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Terri Schiavo

Medical Patient

Born: 3 December 1963
Died: 31 March 2005 (dehydration)
Birthplace: Pennsylvania
Best known as:

The brain-damaged woman at the center of the Schiavo legal case

Name at birth: Theresa Marie Schindler

 

On 25 February 1990, 26-year-old Terri Schiavo suffered severe brain damage when her heart stopped for five minutes. Schiavo spent the following years in rehabilitation centers and nursing homes but never regained higher brain function. In 1998 her husband, Michael Schiavo, filed a legal petition to have Schiavo's feeding tube removed, saying that his wife had told him before her medical crisis that she would not want to be artificially kept alive in such a situation. Terri Schiavo's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, fought this request. Florida judge George W. Greer ruled in 2000 that Schiavo was "beyond all doubt" in a persistent vegetative state and that her husband could discontinue life support. But as legal appeals in the case continued, the case became widely known as some religious groups and pro-life activists began to insist that Schiavo should be kept alive. Schiavo's feeding tube was removed in 2003, but reinserted six days later when the Florida legislature passed "Terri's Law," which allowed the state's governor to issue a stay in such cases. The law was later ruled invalid by the courts. In March of 2005 Schiavo's feeding tube was again removed, and the case became a greater public sensation when the U.S. Congress was called into special emergency session to pass a bill allowing federal courts to review the case, with President George W. Bush flying from Texas to Washington especially to sign the bill into law. However, federal judges and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to intervene. After two weeks without food and water, Schiavo died of dehydration on 31 March 2005.

Extra credit:

An autopsy after Schaivo's death showed that Schaivo's brain had shrunk to about half normal size, and that Schaivo was blind. "No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons," according to the medical examiner, Dr. Jon Thogmartin. However, the autopsy was unable to pinpoint the cause of Schaivo's collapse in 1990... Schiavo's case was considered to have political implications, as Florida governor Jeb Bush and his brother, U.S. president George W. Bush, both had been elected with the vigorous support of pro-life conservatives... Terri and Michael Schiavo were married on 10 November 1984.

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