Every case has to be taken individually as to life support measures. But when someone's only "life support" measure is a feeding tube, I don't think that is really life support under the "extraordinary measures" understanding. It is not a machine breathing for a person or a machine pumping their heart. It is nutrition, period.
We had to make the decision regarding my father's care when he collapsed during a vacation in Florida from a blood clot that stopped his heart and he was deprived of oxygen for over 8 minutes. He had virtually no brain wave activity but just enough, as it turned out, to breathe on his own. We decided not to have him receive any extraordinary life saving measures, and due to the severe brain damage we opted not to have a feeding tube inserted because we were told that his organs were slowly shutting down due to the brain damage, and that feeding him would not do any good because his system wouldn't be able to process the nutrition (this isn't so in Terri's case.) He continued to receive hydration though. He lived for another 13 days without ever regaining consciousness or responding to any stimuli. Even so it was a gut-wrenching decision and one that we still question today.
The situation with Terri is that she has been denied all rehabilitative measures of any kind over the past 13 years, which could have led to her improvement. Immediately upon receiving millions in a malpractice law suit in which he stated that it was determined that she would live an average life expectancy and he would need money for her care and therapy for the long haul, her "loving" husband issued a do not resucitate order and denied any physical or mental rehabilitation.
Contrary to what you are now hearing in the media, all the doctors, at last count fifteen of them (except the ones hired by her husband's right-to-die lawyer)who have examined Terri say that she could be helped with therapy, and had she gotten therapy in the past would probably not still be on a feeding tube. And a diagnosis of PVS has an error rate of 41%.
And contrary to what you are hearing now in the media, Terri does react to her family's presence and conversations, tries to talk, smiles, laughs, cries, at times has tried to get out of bed, is capable of sitting upright by herself, etc.
All her family was asking for was that Terri be given the therapy for which the jury awarded millions of dollars. Instead, it has been frittered away by her husband to his right-to-die attorney in his ten year attempt to pull the feeding tube. The husband also received a substantial amount from the jury for himself for loss of consortium. The family's request to pay for Terri's therapy themselves was also denied by Judge Greer. And contrary to the talking media heads, tax dollars are not involved. I heard one guy tonight say, "Do you want your tax dollars being spent to keep someone like this alive?"
The family has also asked for an investigation into the cause of their daughter's collapse. A battery of tests were run on her years ago when she had an attorney representing her interests appointed by the court when her husband first went to court to pull the tube, and it was concluded that she did not have a heart attack which caused oxygen deprivation as has been purported, but instead there were indications that abuse and possible strangulation caused the deprivation, as xrays showed numerous healed over bone fractures. The attorney also stated that he found evidence of her husband's conflicts of interest which should preclude him from continuing to be her guardian. But the judge sided with the husband and his right-to-die lawyer, took Terri's attorney off the case and never assigned another one.
His first girlfriend after his wife's traumatic event stated recently that he was physically abusive to her, and he also stated to her that he just wanted Terri dead. It took her all this time to come forward due to her fear of him.
Her "loving" husband also asked a nurse on one occassion (and overheard and attested to by another nurse), "Isn't that (expletive deleted) dead yet? Swell guy.
There is much more to this sad tale than you are hearing from the mainstream media. This is not a right to die with dignity situation by any stretch of the imagination.
Here's an enlightening article: http://www.worldnetdaily.com/news/article.asp?ARTICLE_ID=35247
Please pay particular attention to the description of dying by dehydration. Is that what any of us would want for a loved one? Is that humane? The closing paragraphs sum up my view.
Some doctors insist that Terri's smile at the sight of her mother is some neuronal misfiring. Fine, so be it. But since Terri cannot tell us whether she would rather be dehydrated to death, in accordance with her guardian's wishes, or whether she prefers to grimace apparently inanely and comfortably at mom for years to come, let sympathy and common sense prevail.
The woman's wishes are more likely to be approximated if her loving parents are allowed to preserve a life they – if not their sinister son-in-law – so value.
You can visit Terri's site to get a fuller picture of events. http://www.terrisfight.org/
[This message has been edited by Denise (10-24-2003 01:47 AM).]