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

By Lois Shepherd | Go to book overview

10
RESPECT AND CARE
AN ALTERNATIVE FRAMEWORK

If it is the individual human being who is important and to whom our responsibilities are owed—rather than an abstract preservation of life—how do we best respond?

The drama surrounding the battle over Terri Schiavo's feeding tube was rich in visual images. One of the most enduring of these images was that of Terri herself in the videotape that her parents provided to the media—footage that appeared to show Terri responding to her mother's caring inquiries. Even if one understood that expert doctors who had examined Terri had repeatedly confirmed that she was permanently unconscious, that these videotapes were actually consistent with the vegetative state, and that the footage repeatedly shown on television was deliberately edited from hours of videotape that showed no response from Terri, it was hard to escape a nagging feeling of doubt about her condition and its permanence. Was she responding? She moved her head to the right as her mother spoke to her from that direction. Could she hear? Did she recognize her mother's voice? Could she see? Was that a smile on Terri's lips?

On the one hand, the videotape revealed Terri's utter vulnerability and could evoke feelings of protectiveness toward people who are severely disabled. On the other hand, many people, both in surveys and in casual conversation, revealed that whatever condition Terri was in—even if that might have been a slight smile on her face—it would be an intolerable existence for them and they would choose death in that situation over life.

The controversy surrounding the removal of Terri's feeding tube seemed to be in large part about these conflicting reactions—the need to protect vulnerable life and the desire of individuals to choose their own destiny. And our ensconced constitutional framework,

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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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