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Last Updated: Thursday, 31 March, 2005, 16:52 GMT 17:52 UK
Who should decide on the right-to-die?
Terri Schiavo
The parents of Terri Schiavo have lost a fresh legal appeal to order doctors to resume feeding her.

A federal judge refused the appeal a day after the Supreme Court said it would not consider their request to have the feeding tube re-inserted.

Mrs Schiavo, 41, who has been in a vegetative state for 15 years is expected to die within two weeks if the feeding tube is not reinserted.

Who should make the final decision in cases as Terry Schiavo's? Send us your views.

This debate is now closed. Thank you for your comments.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

This topic was suggested by Marie, USA:
I would like to see a discussion on the Terry Schiavo case

Nobody can say for sure that within 20 years she won't be saved. Nobody knows what research results, breakthroughs and alternatives can be in the future. As long as nobody can see the future she should be kept alive. You just simply never know.
Odi, Orastie, Romania

The husband should decide her faith. When they married they both gave themselves to each other. Mr. Schiavo has the legal and moral right to let her go.
Sergei Grunt, Michigan, USA

In answer the question "Why does he just not leave the decisions up to her family and take care of his new one?" He is not necessarily fighting for his right to let his wife go, but her right to die. If she would not wanted to live like this, why should she be kept alive?
Meg, Milwaukee, USA

Terry hasn't died yet. She still has the chance and the time to live and keep breathing. It is the responsibility of those around her to keep her fed and sustained. She needs her loved ones to be unified. I think this is what I would want. She needs their love, support and prayers more than anything. Equally, we all have a responsibility in encouraging Terry and her family to keep fighting for life. The kind that hopes for something deeper, long term and rewarding. It is a question of our existence in the grand scale of faith.
Raquel Macartney, Manchester - UK

There's something going on here more than meets the eye and is larger than the emotional, political and religious debates
Mark Schumaker, Grayslake, US
Hasn't anyone noticed that Terri's Schiavo's passion is being played out during the very week in which Christian's remember the suffering, death and resurrection of Christ? Jesus carried his cross through the streets of Jerusalem for the entire city to witness and silently suffered a painful and humiliating death nailed to a cross alone and abandoned on a hill except for his mother and a friend who loved him. One wonders about the similarities of Schiavo's suffering, anticipated death, and hopeful new life where every tear will be wiped away. There's something going on here more than meets the eye and is larger than the emotional, political and religious debates.
Mark J Schumaker, Grayslake, IL USA

What has happened to compassion? What has happened to the sanctity of life? Terri may not meet the standards of what some consider to be a fulfilling life. However, she is still a living, breathing human being. Should we starve someone whose arms are broken, simply because he cannot feed himself?
Mark, Hartford, USA

It isn't my decision to make nor is it anyone other than Terri's. She and her husband made that decision a long time ago and it should be respected.
Doug Fisher, Asheville, USA

I'm not really concerned about who decides but the method of allowing someone like Terry Schiavo to die by removing her feeding tube and, in essence, starving her to death. We wouldn't do that to animals - why do we do this to humans?
Jenny, UK

I have been in comma before. People thought I was dead because my heart had stopped breathing but my hand pulse was seldom operating, some even thought I should be left to die. At that critical moment of my life it was my mother that decided whether I should live or not, she was always beside me, and here I am today getting the highest university degree in the next year with bright hopes... I will never give my life decision to any other person except my family. Mr Schiavo should stop what he is doing!
Dave, Africa

It is not about religion, or politics, or closure to the husband's pain. It is probably not about Terri herself who has lost the capacity to feel her own pain. The way I see it, it is about a mother who once held her precious newborn in her arms and vowed to do everything she ever could for her. How can she watch her baby, even as a grown up adult, being starved and dehydrated to death? It does not matter if Terri never recovers, but how can you end a life with such cruelty? In a country that stands up in indignation at maltreatment of dogs and cats, is this the respect for a human life?
Sanjay Agarwal, Washington DC, USA

It's hard to let loved ones go, but they should let Terri pass away with dignity. Her family should ignore the right wing religion politicians and let common sense prevail. Does Terri really want to be remembered like this?
Ian Anstee, Oxfordshire, England

