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If That Ever Happens to Me

Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo

Lois Shepherd

Publication Year: 2009

Every day, thousands of people quietly face decisions as agonizing as those made famous in the Terri Schiavo case. Throughout that controversy, all kinds of people--politicians, religious leaders, legal and medical experts--made emphatic statements about the facts and offered even more certain opinions about what should be done. To many, courts were either ordering Terri's death by starvation or vindicating her constitutional rights. Both sides called for simple answers. ###If That Ever Happens to Me# details why these simple answers were not right for Terri Schiavo and why they are not right for end-of-life decisions today.

Published by: The University of North Carolina Press

Series: Studies in Social Medicine


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Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-x

... The library faculty and staff at the Florida State University College of Law, especially Mary McCormick, Trisha Simonds, Marin Dell, Margaret Clark, Anne Bardolph, Robin Gault, Faye Jones, and Jon Lutz. You are extraordinary. Your research and acquisition skills are positively gymnastic. ...

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pp. 1-14

In the early months of 2005, Theresa Marie Schindler Schiavo, known as “Terri,” captured the national public spotlight—but she did not know it. Nor, at age forty-one, had she known anything of her previous fifteen birthdays. She was in what doctors call a persistent or permanent vegetative state. When patients are in a vegetative state, ...

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1 Disorders of Consciousness and the Permanent Vegetative State

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pp. 15-34

Theresa Marie Schiavo was twenty-six years old when she suffered a cardiac arrest for reasons still unknown. Terri grew up in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, the oldest of three children. She married her first boyfriend, Michael Schiavo, whom she met in college, and they moved to Florida in 1986. Her family followed ...

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2 Legal and Political Wrangling over Terri's Life

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pp. 35-56

Before it was all over, Terri’s parents and husband would accuse each other of outright lying, trying to make money from Terri’s plight rather than looking out for her interests, and even bearing responsibility for Terri’s condition. With respect to the latter, the Schindlers, some years after Terri’s cardiac arrest, accused Michael Schiavo of having physically abused her during their ...

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3 In Context—Law and Ethics

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pp. 57-76

Outside of the specially passed laws and particular facts of Terri Schiavo’s case, Americans have our history, the foundations of our government, our ethical and moral foundations, and our laws. Indeed, one of the most disturbing aspects of the drama was how readily some of our political leaders wanted to make this case “special,” not subject to established rules, not to be guided by ...

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4 Terri’s Wishes

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pp. 77-95

Many of those who supported the removal of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube have pointed out how much “process” her case received. They have noted, for example, that Terri’s parents had exhausted every legal avenue of relief, that many different courts again and again had confirmed that the law was correctly applied, and that the case was in the courts for seven years. ...

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5 The Limits of Evidence

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pp. 96-111

As discussed in the previous chapter, we might reasonably ask if the evidence of what Terri Schiavo would have wanted was really all that strong. But the equally important question to ask is why we should presume, in the absence of very strong evidence that she would want to die, that she would want to continue living? ...

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6 The Implications of Surrogacy

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pp. 112-127

While it was Michael Schiavo’s preference, and request, that Terri’s feeding tube be removed, it was never his decision. As we’ve already seen, under the law, the surrogate speaks for the patient, but it is the patient’s wishes that must direct the surrogate’s expression. Law professor Norman L. Cantor describes the question we should ask as ...

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7 Qualities of Life

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pp. 128-142

At the end of the last chapter, I argued that someone who is in a permanent vegetative state should be treated differently from someone who is terminally ill or someone who is minimally conscious. In doing so, I have opened myself to the charge that I endorse “quality-of-life” distinctions—a perspective that disability rights groups decry and a number of courts have cautioned us against. ...

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8 Feeding

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pp. 143-161

Throughout this book, artificial nutrition and hydration has been referred to as “life support” or “life-sustaining treatment” or a “life-prolonging procedure” that might be refused under the same rules as other forms of medical treatment. This reflects an ethical and legal consensus that has existed for at least two decades or more. But for many people, artificial nutrition and hydration is ...

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9 The Preservation of Life

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pp. 162-172

When decisions are made to continue or discontinue life support for people who have lost the capacity to make their own decisions, current law generally places greater value on the preservation of life than on the patient’s self-determination. This has been accomplished through the requirement that the patient be in certain specified physical conditions (terminal illness, permanent vegetative state) and the requirement ...

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10 Respect and Care: An Alternative Framework

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pp. 173-187

... The drama surrounding the battle over Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was rich in visual images. One of the most enduring of these images was that of Terri herself in the videotape that her parents provided to the media—footage that appeared to show Terri responding to her mother’s caring inquiries. Even if one understood that expert ...

Appendix: NRLC'S Model Act, as Proposed in State Legislation

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pp. 189-191


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pp. 193-200


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pp. 201-213


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pp. 215-222

E-ISBN-13: 9781469605746
E-ISBN-10: 1469605740
Print-ISBN-13: 9780807832950
Print-ISBN-10: 0807832952

Page Count: 240
Illustrations: 2 line drawings, 1 map
Publication Year: 2009

Series Title: Studies in Social Medicine
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OCLC Number: 407836019
MUSE Marc Record: Download for If That Ever Happens to Me

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Subject Headings

  • Schiavo, Terri, 1963-2005.
  • Terminal care.
  • Right to die.
  • Euthanasia.
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