Wednesday, March 16, 2005

And Not A Drop to Drink

Terri Schiavo is a 41-year old woman who is brain damaged and who some doctors say is "in a persistent vegetative state." For this reason, her husband has decided to remove the tube that gives her food and water.

Terri's parents went to court to try to stop her husband. Florida's legislature has passed laws to stop her being starved and dehydrated to death. At each turn, the state courts in Florida ultimately have denied efforts to keep her alive. Today, a judge in Florida again ruled that the tube keeping Terri alive should be removed.

It appears that, unless the U.S. Congress can act in the next three days, before they leave town for Easter recess, Terri will surely die. She is quite unlikely to survive until Congress returns from its break.

Terri's parents do not seek "extraordinary" means to keep her alive. They simply want her to get food and water. They also believe that physical therapy will help her eventually to swallow on her own. Other doctors believe that, with help, Terri might recover.

Terri's husband, who has been living with his girlfriend long enough to have two children by her, claims that he loves Terri and that Terri told him she did not want to be kept alive, even by routine feeding and hydrating methods. He has no evidence of this -- no living will, no documents, no notes, no witnesses, no nothing.

There are other elements of this case that raise questions. According to Wesley J. Smith, a lawyer who has researched this case exhaustively:

* Terri's husband told a jury in Terri's 1992 malpractice trial that Terri would live a normal life span. Get it? The long her life expectancy, the bigger the jury award.

* Once Terri won a $1.3 million verdict, Terri's husband paid off his hired gun and also put 300 grand in his own pocket, but he never began rehabilitation for Terri. In fact, the evidence is that, at first, Terri's husband tried to save the $750,000 initially put aside into Terri's treatment fund. He immediately put a "Do Not Resusitate" card on his wife's chart -- the better to kill her with. He would not even permit Terri to be given antibiotics to fight infections. In fact, in the five years between 1993 and 1998, he spent only $50,000 on her.

* Once Terri's parents began to put up a fight, Terri's husband spent most of the $750,000 allegedly put away for Terri's treatment has been spent on lawyers to lead the charge to expedite Terri's demise. About $450,000 of the "Terri Fund" has been paid to Terri's husband's lawyers. Another $200,000 went to expenses not intended to ensure Terri's continuing survival. But still her parents fight to keep her alive. So much for the argument that Terri's parents sought custody to "get the money" for themselves. There is no money. In fact, her father has depleted his own retirement fund trying to keep her alive.

So it comes down to Congress. Democrats in Congress, with a couple of exceptions, and even many Republicans, will not sound even a dry cough to ensure that Terri gets help. More-sanctimonious-than-thou Robert Byrd, easily one of the crassest politicians in Washington, but someone who, at least, would kick a bottle of Poland Spring with the toe of his shiny Bruno Maglis to a drunken, cotton-mouthed bum sprawled on the sidewalk, cannot raise the energy to support legislation that might keep Terri alive. And so, very soon, without a hoarse whisper from the most powerful legislative bodies in the world, Terri will probably die.

It's enough to drive you to drink.


Blogger Harry said...

This is, to date, the most concise thing I have read on the Terri case, and if true (why should one doubt what sounds so credible?), one is reminded of the fable about the greedy dog carrying a bone in his mouth while crossing a bridge, and surely one knows the rest of that story.

3/17/2005 12:24:00 PM  
Blogger Ned said...

It has been some time since the courts set the ridiculous precedent that made food and water equal to medical treatment and extraordinary measures. When they removed the life support from Karen Ann Quinlan, she went right on living. Finally they found it necessary to starve her to death.

In a society where we refuse to consider the uncomfortable, excuse the individual of all responsibility for his actions and start to classify human beings by standards of general convenience, this scenario is not surprising.

3/17/2005 08:54:00 PM  
Blogger palinurus said...

Thank you both for your thoughtful comments. It looks like she may get a reprieve, at least for today. It simply astounds me that food and water could ever be extraordinary, and that people would fight so hard to deny it, esp. in the name of love.

3/18/2005 08:33:00 AM  

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