If the Bush administration, the governors of Florida and the world population could spend just 50% of the energy and resources they have invested in a women without a future, in the African continent - which does have a future - wouldn't that be great day!
Carl Wesselink, Nairobi, Kenya

For those who say that God should be the one to determine life and death, I submit this: if it had been left completely up to God, she would not have lived beyond 1990. The poor woman has been kept artificially alive for fifteen years, and her husband has made the agonizing decision to let her go. The US government and the public should respect that, beyond even the notable fact that the intervention of Congress and the executive branch in such a case sets a very dangerous precedent.
Marisa, Washington, DC, USA

If Terri relies on a feeding tube to live and cannot do this herself, then there is no quality of life
Rodger, Masterton, New Zealand
This must come down to "quality of life". If Terri relies on a feeding tube to live and cannot do this herself, then there is no quality of life. I would certainly not wish to be such a burden on my family and doctors by having to be feed through a tube, no doubt at great expense. Fifteen years in a vegetative state like this gives her no quality of life whatsoever. The feeding tube must stay removed so Terri may die with what little dignity she has left.
Rodger, Masterton, New Zealand

This is not a question of letting her die. Terry Schiavo has not been kept alive artificially since she can breathe on her own. In fact the only way to 'let her die' is to starve her to death. Does this seem the compassionate thing to do?
Phil, Bristol UK

She is living in an unnatural state. This can go on forever. Just let her pass away peacefully.
Victor Bystrov, St Petersburg, Russia

Mrs Schiavo left no written directive. Her husband claims that she would not want to be kept alive by artificial means. Terri cannot speak for herself and hence her husband's claims cannot be validated. In such cases I think it is valid for the government to step in to protect the life of an individual who is in no condition to protect herself. Also, allowing Terri to die slowly of starvation and thirst is the most inhumane way to end someone's life. If she must die, then please let her do so quickly and painlessly. Terri's husband has moved on with his life why won't he let Terri move on with hers?

You'd think as parents they would have more compassion and let this woman succumb to her fate a long time ago. Just keeping her barely alive by a feeding tube is somewhat cruel. Now she is going to die slowly from starvation/dehydration. It's all so sad. Most people don't put their pets through this sort of agony.
PCH, Texas, USA

I think that in this case her parents should decide, because her husband doesn't agree with the feeding tube being reinserted. If there is somebody that wants take care her, then they only can make a decision.
Elsa Perrejinoski T, Santiago, Chile

Terri is 15 years late with her appointment with God. God wanted her for some special reason. Let her go in peace.
Ben Wee, Petaling Jaya, Malaysia

No, I do not agree although it is very difficult to tell who must make the final decision. Maybe three persons, one of them being the doctor, the other two first grade relatives (in this case mother and husband)
Marina Flenga, Athens, Greece

Losing a child is one of the hardest and most cruel acts God can give anyone to endure. I know. However, if one cannot sustain one's own life, then not only God, but nature says no. If the parents truly wish for her to continue, they should be the ones to take care of her in their home for the rest of there days. Then nature will take over.
Jesse, USA

Those who would seek to use religious coercion and cheap politics for selfish gain
Maurice, Tavares, USA
The unnatural part of this whole sad fiasco is the fact that a brain dead person has been kept alive by science and technology for 15 years in the first place. Conservative and ultra-conservative Christians should want Ms. Schiavo to pass on and go to heaven because she really has no life. This whole sad affair has been a boon to those who would seek to use religious coercion and cheap politics for selfish gain. Her parents are living in dreamland if they think she will ever "recover". I only hope that our courts continue to follow the law in this matter no matter how much heat they take from those who profess to love life.
Maurice, Tavares, USA

I think that the doctors and her husband should make the decision. The US government is overstepping its bounds once again. They have no authority in this case and should not be able to decide. It is a judicial matter that has been decided by the Florida Courts and appealed way too many times. Once the appeals process is done, they should not be able to go back. This woman has no chance at leading a good life and should be allowed to die in peace.
Jonathan, Potsdam, New York

For a court to deny this helpless human being of food or water is to dictate a miserable death
Jerry Comyn, New York, USA
I find it ironic that President Bush is prepared to step in to save the life of Terri Schiavo yet as governor of Texas had the highest rate of executions in the country. For a court to deny this helpless human being of food or water is to dictate a miserable death to a person who has no ability to defend themselves.
Jerry Comyn, New York, USA

