Apology Due to Michael Schiavo?

The Terri Schiavo autopsy results are out and nobody seems to be talking about them. Or rather, it seems nobody who was rallying the troops in her defense is talking about them. Maybe I’m just reading the wrong blogs, but the only ones that I’ve noticed mentioning the autopsy at all are those by folks who were supporters of Michael Schiavo’s position – and they’re gloating.

She wasn’t abused.
Her brain was damaged beyond all hope of repair.
She was blind.

In short, it seems she had long ago ceased to be a living, thinking human being by any reasonable definition.

I’m still waiting to learn more of the details before saying too much, but I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that the pro-life community and Christians in particular may owe Michael Schiavo and his supporters an apology.

Thoughts?

Update 06/19/05: Obviously, around the time I wrote this post, the skeptics (of the autopsy) started posting. Here are some examples.

"The autopsy also documented significant brain atrophy, and the medical panel called the damage ‘irreversible.’

"This is not the same as saying she had no cognitive ability. " – Pro-Life Blogs

To say that would be redundant to the CT scans taken of here brain (source 1, source 2, source 3). If the correct interpretation of scans is that she had no cortical function left, she could not have had any cognitive ability.

"For me, the whole tragedy surrounding Terri and the people who wanted her dead didn?t hinge on how severely brain-damaged she was. She was alive and wasn?t on life support, and her husband?s credibility was extremely low, too low to trust his assertion that Terri wanted to die if ever severely brain-damaged. Forget about what you?d want if you were ever in the same condition. Take yourselves out of the equation."

"The way they killed her was appalling, and I was angry for a long time afterward. I?m giving you a heads-up. Don?t be alarmed or disgusted by the liberal media and liberal bloggers (and some conservatives, too) declaring that Terri?s wayward husband is somehow ?vindicated? by the autopsy report. The doctor-induced starvation was immoral." – LaShawn Barber

If Terri Schiavo ceased to be a a thinking, feeling human being years ago, was it actually wrong to starve her empty shell to death? I guess that hinges on whether Michael Schiavo could have had sufficient knowledge to demonstrate that she was, beyond reasonable doubt, lacking cognition.

BTW, Smart Christian seems to agree with my suggestion that there might be some apologies owed. For the record, I haven’t made up my mind on this matter. I’m just not content with plugging my ears, yelling "La, la, la. I can’t hear you!", and essentially ignoring the consequences of the autopsy report, as so many of my Christian and pro-life brethren seem to be.

Stay tuned for another post on this topic.

Comments 83

  1. theomorph wrote:

    I’m not saying your a Social Darwinist, Theo, but that’s what led me to look to genetics. Ironically, similar problems crop up with that, too.

    No matter which way you go, there will be problems. Come to think of it, no matter which way you go in anything…there will be problems.

    Regardless of whether you gauge by genetics or by behavior, it will still come back to other people being or doing a certain thing. And, really, the only reason anybody would challenge a particular kind of being (genetics) is if it led to a particular way of doing (behavior).

    The threat of social darwinism aside, it must be admitted that every human on the planet cares about how other people behave, and every religious or political system ever invented has governed or affected behavior, and every one of those systems has had means of casting people out, chastising them, punishing them, or otherwise deterring them from misbehaving.

    But the great evil of social darwinism was not the idea that some people are human and some are not, but its attempt to justify by genetics the social standing of elite members of the society, and the attempt by those elites to perpetuate the class division via genetic engineering, either through social herding or actual medical intervention (e.g., forced sterilization).

    If there is no supernatural component to humanity (i.e. a soul), human potential is essentially determined by biology. Even our ability to challenge the limits of our biology is an inherent part of our biology.

    I’m skeptical of that one; it’s the kind of assumption that led Francis Fukuyama to condemn biotech—change our biology, he argued, and human nature goes away, and that’s the greater loss. But I think human nature has always been at odds with human biology, because humans have long been attempting to “tame” their bodies, to suppress their impulsive instincts. Where does that come from? The answer to that question is complicated, but I don’t think it’s supernatural.

    Posted 18 Jun 2005 at 2:44 am
  2. theomorph wrote:

    How do you define the beginning and end of personhood, Theomorph?

    If “brain death” is to be the end-of-life standard (and I think it is a good one), something similar must be found at the beginning of life. Here is a rough idea:

    When an individual can first consider its own condition, consciously or unconsciously, and act upon that consideration, it becomes a person. That is, when an individual possesses those attributes which are absent in “brain death.”

    The point at which this occurs is not the same for everyone.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 6:20 am
  3. theomorph wrote:

    I would find it rather odd if the Church held that the soul lingers when cognition is impossible.

    The Church believes that the soul is joined to the physical body at conception.

    Isn’t that contradictory, or at least arbitrary?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 10:59 pm
  4. theomorph wrote:

    The biological definition of species membership is (AFAIK) genetic in nature.

    Yes, but I am of the opinion that being Human requires more than just genetics, and when I speak of defining “humanity,” or of “humanism,” that’s what I’m talking about. Tying Humanity to genetics opens the door to determinism, closes the door on biotechnology, and limits human potential to this barely civilized stage of evolution. I have little patience for those who, rather than challenging the limits of our biology, prefer to revel in the animal nature to which we can so easily descend.

    Posted 18 Jun 2005 at 12:48 am
  5. theomorph wrote:

    The eggs found in supermarkets are unfertilized ova.

    You’re ignoring the fact that people can and do eat fertilized chicken eggs all the time, especially if they have chickens of their own whose eggs are fertilized by their rooster. Those people make a distinction between eating eggs and eating chicken, too.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 8:52 pm
  6. theomorph wrote:

    Unlike Klingons, we don’t simply discard human bodies. It’s because Christians believe in the resurrection in the end times.

    More Christian arrogance. How do you explain non-Christian cultures that don’t “simply discard human bodies”?

    FD: “If that’s the case, by Theomorph’s definition, infanticide (up to a certain age) should not be considered immoral. What say you, Theo? Have you taken a a shine to the ideas of Peter Singer?

    and

    TS: “…it was once thought that the ‘quickening’ of a woman’s pregnancy was the point of ensoulment. Quickening was defined variously as the point at which the mother could first detect the developing infant or feel it kick the first time…

    Tom’s comment touches on the other side of the definition, which I originally addressed in that lost comment: Does personhood depend only on the subjective state of the individual, or also on the subjective perception of those individuals responsible for bringing it into the world?

    Peter Singer’s views, as I understand them, incorporate the mother’s needs and perceptions into the definition of personhood. If all members of a society were to adopt this view, I would not object. That is, I don’t find it objectively, intrinsically objectionable.

