NewsHour Extra Feature Stories
NewsHour Extra features stories can help students identify and interpret key issues
in current events. This activity anticipates one class period, but the follow-up
essay might be assigned as homework, or in another period.
Up: Use initiating questions to introduce the topic and find out how much
your students know.
Activity: Have students read NewsHour Extra's feature story and answer the
questions on the reading comprehension handout.
Use discussion questions to encourage students to think about how the issues outlined
in the story affect their lives and express and debate different opinions.
Students can write an 500-word editorial on the topic expressing their views
and send it to NewsHour Extra [email@example.com]
for possible publication.
Students are graded on their answers to reading comprehension questions and/or
Schiavo Case Raises Medical Ethics Questions, 03/28/05
1. What is starvation?
2. Are there methods of keeping people alive without
food or water?
3. What have you heard about the woman in Florida, Terri Schiavo,
at the center of a debate over life and death?
Comprehension Questions: (click here for
How long ago did doctors remove Terri Schiavo's feeding tube?
11 days without a feeding tube, Terri Schiavo is getting closer to death. Her
parents argue that their daughter is being cruelly starved to death, a claim disputed
by some doctors who say patients in Schiavo's state have no knowledge of "starvation."
Why do some doctors say that removing Schiavo's feeding tube is not a cruel act?
many doctors familiar with the Schiavo case and other cases of people in a "persistent
vegetative state" as courts have stated Schiavo to be in, say that what is
happening to Schiavo is not starvation in the sense that most people think of
in a persistent vegetative state give no sign of experiencing pain and suffering
in any way that we can relate to," Dr. Russell Portenoy, a neurologist and
chairman of the Department of Pain Medicine and Palliative Care at Beth Israel
Medical Center in New York, told the NewsHour.
How does a feeding tube like Schiavo's work?
people like Schiavo, in a state of little to no consciousness due to brain damage,
feeding tubes that funnel nutrition directly into the stomach are the only means
there are different kinds of feeding devices, the one that Schiavo has -- a gastrostomy
tube -- uses a small hollow catheter, or tube, to provide nutrition and hydration
in the form of liquid food, fluids and medication. The tube is inserted by cutting
a small hole in the patient's abdomen, guiding it through into the stomach and
then stitching up the hole around the tube to prevent shifting.
Why did Schiavo initially need the feeding tube?
has been kept alive by this means of life support since 1990 when she suffered
heart failure from complications of the eating disorder bulimia and fell unconscious.
oxygen caused damage to the parts of the brain that controlled thinking, emotion
and memory, despite images released by her family showing Schiavo appearing to
smile and react to stimulation.
What would happen if food or water were put in her mouth?
in Schiavo's state "have no knowledge of food," according to Dr. Sean
Morrison of Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York.
don't recognize food," Morrison told The New York Times. "If you put
food in their mouth, it would sit there until they took a breath, and then that
food would go down into the lungs."
What is happening to Terri Schiavo, according to her parents?
parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, say their daughter is being allowed to slowly
and painstakingly starve to death, a violation of her civil rights.
according to the Schindlers, Schiavo is showing signs of dehydration. Her lips
are dry, her skin is flaking, her eyes are sunken and her breathing is strained.
What will happen to Schiavo if the tube is not replaced?
the feeding tube, Schiavo could die within days. Her organs would slowly shut
down, toxins would build up in her system, she would fall into a coma and her
heart would eventually stop.
patients who are toward the end of life and do not have access to nutrition or
hydration slowly get quieter and sleepier; they lapse into coma. The coma gradually
deepens and then finally they die," Portenoy said.
Activity (more research might be needed):
Are Terri Schiavo's parents right in claiming that their daughter is being starved
to death in a cruel fashion? Does it matter that she may not be able to feel hunger?
Is it still starvation?
What would you want done in the event you were in a similar state to Terri Schiavo?
Who would you want making the decision about whether to keep you alive or not?
Consider what Dr. Kathleen Jamieson said about the language being used by both
sides of the Schiavo case? Have you noticed language playing to your emotions?
a 500-800 word essay
on any of these topics providing clear examples. Send your completed editorial
to NewsHour Extra [firstname.lastname@example.org].
Exceptional essays might be published on our Web site.