New Thread for Terri Schiavo Discussion

UPDATE (April 5th): This thread is now closed. For further responses and comments, please use this thread, instead.

ADMIN ANNOUNCEMENT: EVERYONE WHO WANTS TO KEEP POSTING ON THIS THREAD, PLEASE READ THIS!!

The following topics have now (as of 5:30pm Tuesday, pacific time) been banned from this thread:

1) Evidence or arguments intended to prove that the Schindlers are badly motivated or bad human beings. This includes any further discussion of them selling an email list or wanting an inheritance or anything like that.

2) Evidence or arguments intended to prove that Michael Schiavo, his lawyers, or Judge Greer are badly motivated or bad human beings. I think y’all know the sort of thing this includes.

3) Nazism and comparisons to Nazism, or reasons why comparisons to Nazism are inappropriate.

I will delete any further posts including any of the above subjects.

Since the post about Terri Schiavo’s CT scan now has over 400 comments, which is a bit of a huge file, I’ve decided to close comments on that thread. People who want to respond to a comment in that thread, or who want to make a comment on the Schiavo case in general, may do so in this new thread.

Please don’t post here to suggest that Michael Schiavo, or Judge Greer, are evil people who are conspiring to murder Terri. Please refrain from comments suggesting that the Schindlers are evil people, as well.

To get things started, I’ll quote in full the most recent (as of this moment) two posts from the thread I’m closing, both of which I thought were excellent.

Susan wrote:

Thank you, Barbara, for your clear formulation.

It seems to me that the people who want that feeding tube re-connected take one of two positions, and sometimes both:

  1. They think Terri has a duty to live that transcends what she would have wanted, as you say, or in the alternative, a duty to follow the speaker’s position on this instead of her own, and/or
  2. They think the court was wrong about what she wanted, for a variety of reasons, either that Judge Greer is a vulture or that Michael Schiavo has evil eyes or whatever.

Both positions can be defended, but I’d like to see a defense up-front.

As for thinking the court was wrong, I donno. I disagree with a lot of court decisions (especially when I lose!), but that’s the way we do things here, and for obvious reasons we don’t re-litigate things just because the loser is unhappy with the outcome. All the appellate courts are convinced that Judge Greer did a responsible job. I’d invite skeptics to read the Second District’s first opinion on this matter. What’s the theory here? That all the state and federal judges who’ve reviewed this are vultures? This wades us deep into conspiracy theory, deeper than I personally wish to go.

If you think Terri has a duty to live regardless of what she thinks, or that your opinion is to be preferred to hers, I’d be interested in hearing why.

A minute or so later, Sally posted the following. Since it was posted so quickly, I think it may have been intended to be a response to an ealier post of Susan’s, but it’s nonetheless an apt reply to Susan’s point about the courts.

Sally wrote:

I think the difference, Susan, is that I have less faith than you do in the courts’ ability to determine Terri Schiavo’s wishes. The court is relying on eyewitness testimony about conversations that happened many years ago. People’s memories are notoriously selective, not because they’re consciously distorting anything, but because we remember things by slotting them into certain narratives, and we tend to select out the memories that don’t fit into those narratives. Michael Schiavo and his brother and sister-in-law believe that Terri would want to die, and it seems likely that they’d select out any memories that would contradict that narrative.

I realize that all we have to go on here is hearsay, but it makes me nervous. It would make me nervous in any court case: I’m really wary of convictions based only on eyewitness testimony, too.

And secondly, the courts don’t float above society: they’re subject to the same prejudices as everyone else. And one of those prejudices is a widespread belief that some lives are not worth living, that some people are just empty husks who are a burden on society, that medical care is a zero-sum game, and if we keep those people alive, we’re taking treatment away from someone more deserving. When judges weigh evidence, they have those prejudices in the back of their minds. I don’t have a lot of faith in the courts as neutral actors here. And given that they are biased, in the ways that everyone is biased, I tend to think we should err on the side of not killing people.

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483 Responses to New Thread for Terri Schiavo Discussion

  1. 401
    Ampersand says:

    Harriet McBryde Johnson is one of my favorite living writers! I adore her stuff. She wrote an article about Terri Schiavo-related issues for Slate; I kept meaning to write a long post responding to it, but never found the time. Sigh.

  2. 402
    Regina says:

    I tried to read Harriet and gave up. She begins w/ a set of assumptions that simply do not hold up in my opinion.

    I do not think that one could quantify Ms. Schiavo’s condition as ‘living’ Only if you want to drop the definition of being human down to the level of fungi. I would quantify Ms. Schiavo’s condition as ‘existing’ There were absolutely no higher functions present. And given that the evidence had supported her request to be taken off life support (that’s what it was, life suppport–artificial, extraordinary life support), her wishes should have been honored. She is not her parents’ pet rock. She was an adult capable of making her own decisions over her life and death.

    What really concerns me is there are forces behind the curtain so to speak that are directing this debate. The intelligent design folks to be exact. Take a look at this post on digby.

  3. 403
    piny says:

    I found out about her through you, Amp, I think. Or possibly Rivka.

  4. 404
    piny says:

    Oh, please do post on it.

    I’m skimming, and parts of it I already have a problem with.

    “If we assume she is unaware and unconscious, we can’t justify her death as her preference. She has no preference.”

    The whole point of the “advance directive” argument–and I include those who believe she had informally expressed her wishes–is that someone can pre-emptively decide what will be done with their body in the event that they become unaware and unconscious.

  5. 405
    piny says:

    And those preferences are extremely important.

  6. 406
    piny says:

    …Actually, this was one of the creepiest things about the Schiavo case: I heard, constantly, the idea that her wishes, or Michael Schiavo’s understanding of her wishes, didn’t need to be respected because she was unconscious. She was dead. What did she care?

    And even worse, I heard some people arguing that, by divorcing, Michael Schiavo had given up all rights over her, that he should just “give her back” to her parents.

    And jeez, Mike, you got your way with the feeding tube. Can’t her parents have the body-disposal method of their choice?

  7. 407
    PaulD says:

    This case would be pretty dull if it were really only a legal question. After all, the legal part was the only thing we got a definite answer on (since the law required a yes/no answer). Legal questions aside, the controversy in this case still revolves around whether or not this was a killing (or a murder, euthanasia, execution, pick your noun). It’s such a tough question, because to decide, you have to consider legal, medical, moral, and ethical issues all rolled together. There’s no human on the planet who could be “expert”? enough to come to a “correct”? answer on this. Or if you prefer, that makes us ALL equal experts on our own opinions.

    So, what is a killing? Most people agree that a human life is made of two parts, the material part (the body) and the conscious part (the soul). It’s when you separate the two that the question gets mucky. Can one half live without the other? And if it can, is that half still a person, and if you kill it, is it murder?

    Could Terri’s conscious soul still somehow have been “in there”?, even with such serious brain damage that no conscious thought could ever take place?

    I can’t answer these questions and I don’t know how so many seem to be able to answer them so easily. Based on all I’ve seen and read, I do feel that pulling the tube was the “correct”? answer, but that doesn’t make it easy and it doesn’t make me correct.

    I will say this though. Those who claim the high moral ground based on all life being sacred, I think need to be reminded that death/dying/killing is not quite so simple in our world. For example, do the all-life-sacred people ever eat meat, knowing that a cow had to be killed for that hamburger? Do they own guns or support liberal gun laws, knowing that guns only exist for one thing? Do they support killing in self defense (if ALL life is sacred)? And, did they vote for George W. Bush a second time, knowing he had started an optional war in which many innocent people had died and will continue to die? (It makes me queasy to hear W utter the phrase “err on the side of life”?, after his well-publicized errors have led to so much death, not to mention all those executions in Texas which, as far as I know, were all 100% irreversible!) The bottom line is, death is just NOT so simple in our world.

    The other bottom line is, make out a living will everybody!

  8. 408
    Mary A says:

    Ok legal beagles :) I’m embarrassed to say I was thrown out of class for the half of the year that we did civics (long story, but not relevant here). So I’m ignorant- how do I find out how my elected officials voted on Terri’s Law?

  9. 409
    Susan says:

    Legal questions aside, the controversy in this case still revolves around whether or not this was a killing (or a murder, euthanasia, execution, pick your noun).

    Paul, you forgot “suicide”. What happened was Terri’s choice. If it was a legitimate choice to forego medical care, well, then it was. If it wasn’t, I suppose it was suicide.

    What frightens me about this case is that while, as you detail, we proceed to kill innocent and unwilling people all over the planet, some would then, here, prohibit me from refusing medical treatment. Force invasive treatment on me, against my will, in the name of their personal morality.

  10. 410
    Susan says:

    And jeez, Mike, you got your way with the feeding tube. Can’t her parents have the body-disposal method of their choice?

