The Schiavo Case: Bearing False Witness

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My take on the Terri Schiavo case.

I respect differing opinions on the issue of "sanctity of life" vs. "quality of life." I understand that there are legitimate concerns about ending the life of a profoundly disabled person on a third party's decision.

But as I said in the column, the level of hysteria, hate, and lies around this issue—coming from the "pro-life" side—is revolting.

The new material I've come across since writing the column confirms that opinion.

There is, for instance, this National Review article about Terri Schiavo's medical prognosis—written by Rev. Robert Johansen, who is not a physician—which claims that Schiavo never had an MRI. Well, it seems that she did have one in 1990 several month after her collapse, according to a report by one of the expert witnesses and to excerpts from Schiavo's medical records posted at a conservative pro-life website that strongly supports keeping Schiavo alive. ("7/24/1990—MRI Report Dr. Pinkston. profound atrophy w/ very atrophic appearing cortex. Mild white matter disease, anoxic/hypoxic injury.") The Rev. Johansen's claim that a leading expert witness for Michael Schiavo, Dr. Ronald Cranford, had earlier misdiagnosed a minimally conscious patient as being in a persistent vegetative state appears to be false as well.

There is also the fact that Dr. William Hammesfahr, the only one of the eight neurologists to examine Schiavo who asserted that she was not in a persistent vegetative state, has been touted (by Fox News' Sean Hannity, among others) as an outstanding physician who has been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine. In fact, his "nomination" consists of a letter from his Congressman to the Nobel Committee stating that he deserves to be nominated for the "Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine" (the Committee was no doubt impressed). Dr. Hammesfahr is the practitioner of a questionable method of treatment for stroke survivors that is generally not recognized in the medical profession (in plain English, he may be a quack); he has been disciplined by the Florida Medical Board and has never published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals.

There is plenty to be said about the junk science in this case—for instance, the 17 affidavits submitted in support of the parents' claim that Schiavo may not be vegetative by medical experts (who never examined Schiavo and based their conclusions on viewing short video clips). Interestingly, the affidavits have been removed from the Terrisfight.org site, but an extensive and persuasive critique of them can be found here. In the hysterical atmosphere that reigns among the "pro-Terri" blogs, any dubious claim spread like wildfire. A medical blog called CodeBlueBlog claims that the image of Schiavo's brain scan shows far less deterioration than most exerts have asserted, and that her bone scan shows signs of physical abuse. I haven't been able to find out much about the blogger, apparently a Florida-based radiologist named Dr. Thomas Boyle; I do know, however, that not long ago, he also claimed that the altered appearance of Ukrainian presidential candidate Victor Yushchenko was caused not by (later confirmed) poisoning with dioxin but by a combination of excessive drinking and rosacea covered with makeup. He has also claimed, on the basis of recent published photos of Bill Clinton after heart surgery, that the former President actually has cancer or AIDS. CodeBlueBlog sports a "2004 Medical Weblogs Awards: Best Clinical Sciences Weblog" blurb, but the awards seem to be decided by online votes from fewer than 200 readers on another medical site.

(By the way, it's also worth noting that according to the GAL report, at the 2000 trial over Terri Schiavo's guardianship her parents did not dispute that she was indeed in a persistent vegetative state.)

Worse yet, however, have been the outright slanders directed at Terri Schiavo's husband Michael. Schiavo's "supporters" have circulated an affidavit by a nurse who cared for Terri Schiavo for several months in 1995-96. Iyers claims that Michael was abusive toward his incapacitated wife and said things like "When is that bitch gonna die"; she also claims that her voluminous notes indicating that Terri was conscious, responsive, and trying to communicate were regularly deleted from Terri's charts, and that another nurse at the convalescent center who was on friendly terms with Michael Schiavo may have been killing patients. (No record exists of her ever making a police report, and she did not come forward with her story until 2003.) Not surprisingly, the much-maligned Judge Greer dismissed this bizarre statement as "not credible," which has not kept Iyer from being interviewed on CNN and Fox. Terri Schiavo's family and friends have appeared before the cameras as well to spout wild charges that Michael may have been an abuser and may have murdered Terri (odd how this never came up until the dispute over the feeding tube began).

I have to say that when I first started paying attention to this case I thought, like many other people, that there was something shady about Michael Schiavo and that, if nothing else, the guy was a creep. The more I've learned about the details, the more I've been sympathetic to this man. The two guardian ad litem reports are generally very positive about his role in caring for his stricken wife in the early years of her condition (even the first report, which concluded that Michael had too much of a financial conflict of interest to be a reliable witness to Terri's expressed desire not to be kept alive; more on that later). The worst that can be said about him, perhaps, is that when he testified at the malpractice trial on his claim for damages for the loss of his wife's consortium and her medical expenses, he wasn't entirely forthcoming about the fact that he had pretty much given up on prospects of viable treatment for Terri. It is worth noting, however, that in 1998 he offered to donate all of her estate (primarily the money left from the $750,000 portion of the award allocated to her medical care) to charity if the Schindlers withdrew their objections to the termination of artificial feeding and hydration for Terri. (Rather bafflingly, the terrisfight.org site, which reproduces this letter, lists as one of the "myths" about Terri the notion that "Michael Schiavo volunteered to donate the balance of the inheritance to charity." And why, pray, is it a myth? Because he only made this offer on the condition that "Terri's parents would agree to her death by starvation." The site also claims that "the proposal came after a court-appointed Guardian Ad Litem cited Schiavo's conflict of interest since he stood to inherit the balance of Terri's medical fund upon her death." But the letter from Michael Schiavo's attorney to the Schindlers' attorney is dated October 21, 1988, and the GAL report is dated December 29, 1988.)

