FLASHBACK: October 16, 2003Feeding Tubes For Andrea Yates, But Not Terri Schiavo

[Editor’s note: This article originally appeared October 16, 2003]

Explain this to me.

In Florida —

Excerpted from The Miami Herald: “Comatose Woman’s Life Tube Removed”:

    ST. PETERSBURG — A five-year battle to keep Terri Schiavo alive ended Wednesday, when medical workers at a hospice center removed the tube that has fed the brain-damaged woman for 13 years, a move expected to lead to her death within two weeks.

    ”She’ll be OK for the next couple of days,” Schiavo’s father, Robert Schindler, told supporters outside the Hospice Villas Woodside after the tube was removed. After that, it gets tougher, he said: “We’re going to try to work some magic and hopefully there will be a miracle.”

    Schiavo’s parents and siblings have fought in state and federal courts to keep her husband, Michael Schiavo, from ending her life. Michael Schiavo has argued that his wife, who went into a coma in 1990 after suffering a heart attack, would not have wanted to be kept alive by artificial means.

    The courts, accepting medical experts’ testimony that Schiavo, 39, is in a ”persistent vegetative state,” have sided with her husband.

    But the rest of her family believes her condition could improve with therapy. They say Schiavo responds to them, makes sounds like she is trying to talk and sometimes ”beams” when her mother speaks to her. [. . .]

    The tube was removed about 2 p.m. — the hour that Circuit Judge George W. Greer had set and that appeals courts refused to set aside. Michael Schiavo had been there earlier and was not present when the Schindlers were brought into the room just after the tube was removed. [. . .]

    ”I have to believe that someone, somewhere will stop this judicial homicide,” said Terri’s sister, Suzanne Carr. (emphasis added)

— And In Texas

Excerpted from The Houston Chronicle: “Haunting Reality Triggers Yates’ Return to Psychosis”:

    The trouble with normal for Andrea Pia Yates is that this is where her demons live.

    A month ago, the woman who drowned her five children in a bathtub in their Clear Lake home because she believed she was possessed by the devil seemed to be edging back from the mental illness and depression she said caused her to commit the crime.

    She was tending a prison garden at the Texas Department of Criminal justice’s psychiatric unit in Rusk, where she is in the early stages of serving a life sentence. She was making friends, functioning, being constructive, her lawyer says.

    She was also inexorably becoming lucid enough to be haunted by what she had done, so haunted she began believing her children were in purgatory and only her death would free them from limbo and allow them to reach heaven.

    In four short weeks, Yates has spiraled back into psychosis. She is alone and on suicide watch in her cell at the Skyview unit, heavily medicated, refusing to eat, her eyes sunken, her hair matted. [. . .]

    Parnham said Yates is showing some signs of recovery from the psychotic episode that began about four weeks ago. Within two weeks, the lawyer said, her physical condition had deteriorated to such an extent her prison doctors were considering transferring her to the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, where she could be fed intravenously. (emphasis added)

Let me get this straight

An innocent woman in Florida has had a life-sustaining feeding tube removed because her husband, whose motives are suspect according to her family, friends, and caretakers, wants her to have the “right to die,” and a government employee (Circuit Judge George W. Greer) is forcing the tube’s removal.

But a woman in Texas guilty of murdering her five children may have a feeding tube inserted to keep her alive because her husband, whose motives appear driven by genuine care for his wife, wants her to be kept alive so she may have the chance to someday find healing, and government employees (prison doctors) are the ones considering the move for Mrs. Yates.

Should Andrea Yates receive the care needed to keep her alive? Yes.

But just how is it that we in America have come to the point that an innocent woman’s life can be terminated via a two-week starvation on the order of a judge simply because her husband says that’s what she would want — regardless of the sworn testimony of caretakers and family members who say she is not a “vegetable” and would not choose death?

How messed up are we?