    This kind of reasoning makes Terri or in this case her body a chip in some kind of game. Michael is her husband, and he has his own ideas about how she should be buried.

    I have a married daughter. If, which may God fobid, she dies, it’s Martin, not I, who will make all these decisions. And quite properly so. Abi isn’t a chattel or a toy or a pet rock for Martin and me to fight over. She’s my daughter, but she’s his wife, and the latter takes precedence. This would be true even if I disapproved of the guy like crazy. (Which, luckily, I don’t.)

    Terri’s parents seem not to have grasped this elementary truth. When children grow up, they’re not yours any more.

  11. 411
    C. Snyder says:

    Oy.

    I have tried honestly and with all my might to understand why some people are so opposed to the outcome of this “legal battle.” My questions have been:
    1-Should people be allowed to refuse medical intervention?
    2-How do you feel knowing that MOST people in Ms. Schiavo’s position (and according to the courts Ms. Schiavo herself) would’ve been pleased with that outcome. More precisely–If that was me you would be interfering with my wishes, regardless of the impression my husband gives of being a jerk (actually he IS a jerk & doesn’t get along with my parents who are way too meddlesome, but he has enough of a conscience that he’d abide by my wishes). Is that ok with you?
    3-If that is ok with you, how do you justify it?

    I’d love to have straight answers. Most likely wouldn’t change my views, but I’d still like to be able to say that I understand where you’re coming from & respectfully disagree. Right now I’m having a really tough time with the “respectfully” part.

  12. So, what is a killing? Most people agree that a human life is made of two parts, the material part (the body) and the conscious part (the soul). It’s when you separate the two that the question gets mucky. Can one half live without the other? And if it can, is that half still a person, and if you kill it, is it murder?

    At the risk of opening yet another religious controversy, I strongly disagree with the Most people agree that a human life is made of two parts. That may be Christian teaching, but as soon as you stray from Christianity things get very murky. While there are voices in Judaism who agree with a similar soul concept, there are constraints, such as there is no soul and life until at least 30 days after conception (mentioned previously), and fetuses not birthed and born (or presumably C–sectioned) don’t have the same status as ones who are. (Don’t ask for rationale. It’s involved, but it very much is viewed as God’s weighing in on the case of this life.) That said, there is no consensus in Judaism about afterlife or anything, apart from Rabbi Moses ben Maimon and his followers, and some of that which he said and wrote was considered heretical, if there were such a think in Judaism.

    In Conservative and my Reform, there is no official notion of soul or such, although individuals believe differently and on their own. It is interesting that there are customs which prevail even today. For instance, graves in a Jewish cemetary are separated by quite a distance because it is considered disrespectful to actually walk directly over a grave. I, for instance, find visited Christian cemetaries uncomfortable for that reason.

    But if you track this down, you’ll find the practice is grounded on what’s superstition, even in old Jewish lore, that somehow walking over the grave can contaminate you with a death taint. In the same Jewish lore, primarily from eastern Europe, there’s a notion of transmigration of souls.

    I cannot speak for Islam, or many other religions.

    I know in Buddhism the body and soul and considered inseparable, in the sense that if great damage occurs to one, the other is damaged, too. Buddhist concepts apparently don’t need a carrier thing like a soul to transfer being.

    Philosophically, if a thing like a soul exists, its pretty useless if it doesn’t carry memory of existence. There is also the interesting idea that when intelligent machines (computers, whatever) are created, they are also going to think they have souls. (This reasoning is due to Marvin Minksy.) The idea is that when an intelligent being is asked or asks questions about itself, it needs to refer to an internalized mental self-model to answer them. If it is asked or asks questions about how it can answer questions about itself, it must consult the self-model also, and, in particular, that part of the self-model which corresponds to the self-model. The self-model cannot have as much detail about the self as the self actually has. So the model of the self-model can’t have as much detail as the self-model does. Thus, there’s a hole. Minsky identifies that hole with our concept of soul.

    I think how a religion treats a lost limb or other body portion might be a proxy for how it considers a person with just the limbic portion of the brain functioning.

  13. 414
    PaulD says:

    Paul, you forgot “suicide”?. What happened was Terri’s choice.

    It was Terri’s choice, as best as we as a society could determine it, based on the tools we have available, i.e. the courts. And I think they got it right. But I’ll never know for sure.

    If it was a legitimate choice to forego medical care, well, then it was. If it wasn’t, I suppose it was suicide.

    That’s right, I supposed it would be a form of delayed, conditional, assisted suicide..? Except, there aren’t any protesters marching around Florida complaining that Terri killed herself. They are all saying she was killed.

    What frightens me about this case is that while, as you detail, we proceed to kill innocent and unwilling people all over the planet, some would then, here, prohibit me from refusing medical treatment. Force invasive treatment on me, against my will, in the name of their personal morality.

    Right, well luckily that’s why we have courts and laws and a democratic process, and luckily, the majority of Americans seem to oppose this kind of forced intervention against your wishes. Knock on wood.

  14. But I’ll never know for sure.

    Why should there be an expectation that anyone knows anything for sure?

  15. 416
    PaulD says:

    Why should there be an expectation that anyone knows anything for sure?

    Good point — in our court system we have the ideas of “preponderance of evidence”, and “beyond reasonable doubt”, to address the fact that we need to come up with a yes/no answer even though nobody really knows anything for sure.

    I was commenting on the fact that, in this case (and in life in general) so many people seem to think they know so many things for sure.

    At the risk of opening yet another religious controversy, I strongly disagree with the Most people agree that a human life is made of two parts.

    Thanks Jan for the points you made in this post, which really do illustrate just how complex these issues get when you take, oh, 6 billion people and throw them together on a single planet. But, as far as Hinduism and Buddhism go, it was my impression that they do consider the soul separately; that the body is a physical container, a vehicle, that the soul occupies during its worldly lifetime, and then exits (usually to enter another body later). I may have this wrong. I’m married to a Hindu so I’ve had some exposure to this, but I’m no scholar on it.

  16. 417
    piny says:

    This kind of reasoning makes Terri or in this case her body a chip in some kind of game. Michael is her husband, and he has his own ideas about how she should be buried.

    My point was that I’m sort of disturbed by the idea that anyone gets to decide how best to dispose of someone else’s remains. Or, no, let me rephrase a little. I know that not everyone is able to discuss this with their executors before they die. If my little sister were to die tomorrow, my family wouldn’t have any idea what she would want done with her remains; she hasn’t addressed the question in our hearing. So our decision would likely be based on our preferences. But her interest in the details doesn’t disappear when she dies; to the extent that her wishes are stated, they take precedence over ours. We don’t get to override her desires because she’s gone and we’re still here.

    So this idea that you cede ownership of your body to your loved ones at death–or that it gets passed back and forth between them based on how loved they are, or how much they supposedly love you–is really disturbing. As I understand it, Michael Schiavo’s decision takes precedence because, as the person closest to her adult self, he is more likely to know what she would have wanted, not because she somehow belongs to him more.

  17. 418
    Acrossthepond says:

    Legal questions aside, the controversy in this case still revolves around whether or not this was a killing (or a murder, euthanasia, execution, pick your noun).

    I rather think that IS a legal question, and to answer it requires examining ” what do today’s laws say?”

    There can be, perhaps even should be, controversy over a different question, namely “Should the law(s) be changed?”. “Controversy” unfortunately carries a somewhat pejorative connotation; but “deep differences of opinion” can be expected, and the opinions can be sincerely held.

    Please allow an “amateur” to offer at least a partial analysis:

    “killing” is actively causing someone’s death
    “euthanasia” is killing with the aim of avoiding or ending suffering
    “murder” and “manslaughter” are killing with malice or recklessness
    “execution” is killing by the state, as an ultimate punishment
    “suicide” is killing yourself

    [Please don't forget the actively causing bit].

    In any system with origins in Common Law, euthanasia, murder, and manslaughter are unlawful, and so was suicide for many years. Execution was lawful.

    Those who argue from a position of “sanctity of life”, whether or not they adopt that position on religious grounds, are, I suggest, likely to be opposed to killing. (I think they are in some difficulty over execution, even though at least some of them seem to face the possible contradiction with equanimity if not serene righteousness). Some other exceptions are less controversial (for example if the killing is an act of self-defence).

    What can we say however about “omissions” – that is to say NOT acting.
    Many omissions are unlawful too, particularly where they are failures to discharge a duty of care. Here we reach much more difficult questions.
    When should acts of omission be lawful? Is witholding life-support active or an omission? Does it matter whether an omission is in line with the patient’s wishes? Do “the best interests” of the patient matter?

    I believe that if you take an absolutist view on the primacy of any of the principles you are going to be in some difficulty (or at the very least running counter to long-held and established practice.

