Patterico's Pontifications


Another Question

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 5:30 pm

I have another question for the “Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die” crowd. Do you oppose an attempt to feed her liquid, to see if she can swallow it on her own? If so, why?

William Anderson says:

There is no reason, medical, moral, or legal, to refrain from an attempt to provide Terri Schiavo with orally administered liquids.

There are only two possible explanations for having employed gastric tube feeding. Either (1) her neurologic damage has brought about a swallowing dysfunction with danger of aspiration pneumonia; or (2) it was simply a matter of convenience to avoid labor intensive hand feeding.

In either case, no medical reason now exists to refuse a trial of natural drinking. She may have impaired swallowing function, but that at its worst cannot be as bad as death by dehydration.

Allowing her to drink water would be the definitive test of swallowing function. She may be able to swallow water and other clear liquids, in which case she will avoid death by dehydration, even if she later succumbs to malnutrition. Or she may be able to swallow pureed food, which will avoid death by malnutrition. Or she may not be able to swallow water without aspiration into the lungs, and so would develop pneumonia, and have a quicker and more peaceful death.

As to legal concerns, a guardian may refuse any medical treatment, but drinking water is not such a procedure. It is not within the power of a guardian to withhold it, and not in the power of a rational court to prohibit it.

The moral case speaks for itself. When we awaken from this queasy nightmare, people will ask how it could have been that a court could post a police officer by the bedside to insure that a dying woman succumbed to a ghastly death by thirst.

How can anyone possibly quarrel with this?

By the way, the vaunted Judge Greer has forbade it. You can read his “explanation” here. Just don’t expect it to make a lick of sense.

(Link to William Anderson article via Amy Wellborn.)

UPDATE: A picture of the real criminal in all of this.

I Thought I Asked a Question

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 5:26 pm

I know for a fact that many people are reading this blog who believe that Congress acted inappropriately in passing the law regarding Terri Schiavo. I posed a question a few posts back, and not a single one of you has even tried to answer it.

Do you think I didn’t notice?

In case you forgot, my question was this: What is the difference between providing federal habeas review for Terri Schiavo, and providing it for someone sentenced to death in state court?

While we’re at it, I have another question for you folks. I’ll address that one in a separate post.

L.A. Times on the “Euphoria” of Being Starved to Death

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 7:22 am

The L.A. Times has a story today about how much fun it is to be starved and dehydrated to death. I kid you not. The story describes the “characteristic sense of euphoria that accompanies a complete lack of food and water.”


There is zero mention of the perspective provided by Kate Adamson, who was mistakenly diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, had her feeding tube pulled, and lived to tell about it. I told you about Adamson’s experience the other day, in this post. Among other things, she said:

When the feeding tube was turned off for eight days, I was – thought I was going insane. I was screaming out don’t you know I need to eat. . . . [T]he hunger pains overrode every thought I had. . . . It was sheer torture . . .

Adamson told Wesley J. Smith that it was worse than when she had abdominal surgery:

The agony of going without food was a constant pain that lasted not several hours like my operation did, but several days. . . . I craved anything to drink. Anything. I obsessively visualized drinking from a huge bottle of orange Gatorade. And I hate orange Gatorade. I did receive lemon flavored mouth swabs to alleviate dryness but they did nothing to [slake] my desperate thirst.

Some might say that it would be different for Schiavo, because Schiavo is incapable of feeling pain. Smith says this is manifestly not true:

[I]t is undisputed that whatever her actual level of awareness, Terri does react to painful stimuli. Intriguingly, her doctor testified he prescribes pain medication for her every month during the course of her menstrual period.

So why the discrepancy between the L.A. Times version and Smith’s? Smith explains:

An accurate discussion of this sensitive issue requires the making of proper and nuanced distinctions about the consequences of removing nourishment from incapacitated patients. This generally becomes an issue in one of the following two diametrically differing circumstances:

1. Depriving food and water from profoundly cognitively disabled persons like Terri who are not otherwise dying, a process that causes death by dehydration over a period of 10-14 days. As I will illustrate below, this may cause great suffering.

2. Not forcing food and water upon patients who have stopped eating and drinking as part of the natural dying process. This typically occurs, for example, at the end stages of cancer when patients often refuse nourishment because the disease has distorted their senses of hunger and thirst. In these situations, being deprived of unwanted food and water when the body is already shutting down does not cause a painful death.

Advocates who argue that it is appropriate to dehydrate cognitively disabled people often sow confusion about the suffering such patients may experience by inadvertently, or perhaps intentionally, blurring the difference between these two distinct situations.

The L.A. Times joins this list of “advocates” today. The story relies on discussion and studies about terminally ill patients. But Terri Schiavo is not terminally ill.

The bottom line is that we don’t know whether Terri Schiavo is suffering. A previous L.A. Times story, though it tried to portray her death as gentle, acknowledged that Schiavo might feel pangs of hunger and thirst. Kate Adamson’s story suggests that even people diagnosed as being in a PVS can feel such pangs as torture.

But today’s propaganda piece mentions none of this. It is simply designed to make people feel better about killing a woman in a way we wouldn’t tolerate for a pet.

UPDATE: See the update to this post for an important correction regarding Kate Adamson.

Schiavo Now Very Likely to Die Within a Week

Filed under: Court Decisions,Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:24 am

By a 2-1 vote, the 11th Circuit has affirmed the decision not to reinsert Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube. The essence of the dissenting judge’s opinion: “Congress intended for this case to be reviewed with a fresh set of eyes.” Clearly, it was not. But I think that this is the end.

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