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Live and Let Die

For use with Talking Point worksheets

Moderator: TalkingPoint

Live and Let Die

Postby TalkingPoint » Wed Apr 06, 2005 9:15 pm

Live and Let Die

Instructions: Read the text below to find the answers to the questions on your worksheet.

Recently the case of Terry Schiavo, a brain-damaged woman from Florida made headline news across the world. A bitter dispute broke out between her husband, Michael, and her parents. Terri's husband, Michael, wanted to let his wife die whereas her parents wanted her to be kept alive. The courts decided to allow Terri to die. Two weeks later she passed away, on 31 March 2005.

Case History
In February 1990 Terri Schiavo collapsed. Her heart stopped beating and her brain was deprived of oxygen for a time, causing hypoxia. She suffered severe brain damage which amounted to her being in a "persistent vegetative state", but not a coma. People who are in a PVS do not need any help to breathe and their heart beats normally. But they do not respond to stimuli – they do not seem to be aware of their surroundings. Eight years after the incident, in 1998, Terri’s husband, Michael, went to court to request that his wife be allowed to die. This would have been carried out by removing the feeding tube that provided the necessary nourishment for Terri. In 2003 a law was passed ordering doctors to feed Terri, only to be repealed in September 2004. A few months later, in early March 2005 a court in Florida decided to allow the tube to be removed but a week later this decision was overturned by a federal judge. By this time Terri’s parents had begun counteraction to stop their son-in-law. However, their appeal was rejected by both the Federal and the Supreme Court on 30th March 2005. Terri died the next day.

Terri's husband's argument
Terri’s husband, Michael, stated that his wife would not have wanted to be kept alive in a persistent vegetative state. His main objective throughout was to give his wife the opportunity to die with her dignity intact, according to his lawyer.

Terri's parents' argument
Terri’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, insisted that their daughter was not in a persistent vegetative state at all and that she could, in fact, respond to stimuli such as their voices. If Terri’s parents could produce any evidence that Terri was in possession of any of her mental faculties then "letting her die" would automatically have been out of the question.

The crux of the problem
PVS can be difficult to diagnose but can be confirmed beyond doubt by post mortem examination. Some patients have apparently recovered from this state though medical opinion suggests that in these cases the original diagnosis was mistaken.

Terri did not leave a "living will" (i.e. a legal document stating clearly what she would want to have happen if circumstances such as these should arise). Consequently it is a matter of opinion what exactly Terri herself would want in this case.

In addition, legally speaking, a married person's next of kin is their spouse, not their parents, which may explain why the American courts ruled consistently in favour of Michael Schiavo and allowed the feeding tube to be removed, resulting in Terri’s death on 31st March 2005.

Quick Quiz
Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.

1. Terri did not leave a "__________" (i.e. a legal document stating clearly what she would want to have happen if circumstances such as these should arise).

2. In __________ March 2005 a court in Florida decided to allow the tube to be removed but a week later this decision was overturned.

3. Bob and Mary Schindler insisted that their daughter was not in a persistent __________ state at all.

4. __________ February 1990 Terri Schiavo collapsed.

5. People who are in a PVS do not seem to be __________ of their surroundings.
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