    Some people choose to decline medical treatment, even when that will result in their death. (Notice the difference between “causing” and “resulting”). If you take an absolutist view on the “sanctity of life” you seem to be inexorably driven to force treatment on someone who does not want it. You may sometimes be cruel and cause pain and suffering, either while you provide the treatment, or for the rest of the person’s life, or both. You’ll may well end up in the same position if you put “best interests” first. Forcible treatment of someone who does not want has long been held to be wrong. I suggest there are at least two reasons – forcible treatment is active, and it over-rides the patient’s right to self-determination.

    [Omitting to provide life-saving treatment when the patient wants it, I believe is wrong too, even if it's futile. But that reflects my opinion that "self-determination" is best ranked higher than "best interests"].

    Doubtless readers will be able to produce other scenarios, where absolutism of any of the principles will produce adverse outcomes (in their opinion).

    Some of these questions are far from easy, and people will come up with different answers. It’s a vain hope to seek a resolution on which all will agree. The best you can hope for is a calm, careful, reasoned debate leading either to confirmation of existing law or to changes, and a widespread acceptance of the resulting law.

    For what it’s worth, my opinion, would lead me to these positions:

    * killing (actively causing death) should be unlawful, with some VERY limited exceptions, such as self-defence

    * omissions which result in death may either be unlawful (failure in a duty of care), or may be lawful (respecting self-determination) – even when the outcome of death is virtually certain

    * witholding and ceasing treatment is an omission not an action

    * the “best interests” test is potentially dangerous and should be applied with the greatest of care in very limited circumstances.

  18. 419
    Daniela says:

    A question for Jan Galkowski (Thanks for your excellent contributions!) I am sure issues similar to Terri’s have arisen many times already with religious Jews patients, families, and doctors. I know, for example, that there exist machines for respiration assistance that were specifically designed to address the issue of “treatment once started can’t be stopped” and they require to reset a timer every day or something. I would think that in the case of artificial nutrition it’s even easier than that: one attaches today a bag of artificial nutrients to the PEG line, but this does not seem to me to require that tomorrow I have to do a similar act. I am no expert at halacha (and I’m atheist and personally I don’t care), but I’d think that these issues have been thought out. Maybe you could clarify that for me? Thanks a lot in advance.

  19. 420
    Susan says:

    Across,

    * killing (actively causing death) should be unlawful, with some VERY limited exceptions, such as self-defence

    * omissions which result in death may either be unlawful (failure in a duty of care), or may be lawful (respecting self-determination) – even when the outcome of death is virtually certain

    * witholding and ceasing treatment is an omission not an action

    * the “best interests”? test is potentially dangerous and should be applied with the greatest of care in very limited circumstances.

    Couldn’t have said it better myself.

  20. 421
    C. Snyder says:

    Across, very well said. Thank you.

  21. 422
    Susan says:

    piny,

    So this idea that you cede ownership of your body to your loved ones at death”“or that it gets passed back and forth between them based on how loved they are, or how much they supposedly love you”“is really disturbing. As I understand it, Michael Schiavo’s decision takes precedence because, as the person closest to her adult self, he is more likely to know what she would have wanted, not because she somehow belongs to him more.

    Well of course you cede your body to someone or other upon death.

    Piny. Really. I am unaware of any philosophy or lack of philosophy any newer than cavemen (and Egyptians) who buried tools with the dead (on the idea that the dead person will need them for some reason) which holds that the person has some sort of reason to care what happens to his or her body after death. If you’re an atheist or a materialist, the personality is snuffed out at death, so who cares. If you’re a Christian, you go to be with the Lord, and your body is raised up eventually by the power of God, Who surely isn’t going to express an opinion about how much trouble this is or isn’t, so again, who cares.

    This is all about the living. Terri was an adult. It’s none of her parents’ business in the normal course. I assume they will attend the funeral.

    Worshipping the body is profoundly pagan. I’m surprised that these allegedly Big Deal Catholic parents are so concerned. Perhaps they need a talking-to by one of the many priests who hang around them.

  22. 423
    Susan says:

    C. Snyder,

    1-Should people be allowed to refuse medical intervention?
    2-How do you feel knowing that MOST people in Ms. Schiavo’s position (and according to the courts Ms. Schiavo herself) would’ve been pleased with that outcome. More precisely”“If that was me you would be interfering with my wishes, regardless of the impression my husband gives of being a jerk (actually he IS a jerk & doesn’t get along with my parents who are way too meddlesome, but he has enough of a conscience that he’d abide by my wishes). Is that ok with you?
    3-If that is ok with you, how do you justify it?

    I wouldn’t hold my breath until you get straight answers to these questions.

    My guess – and it is just a guess, since the people advocating that view, here and elsewhere, aren’t the clearest writers in the world, nor are they at all inclinced to be candid – is that such people think that no one should be allowed to refuse medical intervention if the persons making the posts think it wrong.

    They seek to impose their views of morality on the rest of us.

    Resist resist!

  23. AcrossThePond, to murk a dark water cloudier, here at least there are hard-to-swallow circumstances where killing-by-omission is legally acceptable. A tough one for me is the case of a person in military service who is killed because of engineering negligence on the part of a corporation manufacturing something for the military. The law, run all the way to the Supreme Court, is that if the system or product in question was accepted by the government, there not only is no criminal liability on the part of the company, the estate and family of the deceased cannot bring civil action against the company either. If you are in military, you can never bring civil suit against the government, nor can your family.

  24. I was impressed by the letter of Lautenberg to DeLay, but the media are mostly ignoring it, apparently busy with the demise of John Paul II, and those who cover are playing it as another Democrat v Republican squabble. DeLay himself is pushing for some kind of Congressional investigation, or so says the Washington Post.

  25. Daniela, thanks for your kind remarks.

    I am no kind of expert in halacha either, but to your question:

    I know, for example, that there exist machines for respiration assistance that were specifically designed to address the issue of “treatment once started can’t be stopped”? and they require to reset a timer every day or something. I would think that in the case of artificial nutrition it’s even easier than that: one attaches today a bag of artificial nutrients to the PEG line, but this does not seem to me to require that tomorrow I have to do a similar act. I am no expert at halacha…

    I will spend some time studying it and get back to you, here, or if you would like via e-mail. To contact me, find an e-mail through my personal blog, finding that, in turn, by clicking on my name in any of my posts above.

  26. Daniela, I have checked my copy of a responsa and here is what I know. I urge you either to read the discussion yourself or find something recent or consult a rabbinic authority. For the latter, I urge you to try here.

    The following is based upon these Reform responsa, quite grounded in religious tradition. Mine are actually taken from a printed version of these, dated and limited to those available prior to 1983.

    In particular, I’d urge you to read this and strongly caution that halacha is severely case-based. Someone might think a case is very similar to another but there are subtle differences which can flip the determination.

    That caution made, my understanding is that the ruling from Jewish law is based primarily upon the condition of the patient in question, not the means of life support or the circumstances by which it is manipulated. The responsa also address living wills.

    In the case of aware but definitely terminally ill patients without living wills, it is, as y’might expect, a very fine line. The trick is not to hasten death but extraordinary measures can be withdrawn. In one case cited as an example, prayers said to keep people alive might be thought to be an extraordinary measure. Doing something like giving poison is clearly over the line. In the case of a terminally ill patient, withdrawal of terminal support measures are generally okay, but read the responsa. It is permissible for a physician to simply not write an order for a life-sustaining measure one day resulting in a terminally ill patient’s death, and that would be considered ethical. It’s probably not permissible for a family member to order such a thing be done.

    In the case of PVS patients, the responsa are also supportive of withdrawing measures, although the definition of what constitutes personal death and no longer being there are controversial, especially in the Orthodox community. Some embrace a Harvard Medical School definition of “no longer being there”, some don’t.

    It not permissible to withdraw support from someone who has a terrible quality of life and is even suffering if there is no medical opinion they are going to die and if they are fully functional, even if they are misreable and even if this is causing financial and emotional hardship for family.

    Read the responsa.

    I’m afraid I’ve not really answered your question, Daniela, but hopefully I’ve at least given you a way of reformulating it so it fits within a Jewish frame better and you can thereby more easily find an answer.

    Also, there is a too difficult to explain principle here that these rules apply only to Jews. Non-Jews are held to looser standards.

