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Friday, March 18, 2005

What Ever Happened to Terri?

I know I have spent far too much time lately writing from the top of a soapbox. Perhaps I would better spend my time by marching down to the "free-speech" area of the university campus and blowing on a bull-horn for an afternoon? Would I get anyone's attention?

Probably not.

Most people would simply duck past me, avert their eyes, pick up their pace . . .

But, for those of you who choose to read this little blog, -- continue or not -- you choose whether you want to give a second of thought to my little ideas. You choose whether you care enough to agree or disagree.

You choose. You have that power, that right.

Hmmph, and what an appropriate transition to the topic weighing upon me today . . .

that is: WHAT EVER HAPPENED TO TERRI?

Because, for those who rely upon the mainstream media to inform and educate, your choice has been largely circumscribed. A debate has been fashioned under the guise of the "Right to Death" topic without any explanation of WHY Terri Shindler-Shiavo lives as she does or WHY she ought to die as her husband would have it . . .

One night in 1990, Terri collapsed in her home due, in part, to her secret battle with bulemia. Her husband discovered her hours later and she was taken to the hospital where it was discovered that a lack of oxygen during the time since her collapse was responsible for brain damage. She was left in a largely comatose state.

Later that year, Michael Shiavo took Terri to California for some experimental treatment in hopes that she would improve. After rehabilitative work and treatment, doctors reported that she was improving. Michael took Terri home and enrolled in nursing school so that he could learn to take care of her.

During this time, a medical malpractice suit worked its way to a conclusion with Michael Shiavo claiming Terri's condition was attributable to the incompetence of her physician. At the trial he declared to the jury his UNDYING love for his wife, Terri, and pleaded for a large jury verdict so that he would be able to care for her.

Many doctors testified that in her present state Terri wouldn't live even 20 years. Michael Shiavo and his attorney claimed she could and would live another 40 years. He needed that money to help her.

The jury returned a verdict for over a Million Dollars . . .

Three months after receiving the money, Michael Shiavo placed Terri in a nursing home and signed a "Do Not Resuscitate" order. He forbid anyone from doing any rehabilitative work with Terri. He refused, on her behalf, the treatment of antibiotics for various infections that would follow. He banned the doctors from providing any medical information to Terri's parents. Signs were placed upon the television in Terri's room declaring that it was not to be played. No one was even allowed to brush Terri's teeth.

The woman who had been improving through treatment and rehabilitation . . . the woman to whom Michael Shiavo had declared his undying love and desire to care for . . . the woman on whose behalf he had pleaded with a jury to give him the money to care for her over the next 40 years of her life . . .

The woman began to decline.

What motor skills she had begun to rediscover vanished. Left alone with no stimulation from the nursing staff or television, no rehabilitative work with medical professionals . . . she slipped into what would appear to be a vegetative state.

And then Michael Shiavo remembered.

He began to recall an evening years earlier when he, his wife & his sister had been together watching a movie about a woman in a coma. According to Michael, during this movie Terri had made a comment upon which her death would be based. During the course of this movie about a comatose woman unable to exist without the help of a respirator . . . during the course of this movie Terri shook her head and commented, "I wouldn't want to live like that."

And because Michael Shiavo remembered, he began to fight . . . to kill her.

In 1995, a Florida judge handed down a ruling that would allow Michael to remove Terri's feeding tube, starving her to death. The learned judge declared that since Terri could not eat without a feeding tube, (though hooked up to no life-sustaining machine otherwise) Terri could be starved. He based this on the opinions of some doctors that she could not swallow on her own.

Terri's parents countered with the statements of other doctors that Terri COULD swallow. She just needed to be given the chance, they begged. Her parents asked the judge that they at least be allowed the opportunity to attempt feeding her with a spoon.

The judge, however, fearing that Terri would choke and die . . . said no. It is better she slowly starve to death than give her the opportunity to quickly choke to death in an attempt to live.

Michael had been dating several women since Terri's accident. Shortly after the 1995 ruling, he became engaged.

Of course, Terri survived that first attempt upon her life else I would not be dwelling on this today. Terri, her life, would be nothing but a memory. I would not know her name.

By 2002, Terri had survived several more judicial attempts to take her life. It was then that I learned of her story. And Michael was still fighting to kill her (although it is debatable whether the impetus came from Michael or his fees-collecting attorney by this point).

The Governor of Florida, after many calls from constituents, began to look into the matter and spoke to both sides. He viewed a video-tape which Terri's parents claim to show that she could be capable of recovery if given treatment. And he reversed his position.

