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April 1, 2005

A Contradiction to the Very End

Even in Terri Schiavo's final moments, a central contradiction of those who thought she should "be allowed to die" surfaces:

Felos disputed the Schindler family's account. He said that Terri Schiavo's siblings had been asked to leave the room so that the hospice staff could examine her, and the brother, Bobby Schindler, started arguing with a law enforcement official.

Michael Schiavo feared a "potentially explosive" situation, and would not allow the brother in the room, Felos said. "Mrs. Schiavo had a right to have her last and final moments on this earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not of acrimony," the lawyer said.

Isn't the whole argument, vis-à-vis the legitimacy of killing her, that she can't experience anything? Perhaps the atrociousness of Felos's grammar indicates an attempt on his part to gloss this contradiction with ambiguity.

Posted by Justin Katz at April 1, 2005 6:39 AM
Culture
Comments

Maybe he was referring to the belief among many religious people, especially Buddhists but some Christians, that the amount of acrimony and tension at the moment of death impacts your spiritual afterlife.

Posted by: Res Ipsa at April 1, 2005 10:45 AM

Res Ipsa, that is irrelevant speculation -- unless you can directly link Michael Schiavo with that particular belief about tension in the air.

In any case, the insistence that Terri could still experience a final moment would still contradict the assertion that Terri had been irretrievably gone for years and what remained in the room was a corpse in the care of others.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 1, 2005 12:08 PM

Maybe Congress and Bush should order the federal courts to hold another hearing about it.

Posted by: Res Ispa at April 1, 2005 12:59 PM

Maybe you could refrain from throwing out irrelevant speculations to obscure the contradiction.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 1, 2005 1:14 PM

As long as we're off track...

Res Ipsa, perhaps you would care to comment on the lack of response from the judicial branch on the constitutionality of that law that congress passed. It's pretty sad when the judicial branch flouts a law they can't argue the constitutionality of. If I were to flout the law that openly in front of the court, it would earn me some serious jail time wouldn't it? I think it's time congress started using it's powers of impeaching to remove the judicial hacks.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 1, 2005 1:26 PM

I'm not sure what you are asking, SMM. I think Judge Birch of the Eleventh Circuit handled it fairly clearly in the last denial of hearing, pointing out the brazeness of Congress and the White House.

Posted by: Res Ispa at April 1, 2005 1:42 PM

Felos disputes himself. He's been telling the world for years that Terri Schiavo is in a "persistent vegetative state". Then, he comes out yesterday and today, telling everybody what a wonderful, warm, comfortable place the death room had become: flowers, music, stuffed animals. Never mind that a supposedly PVS person would, by definition, have no knowledge or perception of flowers, music, or stuffed animals. He's a stinking liar, and nobody in mainstream media calls him on it.

Posted by: ELC at April 1, 2005 4:06 PM

Perhaps Michael wanted to spend the final momments with his wife in peace and quiet, which Terri's brother was likely to disrupt.

Yes, I'm speculating, as is everyone who has opinions on this who is not part of Terri's immediate family. It is apparent that Michael and Terri's parents have deep differences that go back years. None of us are privy to the whole story, so anyone describing one side as saints and the other side as devils doesn't really know what he or she is talking about.

Posted by: Dancar at April 1, 2005 6:44 PM

I'm still waiting for the Murder Indictment against Michael, Felos, and their various judicial accomplices. Maybe prosecutors are waiting for the autopsy report, but this kind of thing should go before a Jury, no?

Posted by: Marty at April 1, 2005 7:49 PM

A jury needs to hear about a medical and legal decision made thousands of times a year and approved by at least 20 different courts?????

Posted by: res ipsa at April 1, 2005 10:45 PM

Res Ipsa said:

"I think Judge Birch of the Eleventh Circuit handled it fairly clearly in the last denial of hearing, pointing out the brazeness of Congress and the White House."

