SCHINDLER: My sister Terri Schiavo was alive like Jahi McMath

Ethics of brain death declaration

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If all 12 tissues and organs could be harvested from a single patient declared brain-dead, however unlikely, their total value would exceed a half-million dollars.

These revenues, of course, do not include the additional revenues generated from the transplant itself, pre- and post-transplant care, and the pharmaceuticals required after surgery.

To what degree any given hospital might be influenced by any and all of this, no one can say with certainty. What can be said with certainty is this: Obamacare will exert increasing pressure on health care institutions to justify the amount and quality of care for the most vulnerable patients.

Another factor: There is mass confusion about what constitutes extraordinary medical treatment and what is ordinary and obligatory medical treatment. In all 50 states, basic nutrition and hydration is now considered extraordinary medical treatment. My sister, Terri, did not die because her ventilator was removed. She died of dehydration and starvation close to 14 torturous days and nights after her feeding tube supplying her food and water was removed by court order.

Had my parents had the option the McMaths were given, Terri would be alive today and, under the right physiatrist and protocols, they could have improved her lifestyle, commonly mislabeled quality of life.

How much Terri could have improved, I cannot say. We will simply never know. But what we do know is a growing number of patients who have God-given value and dignity will find themselves in horrific circumstances in the coming years. Their loved ones will suffer in a way few of us could ever know.

Recently, I received phone calls from three different families. Each family said they were in the same position as the McMaths. Hospitals were telling them their loved one was brain-dead, and the hospital was no longer willing to care for them. Each family said they saw their loved one respond in some manner to their attempts to communicate with them.

What would you do?

Bobby Schindler is the executive director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. He is the brother of Terri Schiavo.

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