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Saturday, February 26, 2005

What Terri Schindler-Schiavo can look forward to

With the agonizingly protracted execution of Terri Schindler-Schiavo set to begin on March 18, neurologist Dr. William Burke describes how one starves to death:

"A conscious person would feel it [dehydration] just as you and I would. They will go into seizures. Their skin cracks, their tongue cracks, their lips crack. They may have nosebleeds because of the drying of the mucous membranes, and heaving and vomiting might ensue because of the drying out of the stomach lining ... death by dehydration takes 10 to 14 days. It is an extremely agonizing death."

(An important note about the column in the New York Post by Arnold Ahlert from which this is taken: Terri has not been in a comatose state for 15 years. While she has been incapacitated (unable to get out of bed or to take nutrition without the aid of a feeding tube), she has reacted to loved ones around her by following their voices, smiling and moving. It certainly is not helpful for journalists who seem to be on side to get these elementary facts of the case wrong.)

Posted by Paul Tuns on February 26, 2005 in Current Affairs | Permalink


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Tracked on 2005-03-03 4:06:26 PM


I'm in favour of keeping Terri Schiavo plugged in, but this persistent huffy declaration that she's not "comatose" is nonsense. She's at most a 4 or 5 on the Glasgow Coma Scale--which, for good clinical reasons, emphasizes motor and verbal responses to commands and requests rather than subjective perceptions ("Oh look! She's smiling! Kootchy-kootchy-koo!"). "Comatose" is the imprecise but universally accepted word we use for the state Terri Schiavo is in. If you're going to make an honest argument that her life has value, you are obliged to admit without evasion that the woman is exceedingly unresponsive to stimuli, and it would be best to acknowledge that she is likely to die without uttering another intelligible word, whether on a court's schedule or fate's. And every crap argument to the contrary flings away a little more of the pro-life crowd's meagre stock of credibility.

Posted by: Colby Cosh | 2005-02-26 8:41:09 PM

>I'm in favour of keeping Terri Schiavo plugged in


Posted by: Jeremy Lott | 2005-02-26 10:30:43 PM

This time, Colby, I call bs on what you've said...and that's about how this thread is going to turn out. YOU'RE full of BS. No YOU'RE full of BS. No YOU.

/end of thread

Posted by: tz | 2005-02-26 11:05:16 PM

I'm in favour of continuing to feed Terri because the law seems to have used a simple, cold balance-of-probabilities analysis to determine her presumptive wishes. There's no written living will; the only evidence we have is oral, and it comes from one source. The chance that she would regard her feeding tube as an instrument of rape is being treated with more respect than it deserves, since the decision to withdraw her food and water is irreversible. I think the standard's got to be much higher than that before you starve somebody to death. And while I'm not qualified to comment on the possibility raised recently that her husband is engaged in destroying evidence of spousal abuse, that's a possibility in principle with all these cases--which is one good reason death shouldn't be treated as having claims equal to those of life.

The argument that she might rise from her bed spontaneously isn't terribly convincing, not only because of the medical facts, but because she'll have every opportunity to get up and run to the fridge (if the Lord wills it!) after March 18. From that point of view there can really be no serious objection to withdrawing treatment. Any argument made on that basis is just a cheesy debating point.

Posted by: Colby Cosh | 2005-02-27 12:52:00 AM

To put it another way: Paul Tuns & co. don't REALLY care whether Terri Schiavo is "comatose" or not. Even if she were comatose, they wouldn't want her to be starved to death. They, quite reasonably, don't want anyone to be starved to death deliberately in our society. So the point about the "coma" is nothing but an insincere distraction.

Posted by: Colby Cosh | 2005-02-27 12:59:13 AM

The testimony that led the court to conclude that there is clear and convincing evidence of Terri's wishes (a more rigorous standard than "preponderance of the evidence") came not only from Michael, but from his brother and sister-in-law. The court found their statements credible, and not impeached on cross-examination.

Posted by: Sporkadelic | 2005-02-27 8:18:22 AM

But it's not as rigorous as the "beyond a reasonable doubt" standard that we use to decide whether, say, murderers should be executed. If Terri Schiavo was a cop-killer who had been put on Death Row with this sort of "clear and convincing evidence", every liberal in the United States would need a change of nappies.

Posted by: Colby Cosh | 2005-02-27 11:26:35 AM

Particuarly if/since her malpractice funds are now expired, I would be inclined to inquire why the testimony of her in-laws should be given more credence than that of her parents, siblings, and other close acquaintances.

Colby's point about rigour is important here.

Posted by: tz | 2005-02-27 10:31:58 PM

In his decision, the trial judge explained why he found some of the testimony credible and some of it unreliable. To this layman, his argument is reasonable on its face. Not having seen or read the testimony itself, I don't see that I have grounds to say the trial judge was wrong, particularly as he was upheld on appeal. I'd be interested to know, from someone who has (at least) read the decision, where the judge went wrong in applying the "clear and convincing evidence" standard. Of course, one may well argue that the Florida legislature should have insisted on proof beyond a reasonable doubt, or (what may amount to the same thing in practice) prevented the withdrawal of nutrition and hydration absent a written statement of the patient's intention.

