Terri Schiavo's religious beliefs
DLaycock at law.utexas.edu
Tue Mar 22 11:03:04 PST 2005
We have no direct evidence of Terry Schiavo's religious
beliefs with respect to her right to refuse medical treatment. We do
have the testimony of various relatives and a friend that she said,
without reference to religion, that she would not want to be kept alive
under such circumstances.
The teachings of the church are not much evidence of what she
believed as a member of that church. I do not have a recent survey, but
Jim Lindren reported then extant survey data in his Death by Default, 56
L. & Contemp. Probs. 185 (No. 3, Summer 1993). His Table 8 has
breakdowns for subcategories.
"If you, yourself, were on life support systems and there as no
hope of recovering, would you live to remain on the life support system
or would you like treatment withheld so that you could end your life?"
(Gallup Poll 1990) 84% of the population said to withhold treatment; 9%
said keep on life support; 7% were undecided. There were no significant
No religion: 80-10-11
Born again: 84-9-7
Not born again: 85-8-7
Church/synagogue member: 84-9-8
Not church/synagogue member: 84-9-7
Attended church last 7 days: 82-10-9
Didn't attend last 7 days: 85-8-6
For those who think a feeding tube is not a life support system,
there were other polls on feeding tubes:
"Suppose you were in a coma with no brain activity and were
being kept alive by a feeding tube. Would you want your doctor to
remove the feeding tube and let you die, or not?" (CBS/New York Times
Want removal of feeding tube 85%
Would not want tube removed 11%
Don't know/no answer 4%
Of course if there were literally no brain activity, the person
would be legally dead, so the question is not artfully phrased.
Probably it was oversimplified for the general population. A more price
question was used in a survey of physicians: "If you became
permanently unconscious in a persistent vegetative state and could not
eat normallyl, you would want your life maintained through artificial
feedings." (Brunetti, Carperos & Westlund Study, 1989)
Stonrgly Agree, Agree, or No Strong Feelings: 8%
Strongly Disagree or Disagree: 92%
None of these surveys are nearly so probative as the testimony
to what Terri Schiavo actually said about her own beliefs. But they are
more probative than the argument that she must necessarily have agreed
with a statement the Pope made after she became unconscious.
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