Disability Advocates Come to Terri Schiavo’s Defense, Oppose Starvation
by Steven Ertelt
February 16, 2005
Clearwater, FL (LifeNews.com) — Leading disability rights advocates are renewing their support for Terri Schiavo with a February 22 date approaching by which her estranged husband could remove her feeding tube and starve her to death.
Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia, points to new research showing that many disabled patients like Terri may be "alert and conscious, but unable to respond."
Drake’s group is calling for a moratorium on the dehydration and starvation of people alleged to be in “persistent vegetative state" — especially those patients, like Terri, who did not have an advance directive.
"Given the current research regarding brain activity and misdiagnosis, it’s a virtual certainty that countless people have been helpless to prevent their own deaths through starvation and dehydration," Drake said.
Drake points to new research conducted by a team lead led by Dr. Joseph Fins, chief of the medical ethics division of New York Presbyterian Hospital-Weill Cornell Medical Center.
Fins’ team conducted research on severely disabled patients like Terri and found that these individuals may hear and understand much of what is going on around them, but are unable to respond.
Fins indicates that the misdiagnosis rate of patients declared to be in a PVS state may be as high as 30 percent.
"There’s an analogy to DNA evidence and the death penalty. Here in Illinois, the staggering numbers of innocent and wrongly convicted people on Death Row resulted in a moratorium on the death penalty," Drake explained.
"Whether you agreed with the death penalty or not, everyone was forced to find ways to make sure no innocent person ended up on Death Row again," Drake added. "The same amount of concern should apply to medically induced deaths, in which the numbers far exceed the number of convicted people executed each year."
Drake’s group is calling for testing on cognitive activity of all disabled and PVS patients before a court or doctors are allowed to remove feeding tubes.