This poor woman and her family are being used by the politicians who have no more right than the man on the street to decide what should happen. This is a family decision, and her husband has made that decision based on what he believes his wife would want. I would not want to be kept alive in this state, prolonging the pain for my loved ones who must watch me slowly die for years. This woman "died" 15 years ago, and it is only the intervention of doctors that keep her body alive. I think the saddest thing, other than it is being played out publicly, is that there is not a more humane way to end the suffering other than starvation, which could take up to two weeks.
Helen Chong, Abbotsford, BC, Canada

I believe the parents should be responsible for the decision. They are her parents and Mr Schiavo is only her husband. He may love her dearly of course but still the parents have been with this woman since birth. Mr Schiavo from what I understand has already started a new family. Why does he just not leave the decisions up to her family and take care of his new one?
Erin Troy, Pulaski, USA

Yes, it is a sad when we as a human race regard life as disposable when it does not conform to our views as fulfilling. The doctors say she has no brain function. To that I ask: do doctors understand the entire human brain? The answer to that is no. So when all the "experts" say she has no consciousness all they are saying is she has no consciousness as we know it.
Dan J., Port Allegany, USA

I tend to agree this is a matter best left to a husband and wife. However, Terri's husband left her long ago for another woman. Let her parents decide.
Charles Hall, Gig Harbor, Washington, USA

My heart aches for the gruelling agony that Mr Schiavo must be facing... What should be a private matter has become one of overwhelming public intrusion.
Charles Rondo, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

My heart aches for the gruelling agony that Mr Schiavo must be facing. His wife has no chance of recovery or even regaining alertness after 15 years in a vegetative state that any number of experts have assessed and determined to be irreversible. What should be a private matter has become one of overwhelming public intrusion. The tragic situation is exacerbated by the alarming intervention of Terri's parents and their misplaced hope that their daughter will somehow miraculously make a change for the better. Their misplaced grief is causing so much more harm than good.
Charles Rondo, Bloomington, Indiana, USA

It seems that the liberal left of Europe and the USA still want to deal out death for innocents like Terry. They call it abortion and euthanasia, these are acts committed by only the selfish who call it compassion.
Chris, USA

I find it incredible that some people claim that only God has the right to take a life. Hasn't he already? The poor woman cannot eat or drink by herself, and left to her own devices she would have died long ago.
Maria Ziegler, Waterloo, ON, Canada

The courts have decided that Terri's family is her estranged husband, and that he therefore can be allowed to make a decision which would lead to her death. These same people would not allow their ex's to decide the fate of their pet mouse. This is a shameful outcome.
Linna Ince, Arnold, Missouri, USA

The problem here is about the definition of the word 'life' and deciding whether this means merely 'alive' or 'having a life' in the fuller sense of the word. Her parents claim that she 'responds to stimuli', but so do all living things. It's easy to use emotive words like 'killing' and 'starving to death' but isn't she, in the fullest sense of the word 'life', already dead?
Paul Lawley-Jones, Seoul, Korea

No one watching this case and believing either way questions the value of a human life. What I see clearly here however, is an instance where the legislative side of the US government overstepped its bounds and the judicial branch had to step in and indicate this. Bush and the Congress should not have been involved, they clearly saw an issue which would appeal to the Christian right and tried to get something out of it. What a sad time we live in where a decision like this is the subject of national discussion and gossip.
Cameron, Washington DC, United States

The proper tests have never been done to determine what her real condition is
Karen, Alexandria, VA, USA
There seems to be a lot of misinformation about this. President Bush was not behind this. The Congress (including most of the Democrats) passed the law saying that Terri should have the right to have her case heard in federal court not that the state courts should be overruled. President Bush only signed the law as is required. The most unfortunate thing about this case is that the proper tests have never been done to determine what her real condition is. A few simple tests would answer whether or not her brain is alive once and for all.
Karen, Alexandria, VA, USA

Polls show 70% of Americans agree with the husband in this case, and as many feel Bush and Congress are only acting politically. Most Americans would not want to be kept alive this way themselves. Her parents keep saying with further treatment, she might get better, but there is no further treatment available. I know it's heartbreaking for her parents to accept what has happened to her, but they need to find the strength to let go for Terri's sake. I had my living will done today, as I imagine this issue has prompted many others to do.
Pam Dotson, La Vergne, Tennessee US