    However, our culture (on the whole) is clearly not interested in such a view, and adopting it would cause more trouble than not. As well, certain legal precedents have already been established, and rolling them back would take enormous concerted effort.

    This is partly why I included in my definition the qualification that the individual (in this case a fetus or neonate) should be able to act upon its own consideration (either conscious or unconscious) of its condition. That does not require consciousness or linguistically communicable cognition, but a behavior on the part of the fetus or neonate that indicates selfishness. Does it want to live?

    Of course, actions can still be interpreted, and different philosophies applied, but that is acceptable and healthy, I think, because it recognizes that human development is not driven by a ticking clock. I.e., every individual passes particular developmental milestones, but those milestones cannot be established to correspond absolutely with any particular “tick” of the “clock” (only with a range of ticks).

    This opens a wide “gray area,” but one in which we have already been operating socially, legally, and philosophically for quite a long time. However, it most certainly closes off from personhood the fertilized egg.

    Returning to the question about Peter Singer and infanticide, while I have always thought his was a rather gruesome option, I do think it would be useful in at least a few cases to offer a quiet, nonviolent way for newborns to be put down at the request of the mother. There are plenty of problems there, too.

    Generally, I still think our social problems with reproduction are better solved by forethought and prevention instead of treating reproduction like a disease to be cured. (But the usefulness of prevention does not obviate the need for a cure, either.) Some people, many people, are simply not ready (and too many of them will never be ready) to properly care for a child.

    I find something deeply disgusting in the idea that irresponsible parents have a “right” to reproduce, and that their unfortunate children have a “right” to live. Too often, for too many people, life seems not so much like a “right” and much more like a burden. Perhaps it would be better not to speak of a “right to life” in simple biological terms (i.e., you have a right to a beating heart and a functioning brain) but instead in more distinctly human terms: each of us has a “right” to follow our abilities and desires through goals and achievements. This is a thoroughly modern egalitarian view, but I think it suits our times. It does not require live birth of those who have achieved conception, it disallows slavery and caste systems, it allows for embryonic stem cell research, it makes biotechnology less fearful by defining human life in terms of its humanity instead of its biology, and it allows each individual his or her uniqueness.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 7:26 pm
  7. theomorph wrote:

    What of adoption? Why should an innocent child die simply because he/she is the product of a ditz and a putz?

    I intended adoption to be included in this sentence: “I still think our social problems with reproduction are better solved by forethought and prevention.”

    But I certainly don’t think adoption is a sufficient universal solution to the problem of unwanted children. Much better to have a variety of potential solutions to meet a variety of potential circumstances.

    …to say that the zygote is not a member of H. sapiens is quite bizarre.

    That depends on what you mean by “member.” Is a chicken egg a “member” of Gallus gallus? When you eat a chicken egg, why is it not the same as eating chicken flesh? What is a “member”? Is a dead body a “member” of H. sapiens?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 8:31 pm
  8. Funky Dung wrote:

    “final conclusion”? Please define.

    I’m trying to discuss the definition of the conclusion of physical life. We are living spirit and living flesh. When the flesh dies, the spirit remains. At what point is the flesh dead? I submit that Terri Schiavo was dead in the sense that her body no longer supported cognitive functions. Thus, the flesh that really mattered was dead. What died of dehydration was an empty shell.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 9:10 pm
  9. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Fr. Frank Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, said the autopsy does not change ‘the moral evaluation of what happened to Terri. Her physical injuries and disabilities never made her less of a person,’ said Fr. Pavone. ‘No amount of brain injury ever justifies denying a person proper humane care. That includes food and water.'”

    Actually, I’ll argue that it’s quite possible she had long since ceased to be a person at all. She was not disabled. She was incapable of cognition. She didn’t have reduced function. She had no function (at that level).

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:39 pm
  10. Anonymous wrote:

    “I suspect she had functioning cortex. Terri, as far as I know, did not. You can have holes lots of places and perhaps still function, but lose your cortex and you’re about as functional as a fish.”

    The brain was smaller, but there was nothing saying that the cortex was gone in the reports I’ve seen. Her brain was small, fine, but without more anatomical data, we don’t have much to go on.

    Perhaps we should start a separate thread about determining brain death and so forth in the light of Catholic thought. This is a distraction from the issue of Terri, whose diagnosis was too much of a mess, thanks to the messy circumstances, to definitively say jack, and whose husband reneged on promises to care for Terri early on in the game.

    Posted 30 Nov -0001 at 12:00 am
  11. Anonymous wrote:

    “If he was confident in the belief that she was no longer really a living human, wouldn’t any supposed abuse or mistreatment in hospice be on par with desecration of a corpse?”

    If society would just give someone a free pass if they said “well, I didn’t believe that X was still a human being when I starved/euthanized/put a cap in his rear end”, I don’t think we’d last very long. Mr. Schiavo’s true intentions and so forth may never be known to us, and it is only for God to judge them anyway, but an objective wrong was done that undermines the already shaky integrity of how we treat the disabled. I still shake my head at how the disability-rights people got ignored by the media as they went after the beloved Christian-right angle.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 4:10 pm
  12. Jerry wrote:

    “That was evident in the CT scans.”

    Where was this evidence cited? I’m curious how those scans look, since differentiating soft tissues is not CT technology’s forte. I’d prefer to keep my eyes open for any autopsy results that are on the web as well…

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 8:11 pm
  13. Jerry wrote:

    “The gist I get from the autopsy results is that there was no longer a human person present in her body at all.”

    The media have been jumping all over that interpretation, but still has to be reconciled with differing opinions of her behavior in the clinical setting. Recall, Funky, that story of a woman who was sharp as a tack in old age, yet had plaques rotting out much of her brain.

    “BTW, I’m sure a competant medical examiner can tell the difference between the effects of dehydration and atrophy caused by trauma. I suspect it’s like the difference between a dry sponge being lighter and smaller than a wet one and kitchen sponge being smaller than one used to wash cars.”

    Well, we’ll see. Again, your own little vignette makes me cautious. Perhaps she was brain-dead. Great. Her husband’s actions didn’t make a difference. But will the next patient be so “fortunate” if a caregiver does not provide the support he promised to give with insurance or lawsuit money? This case still reveals gaps in how we take care of the most defenseless members of our society.

    The diagnoses of Terri’s condition were a mess, and we shouldn’t get stuck in that morass.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:44 pm
  14. gbm3 wrote:

    “Unlike Klingons, we don’t simply discard human bodies. It’s because Christians believe in the resurrection in the end times.”