Did he actually use the terminology to indicate that the law was unconstitutional, or did he just use the judicial equivalent of a "Butt out, you're not the boss of Me!"?

and also said:

"A jury needs to hear about a medical and legal decision made thousands of times a year and approved by at least 20 different courts?????"

Yes! Especially if the autopsy reveals that she did not collapse because of a heart attack brought on by Bulimia, but was in fact strangled by her physically abusive husband. If the autopsy determines that there was a substantial portion of her gray matter intact, that would implicate the attorney Felos and Judge Greer in complicity of her murder.

I think it will happen Marty. I just hope the autopsy report doesn't get buried in a legal flurry. I think we deserve to know the results.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 2, 2005 12:16 AM

SMMTherory:

Would you also indict the doctors who initally examimed Terri, who either committed malpractice by confusing signs heart attack from those of strangulation, or conspired with Michael to cover it up?

Posted by: Dancar at April 2, 2005 2:48 AM

It is a red herring to talk about how many (2/20/200/whatever) courts have ruled on this issue. If the original fact finding was erroneous, and was never re-examined, then any number of appeals would simply have issued rulings that were incorrect as to the facts, no matter how correct as to the law or precedent. It's much like starting a syllogism with an incorrect premise: one will get to a wrong conclusion quite logically, no matter how many times one tries.

I doubt very much there will ever be a prosecution for her death: I suspect there is too much incest (figuratively speaking) among the Powers That Be in Pinellas County. But, a wrongful death lawsuit and/or a Congressional investigation might be quite another story.

Posted by: ELC at April 2, 2005 7:00 AM

Dan,
It is my understanding that the initially examining doctors ruled out the heart attack, but her husband's malpractice suit was that they did not diagnose it as a heart attack and thereby mistreated her. I've heard her EKG was not that of a heart attack victim. If that is true, then the husband was the only party to a conspiracy to cover up what he had done. I believe that should come out in the autopsy report though. I understand that there would be scar tissue on her heart consistent with a heart attack. I find it suspicious that in the 15 years since her 'initial heart attack' a bad ticker doesn't seem to have been an issue. At least not like that urinary tract infection that could have been fatal that her 'husband' didn't want her treated for.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 2, 2005 10:33 AM

Dancar -- "Perhaps Michael wanted to spend the final momments with his wife in peace and quiet, which Terri's brother was likely to disrupt."

Felos did NOT say that the decision to exclude Terri's grieving mom, dad, and family was mecessotated by Michael Schiavo's wish for peace and quiet.

Felos said -- "MRS. SCHIAVO had a right to have her last and final moments on this earth be experienced by a spirit of love and not of acrimony."

The decision was made before the brother's verbal exchange with the officer. Michael denied Terri the comfort that her parents might have offered in her final moments. He had denied them peace and quiet during their daughter's decline on what became her deathbed.

Sorry Dancar, your speculation is also a distraction from the contradiction revealed by the exceedingly careful spokesman for Schiavo.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 2, 2005 11:26 AM

I hope michael,his attorney,the dr's & anyone else that did this to god's angel gets whats coming to them!! GOD DOESN'T SLEEP! If, in fact i'm wrong, then I apologize. But, I believe there was nothing wrong with her, other than a husband tired of caring for his wife is what i see.

Posted by: tammy at April 3, 2005 5:11 AM

I hope michael,his attorney,the dr's & anyone else that did this to god's angel gets whats coming to them!! GOD DOESN'T SLEEP! If, in fact i'm wrong, then I apologize. But, I believe there was nothing wrong with her, other than a husband tired of caring for his wife is what i see.

