Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Book Review: Fighting for Dear Life by David Gibbs

Fighting for Dear Life:  The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo and What It Means for All of Us by David Gibbs

I found out about this book after reading this pro-life book list.  I requested it from the library and could not put it down.  Terri Schiavo was a young woman when she was unexplainably deprived of oxygen in February 1990.  Initially, her husband, Michael, planned to take care of Terri and get her rehabilitative help.  However, after winning a substantial medical lawsuit in 1993, Terri was placed in long term care and per Michael's orders, was given no more therapy.  In fact, Terri wasn't even allowed to be taken from her room and her visitor list was extremely limited, again per Michael's orders.  Terri had left no end of life directions and her husband Michael petitioned the court in 2000 to remove Terri's feeding tube.  Her parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought tirelessly to reverse the court's approval of this request, but with limited resources and court system that seemed decidedly against them, it was very difficult.  The feeding tube was first removed in 2001, but the Schindlers were able to get it reinserted.  In 2003, shortly before it would be removed a 2nd time, the Schindlers met with David Gibbs, whose firm decided to take Terri's case pro bono.    Gibbs tried every legal maneuver in the book, including getting Congress and the President involved, but finally, in 2005, Terri's feeding tube was removed for the last time and she died.

Michael Schiavo's whole cased rested on a couple of casual conversations that he claimed to have had with Terri.  He says she wouldn't have wanted to live in her condition with a feeding tube.  He had a doctor testify that Terri was in a vegetative state.  That however, is highly dubious, considering that she responded to her parents and seemed to track people when they were speaking.  She even attempted to say some words.  Who knows what would have happened if she was given rehabilitative services.  But the court and Michael Schiavo wouldn't even allow a reevaluation.  It seemed there was a rush to kill Terri, which is baffling to this day.  Even more interesting is the numerous cases Gibbs cites of patients who were in worse states than Terri and went on to almost fully recuperate.

I don't know what Michael Schiavo's motives were in pushing to have Terri's feeding tube removed.  I'm not inclined to think charitably towards him when he obviously had moved on with his life (he had a girlfriend and children) and Terri's parents had asked him to just walk away with the money and let them take care of Terri and he refused.  Maybe he truly believed that that was what Terri wanted.  But its not our place to make these decisions.  Gibbs argues that we should be more concerned with the sanctity of life than the quality of life.  This is no easy decision for any family to make.  I would urge you to read this book about Terri because I don't think the issue is as cut and dried as we like to think.  

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