  27. 428
    NursePractitioner says:

    Robin, post 219 ..what concerns me is that there is already a legal approach to dealing with these issues, but some people don’t like the decisions made for this case. My perception of your comment is that you want a broad brush that will approach these things so that all cases will be treated the same, or that the outcomes will be more to your liking. Again I say, I am a conservative Christian and I do NOT want the government forcing me to have treatment or forcing me not to. That carries over to my right to make decisions for an incapcitated loved one. There is nothing in the scriptures that states humans should be force fed, or force fed under all circumstances. I do not understand much of what I have seen. I do not understand why the Christians were praying in public with their hands all up in the air and singing hyms in the hospice yard. Is it because they want the rest of us to know how holy they are? In the scriptures a certain group were admonished not be behave in this way. The scriptures also say we are to love, not hate, they also say that our God is not the author of confusion, yet I have heard threats towards MS and heard the worst accusations and untruths. I have seen nothing but confusion. I think the Christians are not making us look very compassionate and have made this look like a contest, sort of like a horse race, who ever wins gets something..what a thing…it is sad. I do not doubt that there are good Christian people out there, guess that is what scares me. It would be best if the arguments had material, legal, and ethical foundations, and that the hymn singing and praying had been done more privately. I just did not like the show for the cameras. I would have appreciated the Christians (and I am one, again I say) validating medical and physiological science. It is not my intention to say the tube should or should not have been removed, but to say that valid arguments by all debaters should have been at least considered, from an intellectual stand point. I have not seen much of that out there. You have held your ground well for your believes, but have not been able to consider that there could be another way of looking at this. My question would be, why not at least think about or consider the science and alternative ethical concepts. It would not hurt anything at all. Anyway, I admire your moxie. I will probably be kicked off after posting this. Is it true the liberal press only showed the Christians behaving in such ways to make us look bad? Hum? I am very concerned that I will be forced to eat or be fed indefinately by people who have no right to be involved. This is a mess. Wish MS had turned over the guardianship and walked away. Night night.

  28. 429
    Acrossthepond says:

    A tough one for me is the case of a person in military service who is killed because of engineering negligence on the part of a corporation manufacturing something for the military.

    Jan at 425

    That’s a tough one for me too (although I’d write “dies” rather than “is killed”).

  29. 430
    Acrossthepond says:

    A temporary fix for the quote left open at the end of 429.

    [Thanks! Please keep on letting me know about these things, too - I'm happy to fix them, but they're invisible in the browser I usually use, so if no one tells me I never know! --Amp]

  30. 431
    Regina says:

    Has anyone else noticed a significant disconnect between the Papacy when it was opining on Schiavo and the Holy See right now as they wait for the death of their leader? Why are they not insisting that heroic measures be taken to preserve this man’s life? Why were the standards so different?

    Just wondering.

  31. 432
    Susan says:

    NursePractitioner,

    As a Christian myself, and a Catholic into the bargain, I could not agree more with your post. All this open and spectacular prayer aimed at the cameras made me very uneasy too (this kind of behavior is specifically condemned by Jesus, and they didn’t even have cameras back then!)

    My perception of [Robin's] comment is that you want a broad brush that will approach these things so that all cases will be treated the same, or that the outcomes will be more to your liking.

    More the latter than the former, I think. This attitude, which is not confined to posters on this board, makes me very nervous too. I don’t want Robin, or the government, or even a totalitarian Church, making my end-of-life decisions for me and my family.

    That’s what’s really at stake here.

    Resist resist!

  32. 433
    Acrossthepond says:

    In response to Regina: [April 2nd, 2005 at 6:43 am]

    When death is imminent or inevitable, the withholding or withdrawing of medical treatment that is judged futile or burdensome is both moral and legal today as in the past. Doctors do not have an overriding obligation to prolong life by all available means. Treatment for a dying patient should be ‘proportionate’ to the therapeutic effect to be expected, and should not be disproportionately painful, intrusive, risky, or costly, in the circumstances. Treatment may therefore be withheld or withdrawn, though such decisions should be guided by the principle that a pattern of care should never be adopted with the intention, purpose or aim of terminating the life or bringing about the death of a patient. Death, if it ensues, will have resulted from the underlying condition which required medical intervention, not as a direct consequence of the decision to withhold or withdraw treatment.

    The quote is from a joint submission of Church of England and Catholic bishops putting forward their views on a proposal to legalise “assisted dying” in some circumstances. Seehere

    I imagine that a reasoned response from a Catholic viewpoint would rest mainly on “death is imminent” (which it was not for Terri while she was being artificially nourished), but might also rely in part on views about whether feeding is treatment.

    Elsewhere in the same submission the bishops say:

    Neither of our Churches insists that a dying or seriously ill person should be kept alive by all possible means for as long as possible. On the other hand we do not believe that the right to personal autonomy is absolute. Patients should not be overtreated, and may reasonably refuse particular treatments as too burdensome. Having said this, life should be respected, whether in oneself or in another; the aim of giving or refusing treatment should never be to make the patient die.

    Well, my view is close to that – which is why I oppose euthanasia or assisting suicide, even if requested by a patient excercising personal autonomy. But I would attach more importance to personal autonomy (self-determination) than they do. And I recognise that sometimes the result of giving treatment will accelerate death (some palliative care – where the aim is relief, not to kill);
    and sometimes refusing (or ceasing) treatment will result in earlier death. To me, the foreseeable outcome of death does not make an action or omission necessarily one where the aim is to cause death.

    But wherever the line is drawn there going to be some cases which are very close to it. There are plenty of differences between the cases of Terri and the Pope for a line to lie between them.

  33. One BBC correspondent is putting a positive synopsis on the Terri Schiavo case.

  34. 435
    Susan says:

    Jan, thanks for the link!

    As this guy says, this system worked. And works.

  35. 436
    Regina says:

    Across: The Church tried to make it painfully clear that to withdraw the feeding tube from Schiavo amounted to euthanazia. They went against prior teaching (the Pope Pius panel cited by Father Gerard Murphy in his testimony) and apparently the agreement you cited. I find it perplexing and to be honest, contemptible.

    Church on Schiavo

  36. 437
    piny says:

    Susan:

    I’m an atheist, and of course I care about what will happen to my body after I die. It’s my body, my oldest and closest possession; it represents me, even after I’ve left it. I know that I won’t care then, but I definitely worry now. I don’t think that’s a particularly uncommon feeling. And that is why advance directives like the ones we’re all supposed to go out and get are respected in the first place, remember? Terri has the right to pre-emptively refuse medical care even for a future self incapable of caring one way or the other because her sovereignity outlasts her consciousness.

    I’m also a transsexual. I have pretty good reason to believe that, if I were to die anytime soon, my parents would attempt to have me buried as a woman. And chosen gender is a lot more difficult to defend in these situations than a DNR or a request to be cremated, believe me. Do I have no reason to be horrified by that possibility? Should I allow it–a dress and makeup, a headstone with my female name–for the sake of their feelings, since, hey, I’m not gonna be here to feel the violation?

  37. 438
    Susan says:

    piny,

    Oh, well, maybe being an atheist matters. Because I view death as a transition to a new life, and worrying too much about the body I left behind strikes me as akin to mandating how all my old high school papers are treated after I go to college. Like, who cares.

    Sounds like you and your parents aren’t on the same page here. (You’d sypmathize, then, with Terri Schiavo, who apparently had the same problem with her folks. Different issues, same problem.)

    It might be better for all concerned if you-all make peace now than if we worry about the (hopefully distant) day you die. Of course peace has to go two ways, and if they won’t they won’t I suppose.

  38. 439
    piny says:

    No, they won’t.

    There are plenty of religious people who have very strong feelings about the disposal of their bodies, either because of religious beliefs or independent of them. My Catholic great-grandma was terrified that she’d be cremated; my Catholic grandma really, really doesn’t want to be buried. And there are atheists who couldn’t care less. Different people also care and don’t care about different aspects of burial: I want to be acknowledged as male, but I’m not terribly concerned about what happens to my physical remains.

    I should think that all people would be upset if they knew that their families, for whatever reason, were planning to override their stated wishes.

    Also, the body that remains represents the dead person to the living; ignoring some wishes can be a gesture of profound disrespect for that person. If a pair of Catholic parents bury their Muslim child in a Catholic ceremony, they are insulting their child’s religious beliefs.

  39. 440
    Sally says:

    No offense, Susan, but it sounds to me like you don’t know very much about religions other than your own. To observant Jews, it really, really matters what happens to a body after death. It’s extremely important that bodies are not defiled by, say, cremating or embalming them. To do so is disrespectful both of the person who used to occupy the body and of G-d, who made the body. In fact, Orthodox Jews aren’t supposed to have autopsies or donate their organs, because it’s so important that the body be kept intact. I don’t know much about this, but my sense is that Muslims have similarly strong beliefs about how bodies should be treated.

    In my experience, Christians often falsely believe that their views about things like the relationship between the body and the soul are universal, or are universally shared by all people of faith. And I promise you, that’s not true.

