Wednesday, March 23, 2005


A Personal Take on Schiavo


As I said a day or two ago, PTF was going to begin to take on a more personal nature from time to time, and this seems as good a time as any to begin.

As opposed to the standard "blogger format", I'm not going to link to any other articles or websites - if you're reading this, then you already have more than enough information on the situation as it stands.

And if you're not reading... well... umm... right.

Here's the thing. My mother died of breast cancer in the mid '90s. She went through a first course of chemotherapy and radiation, as well as a mastectomy, and did well for quite a while.

She and my father decided together that should the cancer come back, she would not go through chemotherapy again. If it recurred, she simply wanted to let that be the end.

For a few years, the cancer remained in remission, and she and my father spent that time doing things they always wanted to do... things that had never been a high priority, but now were the keystones to their lives and their relationship with each other.

The cancer did come back, and rather than going into the hospital, she chose to ride it out at home, employing hospice in the final weeks of her life. My father took care of her, and did everything he could to make her life more comfortable in that time, while still respecting her wishes. He did this, knowing completely and fully that had she gone in for the second round of chemotherapy and other treatments, her life could possibly have been spared once more.

But he, as her partner in life, respected her wishes, and loved her so completely that he did everything in his power to make her decisions a reality.

I bring all this up because as I watch the Schiavo case (it sounds so cold to even refer to this tragedy as "the Schiavo case", but that's what the government and the media have diluted it down to), it makes me think about her situation.

I'm not sure what was listed on my mom's death certificate under "Cause of Death", but I could certainly hazard a pretty educated guess and say that it was "starvation and dehydration". She stopped eating and taking fluids easily for a week prior to the day that she died. She exhibited the signs that Terry Schiavo's mother is talking about to the media - the sunken eyes, the dry lips, the flaking skin.

I know also that my father at any time could have asked that she be put on IV or a feeding tube or any other manner of treatment to preserve her life. Because he knew the wishes of my mother, he refused.

I also hear Terry Schiavo's mother telling the media that someone needs to stop this needless suffering - the agony that her daughter is going through. Again, I can only speak from my own experience. I know that in the case of my mother, she was given pain medication to ease the suffering that she might have been going through, and we were reassured constantly that she wasn't in pain. She told us that herself many times as we sat by her bedside.

I don't fault the family of Terry Schiavo for acting in the way that they are. Everyone grieves differently, and they are doing everything that they are physically able to keep from losing their daughter. It is incredibly difficult to let go of a loved one.

There have been speculations in the media and blogosphere about the motives behind Terry Schiavo's parents versus that of her husband. While I don't know much, I do know this - the decisions that they are facing are incredibly personal, difficult decisions, and should not be used as political fuel, ratings grabbers, or grist for the mill of those with a particular agenda.

While it appears that the courts have not caved in to the political pressure of Republicans in Congress trying to step in and take action, there is word of Gov. Jeb and politicians in Florida now beginning to mobilize to try and step in.

It also strikes me as odd that those who lay claim to incredibly strong religious beliefs are the ones fighting hardest to keep Terry alive. As for my family, we had very strong religious beliefs, and KNEW that the place Mom was heading was far better than where she was at the time. If one has strong religious values and convictions, wouldn't that individual be fighting to allow this fifteen year tragedy to end, secure in the belief that Terry would in good hands?

More than likely, every family will deal with an issue such as this, or know someone close to them dealing with a similar issue.

All I can say is this - despite the fact that it happened well over ten years ago, and as incredibly difficult as it was, my mother's death remains one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had in my life. Is it difficult to look back at her situation and second-guess, particularly in light of the plethora of new treatments available to those suffering with breast cancer? You're damned right it is.

But in those final moments, as my father and brother and I sat by her bedside, our hands on her body, verbally telling her that it was OK... that she didn't have to fight anymore... that it was alright to let go... and watching her slip away, I learned more about life and death than I had prior or have since.

I will not post anything else on the subject, out of respect for the family and for Terry Schiavo.

Posted by FleshPresser at 4:15 PM /

7 Comments

  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 9:29 PM  
    well said

  • Anonymous Jadzia7667 posted at 9:31 PM  
    Excellent post.

  • Anonymous RYKITTYCAT posted at 9:36 PM  
    READ YOUR POST. TWICE.
    WAS VERY IMPRESSED AND I TRULY FEEL FOR YOU.

    LIVED A SIMILAR EXPERIENCE MYSELF WITH MY FATHER, WHO WAS FINALLY OFF LIFE SUPPORT AND NO FOOD. JUST LITE MEDICATION.. AT THE END I PLEADED WITH HIM TO "GO HOME"
    WHICH HE DID WITHIN TWO HOURS OF MY PLEA, AND HE WAS IN A LITE COMA. .

    WHEN IT CAME TIME FOR MY HUSBAND... WELL, I LIVED IT AGAIN... AND HE WENT HOME.

    MY OWN DIRECTIVE TO PHYSICIAN READS... NO FEEDING TUBES... NO ARTIFICIAL LIFE SUPPORT OF ANY KIND... AND NO RESUSITATION.