    “More Christian arrogance. How do you explain non-Christian cultures that don’t ‘simply discard human bodies’?”
    -theomorph 06.17.05 – 2:31 pm

    Wow, I really have to watch out what I write. When I wrote “we” I meant that Funky and myself who are Christian ‘don’t simply discard human bodies’ because “we” believe in the general resurrection.

    In addition, I didn’t mean to imply that the reason most the rest of the world doesn’t (discard bodies) was because “we” set the norm.

    I was pointing out that the person should not be seen as an “empty shell” and should be seen as a human person who is to receive food and water indefinitely.

    Further, only further, as Christians, we should give the body respect as it shall, God willing, serve in the resurrection. (Hence, quite often, the emphasis in Christian burial.)

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 9:48 pm
  15. Jerry wrote:

    “You’re ignoring the fact that people can and do eat fertilized chicken eggs all the time, especially if they have chickens of their own whose eggs are fertilized by their rooster. Those people make a distinction between eating eggs and eating chicken, too.”

    Well, it makes sense to distinguish between even fertilized eggs and matured chickens ‘cos you cook them differently. :) Ever try making eggs benedict with a chicken breast? I haven’t, but I imagine it’d be messy. Likewise, egg cutlets don’t make much sense, and sound rather unappetizing.

    Yes, a fertilized egg would be a chicken, and yes, some farms specifically sell eggs that have been taken with precautions to keep ’em from being fertilized as a vegetarian-friendly feature. For those of us who are not vegetarians, it doesn’t really matter!

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 11:02 pm
  16. Stuff wrote:

    ‘In contrast to a case of say, Alzheimers, Terry Shiavo wasn’t dying of a chronic or untreatable infection–she wasn’t “dying” at all.’

    Steve – I guess that’s the main point and you are absolutely right. My gut feeling in this specific case initially was that denying antibiotics would be on par with denying food and water, which I still totally disagree with. I guess I just wanted to point out that while medicine isn’t necessarily flashy and exciting like surgery, it is not without danger or burden.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 11:50 pm
  17. theomorph wrote:

    (I stopped typing, pressed the “Publish” button, but kept thinking.)

    I think putting the behavioral aspect above the biological aspect helps with the problem raised by Tom:

    [I]s a body also necessary for personhood? Is a disembodied soul not a person?

    If one is to believe in the existence of souls, and the idea that these things merely inhabit our bodies, or that our bodies are receivers of soul transmissions, or whatever, then the real value of a human life is not the body, but the soul. This gets dangerous, I know, when it becomes a blank check to destroy bodies, to shoot first and ask questions later, or to “kill them all and let God sort them out.” But that is why it’s important to keep that behavioral aspect, and maintain the right to individuality. If personhood is defined by one’s behaviors (e.g., if that body over there can pass my own instinctual “Turing Test”) instead of by one’s physical manifestation in space and time, then anyone who behaves like a human must be treated like one. (That’s still firmly in an extremely individualistic environment, though; the introduction of social life necessitates behavioral rules, enforcement structures, and punishments or deterrents, too.)

    This also jibes well with the future potential for biotechnology that leads to the human habitation of non-biological bodies, and gives us a grounds upon which to avoid either biological or mechanical elitism. (I know I’m slipping into science fiction here, but I would rather have my ethics all ready to go in the event of a cyborg society, than to be caught off guard.)

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 7:38 pm
  18. Rob wrote:

    1. The destruction of the brain tissue was clearly due to an hypoxic event in the past. Thus, it was not due to dehydration. They would look different on autopsy.

    2. Dehydration would not have affected the mass of the brain significantly. The body protects certain organs. Death from dehyrdation would cause almost no change in brain mass.

    3. Terri was not capable of communicating with her parents in any way.
    Humans see communication, even when there is none present. Random output plus the warm body and a hope for their daughter made them see what wasn’t there. It’s easy to fall prey to this.

    There were neurons in the cerebral portion of her brain. Individual, unconnected neurons. Mostly it was structural material, and even that had begun to fail.

    4. If Terri, because her cells were alive, was considered alive, then so is Helen Lacks. The biologists among you probably know her as Helen Lane, although that was not her correct last name. She died of a tumor years ago, but a culture from the tumor still grows and propagates. Interestingly, it has also mutated – it’s no longer even human tissue, although there may be samples of tissue that might be genetically human somewhere. No one would consider Helen Lacks alive.

    5. If brain death is not a form of death, then a) most transplants kill the brain dead donor b) the Catholic church may have two Popes. Are you sure no one cultured any of Pope John Paul II’s tissue?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 9:01 pm
  19. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Generally, I still think our social problems with reproduction are better solved by forethought and prevention instead of treating reproduction like a disease to be cured. (But the usefulness of prevention does not obviate the need for a cure, either.) Some people, many people, are simply not ready (and too many of them will never be ready) to properly care for a child.”

    What of adoption? Why should an innocent child die simply because he/she is the product of a ditz and a putz?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 7:44 pm
  20. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Isn’t that contradictory, or at least arbitrary?”

    Point conceded. For the time being, I’ll take Steve’s out.

    “It is rather that, because it is a mystery when human beings become spiritual beings, we are obligated to behave as though the soul is present from conception until death.”

    On the other hand, I don’t have any qualms associating conception with the begiining of human personhood. I just don’t know when personhood ends. This is not only a religious question, but a philosophical one. Personhood can be defined outside of reilgion.

    So I can’t help but wonder. How do you define the beginning and end of personhood, Theomorph?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 3:45 am
  21. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Recall, Funky, that story of a woman who was sharp as a tack in old age, yet had plaques rotting out much of her brain.”

    I suspect she had functioning cortex. Terri, as far as I know, did not. You can have holes lots of places and perhaps still function, but lose your cortex and you’re about as functional as a fish.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:48 pm
  22. Funky Dung wrote:

    “The brain was smaller, but there was nothing saying that the cortex was gone in the reports I’ve seen.”

    That was evident in the CT scans.

    “Perhaps we should start a separate thread about determining brain death and so forth in the light of Catholic thought.”

    I’ll hopefully get around to doing that tonight.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:54 pm
  23. Funky Dung wrote:

    “Zygotes don’t have brains or even hearts, but they are to be defended. There is even a high likelihood that they will never be born, but they are to be defended in their sanctity. The same with those terminally ill: defend them until death and feed them.”

    There is a key difference. The Church believes that the soul is joined to the physical body at conception. The smallest “unit” of physical humanity is a fertilized egg. The Church does not claim that the physical body be entirely reduced to constuent molecules (or even cells) in order for the soul to “leave”.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:57 pm
  24. Funky Dung wrote:

    Are we mere humans able to make that determination?