Interesting, by the way, how the "pro-lifers" simultaneously charge that Michael just wants to get rid of Terri because she's a burden to him, and scream, "Why doesn't he just divorce her and let her parents care for her?" Well, if he did see her as nothing more than a burden, it would have been the easiest thing in the world to get a divorce and move on with his life. Maybe he won't divorce her because he does feel responsible for carrying out her wishes, and doesn't want to leave her in the hands of the delusional parents who would have her linger on in her living death. But there are, of course, other explanations. Here's a charming one from Eric Cohen in The Weekly Standard: "And while one would think that divorce was the obvious solution, this was more than Michael Schiavo apparently could bear, since it would require a definitive act of betrayal instead of a supposed demonstration of loyalty to Terri's wishes." (That's right: Michael Schiavo is willing to be vilified as a murderer rather than face the stigma of divorcing his disabled wife.) At American Digest, Gerald Vanderleun suggests that Michael Schiavo wants his wife dead because he wants to sell the book and movie rights. (Of course, it was the Schindlers who turned the case into a public circus, but … oh, never mind.) This particularly odious sliming is dutifully linked by Michelle Malkin.

I could go on and on (I already have). I apologize for the length of this post, but I'm very angry right now, at the hysteria and the lies, at the collective insanity unfolding on the news. There are people claiming, and barely being challenged by interviewers, that Terri Schiavo is still trying to talk, smiling, and lifting her arms to "dance" in response to music. (If she were conscious and being slowly killed by hunger and thirst, would that be a likely response?) There's the preposterous story by the lawyer who claimed that she elicited the beginning of an "I want to live" from Terri—which, of course, conveniently happened with no witnesses and no tape recorder, and which this lawyer waited to report for a week after the removal of Terri's feeding tube. For most of the people who are championing this cause, this is not about protecting Terri Schiavo's rights. I heard one of the protesters say on the news, "It's not what Terri would have wanted, it's what God wants." I don't think the religious right is our own homegrown Taliban, but maybe it's about as close to a Taliban as you can have in modern American society. These are people who really do want the state to enforce their vision of "what God wants." In the name of this cause, apparently, it's more than okay to forget that little Ten Commandments thing about bearing false witness.

NEXT: Pill of Rights

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  1. Wow. A great post. My wife’s family lives about 2 minutes from the hospice, and I drove past it a few times this past weekend. I found the protester flying his Confederate battle flag particularly convincing. Jeez..

  2. Could someone explain this to me: if it is ok to stop feeding her, why not just end it quickly by e.g. overdose of morphine?

  3. Something omitted from every analysis : the MSM news business survives on soap-opera-news junkies, 20% of the population and 40% of women. Anything that they can relate to (ie. pretty white woman) is news, and there’s always something every night. This audience supports the news biz. The news biz would like a larger audience, but there isn’t one except for rare one-off big stories, which isn’t enough to pay the bills.

    This soap opera audience combines with the sanctity-of-life audience in this case, so the legs of the story show up in odd places all over. You can’t tune it out any longer, if you’re a typical TV news non-watcher.

    Anyway it’s an audience problem, not a news biz problem, and that soap opera audienec needs ridicule. That may kill the news biz, of course, but at least the nation’s news won’t any longer be selected for morons.

    I bet you can’t even imagine an overweight black woman producing any interest at all in the same situation. There’s not enough people to relate to overweight black women to interest the soap opera news biz. What about sanctity of life? It doesn’t matter in this case. The audience is everything.

  4. Great post. These people infuriate me as well and I’ve asked some of the same questions. Anyone who believes that life must be preserved in every case, even against a person’s own will, is one sick SOB and is completely lacking in the compassion and love that Jesus tried to teach. These people are christians in name only.

  5. I don’t recall “terri to live” as being one of the verses on any of the What God Wants songs off Amused to Death. Anyway, this near former Republican can’t take it anymore either. The goddamned politicians should have thought a minute before tossing federalism out the window in support of religious zealots. I would support impeachment procedings for everyone involved in passing the save Terri law.

    My days of defending Republicans of faith from my abortion loving sisters is over. I’ve been a damn fool to think the fundamentalists would want to preserve the constitution for their own good, apparently they are too stupid to realize the protections they recieve from it. Goddamn this whole fucking mess, and may the Shindlers, Randall Terry, Sean Hannity, and even my beloved elRushbo, all disappear from the airwaves forever.

  6. Two words: FUCKING A.

  7. _You_ are the one that sounds hysterical. Your anti-religious bigotry does noone any good. Calm down and take your Prozac.

  8. I find this whole case distressing and distasteful. This is the first (and hopefully last) time I will comment on it.

    Five years ago, my family and I had to decide to pull the plug on my Dad’s life support, who was struck down very suddenly by a burst aneurysm in the brain. He was considerably worse off than Schiavo, requiring a respirator to live, but the doctors said they could keep the body alive more or less indefinitely. In fact they did keep it alive, several days after he was declared brain-dead, so that his organs could be donated to several donors (12, if I remember correctly).

    I realize that Schiavo is not considered clinically brain-dead. However, I feel, as I did in my father’s case, that the scientific and medical evidence are sufficient to establish that her consciousness can no longer be regained. Terry Schiavo is no more.

    Reading about this Schiavo case brings back the memory of that very long day and stretches it out. How the Schindlers can live with throwing their daughter’s situation into the public spotlight, I will never understand. Ours was a private decision. I wish that the Schindlers would have kept their situation private as well, rather than appealing to the authorities in their futile and deluded quest to keep their daughter ‘alive.’

  9. Anti-religious? Because she pointed out every bit of hypocritical bullshit about the rights arguments in this case? Your a fucking idiot

  10. Not to nitpick, but I think the first point about the MRI is an issue worth exploring a bit more as the courts fucked up here more than anywhere else.

    While she had an MRI, along with CAT scans, these are both static imaging processings. What the good Rev likely meant, and what many people mix up, is an fMRI, or functional MRI. This, along with PET scans are not static tests but show evidence of functionality. The courts sought to have an fMRI done, but it didn’t happen when the two sides couldn’t agree on what the results would have indicated. The courts should have ordered it anyway, and then much of the current debate would have been stemmed.

    I don’t bring this up to try and defend the right to lifers entire argument as I find their stance to be a combo of sick, silly and sad. Nonetheless, certain points they’ve made deserve to be recognized and the common lay mistake of mixing up an MRI and an fMRI doesn’t preclude the fact this all would have been easier had the courts ordered some sort of functional imaging in this type of case.

  11. Fantastic post, Cathy. No longer or shorter than it needed to be.

  12. If you can tell that the relevant tissue is just not there on a CAT or MRI, what valuable information is the fMRI expected to provide? That nothing much is happening in the non-existent tissue?

