10 to Death: Patients do not appear to respond to their environment at all and may appear to be in a coma. Length of death process is determined by how well-nourished patient was and how much body fat and fluid they had when procedure began. May be outward signs of dehydration, such as extremely dry skin. Kidney function declines and toxins begin accumulating in the body. Toxins cause respiratory muscles to fail. Multiple organ systems begin to fail from lack of nutrition.

Does that sound humane to you?

I’m proud to live in America. I think this is the best country on earth (I know – I’m a bit biased). But the Terri Schiavo case has brought to the forefront in my mind just how off base I think some of the priorities of some well-meaning people in this country are when it comes to decisions of life and death. No doubt they take the same view of mine. It’s a fundamental disagreement that doesn’t give way to much, if any, middle ground. This issue has shaped up to be one where partisans have taken their sides, with conservatives generally taking the Schindler’s (Terri’s family) side while liberals are generally taking the Schiavo’s (Michael, her husband) side.

Think about this. Civil rights and other advocacy groups work day and night in this country to try and save murderers on death row from having to face the death penalty. They cite a number of reasons. One, life in prison without parole gives those who might really be innocent an opportunity to prove their innocence whereas if they were sentenced to death, their innocence may be proven too late. Ok. Another reason they cite is that the death penalty is inhumane or ‘cruel and unusual punishment’ and the state shouldn’t be sanctioning it.

But what is happening here? In Schiavo’s case, a case that has once again pitted liberals and conservatives against each other, her feeding tube has been removed. And she is going to be going through that cruel process of death mentioned above. Contrary to popular belief, Terri Schiavo can and does respond to what’s going on around her and she does breathe on her own. She is not on life support. She has to be fed through a feeding tube. That feeding tube, as of this afternoon, has been removed, thereby taking away any chance Terri has of living. Who knows what medical miracles will occur in the near future that could have helped Terri? We’ll never know because Terri is now dying. Why is it that that convicted murderer on death row should be kept alive because one day he or she may be found to be innocent, while Terri doesn’t get the same option to be kept alive in the event that therapy and perhaps a medical miracle could be found one day that could help her? Why is it that this particular form of allowing someone to die is somehow not inhumane, cruel, or unusual yet lethal injection to a death row inmate is? Why do (mostly guilty) death row inmates receive 2nd, 3rd, and 4th chances, but Terri – an innocent, living, breathing woman, will no longer have those chances as of today?

What Terri will have to go through is inhumane by any account. That she *may* not feel it isn’t really relevant. Starving a person to death against the wishes of her parents shouldn’t be any more acceptable than it is to starve an animal. In fact, starving an animal is not acceptable. We lock people up for that. Yet our courts allow a hospital to do precisely that to a living, human being – LEGALLY – in spite of the wishes of the family. As Andrew McCarthy at National Review points out, suspected terrorists in this country receive more legal protections and seem to be afforded more rights than Terri and her family:

In this instance, though, deafening is the only word for the silence of my former interlocutors — -civil-liberties activists characteristically set on hysteria auto-pilot the moment an al Qaeda terrorist is rumored to have been sent to bed without supper by Don Rumsfeld or Al Gonzales (something that would, of course, be rank rumor since, if you kill or try to kill enough Americans, you can be certain our government will get you three halal squares a day).

Not so Terri Schiavo. She will be starved and dehydrated. Until she is dead. By court order. *snip*

On another Friday, seven years ago, Mohammed Daoud al-`Owhali and Khalfan Khamis Mohammed blew up the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, killing over 240 people. They were brought to the United States for trial. They were given, at public expense, multiple, highly experienced capital lawyers, and permitted extensive audiences to plead with the Justice Department not to seek the death penalty. When a capital indictment nevertheless was filed, they were given weeks of voir dire to ensure a jury of twelve people open to the notion that even the lives of mass-murderers have value. They were then given seven months of trial and sentencing proceedings, suffuse with every legal and factual presumption that their lives had worth and should be spared. And so they were.

There’s something wrong with this picture when people suspected (and sometimes convicted) of murder and terrorism are given every opportunity at their disposal in order to either prove their innocence, or keep them from going on death row, yet one woman’s parents in Pinellas Park, Florida have to sit and watch as their options have been taken away from them by the courts and as a result, they’ll have to watch their daughter, who can breathe on her own and is responsive to those around her, go through an inhumane and two week period of starving to death. The state may not be pulling the trigger, so to speak, but it might as well have been when that judge ordered the feeding tube to be removed. Only one result comes from that and we know what that result is: death.