    Every day doctors, many of whom are Catholic, must decide when to declare people dead. The Church does not interfere with that duty (for the most part).

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:28 pm
  25. Funky Dung wrote:

    Even if there is “no human person” there, is the soul not still present?

    I would find it rather odd if the Church held that the soul lingers when cognition is impossible.

    Regardless of the results, the woman didn’t deserve to be starved to death.

    Technically speaking, she died of dehydration, not starvation.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:05 pm
  26. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    The Church believes that the soul is joined to the physical body at conception.

    Source, Funky? AFAIK, there is no such claim, certainly none with authority, made by the Church. It is rather that, because it is a mystery when human beings become spiritual beings, we are obligated to behave as though the soul is present from conception until death. And I think it unlikely that the Church will teach that it is possible to count someone as “dead” when their only “medical” need is nourishment and hydration. Until there is an official pronouncement on the topic, is not the safer course of action to err on the side of life? Terry Shiavo passed the duck test: She appeared to be alive–far more so than the undifferentiated mass of cells of a humuan embryo. Ergo, without overwhelming evidence to the contrary, she should not have been treated as dead. And I am disappointed in you entertaining such modernist notions… [tsk, tsk]

    Cheers!

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 11:25 pm
  27. Funky Dung wrote:

    What about the denial of proper therapy when she first collapsed?

    I don’t think it’s clear whether or not early therapy would have helped her avoid some of her losses. Also, the alleged lag between collapse and 911 call has not been proven.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:33 pm
  28. Rob wrote:

    A few comments:

    1. Her brain could not receive information from the eyes because necessary tissue was dead. I completely missed that possibility.

    2. Could her brain have even received any sensory information at all? That may come up when the full data is released.

    3. Her brain was less than half the weight of a normal human brain. Is that “normal” male or female? Did they estimate what her brain should have weighed had it been intact? How much of what remained was neural tissue and how much was structural?

    4. Continuing on with 3, the coroner stated she was incapable of any thought. Given that we don’t know the “seat of consciousness” yet, is this a statement that the higher brain was completely devastated, or simply a statement that it was devastated? There’s a difference there, and it is crucial.

    5.The statements by family and supporters were that Michael Schiavo abused her and that is why she was in this condition in the first place. They also stated that he abused her while she was in the nursing home. There is no sign of either type of abuse.

    6. Abuse that would not show up on the autopsy is possible. But it’s incredibly unlikely that Michael Schiavo could have done it after becoming a nurse. It’s impossible that he could have done it before.

    7. The purpose of accusing Michael Schiavo of abusing Mrs. Schiavo had nothing to do with whether he actually did it or not. Those accusing him of the abuse will have no trouble creating explanations for why the abuse did not show up on the autopsy. Expect to see the coroner villified. Expect to see the science contradicted and denounced.

    For example, the coroner stated that the autopsy could not show that she was in a Persistent Vegetative State. PVS is a clinical diagnosis on a living human being. The autopsy was done on the dead Terri Schiavo. Watch for “The autopsy did not prove that she was in a PVS, and we believe she was in a vegitative state.”

    Also, watch for “Neuoscience does not know everything” as an explanation for how she could follow the balloon when she was blind. I expect the whole “brain/mind/spirit” question to be raised as well. “Even though her brain was completely destroyed, that doesn’t mean she was not aware.”

    No amount of science will ever change the minds of the parents and the die-hard supporters. It’s a question of faith, not science. Science would only be used if it had supported their position.

    6. What caused her initial cardiac arrest? Cyril Wecht does not believe an eating disorder can be ruled out. There are other explanations, which are frightening. The healthier the human heart, the more dimensions and “hyper-volume” a plot of the heart activity will take in phase space. This means that there is a finite probability that a healthy human heart will stop beating for no logical reason.

    7. What was the timeline from the time she passed out until EMS was called? If, as Terri’s “supporters” claim, there was such a gap between when she went down and when EMS was called and when EMS arrived, that she was resuscitated at all is astonishing. The timeline doesn’t make any sense. If the timeline is correct:
    a) why wasn’t 911 called sooner?
    b) why is this only being brought up now, instead of in the weeks following her cardiac arrest?
    c) she could not have gone into arrest immediately – had she been in arrest for the entire time, she could not have been resuscitated.

    I doubt the timeline listed by the supporters is correct. But then, what was the correct timeline, and how did the incorrect timeline come about?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 3:18 pm
  29. Emily T wrote:

    Are we mere humans able to make that determination?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:26 pm
  30. Rob wrote:

    Autopsy online in PDF format:

    Autopsy PDF

    Reading through it, I realize that this is above even my training. I’m going to have to pull out my copy of Grey’s Anatomy and a medical dictionary to wade through the report, and even then there are implications that I may have missed. The summary by the neurologist, though, indicates that this was a devastating brain injury that left no chance for recovery.

    An interesting fact that the report points out is that an MRI was contraindicated. They had implanted a neurological stimulator. The wire would have gotten very hot in an MRI, and could have caused further damage. I’m not clear as to whether the wire was anyplace where anything left alive could have been damaged.

    Terri had a severe lung infection and bladder infection. I’m not sure if the lung infection was brought on by the removal of food and water. She’d apparently had repeated bladder infections.

    I would think that withholding antibiotics would have resulted in her death from a bladder infection eventually. Of course, pneumonia could kill as well, and, if it wasn’t the result of the withholding of food and water, might have killed her even if the intent was to keep her alive.

    My understanding is the Roman Catholic Church would have had no problem with the antibiotics being withheld in this case.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 4:09 pm
  31. Funky Dung wrote:

    BTW, I’m sure a competant medical examiner can tell the difference between the effects of dehydration and atrophy caused by trauma. I suspect it’s like the difference between a dry sponge being lighter and smaller than a wet one and kitchen sponge being smaller than one used to wash cars.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:35 pm
  32. Funky Dung wrote:

    BTW, pain is just another electro-chemical signal in the nervous system until it is abstracted by the cortex to have meaning. Fish feel pain, but only the most primative way. They have know way of conprehending “I am in pain. Something is hurting me. I don’t want to be in pain.” I’m just wondering out loud if Terri was in a similar situation.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:19 pm
  33. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Congratulations Funky, this thread has spawned more comments than any I’ve seen… AND in a very short time… AND with remarkably low levels of vituperation!

