Skip to comments.Terri Schiavo: Myths and Facts - Dr. Dianne Irving, PhD
Posted on 11/03/2003 9:13:07 AM PST by cpforlife.org
Terri Schiavo: Myths and Facts
By Dr. Dianne Irving, PhD
Note: The tragic case of Terri Schiavo and her poor family will rapidly bloom into the United States' "euthanasia test case" for the international bioethics and right to die movements. So it is important now to see this connection, and factor it in when listening to media and press reports on Terri's situation. In addition to resolving this case properly and decently for Terri and her family, all of us, you and me, will be the direct benefactors of it's resolution one way or another as it sets legal precedent in the courts. One classic bioethics tactic is to get their bioethics agenda passed in one state, and then "codify" the law across all of the United States. Such is probably the situation in Florida. This means that all of us have an interest in how this case is finally settled. Most of all, as usual, the true and accurate facts involved in this tragic case are being manipulated, thus confusing the public and other decision makers. It is therefore vital to get the facts of this case as accurate as possible as the starting point for all other discussions, before they are adequately twisted and then rapidly moved into the larger bioethics debates. Keeping open minds while the truth makes its way through this process is critical. To that end, for starters, please consider the following as we know the facts now. More excellent articles, amicus curiae briefs from physicians, lawyers, nurses, other experts, etc., can be found on the Schiavo website at http://www.terrisfight.org.
MYTH: Terri has been in a persistent vegetative state, a coma, or is terminally ill, for 13 years.
FACT: NO. Terri is disabled and has brain damage, but is not in PVS, coma, or terminally ill.
MYTH: This is just a "religious" issue.
FACT: NO. While Terri's religious rights have definitely been criminally denied, it is fundamentally a disability issue in which her civil rights as a disabled citizen have also been denied.
MYTH: Food and hydration are "extraordinary means", and thus a patient has the right to refuse.
FACT: NO. Even, and especially, in secular terms, while the use of ventilators, drastic surgery, experimental "therapies", etc., are extraordinary means and may be refused, food and hydration have always been defined in medicine as ordinary means, or "palliative care" (as is the use of antibiotics, needed X-rays, minor surgery, etc.). For Catholics, it is morally permissible to refuse extraordinary means, but not morally permissible to refuse ordinary means, or palliative care (including food and hydration). [See refutation of Fr. Murphy's testimony at the Schiavo website: http://www.terrisfight.org/lead.htm]. See also encyclicals and documents on euthanasia at: Declaration on Euthanasia (1980), http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/congregations/cfaith/documents/rc_con_cfaith_doc_19800505_euthanasia_en.html. Evangelium vitae, http://www.vatican.va/edocs/ENG0141/_INDEX.HTM. Respect for the Dignity of the Dying (2000), http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_academies/acdlife/documents/rc_pa_acdlife_doc_20001209_eutanasia_en.html. The Charter for Health Care Workers (1995), http://www.vatican.va/roman_curia/pontifical_councils/hlthwork/documents/rc_pc_hlthwork_doc_19950101_charter_en.html. USCC, Catechism of the Catholic Church (1994), http://www.usccb.org/catechism/text/index.htm. See refutation of Fr. Murphy's court testimony by Vatican scholars: http://www.terrisfight.org/Framesets/RecentFrame.htm.
MYTH: Removal of food and hydration is "death with dignity" and painless.
FACT: NO. Removal of food and hydration is "death with gross indignity" and monstrously painful and ugly even with morphine or other drugs.
MYTH: The issue is the "right to die".
FACT: NO. The issue is the "right to live".
MYTH: A husband always makes surrogate medical decisions for his disabled incompetent wife that are based solely on her best interests.
FACT: NO. It is well known and documented that many family members of disabled patients are tired of their difficult situation and want to get rid of the problem (i.e., the disabled patient).
-- Terri left no written directives, and a 10-years tardy "witness" who claims she said something to the effect.