  40. 441
    KLB says:

    First, let me apologize for any TYPE errors. My computer is acting VERY sluggish.

    My mother has been a C/ICU nurse all of my life. I remember visiting my ‘night shift’ mother as a teenager, and I remember seeing people in the ‘unit’ that were ‘gone’ (hooked up to machines) and I formed an opinion early on.

    I have some questions for the MEDICAL-EXPERIENCED readers based on statements that keep being used in this case.

    1. All this nonsense about WHY couldn’t Terri’s family just ‘give her food and water’ after the tube was pulled . I can’t stand seeing/hearing this any longer…

    would someone who has dealt with patients like this PLEASE give a realistic description of what a feeding tube IS, where it GOES, WHY they are put in patients like this (can not chew, can not swallow), what would happen IF a patient like this HAD anything put in their mouth (food or fluid)? (to me it is not rocket science, but obviously there are people who just do NOT understand?!?

    2. “except for the feeding tube she is other wise healthy” – did she not have heart failure?

    In all honesty, typically, in a patient like this are they REALLY ‘other wise healthy’???

    Can some one please give information about what the BODY goes thru, laying in a bed for 10 years (whether it is a case like Christopher Reeves or Terri). I just can’t imagine that gut functions, circulation, etc stays “other wise normal”.

    3. Starving/thirsting to death statements.

    How long has the feeding tube been successfully used in medicine?

    Before that, how did people who fell into conditions like this SURVIVE? Was it starving/thirsting them to death ‘back then’?

    When I saw on the news that a CHILD got ‘arrested’ for rushing up to the Hospice with a cup of water – all I could think of was (and tell me if my thoughts are wrong) JUST because she is getting hydration into a tube in her stomach does NOT mean that her mucus membranes in her MOUTH and THROAT are moist. And wouldn’t the ‘moisture’ level in her mouth/throat (since that is the indication of thirst) be affected by any kind of pain medication she may have been on?

    And I also can not stand the comparisons to ‘…going to jail over starving a dog to death’ or starving children in 3rd world countries.

    *sigh*

    If the point in this matter really is ‘freedom of choice’ (for the individual) and keeping the govt. out of your decision making, then I guess the most immediate/effective thing we can all do as individuals is get those living wills done.

    Which gets me to the point of WHY I asked my questions.

    Maybe if people had HALF an idea of what REALLY happens to the physical body in cases simliar to this; MAYBE now that people have an idea of what this type of battle in court does to a community, families etc; MAYBE people WILL be more inclined to have their wishes documented.

    At least if someone HAS their wishes written out, it MAY reduce the amount of court battles, family battles, and non-productive passion that only serves to belittle the memory of the ‘patient’, degrade families, and exhaust the court systems.

    ~K

  41. 442
    Acrossthepond says:

    I think that if I want to be concerned about what happens to my body when I die, I ought to be allowed to think what I want, and for whatever reason – religious or not. Some people will not care, some may feel very strongly; such is diversity.

    There are limits, of course, to the implementation of my wishes. I can think of quite a few things I might wish for (the possibilities are essentially endless) which it would be highly improper to implement. Some of them are so gruesomely tasteless and would be so gratuitously offensive that I’ll refrain from posting them.

    But here’s a fairly simple example of a hypothetical wish:

    Suppose I had some very special memories of a home I once lived in – but I’ve now moved and other people live there. I might wish to be buried in the garden of that property. Let us assume that my burial there would be legal. But the present occupants do not want to allow it. Should my wish be implemented?

    A potentially rational reason for having some wishes is that the manner of the disposal of my body may be important to my surviving family. I might well choose an option which I believe will to conform to their views.
    Why? I love them.

  42. 443
    Susan says:

    In my experience, Christians often falsely believe that their views about things like the relationship between the body and the soul are universal, or are universally shared by all people of faith. And I promise you, that’s not true.

    Sally,

    I didn’t mention anyone but one Christian (myself) and one atheist (piny). I didn’t mention Jews or Muslims or anybody else at all. (I didn’t mention diesel engines either, or whales, or any number of other things.)

    Because these topics didn’t come up doesn’t mean that I’m ignorant on those topics, or that I think everyone has to agree with me. It’s just that that wasn’t what I was talking about. I wasn’t even talking about all Christians. Just myself.

    Stop making assumptions, or if you have to make them, try being a bit more charitable. The world in general, and Christians in particular, are not out to get you.

  43. 444
    Susan says:

    I do a fair amount of estate planning, and I have observed that most people have a lot of trouble thinking of themselves as dead. Subconsciously, and sometimes consciously sort of, we tend to think of ourselves still hanging around after death.

    Perhaps that is true – who can know? Any number of cultures believe in ghosts, or the necessity of releasing the soul by certain rites, and so forth. Maybe they’re onto something, who can tell?

    My own belief is that when you’re dead you’re dead. As in, not here any more. I think I will be “somewhere” else, and that being there, while I will still love the people I love now – more, probably – a lot of things that strike me as being desperately important now won’t strike me that way then. Like, what happens to my body.

    piny, if I take him right, thinks that when you’re dead you’re dead, period. Likewise it would seem to me that you wouldn’t care anymore, because there would be no “you” anywhere to care? Perhaps piny can enlighten me further.

  44. 445
    Susan says:

    piny,

    I’m sorry about your folks. You sound like you’re young enough to be my kid; it’s too bad nature didn’t match us up. I think I’d be prepared to respect your determination.

    It’s hard being a parent sometimes. Kids challenge your assumptions a lot. But it’s an opening-up experience too. Hope you and your parents come in time to a happier adjustment.

  45. 446
    Sally says:

    Actually, you did make a more general statement. I didn’t quote it because for some reason my browser’s not letting me cut and paste from comments, but I’ll copy it here:

    Piny. Really. I am unaware of any philosophy or lack of philosophy any newer than cavemen (and Egyptians) who buried tools with the dead (on the idea that the dead person will need them for some reason) which holds that the person has some sort of reason to care what happens to his or her body after death.

    So unless you’re saying that Judaism or Islam are neither a philosophy or lack of philosophy, your statement was wrong. And if you’re going to be snide and dismissive (to both Piny and me, actually), you might take some care to make sure you’re right.

  46. 447
    Susan says:

    Sally,

    Sorry. But I still suggest that it is the community which cares, not the person. Or is the ghost hanging around, in Jewish thought, watching? (Maybe so, how would I know?)

    I’d be interested in any expansion you can make on this topic. If Orthodox Jews insist that no donation of organs be done, for example, why is that? (I’m assuming your Jewish. Maybe not, in which case you may not know the answer.)

    The Catholic Church used to require burial rather than cremation on the ridiculous grounds (my opinion) that God would have more trouble assembling your body for the resurrection of the dead (or maybe He couldn’t?) if you were burned up rather than being buried. However, smarter heads have prevailed, someone remembered that God is almighty, and the objection was dropped.

    Speaking only for my own Church’s former belief, I’d say that some pretty primitive thinking, not to mention superstition, was incorporated here. I’m glad we got rid of it.

  47. 448
    Susan says:

    If piny thinks I was being dismissive, I’m sure he’s more than capable of saying so himself.

  48. 449
    Susan says:

    The Chinese in my neighborhood – of whom we have a fair amount – take entire meals out to the gravesite and leave them there. I’m not sure what the thought is here. Does the deceased eat the food, or the essence of the food?

    (Actually the racoons get most of it, and the crows the rest.)

  49. 450
    NursePractitioner says:

    Now for the big one: Knowing what I know about tube feedings, here goes…Someone should have known his cardiac output and renal function before starting the tube feeding. If they did not know this, they had to know there could be repercussions. The tube feeding for the Pope was almost immediately followed by fluid volume overload. Did they kill him, no, of course not. Did he pass sooner, probably. Had he not had the tube he may have had a little more time. Fortunatly for him, he or his decision makers did not drag it out. But I’ll promise you, they either stopped or cut back the feeding when they realized he could not handle the fluid. If they stopped it or cut it back, did he dehydrate to death? Silly question for a terminally ill person in this situation, isn’t it.

    With fever and the high metabolic state that presentd, he needed fluid, but it was backing up into the lungs and he was having fluid shifts. Hopefullly that they reduced or stopped the fluid,. …well on and on it goes. I think they should be brave and tell all of us what they did when the TF contributed to expediting death by drowning. They should tell us they stopped the fluids. Are they going to say they continued the feedings as he was drowning? Of course not. They should then acknowledge this, and comfort families…explain that TF decisions should be decided not by courts, but by patients, families and clinicians as all patients are different. I hope the Catholic Church will stand up and be real about this. The disease state kills, not the TF or lack of it. Catholics and Christians everywhere should demand to know what occurred as they are being expected to keep fluids going regardless as to the condition of the patient.
    I agree resist resist!

