March 18, 2005

Terri Schiavo's Abilities

From prolifeblogs this is an interesting entry dealing with one of Terri's former nurses. She testified in an affidavit to Terri's capabilities. I'll paraphrase much of it here. According to the nurse, Carla Sauer Iyer, Michael Schiavo was physically intimidating to the nurses, some of whom had restraining orders against him. He repeatedly tried to accelrate her death (which has already been reported over and over again) by ordering them to not treat her for simple infections. During the periods when Terri had an infection, Michael would visit more often and be visibly excited, asking if she was dead yet and Iyer says Michael even said, "When is that bitch going to die?"

She also points out that Terri had some symptoms of hypoglycemia and a bottle of insulin was found concealed in the wastebasket. She speculated that the insulin may have induced the condition. Nothing happened after she filed a police report.

All the nurses enjoyed Terri's company and witnessed her respond, laugh and speak very basic phrases. Nurse Iyer saw Terri consume pudding and milkshakes every night, and in her affidavit said she fed Terri Jello. Terri responds to her name, follows people with her eyes and moves her body purposefully.

    Terri’s medical condition was systematically distorted and misrepresented. When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as "mommy," and "elp me." "Help me" was, in fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times. Terri would try to say the word "pain" when she was in discomfort, but it came out more like "pay." She didn’t say the "n" sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort by saying "pay" and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal area. Other ways that she would indicate that she was in pain included pursing her lips, grimacing, thrashing in bed, curling her toes or moving her legs around. She would let you know when she had a bowel movement by flipping up the covers and pulling on her diaper.
It's obvious that Terri Schiavo, if this testimony is correct, is anything but a 'vegetable.' This woman has not been rehabilitated since the very early 1990s. Putting her into a rehabilitative program isn't going to hurt anybody. If the cost is a problem then I'll kick in $50 to get it started, I'm sure an Internet collection would reach thousands within a month - surely enough to defray the early costs until some charity (the parents, the Catholic Church, whomever) could cover it.

There is no reason to bring about her early demise. She has function and communication, it's just like an infant. There's no purpose. She's not hurting anyone. I'm sure the use of resources it takes to keep her alive wouldn't bother anybody, and any number of charities and charitable people would be happy to cover it. It makes absolutely no sense.

I don't want to speculate too much, so I'll stress that this is purely a hypothetical. The husband, despite being engaged for most of a decade to his live-in girlfriend and the mother of their two children, wants Terri dead. The Schindlers (Terri's loving parents) offered to forgo any prosecution of any sort and to give him a ton of money to walk away. Why won't he? He says Terri wanted to be cut off in a situation like this, but in the early court proceedings he gave heartfelt testimony that he would rehabilitate. After the million-plus dollar awards, he wants to put her down.

It sounds a little bit like a bad mystery novel. He sounds like he wants to kill her to eliminate a witness. Again, I have no evidence of that, but we do know the Schiavos had a bad marriage (after all, he's already got a whole other family) and a few people have suggested maybe abuse caused her current condition. That's probably not true, but it would be a much better explanation than anything else.

I don't believe he'd be so traditional and religious that he'd want one wife dead before getting another. First of all, somebody that old fashioned would probably avoid euthanasia. But second of all he's been engaged to his fiance since like 1997 and they have two kids. If he's doing this out of a religious belief against divorce, it's sure a weird one.

Maybe he has a political axe to grind re: assisted suicide. That would be interesting but it sure is weird that he'd try to turn the case into this. It's certainly possible, and probably the least outlandish scenario.

I would've thought he just wanted the money - the Schiavos got well over a million bucks in lawsuits because nobody detected Terri's condition (potassium deficiency or something) beforehand. Michael has since spent almost all of that money, most of it on lawyers. Plus the Schiavos offered all of it to him if he'd walk away. He's still trying, so I don't see any further monetary benefit,

Or maybe he's just trying to keep up appearances to his fiance and the world after fighting for that long. Maybe this all just momentum and inertia that he can no longer stop. Maybe the fiance is pushing it because she wants or needs for Terri to be fully gone. I dunno. I don't really have evidence for most of this, I'm just guessing.

What is clear to me: Terri needs rehabilitation and could benefit from rehabilitation. I'll slap down a bet to anyone in the blogosphere that several years of sustained therapy, at the Schindlers' direction, could have Terri markedly increasing her communicative capacity. It's an easy bet.

I'm also wondering what the hell is wrong with this Judge Greer guy. Is he enforcing the rule of law when he knows Terri has a chance at life? Is he paid off or an ideologue? Is he a huge idiot? Tons of doctors have testified to the court (I believe the number is 17 doctors) that Terri is NOT in a permanent vegetative state. Maybe he's a political guy, trying to push along a political agenda. Maybe he assumes that this is a Catholic-motivated religious-right issue. It's not. Terri is alive and conscious; that's not religion, that's science.

Both chambers of Congress passed the bill to save Terri Schiavo (and incapacitated persons generally) but they passed substantively different versions (House version | Senate version). They now have to hammer it out in conference. President Bush released a statement yesterday:

    The case of Terri Schiavo raises complex issues. Yet in instances like this one, where there are serious questions and substantial doubts, our society, our laws, and our courts should have a presumption in favor of life. Those who live at the mercy of others deserve our special care and concern. It should be our goal as a nation to build a culture of life, where all Americans are valued, welcomed, and protected – and that culture of life must extend to individuals with disabilities.
To see a concise legal reasoning for why Terri has the right in Florida law to continue being fed, see my website article here.

It's not several minutes past 1 pm. Terri's feeding tube was removed only minutes ago. In a few days the pain will be strong. In a week the pain will be severe and all-consuming. She'll die soon after that. She has had her feeding tube removed before, but it always came back. If Congress can get its ass in gear and pass a version from conference committee in the next few days then Bush can sign it and the Schindlers can go to court - getting a stay on the feeding tube until the case is decided. It's very close.

Good luck, Terri. We're on your side.

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