Nat Hentoff on Terri Schiavo, 2003

Nat Hentoff: Lying About Terri Schiavo
By Nat Hentoff
The Village Voice | November 10, 2003

I have covered highly visible, dramatic "right to die" cases—including those of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan—for more than 25 years. Each time, most of the media, mirroring one another, have been shoddy and inaccurate.

The reporting on the fierce battle for the life of 39-year-old Terri Schiavo has been the worst case of this kind of journalistic malpractice I've seen.

On October 15, Terri's husband and legal guardian, Michael Schiavo, ordered the removal of her feeding tube. As she was dying, the Florida legislature and Governor Jeb Bush overruled her husband on October 21, and the gastric feeding tube has been reinserted pending further recourse to the court.

So intent is Michael Schiavo on having his wife die of starvation that one of his lawyers, after the governor's order to reconnect the feeding tube, faxed doctors in the county where the life-saving procedure was about to take place, threatening to sue any physician who reinserted a feeding tube. The husband had immediately gone to court to get a judge to revoke what the legislature and the governor had done.

The husband claims that he is honoring his marriage vows by carrying out the wishes of his wife that she not be kept alive by "artificial means." As I shall show, this hearsay "evidence" by the husband has been contradicted. The purportedly devoted husband, moreover, has been living with another woman since 1995. They have a child, with another on the way. Was that part of his marital vows?

For 13 years, Terri Schiavo has not been able to speak for herself. But she is not brain-dead, not in a comatose state, not terminal, and not connected to a respirator. If the feeding tube is removed, she will starve to death. Whatever she may or may not have said, did she consider food and water "artificial means?"

The media continually report that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state, and a number of neurologists and bioethicists have more than implied to the press that "persistent" is actually synonymous with "permanent." This is not true, as I shall factually demonstrate in upcoming columns. I will also provide statements from neurologists who say that if Terri were given the proper therapy—denied to her by her husband and guardian after he decided therapy was becoming too expensive despite $750,000 from a malpractice suit—she could learn to eat by herself and become more responsive. ...

Read the whole thing at the link.