We have evolved (dare I say regressed?) in this country to where more emphasis has been put on saving a guilty life rather than protecting an innocent one. And I say that even knowing that most who argue against keeping Terri on the feeding tube are well intentioned. People who think abortion is ok are well intentioned, too, but in this writer’s opinion, they are wrong. There is an innocent life inside that womb, from the time of conception to birth. Terri Schiavo is an innocent woman, and there is most assuredly life within her.

I’m a proponent of the death penalty. Some have called me a hypocrite for being pro-life, yet being pro-death penalty at the same time. However, I see quite a difference in advocating that an innocent child in a mother’s womb be allowed a chance at life, versus advocating that a person who has already had that chance at life but screwed it up be put to death for a brutal crime. However, I’m willing to make a change right here and now. I’ll make a deal with anyone reading this who wants to make one: I’ll change my view on the death penalty – start advocating that life in prison without parole is the best and most humane option for the state to utilize when determining the punishment for a convicted criminal. I’ll be pro-life all the way – even to the point of advocating life for a convicted murderer, if you’ll join me in advocating life for the unborn and the innocent who can’t or hasn’t made that decision (such as the situation is with Terri). If we are going to err in this country, let’s do it on the side of life – not death.

To the various advocacy/civil rights groups out there who believe Terri should be allowed to die but on the other hand are outraged at the death penalty for criminals and frown upon any suggestion that abortion is somehow wrong, would you do me a favor? Instead of of staging protests to save electric cars from being used for spare parts, or instead of holding sit-ins to save the forests, or working tirelessly to free the lab rats from animal testing, or strapping yourselves to old trees in order to prevent them from from being chopped down, would you strap yourself to Terri instead? If you can work to save the trees, you can work to save an innocent life, whether it be a child yet to be born or Terri. If the whales are worth saving, so are unborn children – and so is Terri.

Update: LaShawn has more .

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  • La Shawn Barber's Corner trackbacked with Terri Schiavo's Life is Spared Temporarily
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  • 16 Responses to “Terri Schiavo has to die? Why?”


    1. Leslie says:

      As someone who opposes the death penalty, and won’t kill spiders in my kitchen, I must also oppose allowing Terri to die of thirst and starvation.

      Regardless of how this situation came about, it is as it is, and no civilized society should allow this kind of death to happen.

    2. TheAnchoress says:

      Good, thoughtful post. Well done, Sister! 🙂

    3. SCREENPLAY1999 says:

      Here are the medical facts on what happens to a person who is “medically” starved to death:
      “Removal of the G-tube would likely create various effects from the lack of hydration and nutrition, leading ultimately to death. Brophy’s mouth would dry out and become caked or coated with thick material. His lips would become parched and cracked. His tongue would swell, and might crack. His eyes would recede back into their orbits and his cheeks would become hollow. The lining of his nose might crack and cause his nose to bleed. His skin would hang loose on his body and become dry and scaly. His urine would become highly concentrated, leading to burning of the bladder. The lining of his stomach would dry out and he would experience dry heaves and vomiting. His body temperature would become very high. His brain cells would dry out, causing convulsions. His respiratory tract would dry out, and the thick secretions that would result could plug his lungs and cause death. At some point within five days to three weeks his major organs, including his lungs, heart, and brain, would give out and he would die. The judge found that death by dehydration is extremely painful and uncomfortable for a human being. The judge could not rule out the possibility that Paul Brophy could experience pain in such a scenario. Paul Brophy’s attending physician described death by dehydration as cruel and violent.”

    4. Les: agreed, amigo. It’s happening as we speak as we now know that the Supremes will not hear the case.

      Anchoress: Thanks!

      Screenplay: Thanks for the info … I pray Terri is not suffering right now but not knowing is one of the worst parts. May God bless her.

    5. Jim R says:

      Sis’ Toldjah, Would you favor a law that would euthanize by humane injection cases like Terri’s, where all legal processes have been exhausted and the decision sustained that all external life support means may be removed?

    6. No, Jim, I couldn’t. Do you support it?

    7. Jim R says:

      I do Sis’. To remove the doubt she may suffer the removal of life support. Why could you not?

    8. Because I can’t wrap myself around the concept of having doctors who have pledged to help cure people giving them an injection to have them die. The slippery slope argument comes into play here, too.

    9. Jim R says:

      Sis’, Would you support the sustaining of a life if that life was a living hell; because one could not scratch where it itches, change positions to get comfortable, speak to communicate your needs and wishes, drink when thirsty, eat when hungry,
      laugh, cry, etc. etc, so the understandable love of your parents could be satisfied?

