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When Is a Husband Entitled to Speak for His Wife?
By John Hansen April 2, 2005

Michael Schiavo was married to Terry Schiavo until her recent death by forced starvation and dehydration. In spite of that fact he has for many years been living with, having sex with, impregnating twice, and subsequently raising two children with another woman. Those actions prove beyond any doubt that he no longer loved his actual wife. He had, in fact, been fighting for many years to kill her by removing her only source of nourishment.

There is very little evidence aside from the opinions of a court-appointed doctors or doctors hired by Michael Schiavo, one of whom (Ron Cranford) has elsewhere advocated starving Alzheimer patients to death, that Terry Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state. There have been no brain scans in the last 3 years, for instance and the best type of scans for determining brain function (PET & MRI) were never performed. That these scans were never performed and that there were no EEGs performed at all since 2002 is amazing. How a judge could rule in 2005 regarding the current vegetative state of a person based on medical evidence that was at least 3 years old is incomprehensible.

To the contrary there is substantial current evidence that she attempts to communicate and has some amount of remaining brain function (saying, in effect, "I want" when recently asked to articulate "I want to live" in order to get her feeding tube reinserted, smiling, following people in the room with her eyes, responding to spoken words, etc...) Several neurologists and other specialists have stated after a careful examination of all the evidence that Terry could possibly have regained some amount of function were she to have undergone the sort of therapy that stroke victims undergo. Sadly, since 1994 her husband has refused all requests by her parents to allow Terry to undergo any therapy at all. It was, in fact, a dispute between Michael Schiavo and Terry's parents over whether to spend the $1,050,000 on therapy or not that led to their bitter divide.

Michael Schiavo says Terry once told him that she wouldn't want to live like this. They were married just over 5 years before her brain injury. Having been married for over 18 years myself I can tell you that there is no way even after knowing my wife for as long as I have that I could say beyond any doubt that I know what my wife would want in any given situation. The only thing I can approach certainty with is what I would want. There's no way Michael Schiavo could be certain that he remembers exactly what Terry may have said to him or that he actually understood it sufficiently to so vehemently fight to carry out what he says he is certain were her wishes. He never even mentioned his having heard those wishes expressed until after the $1,050,000 settlement and his becoming engaged to another woman.

Supposing, though, that she did say at least once prior to her collapse and subsequent severe brain injury that she didn't want to be kept alive by artificial means. Her brain injury was a direct result of her starving herself due to her eating disorder (Bulimia). Would she truly have wanted to be starved to death because of the injury she received by starving herself?

The only way to side with Michael Schiavo in this case is to assume that every physician who disagrees with the opinions of the court-appointed doctors and the ones paid by Michael Schiavo are incompetent or unethical. If there is any possibility that Terry Schiavo was not completely brain dead then the only choice is to err on the side of caution.

But that is not the route Michael Schiavo chose. He chose to have an experimental procedure performed on his wife the year of her injury which may have made matters worse. He chose to stop all therapy once his malpractice lawsuit was settled for $1,050,000. He chose to engage in adulterous relationships with another woman, fathering two children by her in the process. He chose to sign a DNR for Terry in 1994. He filed a petition to discontinue life support for Terry very shortly after beginning his relationshop with Jodi Centonze. He chose to remember that Terry had expressed her wishes to him about not wanting to be kept alive in a vegetative state after he began his relationshop with another woman and had received over $1 million in a settlement. He chose to ignore all the signs Terry has shown of conscious thought and all her attempts to communicate.

His choices expose him plainly to be concerned only about what he thinks is in his own best interest. He chose to act like an arrogant, selfish, murderous, adulterer. If that's the way he's been acting for more than a decade then it is hard to see him as anything other than exactly that.

Copyright © 2005 by John Hansen.

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