Terri Schiavo has been in a vegetative state since 1990. The court awarded her a million dollars in a medical malpractice lawsuit. Terry’s family was involved in a dispute over her future fate. In the 2003, the probe was removed by court order, but further media coverage and interest from the authorities influenced the return of the feeding tube. As a result, it was connected three times, after which it was finally removed, and Terry died. Among the interested parties are Michael’s husband, who won the court over to his side; Terri’s parents, supported by the public and the authorities and doctors who provide competent information and comply with court orders. The bioethical question of this situation is that despite the absence of a stable vegetative state in Terri Schiavo and the ability to conduct the minimal mimic activity, the feeding tube was ultimately removed. It is not known how reliable the information about the last wish of his wife is.
End-of-life issues include those issues that involve the emotional and psychological state of the dying patient and the corresponding behavior of the doctors. There are many interventions that doctors can perform to treat a patient’s emotional and physical symptoms at the end of life, such as pain, depression, and preservation of dignity (Parker, 2020). In this situation, the patient Terry Schiavo was practically deprived of the opportunity to talk. Therefore her vision of this situation is not fully known and not proven. By accepted moral standards, doctors must fight for the patient’s life until the very last possible moment, unless the patient himself asks otherwise (Protopapadakis, 2019). Medical paternalism, in turn, implies that patients always have the opportunity to get out of the circle of problems that interfere with their emotional state and desire for further existence (Rehmann-Sutter, 2020). However, even the patient’s desire meets many legislative and legal obstacles; this kind of euthanasia is generally prohibited in certain states. On the other hand, there is nothing more humane to alleviate a patient’s suffering, especially when there is no hope of salvation (Medeiros et al., 2020). The conclusions of doctors are what can be relied on, first of all, in such matters, and only then take into account the court’s decisions. In this situation, doctors argued that the patient did not have a persistent vegetative state. She could blink, smile and raise her leg. At the same time, the speech therapist made out the word “stop” during the subsequent procedures, which is quite challenging to interpret ambiguously. Since it was impossible to get a clear answer from the patient, the court ruled in Michael’s favor, citing this word.
Further reaction in the media is entirely predictable, but the stormy resonance was caused by the first impression of the photo, which also attracted the attention of the authorities. The causal relationship was broken here from the very beginning. The authorities relied on the public’s voice; the court relied on the authorities’ decision. As a result, the return of the pipe from the point of view of morality justified the trial and actions of Michael in front of the public and the authorities, but in reality, the society did not see the complete picture of reliable facts. Making decisions based on the first impression of a photo is not the right way to address bioethical issues.
In this situation, medical workers adhered to the ideas of medical paternalism, trying to save the patient’s life, turning off the feeding tube only by a court decision. However, the moral side of the situation found support from the public, which did not fully understand the facts and expressed emotional disagreement. In turn, the authorities responded to the public’s voice, capable of influencing the decisions of the court. In the end, Michael was right. At the same time, it can be understood the parents’ position, but the court initially made the most bioethical decision among the state structures. The further participation of the authorities and society only brought chaos into the actions of the doctors, who had to switch on the feeding tube three times.
Medeiros, M. O. S. F. D., Meira, M. D. V., Fraga, F. M. R., Nascimento, C. L., Rosa, D. D. O. S., & Silva, R. S. D. (2020). Bioethical conflicts in end of life care. Bioethics, 28, 128-134.
Parker, J. C. (2020). Conceptual clarity in clinical bioethical analysis. In The Journal of Medicine and Philosophy: A Forum for Bioethics and Philosophy of Medicine (Vol. 45, No. 1, pp. 1-15). US: Oxford University Press.
Protopapadakis, E. D. (2019). From Dawn till Dusk: Bioethical Insights into the Beginning and the End of Life. Logos Verlag Berlin GmbH.
Rehmann-Sutter, C. (2020). When a Patient Refuses Life-Sustaining Treatments. In Contemporary European Perspectives on the Ethics of End of Life Care (pp. 297-314). Springer, Cham.