House Speaker Tom DeLay, who has helped lead a congressional effort to keep a brain-damaged Florida woman alive, joined family members nearly 17 years ago in allowing doctors not to take extraordinary measures to extend his father's life, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.
DeLay had just been re-elected to a third term in Congress in 1988 when his father, Charles DeLay, was badly injured in the crash of a backyard tram he and his brother had built. As DeLay's vital organs began to fail, the family chose not to connect him to a dialysis machine or take other measures to prolong his life, according to the Times, which cited 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 widowed mother, told the Times. "Tom knew, we all knew, his father wouldn't have wanted to live that way."
DeLay helped push through Congress a federal law allowing the parents of Terri Schiavo to go to federal court in an effort, so far unsuccessful, to have their brain-damaged daughter's feeding tube reinserted after state courts allowed it to be removed. The Texas Republican has also criticized Schiavo's husband and the courts for allowing what he called "an act of barbarism" against Schiavo, who doctors say is in a persistent vegetative state.
DeLay 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.
The 65-year-old DeLay, his brother, Jerry, and their wives were trying out a tram the brothers had built to ferry their families up and down a 200-foot slope from their backyard home in Canyon Lake, Texas, to the edge of the lake when the tram roared out of control and 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 and broken ribs.
Doctors advised that he would "basically be a vegetable," said the congressman's aunt, JoAnne DeLay, who suffered a shattered elbow and broken bones in the crash.
Like Schiavo, DeLay had no living will but had reportedly expressed to others his wish not to be kept alive by artificial means.
"Extraordinary measures to prolong life were not initiated," according to his medical report, which cited "agreement with the family's wishes."
He died on Dec. 14, 1988.
During his hospitalization, DeLay never showed any signs of being conscious, said his widow, except when his younger son, Randall, walked into the room and "his heart, his pulse rate, would go up a little bit."
She said the decision to withhold extraordinary treatment fell to her and others in the family.
"Tom went along," she said of the congressman.
She called comparisons to her husband's case and Schiavo's "interesting," but added she agrees with her son that Schiavo might have a chance of recovering if her feeding tube is reinserted.
"There was no chance he was ever coming back," she said of her husband.