Posted by: tammy at April 3, 2005 5:11 AM

A few observations: The local coroner is a political position. They are elected and often, pretty politically entrenched. The Shindlers were refused the right to have an independant presence at Terri's autopsy. The insistence on keeping this, and so much more, out of the light of full disclosure has to make me wonder. I mean, Michael saying,"I think I'll pass on that" when asked if he'd be willing to take a lie detector test and the refusal to allow new and advanced tests to determine Terri's neurological condition and forbidding new video of Terri relating to her parents and ......... why not let the light shine on the facts, if they are true. They wont melt. And ,what on earth is going on with the objections to the executive and legislative branches interacting with the other branch of our government?? I keep hearing that the gov't. has no business in private matters such as this. Please , I welcome correction if I'm mistaken , but isn't the judiciary a branch of the GOVERNMENT? I have always believed that decisions of the courts are very much everybody's business. I mean, isn't it true that if the courts can order for the Shindler's daughter what they ordered (Flesh of their Flesh and Bone of their Bones starved to death against their wishes and with total disregard for their intuitions, AND refusing to PERMIT function tests for their daughter that might have proven their intuitions were correct. And the Court( aka.part of the government) ordering that her parents NOT Be ALLOWED to give her any sustenance by mouth to see if maybe she could survive with no feeding tube ) then I must accept the fact that a law has been established that shouts, "look at your children and know that the government can do this very thing to them and to you" I am also appalled by the "circle of friends" that make up the cast of characters in this surreal political drama. Corruption exists and apparently believes that it will never be exposed to the light. It is operating in our courts with the boldness of a gang of thieves on a dark night in a house where nobody is at home and nobody's keeping watch on behalf of the home owner. Didn't these people who lament gov't. interference ever hear about checks and balances? Would it be agreeable to them if the gov't ordered the death by starvation of THEIR daughter or son, against their wishes??? If they can say "Sure, that would be just fine with me", then I guess all's well for them. As for me, I want the facts out in the light and based on what I know to be true thus far, I want Judge Greer impeached and other complicit players to be held accountable. This ruling seems an expression of extremely viscious, politically protected criminal insanity. How does that quote go? All that is required for evil to triumph is for good men and women to do nothing at all." I will not. Not with the safety and security of those most precious to me hanging in the balance.

Posted by: jackieanlee at April 3, 2005 2:00 PM

SMMTherory:

If the doctirs initially ruled out heart attack and if there was any evidence that Terri was strangled by Michael, why wasn't he arrested and charged with attempted murder 15 years ago?

The reason Terri's heart has been fine since a heart attack 15 years ago may be that since she no longer controlled her diet, she could no longer be anorexic or bulemic.

The reason every court reviewing the case has agreed is simple: accodring to Florida law, when a person is unable to make choices recarding their medical treatment, those decisions go to the spouse. In 1990, the Supreme Court ruled that the feeding tube could be removed in cases like this. So where were all of your then?

If you had the misfortune of being in Terri's state, would you want every decision your spouse made on your behalf to be debated and second guessed by bloggers, talk show hosts and grand-standing politicians?

Biggest hypocrite: Tom DeLey. When his father had a major head injury, he and his family
decided to remove life support and allow his father to pass away. I'm not criticizing them for that - it's no one's business but their own. But if you call Michael Schiavo and Judge greer murders, then by the same reaosning you'd have to call DeLey and his family murderers too.

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 12:52 AM

"decided to remove life support and allow his father to pass away"

Surely you've been paying attention enough to know that a large part of the debate revolves around the novel concept that withholding food and water from someone is now called "life support". (Some people are also calling it "medical treatment", or equating it to "heroic measures".) The differences between Delay's case and Schiavo's case are precisely what we're arguing over. Nobody is arguing that people on machines (ventilators, etc.), or people who are truly brain dead, cannot be removed from the machines. We're talking about starving/dehydrading someone, not removing a ventilator.

I would also just like to reiterate that the charge of hypocrisy is not an argument - the best it can do is weaken the persuasiveness of one's opponent. Human beings are inconsistent and hypocritical all they time - you can't win an argument simply by pointing out that fact.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 4, 2005 7:29 AM

Mike,

Being fed through a hole cut into your abdomen is just as artificial as having a machine expand & contract your lungs for you. If removing a feeding tube from a person with such severe brain damage that they no longer posses self-awareness can be described as "death by starvation" then removing someone from a ventalator is "death by suffocation."