Gov. Bush introduced a bill before the Florida legislature which would save Terri's life. It was passed and soon signed into law. Michael and his attorneys switched gears and began challenging the constitutionality of the law. In 2004 the matter went before the Florida Supreme Court and the law was struck down as unconstitutional. The bill, you see, was only intended to cover and protect Terri. The Court said the legislature could not do this.

And now, 15 years later, Terri sits silent and alone in her hospice room. Instead of 15 years of treatment and attention, Terri has silently endured 15 long years of neglect. And she has fought and survived it all.

The final order was given recently to kill Terri Shindler-Shiavo and her feeding tube was scheduled for removal at 1:00 pm Eastern today.

Michael recently claimed during an interview that her death would be painless. Of course I am not a physician, but as I understand it this is a lie. Due to the lack of food and water, the fluid around Terri's brain will dry up and her brain will also dry up and began to crack. Her lips will do the same. Her tongue will dry and split open. Terri will be in an excruciating amount of pain.

Due, however, to her silence . . . we will be spared her screams. We may only guess what her slow death will feel like.

The U.S. Congress, for Terri's sake, issued a temporary reprieve exactly one hour ago. The House of Representatives issued a subpeona to Terri Shindler-Shiavo, requiring her to testify before the Congress. For now, she is protected. One can not kill a Congressional witness when she has yet to "testify."

Also, the House and the Senate are working out the details of a bill which would allow the removal to Federal Courts any case such as Terri's, dealing with a life such as her's. This would give her parent's another step for appealing the state judge's decision. (Unfortunately, it would also put more money into the pockets of Michael's attorney).

This is not a "Right to Death" issue. This is about the ability of one man to get away with his crime by his use of the judicial system. This is about asking, "What is a life-sustaining measure?" This is about protecting Terri's life and giving her a voice.

One can only guess what Terri would be had she been treated properly. In the meantime, however, we must decide if simply administering "food and water" equates to the artificial life given by a respirator. Where do we draw the line?

And, more importantly, how much should be required to show Terri's will? Is a flippant remark during the viewing of one made-for-television movie enough to decide a person's fate? Shouldn't more be required? If it was you, wouldn't you want your life to rest upon more than a casual remark you make during the course of your day??

Finally, when the Florida Governor, the Florida Legislature, the people of Florida and now even the United States Congress gets involved to save this woman's life . . . should the judiciary be allowed the power to kill her? And all of this happens without Terri even having a voice in the proceedings for there was never an attorney appointed to represent her.

You might say Terri has no "quality of life."

I contend that there is more quality in the life of Terri Shindler-Shiavo than the lives of thousands that walk and talk and waste each day of their lives doing nothing.

Perhaps even mine.

4 Comments:

Blogger Moonlighting in Misery said...

Florida Judge George Greer has just effectively overruled the will of the United States Congress and, by proxy, the majority they represent. He ordered the feeding tube must be removed immediately. Now begins a death watch. It is now 2:15 pm.

3/18/2005 12:14 PM  
Blogger Me said...

This was a good post. I never knew all the information behind her husband though... That's really interesting. Where did you get this information?

Thanks! Jenn

3/21/2005 6:29 AM  
Blogger Moonlighting in Misery said...

Glenn Beck was the original source for much of this.

In 1995, he was working and broadcasting locally in Tampa, Florida the first time the feeding tube was pulled.

Due to local media coverage, he came out publicly on the side of Michael Shiavo.

However, after doing his own research, Glenn changed his mind and began speaking out about Terri.

When Glenn went national, he still talked about it. He has been credited with getting Jeb Bush involved as well as making it a national story.

You can verify much of this information through sources Glenn has posted on his website at www.Glennbeck.com or you can visit the website www.Terrisfight.org.

Otherwise, I have been following the story for a couple of years now and listening to interviews given by lawyers on both sides.

Cspan.com also had the video of the arguments before the Florida Supreme Court last fall. They may still have them archived if you are interested. For a legal hack, it is an interesting debate.

3/21/2005 7:48 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is not a "right to die" or "right to live" issue. If Terri had her wishes in writing, no one would be arguing this issue. However, her wishes are NOT clear and her husband's intent IS in question.

Criminals have more rights than Terri. You couldn't starve your dog in Florida. Babies and some elderly cannot feed themselves, yet they still have a right to live. What is wrong here??

We are going in a dangerous direction if we do not prevent this from happening again. A person's wishes should be clearly stated or else we should err of the side of life.

3/31/2005 9:15 AM  

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