The case of Terri Schiavo has been a complicated one and has spanned the attention of various professions including legal, medical, political and even religion. Terri Schiavo was hospitalized in February 25 1990 after suffering from massive heart attacks that caused irreparable brain damage due to the persistent lack of oxygen to her brain. After being admitted in her coma state for three months, her condition was declared vegetative. She was to remain in this state from this duration to the time 2005. The fact she had failed to respond to all the available medication she was being given had given the doctors the belief that her brain damage was irreparable. The paradox surrounding her life however was whether to let her die or to let her live through the life support machines that supported her life. Family, friends, government, medical practitioners and the entire population was divided by this issue on whether they should let her live or her life should be terminated. It is my opinion that Terri Schiavo’s life should have been left to end naturally as there was no hope for her recovery at all.
Those who allege that Terri Schiavo should be let to live are mostly based on religious beliefs that life should be left to end naturally. The problem however is the definition of what is natural and what is unnatural or the extent by which each of these assertions affects each other. According to the editor, Miami Herald the Catholic Church prohibits the extension of life by use of extraordinary means other than giving the actual care that should be given to a patient. The main problem however is the fact that this “extraordinary means” the Catholic Church mentions are yet to be defined. It is the extent of defining the “extraordinary means” in the case of Terri Schiavo that determines that she should be let to live or die as far as the church’s view is concerned. The church has also given conflicting views over the issue of Terri Schiavo with different church leaders failing to agree with what exactly is “extraordinary means.”
From a medical perspective, Terri Schiavo case was a concluded one, with the view that her severely damaged brain could not be reversed and thus medical expert’s could have done absolutely nothing to return her into the conscious states. To worsen the matter, she had defied all known medical procedures as well as those that were being done to her on an experimental basis thus indicating that her case was of no recovery. The scans done on her brain indicated an absence of brain activity especially the upper side of the brain which meant that her brain was badly damaged for recovery to take place. However the church and other prolife group allied people were of the idea that the Terri Schiavo should be kept alive as, according to one doctor, was showing signs of semi-consciousness. Notable argument over this issue involves the assertions of the clergyman from the Baptist church who hold that that propagation of life of Terri Schiavo should be maintained. In such medical conditions the position of the doctors should be followed. The doctors had already forewarned that Terri Schiavo was not likely to recover due to the extent of the brain damage.
The fact that the church cannot achieve a consensus between itself with the meaning of the phrase extraordinary care and ordinary care is a proof enough that the church are using their life protectionist campaign where there is no sign of recovery of the patient. According to James Bretzeke, a priest and a lecturer of moral theology as cited in the Miami Herald asserts that to his understanding, what has been subjected to Terri Schiavo is a case of extraordinary treatment which and what would be reasonable to do is to end the life support and allow Terri Schiavo to undergo a natural death.
According to the patient’s husband as well as to the faith that the patient professed, it was against her will to extend her life by use of extra ordinary support enabled through support of vital body process by artificial machines. The husband, the closest relative to the sick woman maintained that Terri Schiavo was not for the idea that her life be prolonged by use of the artificial means. The catholic church which also was the church that Terry belonged to are opposed to the prolonging of life so long as the prolonging goes beyond what they refer to as the extraordinary care which involves supporting of organs such as the heart and the lungs. It is therefore wrong to continue holding Terri Schiavo alive against her will and against her religion. She therefore should have been left to die.
Keeping Terri Schiavo alive only propagates the religious beliefs at the expense of medical experts view. Her case has been described as that of persistent vegetative state that had no slightest sign of recovery after the fifteen years she had remained in that state. It is this belief that her condition was irreversible that makes one to conclude that keeping Terri Schiavo alive was not in the best interest of the patient, the state and even to the close family members affairs. Prolonging her life any longer was beyond the interest of the medical fraternity as well as the interest of the family. The neurologist propagating the extension of Terri Schiavo is more driven by religious beliefs as opposed to respecting the professional principles he is expected to uphold at all cost. The fact that the recommendation to continue keeping her alive are not based on any medical hope, by chance or by past cases, should be used as the main base to allow the patient to die as she had no chances of recovering from her state.
The church which has been opposed to the removal of life support that had kept Terri Schiavo alive should follow the Jewish and Catholic teachings which clearly distinguish between the heroic care and basic care. Providence of heroic care which involves supports of vital organs such as the lungs and the heart to prolong the life of the person. This are absolutely unacceptable in the religious connotations are they are seen to interfere with the normal functioning of the body. However, the ordinary care should continue to be provided which indicates that one requires to be continuously being supplied with food and water. In the case of Terri Schiavo food and water should be provided as this sounds ethical, according to the church but support to the lungs, the hearts and other organs seen as though not to fall under the category of ordinary care should be withdrawn.
As noted by Dr. Ronald Cranford, a renowned neurologist and medical ethicist CIT scans of the patient brains had indicated that there was massive shrinkage of the brain an indication that she was likely not to recover from her vegetative state. The argument that the patient could smile and respond to the surrounding should not be used as the basis to argue that the life of Terri Schiavo should be prolonged. As explained by Cranford in New York Times, a person in a vegetative state can indeed have the lower part of the brain functioning as normal which means that the patient can respond to different environmental changes such as noise or people around which may make the non medical experts to believe that the patient has a near hundred percent recovery. Cranford further explains that when one is in a vegetative state, the lower part of the brain undergoes the normal cycles of sleep and wakefulness. When one is awake, he shows signs of awareness but the person is not aware. Since Terri Schiavo has been medically proved to be in this state, her life should not be prolonged by use of extraordinary means.
The proponents for the idea that Terri Schiavo should be kept alive have always believed that Terri has a chance of survival especially due to the fact that Scantling, a patient hospitalized for 20 years and later managed to speak. Doctors are quick to point out that Sarah Scantling was never in a vegetative state and thus comparing her status with that of Terri Schiavo is unjustifiable comparison. The former patient had suffered from brain damage due to accident which had chances of recovery while the later was involved with irreparable brain cell deaths caused by lack of oxygen. Her chances of survival therefore were nearly impossible and thus expecting that she regain her consciousness was beyond the generally acceptable levels of recovery.
In conclusion, it is evident that most of the experts in neurology had confirmed that Terri Schiavo was in a vegetative state that could not have been reversed at all cost. The period that Terri Schiavo stayed in a comma was evidence enough that she had no chances of survival and thus the best thing to do to her was to allow her to die. However, at no instance should the death be instigated by denial of what seems to be ordinary care. The patient should be given all the necessities for life such as the continued supply of food, water and warmth. Despite the fact that Terri Schiavo had stated in the vegetative comma for long enough, it was wrong for her death to be instigated by denying her the basic amenities for life such as water and food. This therefore means that if Terri Schiavo was to be allowed to die, she should not have met her death through the withdrawal of the basic care which is the disconnection of her food pipe that was aiding in feeding her. Her death should be more natural, such as withdrawal of the extra ordinary care that she was provided with so that her death could have been appealing to all stakeholders, including the church that was vehemently opposed to the death of the patient.