If That Ever Happens to Me: Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo

By Lois Shepherd | Go to book overview

8
FEEDING

Throughout this book, artificial nutrition and hydration has been referred to as “life support” or “life-sustaining treatment” or a “life-prolonging procedure” that might be refused under the same rules as other forms of medical treatment. This reflects an ethical and legal consensus that has existed for at least two decades or more. But for many people, artificial nutrition and hydration is different. Some of those who protested the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube did so not because they believed that Michael Schiavo was misrepresenting her wishes or that Terri had some degree of consciousness but because they believed that food or water should never be withheld from anyone. To fail to feed is to fail to care, in this view, and is an unacceptable way for human beings to treat one another.

Pope John Paul II made a statement on this issue in the spring of 2004 that substantially elevated attention to the ethical questions involved and challenged the consensus view. The pope's address to participants in the International Congress on Life-Sustaining Treatments and Vegetative State included the following:

The sick person in a vegetative state, awaiting recovery or a natural
end, still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration,
cleanliness, warmth, etc.), and to the prevention of complications
related to his confinement to bed. He also has the right to appro-
priate rehabilitative care and to be monitored for clinical signs of
eventual recovery.

I should like particularly to underline how the administration
of water and food, even when provided by artificial means, always
represents a natural means of preserving life, not a medical act. Its

-143-

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If That Ever Happens to Me: Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Introduction 1
  • 1: Disorders of Consciousness and the Permanent Vegetative State 15
  • 2: Legal and Political Wrangling Over Terri's Life 35
  • 3: In Context— Law and Ethics 57
  • 4: Terri's Wishes 77
  • 5: The Limits of Evidence 96
  • 6: The Implications of Surrogacy 112
  • 7: Qualities of Life 128
  • 8: Feeding 143
  • 9: The Preservation of Life 162
  • 10: Respect and Care an Alternative Framework 173
  • Appendix - The National Right to Life Committee's Model Starvation and Dehydration of Persons with Disabilities Prevention Act 189
  • Notes 193
  • Bibliography 201
  • Index 215
  • Studies in Social Medicine 223
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