October 22, 2003
AAPS Doctors: Schindler-Schiavo is NOT a "death with dignity" issue
The Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS) issued this statement from Jane M. Orient, M.D. in response to the emergency action of the Florida legislature to reinstate feeding and hydration of Terri Schindler-Schiavo:
"Terri Schindler-Schiavo has won a temporary stay from execution by a method too cruel to be used for convicted criminals. And yet her husband's attorney is trying to spin it into a "death with dignity issue" with his comments on Tuesday.
"He says it's cruel to begin rehydration. The opposite is true - dehydration is a cruel, painful death. It is unconscionable that the state would have allowed removal of her feeding tube in the first place-it's nothing less than state-sponsored euthanasia.
"She is not dependent on advanced medical interventions. Nothing is mechanically beating her heart, or forcing oxygen into her lungs. She is simply being fed through a gastrostomy tube. Would we allow a retarded child to be starved to death?
"Some physicians believe that Terri could be rehabilitated to some extent, at least so that she would be able to swallow oral feedings and eliminate the need for the tube. She should be allowed to try, but so far her husband has blocked every attempt to see if she can swallow. Doctors have offered pro bono treatment, if money is the barrier for her husband.
"Although severely disabled, some believe that she does have the capacity to communicate a desire to live. The husband has obstructed efforts at rehabilitation or independent assessments of his wife's true state.
"Where are the "compassionate end-of-life" groups such as the Robert Wood Johnson "Last Acts" initiative, and why aren't they weighing in on this?
"The ethical question for her nurses and physicians is whether they will cooperate in carrying out a death warrant.
"And the ethical question for all of us is whether we will allow the state to obstruct the efforts of people who want to provide medical care to a patient who wants to receive it.
"If we go down that path, who's to say what treatment the state will prevent you from getting."
AAPS is a non-partisan, professional association of physicians in all specialties, dedicated since 1943 to the protection of the patient-physician relationship from third-party intrusion. -30-