  50. 451
    Acrossthepond says:

    – any newer than cavemen (and Egyptians) who buried tools with the dead —

    Customs and practice including “grave goods” continued long after that – probably to this day. That doesn’t make the underlying idea [that the dead might have some use for these items in the after-life] any newer of course.

    See here for more about this than you probably want to know.

    Is it true that nuns, monks, and (Catholic) priests are buried in their “robes”? If so, why? (Nobody should feel obliged to comment on this; I am insatiably curious and such questions sometimes occur to me late at night).

  51. 452
    Acrossthepond says:

    Another “null” post to close the hanging “blockquote” at the end of 450.

    [Thanks! Fixed! --amp]

  52. 453
    Acrossthepond says:

    Whatever you think of Catholics or the Pope, and provided you are old enough, you will be struck by the degree of openess about this Pope’s final days compared to hisorical precedent.

    I have no idea whose decision that was and probably never shall. I seems to me to be possible that the Pope himself decided – and to be consistent with what little I know of the man. If so, I think it was wise: some at least will now know more about the mechanisms of death, and some will be prompted to think through some of the issues. I think that’s a good thing.

  53. 454
    Susan says:

    Across, I don’t really know the answer about monks and nuns and all.

    I went to one funeral of a Carmelite friar….it seems to me that he was in his habit. Why not? What else? A sport shirt? I’m sure the guy didn’t own a suit. Aren’t traditional Jews buried in a shroud? I donno. Funeral customs seem sort of weird sometimes.

    My oldest once asked me what I wanted for a funeral when I died (an event he seems to think is immanent). I said, “Do whatever makes you feel better.” Funerals are for the living.

  54. Article on United on life, but not death. It’s also interesting that evangelicals support contraception, something I didn’t know, or at least this article says.

    It is customary for Jewish men to be buried in their talits, the prayer shawls which are the prototype for the Christian priests’ or ministers’ stoles. And with kippah, of course. I’ve specifically requested that in my case, in my Will. I have also specifically requested my body not be escorted, asking the people who’d do it to go read a good book or something instead. Organ donation is out in my case because the (I think dumb) Red Cross won’t even accept my blood. As far as any test can tell, I’ve never had any exposure to Hepatitis C but my lovely wife has, having caught it from a blood transfusion before they knew how to screen. The 30 year unprotected sex probability for monogamous partners with one having Hep-C is 50%. And she has just been exposed per her antibodies, never confirmed with the virus. Yet, that’s too high for the Red Cross. I’d probably donate if I could.

    In Reform, it’s increasingly customary for woman to wear talits and kippot so I wouldn’t be at all suprised if the requests for burial in them are there.

    The shroud and wooden box stuff is just too unlike everyone in this society, and it’s really a throwback to the time of the bubonic plague in Europe. My request is for an unfinished wooden box with handles and possibly a mogen David on it — out of consideration for pallbearers (ever try to carry one of those plain pine wooden boxes?) . I personally don’t have strong feels about cremation or not, but it’s not what my community does — and I consider all Jews my community — so I won’t.

  55. The 30 year unprotected sex probability for monogamous partners with one having Hep-C is 50%

    Sorry, I believe that’s high. I think it’s 30%. Essentially the guidance now is that unprotected sex between monogamous partners one having Hep-C is okay.

  56. Sorry. But I still suggest that it is the community which cares, not the person. Or is the ghost hanging around, in Jewish thought, watching? (Maybe so, how would I know?)

    I’d be interested in any expansion you can make on this topic. If Orthodox Jews insist that no donation of organs be done, for example, why is that? (I’m assuming your Jewish. Maybe not, in which case you may not know the answer.)

    Sally can certainly answer herself, but the technical details from the Orthodox viewpoint is that keeping things as intact as possible is a statement of belief in the Jewish equivalent of resurrection, at the End of Days. (I am deliberately using Christian terminology here rather than classic Jewish to make it as widely understood as possible.) The eschatology of Orthodoxy has the Messiah coming and, coincident with that, the resurrection of all Good People by God, emphatically not the same as the Messiah. The Messiah is a political human leader.

    That said, there’s a very Buddhist-like story told of, I believe, Rabbi Akiba. He was asked by a student how should one respond if told the Messiah has arrived. Akiba said, Say you’re hoeing your garden. Someone comes by and tells you the Messiah has arrived. Should you go and follow him to see the Messiah? No. Finishing hoeing your garden first. The analogous modern Buddhist ko-an is After nirvana, do the laundry!

  57. 458
    Susan says:

    Interesting, Jan. Thanks for the information!

  58. 459
    maureen says:

    BBC has just reported that it was the Pope’s own decision that we all be kept well informed of what was happening during his last hours.

    My own knowledge of people in the humanist-atheist spectrum is that both thinking and action confirm that the dead body is to be treated with respect – not because it has magical powers, not because it has intrinsic worth but because it is where someone who was precious to us used to live. Any ceremony tends to be minimal and low-key but, as I have heard it said at such a funeral, this final dignity is what we owe not just to our dead friend but to any of our fellow humans, should the responsibility fall to us at that time.

  59. 460
    piny says:

    I don’t think you’re being dismissive of my feelings, to the extent that you understand what feelings I’m referring to. I think that you’re missing my point. Because you yourself don’t care what happens to your body after death, you’re having trouble seeing how important it can be for others.

    I agree that when you’re dead, you’re dead and gone; that’s not the issue.

    My point is that the living can and do care about what happens to their bodies after their deaths, and that they, the living, while they’re living, deserve assurance that their wishes will be respected. This has nothing to do with whether or not they hang around afterward; it has to do with their feelings while they’re alive. They get to feel secure in the knowledge that their bodies won’t be desecrated, that they won’t be dissected by medical students if they can’t stand the idea, that they won’t be cremated if they think it’ll cost them the afterlife, and that they won’t be buried as Catholics if they converted to Judaism.

    Funerals are for the living, yes, but that includes the living thoughts and desires of the someday-dead.

    This is the same rationale for advance medical directives: when you’re PVS, you’re PVS; you don’t particularly care what happens to your body. That doesn’t mean that living people don’t deserve assurance that their advance directives will be respected. You say you don’t particularly care what happens to you after death. Assuming you would have no consciousness at all, would you have no problem with your body being kept alive like Terri’s for fifteen or twenty or fifty years, if your family so desired? You would already have left, after all.

  60. 461
    Susan says:

    huh, all very interesting.

    I think part of this may be just me. Some people go to graveyards, for example, and they feel closer to the person who’s gone. I just don’t. I don’t know why. Take my mom’s grave. Well, she was never there in life, actually, since my father chose the site after she died. It’s a very pretty spot, but she’s not there, and she never was there. The thought that what’s left of her body is underground there makes me feel far away from her rather than closer.

    When the relics of St. Therese of Liseaux came by here in the US a few years ago, hundreds of thousands of people went nuts. They had to close 5th Avenue, because St. Patrick’s, that massive place, wasn’t anything like big enough to accomodate the people who rushed over there. It was the same everywhere the relics went. Mobs. As it happens I atttended one of these mob scenes (in my capacity as a Secular Discalced Carmelite) and again, nothing. The fancy box with (some of) her bones in it, which caused grown men to weep and women to faint, just reminded me that this was a woman who died in France in the late nineteenth century. Very long ago. Whereas when I read her books and letters I get a real sense of her, that a box of dried bones just doesn’t give me.

    So no, after death, I don’t care. As for PVS, piny, if we’re sure it’s PVS, all good. But if there’s a bit of awareness in there, I want out. Also, in that case I’d have to think about my family. Would they want, would I want them to have, the continuing financial and emotional burden of having me hang around in Terri’s condition? I think not. And I hope they have the sense not to want that.

    I can’t speak for anyone else, then. But for me, my funeral, if any, is for the living. I hope they figure out what would be of comfort, and then do it. If that means burying me as a Jew (assuming the Jews would have me for some reason), or as a man, or keeping my ashes in the linen closet (which is where my dad’s ashes are because we can’t make up our minds what to do with them), that’s fine with me.

  61. 462
    dan says:

    I have one main point to make: M. Schiavo had a conflict of interest in serving as his wife’s guardian. He has moved on, starting a new life with another woman, having children with that woman. Actions as this are understandable under the circumstances. They also should have negated his serving as her guardian, to allow this was a blunder on the judges’ part.

    From a strictly legal standpoint, his actions constitute adultery. Under some legal jurisdiction, abandonment is a felony; there is thin line between abandonment and pulling a feeding tube.

    In the vast majority of instances, he would have found himself divorced. As Terri could not do that, the court allowed him to retain his legal position. In doing this, they allowed him to end her life. Essentially M. Schiavo was allowed the power of life and death over his wife & her trust fund, while at the same time having sex and fathering children with another woman.