  13. Julian,

    Obviously, where there’s no tissue, there’s no functionality. But while there’s a lot of tissue gone, there’s still some there (I’m talking cortical, beyond the brain stem; a bit of frontal and some left temporal if I recall correctly). Seeing levels of functioning in this remaining tissue would have been more definitive evidence of Terri, no-Terri. This would shed more light on the situation than static pictures.

  14. As an atheist, I’m very uncomfortable with giving up on life in any case. No matter how hopeless, life means there’s some (admittedly extremely small) amount of hope. Oblivion offers nothing.
    I haven’t felt this conflicted on a news story in many years.

  15. Bob, Although oblivion doesn’t sound too good, neither does usurping the resourses my kids could use to be happy. I’m thinking thirty days of unresponsiveness, then pull the plug.

  16. Once again there’s the tacit assumption that all of the pro-feeding side are activists on behalf of traditionalist Christianity.

    Here’s a quote from a column by the atheist journalist Nat Hentoff, who is pro-feeding:

    “The fundamental issue in Terri’s case is disability rights – not the right to die. Throughout all the extensive media coverage of the case, there has been only slight mention – usually none at all – that nearly every major disability rights organization has filed legal briefs to prevent what they and I regard as judicial murder. The protests are not only from pro-lifers and the Christian Right.”

  17. chthus, she’s had plenty of EEGs, all showing little or no cortical activity. If you’ve got that, you don’t need an fMRI.

  18. You can’t tune it out any longer, if you’re a typical TV news non-watcher.

    I have tuned it out. Let me know when it is safe to turn on my telly.

    Mort Kondracke has written a decent column on the Schiavo situation. He lost his wife after her mind went. I know where he is coming from. Many years ago, I watched my grandfather succumb to a terrible disease. There comes a time when technology only increases the duration of suffering. I think Terri’s mind is too far gone to suffer, but her family and friends have suffered needlessly.

  19. Another slander on Mr. Schiavo is that he wants her dead so that he can marry his girlfriend in the Catholic church, which somehow wouldn’t be possible if he divorced.

    Unfortunately for that theory, his girlfriend is divorced, making Schiavo’s divorce moot.

    Then there’s the “he wants her cremated so that he can hide the evidence of his abuse”, which has been neatly done away with by requesting an autopsy before cremation.

    As far as the pro-life thing in general, one thing that gets me is the idea that because life is “precious”, it should be greedily clung to. Isn’t part of the practice of charity the idea of relinquishing that which is precious?

    The idea that life is precious, and therefore should be maintained at all cost seems like kind of a materialistic point of view.

  20. Holy smokes, Cathy–you’re beautiful when your angry.

  21. “Could someone explain this to me: if it is ok to stop feeding her, why not just end it quickly by e.g. overdose of morphine?”

    As Prof. Robert George points out on NRO’s The Corner (http://www.nationalreview.com/thecorner/05_03_27_corner-archive.asp#059392), that’s exactly the next step the pro-death forces will seek to take. They just didn’t think they could get away with it this time. But next time, the Schiavo precedent will make it that much easier to move on to active euthanasia.

  22. Can we please limit posts to 500 words? Pleeeeeeease.

  23. Seamus, I fervently hope that they do so. My medical directive instructs my doctors to euthanize ME in the event nothing more can be done to bring me back to some level of functioning. (My number-one fear is of being trapped, at any level of consciousness, in a damaged body that can’t communicate.) Even if the laws don’t allow them to follow my wishes (yet), the very vehemence of my stance will hopefully motivate them to stop fighting over my near-corpse and get on with things already.

  24. Of course, Seamus. You’ve uncovered our true motive: death for everyone!

    Now that you’re on to us, you must be euthanized so you don’t interfere with out plans to knock off everyone else.

  25. Gee Seamus, that would be terrible–allowing a morphine OD, instead of slow suffering. Those “pro-death” forces are just evil. Let’s make them into lampshades or something.

    PS: As a Florida resident with a Living Will, and a greatly increased risk of stroke due to a medical condition, I’m am limited to the end choices now available–which do NOT include a morphine OD–precisely because of assholes like you. So, it is very personal, and from the heart, when I say “Go fuck yourself”.

  26. Apparently the pro-veg people think that, if you disagree with them and want to end your life instead of lingering in un-death, you should be subjected to an unpleasant demise.

    Maybe Seamus would be happier if Terri Schiavo were not just starving, but were also sitting on a red ant colony.

  27. “I would support impeachment procedings for everyone involved in passing the save Terri law.”

    That would include every member of the Senate. Daaaaaaaaaaamn..

    Recent develoment: both sides want a postmortem done. I wonder if this is going to be like the “Alien Autopsy” special several years ago, with the ambiguous, grainy footage and the bio-suits. That should add very nicely to the calm, intelligent national discussion.

  28. Jon H,

    One does not preclude the other. EEGs record congregate activity from a point outside the skull. It can show you that cortical activity has dropped by x overall, but has little specificity for localized activity. While an important test, it doesn’t tell you everything an fMRI or PET scan would.

    It seems that a lot of people have simplified this to black and white, cortex gone autonomic brainstem intact. That’s not the case. The cortex is largely gone and the brainstem largely intact, but the damage that has occurred is not of a selective sort that only hurts cortex, or eliminates it completely.

    I’m comfortable with letting her die based on the evidence from the neurological tests, electrical recordings and static brain imaging, as are many others. Having functional imaging evidence to go along with that would be beneficial in that it would convince even more people (though certainly not all). It would not be superfluous in that it would give us information that we couldn’t get from the other tests, just as the EEG gives us something a neurological exam doesn’t give us.

    Had the courts ordered this type of functional imaging, it may very well have saved us a considerable amount of the appeals and court costs in this case. Should they order it in similar cases in the future, it would be a good idea. This is all I’m saying, not that an fMRI would magically change the game, simply that it would be best to go with all of the evidence available in these cases.

