Opinion: Schiavo's demise may not end contretemps
By now, you may be aware that Terri Schiavo died this morning. Or, more, accurately, finished dying. The 15 years she spent in a persistent vegetative state were not really living.
Schiavo's family and their supporters, extremists in the Right to Life movement, planned to continue their assault on America today. The latest plan was to claim that despite Schiavo's extensive time off a feeding tube, the tube could be reinserted. Then, they could file yet another frivolous appeal. But, they would have to refute the consensus among medical experts that Terri Schiavo was in renal failure, after having the feeding tube removed for so long, to claim any credibility.
Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of palliative medicine at the Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said that if her kidneys have already shut down, reinserting the tube at this point might prolong her life by just hours to days. It could also hasten her death because it would supply fluids to a body that can no longer get rid of them.
He said the resulting fluid buildup could essentially drown Schiavo and she could die gasping and choking.
Morrison said Schiavo would have no awareness of this because of her persistent vegetative state, but reinserting the tube might end up being very distressing for families and friends to witness.
The Right to Life movement needed to make it sound as if reinserting the feeding tube is not potentially harmful. So. they found a doctor to say that. The Right Wing opinion site Life News introduced the physician and his argument.
Pinellas Park, FL (LifeNews.com) -- A doctor speaking for the Schindler family said on Wednesday that it may be possible to reinsert Terri's feeding tube, even after such a long period of time. His comments come after news reports highlighted a doctor who said doing so would cause Terri's death.
Dr. Jay Carpenter, an internist hired by Bob and Mary Schindler to help determine whether Terri could swallow, told CNS News [another conservative Web site] that it was wrong to say reinserting Terri's tube would be futile.
"To me that is. . .just speculation and that's a highly irresponsible statement to make. The fact of the matter is we don't know if it's too late. It may be too late, but then again, it may not," he told CNS News.
Carpenter told the Cybercast News Service that no studies exist showing how patients react when a feeding tube is reinserted after 13 or 14 days of starvation and dehydration.
Such a study would be "unethical" Carpenter said.
He goes on to cite a single patient who had a feeding tube reinserted after eight days without negative results. But, that patient was not in a persistent vegetative state. (I checked. Carpenter evades the issue when offering his opinion.)
Carpenter is the vice president of Children of God for Life. He practices internal, not palliative medicine .
The patient he uses as an example is Kate Adamson, who just happens to be a motivational speaker to Right to Life groups. Adamson fully recovered. She says she was just like Terri Schiavo after her stroke, but, obviously, she wasn't. She was locked in, a form of near complete paralysis, not vegetative.
"Thou should not lie" seems not to be a commandment the Right to Life movement takes seriously.
Considering that the movement was planning yet another propaganda barrage even as Ms. Schiavo died, I am not confident that the ugliness is over. Nor do I think the Schindlers will end their vendetta against Michael Schiavo, their daughter's husband and guardian. So, far, they have claimed she was being denied last rites, alleged he barred them from her room at the hospice, when, it is they who refuse to be in the same space with him, and tried to harass him into turning Ms. Schiavo's body over to them when she died. But for her demise, I suspect the Schindlers would have filed another futile appeal today.
Polls reveal that most Americans agree with Michael Schiavo's position -- Terri expressed a desire not to rely on life support, and, therefore, deserved to be allowed to die. But, the Schiavo drama has been a potent fundraising source for Right to Life organizations. They may consider continued efforts to get the public's attention worth their time. Ms. Schiavo's is finally free, but the contretemps may continue.