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Here's an issue close to my heart.

Discussion in 'Issues Around the World' started by -Ken, Dec 26, 2002.

  1. -Ken

    -Ken Guest

    Picture this, a young woman who collapses due to an imbalance of Potassium and ends up in a coma. As you would expect, one set of doctors thinks a recovery is possible where another set of doctors is convinced there will be no appreciable recovery.

    This woman is being kept alive with a feeding tube and no other medical assistance.

    Her husband says she would rather be dead than kept alive like this and her parents say should would want every possible treatment in the hopes of a full (or even partial recovery).

    To make the matter all the more interesting, there is a large settlement (hundreds of thousands of dollars) which would go to the husband if the woman passes away. I love a good soap opera!

    What would you do if you were her Significant Other? Would you pull the feeding tube and let her pass away painlessly? Would you prolong her life in the hopes of either a medical breakthrough or maybe a miracle? Is it murder to not force feed someone like this? Should this person be allowed to die? Is this a waste of valuable medical resources?

    What are everyones feelings on this case? I would really like to know.
  2. tke711

    tke711 Oink Oink Staff Member

    If the majority of doctors agree that there is no hope, then I would let her go. I have seen a member of our family rot away in a hospital bed for the better part of 6 months due to the spouse insisting that some "miracle" will happen. It was incredibly hard on the family and not a very dignified way to die. (If there is such a thing).

    In fact, this is why my wife and I both have Living Wills. Of course, we have both told each other what we want, but we also had our lawyer draw up the Living Will in case parents didn't like the decision or didn't believe the living spouse. This way, there is a legal document expressing our will.
  3. Copzilla

    Copzilla dangerous animal Staff Member

    I think one can best answer by saying what you would want your spouse to do in the event that it happened to <U>you</U>.

    I would want the plug pulled on myself. Even if I were to partially recover, the chance of having any quality of life is remote, and once that happens, you cannot pull the plug. I would not want to live as a slobbering vegetable.

    For the record, I'm insured heavily, and I would not want that money to be burned up in treatment. It's there to provide for my family after my death. And the fact that it would make them very comfortable is not something they should have to apologize for.
  4. tke711

    tke711 Oink Oink Staff Member

    After reading the article a second time. This really sticks out:

    She has been in a comma for 12+ years now. I highly doubt that she will be coming out of it. 12 years is way too long for a family to have to go through this. I would let her go.
  5. Sierra Mike

    Sierra Mike The Dude Abides Staff Member

    Yep...send her on her way and let everyone try and get back to the lives they've put on hold for 12 years.

    Or have her cryogenically suspended and parked next to Walt Disney.

  6. cdw

    cdw Ahhhh...the good life.

    If it were my husband, I would not have allowed it to go on anywhere near this long.... perhaps a couple of months until I was convinced that there was nothing "right around the corner", but longer than that? No.
  7. Sharondippity

    Sharondippity Sweetness and Light

    My heart is heavy reading that her family has suffered for 12 years.

    I would never want to cause any one person that much grief.

    I can only guess that the woman in the coma is not experiencing any discomfort, so that is a non-issue. ( I hope)

    I would want the pain to end for my family if I were the one in the coma. The value of one life at that level cannot justify the loss of the quality of life for the number of others affected.
  8. ShinyTop

    ShinyTop I know what is right or wrong!

    No question in my mind. The parents grief is clouding their vision. While I have much sympathy with them the woman deserves better.
  9. midranger4

    midranger4 Banned

    Without a living will in place the responsibility of making this decision falls squarely upon the husband.

    I have great sympathy for the parents and family of this young woman no matter what ultimately happens. The decision to cease life support is the husband's to make as their daughter entrusted her husband to make such difficult choices upon marrying him.
  10. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    It's an issue close to my heart also. In November 1996, my wife was involved in an auto crash that resulted in her being in a coma for six weeks or so... followed by several months of being awake, but not aware of what was going on around her, and followed by several months of intense rehab where she re-learned how to walk, talk, eat, go to the bathroom, brush he teeth, get dressed, etc. Her rehabilitation is still an ongoing process.

    Since then I have been involved in several brain injury support and advocacy groups. I have met hundreds of people who care for family members who have brain injuries; and I have met dozens of brain injury survivors who were not supposed to recover, but somehow did.

    I have also corresponded on a regular basis with Terri's father Robert Schindler, and with her brother Robert Jr.

    There is a whole lot more to this story than can be gleaned from reading a single CNN or AP news article. I have tried to digest what they have told me over the years(from their obviously biased point of view) , and also have tried to look at it from other points of view and what makes sense.

    The facts are that Michael Schaivo promised (before the large $$$ settlement) that he would do whatever it takes to provide rehabilitation for his wife. Soon after the money arrived, he stopped all treatment for his wife.

