Doctor: Terri Schiavo’s Starvation, Dehydration Death Would be Painful

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Mar 24, 2005   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Doctor: Terri Schiavo’s Starvation, Dehydration Death Would be Painful Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt Editor
March 24
, 2005

Pinellas Park, FL ( — A doctor who has been monitoring the debate surrounding Terri Schiavo says the disabled woman will die from a painful starvation and dehydration death unless she is allowed to have food and water. Some doctors contend the death process is not painful.

Dr. David Stevens, the president of the Christian Medical Association, says "most so-called experts have never seen someone die in this manner."

However, Stevens worked for 13 years in Africa, where the most common cause of death in children is dehydration from gastroenteritis.

"I have seen hundreds if not thousands of patients with dehydration and some of them so far gone, that despite resuscitation attempts, they died," Dr. Stevens said.

"As dehydration begins, there is extreme thirst, dry mouth and thick saliva," Stevens explains. "The patient becomes dizzy, faint and unable to stand or sit; has severe cramping in the arms and legs as the sodium and potassium concentrations in the body goes up as fluids go down."

"In misery, the patient tries to cry but there are no tears. The patient experiences severe abdominal cramps, nausea and dry-heaving as the stomach and intestines dry out," Stevens continued.

Stevens says patients who die form starvation and dehydration have cracking skin and lips and their tongue swells. As mucous membranes dry out and break down, patients will suffer from severe nose bleeds.

A patient’s hands and feet become extremely cold as the circulatory system begins to shut down and move blood to vital organs in an attempt to keep the person alive. The patient has problems urinating and is prone to having excruciating headaches.

"Some patients have hallucinations and seizures as their body chemistry becomes even more imbalanced," Stevens said.

Terri would go into a coma, likely, and would suffer a severe heart attack before dying.

"Contrary to those that try to paint a picture of a gentle process, death by dehydration is a cruel, inhumane and often agonizing death," Dr. Stevens concludes.

Although Stevens contends Terri will feel severe pain during the dying process, the public may never know.

According to Dr. Ed Dominguez, a medical consultant for KLTV in Tyler, Texas, Terri’s estranged husband Michael has decided against running a brain wave scan on Terri.

Dominguez says the electroencephalogram would give doctors a good idea how Terri’s brain responds to pain.

Michael has also decided to cremate Terri’s body, preventing any postmortem examination and preventing any experts from determining whether Terri was physically abused as Terri’s family and others contend.

Christian Medical Association –