    In short, I won’t apologize to Michael Shiavo because I never said anything bad about him. I disagree with what he did, although I know it happens every day… I could wish that there were laws to stop what he did, but there aren’t any… and I doubt there is any hope of ever getting such laws: Dems are too fond of the “right to die” and repubs are too fond of the “right to not spend my money on other people’s health care”. This is a perfect storm of interests against the hardcore prolife position, and is unlikely to change anytime soon.

    So meanwhile, we play shuffleboard on the Titanic!

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 11:27 pm
  34. Funky Dung wrote:

    Devil’s advocate:

    If he was confident in the belief that she was no longer really a living human, wouldn’t any supposed abuse or mistreatment in hospice be on par with desecration of a corpse? That’s not a nice or respectful thing to do, but it’s certainly not as bad as treating a functional human being like a corpse.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 2:20 pm
  35. Funky Dung wrote:

    Donna, I just tried to find that out myself. It seems that the Church is leaving the definition of physical death to scientists, not theologians. I’m sure Rome would speak up if a definition of death contradicted with moral teachings. I’m fairly certain brain death suffices for organ donation, a practice the Church does not forbid.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:11 pm
  36. Funky Dung wrote:

    Eating a chicken egg is not the same as eating chicken flesh because we do not eat fertilized eggs. The eggs found in supermarkets are unfertilized ova.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 8:48 pm
  37. Emily T wrote:

    Even if there is “no human person” there, is the soul not still present?

    I also have to wonder about the size of her brain. Indeed (I assume), in 15 years time, the brain would likely atrophy (I don’t know about that being related to dehydration as someone else suggested). However, had she been given proper therapy soon after her collapse, could the decrease in brain matter have been slowed, prevented whatever??

    Regardless of the results, the woman didn’t deserve to be starved to death.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:58 pm
  38. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Funky, if this is a joke, it is not very funny… The CCC says:


    2277 Whatever its motives and means, direct euthanasia consists in putting an end to the lives of handicapped, sick, or dying persons. It is morally unacceptable.

    Thus an act or omission which, of itself or by intention, causes death in order to eliminate suffering constitutes a murder gravely contrary to the dignity of the human person and to the respect due to the living God, his Creator. The error of judgment into which one can fall in good faith does not change the nature of this murderous act, which must always be forbidden and excluded.

    2278 Discontinuing medical procedures that are burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome can be legitimate; it is the refusal of “over-zealous” treatment. Here one does not will to cause death; one’s inability to impede it is merely accepted. The decisions should be made by the patient if he is competent and able or, if not, by those legally entitled to act for the patient, whose reasonable will and legitimate interests must always be respected.

    2279 Even if death is thought imminent, the ordinary care owed to a sick person cannot be legitimately interrupted. The use of painkillers to alleviate the sufferings of the dying, even at the risk of shortening their days, can be morally in conformity with human dignity if death is not willed as either an end or a means, but only foreseen and tolerated as inevitable Palliative care is a special form of disinterested charity. As such it should be encouraged.

    Unless you are willing to show that food and water were somehow “burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome”, then Terry Shiavo’s level of mental (or visual) function, since she was obviously not “brain dead,” was never at issue.

    My $0.02

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 3:02 pm
  39. Funky Dung wrote:

    Furthermore, was she still truly a woman? Was she still a person?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:06 pm
  40. Jerry wrote:

    gbm,

    You wrote: “Also, when ‘zygote’ was written, I meant the human person at conception. It was technically incorrect.” What’s incorrect? A zygote is a fertilized egg, and thus a human being.

    Theo, your concerns are quite valid, and is why the Church is still mulling aspects of the issue of brain death. I think that in the event of massive cognitive loss, that a family may elect not to undergo “heroic” measures the save the person’s life. This ability to turn down treatment is longstanding in moral theology.

    This is also the crux of why the Church opposed withdrawing food and water for Terri, in that food and water is an ordinary condition for any human life, and it was not hurting her. (If her GI tract was ruined, that could be another matter.)

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 11:22 pm
  41. Donna Marie Lewis wrote:

    Has the Magisterium set forward a position on “brain death”? I’ve seen theologians saying it counts as dead, and others saying that it does not.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:03 pm
  42. Stuff wrote:

    Hey Steve – I don’t know you but I like the way you think. :)

    I would also like to respond to the antibiotics question, since that’s kind of my thing. Unfortunately, I think you could argue either way. Considering how long she had been hospitalized, the bugs she had were most likely pretty resistant, and if that’s the case, you’d have to hit her with some pretty broad spectrum drugs (meaning they kill lots of different things). In many cases, the broader the spectrum, the more complications, like secondary fungal infections, especially if an extended duration is expected (which is the case in many long-term hospital patients with really resistant bugs). Also, depending on the severity of infection and whether or not appropriate therapy can be given via feeding tube, you run into the risk of secondary IV line infections. Not to mention associated adverse reactions including but not limited to kidney impairment, reduced levels of various blood cells, QTC prolongation which can lead to heart arrhythmias, etc. All of which would necessitate further treatment to return to status quo. While not extraordinary, use of antibiotics may, because of the above reasons, be considered burdensome. It would be a question to be considered on an individual basis, I think.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 10:12 pm
  43. Stuff wrote:

    I also offer no apology, and I feel very uneasy trying to decide now that she is “all” dead (to quote the Princess Bride) whether or not her soul was present when she was determined to be “mostly” dead. I do not pretend to have any expertise in this area, but for my part, I would like to dissociate this case from those of organ donations.

    I have seen a few orders for Gift of Life patients (i.e. organ donors), and every order that I have ever seen has included some sort of pressor as well as insulin and levothyroxine (a synthetic thyroid hormone), not to mention some antibiotics. These patients need these medications in addition to mechanical ventilation to keep their vital organs going long enough to harvest whatever organs will be donated. Such is my understanding of “brain dead” as I have encountered it in my practice – the entire brain is dead and the “empty shell” is maintained completely by external means. Such also is my understanding of death as “imminent” – as in, if we don’t act very quickly in administering the appropriate meds and life support the body will die within hours and the organs therein will be useless.

    Just wanted to give my background for the opinion I hold about Terri – I don’t find her death to be imminent since she managed to survive without nutrition and hydration for almost 2 weeks. So if she was, as you say, on par with a fish, I equate removing her feeding tube with flushing the goldfish down the toilet. Regardless of where you place her humanity, I don’t feel it was the most responsible nor respectable thing to do.

    As far as equating her brain cells to tumor cells, I don’t necessarily agree with that either. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but I understand a tumor cell to be an already mutated cell that is no longer human, and as such interferes with the normal operation of the appropriate cells around it. I would not argue that a preserved tumor is human, only that it is a preserved tumor. In Terri’s case, the cells that were functioning were her normal and appropriate cells, communicating with all the other normal and appropriate cells in her body that were responsible for sustaining autonomic function. It’s just not a fair comparison.