    NO ONE I LOVE WILL NEED TO ASK ME TO GO HOME.
    I HAVE DONE THIS FOR THEM.

    YOU ARE A FINE PERSON. THANKS FOR SHARING. ALL THE BEST.
    RYKITTYCAT

  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 9:57 PM  
    I went throughsomething similar with my beloved husband. It is 25 years since, but I let him go. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us.

  • Anonymous NANCY REILLY posted at 10:11 PM  
    GOD BLESS YOU. I KNOW HOW YOU FELT, AND HAVE WATCHED FAMILY MEMBERS GO THROUGH THE SAME THING, AND TOLD THEM TO TELL THEIR LOVED ONE THAT IT IS OKAY TO "GO HOME". I WAS A HOSPICE VOLUNTEER. HAVE ADVISED FRIENDS LOSING A LOVED ONE TO HAVE THAT LOVED ONE GO RIGHT INTO A HOSPICE RESIDENCE (WHEN POSSIBLE). HAD TO EXPLAIN THAT THEY COULD STAY WITH THEIR LOVED ONE 24/7 IF THEY WISHED. THEY WERE AFRAID THAT THEIR LOVED ONE WOULD DIE ALONE! IF A FAMILY MEMBER COULD NOT BE THERE, A VOLUNTEER WOULD BE WITH THEIR LOVED ONE, TO HOLD THEIR HAND, TALK TO THEM, OR JUST BE THERE. WE EVEN SPENT TIME TALKING TO LOVED ONES, TO TELL THEM TO ACT JUST THE SAME AS THEY WOULD ACT, IF THEIR LOVED ONE WAS AWAKE. HAVE ALSO BECOME VERY CLOSE TO SOME PATIENTS, AND THEIR FAMILIES, AND STAYED CLOSE TO THEM AFTER THEIR LOVED ONE DIED.

    TERRI SCHIAVO'S FAMILY SHOULD NOT WORRY THAT SHE WILL SUFFER. SHE WILL NOT!! I CAN ATTEST TO THAT!!

  • Anonymous Anonymous posted at 11:06 PM  
    Well, I actually have done a reversal from suporting euthanasia, and living wills ever since the Karen Ann Quinlan case, to starting to thing twice since looking seriously at what has happened to Terri Schiavo. I have bneen a liberal democrat since the late 1960's (when I was old enough to start voting) until this summer when I decided that I nereded something a bit more to the left of what the democratic party has become. In practice, euthanasia is not really in the hands of the patient in this ase, but the judges, the husband and the doctors who have been hired to support the husbands positions all along, which to be honses. to anyone who watches Crime TV, would be pretty suspicious. Not necessily so, but not a single piece of evidence or testimony that would support the Schindlers position has been accepted, even in cases when the judge had comitted "reversable error" which is any kind of error which would require the judge to bring the evidence back in for consideration.ONe case was where a friend of Terri discussed the Karen Ann Quinlan case with her and Terri was said to have indicated her opposition to the removal of life support for Quinlan. Judge Greer would not consider the testimony and threw it out because he said that Quinlan died in 1976, and bpth freinds would have been to young to be able to discuss such and issue. When that was not the year she died, but the year it became an issue in the courts. Quinlan didnt die for years after life support had been removed, in 1985,, the convo was alleged to have been 1982, when Terri and Friend were 18, just having graduated from high school.
    When the mistake waslater pointed out to Greer by his own clerks, he simply refused to bring the evidence back in. By law, such a situation would usually require a judge to either re-admit the evidence, or call for a brand new trial. Greer has been most obstinate about admitting to such errors, going rather easy on himself and Michael Shiavo, bending the law as far as he could to accommodate the husband, and sticking strictly to the letter of the law for the Schindlers.
    Given a judge like Greer, who in 1998 refused to give a woman a restaining order against her husband for spousal abuse resulted in the murder of the woman by said husband two weeks later was murdered by being stbbed to death by said husband with a kitchen knife, it would seem that Greer is not particularly supportive of women.
    Almost always, the Florida Courts will grant such relief to a woman to be safe. But no Greer. After the murder, he said that he rejected the womans plea as she didnt use the word "physical" along with violence or abuse, in her request, and so he could not legally grant the restraining order. He seems to have a problem with women and women rights as far as I can tell from his overall performance as a judge.

    Any Court TV addict would feel uncomfortable about the money that the husband would have initially been the beneficiary of when he started removing care for the wife, certainly suspect when the husband who won the financial award with a tearjerking emotional testimony about his beleif in the marraige vows regarding sickeness and health, who then decides to strt the process to terminate his wifes life a few weeks after the check for the settlement has been given to him. Having want amounts to essentially a new wife and family doesnt go down too well either.
    The fact that everytime the police tried to open a homicide investigation in the early years. someone higher up ordered the officers involved to stop is a wee bit of concern to me as well.
    THen thereis the fact that the judge has sealed all of the medical records, all of the financial records so no one can actually tell where the money has gone, but must guess, both at the medical condition as well as the money trail again, uncomfortable.
    The straw that breaks the camels back is the fact that Michael has been repeatedly attempting, for the last year, to get the court to allow him to immediately cremate Terri Schiavo, and also wants an autopsy prohibited. which is standard procedure in a condition like Persistant Vegetative State accoring to all of the medical texts on the subject.