-- There are legal submissions to the court, including by nurses who cared for Terri, concerning her husband's abuse of Terri.
-- There are conflicting medical and legal testimonies by "experts".
-- There are conflicts of interests with the husband's lawyer and the judge because of direct as well as indirect ties to the Florida euthanasia lobbyists and hospices.
-- There is a great moral distinction between direct and intentional killing, and allowing someone to die, letting the disease or condition take its course. While that is taking place, all basic and fundamental palliative medical care should be given to the patient to make his/her death as dignified as possible -- including food and hydration.
This is a minimal list to consider while we wait for all the facts. Hope it is helpful.
Dr. Irving's professional activities include teaching positions at Georgetown University, Catholic University of America, and The Dominican House of Studies. She represented the Catholic Medical Association of the United States, and the International Federation of Catholic Medical Associations, at the Scientific Conference in Mexico City, Mexico, October 28, 1999 and presented a paper on "The Dignity and Status of the Human Embryo". Dr. Irving is a former career-appointed bench research biochemist/biologist (NIH, NCI, Bethesda, MD), an M.A. and Ph.D. philosopher (Georgetown University, Washington, D.C.), and Professor of the History of Philosophy, and of Medical Ethics.
Personal Note to our Readers:
From Debi Vinnedge, Executive Director
Children of God for Life has followed the case of Terri Schiavo for over two years when the matter was brought to our attention at a local Clearwater meeting of the group, Physicians for Excellence in Health Care. Although Terri's plight was occurring in our own back yard, we had no idea of the facts of this case, thanks to the local media that did a marvelous job of concealing the truth from the public. When I watched the video of Terri interacting with her mother, every lie I had been told about Terri was laid bare and refuted. As a mother, I watched and heard - heartsick - as this child interacted with her own mom and I wondered, how could anyone think for one moment that this young woman who smiled and tried to talk when her mother spoke, who moved her head and eyes - whose feeding tube was the only life support she used - was somehow classified as a person in a "coma" - or a "persistive vegetative state"? And then I heard the testimony of Dr. William Hammesfahr who showed in accurate medical facts how Terri had the ability to recover a great deal of the normal lifestyle that any one of us enjoy, but unfortunately, that much needed therapy was being denied by the husband that had promised a jury 10 years ago to do just that.
I strongly urge you to read Terri's ordeal and the gross injustice that has been inflicted upon this woman, who never had any sort of living will and who never has given up on her will to live. You may have read that Terri would never have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means. That is what the husband told the courts - right after he was awarded 1.2 million dollars. We can tell you this much...Terri never said she wanted to be starved to death - and that is exactly what the courts have tried to do. She can eat, she can swallow, she can say some words - very clearly - and she laughs, smiles and cries and reacts with great joy and love when her parents, her siblings and her priest visit her. To learn more about the ongoing battle for Terri, please visit her website: http://www.terrisfight.org
On October 21st, the following complaint was filed with Attorney General John Ashcroft and although her feeding has now resumed due to the new law passed overwhelmingly by the Florida House and Senate on October 20th and 21st respectively, her battle is not yet over. Michael Schiavo is still the legal guardian and no criminal investigation has ever been done to determine whether he may have brought about the mysterious injuries that resulted in her present condition. Below in chronological order (newest to oldest) are the letters Children of God for Life has sent and will continue to send until Terri Schiavo's rights are fully restored.
Children of God for Life letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft: Continued Denial of Civil Rights (Updated 10-27-03
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Above link is dead - fix please?
Unfortunately, even Fox, in their news crawls at the bottom of their screen, continue to characterize her as being in a "persistent vegetative state." This in spite of proof to the contrary as presented on their evening shows, including Greta's and Hannity's.
Why would that matter now? A GCS is only useful in the acute time frame following a head injury.
In other words no. I was just wondering if there were any objective evidence one way or the other. Each side claims something, but they can't both be right. What about the other score the Rancho Los Amigos scale?