    If Terri, was truly brain dead in the cognitive sense, then why did they administer morphine, that is contradictory. If her IQ, was say at the time of the feeding tube, say hypothetically 3, does that make her less human than I or you?

    A great amount of money was spent from her trust on legal fees to withdraw the feeding tube. Her own parents – brother – sister not allowed to her burial service, no 3rd party allowed at autopsy, cremation rather than traditional burial. I believe the courts have stated her husband now has to disclose burial arrangements of her ashes, etc.. to her parents. No, that should not have taken a court order.

    I believe that in this case, the guardian should have defaulted to the parents, brother-sister, or to a state – appointed guardian(as last resort). As to her statement that she would not want to be on life support, she may well have said that, it is also hear-say.

    To say I have miss-giving’s is an understatement.

  62. 463
    Regina says:

    Dan, you really should read all the posts above first. They respond to most of the points you try to make.

  63. 464
    Susan says:

    Dan,

    Please go back and read.

    1. Michael’s guardianship had nothing to do with the decision. The court found, by clear and convincing evidence, that Terri wanted that tube pulled, and it was pulled by court order. You may not like the way courts make decisions in this country, but that’s the way we do it. We call it “the rule of law.”

    2. Terri was quite human. Accordingly, we respected her wishes, rather than the wishes of her parents, Jesse Jackson, George W. Bush, John Paul II, on and on.

  64. 465
    Acrossthepond says:

    Dan – you might not know there was a precursor to this blog, where many of these issues were discussed at length.

    See here.

  65. 466
    Acrossthepond says:

    I’ve been wondering why it is that so many people seem to have a set of ideas about this tragedy which are passed on apparently so readily.

    I’ve found the ideas of “memes” to be interesting in this respect; and although I start with the intention of this being a short note, I suspect it will end up longer!

    A “meme” is an idea that gets into peoples’ minds and somehow causes them to spread it into other peoples’ minds. The term was coined by Richard Dawkins by anology with genes. A set of ideas which travel around together is sometimes called a meme-complex (I find mind-set easier).

    Some of those who study this subject suggest that the meme-complexes which spread rapidly or are persistent share some characteristics (of which “truth” is not necessarily one) which help them spread and survive.
    Sometimes such meme-complexes are likened to viruses; they appear to take on a life of thir own and get passed on because – and simply because – they are good at getting passed on.

    Some suggest that “ingredients” of a virulent meme-complex might include:
    - life and death
    - sex
    - violence
    - money
    - tyranny
    - freedom
    - conspiracy
    - appeal to Authority (Popes, Presidents, Constiutions, Legal systems, Courts, God)
    - family
    - anything in short which pushes our emotional or cultural hot buttons
    and may generate very vigourous efforts to spread itself, be aggressively intolerant of any competing set of ideas, and rely minimally on facts

    PLEASE note three things:

    1. Just because you might see some parallel with some mind-sets in the Schiavo case, the ideas about how and why these spread and persist are independent of whether they are “right” or “wrong”.

    2. This is not an attack on any one set of advocates of any particular position, but an attempt to understand how some view points spread.

    3. I fully recognise that I have a meme-complex too – based as it is on the principles of self-determination and the rule of law. I hope mine will survive long-term. [ I also enjoy hosting the meme for British spelling.]

    A trio of links of interest?

    * A Memetic Lexicon

    * Viruses of the Mind – Richard Dawkins If you are an adherent to a faith, be prepared – Dawkins does not hold faith in high regard.

    * Meme Central

  66. 467
    dan says:

    Across the Pond, Perhaps I strayed from my point, too much. That point was simply that M. Schiavo had a conflict of interest in acting as guardian. I do not believe that he should have been in the position.

    Susan, I am aware of how our courts work, and they are not infallible. If the system were infallible, the trust for Terri, would not have expended the amount it did on legal expense, but rather on medical care. That is only one check of the systems logic in the matter, there are others.

    Regina, I did not try to make a point, I did make a point. The point is that M. Schiavo had a conflict of interest. I did skim the postings, and did not see this mentioned, but may have well missed it. I did diverge from this though; imagine that is at least partially what you referred to.

    Thanks for your replies

  67. 468
    Susan says:

    Dan:

    1. Michael had a conflict of interest with whom? With his wife, who told him what she wanted and trusted him to carry it out? Or with her parents, who were determined to override her wishes?

    2. Of course the courts are not infallible. However, if you have a better idea for finding facts – examining bird entrails, perhaps? – please feel free to share it. I’ve found that just about everyone here who disagrees with the courts in this case is merely unhappy with the decision. Unfortunately, that some people who weren’t even there at the trial and and who know almost nothing about the case don’t like the way it came out is not commonly considered a reason to have another trial so that things can come out your way. Sorry.

  68. 469
    donnis says:

    I fear jumping into this fray-so many of you folks sound quite educated and intelligent. I’ve appreciated everyones’ opinions-I live in Oregon, the only state, I believe, which has passed a “right to die” law successfully-twice. Several whackos in the federal government have been trying to undo what the citizens in Oregon voted for and consider their right, if the decision is made by a coherent terminal person, and they have been given less than 6 months to live, they can receive help (medication) from a physician. It’s worked well for several folks, was a bungled attempt by one, recently. The higher political powers have threatened to “prosecute” physicians who help by giving lethal drugs.
    I personally don’t plan on committing suicide, but i bought the book, “Final Exit”. i don’t approve of depressed, healthy folks committing suicide-it’s a darn sure way to make sure things will never get better-but as for judging them, that’s up to the big guy-(whom i do believe in). i’m furious about the federal government getting involved in the Schiavo matter in the manner they did (both Governor Bush & Pres Bush & the other politicians)
    Not much scares me more than overly conservative, overly religious folks getting into power-and making their extreme viewpoints into laws.
    There are some basic rights & wrongs, but for circumstances like the public spectacle that came out of what should have been a private, sad
    situation, we need to learn from the results and try to change laws afterward and not to ignore laws because we don’t agree with them this time. thanks for interesting reading, folks. the times (as always) are a changing….(showing my age there)

  69. 470
    dan says:

    Susan,

    1. I have not expressed an opinion whether the tube should have been pulled or not, and I’m not going to. I was not there, so for me to express that opinion, just does not make sense.

    2. Conflict of interest is best explained in example, can a prosecuting attorney prosecute a company he has a large investment in? M. Schiavo’s conflict of interest comes into play, as her legal husband, would stand to inherit money from her. I am in no way saying that it affected his decision. However hastening her physical death, would also lessen drain on her estate, and he was her legal heir. Therefore financially he benefits from an early death. Also, after her death, he can legally re-marry. That is his conflict of interest, and just the way it is like it or not. Did it affect his decision, or how much. I don’t know.

    3. I imagine the courts did their best in finding out what her wishes would have been. Personally I doubt it was her wish to live in that manner. We can’t now ask her, if she’d like to be flown to Paris for a cutting edge stem cell treatment. Perhaps you think it’s alright to expend about $400,000 legal to take her off the tube, rather than spend that money, on the flight to Paris. Given one last chance for life, most of us will take it, it’s instinctual.

    4. Bird entrails? Better than name calling I guess, lol.

  70. 471
    Regina says:

    Dan, if you’d read the prior posts, hopefully you would find in them the fact that the money has been spent on Ms Schiavo’s care, that perhaps $30K remains at most. You really should read the court records which you can find at the abstract appeal website or that at the Univesity of Miami. The cites are given either above or in the prior thread which has been linked for your convenience.

  71. 472
    dan says:

    Regina, I’m aware that there are little $s left, and that a lot of the trust $s were spent on m. care. It’s ironic and unfortunate that about $400k was spent on legal, in the matter. I may not be exactly right on that number, but from what I’ve seen on the web, I’m probably pretty close. On this specifically, it would have been better to have spent on medical-experimental, rather than enriching a lawyer. That is just my opinion, lawyers get $150 an hour in my area. The whole thing is tragic.

  72. 473
    Susan says:

    Dan,

    “Cutting edge” stem cell therapy doesn’t even claim to regenerate cerebral cortex.

    I think the money was well spent, if what she wanted was to die peacefully rather than be kept alive in that condition. (And a court of competent jurisdiction so found, and was upheld upon numerous appeals.)

    It was really her parents who necessitated spending the money by inserting themselves in a situation which was properly speaking none of their business. (Do I think I can dictate what medical treatment my married daughter has or doesn’t have? I keep my beak firmly shut on such issues, lest my daughter and my son-in-law shut it for me!)

