If That Ever Happens to Me: Making Life and Death Decisions after Terri Schiavo / Edition 1

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Overview

Every day, thousands of people quietly face decisions as agonizing as those made famous in the Terri Schiavo case. Lois Shepherd rids the case of its sensationalism to get at the complex issues so many people confront when dealing with end-of-life situations themselves. She looks behind labels like "starvation," "care," or "medical treatment" to consider what care and feeding really mean, when feeding tubes might be removed, and why disability groups, the faithful, and even the dying themselves often suggest end-of-life solutions that they might later regret. She includes valuable discussion about the pros and cons of living wills.
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Editorial Reviews

From The Critics
Reviewer: Sarah E. Hetue Hill, MA (Saint Louis University)
Description: University of Virginia professor Lois Shepherd uses the Terry Schiavo case as the terminus a quo for a substantial scrutiny of the medical, legal, and ethical issues surrounding end-of-life decision making and for an alternative framework based on an ethic of respect and care.
Purpose: The author begins by sifting through the various media accounts of the Schiavo case and other literature to find the most credible facts to provide answers to both what happened and why the case proceeded in the manner in which it did. She also examines the case for what it can teach us with regard to end-of-life decision making in the areas of culture, ethics, and the law.
Audience: The book is intended for anyone with a vested interest in end-of-life decision making including lawyers, ethicists, policymakers, disability rights activists, and various healthcare professionals, particularly those who most often assist families with goals-of-care discussions such as hospice and palliative care physicians and nurses.
Features: A thorough overview of the medical and legal issues surrounding the Terry Schiavo case begins the book, including an overview of the permanent vegetative state and other disorders of consciousness. The book also addresses issues involved in the withdrawal of life support including an assessment of standards of evidence, the shortcomings of living wills, and the weaknesses and strengths of surrogate decision making. A chapter examines quality of life arguments and discusses rights, respect, and care. Artificial and nutrition and hydration are reframed rather uniquely in the perspective of the cared-for instead of the caregiver. The last chapter provides a brief outline of the author's reframing of the issue from a rights approach to one that emphasizes care and respect, particularly for those who are considered vulnerable such as the terminally ill or profoundly disabled.
Assessment: The author seeks to move beyond the polemic dichotomy of arguments for the right to life versus the right to refuse treatment. Compared to other books written on this case, this one offers a thoughtful, frank, and balanced look at the case itself and the larger issue of end-of-life decision making. The broadening of the scope of the issues from a simple rights approach to the alternative approach of respect and care has fruitful implications. The bibliography is useful, providing the legal materials and other articles on end-of-life decision making. However, it would have been useful had the author offered those interested in a similar reframing of the issues further reading in either the notes or bibliography by some of the authors who have delved deeply into developing care ethics, such as Nel Noddings or Carol Gilligan.
Library Journal

As illustrated so heartbreakingly in the Terri Schiavo case, it is extremely difficult to determine a patient's wishes in end-of-life decisions because all the idiosyncrasies of individual situations cannot be predicted in advance. Admitting that decisions relating to permanent vegetative states are different from those surrounding terminally ill or minimally conscious patients, Shepherd (law & public health sciences, Univ. of Virginia) considers some of the tough ethical and emotional considerations involved and how existing laws may be strengthened. Pointing out weaknesses related to living wills and offering suggestions on alternative ways to ensure that a patient's rights and wishes are respected, she also expresses concern for the need to respect patients' privacy and gives careful consideration to whether nutrition and hydration should be considered "basic care." For extensive background reading on Schiavo's case and how it relates to end-of-life concerns, The Case of Terri Schiavo, edited by Arthur L. Caplan and others, remains the definitive work. Shepherd's book nicely updates and complements William Colby's Unplugged. Recommended for public and academic bioethics collections.
—Tina Neville

From the Publisher
"Detailed analysis. . . . A relentlessly honest examination."--Hastings Center Report

"A detailed ethical examination that is balanced and insightful. . . . A model of depth in ethical deliberation on difficult issues . . . highly recommended."--Nursing Ethics

"The sensitive presentation of facts and narrative with values of responsibility and fairness makes this book a beacon on the convoluted path to better living and dying."--Metapsychology Online

"A thoughtful, frank, and balanced look at the [Schiavo] case itself and the larger issue of end-of-life decision making."--Doody's Review Service

"The sensitive presentation of facts and narrative . . . makes this book a beacon on the convoluted path to better living and dying."--Newsletter of the National Capital Area Chapter of Compassion and Choices

"A thought-provoking, balanced personal and professional reflection on what has come to be known as the 'Schiavo case.' . . . Recommended."--Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807832950
  • Publisher: The University of North Carolina Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2009
  • Series: Studies in Social Medicine
  • Edition description: 1
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Lois Shepherd is associate professor of public health sciences and professor of law at the University of Virginia. She is coauthor of Bioethics and the Law.
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