    In a simplistic analogy, the MRI or CAT/CT scan is a photograph, the EEG is an audio recording and the neurological exam is an eye witness. The fMRI or PET scan would be a video recording. In trying the show that something happened, wouldn’t it be better to have it than to not? If you are trying to show something didn’t happen (purposeful, coordinated cortical activity in this case) isn’t it even more so?

  29. Cathy,

    Now thats the kind of rant I love Reason for! Been reading Reason for over 10 years starting in the college library, every issue cover to cover since, although I always hated the double issue where you people took a month off.

    If not for the extensive hyperlinks, it would make a great upcoming column, perhaps it can be re-worked? Keep up the good work, Reasonistas.

  30. chthus, the obstacle to having the fMRI done is that it would require the surgical removal of a metal implant from her brain.

    That’d most likely damage her brain further, muddying the issue of what the fMRI was showing. If it confirmed a PVS, the pro-life factions would probably claim that the PVS was caused by the surgery removing the implant, that she was in better shape beforehand, and none of that would have been necessary if Michael Schiavo had not insisted on removing the feeding tube.

    On the other hand, if the fMRI showed activity, the interpretation of that activity would probably be contentious. Cognition? Or random firing?

    We would probably end up in the same exact place we are now, only with more data to interpret in different ways.

  31. Functional MRI may have some utility in diferentiating PVS from so-called minimally concious states – i.e., states where there is (limited) brain activity in response to stimulus that may not be perceptible through interaction. However, this change in diagnosis would not change Teri’s prognosis, nor is there really any meaning to defining conciousness as a white spot on an MRI seperate from the clinical picture. I suspect that the requrest for further studies, like everything else in this case, is a stall tactic.

  32. KERRY WOULD HAVE BEEN WORSE!!!!!!11

  33. Jon H,

    I was unaware of a metal implant and you are correct that it wouldn’t be wise to give the fMRI in such a case (I suppose the MRI Cathy mentions was done before the implant). This wouldn’t make a PET scan undoable though.

    As for whether functional imaging showed cognition or random firing, that would depend on the tests done. You don’t simply record, you record a baseline and then compare it to response to certain stimuli. The location along with the trigger for recorded activity would indicate whether it was indicative of a cognitive response, as opposed to random firing or an autonomic response.

    We would likely end up in the same place we are now, but it would be with more and different evidence and a stronger case. Something the courts should probably be striving for.

  34. But as I said in the column, the level of hysteria, hate, and lies around this issue — coming from the “pro-life” side — is revolting.

    Not as revolting as the tripe Ms Young spouts off. For example, The Rev. Johansen’s claim that a leading expert witness for the parents, Dr. Ronald Cranford, had earlier misdiagnosed a minimally conscious patient as being in a persistent vegetative state appears to be false as well.. Here’s what Rev Robert Johansen wrote “But the star medical witness for Michael Schiavo, Dr. Ronald Cranford of the University of Minnesota”. Dr. Cranford not only is an expert witness for Michael Schiavo, he’s also a big proponet of Euthanasia. Reality check: the good Doctor is just a hired gun. He testifies in euthanasia cases all across the country. Next there’s the lawyer. Geeshh, this guy is a real class act. George J. Felos attorney for Michael Schiavo it seems “The Hospice of the Florida Suncoast” have disclosed the facts of Terri Schiavo’s case – that from February 13, 1997 until at least April 26, 2001, George J. Felos was listed as the Chairman of the Board of Directors for “The Hospice of The Florida Suncoast” on the non-profit’s annual report

    Just a terrible hit piece by Ms Young, but then again, that’s pretty much all she does.

  35. Does the NRO’s The Corner provoke others into a homicidal rage or is it just me? Just kidding. But it is sad that there are people in this world who want us to conform to their opinions. Why does the American right wing hate our liberty?

    Steve M – Confederate flag? Well that’s just a symbol of his uber patriotism. God, the stars and bars, shotguns, pickup truck with a Rottweiler chained in the back and a case of Bud. It don’t get much more mom and apple pie than that.

  36. David R,

    You are correct that requests for more testing are largely a stalling tactic now, but that doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t have made the situation less conflicted if functional imaging had been done at some point in the past. Nor does it mean that it shouldn’t be done in the future for similar cases to avoid repeats of this situation.

  37. Dude:

    Maybe if you would eat more then those little goats that cross over your bridge, you wouldn’t be so grouchy..

  38. Yeah, what he says..

  39. BillyRay, unfortunately for you and the Rev., Cranford was not the only doctor who agreed that Terri is in a persistent vegetative state. The court-appointed doctor agreed. The only ones who did not were the quacks chosen by the Schindlers.

    Also, I’m afraid I’m not figuring out how being on the board of directors of a hospice is a bad thing. It’s a charity which provides people with a peaceful, supporting place to die – mostly from natural causes.

  40. I’ll agree that it might be alright to pull the plug on someone when they’re on life support. But please don’t starve them until they’re dead. All of this makes me wonder what the future of medicine will offer us. If I didn’t provide food and water for my dog – I’d go to jail. What makes it alright to treat a human this way?

  41. “Dr. Hammesfahr is the practitioner of a questionable method of treatment for stroke survivors that is generally not recognized in the medical profession (in plain English, he may be a quack); he has been disciplined by the Florida Medical Board and has never published in legitimate peer-reviewed journals.”

    This is not the only place I’ve seen the disingenuous connection of Dr. Hammesfahr’s “disciplining” implicitly — and falsely — connected to his competence to evaluate Terri Schiavo’s state or possible rehabilitative potential.

    Hammesfahr was disciplined over a billing dispute, not over his competence as a physician. In the transcript of findings, the board specifically declined to criticize his treatment methods — although they noted that his methods were outside generally accepted practice, they also noted that many of his patients seemed to improve with the treatments.

    There’s plenty of room for arguments over the facts, motives, etc. The bottom line question for me is whether there are ANY circumstances, excepting enforcement of a written, witnessed, notarized advance directive, under which the courts should decide whether someone lives or dies. My answer is an unequivocal “no.”

    Tom Knapp

  42. Speedwell, I hear you, that would be like being buried alive. I get nervous just thinking about it.

  43. Don’t forget Jay Nordlinger, who played the Nazi card in his National Review column.

  44. Since were all going to die eventually, aren’t we all part of the “culture of death”?

  45. Nice piece. You can expect to be called a Nazi shortly, just as Don Sensing and a whole lot of other have been. (Including me, in Roger Simon’s comments section.)

