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1Running head: TERRI SCHIAVOFinal Project II: Bioethical IssuesElizabeth HollandSouthern New Hampshire University
2TERRI SCHIAVOIntroductionThe case of Theresa “Terri” Schiavo is based on the bioethical issues of euthanasia, the right to life versus the right to die with the stakeholders being Terri’s husband, Michael Schiavo and her parents Robert and Mary Schindler. This case, which progressed over a fifteen-year period from 1990 to 2005, was a very public legal battle drawing national and international attention including the attention of the Governor of Florida Jeb Bush and President George W. Bush. This legal battle consisted of 14 different petitions, appeals and civil suits in the federal courts between Michael and The Schindlers to determine whether to continue or stop Terri’s feeding tube which provided her with artificial hydration and nutrition. On February 25, 1990, 26-year-old Terri collapsed in her home in St. Petersburg, Florida experiencing a cardiac arrest related to a severe potassium deficiency thought to be brought on by an eating disorder. After the collapse, her husband Michael called 911 and Terri was successfully resuscitated. Unfortunately, she lacked oxygen to her brain for a prolonged period of time and suffered severe hypoxic-ischemic encephalopathy causing severe brain damage. For two and half months Terri was in a comatose state being nourished by a feeding tube with no improvement noted in her condition. Thus, after multiple diagnostics tests, it was determined that Terri “exhibited no evidence of higher cortical function” and “no functional activity of the cerebral cortex” and was diagnosed to be in a persistent vegetative state (Quill, 2005, p. 1630). A persistent vegetative state (PVS) is an irreversible brain condition which “includes periods of wakefulness alternating with sleep, some reflexive responses to light and noise, and some basic gag and swallowing responses, but no signs of emotion” (Quill, 2005, p. 1630). In essence, Terriwas able to breathe without the assistance of any mechanical assistance, had reflexes like coughing or grimacing but she lacked any cognitive ability and emotion. Terri did not have a
3TERRI SCHIAVOliving will or any advanced directives in place and due to her incapacitated state and under Florida law, Michael became her court appointed legal guardian.