If Terri was really "murdered," then thousands of oher people are also murdered

My comment about DeLay isn't the only point I made above.

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 11:35 AM

Cancar said: If Terri was really "murdered," then thousands of oher people are also murdered.

Where did you get this vague statistic? If they were starved or dehydrated to death, then, murder is not to be ruled out. In such a scenario, there really shouldn't be safety in numbers.

In fact there isn't, not for the victims.

Posted by: F. Rottles at April 4, 2005 12:04 PM

Dancar,

Being fed through a hole cut into your abdomen is just as artificial as having a machine expand & contract your lungs for you. If removing a feeding tube from a person with such severe brain damage that they no longer posses self-awareness can be described as "death by starvation" then removing someone from a ventalator is "death by suffocation."

That's preposterous. There are many people whose body functions just fine, but they cannot feed themselves. For a person on a ventilator, their body is not functioning properly, and they will quickly die without the mechanical help of the ventilator. A person on a feeding tube merely needs to be fed. Are you one of those people who thinks that, for example, end-stage Alzheimer's patients can ethically be starved to death? Can you explain what is so significant about the difference between having to be fed by someone else, and being fed by a GI tube?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 4, 2005 2:55 PM

The issue isn't just about whether Terri could feed herself or not. It was also about:

1) The ability to communicate and interact with other people (a big issue in many people's living wills).

2) The amount of cognative functioning present.

3) The likelihood of recovery.

In a severealy brain-damaged person, the difference between being not being able to swallow food and not being able to breath without assistance is only a matter a degree.

Alzheimers is a gradually degenerative disease, which in my undersanding cannot be reversed. When a patient reaches the point where he/she cannot be fed without a surgical procedure, then (assuming the patient can no longer interact with loved ones), it may be time to say good-bye.

BTW, more on hypocracy: If medical science ever does develop a treatment that can lead to the recovery of Alzhaimer patients and people like Terri Schiavo, it will likely come from stem-cell research. Is it correct to assume that the Bush administration felt Terri should have been kept alive, but does not believe that research that might lead to recovery for people like Terri deserves federal funding?

Posted by: Dancar at April 4, 2005 4:11 PM

Dancar again illustrates Ben's point perfectly:

If medical science ever does develop a treatment that can lead to the recovery of Alzhaimer patients and people like Terri Schiavo, it will likely come from stem-cell research. Is it correct to assume that the Bush administration felt Terri should have been kept alive, but does not believe that research that might lead to recovery for people like Terri deserves federal funding?

Put aside the unjustifiable certainty that no other form of medical technology will supplant the variation du jure (let alone the implication that embryonic stem-cell research must be the foundation). What's interesting here is what Dancar has skipped over and spun from conservatives.

News flash: conservatives don't hold their position on stem-cell research because they don't understand that somebody may benefit from it in the future. Consider Dancar's question:

Is it correct to assume that the Bush administration felt Terri should have been kept alive, but does not believe that research that might lead to recovery for people like Terri deserves federal funding?

Well, what if that research entailed chopping up 12-year-old girls? Would it be hypocritical to oppose that and still think that Terri Schiavo should have kept her feeding tube?

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 4, 2005 8:03 PM

"In a severealy brain-damaged person, the difference between being not being able to swallow food and not being able to breath without assistance is only a matter a degree."

Well, of course it's all a matter of degree. The difference is, you're willing to assume that you know at which degree someone's life has changed from being intrinsically valuable to of no value. Sort of like the way we used to declare which degree of African ancestry made someone eligible for slavery.

"If medical science ever does develop a treatment that can lead to the recovery of Alzhaimer patients and people like Terri Schiavo, it will likely come from stem-cell research."

