Your e-mails: The debate
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(CNN) -- CNN.com asked its users for their views on the national debate surrounding the rights of patients and their families. Here is a sampling from thousands of responses, some of which have been edited.
Your love is measured by your ability to set your loved ones free. I wouldn't want to be kept alive as a vegetable that long, and I would (with immense sadness) let my loved ones go. I don't understand those religious pro-lifers. Isn't it clear that Terri has a better life after than before her death?
Will Nugroho; Atlanta, Georgia
At first I thought this was a simple issue. Her brain is not active and basically she is not alive. Now that it is over, my heart is saddened and I think to myself, who are we to decide. Why couldn't he divorce her or give his custody rights to her parents? What did he have to lose? Was it money? Fame? I am not sure, but God rest her soul and comfort her family.
Kathy; Austin, Texas
It's just sad. I use to be not scared of dying. Now, I don't know what's going to happen when its my turn. Is the government going to tell me when it is my time to go or I'm I still going to choose for myself. I hope this historic event will help us head towards a better future and not one that is control by our government.
Chris Chimento; Boca Raton, Florida
I think a tragedy such as this will have a huge effect on the way the legal system is perceived. No one should ever be made to suffer like Terri.
Krystal Moore; Norcross, Georgia
Although I have a living will that defines very clearly that I do not wish to be kept alive by artificial measures, I am deeply troubled that Terri Schiavo's "husband" had the "authority" to end her life without written directives from her. How can we presume to know what "quality of life" is to someone else?
Betsy Kirven; Buffalo, Wyoming
Being a Mother there is no way that I could stand by and see my child starved or more importantly without ice chips on her lips and her mouth swabbed and pain killers given. I don't understand why the husband would not relent and let her parents care for her. What would that have hurt? We had a similar situation happen in Dallas with the pastor of the First Methodist Church. He divorced his wife and let her parents care for her. He was free to live his own life and they were given the satisfaction that they could care for their daughter. This is a much bigger story, but the circumstances are much the same.
Karen K. Bruce; Wichita Falls, Texas
First, I think that if a person's wish is not to be kept alive by artificial means, then that should be respected and carried out. Second, in Terri's case it is sad because she did not have a living will to express this. I have a living will and if I am ever in her situation, my entire family knows of this and my wishes. Third, I think that if these wishes are carried out, there needs to be a way other than starvation and dehydration. I believe that it was not right for her parents to keep her alive, but it was also inhumane to have her denied nutrients to the point of starvation. These are the dilemmas that must be resolved. Lastly, I don't think that Congress or any federal body has the right to act in a case like this one. I think that the Supreme Court was right in their decision to not get involved.
Richard Marruffo; Santee, California
I agree with letting a patient die, but I don't agree with how it was done. Euthanasia would have been much less cruel. I would like there to be progress towards legalizing doctor assisted suicide so people can die quickly and not have it drag out.
Mandy; Arcata, California
The U.S. should seriously start debating about a patient's rights to die in dignity. But because of all the religious zealots filling its government (and lobby groups), the U.S. is not even close to being ready for that yet. The minority of fanatics incapable of listening to reason are given way too much credit and power in your country, mostly through the media. It makes your country seem likes its peopled by morons -- and electing Bush didn't help either.
Danny; Montreal, Quebec, Canada
It is very sad that Terri died in the manner in which she did -- starved to death. That is why last resort Euthanasia is an important subject to discuss in America. There are many people who would not want to go on living in the condition Terri was in and a more humane solution would have involved helping Terri die in quick and less torturous manner. Religion has no role here. This is the sole right of the individual to decide and underscores the importance of creating a living will as soon as a person is old enough to understand this type of very personal life and death decision.
Randy Hernandez; Miami, Florida
Everyone is talking about making living wills as though this were the cure-all for this kind of situation, but even a living will would not be good enough should the Schindlers' multiple appeals and Congress' federal upheaval have succeeded and set a precedent. The fact is that the parents maintained Terri was not in a vegetative state. Even if she had had a will attesting to her wishes in that condition, the divide between the family could still have happened. One can always find "doctors" who are willing to say what people want to hear, and to attest to the merits of their new experimental therapy.
Rhiannon; Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Hopefully Terri's death with stimulate a national debate on "mercy killings." If a death row inmate can receive a shot I really don't understand why Terri couldn't have received the same. What is more humane: Death by starvation or instant death by needle?
Michael N. Carter; San Diego, California
I think the whole thing has been horrible. She should have been allowed to die with dignity years ago. The Congress and president inserting themselves into this debate for political gain "with the base" was incredibly cynical. This was one of our worst moments.
