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The Case of Terri Schiavo An ethical and legal case studyby Roxan A. RyanDrexel University
Theresa “Terri” Marie Schiavo1963-2005
The Story of Terri SchiavoTerri Schiavo suffered cardiac arrest due to a potassium imbalance in 1990, at the age of 27.She remained in a vegetative state until her death in 2005, at the age of 41.She was cared for in nursing homes with constant care and received nourishment and fluids from a feeding tube.Terri’s parents believed they had found a treatment that could restore cognitive function and they fought to keep Terri on life sustaining nourishment in court (Illingworth & Parmet, 2006).Terri’s husband believed that Terri had sustained irreparable cerebral cortex injuries that would render her in a vegetative state permanently and that she would not want to live this way.The Supreme Court of Florida refused to hear an appeal by Terri’s parents.Terri’s parents fought for legislation requiring Terri’s feeding tube to be reinserted, and a new law was passed by Governor Jeb Bush called, (2003-418) “Terri’s Law”.The Supreme Court found this law to be unconstitutional and overturned it in 2004. In 2005 the Court refused to hear an appeal from Governor Jeb Bush (Illingworth & Parmet, 2006).
Ethical Implications•Life vs. Liberty•The right to be free from unwanted bodily intrusions•Autonomy and Privacy•Advanced Directives•What is basic care and what is a life sustaining medical intervention?•Prolonged life or prolonged suffering
Legal Implications•Was Terri Schiavo “judicially murdered”?•Was Terri deprived of her life without due process of law?•In the absence of a Living Will were Terri’s wishes carried out?•Is forcible feeding through a feeding tube a medical intervention or a basic right?
•Medical Futility: Does the intervention infer unacceptably low chances of achieving a therapeutic benefit for the patient (Butts & Rich, 2016)?•Personhood: Terri Schiavo is a relatable person just like the rest of us. This fuels support for the continuation of life.