While it was Michael Schiavo's preference, and request, that Terri's feeding tube be removed, it was never his decision. As we've already seen, under the law, the surrogate speaks for the patient, but it is the patient's wishes that must direct the surrogate's expression. Law professor Norman L. Cantor describes the question we should ask as follows: If the patient could become competent for a moment, what would this person tell us he or she would want done? Unless the patient has left a written directive, the surrogate must speak for the patient on this question. Even when the patient has left written instructions, these instructions often do not address the exact situation encountered, or they give ambiguous or sometimes even contradictory directions. In those situations, too, someone has to speak for the patient, explaining what that person must have really meant when he or she provided the written instructions. As the Florida Supreme Court wrote in the 1990 case of In re Browning, “One does not exercise another's right of self-determination … by making a decision which the state, the family, or public opinion would prefer. The surrogate must be confident that he or she can and is voicing the patient's decision.”1 In one of the appellate court opinions reviewing the order to remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, the court wrote that the case “is about Theresa Schiavo's right to make her own decision, independent of her parents and independent of her husband.”2 In other words, the surrogate is supposed to be a mere conduit and should refrain from injecting personal wishes into his or her statement of the patient's wishes.
But, of course, this method is fraught with problems. In the vast majority of cases, no court ever assesses the surrogate's actions. And who does the law look to as surrogates? Spouses, parents, adult chil-