Cultural Revolutions

A Hard Case

Terri Shiavo’s tragic struggle is a hard case, and hard cases, we are taught, make bad law.  Her husband, Michael, believes she is in a permanent vegetative state and that she would not have wanted to be kept alive artificially.  Her parents, however, believe that she stands a chance of recovery and, further, that, as a good Catholic, she would have wanted to follow the Pope’s recent directive that people in vegetative states have the right to healthcare and nutrition.  Michael sought the aid of the Florida courts to remove Terri’s life support; her parents fought him in court, lost, and appealed to Gov. Jeb Bush, who got the legislature to pass a special bill allowing him to intervene and order that Terri be put back on life support.  This was the matter before the Florida Supreme Court in September, following more than six years of litigation, dozens of hearings, and immeasurable anguish for family and friends.

Mrs. Shiavo suffered brain damage in 1990, following a heart attack apparently brought on by an eating disorder.  According to the Florida courts, “Over the span of this last decade, Theresa’s brain has deteriorated because of the lack of oxygen it suffered at the time of the heart attack.  By mid 1996, the CAT scans of her brain showed a severely abnormal structure.  At this point, much of her cerebral cortex is simply gone and has been replaced by cerebral...

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