Although the husband is the legal guardian, the parents and siblings should have a say in this matter - if not legally, at least morally. The husband has moved on and is with another woman. Why not let the parents to decide what to do with their daughter?
Terry Tham, San Jose, CA, USA

If God was truly involved in the Schiavo case, Terry would have died 15 years ago. It is humans, with the insertion of the feeding tube, that have kept her alive. She is not being kept alive by her own devices, but rather by doctors. If we are discussing God's will, isn't it Gods will that Terry would've died years ago?
Anne, New York, USA

This should be a wake up call for every person over 18 to get a Living Will
Nannette Anderson, Van Nuys

This should be a wake up call for every person over 18 to get a Living Will. These parents really think she can still lead a fulfilling life. Get the politicians out of our lives. I'm so upset over this situation.
Nannette Anderson, Van Nuys, California, USA

Mrs Schiavo can breathe on her own but requires a feeding tube. Is it not a basic human right to be fed and nourished regardless of the manner in which it is accomplished? Her husband has moved on with his life, her parents should have the right to take care of their child as they see fit.
Marcia Sullivan, USA

What a sad and pitiful species we have become when tragic cases like these are used for political or religious ends.
Stephen, Bangkok, Thailand

As a nephrologist, I have been involved in similar cases. There often comes a time when further treatments no longer prolong life, but rather, simply prolong the dying process. Many who support our government's intrusion into this matter are not familiar with the reality of this patient's condition. In today's world, people with such devastating problems are in institutions where we do not see them or comprehend their existence. It is easy to romanticise this single patient's life when one is not confronted with the reality of her day to day life. Yes, she has become a political football for the radical right wing. The politicians are hypocritical. But many Americans are simply not truly informed about end of life care.
Margaret King, Bodega Bay, CA, USA

This matter should have been sorted out by the family. Ultimately it should be the husband's decision as to what happens to his wife. What on earth is the president getting involved for?
Kate Fisher, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

Terri's life is a life worth living and no-one has the right to decide on its course. Why not let her live? It's only God who should decide her fate!
Ronald Kasyaba, Kampala, Uganda

Allowing someone to die when they no longer have a life is the ultimate act of compassion and the most painful human decision. The person who has suffered most in this case is Michael Schiavo.
David Ballantyne, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

This is a private, family matter. What right does the US government think they have to come and decide what should or shouldn't be done? My heart goes out to her family, her husband, but back off US congress, let the lady die in peace and with some dignity.
Debbie, Aberdeen, Scotland

I am curious as to how some consider it compassion to leave her in this state
Alex Mangan, Swindon, UK
All these right-to-life protestors with their cross-smudged placards should surely have something better to do than interfere in a purely family affair. I am curious as to how some consider it compassion to leave her in this state; a state where she has no idea what is going on, cannot feel pain or pleasure, cannot exercise any form of control. Not to mention that there is no hope in her case for recovery since parts of her brain are irreparably damaged. From a Christian perspective, surely she would be more happy in heaven?
Alex Mangan, 17, Swindon, UK

I have only seen Terri on TV and believe that she should be kept alive. No-one has the right to take that away from Terri. Only God can decide whether she lives or dies, not her husband or the courts.
Osman, Singapore

The debate here in the States is not really about the life of one woman but rather it is an attempt by those who believe that religion should guide all decisions. Naturally, we see the Christian view being supported and the rush by politicians and media to show how "godly" they are in interfering in this family's tragedy. The hypocrisy is amazing in how they care for a woman who is a vegetable but otherwise do all in their power to cause pain and suffering as a result of their political actions by attacking the sick and poor. Our Founding Fathers had it right when they designed our secular Constitutional Republic to keep religion out of governmental affairs. This is the sad result of our government using its power to push a religious dogma and abuse our civil liberties. Disgusting.
Robert Carver, New Orleans, USA

The right belongs to the husband and nobody else particularly when she is in a permanent vegetative state and there's little or not hope of recovery. It's better to let her die in peace and with dignity.
Catherine, Singapore

If the Lord wants to keep you alive and functioning then he doesn't need any artificial help from mankind. Pull the plug and let's see whether the Lord takes her or raises her up whole. Why would you want to keep her trapped in a vegetative state when heaven is only a breath away?
Michael Hoffman, London

