Ethical Dilemma: Brain Death

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Brain Death – An Islamic Perspective
Prof. Ibrahim B. Syed
President
Islamic Research Foundation International, Inc.
Louisville, Kentucky
E-Mail: President@irfi.org
Website: WWW.IRFI.ORG
 
Terri Schiavo,   a white female of Roman Catholic faith was  born  on 3rd December 1963 in  Philadelphia, PA. She married  Michael on 10-11-84. Terri Schiavo entered a vegetative state in 1990 after adopting an "iced tea diet" (related to her bulimia), resulting in a disastrous potassium deficiency that caused her heart to stop. She suffered  cardiac arrest on 25 February 1990 early morning and heart beat was revived after some delay.  By the time her heart was revived she suffered irreversible brain damage.  (WHEN THE HEART STOPPED, THE BRAIN DID NOT GET THE BLOOD SUPPLY WHICH NOURISHES THE BRAIN WITH GLUCOSE, OXYGEN AND MINERALS.  There is a popular belief that the brain "dies" after 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen. In some cases it may take 10 to 16 minutes. Within four minutes of the blood supply to the brain ceasing, the central nervous system is irreversibly damaged.). She lived  in different stages of unconsciousness and long considered in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ (PVP), in a Pinellas Park, Florida hospice. Severe brain damage which does not involve the brain stem may result in a persistent vegetative state. These patients breathe spontaneously, open and close their eyes, swallow and make facial grimaces. However, they show no behavioral evidence of awareness. In this persistent vegetative state she remained the last fifteen years of her life.  Neurological tests indicated that her cerebral cortex was principally liquid. The electroencephalogram (EEG) of someone who is brain dead shows no electrical activity, and an injection of mild radioactive isotopes into the brain reveals the absolute absence of blood flow. Death is now accepted as meaning brain stem death or brain death. The brain stem is a small area of the brain which controls respiration (breathing). If this area is dead the person will never be able to breathe spontaneously or regain consciousness. She died shortly after 9 AM (EST) on March 31, 2005, nearly two weeks after the feeding tube was removed from her. Treatment  in an Intensive Care Unit costs $2000 per day whereas in Hospice its costs about $500/- per day. WHO WILL PAY? Both Schiavo's doctors and her court-appointed doctors expressed the opinion that there existed no hope of rehabilitation. Her husband, Michael Schiavo, stated that it was his wife's wish that she not be kept alive through unnatural, mechanical means. Michael Schiavo wanted life support (her feeding tube) removed, after which Terri would slowly die of malnutrition and dehydration. Politicians inserted themselves into the fray. The case was the catalyst for Florida's controversial "Terri's Law", which gave Gov. Jeb Bush the authority to have Schiavo's feeding tube re-inserted when a court ruled that her husband could have it removed. It was a tremendously sad family situation, undoubtedly painful for everyone involved (except, of course, the vegetable Terri Schiavo).  In the legal battle, many court rulings and appeals took place (all the way to the US Supreme Court-6 times). There was  involvement of Florida State Governor (Jeb Bush), the State and  US legislature and the bills passed to save Terri Schiavo. The U.S. Congress quickly passed legislation allowing federal courts to intervene, and President George W. Bush flew back to Washington to sign the bill into law. It should be noticed that this is the same George W. Bush who, as Governor of Texas, signed into state law the power of hospitals to remove a patient (in identical situations as Terri's) from life support -- a critical factor being the family's ability to pay the hospital bills -- even if such removal was against the family's objections. House Majority Leader Tom DeLay  lied for national newscasts that Schiavo "talks and she laughs, and she expresses happiness and...
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