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Terri Schiavo; Life or Death

Autor:   •  September 20, 2011  •  Essay  •  1,377 Words (6 Pages)  •  1,309 Views

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On February 25th, 1990, Terri Schiavo had a cardiac arrest, triggered by extreme chemical imbalance in her brain possibly brought on by an eating disorder. She was revived but not before the lack of blood flow caused severe brain damage. During the subsequent months, she exhibited no evidence of higher cortical function. Computed tomographic scans of her brain eventually showed severe atrophy of her cerebral hemispheres, and her electroencephalograms were flat, indicating no functional activity of the cerebral cortex. Her neurologic examinations were indicative of a persistent vegetative state, which includes periods of wakefulness alternating with sleep and some reflexive responses to light and noise but no signs of emotion, willful activity, or cognition. And just like that, she mentally elopes this world, leaving no power attorney or living will behind. From this point on, controversy developed throughout our nation. Religious ethicists believed Terri Schiavo should be kept alive through artificial means and medical sources, on the other hand, considered the removal of the feeding tube to be the most humane and considerate approach for Mrs. Schiavo. Which side should prevail? Well, when scientific evidence suggests a patient in a persistent vegetative state has no chance of recovery, medical opinion should take precedence over ethical consideration.

Schiavo had been in critical condition and unconscious for 15 years. Medical sources concluded that at this point there is no chance of recovery, therefore believe the feeding tube should be removed. Terri Schiavo was diagnosed with a permanent state of unconsciousness known as Persistent Vegetative State. "Her CAT scan shows massive shrinkage of the brain. Her EEG is flat- flat. There's no electrical activity coming from her brain." said Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist and medical ethicist at the University Of Minnesota Medical School (qtd. in Schwartz and Grady A11). This means that the lower regions of her brain that control her breathing and heart beat are definitely functioning. As described by Goldstein and Tasker, vegetative patients continue to make sounds, facial expressions, reflex motions, and go through periods of sleep and wakefulness as lower brain systems continue functioning (A1). But the scans also showed that the upper brain functions, which include rational thought, processing of visual and auditory input, the interpretation of language, and voluntary movement, seem to be gone for this woman. This shows why she is unaware of her surroundings, unable to respond to commands, totally paralyzed, and has no control over her bladder and bowel functions. Furthermore, there is a lack of case studies regarding the recovery of patients in a Persistent Vegetative State. In fact, Dr. Michael A. Williams, a John Hopkins neurologist, stated that "if neurological recovery has not occurred after 15 years, it is not going to occur." Therefore,


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