The decision should rest with the most recent person entrusted with this responsibility by Terri - in this case, that is her husband. For Bush to intervene is shear hypocrisy, quite simply, that man does not have absolute regard for human life. Give Terri her dignity back ASAP.
Chris, New Bedford, USA

No one should be above the law - not even a president with a right wing Christian agenda
Simon, Singapore
I find it ironic that a president that has supported the death penalty in cases of people deemed by the courts of having educationally sub-normal status yet proposes to stop the natural course for someone whose only crime is having people to care for her. If something like 17 Judges have heard this case and sided with the husband than no one should be above the law - not even a president with a right wing Christian agenda.
Simon, Singapore

How can anybody be expected to lead a fulfilling live when they can't move, communicate, think, or look after themselves? The politicians and people who wish to keep her alive are thinking only of themselves and each other - everyone except Terri, it seems. Can't they stop and give a moment's thought to how they'd feel if they were in her situation? The politicians should not be getting involved. The decision should rest with the husband. He is the nearest relative, and the most likely to know what Terri would want.
Nicola, Wiltshire, UK

I don't agree with politicians interfering in what is a private family matter. Also, while I have immense sympathy for her parents, I don't believe it is possible for her to live a fulfilling life in her present state, which has shown absolutely no sign of changing. They should let her die in peace.
Jamie, London, UK

I feel it was descent for President Bush to step in and take charge of this controversy. Often, compassion is overlooked in lawyers' quest to win in a situation like this. If you think about it: "assisting" someone to die is illegal in this country, but to starve them to death is not? Frankly I don't see the difference. Perhaps if she had never been placed on the feeding tube in the first place the situation would be different. And I feel that since her parents are willing to take charge of her, starving her to death would be cruel ... both to her and to her loved ones.
Ellen, Locust Grove, VA, USA

The next of kin knows far more about a person than any government
Nicole Coleby, London, UK
I thoroughly believe that nature should take its course and let this woman die. I even go as far as saying to end her life quickly rather than let her starve to death. No pet has to go through anything this cruel and undignified. As for the governments intervention; it should not have a say in private matters at all. The next of kin knows far more about a person than any government.
Nicole Coleby, London, UK

I feel for the relatives on both side of the fence in this case. However, Bush's very public position with respect to this bill is inappropriate for a president. Bush, together with congress, are imposing an absolutist, pro-life Christian view, as opposed to championing a more rational, ethical debate that openly considers also Mrs Schiavo's future quality of life.
David, Amersham, UK

This legal battle has been going on for years, the tube has been removed twice before. The husband refused to have any doctors try to rehabilitate her. Also, do you really want to watch your love one die slowly over the next two weeks. Isn't staving someone to death cruel and inhumane?
Aaron, USA

Politicians have no right at all to intervene here
Uwe, Malaga, Spain
Politicians have no right at all to intervene here. In this case it ought to be entirely up to the family itself. Since sadly they cannot agree upon a common decision the law or jurisdiction comes into action. However, the law's sole role here should be merely to determine if the family can be granted to take things in their own hands or not. For it's about a life of a human being and the state (laws) protect any of them. But other than that the publicity or people does not have any right to interfere.
Uwe, Malaga, Spain

As a nurse, I have often dealt with families who cannot let go of their loved ones. This case is extremely disturbing. The husband, who should be the one who makes the final decision, has had his decision usurped by the woman's parents. It is quite obvious the husband loves his wife. Otherwise he would have just ceased to be involved. Instead he is trying to honour his wife's wishes. The idea that the government would step in after all the courts have sided with the husband is frightening. This is quite obviously using the case of the unfortunate woman for political purposes. I am utterly disgusted with the people in power who have taken an opportunity in this tragic situation to use this woman and her family to their own ends.
Phyllis, Plymouth, WI

In a case like this, wouldn't the closest family member to the patient be the one best able to understand the situation and decide the best course of action, even if it means death? How would members of the senate or even the president, so far removed from the situation at hand, know or even begin to feel for the patient? Yes, it is a life we are talking about, but what kind of fulfilling life can Terri live being in a vegetative state? We surely are living in extraordinary times when the president of arguably the most powerful country will deem it necessary to take action in such a case, while there are thousands of other issues, state and international issues mind you, waiting for his attention. I sincerely pray for Terri and her family. Can we all not just let it be?
Chee Chiew, Nottingham, UK