    I’m not saying I’m 100% certain that her soul and body were still united, but I would rather err on the side of caution.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 2:50 am
  44. Emily T wrote:

    I could be wrong about that…just thought I remembered something along those lines from Developmental Psych…perhaps Jerry knows…

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 3:34 pm
  45. theomorph wrote:

    I had written a very long, highly organized reply. Then, due to an annoying idiosyncrasy of the user interface*, all was lost. Since I am not in the mood to rewrite the whole thing now, here is the quote to which I was responding, and the question that launched my response:

    Theo, your concerns are quite valid, and is why the Church is still mulling aspects of the issue of brain death.

    But why should this concern (defining brain death according to cognition on the one hand while attributing a soul to a fertilized egg incapable of cognition on the other hand) lead the church only to mull “aspects of the issue of brain death” and not aspects of the corresponding issue at the other end of development?

    *Why do the keystrokes for “select all” (cmd-A) have to be so similar to the keystrokes for “quit” (cmd-Q)?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 1:22 am
  46. theomorph wrote:

    I still want to know what constitutes a “member” of a species, and why. As far as I’m concerned, nothing is a “member” of my species until it’s behaving like a member of my species, and it can’t do that if it can’t behave yet. I.e., a fertilized egg is not a member of my species.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 11:41 pm
  47. Emily T wrote:

    I thought it wasn’t until after birth that a child becomes self aware….

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 2:07 pm
  48. gbm3 wrote:

    I was considering the following statement since yesterday. Sorry it seems out of place…

    “What died of dehydration was an empty shell.” -Funky

    I’m sorry, I had to laugh when I read this sentence. Should we also look into their eyes, growl, and roar into the sky when death occurs? Sorry about the dark humor, but I couldn’t resist pushing the reference.

    Unlike Klingons, we don’t simply discard human bodies. It’s because Christians believe in the resurrection in the end times.

    “I submit that Terri Schiavo was dead in the sense that her body no longer supported cognitive functions.”

    Sure. By the colloquialism she was a vegetable. However, I agree with the former pope JP2 (RIP) that we should still feed them until they go flat lined (see my above URL reference above).

    When do I define natural end? I don’t really know. I did think of a possible solution: maybe when a person’s cells cease respiration. I think a belief of some Jewish thinkers was that when the “breath” left a person, which they equated with spirit, the person was no longer living (this is also a justification for abortion with some). However, is a choking person dead? This lead me to think, not in exactly the same line, but of the cessation of the body’s cells respiration. Perhaps this is when we can define natural conclusion.

    In fact some come “back from death” even after they stop breathing for a time. However, if the cells no longer function because they run out of oxygen, they’re dead (including the entire body).

    I know the above may oversimplify it, but otherwise we would have to get into the metaphysical (soul talk and such). Just to say, I believe the “soul” leaves a person when they come to natural conclusion roughly as defined above. Quality of life or beliefs of other people are irrelevant insomuch as they are used to justify staving and/or thirsting someone to death.

    Cognition has nothing to do with their humanness: I would go so far as saying the simple arranging of DNA to form a person is enough. Yes, all life on Earth has the same 4 building blocks, but society at least has to defend ours. (This is why I can’t understand Vegans who accept abortion.)

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 4:21 pm
  49. Funky Dung wrote:

    I wonder when an unborn child first becomes self aware (on average).

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 1:45 pm
  50. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’ll concede that point. Her parents were indeed willing to pay for her care. Michael’s refusal to allow that suggests that perhaps he was motivated by greed rather than respect for Terri’s wishes. Regardless, if Terri was actually long gone and if that fact was demonstrable, Michael was not murdering a person when he ordered her tubes removed. His actions may still have been callous, but that may not have been murderous.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:27 pm
  51. Marla wrote:

    I’m glad I don’t owe him an apology because I never condemned him in the first place, much to the chagrin of some of my readers. I always grappled with what was the right thing and ultimately concluded (without being conclusive) that removing the tube was actually more humane and spiritually ethical. I really don’t understand the position that someone is “alive” soley because their body receives nourishment through artificial means.

    Posted 21 Jun 2005 at 6:43 am
  52. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that, according to orthodox Christian theology, a disembodied soul is not a person–certainly not a person created in the image of God, and certainly not the thing redeemed by God though Christ. The idea that the immaterial and material part of man might be separated is dualistic and false. St. Paul makes it clear that it is our bodies that are being redeemed (along with our souls), that these will be raised up on the “last day”, and that we will have bodies like unto Christ’s glorious body.

    There have been many theories of “ensoulment” throughout the ages–most of them stupid. None of these has been endorsed in RCC dogma, as far as I know. It is really a scholasticist game–irrelevant to the question of how we are advised to make “beginning of life” and “end of life” decisions. For these we have clear tradition and teaching that is completely independent of the question of the soul, consciousness, or any of a number of abstractions.

    Cheers!

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 8:18 pm
  53. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’m not cracking a joke. I’m suggesting that perhaps she was already essentially brain dead. She was no longer a human person. The Catholic Church accepts brain death as sufficient reason to allow the remainder of the body to die. Perhaps the medical community needs to expand the definition of brain death a bit. If the seat of reason, the brain, was destroyed beyond repair and beyond the point of any cognition beyond autonomic maintenance, Terri was already dead.

    I’m not saying that’s definitely how I feel, but I think it’s an idea worth discussing.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 5:25 pm
  54. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’m told death by starvation is much more painful (and slower).

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:12 pm
  55. Funky Dung wrote:

    I’ve never been confortable with Aquinas’ notion of substance and accidents (an idea borrowed from Aristotle, if I’m not mistaken). I think too much Eucharistic theology and respect=for-life theology has been aimed at explaining each in those terms and it strikes me as forced and ill-fitting. Perhaps it’s time for new language to explain these old truths.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 6:21 pm
  56. Funky Dung wrote:

    If that’s the case, by Theomorph’s definition, infanticide (up to a certain age) should not be considered immoral. What say you, Theo? Have you takena a shine to the ideas of Peter Singer? 😉

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 2:39 pm
  57. John wrote:

    It strikes me that there is a difference between the zygote and the brain dead person. The zygote has the potential to become human. There is no potential for development in the brain dead person.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 5:49 pm
  58. Jerry wrote:

    John said: “It strikes me that there is a difference between the zygote and the brain dead person. The zygote has the potential to become human. There is no potential for development in the brain dead person.”