  46. Here is an audio clip of Dr. William Hammesfahr being mercilessly questioned by Los Angeles radio talk show hosts John and Ken about his “Nobel nomination”:
    http://www.johnandkenshow.com/audio/files/hammesfahr.wma

    He only lasts about 2 minutes before hanging up.

  47. “In the name of this cause, apparently, it’s more than okay to forget that little Ten Commandments thing about bearing false witness.”

    …And this surprises you? It’s be standard operating proceedure for Christianity since they started claiming their “Messiah” rose from the dead. They even justify lying in the name of their “God.” They even gone out of their way to justify it.

    Bishop Eusebius, the official propagandist for Constantine, the first Christian Roman emperor, entitles the 32nd Chapter of his 12th Book of Evangelical Preparation:

    “How it may be Lawful and Fitting to use Falsehood as a Medicine, and for the Benefit of those who Want to be Deceived.”

    Here are some other golden nuggets of Christian wisdom on lying:

    “For great is the value of deceit, provided it be not introduced with a mischievous intention. In fact action of this kind ought not to be called deceit, but rather a kind of good management, cleverness and skill, capable of finding out ways where resources fail, and making up for the defects of the mind …”
    –John Chrysostom, 5th century bishop of Constantinople.

    “We should always be disposed to believe that which appears to us to be white is really black, if the hierarchy of the church so decides.”
    –Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), founder of the Jesuits.

    To all those fundies out there who think I’m just quoting those “Satanic” Catholics and not “true” Christians, I point you to…:

    “What harm would it do, if a man told a good strong lie for the sake of the good and for the Christian church … a lie out of necessity, a useful lie, a helpful lie, such lies would not be against God, he would accept them.”
    –Martin Luther

  48. Clark, I noticed that you’ve been published in the American Conservative. Well here’s what AC head honcho thinks Nazis: Pioneers in medicine

  49. Tom Knapp writes: ” The bottom line question for me is whether there are ANY circumstances, excepting enforcement of a written, witnessed, notarized advance directive, under which the courts should decide whether someone lives or dies. My answer is an unequivocal “no.””

    Does that also cover when Tom DeLay and his family had their father/husband disconnected in Texas? He had not left a written, witnessed, notarized statement, either. They simply felt he would not want to live that way.

    If verbal statements were okay for him, it’s okay for Terri Schiavo.

  50. The esteemed Christopher Manion has an excellent pice today over at LR

    Government-ordered euthanasia is coming, sooner than we think All that talk about “living wills” is just camouflage. In our lifetimes, we will see the government proclaim that all “living wills” must be read in only one way: no support for the sustenance of “meaningless” life, the “meaning” to be determined by politically-appointed “independent experts,” not family members

  51. oh my achey-breaky ray:

    “Just a terrible hit piece by Ms Young, but then again, that’s pretty much all she does.”

    surely you must be joking. if nothing else cathy young is known for writing “on the one hand…and then on the other hand…” columns more than anything else.

  52. Any way the Reason Techies can just change it so that whenever Billy Ray posts, it changes his name to Godwin?

    Seriously, you’ve got some kinda Nazi complex, there, brother.

  53. Jon H–

    I object to your attempted character assassination on that great Christian American (yeah, I know–generally considered a redundancy nowadays), Tom DeLay. He is throughly consistent:

    When it’s his family, he wants to decide.
    When it’s your family, he wants to decide.

    What could be more straightforward?

  54. dhex,

    Her arguments would only be valid if her positions agreed 100% with BillyRay’s. Anything less is heresy.

  55. Cathy,

    You couldn’t hear it, but I literally applauded that post.

  56. none of this has jack squat to do with living wills, advance directives or healthcare proxies. the biggest problem was that there wasn’t any document, and clearly contentious parties involved.

    mr. manion doth eat hallucinogenic mushrooms too much, methinks.

  57. Cathy Young, that was simply outstanding.

  58. Government-ordered euthanasia is coming, sooner than we think All that talk about “living wills” is just camouflage. In our lifetimes, we will see the government proclaim that all “living wills” must be read in only one way: no support for the sustenance of “meaningless” life, the “meaning” to be determined by politically-appointed “independent experts,” not family members

    You mean like the legislation that G.W. Bush signed as Texas governor.

  59. “You mean like the legislation that G.W. Bush signed as Texas governor.”

    Well, technically, I think that’s more like euthanasia by the Invisible Hand of the market.

    How do you arrest an Invisible Hand for murder? You can’t. Can’t even stop it. It’s invisible! Ergo, it’s okay.

  60. “Well, technically, I think that’s more like euthanasia by the Invisible Hand of the market.

    How do you arrest an Invisible Hand for murder? You can’t. Can’t even stop it. It’s invisible! Ergo, it’s okay.”

    Hey, that’s the Holy Ghost of capitalism your mocking there, buddy. And as any good Christian can tell you, blaspheming the Holy Ghost is the Unpardonable Sin. And so it is here…Get thee behind me, Satan.

  61. How many death threats have come from each side?

    So which side is pro-life?

  62. PS: Goddamn, I have a lot of typos today. Forgive me. I must be more slovenly than usual.

  63. Adam Smith: Prophet of the CULTURE OF DEATH?

  64. Akira, A few years ago a priest won an essay contest on Cspan. The question was: When might it be ok to lie?, and I believe his answer had something to do with not telling someone they’re dying.

  65. Henry,
    Most days its like I type with my elbows. I get pissed at myself when I read my posts.

  66. You mean like the legislation that G.W. Bush signed as Texas governor.

    You need to get up to speed. n Texas, Bush’s position also had the backing of the Texas Right-to-Life Association

  67. PS: Goddamn, I have a lot of typos today. Forgive me. I must be more slovenly than usual.

    No worse than that chicken shit movie of yours.

  68. “Bob, Although oblivion doesn’t sound too good, neither does usurping the resourses my kids could use to be happy. I’m thinking thirty days of unresponsiveness, then pull the plug.”

