Two perspectives on the case of Terri Schiavo, part 2

Much debate has arisen over the controversy surrounding Terri
Schiavo, a 39-year-old woman in Florida, and the decision by the
Florida state legislature to keep her alive by means of a feeding
tube.

In a case that has turned into a battle over money and the law,
the individual at the center of the controversy seems to have been
forgotten.

Schiavo’s condition came about 13 years ago, at the age of 26,
when her heart stopped. Paramedics were called to the scene and by
the time they arrived, her heart had not pumped blood for
approximately 10 minutes.

The prevailing theory is that her heart stopped due to a
chemical imbalance, namely, a potassium deficiency.

The brain damage she suffered left her capable of breathing, but
not able to ingest food or liquids. Her family contends that she
can be rehabilitated and taught to swallow again. This would allow
Schiavo to be taken off the feeding tube that currently keeps her
alive.

Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri’s parents, along with Jeb Bush,
governor of Florida, have used photos and video clips of Terri to
sway the public, trying to show that Terri is awake and alert,
which she appears to be.

Apparently, their persuasion paid off.

On Oct. 15, the Florida Supreme Court made the decision to side
with Terri’s husband Michael Schiavo and have the feeding tube
removed. Six days later, however, the Florida State Legislature
drafted legislation that was signed by Governor Bush, creating and
implementing a law that required the reinsertion of the feeding
tube.

From a constitutional standpoint, Governor Bush completely
ignored the fact that there is a judicial branch of government that
has its own separate powers.

Perhaps more disturbing is that, according to accounts of her
condition, Terri is in what is known as a persistent vegetative
state.

PVS, according to the National Institute of Neurological
Disorders and Stroke, means that the individual has lost cognitive
neurological function and awareness of environment, but retains
noncognitive function and lives in a sleep-wake cycle. The
individual retains the functions of the brainstem, meaning
respiratory functions continue. The eyes may open and the body may
respond to external stimuli. They may occasionally grimace, laugh
or cry.

However, the brain is incapable of emotion, memory or
thought.

In fact, most doctors, except those appointed by the Schindler
family, agree that there is no hope for Terri to recover. Her
former primary physician, Victor Gambone, M.D., stated that Terri
“does not exhibit any cognitive behavior,” nor any awareness of her
environment.

Currently, the debate seems to focus around her husband and his
motives for wanting to let Terri go. This is just one of the many
sad parts.

I don’t know what Michael Schiavo’s motives are. Yes, money is
an issue–Terri has a trust fund of $700,000 that he could possibly
inherit–not to mention the fact that he has started a family with
another woman. However, I believe we need to look past the money
issue and examine the bigger picture. Her body is kept alive by
humans; her individuality and spirit were taken away 13 years ago
for reasons only God knows.

In a recent statement by Archbishop John Donoghue of Atlanta, he
states: “…we must make a decision to preserve life–a decision to
provide her with the means to keep living, and to do so as
comfortably as possible.”

However, in this case it is not the preservation, but rather the
destruction, of a life. Rather than being remembered for the woman
and individual that she was, she will be remembered as being a
center of controversy. Her situation has turned into a political
nightmare.

If her family ultimately wins the battle over her “life,” what
have they actually gained? Even if Terri is taught to swallow
again, we must look at her ability to enjoy a quality life. Quality
of life is a major issue surrounding medical ethics, an issue that
I think most people are forgetting in this situation.

While her eyes may be open, she isn’t seeing; while she may hear
sounds, they don’t strike any chords within her; and, while she may
smile, it is not because she is happy.

Michele Parrish is a senior studying communication.