Conscious Patient Dies at Florida Hospice Where Terri Schiavo Was Killed

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 10, 2008   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Conscious Patient Dies at Florida Hospice Where Terri Schiavo Was Killed

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by Steven Ertelt Editor
July 10
, 2008

St. Petersburg, FL ( — The Florida hospice where Terri Schiavo was killed after her husband won a court order to euthanize her is coming under fire for the death of another patient. In this case, doctors at Hospice of Florida Suncoast pulled the feeding tube of 26-year-old Bradley Whaley.

Whaley entered into a coma following an overdose of painkillers and alcohol after he injured his hand severely when he punched out a glass window.

For years his parents kept vigil, and then decided to transfer him to the hospice in which Terri Schiavo died.

According to the St. Petersburg Times newspaper, his mother Sue was able to communicate with her son, who was conscious despite his incapacitated state.

When Sue would tug on Bradley’s chin, he would be able to mouth "Mama" and, if she leaned in close, he would try to kiss her.

Though they spent three years by his side hoping his condition would improve, it didn’t and the newspaper indicated his parents appeared to have allowed hospice to withdraw his feeding tube, subjecting him to the same kind of death Terri endured.

That greatly upsets Wesley Smith, a bioethicist who is one of the leading authorities on euthanasia issues. He says pro-life advocates and patients should be concerned that they may have someone else take their life — even if they are conscious.

"For more than ten years I have been telling anyone who will listen that unquestionably conscious cognitively disabled patients are being denied sustenance in every state in this country, so long as no family member objects," he explained.

Smith says he’s concerned that Florida law may have been breached in Bradley’s case that says a patient must be declared to be in a so-called vegetative state before a feeding tube can be withdrawn.

Ultimately, Smith says the decision to kill a conscious patient has horrible ramifications for patients nationwide and yields a bias against the disabled.

"Once we decided that people who are diagnosed as persistently unconscious could have sustenance denied based on quality of life, then we stripped all profoundly cognitively disabled people from moral equality," Smith says.

"Now, virtually anyone who needs a feeding tube and can’t make their own decisions–conscious or not–can and are being denied food and water," he concludes. "What a testimony about the state of the times in which we live."

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