This Day in History: March 18th

Today in History March 18, 2005

feeding-tubeOn March 18, 2005, Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed 15 years after the 41 year-old woman had collapsed and her heart stopped beating, initially thought to be because of a severe potassium imbalance in her body owing to unhealthy dieting. Her brain was oxygen-deprived for ten minutes, causing massive and irreversible brain damage that left Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state.

The feeding tube was ordered to be removed after years of legal wrangling between Schiavo’s husband Michael, who maintained his wife told him she did not want her life prolonged by extraordinary measures if she ever was in a vegetative state, and her parents, who held out hope their daughter could recover.

As the battle to remove Terri’s feeding tube raged on, her husband’s lawyer Mr. Felos released this statement to the public:

Mrs. Schiavo had a right to choose her own course, she chose it, the courts found. She has a right to die in peace. Write to your congressman and tell them, Terri Schiavo has a right to die in peace. Let her go in peace.

Terri finally died on March 31st.

When the results of Terri’s autopsy were released in June of 2005, its findings supported Michael Schiavo’s doctors’ claims that his wife had suffered massive brain damage and had no chance of recovery. As Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin stated, “[Her] brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain… This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.”

The post-mortem exam also revealed that Terri was blind, but had not suffered from any eating disorder as had been suspected. She had also not been the victim of any sort of physical attack or abuse. However, it was still not possible to pinpoint just what had been the cause of her collapse 15 years previously.

Mr, Felos, Michael Shiavo’s attorney, said his client was not in the room at the time when the feeding tube was removed for the final time, but arrived a short while later to keep vigil at his wife’s bedside.

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  • J. F. Gecik

    For the benefit of future readers (especially young people, who are so easily swayed by biased, incomplete articles), here are some corrections and important additions to the above …

    Quoting the article: “Her brain was oxygen-deprived for ten minutes, causing massive and irreversible brain damage that left Schiavo in a persistent vegetative state” [PVS].

    Aside from the fact that no human being, by definition, can “vegetate” or be a “vegetable,” the law of Florida required that there be a total absence of awareness and ability to communicate for a diagnosis of “PVS” to be made … but Mrs. Schiavo did not qualify under that definition. Numerous witnesses (blood relatives, medical personnel, clergy) testified regarding the patient’s definite “awareness” and ability to “communicate” non-verbally.

    The above article would leave a reader with the false impression that Mrs. Schiavo was totally helpless, having no normal bodily functions. In fact, after being on a ventilator for a few week after the onset of her illness in 1990, she was taken off mechanical life support and breathed on her own until she was killed (by starvation and dehydration) in 2005.

    In June of 1990, Mrs. Schiavo’s husband was appointed her guardian of her person and her property by a judge. He remained this for the rest of her life, even though his position and motives became gravely compromised by the fact that he abandoned his wife maritally in 1993, living (for over a decade) with a second woman, who gave birth to his two illegitimate children.

    In 1992, Mr. S. had filed and won a malpractice case in which a significant monetary award was made for Terri’s rehabilitation and therapy. The award was based, in part, on expert testimony that she would live a normal life span. During the time he was seeking the malpractice award, Mr. S. never indicated that his wife had wanted to die if she were severely disabled.

    After his marital infidelity began, it became obvious (to almost everyone who knew the case in detail) that someone desperately wanted someone else to be dead — even though the latter person’s parents and siblings were willing to care for Mrs. S for the rest of her natural life.

    There was no evidence whatsoever, except for the word of an unbelievable, compromised individual, that Mrs. S had wanted to be killed in such a situation. [To the contrary, a close friend of Mr. S said that he had revealed that Mrs. S had never spoken to him about the subject.] Unfortunately, a certain judge, a radical utilitarian, “looked the other way” and allowed that her death be inflicted upon her — a death that no normal human being would even think of inflicting on a pet animal.

    On March 31, 2005, after almost fourteen days without nutrition or hydration, Mrs. Terri Schiavo died from severe dehydration. For years, her “husband” had refused to allow her to be taken outdoors to feel fresh air, sunshine, or a breeze. Her parents, brother, and sister were denied access to her bedside at the time of her death.

    In the words of her brother, Bobby Schindler, “Despite my family’s efforts — incredibly, we were denied even the right to put ice chips on her lips and tongue to relieve her torment — Terri died …”. A priest was forbidden to give her the tiniest portion of Holy Communion (a crumb of consecrated bread or a drop of consecrated wine).