      Wouldn’t the more horrifying possibility, though remote, be that Terri was not ‘vegetative'(I hate this term) and was fully cognitive and living in hell for 15 long years, with 15 more to go?

      I consider it a blessing for her if in fact the doctors were right and she had no sensitivities. In fact, this would be the best argument for keeping her alive, to satisfy others sensitivities without any hell for her. The better argument for letting her die would be she was cognitive.

    10. Hi Jim,

      It’s not up to me to support or not support someone’s choice to live or not live a life that you would describe as a living hell as long as the person who is going through it made their wishes *explicitly clear* and in writing *or* there’s agreement amongst the family. The best way to make sure their wishes are known are through a living will. In that case I would support their right to refuse medical treatment – but I would not support euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.

      I cannot support taking away the life of someone who’s wishes weren’t clear and where there’s a dispute involved based purely on hearsay. This case was tragic on multiple levels but it would not have gone as far as it did if there had been a living will present (in my view). I know many families make such difficult decisions everyday without fanfare – whether or not to continue on with a family member who’s outlook for recovery is bleak. My family did many years ago with my ailing grandmother, who’s lungs collapsed from years of smoking too much. My mother had the option to put her on life support – but she didn’t. I was in the hospital while this was taking place.

      I know what you’re saying and I can appreciate it but again it’s really not up to me to support or not support someone’s right to die with dignity – as long as that person’s wishes are made very clear, I have to support their wishes. If they’ve not been made clear and there’s a dispute based on hearsay, then I support the President’s position that we err on the side of life.

    11. Jim R says:

      Thanks Sister for this interview….uh, I mean conversation :)

      Do you agree it is not logical for those who oppose humane injection, to use death by inhumane starving and thirsting as a reason why the unrecoverable should not be allowed to die?

      Would you agree it would likely require a lawyer’s help to meet legal requirements of *explicitly clear and in writing “, and one reason busy and budget limited folks just don’t do it? If so, isn’t it reasonable for our legal system to resolve family disputed cases after 15 years?

      Unfortunately in Terri’s case, her husband(I use the term in a legal sense only) is behaving like a real jerk, so it is hard to use this case for a reasonable unemotional argument for a right to die.

    12. Hi Jim:

      “Do you agree it is not logical for those who oppose humane injection, to use death by inhumane starving and thirsting as a reason why the unrecoverable should not be allowed to die?”

      Truthfully, I’m not sure what to think about it anymore. For so long we’ve been told that death by starvation in a hospital was such a cruel way to let someone go, then when the Schiavo case pops up, the mediots get a hold of a few doctors and other medical experts to tell us all that death by starvation is ‘gentle’ and ‘painless’ when done in conjunction with painkillers.

      “Would you agree it would likely require a lawyer’s help to meet legal requirements of *explicitly clear and in writing,””


      “and one reason busy and budget limited folks just don’t do it?”

      Sorry, I’ve not heard where getting your wishes expressed in writing is expensive.

      “If so, isn’t it reasonable for our legal system to resolve family disputed cases after 15 years?”

      I don’t have any problem with it being solved legally – but I think we need more deciding these cases than hearsay … and the motivations of the person advocating the pulling of the plug needs to be taken into account, too. Outside of the second GAL, no one really seemed to consider that in the Schiavo case.

      “Unfortunately in Terri’s case, her husband(I use the term in a legal sense only) is behaving like a real jerk, so it is hard to use this case for a reasonable unemotional argument for a right to die.”

      Yes, having ppl like M. Schiavo involved definitely clouds the issue, no question about it.

    13. Prince M says:

      This WAY after Terri Schiavo passed on-

      You decided that “Terri Schiavo can and does respond to what’s going on around her”; now doctors have performed an autopsy and guess what? There wasn’t enough gray matter to power an amoeba, much less cognitive thinking.

      Not a reason for euthanasia, but not a reason to keep her alive either. But Conservatives jumped to the conclusion that “SHE COULD TOO respond to what’s going on around her’ and now it’s been proved that that is just not so.

    14. “You decided”

      *I* decided nothing. I went off the comments of Dr. Hammesfahr, who spent a heck of a lot more time with Terri than Michael’s two “doctors.”

      As far as the autopsy report, it held very little value for me considering that I think it’d be a little easier to tell how Terri function when she was alive, rather than dead (that almost goes without saying). And no doubt being starved to death for two weeks did absolutely nothing to help matters, either.