Permanent Vegetative State: the Case of Terri Schiavo

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Permanent Vegetative State: The Case of Terri Schiavo

The case I have decided to study is case 5 in chapter 10, which is a case that created ethical dilemma. This is the case of Terri Schiavo, a twenty six years old female that suffered a heart attack and permanently lost consciousness. Three years in coma she was finally diagnosed with Permanent Vegetative State (PVS). This is a state where by a patient loses one or both of the brains’s hemisphere and patient is unaware of the surroundings. There is no hope for recovery.

In the case of Terri Schiavo, electroencephalogram was done, she was observed for three years and lots of physicians came to conclusion that Terri will never recover. Although Terri was still breathing on her own, moan, cry, and occasionally opens her eyes and pupils constrict in presence of light.These reflexes were medically explained as functions of the brain stem that also controls the breathing which is still intact and working. Terri could no longer swallow anything on her own. Terri was been fed with food, water and other nutrients via a In 1998, eight years after Terri suffered the heart attack, Michael, Terri’s husband requested permission from the courts to disconnect her feeding tube.

Although Terri had no advance directive, but the husband testified in court that Terri would not want to be kept alive under the condition of PVS .Terri’s parent on the other hand pray to the courts not to grant Michael’s wish. Terri’ parents’ argument is that as a Roman Catholic Terri would find it unethical to have a feeding tube removed and left her to die. Her parents also based their premise on the brain stem reflexes.

Another dimension was introduced to the Schiavo case in 2004 when Pope John Paul II put out a public statement about PSV excerpt: “The sick person in a vegetative state…still has the right to basic health care (nutrition, hydration, cleanliness, warmth, etc), and to prevention of complications...
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