    Either Michael was trying to get the money for himself, or he spent all of it improperly. You can’t have it both ways. As in so many of these discussions, you’ve made up your mind that he’s a bad man, and so you’re ready to blame him for everything and anything, even when what you say doesn’t make any sense.

    Let’s just say that if I had been Terri, struck down by such a thing in my 20′s, and ending up in the condition she was in, I would have wanted that tube pulled, and furthermore I would have wanted my young husband to go on with his life, have the family we couldn’t have (she was trying to get pregnant when she had her heart attack) and hopefully get the bulk of the money too. Whatever would I want with it? To be kept alive in PVS for 40 years? God forbid.

    Most of the legal fees – which I imagine far exceeded the trust fund – came, as I understand it, from political pressure groups on both sides. Another sad part of this sad business, that this private family tragedy was used by so many people for their own purposes.

    Lawyers are very cheap where you live. I charge much more than that, and I’m under market.

  73. 474
    dan says:

    Susan,

    I only used stem cell treatment & Paris, as an example. What it does and does not do is not pertinent here.

    I never said M. Schiavo was bad, I said he had a conflict of interest.

    Believe the rates of lawyers are higher in larger cities, but that is rather off the subject.

    As far as me not making any sense, that is your opinion, my main point by far is that he had a conflict of interest, you did not reply to that. I could answer your not making any sense comment, but lets just say more than surface apparent things have occurred to me.

    I agree the issue should have been kept within the family.

    You seem to think I agree with the parents, I did not say that. I do not entirely.

    As to guardianship, in this matter, my actual opinion is: her husband had a conflict of interest: her parents seemed at odds with her wishes determined by court: if I were the judge, I probably would have appointed an independent guardian.

    I also have a daughter and son-in-law. We pretty much let them live their lives, that is the right thing to do.

    I’ll leave you with just a bit of an abstract thought: that of sitting so ever alone on a beach for endless day after day, something missing, but what. To your back a large black wave, a promise to take you from the beach, erase the loneliness, an ending. To your front, a small thin string looking not strong enough to lift your hand, yet something bright and promising about the string, that it will bring things back once lost. Which one would you take?

  74. 475
    Susan says:

    donnis, you and I are on the same page. Ya don’t need a lot of book learning to figure this out. It’s mostly common sense. (You may hold a doctorate, for all I know. But I don’t think that’s necessary.)

    Yes, dan. Terri was a Catholic (sort of), and so am I (more than sort of).

    I’ll leave you with just a bit of an abstract thought: that of sitting so ever alone on a beach for endless day after day, something missing, but what. To your back a large black wave, a promise to take you from the beach, erase the loneliness, an ending. To your front, a small thin string looking not strong enough to lift your hand, yet something bright and promising about the string, that it will bring things back once lost. Which one would you take?

    Yes, yes, dan. I see it. The thin string is Christ. I want to go to that light.

  75. 476
    dan says:

    Susan,

    I visualized the wave as death, the bright string a path to life, purely subjective either way.

    I am Catholic also. Why do you refer to Terri as sort of Catholic, and yourself more than sort of?

    Agree the government should be kept out as much as possible.

    You still never responded to my statement that M. Schiavo had a conflict of interest in acting as guardian.

  76. 477
    Acrossthepond says:

    Much has been made of the husband’s status as guardian, and what some have identified as conflict of interest.

    I just wonder though, how relevant the guardianship has been.

    Did it effect Terri’s medical condition? I don’t see how.

    Did it result in (some of) the Court proceedings? Presumably some of his petitions could only be brought by the guardian.

    Did it affect the rulings of the Court(s)? I’ll focus on the Court’s findings as to Terri’s wishes. The Court MAY have found him credible on the basis that he was her HUSBAND; the Court, of course, did not find solely on the basis of his evidence.

    Was the tube removed because he was the guardian and said it shoould be done? No – because, the Court acting to implement Terri’s wishes, as it had found them to be, ordered it.

    If you are interested in what MIchael says about why he did what he did, you could read Transcript of an appearance by Michael Schiavo on ABC News’s Nightline, March 15, 2005

    If you are interested in the (lengthy) history of legal proceedings and some other events, you could look at KEY EVENTS IN THE CASE OF THERESA MARIE SCHIAVO This resource is a joint project of the University of Miami Ethics Programs and the Shepard Broad Law Center at Nova Southeastern University. It contains many links to documents from the legal records – and other documents of interest.

  77. 478
    Acrossthepond says:

    If you wanted to read an analysis by some [self-styled?] leaders of the Florida Bioethics Network you could look at – a pdf document written specifically referring to the then proposed Florida House Bill 701 [the "Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities Prevention Act"?].

    It contains some interesting discussion of the defects (as the authors see them) in the bill, which broadly would have prevented the removal of a “feeding tube” from any patient in the absence of an advance written directive. Interestingly their criticism even extends to the title (‘terms like “starvation,”? as used in the title of HB701, are inaccurate, confusing and emotion-laden’). They also explain why the believe the term “feeding tube” is a misnomer.

    If you are concerned about the ways in which legislators may seek to change your laws, it’s worth reading.

  78. 479
    dan says:

    Across,

    I did skim over the key events link you sent. There was one entry pertaining to stimuli for her brain, presumably an experimental procedure. There are a lot more entries regarding tube removal & legalities. I don’t like the ratio, my opinion.

    Would a different guardian have made a change in her medical condition? From a medical technology, linear response based world, I don’t see how it would either. Something I’ve learned, though, the brain and our world are not always that linear. I believe there is a post from a Harvard doctor mentioning this. So yes I would say that a different guardian with a varying approach would have changed her condition. I’m not suggesting a miracle cure.

    Any court would put a lot consideration in the testimony of a guardian, so in that position, they can sway a courts decision.

    I did read M. Schiavos interview. I have served as a guardian; it was an emotionally painful job. Noticed that Felos, did not mention legal costs directly.

    As to what our government wants to do, (in a multitude of ways, it should be less), I’m not a fan of big government, or more laws (especially those cooked up in a hurry). I believe in the right to govern ones own body. I do not believe that the definition of life in a human can be based on how sentient they are. I mention this, as I’ve heard it said that Terri died 15 years ago.

  79. 480
    George F says:

    Perspective: Before the circus is an interesting article by the last journalist to visit Terri Schiavo, and the only one present the last day of the 2000 trial. It’s a good read.

  80. 481
    Susan says:

    Dan,

    I suppose that every spouse would have a “conflict of interest” in such a case, as do most children deciding in the cases of parents. Are you suggesting that guardians shouldn’t be spouses or children, always strangers?

    Yet another ridiculous idea, like the notion that Terri wouldn’t have told her husband what she wanted if she should be incapacitated, but would have told her mother. That’s not the way most adult women operate. What if her husband had died in a car crash? Then her heirs at law would have been her parents. Would you have disqualified them as guardians on the same grounds?

    No, because you agree with their approach to the problem. So I think we’re back to how you don’t like how the case came out. This is interesting, but not too interesting, and, as I said, we can’t jigger every court decision in the country so that Dan, or Robin, or I, am pleased by the result.

    I said that Terri was “sort of” a Catholic because although her parents are quite devout, she hadn’t been attending Mass for the two years or so before her heart attack. And we require attendance. I do at least show up, though I didn’t when I was Terri’s age. How that would have come out for her eventually we just don’t know, but she wasn’t much involved with the Church in her 20′s.

  81. 482
    dan says:

    Susan,

    My wife and I, both have mentioned in casual conversation that we would not want to be kept alive on a machine. I could see that coming up between most other couples, including the Schiavos. I doubt she wanted to live like that. If nothing else comes from this, I suppose there will be an increase of wills written to cover the issue.

    I would not suggest guardians should never be related, in many cases they would be the best choice. The Schiavos relationship was not the normal husband wife relationship at the time of her death. It’s my opinion that as he had moved on with another family, on doing so, there was a better choice for guardianship. My opinion, we all have one.

    As to your example of her parents as her guardian, if her husband had pre-deceased her; it is really not comparable, again he started another family.

    Regarding the outcome of the case and my not liking it, neither did you, we both would have loved a miracle cure. As to taking her off the feeding tube, life support etc.., if that was her wish, so be it. I don’t have a problem with that, it was a family decision.

    I see a red flag with some things as court order becoming necessary for her parents to attend her memorial service, and a far greater effort raised in ending a life, than in trying some new technique (maybe 2 or3, rather than 1) to rejuvenate it. That’s my opinion, again.

    As far as your labeling anyone a “sort of Catholic”, you bet I have a problem with that. I fit your criteria; however I consider your criteria having about the same worth as reading bird entrails.

  82. 483
    Ampersand says:

    This thread is now closed. It’s just gotten too huge.

    If you’d like to continue the discussion, please post your responses and comments on this new thread instead.

    Thanks!