Two years ago, I had a similar decision regarding a beloved wife of 42 years - I had to make the choice between intensive care, or merely to let nature take its course; the former meant a life which had lost all dignity or meaning. What can anyone do but do what is right, with love?
Anon, Auckland, New Zealand

It is wholly wrong for a government to override a court's decision
Paul McCormick, Basingstoke, UK
Regardless of the rights and wrongs of this case, it is wholly wrong for a government to override a court's decision. You might as well scrap trial-by-jury and let congress make decisions. Thanks to George Bush's pandering to the Christian right in the US elections, they are now expecting payback.
Paul McCormick, Basingstoke, UK

The one who gave life to Terry is the only one who has the right to take it. Any human who makes this decision to put to death an innocent life is guilty of murder and the blood will be on their hands. As for those on death row, they are not innocent life. The role of the government is to punish criminals and if deemed necessary put them to death. There is no comparison to putting to death a mass murderer on death row to any innocent human being who is unable to speak up.
Charles, Hammonton, NJ, USA

Why should the president and congress decide how a severely brain-damaged person should die? We seem to legislate in favour of prolonging one very damaged life while mandating the deaths of so many others, either by war or death sentence. What a mad, mad, mad government. Include me out!
Natalie, Williamstown, USA

In cases of any doubt about the death of the brain, the state should intervene to protect the life
Gorazd Cvetic, Valparaiso, Chile
The final decision, in cases of a clear brain death, should be given to parents, not to (ex)marital partners. And in cases of any doubt about the death of the brain, the state should intervene to protect the life. It is, however, disappointing that some of those who are trying to protect the life in the case of Ms Schiavo are strong advocates of the death penalty - this is a strong contradiction.
Gorazd Cvetic, Valparaiso, Chile

Did I hear it correctly? Bush cut short a holiday to pass a law preventing the dignified death of one of his fellow citizens. It is a pity that his Christian conscience didn't prevent him from personally sanctioning the execution of death row prisoners in his home state of Texas.
Paul Ellison, Frome

Why are the wishes of her parents allowed to overrule those of her husband? When you get married your spouse becomes your next of kin, i.e. the person whose opinion matters.
Anna, London, UK

It is so interesting that George Bush, the president who wants to keep big-government out of our personal lives is becoming more and more involved with every aspect of it - some people are starting to this a "velvet" dictatorship.
Robert Ramos, South Florida, US

Terri's life has value to her parents and siblings. Why is her husband, who has moved on, being allowed to make the decision about her life? And, even if she had earlier expressed a desire not to live in this state, how can we be so sure she hasn't changed her mind since?
Arun, Cleveland, USA

It is illegal in the US to starve an animal to death but humans have lesser rights
Richard Freiburghouse, Kansas City, Missouri
The media, including the BBC, has consistently depicted Ms. Schiavo as "comatose" or "vegetative". The truth is that she can respond to others in a variety of ways. It is illegal in the US to starve an animal to death but humans have lesser rights.
Richard Freiburghouse, Kansas City, Missouri

Very difficult situation. However, I believe that keeping people alive artificially is a natural, but wrong action. Nobody likes to see their loved ones die, but when pain and suffering become too much, it is kinder to let people go. At least in this case, hopefully she isn't in pain. However, it would appear her family (excepting her husband) have yet to accept her situation.
Mike, Brighton

When a State starts involving itself in an individuals rights, isn't that a dictatorship?
Andy, York, UK

I find the hypocrisy amazing. Bush will authorise court-ordered death-row killings but defend this person's life after another decision by the courts. I find it sad that all the pro-life groups are so selective in who they campaign to save. If they are Christian surely they should follow the Bible and let God be the judge and not kill.
Mike, Oxfordshire

I think this is something the family and doctors should have decided. Also, I think the president should be devoting his time in focusing on more important matters.
Vladimir, San Diego, USA

Politicians should never intervene in these traumatic cases and especially at the last minute as in this particular case. This is blatant electioneering just as Bush dragged religion into the presidential race last year. Only the immediate family, doctors and if necessary the courts should be involved.
Mike, Denia, Spain


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