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Another Texas Life Support Case

By March 21, 2005

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The Houston Chronicle reports the case of Spiro Nikolouzos, a retired electrical engineer who was admited to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital emergency room on 10 February; his wife had been caring for him since 2001. On 1 March, the hospital advised Jannette Nikolouzos by letter "that it would withdraw life-sustaining care of her husband of 34 years in 10 days" unless she found another facility to care for him. He would have been a patient for one month's time.

Although she did not have friends in high places or the support of national Right to Life groups, Mrs. Nikolouzos arranged to have her husband transferred to San Antonio on Palm Sunday, according to Click2Houston.com.

She lost her request for a temporary restraining order but received an emergency injunction from the First Circuit Court of Appeals, according to Click2Houston.com.

In 1999, Texas became to first state to pass a law establishing an ethics board review of when to disable life support, according to the Chronicle. The bill, which was signed by then-Governor George Bush, "gives hospitals the authority to remove patients from life support, but requires they give the family 10 days notice to find another facility."

Dr. David Pate, St. Luke's chief medical officer, told the Chronicle:
"He's unaware of his surroundings, he can't eat, he can't speak, he can't move any of his extremities. I can't imagine anybody in his condition wanting extraordinary means of life support to be kept alive."
That sounds like a description of Terri Schavi's condition. However, the Chronicle, in a different article, found one expert who contends this is not the case:
The Texas law "allows doctors to stop treatment when ... treating is not going to help at all," said John A. Robertson, the Vinson and Elkins chair at the University of Texas School of Law in Austin and author of The Rights of the Critically Ill. "In Florida, the feeding tube will keep Terri alive, so it is not medically futile in that treatment won't work at all."
Perhaps someone can help me parse the difference. Nikolouzos is being kept alive with a feeding tube and ventilator; Schaivo is being kept alive with a feeding tube. Removal of artifical life support will lead to death for either patient. Why does Texas law (theoretically) apply in one case and not the other?

Comments

January 26, 2008 at 10:57 pm
(1) ljg says:

In order to ‘parse’ the difference, believe you need to define just what is artificial life support and what is not, at least in an adult with fully developed lungs (as opposed to a a preemie).

EVERY human life needs food and water to survive, whether handicapped or not. To me and many others, a feeding tube is not artificial, it is essential in those that cannot feed themselves for whatever reason (as Christopher Reeve, patients in comas, etc.).

A ventilator, on the other hand, which is artifically ‘breathing’ for a patient is quite different, and would be defined as being kept alive artificially.

You would have to review the Schiavo case to see the difference. The judge in that case even refused the parents requests to ‘test’ her to see if she was able to swallow on her own, with simply her parents or anothers assistance.

Food and water are essential for all forms of life, and removing them nothing more than ‘murder’ in sanctioning a death in the most painful way possible.

It took Ms. Schiavo 14 days to die, in the cruelest way possible, organ shutdown due to dehydration. What does that say about her ‘will’ to live, that it actually took organ dehydration to actually ‘kill’ her.

And that judge is still walking around. Disgusting.

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