Terri Schiavo case

Theresa Marie Schiavo [ ʃaɪvoʊ ] (* December 3, 1963 in Philadelphia / Pennsylvania; † 31 March 2005 in Pinellas Park / Florida) - commonly called Terri Schiavo Terri Schindler - Schiavo or - was a U.S. citizen from Saint Petersburg ( Florida) who had suffered a lack of oxygen caused by severe brain injury in a crash and consequently was from 1990 until her death for 15 years in a vegetative state.

She was the subject of a persecuted by the media battle between her husband Michael Schiavo and her parents Mary and Bob Schindler about the continuation of life-sustaining measures, thereby became the focus of public debate on this topic.

Medical History

Terri Schiavo suffered from bulimia. As a result of this eating disorder, it came on 25 February 1990 a potassium deficiency, which caused a temporary cardiac arrest. By this occurred under-supply of oxygen to her brain was severely damaged and she fell into a persistent vegetative state ( Apallic syndrome).

In the view of the doctors there would not have been possible Terri Schiavo from this coma wake again, because the brain had suffered too much damage. The cerebral cortex ( the cortex ) was almost completely atrophied ( disappeared ). This was confirmed after her death at autopsy. Thus, they would have remained at a enforcing the resumption of life support as coma patient still tied to the bedside. The argument put by their parents view a cure or even significant improvement was possible, was shared only by a few experts.

Schiavo's movements, which were interpreted by their parents as a sign of confidence, declared their doctors as autonomic reflexes that are not indicative of residual consciousness.

However, some German doctors who were interviewed by the media, were of the view that it was not in a pure vegetative state, but in a state of minimal consciousness activity.

Discussion of consequences

The husband accepted the doctors' diagnosis after initial treatment attempts had been unsuccessful. The parents, however, still had the hope that it might be possible to achieve an improvement in the condition of her daughter. This divergent assessment, a bitter dispute over the treatment of Schiavo: whereas the husband relied on the statement by his often expressed desire Schiavo to be obtained not alive artificially with incurable illness, and he thus the treatment, including the artificial wanted to stop eating, the parents wanted to continue the treatment in any case, to use every chance to heal can.

Legal and political debate

The dispute between the two parties on the treatment was carried out for years in court and, increasingly, through the media. In May 1998, Terri Schiavo's husband Michael had first filed an application for judicial permission to remove the food tube. The parents filed an objection - the beginning of the legal dispute. In April 2001, the artificial feeding was discontinued by court order. The decision was made two days later revised by another court. In October 2003, the diet was adjusted to a court order out again. Whereupon the Parliament of Florida issued fast-track a bill that the governor Jeb Bush gave the right to arrange the artificial diet. Bush made use of this right, so that the diet Schiavo was resumed after a few days.

In September 2004, however, this law was declared by the Supreme Court of Florida to be unconstitutional. Then decided in February 2005 a judge to cancel the artificial diet on 18 March again. Schiavo's parents tried by a variety of legal inputs and political appeals in Florida and at the federal level, to let revoke this decision. Although U.S. President George W. Bush began personally to the concerns of parents and the Republicans still on March 21 specially adopted a law in summary proceedings, which expanded the legal actions of the parents, they could not prevail.

The feeding tube was removed in accordance with decision. Terri Schiavo died 13 days later on 31 March due to lack of water. In the last days of her life she had received morphine to relieve pain that could have been caused by dehydration, since it is debatable whether a vegetative state patients can still feel pain or not.

Schiavo's body was autopsied for matching her husband's will and their parents in order to clarify the extent of her brain injury doubt. It was found here that she was so severely brain damaged that no treatment could have resulted in improvement in their condition. According to the Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin the woman's brain weighed only about half of a normal human brain. Terri Schiavo was blind and otherwise not have been able to perceive their environment. No signs of abuse were found. The exact cause of the original collapse could not be clarified.

Political discussion

The efforts of her husband to enforce the shutdown of the automatic food intake in Terri Schiavo have triggered a controversial debate on bioethics, euthanasia, guardianship and human rights in the United States. The case is used in this context by many religious groups and some politicians in the United States for their own purposes, as demonstrated for example in the attempted intervention of the Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush, or the utterances of the 2005 incumbent American president who clearly to the side of the parents Schiavo presented. So, for a really private affair gradually a case of great public interest.

The Schiavo case attracted attention in Europe. In Germany especially had a living will and the question of how the case would have been decided here may be discussed. Pope John Paul II spoke in favor of maintaining the nutrition of Terri Schiavo.