Friday, March 18, 2005

HOT TOPIC: TERRI SCHIAVO'S FEEDING TUBE

What would you do?

Your spouse, now age 41, suffered severe brain damage 15 years ago when a chemical imbalance apparently brought on by an eating disorder caused her heart to stop beating for a few minutes. Now she can breathe on her own, but she has relied on a feeding and hydration tube to keep her alive since 1990. Before all this happened, she told you she didn't ever want to be kept alive if she was going to have to be in a vegetative or comatose state. She has now been comatose for the last 15 years, and others (including her parents and a number of politicians) have prevented you (her spouse and guardian), from having her feeding tube disconnected. The doctors have agreed she will never regain any cognitive function, so it seems like the humane thing to do, to disconnect her tubes and letting her go.

On the other hand, if the tube is disconnected, she will die from slow starvation. This seems barbaric, like a form of torture.

I know my spouse wouldn't want to be kept alive for years and years in a comatose state, but I also know it would be hell for me and for our kids to watch her die of starvation.

In this case, I suppose the "quality of life" issue is a moot point for Terri Shiavo. If she is truly without cognition, she may be able to feel physical pain but I would doubt she can think or reason about her situation. If this is so, she wouldn't understand anything about the current quality of her life. If she feels physical pain but has no cognition, then it follows she would not be aware she was experiencing pain, or in other words, it is doubtful she would recognize pain as such. If "quality of life" comes into play, it would be more of an issue for her survivors: her husband, who can't bear to see her continue living as she is now, and her parents, who can't bear to see her die.

What would be worse? Having no say at all in whether or not your daughter's feeding tube remained in, or seeing your wife's life perpetuated in a way that would obviously be against her wishes? I have daughters, and I have tried to put myself in Terri Schiavo's parents' shoes. I am also married to my wonderful wife, and I have tried to put myself in the shoes of Terri Schiavo's husband, Michael. Either set of shoes would be awful to wear.

Although either scenario is horrible, I lean toward the husband in this case. While I can see the parents are experiencing anguish, their daughter was 26 when she had her problems, and she was no longer living with them... she had gotten married. I believe that while Mrs. Schiavo's parents knew her well from having raised her, her husband knew her well from the standpoint of a married relationship. If theirs was a good marriage, the Schiavos knew much about each others' innermost feelings, quite possibly to the point that such things as the prolonging of life were indeed discussed. If you make a commitment to another person for life, and with death being a part of life, it only seems a natural thing for life partners to discuss the subject. My wife and I have. Most people I know have. I am a husband, and my wife and I have a pretty good marriage... and we have had discussions about the inevitable... so I am probably biased toward the husband due to my personal circumstances.

The basic question may well be: Is Terri Schiavo actually Terri Schiavo anymore? Is what used to be Mrs. Schiavo now simply a breathing, vegetative shell without awareness or thought? While she will always be Terri to her parents and to her husband, all of them must realize the Terri they knew 15 years ago isn't with them now. Nonetheless, that doesn't make it any easier for them to let her go. Michael Schiavo is ready to let go of Terri's shell; Terri's parents are not.

What are your thoughts on this?

3 Comments:

Blogger J. Marquis said...

This is really a tough one. I guess I'm leaning toward the husband only because I honestly believe he just wants to end her suffering. I heard that her laying position has to be adjusted every 15 minutes (24 hours a day) or she'll develop bedsores.

I know taking her off the feeding tube is rough but that's basically how thousands of older people die everyday. They just quit eating and eventually get so weak they die. It seems to be nature's method. Or if they want to spare her that experience maybe they could give her a shot of some kind that speeds up the process.

7:33 PM  
Blogger Snave said...

Arrrgh.

I was flipping around on the AM radio dial this evening, and in the town where I live you can pick up all kinds of stations once it starts to get dark. And guess what just about all the talk shows were discussing? And you know what the gist of most of it was, besides that Michael Schiavo should be investigated and indicted?

"Democrats want to kill innocent people."

Oh, yeah?

It was nauseating, the extent to which some people will take any issue and politicize it. Any hardcore GOP types who say the Democrats politicized 9-11 need to take at look at their own behavior and statements in this case. From what I heard on the radio this evening, most of the callers were licking their chops in anticipation of using this case as a way to paint the Democrats as murderers. They didn't seem to care about Terri or Michael Schiavo or Terri Schiavo's parents at all... they were just criticizing and castigating the Democratic party... sigh...

I'd like to be able to discuss issues such as this without politicizing them. So far so good, in my original post I managed to not blame the GOP for keeping Terri Schiavo alive.

ALso, J. didn't politicize anything in his comment. If there is a way to not bring up political parties during further discussion of this issue, I think that would be great. I don't think either party is the problem in this case.

I think the problem lies in what is merciful and when is it right to be merciful... but as Dennis Miller used to (and may still*) say, "That's just my opinion. I could be wrong!"

*I don't know if he still says that, because I don't listen to him much anymore...

12:12 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I just think it's sad that what should be a totally private family matter became such a huge media event.
Was the story newsworthy? Yes it was. Should the woman have her whole life dragged into the American public and used for politics. No.

12:19 AM  

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