House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, who has helped lead a congressional effort to keep Terri Schiavo alive at all cost, voted to take his own father off life support 17 years ago.
DeLay had just been re-elected to his third term in Congress in 1988 when his father, Charles DeLay, was severely injured in an accident. As the elder DeLay’s vital organs began failing, the family chose not to connect him to a dialysis machine or take other measures to prolong his life, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday, citing court documents, medical records and interviews with family members.
“There was no point to even really talking about it,” Maxine DeLay, the congressman’s 81-year-old mother, told the Times. “Tom knew, we all knew, his father wouldn’t have wanted to live that way.”
“Tom went along” with the family’s decision, she said.
She called comparisons between her husband’s case and that of Schiavo “interesting” but said she agrees with her son that Schiavo might have a chance of recovering if her feeding tube were reinserted.
DeLay helped push through Congress a special law allowing Terri Schiavo’s parents to ask federal courts to order their brain-damaged daughter’s feeding tube reinserted after state courts allowed it to be removed. However, after hearing their pleas, federal judges refused to intervene.
The Texas Republican also accused Schiavo’s husband and the courts of “an act of barbarism” against Schiavo, who doctors say is in a persistent vegetative state.
The congressman declined to be interviewed about his father’s case, but a press aide said it was “entirely different than Terri Schiavo’s.”
“The only thing keeping her alive is the food and water we all need to survive. His father was on a ventilator and other machines to sustain him,” said DeLay spokesman Dan Allen.
Charles DeLay, 65, and his brother and their wives were trying out a tram the brothers had built to carry their families up and down a slope from their Texas home to the shore of a lake when the tram jumped the tracks on Nov. 17, 1988.
Charles DeLay was pitched headfirst into a tree. Hospital admission records showed he suffered multiple injuries, including a brain hemorrhage.
Doctors advised that he would “basically be a vegetable,” said the congressman’s aunt, JoAnne DeLay, who suffered broken bones in the crash.
Like Schiavo, Charles DeLay had no living will, but he had reportedly expressed to others his wish not to be kept alive by artificial means.
He died on Dec. 14, 1988. He had not shown any signs of being conscious, except that his pulse rate would rise slightly when younger son Randall entered the room, Maxine DeLay said.
“There was no chance he was ever coming back,” she said of her husband.