Posted by: Sporkadelic | 2005-02-27 10:56:26 PM

I've been following this story since it first hit the news more than a year ago. I am also a sworn peace officer with many, many years under my belt.

Suffice to say that I have a very bad feeling about all of this. There are too many things that don't add up and if there is any chance at all that Terri will one day be able to tell us what happened then I am "for" keeping her alive.

I also find the idea of starving someone to death appalling. If a seriously ill person (cancer) is under consideration and a "do not resusitate" order is in place that is one thing. To deliberately starve someone to death in order to "get rid of the problem" is something else entirely.

There is no doubt in my mind...irregardless of what the "hubby" has to say about the matter. Terri should remain "plugged in" and that ends the discussion in my mind.

I want the possibilty of "spousal abuse" full investigated prior to any decision being made on whether to "disconnect her".

That is "gut instinct" but it comes from long years on the job.

Posted by: Jack | 2005-03-01 2:06:09 PM

How can anyone with a consience sit back and say this woman deserves death by starvation? when is the last time anyone was allowed to see her medical or other records? when was anyone allowed to see her? her (so called husband) has forbidden any and all treatment for her, and to allow this death by torture to go ahead, we are condemning EVERY person with any kind of life support to death.. what if this was your mom, sister, daughter? The doctors and the courts should be allowed to make an unbiased appraisal of her condition (not her hubbys doctors) and probability of improvement by therapy, before anyone should decide her future.

Posted by: dusk | 2005-03-02 11:19:44 AM

Is Terri a welfare queen?

Who is paying for her upkeep?

Posted by: M. Simon | 2005-03-05 5:19:39 AM

The woman does not even resemble herself. The state she is in was most likely brought on by an "eating disorder". I don't think I live in a vacuum, so I assume she consciously adopted this "eating disorder" way of life. And it was this "eating disorder" that propelled her into a cardiac arrest, anoxia, and subsequent vegetative state, so to speak. So we can vindicate the husband, the family, et.al., because everything we've learned about eating disorders tells us it's about the individual. Now the family can stop witchhunting the husband, and really start caring for the daughter in the right way and maybe let her die in the way they should have 14 years ago. If Terri was starving herself, she was killing herself already. Now we're spending years wondering if she wants to die when she was trying to kill herself 14 years ago. Hey Dr. Baden don't you know anything about anorexia? Those girls are dying for attention? In reality. This whole fight isn't about "right to life", it's about greed. It's always about greed, money, and Terri's family and husband and the malpractice claim. That's what the courts should decide. Like Solomon, it should be split, and Terri should be allowed to die with dignity tomorrow, enough you Pharisees!

Posted by: Sharon Segda | 2005-03-23 10:27:51 PM

Now to my business after watching Afterhours on Fox. If your reporters haven't figured this Schiavo thing out yet, then perhaps you better tune in to the photos in the latest People Magazine just out in the Supermarket. I didn't buy it, I just had to wait that long to check out today.

When Terri graduated from College she weighed about, well suffice it say it was well over 200 pounds. Clicking for next slide we'll advance to the wedding photo, it shows a curvaceous but trimmer bride, still a healthy size 16, I would venture to guess. Around the time of the "accident", or is that what they are calling it, you will see photos of a much changed Terri, with bone structure in the face. The photos that you will see are a size 6, maybe a size 4. Now that Terri is dying in her hospital bed you hear from her family's lawyer's that there is speculation that there might have been spousal abuse based on findings of rib fractures at the time of her "accident". No talk is being made about her Bullimia. How about rib fracture from repeated daily self-induced vomiting? How about factors contributing to cardiac arrest from lengthy usage of stimulants, laxatives, and self-induced purging resulting in dehydration? Terri's family wants to blame her condition on Michael when there is only one person to blame. We all know about "eating disorders" and "dying to be thin" and that's what usually happens. So now Terri's feeding tube has been removed and a whole mass of organizers is up in arms about rights and Euthanasia when that was what Terri was doing to get into this mess in the first place.

I'll bet I'm right and Michael doesn't want to say anything about the eating disorder, but why doesn't anyone else see it as clearly as I do.

Posted by: Sharon Segda | 2005-03-27 4:36:42 AM

Watching Libertarian killers think is a useful exercise.

Terri => Overweight Young Woman => Welfare Mom => Diet Fanatic => Self Inflicted Diet Condition => Self Inflicted Brain Injury => She Was Killing Herself Anyway => She Deserves to Die => That is what she wanted anyway => A Just Result => Republican Judge was Right => Judge should not be kicked out of his Church => Lets get it over with, its Easter already.

If there is such a thing as the American Dream, this above is the American Process.

No wonder so many people around the world don't like Americans anymore.

Posted by: Joe Green | 2005-03-27 9:05:02 AM

I do not believe this

Posted by: fornetti | 2008-09-01 5:33:46 AM

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