    Obviously not the same case, but:

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/02/11/earlyshow/main673281.shtml

  69. Can you Reason staffers please make a Hit and Run post about some government road-building boondoggle? It’s not that I care about the subject one way or another; I just want to read BillyRay’s links about how Hitler first conceived of the Autobahn.

  70. I found this article to be very informative, and written in a thoughtful way, and I appreciate that. I have many questions though, that I believe change the direction of my thoughts on this issue.

    1. If the body is sustaining itself through breathing, digesting, blood circulation, all organs working properly, then why is a simple inability to swallow, and insertion of a feeding tube, considered “artifical life”? This baffles me. She is living on her own. She just can’t swallow. And even this is in question, since no one has been allowed to even attempt to feed her by mouth. And it is, by Florida law, illegal to withhold food or water by mouth from any living person. The very fact that Michael Schiavo will not allow anyone to attempt to feed her is criminal.

    2. Why has Michael Schiavo not allowed cameras around Terri? This reeks of suspicion to me.

    3. Why, when Michael Schiavo was sitting in front of a judge being awarded money for his “distress” and for Terri’s care, did he not mention Terri’s “wish” not to be kept on “life support”? Instead, he claims that he will care for Terri for the rest of his life. I find it very interesting that his tune changes so drastically shortly afterward.

    4. Why, if death by starvation is so humane and painless, is Terri being administered morphine? Why, if she is at death’s door, a living vegetable who wants to die, is it taking 12 days and counting for her to pass away? This is not a weak, crippled waste of a person. This is a determined, capable body who was no where near dying.

    5. Why is Michael Schiavo, a man who is outwardly living with another woman and has fathered two children with her, allowed to remain Terri’s sole guardian? That seems a tidge ridiculous to me.

    6. Why has Michael Schiavo, over the last decade, ordered that Terri’s teeth not be brushed, or other standard care? This is neglect, there is just no way around it. Why has she not been allowed outside for fresh air or company, or out of her room even? These are basic needs that any human should have access to.

    7. Why has communion been denied her? This ties in with the feeding by mouth issue I imagine. But of course, if she can be fed by mouth and sustained, then she is viable, and many people will soon be guilty of premeditated murder.

    These are questions that I do not have satisfactory answers for. We need to be careful when deciding who is worthy or not worthy of life. Especially those whose “wishes” have been made known in such a suspicious, contradictory and inconsistant way.

    Angie

  71. Jenny, where ya been girl? :>)

  72. “chthus, the obstacle to having the fMRI done is that it would require the surgical removal of a metal implant from her brain.”

    According to CodeBlueBlog, the implant only needs to be removed if it’s magnetic. And according to a commenter on that blog, it’s platinum.

  73. BillyRay @ 12:26 PM

    From your linked article.

    “Bioethicists familiar with the Texas law said yesterday that if the Schiavo case had occurred in Texas, her husband would be the legal decision-maker and, because he and her doctors agreed that she had no hope of recovery, her feeding tube would be disconnected.”(emphasis added)

    NB: in Texas, her husband would be the legal decision-maker

  74. Among the many bizarre things in this national circus, is the vitriol from the religious right directed at Judge George Greer. The man is a conservative Republican and Bible-believing Southern Baptist. Until a few weeks ago, he was an active and contributing member of Clearwater’s Calvary Baptist Church; he was recently disinvited to remain a member by the pastor who disapproves of Judge Greer’s holdings in l’affaire Schiavo.

    Because of death threats, Judge Greer, who is 63 and legally blind (and thus unable to drive), is accompanied at all times by two armed sheriff’s deputies. This “lawless” and “murderous” judge was reelected to the bench last year by the conservative and religious citizenry of Pinellas Co., Florida– by a margin of 65%, and even tho the Schiavo brouhaha was the main issue in the campaign.

  75. Like 1950’s John Birchers Cathy (et al) is scared to death of finding a Christian under the bed.

    Get a grip, there were a hundred people demonstrating. Oh yeah, and Moxie was pissed.

    And there were some of us who have no problem with pulling the plug who just don’t like the way this whole thing smells.

    I’d also like to point out that Mike got a million five because the doctors at the malpractice trial claimed that Terri could be rehabbed. If that wasn’t true why didn’t he give the money back? I mean he’s an ethics guy right?

    Of course, he shouldn’t have gotten jack shit to start with because Terri’s bulimia caused the seizure and the brain damage. It was not caused by the hospital/doctors who failed to diagnose something that Terri was keeping to herself.

    But he’s the morals guy. Just carrying out my wife’s wishes.

  76. Angie-
    As for your question about Michael’s disallowing the cameras, well, maybe it’s because he knew his wife (who was apparently rather vain back in the day) wouldn’t want the world to see photos showing how awful she now looks.

    BillyRay-
    I’ve been busy promoting the homosexual agenda, and am pleased to report five new converts this week alone–that’s five newly-minted Lipstick Lesbians who will NEVER even THINK about trying to steal my boyfriend from me.

  77. Angie

    All you have done is catalog all of the standard lies that the pro-life(?) crowd have been repeating.

    None of your questions can be answered without itemizing the lies and distortion of facts that have been made by the constructors of the “they’re killing Terri” conpiracy theory. There isn’t enough time or space here. Do your own research.

  78. Angie asks: And even this is in question, since no one has been allowed to even attempt to feed her by mouth. And it is, by Florida law, illegal to withhold food or water by mouth from any living person. The very fact that Michael Schiavo will not allow anyone to attempt to feed her is criminal

    You appear, like so many who comment on these matters, to be wholly unfamiliar with both Florida law and with the litigation history in this case. Your assertion that it is illegal to withhold food and water in a situation such as Terri Schiavo’s is simply and flatly false. Many or most of your questions could be cleared up by going to Abstract Appeal blog , where a FL lawyer has posted a chronology and links to most relevant moving papers and Orders.

    Among the many things you can learn there, Florida law specifically allows people in end-of-life or PVS states to refuse all “life-prolonging procedures,” which the Florida legislature has defined thusly:

    “Life-prolonging procedure” means any medical procedure, treatment, or intervention, including artificially provided sustenance and hydration, which sustains, restores, or supplants a spontaneous vital function. The term does not include the administration of medication or performance of medical procedure, when such medication or procedure is deemed necessary to provide comfort care or to alleviate pain.
    765.101(10), Florida Statutes

  79. 1. Because a delivering food/water via a tube is artificial.

