Friday, February 25, 2005

What's distracting me this week. Sorry it's long.

What's really on my mind, and what I have trouble explaining concisely is about Terry Schiavo. Soon, I want to write about why I think describe why I think Life wants to Live, but for now, I just want to get down my thoughts about this particular dilemma.

The bullets that matter to me:
Her husband never mentioned her deathwish during medical malpractice trial which awarded him more than a million $ for care throughout her "natural" life which was then expected to be of normal duration. He makes her life unpleasant and won't authorize therapy to regain speech or independent swallowing, which would eliminate the threat of extermination by feeding tube removal. He moved her years ago into from a nice nursing facility into a room in a hospice (run by a corporation of which his lawyer was formerly CEO) and won't allow her to have open windows, to leave her room, to be visited by therapy animals (which she loves), or to have her room decorated by the flowers and affectionate personal tokens her family brings. These denials are made under the auspices of protecting her from various potential harms.

She was a practicing, observant Catholic who never discussed a deathwish with family or friends, and her intentions which (according to his testimony) animate her husband's unrelenting pursuit of her death were made in casual conversation while watching TV. Perhaps the demonstration of her life gives some indication as to her wishes beyond the he-said and no-one-else-concurs of Michael Schiavo's argument? Perhaps not all of us would like our spouses to so literally construe everything we say while watching American Idol?

A couple of years ago, Michael had Terri's feeding withheld and she survived 6 days of legal wrangling until Florida governor Jeb Bush intervened and she was again given hydration and nourishment. Apparently, Terri wasn't cognizant enough to know she'd rather be dead, so instead of liberating herself from the mortal coil with a thankful sigh, she clung to life and suffered agonies of hunger and thirst that are illegal to inflict on a pet hamster. Without food and water, a healthy body doesn't expire nearly as quickly as the already compromised systems of a terminal cancer victim or the extremely aged. This time, doctors expect it may even take two weeks to starve her, while her husband presides over her excruciating, accelerated, unnatural death despite his promises of love and fidelity and lasting care during the malpractice trial.

Terri's family has offered to absorb all expenses for Terri (save Michael's exorbitant legal costs) and will agree not to ever seek any portion of her medical award or interefere with any action of divorce (or not) or visitation (or not). But here's the rub and the reason why Michael won't reliquish custody of Terri though he already cohabitates with another woman and their two children.

As Terri's legal spouse and guardian, his claim to the money is the strongest, and he's been able to block (with Judge Greer's help) examination into the dispensation of funds, approximately $400K of which have gone to his lawyer. Other judges might not approve when almost 1/3 of the funds for a disabled woman's lifetime care evaporate in legal fees. Other judges might question the quality and ethics of the financial and medical stewardship provided by Mike and his flak. Examining Murdering Mike's lawyer's relationship to the hospice and his own stake in the outcome, and surmising a talented lawyer's ability to bamboozle perfidious, unsophisticated Mike Schiavo into foolish gambits that pad legal fees without enriching Terri's life, I sense a powerful motive that may be the seed of Michael's attorney's vocal advocacy of euthanasia and Terri's right to die.

Because no matter what Terri's family is willing to vow, Michael Schiavo knows that if they're empowered, they will welcome Terri into their home and commence many kindnesses as well as therapies: the kind of memory triggers and interventions which have restored other "PVS" cases to volitional independence. These recoveries are unpredictable and can be dramatic even after years. In the news quite recently, a profoundly brain-damaged woman began speaking after 20 years and has regained much of her memory.

The compelling offer that Terri's family can't legally make to Michael and his lawyer are to forfeit Terri's own rights to her medical fund. Should she have any meaningful improvement, she would have the primary claim to ask for an accounting.

That's why Michael insists she's unsalvageable.
That's why he can't risk any recovery of her capacity.
That's why he has to kill her.

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