This made me chuckle. (Well, on second thought it's depressing - you don't have the faintest idea what you're talking about, yet you're perfectly willing to spout statments like this as virtual givens, then accuse Republicans of being ignorant because they don't agree.) Do you have the vaguest hint of evidence to back up this claim? I think I asked in one of the other posts (perhaps of someone besides you) what the relative number of putative or actual treatments derived from non-embryonic stem cells and embryonic stem cells is. Do you know? How many diseases currently have ES cells as a potential therapy? Is Alzheimer's even theoretically likely to be amenable to stem cell therapy?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 4, 2005 8:41 PM

Dan said:

"If the doctirs initially ruled out heart attack and if there was any evidence that Terri was strangled by Michael, why wasn't he arrested and charged with attempted murder 15 years ago?"

The evidence was probably circumstantially only. Some people don't bruise. Some do. In the case of the neck wound that might have happened due to his strangling her, I believe it would not be detectable without invasive surgery unless her neck showed signs of bruising.

he also said:

"The reason Terri's heart has been fine since a heart attack 15 years ago may be that since she no longer controlled her diet, she could no longer be anorexic or bulemic."

There again, I am given to understand that the only evidence of bulimia was the elevated potassium in her bloodwork, which could also have been the result of strangulation, and the fact that she had lost quite a bit of weight prior to the collapse. The lost weight evidence is inconclusive, as there are so many other possible reasons for the lost weight. It might have been a normal dietary change. It might have been from a lack of appetite due to the stress or depression she was in while contemplating divorce from Michael. Or have you discarded these factors in your estimation of the whole sequence of events?

and also said:

"If you had the misfortune of being in Terri's state, would you want every decision your spouse made on your behalf to be debated and second guessed by bloggers, talk show hosts and grand-standing politicians?"

If my spouse or the state was trying to starve/dehydrate me to death, I certainly would want every decision made on my behalf debated and second guessed by bloggers, talk show hosts, grand-standing politicians, whoever it took to keep me alive. God gave me my life, I am obligated to live it, and I don't have a right to die at my own whim. Neither does anybody else.

Posted by: smmtheory at April 5, 2005 12:51 AM

Justin:

Well, what if that research entailed chopping up 12-year-old girls? Would it be hypocritical to oppose that and still think that Terri Schiavo should have kept her feeding tube?

If the research required chopping up healthy 12-year old girls, I would oppose it of course. But 12-year old girls who died due to accident or desease are a different matter. Heart transplants require someone's death before someone else can be saved, so if a 12-year old with a heart defect needs a transplant, I would not object to a 12-year old female fatal auto accident victim being cut open to retrieve the heart to extend the other 12-year old's life.

SMMTheory: On what basis are the accusations of Michael's spousal abuse being made? As far as I can tell, it is pure speculation based on the desire to see Micheal is a villian and justify one's point of view. Applying Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is that Terri had a haert attack that cut off blood to her brain.

Dancar: "In a severealy brain-damaged person, the difference between being not being able to swallow food and not being able to breath without assistance is only a matter a degree."

Mike S. Well, of course it's all a matter of degree. The difference is, you're willing to assume that you know at which degree someone's life has changed from being intrinsically valuable to of no value. Sort of like the way we used to declare which degree of African ancestry made someone eligible for slavery.

So your position is that when a person who's brain is damaged to the point where they have little or no conciousness or personality, but they can breath without assistance, their life is valuable, but if the brain damage includes the portion of the brain that regulates breathing, neccessitating the use of a resparator, then the life is of less value and their is no ethical issue with removing the resparator and allowing the patient to suffocate to death?

Why draw the line at that point and not some other point?

Posted by: Dancar at April 6, 2005 11:51 AM

Dancar, you said:

"SMMTheory: On what basis are the accusations of Michael's spousal abuse being made? As far as I can tell, it is pure speculation based on the desire to see Micheal is a villian and justify one's point of view. Applying Occam's Razor, the simplest explanation is that Terri had a haert attack that cut off blood to her brain."

And yet you are willing to accept as true the speculation of the courts based on hearsay evidence that Terri wouldn't have wanted to live like she was living. Why is that? What is so much better about that speculation than mine? The opportunity to apply Occam's Razor to the lifeline of a poor defenseless disabled person? Just to prop up your mistaken belief in an imaginary right to die?

