For more than a decade, the story of Terri Schiavo, the Florida woman in a persistent vegetative state whose husband and parents have battled over whether to withdraw food and water, has made international headlines. But millions of families around the world have quietly grappled with equally wrenching choices. Scores of Beliefnet readers have shared their personal stories of this agonizing decision-making, and we offer a sampling of their moving accounts.

Fifty years ago, when I was a teenager, I saw my father in a vegetative state for three months before he died. Thankfully, in those days, medical science could not keep him "alive" any longer. After he died, I heard my mother tell her sister, "You know, Charlotte, Will died three months ago." Terri Schiavo died 15 years ago.

I wonder, where is the Christianity in her blood relations, who seem to feel that there will be no life after death?

If a feeding tube equals artificial life support, doesn't that make bottle-feeding a baby also artificial life support? There is nothing wrong with artificial life support. I took care of a patient who was in the same condition as Ms. Schiavo. She was held in the hospital that caused her harm until the lawsuit was settled and then she was sent to a rehab center where they actually had hope for progress and did something to effect that progress and that patient did very well. Just because you fail to do something to sustain life does not exonerate you from being the cause of death to someone. There are such things as sins of omission.

My late husband was diagnosed with terminal cancer in July of 1998. He was 45 years old. The doctors said that even with chemo and radiation he wouldn't live more than a year. He made the decision to not have treatment. He said that quality of life was worth more to him than quantity. He was placed in a hospice program and was cared for at home. He had a DNR and only recieved care that kept him from having any pain. The last 45 days of his life, he could not eat. Everything that he drank was pumped back up because his digestive tract was blocked by the cancer. Mercifully he died at home on a beautiful morning in October. When I prayed for him, I asked God to make him well. Some people don't agree with me but as I see it, God did make him well. He's free of pain and suffering and in a much better place.

After my husband died, I chose to make a living will. I will not have someone else making the decisions for me, and I don't believe that you should place that burden on your family members in the first place. We are only here on this earthly plane for a short while, and no matter what we do, we all face death of this mortal body. That doesn't mean that we are lost. It simply means that we are on a contining journey that physical death is only a small part of.

My Mother-in-law was recently admitted to the hospital.She had pneumonia,and had been taking breathing treatments at home. she is 82. My husband and his brother knew that she would never want to be put on a ventilator,and even though we had her will and living will perpared and witnessed,it was never notorized.So,there it sat in the house.In my husbands absence,his brother authorized the Dr.'s to insert the ventilator.She was in and out for several weeks. They had to put in a heart cath,and was not expected to live. Not only did she live,she was moved to a nursing home to do rehab. She probably never will be able to come home again,but my point is God works in mysterious ways. The Dr.'s said she was a "MIRACLE".How often does one hear a Dr. say that? I thank the Lord everyday that she was put on a ventilator,because she is still very mentally aware and now she can interact with people her age.Still,if the living will had been inforced,she wouldn't be here right now. I still believe that ones wishes should be carried out,regardless of the emotional pain it inflicts on the rest of the family. After all, it is their decision and not the family's.GOd bless everyone who visits this site.

My husband and I discussed this issue and he told me that he wouldn't want to live on a machine. I never thought that I would be put into a situation where I would have to make such a decision.

But in 1994, my husband had a raging fever that was caused by kidney failure. The doctors had thrown their hands up and said there was nothing more they could do. He was put on life support.

I was in shock because he was only 42. The doctors came to me and asked me to remove him from life support. They gave me reasons why he should be taken off. I knew what he wanted, but I couldn't make that horrible decision. I took it to the Lord in prayer.

I didn't remove him from life support. Today my love is alive and well. I know the power of prayer. The Lord is still in the miracle-working business.

My grandmother had Alzheimer's for almost as long as I could remember. By the time I was 16, she was very sick, could barely speak, and somehow knew she was going to die. That Christmas, when my oldest brother and sister-in-law went to visit her, she told them that it was the last time she would ever see them...and it turned out true.

Near the end, around the last three weeks, she started to refuse food and water. My family saw that as a sign that she wanted to die, but my grandfather immediately had a feeding tube put in. While it gave her a few weeks of life, I have to wonder what her quality of life was.I saw her on Good Friday, the day before she died. While she recognized us and could make sounds, she just looked so bad that I wondered why this was happening.

I had read in the paper that morning about an old Catholic superstition that people who died on Good Friday would immediately go to Heaven. When she died on that Saturday, I just kept thinking "missed by one day."

Watching her die was agonizing for the entire family, and it's something I wouldn't wish on anyone. It was the catalyst in me finally losing my faith.

And I just kept wondering...were those extra weeks really worth it?

I have an elderly disabled relative in a nursing home. I had to have her involuntarily hospitalized because of self-neglect and self-endangerment.

Her quality of life has improved exponentially in the nursing home (which is just your run-of-the-mill, non-exclusive institution run by one of the regional medical centers). She gets balanced meals; much more socialization than she had when she was living by herself; intellectually stimulating activities like book club and current events discussions. She gets regular medical care; she has access to spiritual support. I would not say that her life was not worth living.

I had to develop an advance directive for her. It's on file at her care facility, I review it with staff every time I have a care conference, and every year I review it with her. It specifies that if she suffers some sort of devastating illness with no reasonable chance of recovery, doctors not take extraordinary measures to resuscitate her or otherwise prolong her life, but that she be given palliative care for as long as she is alive.

One of the good outcomes of my having to write out an advance directive is that my mother and I had a good talk about our own expectations for treatment (DNR if the situation is hopeless; palliative care only.) So now we're both empowered to communicate the other's wishes to physicians. Really, out that advance directive right now.

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