THERE IS an ongoing heated debate over human rights, following the death of Terri Schiavo. Mrs. Schiavo, who was only 41 years old when she died, had suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped beating in 1990.During the last five years of Mrs. Schiavo’s life, her husband Michael has petitioned for his wife to be allowed to die with some dignity.
In March, Michael Schiavo won the right for Terri’s feeding tube to be removed and just 13 days later she died with her husband at her bedside. A sad story when you consider that Terri suffered her collapse when she was only in her mid 20s, from which time she has required constant medical care. The story is even sadder when you remember that Mr. and Mrs. Schindler – Terri’s parents – petitioned against Terri being allowed to die, believing that their daughter was still responsive. An autopsy will establish the degree of brain damage suffered by Terri.
While Terri was allowed to die with some dignity – the only thing that Michael Schiavo believed was right and proper for his wife – the indignity with which this whole issue was conducted offered a feeding frenzy to the media.
American politicians at all levels were brought into play to make the decision of whether Mrs. Schiavo should have her feeding tube removed or not – in other words, whether she should be allowed to live or die.
One of the most pertinent issues in Terri Schiavo’s case was that she had not made a ‘living will’. A living will offers written instructions on what to do if you are unable to communicate your wishes. In instances of brain stem death or heart failure, a medical practitioner can declare death at a specific time. Such is not the case with persistent vegetative state, which Terri Schiavo’s doctors claimed she was suffering from.
This is a high profile case from which many of us may choose to learn a lesson and react accordingly.Would you want a politician making the decision on whether you should live or die? Would you want your spouse fighting with your parents concerning your life or death? I certainly would not!
• Do you have a view – or do you have any questions about living wills? If you do, we would like to hear from you. Email us at [email protected] or fax us on 282 342 939
By J. B. BRAND