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Doctors: Terri case not 'death with dignity' issue
Posted By Diana Lynne On 10/22/2003 @ 4:24 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
A physicians’ group has added its voice to the din of reaction to Florida Gov.
Jeb Bush’s intervention in the case of Terri Schindler-Schiavo, the
brain-disabled woman whose life-sustaining feeding tube was removed last
week at the request of Terri’s husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo.
Schiavo, who maintains his wife is in a persistent vegetative state and
would want to be allowed to die with dignity, has been locked in a 13-year legal
battle with Terri’s parents and siblings who argue Terri is alert, wants to live
and, given appropriate therapy, can be rehabilitated. Terri left no written
Within hours of the state legislature’s historic passage of a measure,
known as Terri’s Bill, which empowered the governor to take executive action
in the matter, Bush ordered the feeding tube reinserted last night.
While hailed as a “miracle” by Terri’s sister and other supporters, the
surprise development – coming on Day 7 of Terri’s judge-ordered starvation –
angered right-to-die attorney George Felos, who represents Michael Schiavo.
Felos called the eleventh-hour law and Bush’s subsequent intervention
“absurdly unconstitutional” and maintains Terri has a right under the Florida
Constitution not to be kept alive artificially.
“The governor of the state of Florida does not have the right to trump a
patient’s personal choice,” he said at a press conference. “The citizens of
Florida should be alarmed by what is happening. What is
happening here is a gross and illegal intrusion into the private liberty of
citizens. … This is not the former Soviet Bloc where you don’t have the liberty
to control your own body.”
Following two unsuccessful attempts by Felos to get circuit judges to
block the reinsertion of the feeding tube, Terri was transferred from the
hospice where she has been a patient for three years to a local hospital and
rehydration efforts were reportedly launched.
“She was literally absconded from her death bed in the middle of her dying
process,” Felos told ABC’s “Good Morning America” this morning, calling the
rehydration efforts “cruel.”
But Dr. Jane Orient with the
href="http://www.aapsonline.org">Association of American Physicians and Surgeons,
href="http://www.aapsonline.org">Association of American Physicians and
Surgeons,or AAPS, claims the opposite is true: “Dehydration is a cruel,
“It is unconscionable that the state ordered removal of her feeding tube in
the first place – it’s nothing less than state-sponsored euthanasia,” maintains
Orient. “She is not dependent on advanced medical interventions. Nothing is
mechanically pumping her blood, or forcing oxygen into her lungs. She is
simply being fed through a gastrostomy tube.”
Last week the General Assembly of the Catholic Medical Association passed a resolution that concurred with Orient’s view. It declared removal of Terri’s feeding tube “without first undertaking rehabilitation therapy to ascertain her ability to swallow and digest nourishment” constitutes “depriving her of life without due process of law,” according to Florida Statutes Section 744, 3211.
Would we allow a retarded child to be starved to death?” queries Orient. “Where are the ‘compassionate end-of-life’ groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson ‘Last Acts’ initiative, and why aren’t they weighing in on this?”
Multiple physicians solicited by the Schindlers believe Terri, who vocalizes,
laughs and appears to respond to her parents, could be rehabilitated to some
extent. Some have even offered pro bono treatment, even though Michael
Schiavo was awarded nearly $1.5 million dollars in malpractice suits to pay for Terri’s rehabilitation and nursing expenses shortly after her mysterious collapse at home in 1990 during which oxygen was cut off to her brain for several minutes.
WorldNetDaily has reported that during court testimony last year, Victor Gambone, Terri’s attending
physician hired by Michael Schiavo in 1998, testified he was unsure whether
his patient had even had her teeth cleaned in recent years and said she hadn’t
received therapy. He said he accepted Michael Schiavo’s word that therapy
had been deemed unnecessary.
“Although severely disabled, some believe that she does have the capacity
to communicate a desire to live. The husband has obstructed efforts at
rehabilitation or independent assessments of his wife’s true state,” continues
WorldNetDaily reports the family has been blocked by Michael Schiavo from visiting Terri at Morton Plant Hospital in Clearwater, Fla., where she was transferred. Their inability to verify she is being rehydrated per Bush’s order concerns them. As of yesterday morning, they reported she was awake and appeared alert, although shrunken.
Felos told reporters yesterday Terri was showing signs of massive organ failure and said the reinsertion of the feeding tube was just prolonging her death.
AAPS, a non-partisan, professional association of physicians dedicated to
protecting the sanctity of the patient-physician relationship put out a warning to
colleagues: “The ethical question for her nurses and physicians is whether
they will cooperate in carrying out a death warrant.
“And the ethical question for all of us is whether we will allow the state
to obstruct the efforts of people who want to provide medical care to a patient
who wants to receive it,” said Orient. “If we go down that path, who’s to say
what treatment the state will prevent you from getting?”
Updates and other information about Terri’s fight for life are posted on the
save Terri Schiavo
plead to Jeb Bush
step in for Terri
video showing alert Terri
joins vigil for Terri Schiavo
sought in right-to-die case
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