Wednesday, February 23, 2005

Terri Schiavo-Update

Greer orders an extended stay until Friday at 5pm.

Some points to clarify:

1) I believe everyone has the right and is guaranteed the right, under the patient's bill of rights, to give instructions on and participate in their own treatment, including refusing such treatments.

2) I believe that it is right and appropriate for the closest family member to make such decisions on behalf of their loved one in the case that there is no written directives.

3) I believe that the government should make no laws against these rulings.

4) I believe there are distinct differences between diminished quality of life, diminished capacity (mental or physical) as opposed to persistent vegetative state and terminally ill.

The problems that I see complicating this case:

1) If Terri Schiavo had actually told her husband her desire not to live in such a state, why did he continue to seek "methods to revive her" for several years?

2) If this is not about financial gain, why did Mr. Schiavo, after receiving a 1.4 million dollar malpractice settlement awarded in Terri's name, a $750k settlement awarded in Terri's name and a $600k awarded in his own name, decide the next year that Terri should now be taken off of this life sustaining treatment? Why would he not divorce her and leave her care to her parents? He claims that it is because he would lose the right to represent her as her husband, but, aside from a piece of paper which has not been legally nullified indicating they are married, he is openly living with another woman, openly has children and, it must be considered that, while they are "legally married" he still controls the finances related to the noted settlements. Also, I question, based on item #1 of this section, what Mr. Schiavo's motives were for disregarding Terri's alleged request to not live in this condition. One must consider that, had Terri been disconnected from life sustaining food and water or the vent she was obviously originally connected to (she has a trach hole in her throat according to pictures), Terri would have died within a very short time of the onset of her original condition. In which case, had Mr. Schiavo continued to press malpractice suits (for which he has won over 2.7 mil), it is likely that the rewards for this malpractice would have been much less as Terri would not have been available or benefited from the rewards.

3) If Terri Schiavo is in a "persistant vegetative state", why is she able to respond to stimuli directly in what appears to be emotive and controlled? Terri is not terminally ill. She does not have a degenerative disease. She is not comatose nor unresponsive. She simply has diminished mental and physcal capacity.

4) If Terri Schiavo is no in a persistent vegetative state, but fully conscious with only diminished mental and physical capacity, death by starvation and dehydration will be painful, regardless of any attempts to state otherwise. While she may not understand what is happening to her as we who are conscious would, she would feel pain and discomfort, regardless of her inability to convey that to her caregivers.

5) The law cannot and should not decide whether somebody lives or dies under these conditions but should insure that rightful guardianship and representation is considered and the patient's rights are protected in regards to their directives for healthcare. I do not know what was presented to Greer on behalf of Mr. Schiavo. It would seem that both of these issues must be in question on the face of the time lines and actions taken.

6) Lastly, we must be careful that we do not make any precedent setting decisions that would diminish any other rights, such as patient right to refuse treatment, make advance directives regarding care in case of incapacitation or the right to designate or have implied a representative.

These are the difficulties with this case and why it is taking so long to decide by the courts as to what is appropriate. It would seem, had the courts truly been interested in insuring that Terri's rights were guarded, they would have nullified both the parents and Mr. Schiavo's guardianship and appointed a third party without interest as the sole guardian. Instead, this person is in conjunction with Mr. Schiavo's guardianship.

I think there is a clear case of financial interest and reasonable doubt as to whether Mr. Schiavo really had cause to know of his wife's intent regarding incapacitation.

I noted this before. Had Mr. Schiavo simply disconnected Terri from life supporting equipment and services in 1990 or even 1991 as per her purported request, we would not be having this discussion.

For more information also see CNN: Judge Orders feeding for Florida woman. For once, they get some of the details right and actually discuss my position that she is not comatose nor terminally ill.

You are never too young. Write your advanced directives. Write your will. Do not leave you and your family open to these difficulties.

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