Schindler: When it Becomes ‘Basic And Ordinary’ to Deny Care


( – Earlier this year, I was contacted through the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network’s National Crisis Lifeline by a distraught family member. A woman wanted to end her disabled husband’s life.

As strange as it might sound, we receive these sorts of calls frequently through our National Crisis Lifeline—cases where family members seek any means possible to save the life of a loved one who is at-risk of denial of basic care.

The facts of this case were straightforward: the man at the center of this drama had acquired his disability in May 2015, when he experienced an anoxic brain injury. This brain injury left him dependent on others—namely his wife—for his care and medical decisions. As was the case with my sister, Terri, this man’s brain injury meant that he had forgotten how to swallow food and water and was consequently reliant on a feeding tube for nutrition and hydration.

Unfortunately, less than 18 months after his injury, his wife decided to deny him food and water by withdrawing his feeding tube and requesting he be moved to hospice to die. She believed that this would be in his best interest. Yet choosing to do this meant that her husband would ultimately die from profound dehydration and starvation over a matter of days or weeks. Her husband would die because he was disabled, in other words. CONTINUE