    2. Maybe because he does not want a media circus around her (unlike the parents).

    3. Following her wishes is caring for her.

    4. No one has EVER said it was humane and painless. Everyone I’ve seen has said it is a horrible way to die.

    5. Seems fine to me.

    6. I’ll take your word on this. But if she is not using her teeth, then there is very little reason to brush them. If she cannot swallow, she could asperate anything put in her mouth, so he is probably looking out for her well being by NOT brushing her teeth.

    7. (see #6)

  80. Angie,

    Terri Schiavo was given last rites and communion twice, in the last week or so.

    How often do you think she needs it? How sinful do you think she’s being?

    Reportedly she is *not* on a morphine drip.

    And as far as food goes, do you want her to choke on it? She isn’t going to swallow, she’s going to inhale it into her lungs.

  81. Jenny, I knew you had a sense of humor!

    Lipstick Lesbians who will NEVER even THINK about trying to steal my boyfriend from me.

    I guess that’s better than Bull Dykes.

  82. Such violent doubts over the credibility of the testimony and the players reinforces my question:

    Is it not reasonable to insist more than just one person review the entire body of facts (not just motions based on prior findings) before the the state intervenes to produce a mortal result?

  83. Dynamist, keep in mind that 99% of the time or more, the decision never leaves the hospital room, and the motivations and conflicts of interest, however nefarious they might be, never come under scrutiny at all.

  84. Jon: We can only act upon what we know. In this case it seems the law has failed.

    Perhaps we might consider a kinship right of appeal in all cases of suspended treatment where no clear instructions by the afflicted are available?

  85. I doubt that any of the protestors have aided Terri’s family over the last 15 years – held no ones hand, brought cookies, sat by her bedside – yet now they suddenly show up to complain. A bunch of thoughtless hypocrites.

  86. Why no cameras? Because her parents had snuck a videocamera into her room, and then sold copies of the tape on their website for a $100 “donation.” I half expect they’ll shrink wrap her cremated remains and sell them as relics on ebay. Then believers can claim that Terri miraculously healed them. Terri will then be elevated to sainthood, and her image will be seen on slices of toast, which will also be sold on ebay.

    Why no communion? Well, for starters her Priest had testified that she hadn’t attended church in two years, which kind of brings her parent’s assertion that she was a “devout” Catholic, into question. I haven’t been a practicing Catholic in 25 years, but I’m so worried that my brother will try to force communion on me if I’m ever unconscious, that I’ve specifically stipulated that I not receive communion or last rites, in my advanced directives.

  87. If I was Judge Greer, I’d show up at church and make them throw me out. Just for the fun of it.

  88. 2. Why has Michael Schiavo not allowed cameras around Terri? This reeks of suspicion to me.

    Yes, why not? I would feel so much better about Michael Schiavo if he were to allow the media to violate his defenseless wife’s privacy. “Hey, guys – for five bucks a piece, you can wave a mylar balloon and see if her eyes track.”

  89. Mona’s link above didn’t work, but I believe this is it:

    http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html#timeline

    Everyone should read this. It might clear up some questions.

  90. Recent development: Now Jesse Jackson is showing up in support of the ‘rents. The protestors are yelling “This is a CIVIL RIGHTS issue!!” in his presence. Right on, brother.

    All we need now is Gallagher smashing cantalopes in front of the hospital.

  91. “Recent development: Now Jesse Jackson is showing up in support of the ‘rents. The protestors are yelling “This is a CIVIL RIGHTS issue!!” in his presence. Right on, brother.”

    Just proving that:

    A)The religious left isn’t any better than the religious right.

    B)Jackson is, and forever will be, a publicity whore.

  92. Cathy, you’ve written a lot of good stuff over the years, but this entry is not your finest hour:

    There’s the preposterous story by the lawyer who claimed that she elicited the beginning of an “I want to live” from Terri — which, of course, conveniently happened with no witnesses and no tape recorder, and which this lawyer waited to report for a week after the removal of Terri’s feeding tube.

    I’m pretty skeptical about that claim myself, but making an issue of the “convenient” absence of a tape recorder is inexcusable. If the Schindlers tried to bring a tape recorder into the hospice, they’d be arrested.

    Equally dumb is your “debunking” of the substantially correct claim that Schiavo never had an MRI. Yes, she did have one in 1990. No, it didn’t show what the later CT scan supposedly showed, namely that her cerebral cortex was completely gone rather than severly damaged. That certainly wasn’t the case in 1990, so the existence of an earlier MRI is completely beside the point.

    Between those two misstatements, your implication that all acrimony on the Schiavo issue emanates from the pro-tube rather than the anti-tube side, and your claim Hammesfahr is a “quack” based on charges for which he was ultimately exonerated, I think I’ll take a pass on reading your article. Next time, do better.

  93. Quoth Jon H:

    —–
    Tom Knapp writes: ” The bottom line question for me is whether there are ANY circumstances, excepting enforcement of a written, witnessed, notarized advance directive, under which the courts should decide whether someone lives or dies. My answer is an unequivocal “no.””

    Does that also cover when Tom DeLay and his family had their father/husband disconnected in Texas?
    —–

    Was this done at the order of a court? If so, then yes, it is included in the statement I made. I don’t think the statement was unclear in any way.

    Tom Knapp

  94. Hey, Angie, I got some answers for you.

    1. Terri was a bulimic. Were she cognizant, she’d probably be starving herself anyway, or upchucking anything that did pass her lips.

    2. Do you allow news cameras into your family members’ deathrooms?

    3. God forbid someone in this Puritanical, self-flagellating, victim-wallow culture opts not to bond himself in slavery to a human houseplant for the best years of his life.

    4. It isn’t Terri’s body that’s toast. It’s her brain. That’s why she’s taking the normal amount of time to die for someone not drinking or eating.