    In 1998 (eight years later, and after moving a girlfriend in with him), suddenly decided that his wife "would not want to live like that", and instituted court proceedings to kill her.

    In various court proceedings between Freb 2000 to Sept. 2002, her husband has fought to have Terri's feeding tube shutdown, and has won court rulings preventing any doctors from examining Terri, no video taping or photos, no visitors not approved by him... even having Terri's own family banned from visiting her.

    Finally in October 11 thru 21 this year, the court ordered that Terri should be examined by five doctors including two chosen by her family, two chosen by her "husband", and one chosen by the court. Video taping of the examinations was also ordered.

    As expected, both doctors chosen by Terri's family agreed that Terri's condition would be improved by renewed agressive treatment and therapy. I tend to agree with them... treatment might help.

    Also as expected, both of the doctors selected by Michael Schiavo testified that there was no hope for recovery. Both doctors also specialize in bio-ethics and right to die issues.

    The doctor chosen by the court is also a bioethicist and right to die advocate. So there you have it, two doctors say Terri might recover, three say she won't.

    But, in the videotapes presented in court Terri is seen interacting with her family and with the doctors who were examining her. She followed verbal commands appropriately, and seemed to some degree to be aware of her surroundings. People who are in a coma or who are in a persistent vegetative state ("vegetables") do not do this.

    Me thinks that maybe Terri's husband who has appeared numerous times on nearly every major TV talk show in the nation only wants his wife gone so that he can marry his fiance, and live with her and his baby (also by her) on what is left of Terri's money. And Judge Greer and Attorney George Felos can get rich on the book and movie deals.

    I have learned from my wife's experience and from others I have met in the last few years, that denying treatment and therapy to a person in Terri's condition tends to become a self-fulfilling prophecy. If a doctor or insurance company denies treatment because the patient will not recover anyway, then they surely won't.

    In my wife's case, I was told that she would never wake up. When that did not happen, I was told that she would be a vegetable. I was even offered help in selecting a nursing home for her so that my kids and I could "find a place for her to live out the rest of her her days, and we could get on with our lives".

    I believe that my wife has recovered to the extent that she has is largely because I was commitment to my wife's recovery, I fought the insurance company, and demanded that she receive treatment and therapy instead of being poked away in a nursing home.

    I am not sure how Terri's case will eventually play out. I hope that she will at least be afforded the opportunity for treatment and therapy. At least try.

    Link to Terri's website: http://www.terrisfight.org

    Edit to add website link.
  11. cdw

    cdw Ahhhh...the good life.

    I went back and read the article and then went to the parents website.
    My god, all the legal wrangling that is going on back and forth!
    What a horror....the brother and sister aren't allowed to visit (for whatever reason), they are now accusing the husband of possibly having caused the condition through physical abuse and that it had nothing to do with potassium loss...

    Such a tragedy all the way around.
    What a shame.
  12. tke711

    tke711 Oink Oink Staff Member


    Since you seem to be the most knowledgeable on the subject (unfortunately you've had to learn first hand), what are the chances of someone who has been in this state for 12+ years of recovery?

    You said that your wife was in a comma for 6 weeks and has been able to rehab over the years since then. 6 weeks is much different then 12+ years. I'm just wondering from all of your contacts and research, if the length of time this particular woman has been in this state harms or diminishes her likelihood of any type of recovery?

    BTW....thank you for sharing your story. I'm sure it's not easy for you to re-live it. You should be proud of yourself for everything you have done for your wife. She is truly blessed to have you.
  13. -Ken

    -Ken Guest

    And from the other side of the fence.

    I don't know Terri or her husband.
    I cannot comment on her case from personal experience. If the guy wants to dispell the motive of money from the case, he should give it all to charity. That would shut the parents up. If he didn't abuse her and they are claiming he did with no proof, they are making his ordeal much worse. If he wants to ge on with his life, I see no reason why he shouldn't.

    I don't know what's right in every case, I can tell you of my experience with my father.

    Almost exactly one year ago, my father was late for work. Being the kind of guy he was, people in the office worried. They called his home (no answer) and they figured he might have stopped to do some errands on his way to work.

    Around 10:30 the office phoned my father's girlfriend and told her they were worried. She had talked to my father around 6:30 that morning. He told her he was getting dressed for work and was going to stop on the way to work to get a couple of errands done.

    Somewhere around noon, my uncle (they worked together) decided this was very unlike my father to at least not call in, so he drove to my father's condo and knocked on the door. There was no answer but my uncle got concerned and called the manager of the complex. He was out but his secretary took the message and said he would call back in a little while.

    Roughly an hour and a half later (now 2:00PM) the manager returned my uncle's call and was asked to bring a spare set of keys over and open the front door of the condo but he was in the middle of something and didn't make it there until almost 4:00PM.

