After fifteen years on life support and thirteen dayswithout it, Terri Schindler Schiavo has died. At the sametime, Pope JohnPaul was placed on a feeding tube afterbecoming too weak to eat.

Mrs Schiavo was a Catholic, and Catholic ethicist DennisMcCann, Ph.D., Wallace M. AlstonProfessor of Bible and Religion and Chair, Religious Studiesat Agnes Scott College near Atlanta said, “If giving thePope a feeding tube is the right thing to do, why is itwrong to deny the same to Terri Schiavo? In both cases themedical technology and the relevant moral principles arevirtually the same. The difference, however, lies in thediverging facts of the cases and a well-informedinterpretation of them. Terri Schiavo, alas, is brain dead ?the Pope is not.”

Mrs Schiavo’s husband Michael refused to allow her parents,Robert and Mary Schindler, to be present at the time of herdeath. After she died, they were allowed to enter Mrs. Schiavo’sroom and pray at her bedside.

In an effort to vindicate his decision to remove her lifesupport after 15 years of medical reports that she was braindead and a phenomenal battle with her parents, MichaelSchiavo has ordered an autopsy of his wife prior to hercremation.

Mr. and Mrs Schindler also disapprove of cremation, and mayreturn to court in an effort to force a burial instead.

The case has caused a fierce national debate about the rightto die, and members of congress are preparing legislationthat would forbid any removal from life support except undercircumstances where an individual could not breathe without it.

It is unlikely that a federal law usurping individual andstates rights in such a matter would be ruled constitutionalby the current Supreme Court, but that could change if thechief justice, who is suffering from cancer, retires and isreplaced.

Removal from life support in the case of brain death isstandard medical practice worldwide, including in the UnitedStates. In Mrs. Schiavo’s case, the only brain area showingany signs of electrical activity was the brain stem itself.

Since she suffered cardiac arrest due to an extremepotassium deficiency in 1990, her brain has shown noevidence of electrical activity, despite internet rumors tothe contrary and false claims made in the heat of argument.

Michael Schiavo hopes that an autopsy will reveal that theremaining brain tissue had deteriorated to such an extentthat any awakening was impossible. A substantial part ofMrs. Schiavo’s brain had deteriorated completely and beenreplaced by spinal fluid.

The case inspired both a movingjournal entry fromWhitley Strieber and alivelydebate on the message boards.

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