Deborah Davis; Valdosta, Georgia
This has been a tragic time for Terri's family and for the rest of us who followed this ordeal. This private family matter should never have been subjected to opportunistic manipulation. If you notice, the whole situation in Iraq, the new kidnappings and loss of life, Social Security issues, the National Intelligence Report, all faded behind the Schiavo story. Perhaps her legacy will be a true national debate and resolution of state's rights. Beverly; Aberdeen, Maryland
Maybe it's time we stop electing presidents and prime ministers in our countries. It seems like our judges has the final say. Why waste our votes on men who have no say? Bush sacrificed enough American men and women to save the Iraqi people but couldn't save one of his own citizens. If this wasn't so serious, it would almost be put down as a cruel joke. Terri had right to life, just like the Iraqi people do. It doesn't seem fair does it?
Herman Lavigne; Dalhousie, New Brunswick, Canada
Judicial murder. This woman's single crime was to be brain damaged. Her sentence was to be starved to death. Even mass murderer Timothy McVeigh was shown more mercy than this poor woman. At least he was put to death quickly. I cannot even begin to describe my utter disgust with the American legal system over this matter.
Bill Osborne; Milledgeville, Georgia
This whole ordeal is like being forced to go through my neighbor's closet. This was a very personal matter between husband and wife. It should have never been in the news nor used as a political tool. Congress, the Bush Administration, the governor of Florida and the Florida Legislature once again crossed the line and bet on the wrong horse. They should be ashamed to give false hope and invade the privacy of any family. I am personally relieved that Terri can rest in peace. May God grant her peace.
Don Tarpley; Orlando, Florida
What really bothers me about the Schiavo case is that no one seems concerned about the precedent that has been set. God help anyone unfortunate enough to be injured to the point the "doctors" say they will never be normal again. It is now legal to starve them to death. We have legalized murder and given judges the authority to decide (outside criminal law) who will live and who will die.
Jean; Beaumont, Texas
My wife died a few years ago from a terminal illness. She did not want to suffer or linger. Pain management helped relieve the suffering and I did what I promised my wife I would do when we ran out of hope. We made out living wills and medical power of attorney documents shortly after her diagnosis. The Schiavo case became a public spectacle. Shame on Terri Schiavo's parents, our Congress, the media and the do-gooder zealots for such an intrusion into a profoundly personal marital decision.
Kevin; Paradise Valley; Arizona
I think she was just merely existing, not living. This decision should have been made as soon as the doctors knew there was no brain activity and she would not improve.
Sheryl Fenelon; Collinsville, Illinois
Terri died 15 years ago. That's how long she has been in heaven. This is a matter for the families to resolve and not for governments to interfere. Everyone is a victim in this case but none more than Terri Schiavo. May God rest her soul.
Alan Cowgill; Oviedo, Florida
Along with allowing abortion and euthanasia and now what the lawmakers of this country have allowed to be done to Terri, may God have mercy for this country. We should be a country of life, never death.
Richard Elizondo; Fort Worth, Texas
The issue of people playing "God" so to speak happened 15 years ago when they brought Terri back from the dead to begin with. I do not believe that the government has ANY right to get involved in this. This a personal issue, not a government issue.
Stephen Loehr; Mt. Vernon, Indiana
This case has been an eye-opener. Never before have I seen a display of such blatantly manipulative politics. I, for one, have taken note of which senators and representatives voted to interfere in this case, and will not be voting to retain them. Lawmakers who so blatantly interfere with the legal process in this country do not belong in office.
Denise; Providence, Rhode Island
I think Michael should have turned Terri over to the parents. This case is different, the parents are volunteering to take care of Terri. He could then divorce her and go on with his life. I personally would not want to live like Terri. If it were me, I would pull the feeding tube.
Colleen Nunn; Tyler, Texas
I feel very sad for both Terri's blood family and her husband, Michael. It was a terrible situation what with all the media coverage and the president and Congress getting involved. It should never have happened like this. This is strictly a private matter. I can't blame the parents for wanting help but the whole thing made Michael Schiavo look like a really bad person and he was only doing what his wife wanted to have done. He must be suffering awfully as well as her parents, siblings and friends. One thing I have learned is that I don't ever want the government involved in my family's or my personal decisions and that this country is leaning way too far to the religious right.
S. Harris; Elmira, New York
In the absence of someone's signed statement about their wishes, shouldn't it be assumed that they want to live? How is it that our courts will accept hearsay in determining a matter of such importance? The state of Terri Schiavo's brain functioning was a matter of debate among medical professionals, but her brain's ability to keep her alive was a matter of fact. Her brain was able to sustain the independent functioning of all her major organs. She was not on life support...All she needed was someone to feed her.
Carter L. Frank; Belleville, Illinois
People seem to be losing track of the fact that court decision after court decision has agreed that Terri herself would not have wanted to live the way she had to the last 14 years. May she rest in peace. And may we receive peace from all the media storm about this case.
Heather Smith; San Diego, California
America has lost its sense of humanity, grace and dignity. The overwhelming fact of this story is that an individual patient and her family have become unwitting symbols for interest groups.
Paul Monaco; Johnson City, Tennessee