    John, to an extent I think you have hit on a valid point. I of course think that a zygote is human–e.g., will a zygote conceived from a human and sperm produce a butterfly?–and while you may debate the personhood of a zygote (as per Theo or Peter Singer), to say that the zygote is not a member of H. sapiens is quite bizarre.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 7:58 pm
  59. Funky Dung wrote:

    My point is that she couldn’t *want* anything. There was no cognitive capability for wanting left. It seems she had insufficient cortex to be self-aware in any way. Of course, this whole discussion hinges on the assumption that the autopsy produced accurate results.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:17 pm
  60. gbm3 wrote:

    No apology.

    Please see
    *** http://www.wf-f.org/JPIILifeSustaining0304.html ***
    &
    http://www.freerepublic.com/focus/fr/1124925/posts.

    I think of it this way. If we are to defend the smallest of human persons beginning in fertilization, we must defend all human persons to their natural end. However, throughout the entire life span, basic needs are required to be met, here, namely nutrition and hydration (for the woman to eat and drink for the zygote). It is society’s imperative to meet the basic needs of its citizens.

    Zygotes don’t have brains or even hearts, but they are to be defended. There is even a high likelihood that they will never be born, but they are to be defended in their sanctity. The same with those terminally ill: defend them until death and feed them.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:53 pm
  61. Marla wrote:

    Oh, and I meant to say, good post! :)

    Posted 21 Jun 2005 at 6:44 am
  62. Funky Dung wrote:

    OK…I guess that’s a touchy subject for you. 😉 Far be from it me to suggest we revel in our animal nature. I’m just wary of functional definitions of species membership. While function is certainly important, if we get bogged down by it, we risk sliping into Social Darwinism. That is to say, if you don’t meet all the functional requirements of human personhood (i.e. disabled in some way), you’re not worth keeping alive. I’m not saying your a Social Darwinist, Theo, but that’s what led me to look to genetics. Ironically, similar problems crop up with that, too. I’ll have to think on this some more.

    Food for thought: If there is no supernatural component to humanity (i.e. a soul), human potential is essentially determined by biology. Even our ability to challenge the limits of our biology is an inherent part of our biology.

    “For millions of years, mankind lived just like the animals. Then something happened, which unleashed the power of our imagination. We learned to talk.” – Keep Talking by Pink Floyd

    Posted 18 Jun 2005 at 1:29 am
  63. John wrote:

    On a less cynical note. Regardless of what you ultimately come to believe funky, it’s a very reassuring thing to see someone, especially in these times, be prepared to consider that a strongly held belief may have been in error. And that if it was, some kind of ammends ought be made.
    It’s a sign that we’re a little farther from civil war than I might have thought. Also, that I should search my own beliefs and see which of them have not withstood the light of time.

    Thanks.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 5:34 am
  64. John wrote:

    One thing that really struck me was people making reference to “the next time”. There are somewhere on the order of 30,000 people in persistant vegitative states at any given time in the United States.

    I sat in a bar on campus towards the end of the semester and spent all night talking to a man who was getting drunk because the woman he’d lived with for the past thirty years and had three children with was in a coma and her parents decided to pull the plug, and he didn’t want to, but since they’d never married he had no legal right to stop them.

    There was nothing out of the ordinary about the Schiavo case. These things happen every day. It was just a matter that politicians thought they could gain popularity from entering the fray and the media knew it could gain ratings from helping them.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 5:11 am
  65. gbm3 wrote:

    Please clarify:

    “The Church does not claim that the physical body be entirely reduced to constuent molecules (or even cells) in order for the soul to ‘leave’.”

    Do you mean decay after death?

    Also, when “zygote” was written, I meant the human person at conception. It was technically incorrect.

    Finally, talking in terms of when the soul leaves the body is irrelavant in a discussion about the theology of the body. We should talk in terms of “from conception to final conclusion”.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 8:53 pm
  66. Tom Smith wrote:

    Regarding ensoulment, it was once thought that the “quickening” of a woman’s pregnancy was the point of ensoulment. Quickening was defined variously as the point at which the mother could first detect the developing infant or feel it kick the first time (there were other opinions as to the point of quickening, but I don’t know them off the top of my head). Quickening as the point of ensoulment was the opinion of Aquinas, if I’m not mistaken. Now, however, it seems that we realize that there is no real change at the point of quickening (or even that it exists), and the most accepted point of ensoulment is at conception. But that makes me a tad uneasy, simply because women tend to miscarry.

    Similarly, theological opinions of when the body is desouled vary. In the liturgy of the Funeral Mass, there is a ceremony known as the Final Commendation. However, in preconciliar days, it was once known as the Final Absolution. The notion that the dead could be absolved was obviously one of the last vestiges of the antiquated opinion that the soul might remain after physical death. If one thinks about it, though, why is it really the case that the soul departs from the body as soon as physical death occurs, or that death removes personhood? I tend to think the reason it doesn’t is reflected in the transubstantiated Eucharistic elements. When the species of bread and wine are no longer present, we’d say that the substance of the Eucharist has departed. When a person dies, the accidents of human personhood remain. Namely, the body. Why are we to believe that accidents are no longer indicative of substance in this scenario, but we are in the Eucharist and in everything else? It was once generally accepted that accidents indicated substance — if a block has the accidents of wood, it has the substance of wood. I think the same works for humans, as well.

    One more thought that’s a little far afield. Religious folk would generally agree that the soul does not die, but is eternal. If that’s the case, is a body also necessary for personhood? Is a disembodied soul not a person?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 6:03 pm
  67. Funky Dung wrote:

    Regarding personhood, the Church teaches that there is a physical element and a spiritual element. The spiritual element (i.e. the soul) depends on the physical element to be present anywhere by Heaven. The exact nature of the connection between the two has been the topic of much debate.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:15 pm
  68. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Rob asks:

    She had a bladder infection and pneumonia.

    Would withholding antibiotics have been acceptable to everyone?

    A good question. According to the standard set by the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which, while not authoritative to all participants, is yet quite well reasoned, one may withhold treatment if such is “burdensome, dangerous, extraordinary, or disproportionate to the expected outcome.” Clearly antibiotics are neither burdensome, dangerous, or extraordinary. So the only question is whether antibiotics would be treatment “disproportionate” to the “expected outcome.” In this case, I think the expected outcome is: cure the infection, toward which giving antibiotics would not be seem to be disproportionate.

    Gilbert Mailaender discussion Living Life’s End in last month’s First Things does an excellent job of applying a roughly Catholic sensibility to end of life questions.

