Monday, March 28, 2005

Terri Schiavo

The sad and tragic case of Terri Schiavo has captured the imagination of our nation. Much of the media portrays this as a religious debate, but there are also factual questions involved here -- namely is she really brain dead, and does she feel no pain as she slowly dies of thirst and starvation? Yesterday, a priest who is the spokesman for her parents said Schiavo smiled, raised her hands and made guttural sounds late Sunday while being visited by her father and a friend. Another report I read, from, said hospice workers have provided Terri morphine to be able to ease the tremendous pain that comes with dying from dehydration.

Are these people lying, or are they engaged in wishful thinking? If the answer to both is no, then why are we letting her die in this manner? It seems to me what we have here is de facto euthanasia, and with that decision made, it would be more humane to give her real euthanasia, so she could die more quickly and painlessly.

The other question that comes to mind is, why are her parents and siblings forced to stand by in protest while the decisions over her life are made by her husband of five years who is now virtually remarried to someone else with whom he has had two children? It seems at the beginning of life, pro-abortion rights advocates support the right of the mother to determine the future of the unborn child, but at the end of life they oppose the right of a Schiavo's parents to decide her future, instead letting that decision rest with her husband who is now sharing his life with another woman.

Whatever charges of hypocrisy may be leveled at the Bush administration, or other conservatives on this issue, I believe the above questions need to be addressed.


Anonymous daninbigd said...

According to the Toronto Star, the morphine was applied to regulate breathing, not to relieve pain. CAT scans have been done and show that she is indeed brain dead. In fact, only 20% of her brain exists; the other 80% has been flushed out of her body: Toronto Star: What is going on Schaivo's head?

Excerpt: "She has approximately 20 per cent of her (total) brain tissue left inside her skull, and the remaining tissue is damaged," said Prockop. "The tissue that controls the higher brain functions is gone. It's disappeared."

This, he said, is what typically happens in such cases.

After Schiavo suffered her heart attack 15 years ago, and her brain was starved of oxygen, much of her brain tissue became scarred and then necrotic — in other words, it died.

What remained was interpreted by her system as foreign matter, and it was slowly flushed away, to be replaced over time by cerebro-spinal fluid, which has the appearance of water.

But the most primal part of the brain does exist and will respond to stimuli:

And in Terri Schiavo, they genuinely believe that they do: Her eyes rove the room when they are present, and sometimes her gaze seems to fix itself on them. She starts at sounds. She responds to light. She moans, as if trying to speak. When they hold her hand, she tightens her grip. At night, she closes her eyes and falls asleep. With the morning light, she awakens again.

But, said Prockop, all these activities are merely mirages of sentience rather than the real thing. They are automatic reflexes to stimuli and are controlled by primitive portions of the brain.

For people in the Schindler's position, the result is agonizingly seductive, not only because they keenly want to see sense and feeling where, sadly, there is none — but because this is so very easy to do.

"This is exactly the difficulty," said Bradley. "Even trained medical people have real difficulty."

And other papers paint a very different picture of her husband than reported on right-wing sites.

St. Petersburg Times: She's the other woman in Michael Schiavo's heart

10:36 AM  

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