A Life that Matters by Mary and Robert Schindler
For fifteen years Terri Schiavo lived between hospitals, nursing homes, and being taken care of her family. Her husband, Michael, had complete legal right to make all medical decisions for Terri, but those decisions weren’t always the best.
The whole thing started when Michael called his in-laws one night saying that Terri had collapsed. No one knew what happened or why. The family soon learned that Terri was never going to be the same again. The doctors didn’t think she would ever recover, but there was some hope. Terri could do small things and was getting rehabilitation at some point, but there was no money. Michael went to court to try to get money for Terri’s rehabilitation saying that all the money would go towards Terri’s care, but that didn’t happen. The money seemed to disappear. Michael got a girlfriend.
Terri was moved from facility to facility. Sometimes her parents and family would be barred from seeing her. There were multiple times that her feeding tube was taken out. Ultimately, there were several trials where the family argued against Michael about whether or not Terri should continue receiving food and water. Meanwhile, Terry could respond to some things. The family sought the help of the Florida governor, Jeb Bush, and got the support of many celebrities, but ultimately, Terri’s feeding tube was removed and she did die. The family has worked since then to help people in similar situations.
What I liked
The name Terri Schiavo is a name I’ve heard before, but I didn’t know the full extent of what happened, so I found this whole book very interesting and enriching, even if it is quite sad.
There is definitely a huge ethical argument in Terri’s story that people do need to think about.
What I didn’t like
There are two sides to this story and this is only one side. As is, I lean towards Terri’s parents’ side. If there was any response from Terri, that she could respond and interact, then she shouldn’t have been taken off of her feeding tube, especially, if her parents wanted her alive.
I used to work in a nursing home. I took care of several people on feeding tubes. None of them were entirely unresponsive. I even took care of several people who never spoke, but were definitely still in there somewhere. They had to be fed and cared for in all ways, but they still had responses to things–facial expressions and so forth. Would I have ever said that any of them deserved to be starved to death just because they didn’t respond like everyone else? No. They were people, someone’s mother, grandmother, whatever.
On the other hand, if I had had a patient that didn’t move, ever, and did nothing, and just existed on a feeding tube and catheter, I would feel very sorry for that person. There’s obviously nothing there.
On the one hand, I would never want to be in a state anywhere near Terri’s state. I wouldn’t want to live. I kind of think that if you have some incurable condition and you don’t want to live, it’s your choice. That’s why people have DNRs. For example, let’s say you have a living will stating that if your brain is without oxygen for five minutes, or whatever, that you don’t want to be resuscitated because of all the brain damage you would have, that’s a legitimate thing. Some brain damage is ok, but who wants to live in a state where their brain has been so severely damaged that they’re not remotely who they were before? Or they can’t walk? Or talk? Or eat? Or whatever?
On the other hand, if what Terri’s parents’ say about her being responsive to some things is true, then her parents should have been able to have kept Terri around. Terri should have lived. If Michael didn’t want to be the guardian over Terri, then her parents should have been able to do it.
Part of this whole thing really sounds like Michael just wanted to be rid of his wife. He didn’t want the responsibility for her–that’s really what it sounds like. Fine, let her parents do it. Don’t be a jerk about it. He even had Terri buried without her parents even knowing, which is a terrible jerk move.
On the other, other hand–if Terri had really expressed a desire to die if something like this ever happened to her, then that should have been written down somewhere. If you feel so strongly about something like this–write it down. Get it notarized, or whatever. That way, if it does happen, your choice is already made and people know it.
This whole thing is very sad.
This whole thing would have been solved with a living will.
What would you do if you were in Terri’s place?
Who do you think was in the right? If anybody? Maybe they were all wrong.