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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021


death has been with us for as long as we have lived. can we confront our own death as we live? 'DEATH is SOMETHING to be AVOIDED' said a well known Australian Catholic-bio-ethicist talking with a radio commentator. This conversation related to the legally and politically debated death of Terri Schiavo which occurred in USA on 31st March 2005. Terri Schiavo suffered a cardiac arrest at 26 yrs of age in 1990; as a result of this event Terri was diagnosed as having irreversible brain injury. This injury left her unaware of her environment, unable to communicate with or recognise her loved ones and incapable of fulfilling the activities of daily life, including swallowing. As a result of her brain damage she was fed through a PEG tube (a percutaneous, entero-gastric tube). From that time controversy raged between her husband-guardian and her parents with multiple legal and political interventions about whether Terri was in a 'persistent vegetative state' and whether she should be allowed to die this would occur if the tube was removed. It is alleged that Terri and her husband had prior conversions about end-of-life planning, and, it was his understanding that she would not have wished to continue to live in this way. He sought to have the feeding tube removed commencing in 1998. On many occasions the feeding tube was removed, to be replaced after further legal or political intervention. The PEG was finally removed on 18th March 2005; it was not replaced to resume feeding. The Federal Court did not sway in its decision, it blocked subpoenas, the involvement of the US Congress, a signed document from President Bush and a submission from the US Court of Appeals, Terri died on the 31st March 2005.'WHO DECIDES?''