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Politically Incorrect

Terri's wishes

by arthur Weinreb, associate Editor,
Tuesday, March 29, 2005

as most everyone surely knows by now, the initial court decision that required Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube to be removed was premised upon a finding of fact that it was Terri’s intention that her life not be prolonged should she end up in the situation like the one that she is currently in.

Terri Schiavo’s wishes were not expressed in writing. But even allowing for the fact that people’s intentions regarding what means, if any should be taken or not taken to prolong their lives can be expressed verbally, the actual circumstances surrounding Terri’s statement as to what she wanted are very weak at best.

according to Michael Schiavo, he and Terri were watching a TV movie that featured a woman who was on life support. While watching the movie, Terri had told her husband that she didn’t want to end up like that. From this utterance, the Florida court concluded that Terri Schiavo expressed a desire that her life not be prolonged by artificial means that presumably included the use of a feeding tube.

Is it asking too much that if a verbal recitation of how a person wishes their life to end is going to be accepted as proof of their intention that it be at least ensured that those wishes were given careful thought? apparently it is, for it appears that Judge Greer considered remarks that were made while watching a movie in the same manner as if they had been carefully contemplated. The only thing that seemed to matter was that she said the words "I don’t want to end up like that".

Terri Schiavo collapsed when she was 26 years of age. at the time, she did not have any serious medical conditions that would give her cause to seriously ponder her own death. If she was, as most young people in their mid-twenties are, in all probability she never seriously thought about dying. It was something that would have appeared to her to have been far off in the future, if at all. all that can be properly taken from her comments is that she was reacting emotionally to a movie that she was watching on television. It’s like watching a movie of a heroic firefighter and wanting to be that firefighter. That doesn’t mean everyone who feels that way, goes out the next morning and attempts to join a fire department. Nor does it mean that the feelings that come out during the watching of the movie last for any length of time.

The fact that Terri Schiavo’s desire not to end up on life support was an emotional reaction to a movie would explain why she expressed her wishes to her husband and a couple of friends (strangely, Michael’s friends) and never bothered to tell her parents or her siblings of how she wished her life to end. It is impossible to fathom that Terri Schiavo’s experience while watching a movie on television could be used as a basis for ordering her feeding tube to be removed and causing her death.

It would have been different had these verbal utterances been made by a person who was older. It is natural that when people reach a certain age and level of maturity, their perceptions of death changes from the way they viewed it when they were in their 20s. When their contemporaries begin to die off from natural causes, it is difficult to hold on to the view of invincibility and immortality that most young people have. a person who has matured and has seen friends and associates die in significant numbers can be presumed to have thought about life and death sufficiently that their verbal statements concerning what should be done at the end of their lives can be taken seriously. But surely the views of a 20-something woman watching an emotional movie about a person on life support is in a completely different category. There is no doubt that she would have preferred death to being on life support. She may also have preferred death to a lot of conditions that appear to be overwhelming to a woman in her 20s. Her statement to her husband about how she felt while watching a movie should never have been given any weight.

It would, of course have been different had Terri Schiavo been diagnosed with a fatal illness or condition that would have caused her to seriously think about how her life would end. But this was not the case.

The Terri Schiavo case has been said to be a boon to the living will business. It would be interesting to find out how many people in their teens or early twenties are running out to have living wills made. Probably not too many.

It appears that the initial trial court bent over backwards to cause Terri Schiavo’s death. Sadly, it appears that those who now say that we have a culture of death are correct.