    My $0.02

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 4:18 pm
  69. Rob wrote:

    She had a bladder infection and pneumonia.

    Would withholding antibiotics have been acceptable to everyone?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 5:42 am
  70. Rob wrote:

    Small editing areas do cause problems with things like numbering, don’t they?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 3:18 pm
  71. Emily T wrote:

    Starvation, dehydration….pretty much the same if you ask me.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:08 pm
  72. Funky Dung wrote:

    The biological definition of species membership is (AFAIK) genetic in nature.

    Posted 18 Jun 2005 at 12:06 am
  73. Funky Dung wrote:

    The gist I get from the autopsy results is that there was no longer a human person present in her body at all. She could not have related to her parents in any way other than reflexively. Not only could she not reach for, chew, or swallow her own food, she was forever damaged in such a way that she could never be aware that she was eating, let alone understand what is means to eat. If the brain is essentially reduced to a functioning cerebellum and some poorly connected bits of cerebrum – minus the cortex, mind you – is there really a human person still there? My education and my catechesis tell me no.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:32 pm
  74. Jerry wrote:

    The real allegations against him were how he was treating her in the hospital and hospice. Yes, some invoked the spectre of abuse, but that was not the crux of the matter.

    If you really were going at the abuse angle without definitive proof, go and apologize about that. To truly let go of the main point of the debate, however, would require far more knowledge, and assume that the information would get Schiavo off the hook, not further on it.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 2:00 pm
  75. Funky Dung wrote:

    The real issue at hand is whether or not the life that was ended was ontologically continuous with the human person Terri Schiavo. Was she still a living person and thus have inherent dignity or had she ceased to be a living person years ago and long thus no longer occupying the body that was killed.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:23 pm
  76. Funky Dung wrote:

    To clarify:

    Which is the higher truth – the Real Presense or Aristotelean physics?

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 6:23 pm
  77. Neil Uchitel wrote:

    Well, I agree with you.

    Posted 22 Jun 2005 at 6:16 pm
  78. Steve Nicoloso wrote:

    Well, Stuff, I admit there may be a gray area between what clearly constitutes treatment proportional toward outcomes and treatment that is disproportional. If a person is dying from condition X, and we know that some day, some flare up of condition X is going to kill her, then at some point (perhaps even an early point) refusing to treat the flare up is licit. But I don’t think we have that in the Shiavo case. In contrast to a case of say, Alzheimers, Terry Shiavo wasn’t dying of a chronic or untreatable infection–she wasn’t “dying” at all.

    It is possible that the treatment of an unusually difficult infection, as you describe, might rise to the level of burdensome, though it is far from clear that this was true of Shiavo’s particular infection. (She wasn’t hospitalized the whole time anyway, AFAIK, and I have no specific knowledge of her infection) Yes, that determination can and should be made on a case by case basis. But what I would argue strongly against is factoring in the patient’s “quality of life”, or “(guessed at or otherwise) will to live” to such determinations. If the procedure is to be deemed “burdensome”, then it should be a procedure that might reasonably deemed burdensome by anyone. Again, the “expected oucome” here is not the patient get’s totally better and races in the Tour de France–that is the desired outcome. The expected outcome is that the infection will be cured. If the cure is arguably riskier or more painful or in some other way “burdensome”, then it may licitly be refused.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 11:18 pm
  79. Emily T wrote:

    What about the denial of proper therapy when she first collapsed?

    Even if doctors make that determination, isn’t it still something that is a bit out of our realm?

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:31 pm
  80. Emily T wrote:

    Whether it is slower and more painful, is dehydration a way you would want to die? She was *not* terminal and therefore death was imposed upon her.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:14 pm
  81. Emily T wrote:

    Whether she felt pain or not, whether she wanted to die that way or not, I think those are irrelevant. She had people willing to care for her and death was still imposed upon her.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 7:23 pm
  82. Therese Z wrote:

    Who cares if she was blind?
    Who cares if her brain was shrunken? (although how much of that was due to the dehydration?)
    Who cares if she was bedridden and would never roller-skate again?

    Her body worked sufficiently to digest food and water. She related (I won’t even say communicated) in primitive ways with her parents. She was ALIVE.

    The implication of violence by her husband; yes, that was unprovable hyperbole. But just because she couldn’t reach for and chew her own food made her a candidate for death? Not according to our way of thinking. Nor without her written explicit demand to be allowed to starve.

    Now it will all be swept under the rug. Everyone can feel better. “See, she was not ruled out (by the way, not proven) to be in a PVS. So it was okay to STARVE AND DEHYDRATE HER TO DEATH.”

    Wait for the next one and the next. She is just a sickening little wavelet in the flood of murders.

    Posted 16 Jun 2005 at 6:02 pm
  83. h2 wrote:

    Wish I’d chimed in before the list got this long… but on the topic of owing Michael Schiavo an apology:

    One of the most sickening spectacles of this whole ordeal was having to observe my brothers and sisters on every talk show they could get onto. Too many “Christians” showed no qualms with breaking at least one of the ten commandments — that is, bearing false witness. I recognize that some people on the othe side were hitting below the belt too, but I expected more from supposed Christians, people with whom I basically agreed on the issue of Terri Schiavo.

    People trashed Michael Schiavo mercilessly, mostly based on conjecture and hate. Members of his family here in Pennsylvania had their lives threatened by people sympathetic to Terri’s parents — how incredibly screwed up is that? -that someone who purports to believe in the sanctity of life would resort to such idiotic behavior?

    I think some people definitely owe Michael Schiavo an apology, and I think many of those same people need to examine themselves, especially the ones who claim to be saved by the love of a merciful God, because they didn’t do much to reflect that love when they engaged in behavior intended to destroy Michael Schiavo’s reputation.

    A lot of what went on was shameful at best.

    Posted 17 Jun 2005 at 8:15 am

Trackbacks & Pingbacks 2

  1. From Terri Schiavo's Autopsy Results @ Ales Rarus on 08 Dec 2006 at 8:02 pm

    […] June 19th, 2005 by Funky Dung A few days ago, I wondered out loud if the results of Terri Schiavo's autopsy might mean that Michael is owed an apology. The discussion in the comments was long and interesting. Be sure to check it out. […]

  2. From Alas, a blog » Blog Archive » Regarding The CAT Scan Of Terri Schiavo’s Brain on 23 Jun 2007 at 2:37 am

    […] Ales Rarus – A Rare Bird, A Strange Duck, One Funky Blog » Apology Due to Michael Schiavo? Writes: April 2nd, 2006 at 1:13 pm […]

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