Posted by: smmtheory at April 6, 2005 12:37 PM

Dancar,

"But 12-year old girls who died due to accident or desease are a different matter."

Perhaps you hadn't noticed, but ES cell research requires the deliberate destruction of a living embryo. There has been a recent proposal to try and determine whether a given frozen embryo is dead, but can still produce useful stem cells - basically the embryonic version of a transplant. But nobody knows if this is even possible.

So your point is a nonsequiter. The question is whether you can kill a live human being in order to use it's constituent parts, not whether you can use part of a dead human being to help a live one.

"So your position is that when a person who's brain is damaged to the point where they have little or no conciousness or personality, but they can breath without assistance, their life is valuable, but if the brain damage includes the portion of the brain that regulates breathing, neccessitating the use of a resparator, then the life is of less value and their is no ethical issue with removing the resparator and allowing the patient to suffocate to death?

Why draw the line at that point and not some other point?"

In the case where the brain is not functioning enough to keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing, then the person is brain dead. They are no longer functioning as an integrated organism. We can use technology to keep their blood pumping, to keep oxygen getting to their cells, but that is an entirely external function - the person's body is not doing any of the work.

In the case of someone in a PVS, everything is working fine except for their cognitive abilities. They simply need to be fed and cleaned, just like many people do, from young to old. Why do you think that it's acceptable to kill someone who cannot swallow, but not acceptable to kill someone who can? And why do you think a person's cognitive state is determinative in terms of a right to live? I'm assuming that you wouldn't advocate killing a severely retarded person, and that you wouldn't advocate killing a quadripelegic. What's the distinction between those two cases and someone in a PVS?

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 1:59 PM

Mike S:

My understanding is that the embryos from which stem cells are extracted would otherwise be destroyed. Also, no one is getting pregnent & having abortions in order to supply the demand for stem cells. So one one is being denied life.

In the case where the brain is not functioning enough to keep the heart beating and the lungs breathing, then the person is brain dead. They are no longer functioning as an integrated organism.

But being fed through a hole surgically cut into the abdomin is functioning as an integrated organism?

For me the issue is not whether someone's heart, lungs or swallowing reflex fuctions properly (in fact, with a pacemaker a person with a heart problem can even live a fairly normal life). For me the issue is the ability to communicate & interact with other people. In prisons, solitary confinement is a form of punishment, so to keep someone alive but indefinately imprisoned in a body that does function enough to interact with others is the cruelest fate I can imagine. And to maintain bodily functions of a person whose brain is too damaged to ever interact with others again is unnessisarily prolonging the death process. Other people feel differently thought, and in the absense of a living will, I feel the decision should go to one's spouse first.

Quadraplegics still have the ability interact with others. Christopher Reeves even acted and directed film projects. And severely retarded people and Alzheimer's patients still have some ability to interact with others, so they are still functioning humans in that sense.

Posted by: Dancar at April 6, 2005 4:19 PM

This is interesting, Dan:

In prisons, solitary confinement is a form of punishment, so to keep someone alive but indefinately imprisoned in a body that does function enough to interact with others is the cruelest fate I can imagine.

This implies that, if you knew a certain Joe to be completely aware of his surroundings, but unable to communicate with others, you would support killing him. Is that correct?

Posted by: Justin Katz at April 6, 2005 9:22 PM

Dancar,

"My understanding is that the embryos from which stem cells are extracted would otherwise be destroyed. Also, no one is getting pregnent & having abortions in order to supply the demand for stem cells. So one one is being denied life."

You're begging the question.

It's true that some IVF embryos are donated to research rather than being destroyed without extracting their stem cells. (Though in the case of "therapeutic" cloning, embryos are being produced for the express purpose of destroying them.) Do you think it's OK to take the organs of people on death row, simply because they are going to be "destroyed" shortly?

"But being fed through a hole surgically cut into the abdomin is functioning as an integrated organism?"

Sure. There are thousands of people on feeding tubes.

Posted by: Mike S. at April 6, 2005 10:31 PM