    When the door was opened, they found my father, half dressed on the floor barely breathing. He had suffered a severe stroke. To complicate matters, he had been passed out there since 7:00AM that morning.

    When he got to the hospital, a specialist was brought in and after reading the MRI told us the damage was "massive". Due to the severity of his stroke and the extended time he went without treatment, the hospital quietly offered us the choice of "not inserting a feeding tube" and quietly allowing him to pass away.

    We were told, he would never regain consciousness and it was amazing he was still alive. They were wrong about him regaining consciousness but they were right about everything else. He is unable to walk, talk, feed himself, go to the bathroom and none of us can tell if he knows who we are (when he is awake which is only about four hours a day).

    My uncle, my mother and most of the rest of the elders in the family were against putting in a feeding tube. I believe that is because they have seen it happen to their friends and family members and seen the effect.

    The younger generation unanimously voted everything to be done to give my father the best chance to recover and we won the argument. It was probably the worst decision I ever made.

    This experience has caused my wife and I to let everyone know if anything like this happens to either of us, we do not want these types of artificial life support measures to be applied.
  14. immortal one

    immortal one 501st Geronimo

    I was faced with this same decision in September of this year. The person was my father.

    Existing on a machine is not living.
    Allow the woman to pass with the dignity she rightly deserves.
  15. jamming

    jamming Banned

    This is why we need a firm definition of what is technically life, I believe it is when there is the capacity for higher brain function to occur . Everything on the side of complete brain and body death should be decided by the next of kin, or a designated individual.
  16. -Ken

    -Ken Guest

    <small>As said by Jamming,</small>
    "This is why we need a firm definition of what is technically life, I believe it is when there is the capacity for higher brain function to occur. "

    I would like to point out the description you put forward to define life would allow for abortion (at least in the first and possibly the second trimester). I have some conflicts in my personal beliefs as to where the line should be legally drawn to define life.

    It is my belief that whatever we define, as "life" should work equally for the beginning as well as the end. This is a difficult challenge.
  17. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    We finally agree on this issue. It's not a heartbeat for me, it's the brain, the conscious being.
  18. FrankF

    FrankF #55170-054

    After 12+ years (nine with no therapy) the chances of a "full" recovery are slim. Perhaps with appropriate agressive therapy, Terri might be able to re-learn to walk or talk or take care of herself. Even after nine years of no therapy, she still shows signs that she is aware of people around her and her surroundings. She wakes up in the morning and goes to sleep at night. She sometimes follows verbal commands. She appears to know who her parents are. BTW, that picture that always appears in media articles was taken approximately two years after Terri was supposedly in a coma... Does she look like she is in a coma?

    As I mentioned before, no therapy usually means no improvement. Kind of what would happen if you had a baby, brought him/her home, dumped him/her in a crib and did nothing for nine years but feed and change him/her. No social interaction, just the basics. The baby will not learn to crawl or walk or talk or take care of itself... just lay there and eat, pee, and poop... and eventually die.

    I believe Terri at least deserves a chance. For a few reasons...

    One... (if actually given a chance) she might recover somewhat. I don't know how much or what her "quality of life" would be, but since she did not have a living will or advance directive, it is not for her "husband" or the courts to decide for her. Like I said, my wife's doctors gave her no chance of recovery. They were wrong.

    Two... I see this case (and a few others before it) as setting a dangerous precedent. In Florida and California (and other states I can't think of at this time) a guardian may terminate a persons life if they are sustained by artificial "life support" which at least in Florida includes feeding tubes. Although euthanasia is illegal in all fifty states, this case has been touted by Terri's husband, his lawyers, and the media as a "Right To Die" case. But make no mistake, it is euthanasia.

    Three... Once the liberal courts decide that it is o.k. to kill people who are unable to eat without a feeding tube... who is next? Elderly people who are unable to drive, and so depend on "Meals on Wheels"? People who are unable to hold a fork or spoon (or who have no hands with which to hold them)? Maybe start killing babies who are born with CP or Downs? Once the courts decide it is o.k. to kill a person because they have "no quality of life" it all goes down hill from there.
  19. jamming

    jamming Banned

    I have no problem with this definition allowing abortions in the first trimester, which is usually the time period of the greatest number of spontaneous abortions. I think it does work for both beginning and end of life. It is all dependent on the intact ability for higher brain function being present at the instant of decision, the capacity appears to be present in Terri, so that would not help in this specific situation. However, I think that they ought to designate a living will choice on your Driver's License. Like four simple choices or a detailed affivdavit left on file if you prefer.
  20. ethics

    ethics Pomp-Dumpster Staff Member

    Damn, Jim, I believe we have reached (at least between few people's PoV here) a compromise on that issue of life and abortion.

    Frank, that was one hell of a post. My empathy is stretched and yet I was still feeling for you.

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