    If any wanted to appear guilty, this would be the way to do it, especially if one feels that the judge and the courts selected medical team are going to lend their professional weight to helping you get away with it.

    It almost appears that the doctors selected by the courts who are all major players in the pro euthanasia movement, are willing to cover up what could be a condition that may have resulted from some king of abuse, which then resulted in death in order to shore up their body of legal positions to help them in future cases.

    The fact that the main expert witness, Dr Ronald Cranford eanrs a considerable amount of money being an expert witness for the euthanasia side of the argument, and has never in his years as an expert witness given any diagnosis than PVS to any patient he has examined, is frightening.
    Given the percentage of times that this condition has been known to have misdiagnosed, and in particular, is misdiagnosed more often the longer the patient has been sitting around with whatever condition they are in it wou;d simply be statistically impissible for every person he examines to have this condition. Particularly because in all of the cases he has been involved with, only the diagnosis of PVS would allow feeding tubes and life support to be cut off.
    These laws,in most states, were primarily written to benefit hospitals, doctors, insurance companies and the state, so they could be allowed to terminate someone who they felt were costing too much money and too much time.

    I dont think I would not want a doctor with an agenda, or a guardian who stood to gain in ome way or another, either fianicially(as was very true at the beginning) or has gone on to a new relationship with children (where there could be condiserable pressure from a partner who wants to get married while you cant until you divorce) Finally any true crime buff alway likes to think of revenge, and if the husband wanted that money and was pissed at the parents for getting in his way, well, relatives have offed their own mothers for less money, and offed them wen they couldnt get their way as well. The son of the Bensons of the Benson and Hedges familt killed his mother when she cut him off financially because her financial accountant said her ten million dollars would be gone in six months if she kept giving money to her kids at the extravagant rate they were demanding it. Tried to kill his sister as well so he wouldnt have to share the money. What was left wasnt anywhere near ten million. We have the Menendez brothers as well, but they were stinking rich. HOwever, to some people a few hundred thousand woulnd't stop them.

    ASide from termination, over the last few years, whenever one f my older relatives died, or relatives of my girlfriend died, the rate at which everyone started trying to screw one another approached 100 percent. When my own dad died, my own sister cleverly manuvered a way to get every cent of my dads tiny savings into her grubby hands, screwing me and on sister, while doling out a pittance to my other sisters that she liked a bit more. I am more than suspicious.

    Enough to start thinkin about a living will that says resucitate as often as needed. Just put me in front of a television, do not remove the feeding tube, and load up a Sam Adams once and a while just in case I reall can enjoy.
    it. Do not allow anyone who stands to gain financially or in anyway(even mere incomvenience) personally to be guardian.

    If anything, this sad situation has proven that in circumstances like this no single person, or single udge, should be allowed to make the decisions. Yeah I know about all of the other judges who looked at this stuff, but it seems that with the rule of law, all you have to do is make sure that you have done the paperwork correctly, and no one else actually wants to over-rule, as long as the process has been followed correctly. Ethicss, right and wrong, any sort of morality,adn more important, jusr plain common sense seems to have been thrown out the window.

  • Blogger FleshPresser posted at 10:09 AM  
    Thanks to all who have left their comments thus far. I am particularly touched by the comments of rykittycat and Nancy Reilly - thank you for sharing your stories, as well.

    I thank this last anonymous poster, as well, whose "comments" appear as though they are actually longer than the original blog post.

    I have a hard time understanding that you were a Democrat, then shifted to the left of the Democratic party over the summer, and yet still continue on with the misgiuded comments that follow.

    Just to be clear, you and I will NEVER know or fully understand the circumstances of Terry Schiavo's parents, or her husband. Anyone who DOES claim to know simply has a political agenda to grind, or is looking for ratings. And those who try to speculate into the personal lives of the individuals involved with this tragedy simply exhibit a woeful lack of a life for themselves.

    And what saddens me is that you speak of this circumstance as though it were a bad soap opera - one that hasn't quite convinced you with its story line. This is real life, and more importantly, it's someone else's life - not yours.

    And about the judges - at this point, I would find it rather hard to accept the argument of conspiracy between the judges, doctors and the husbands... though it makes a better story line for you to follow on Court TV, right?

    Just FYI, Greer has not hatched some evil plan to end Terry Schiavo's life - he was randomply assigned to hear the case, as are other judges. And I don't think anyone would accuse the U.S. Supreme Court of having a liberal bias, and yet they turned the case away, as well.

    Doesn't that make you stop and wonder if the information you're getting is credible, or if it's someone filling you with their conjecture, so they can tell you how you should feel about it?

    Again, I thank you for stopping by, and for your comments.

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