    5. Again, how dare someone in this Puritanical blah-blah culture pursue a new life with a new partner, just because his bulimic, f’ed-up wife is now an immobile meatsack with the cognition and personality of a cauliflower. If he’d been a real American, he would have spent his days reading to her drooling form the inspirational tomes of Richard Bach, forsaking any wishes to have a family, and eschewing contact with all other women. Because Michael was married to her, dumbass. That’s why he gets to make decisions for what’s left of her.

    6. You’ve caught him, all right! He was trying to force her to die from gingivitis! Speaking of fresh air and sunshine, why didn’t the Schindlers keep her at their place and give her plenty of both? What’s that you say? The Schindlers, champions of human life and dignity that they are, had her for three weeks, found her to be too much trouble to care for, and promptly wheeled her back into the hospice veggie bin?

    7. She’s had communion and last rites. Now, presumably, she won’t burn in the fiery pits of hell. Without them, she certainly would have. Her God, apparently, does not suffer a helpless vegetable lightly.

  95. Dynamist: “Perhaps we might consider a kinship right of appeal in all cases of suspended treatment where no clear instructions by the afflicted are available?”

    I have rarely seen my aunts, uncles, and cousins. Or even my oldest half-brother and half-sister. Most of them live in Seattle, while my immediate family has been in Connecticut for 35 years.
    I’ve been to Seattle only three times in my 33 years of life.

    Why should any of these people have any say in the matter, were I in a situation like Terry Schiavo?

    Kinship does not magically impart knowledge of a person’s wishes. Nor does it imply a willingness to carry out one’s wishes, as seen with the Schindlers’ determination to keep Terry alive no matter what she wanted.

    Maybe some relative would disagree with my choice. Maybe they’d insist on keeping me alive, due to religious beliefs that I don’t share. But you know what? If I’m allowed to die, they’ll get over it. The offense to them is not particularly important to me, compared to the offense to *me* of keeping me hooked up to tubes as a vegetable for decades. Sorry to hurt their feelings, but it’s not about them.

    Mere kinship ought not to carry so much weight. Lots of people are estranged from their families. Many people have kooky relatives. Many families have diverse beliefs.

    Lots of people develop beliefs and values of their own, separate from those of parents and siblings. But they’re likely to marry someone who shares their own values and beliefs, and to have friends with those values and beliefs.

    So it makes no sense to me that parents or siblings should trump others. Their emotional attachment isn’t a good enough reason. It’s not about them.

  96. Tom Knapp writes: “Was this done at the order of a court? If so, then yes, it is included in the statement I made. I don’t think the statement was unclear in any way.”

    Not by order of a court. But then, the court is just enforcing Terri’s will.

    Are you sure the DeLays weren’t doing their father in, against his wishes?

    Anyway, note that the DeLays’ decision didn’t require that they seek out all the relatives, and okay it with everyone. As a result, there was no chance for Aunt Gertie in Texarkana to object and throw the thing into court.

  97. Xrlq – Actually I found Dr. Hammesfahr’s claims suspect, based on the fact he hawks his cures in the National Enquirer:
    http://www.hni-online.com/national_enquirer_1999.htm

    I’d run like hell if MY doctor ever advertised there. You apparently set a lower standard for your healthcare providers.

    One would think that the Schindlers -who claimed they were prevented from having Terri examined — would find someone a tad more reputable, when they presented their evidence in court.

  98. Xriq writes: “I’m pretty skeptical about that claim myself, but making an issue of the “convenient” absence of a tape recorder is inexcusable. If the Schindlers tried to bring a tape recorder into the hospice, they’d be arrested.”

    They could have brought a neutral witness, especially if they brought a lawyer who’d be posing such a crucial question.

    The best case for the Shindlers is if they simply lied about the incident, and it never happened. The alternative is that it did happen, and they sat on the information for a week as Terri starved. I’d have to think that, if it did happen, we would have heard about it on cable within hours.

    It probably wasn’t even intended to sway the judge’s opinion, but rather to increase public pressure on Jeb and George and the others. A little propaganda to go along with the rest of the dishonest rhetoric.

  99. Is it not reasonable to insist more than just one person review the entire body of facts (not just motions based on prior findings) before the the state intervenes to produce a mortal result?

    So you’d support de novo federal hearings for all state capital murder convictions? Or would the presence of 12 upstanding citizens of Pinellas county who know nothing about how to evaluate expert testimony make it different?

  100. I (usually) appreciate the writers of Reason and think hard even about the points I disagree with, and they are always sharp and well-researched. That said, this case has brought about the most vile, vitriolic comments I have ever had the displeasure of reading in a professional publication. If somehow the “pro-tubists” have generated anything as stark-raving vile as the sentiment expressed here and in other Terri posts, I somehow missed it. I have long wanted a filter for specific commenters, but now choose to filter Reason. I guess I wasn’t as libertarian as I thought. Long Live DHex, king of the kommenters.

  101. Do you allow news cameras into your family members’ deathrooms?

    Do you think Terri has been DYING all of these years? It was Terri’s “life room” until last week when death was forced in. The family made the tape public in a desperate attempt to save their daughter’s life. It is unquestionable evidence of life.

    You people believe that if someone doesn’t put food in their mouth, their teeth magically remain clean? No further comment on that one.

    No one has adequately answered why Michael Schiavo would have told the judge that he wanted to care for his wife for all of their years, never once mentioning that she did not want to be artificially kept alive. It’s possible and very likely that he simply lied about her “wishes”. He lied, one way or another. Either to the first judge, or to the second. I don’t understand why so many people believe him to be an upstanding man, despite so much evidence to the contrary.

    To the person with the “living houseplant” comment, I disagree with adultery in any shape or form. However, I don’t see how he can abandon his marriage with his wife (which is what it amounts to) and yet still expect to remain her sole legal guardian. He’s either her husband or he’s not. And from his actions we can see that he is not, so her guardianship should have reverted back to her parents.

  102. The best thing abt following the Shiavo case on H&R is the return of threats to never again read H&R. I hope someone is taking names!

  103. So Angie

    You sound like you’ve just stuck your fingers in your ears and are saying “LALALALALA, I can’t here you.”

    Numerous postings above contain either the facts or links to facts in this case. Read them.

  104. First, I apologize that I screwed up the tags in my link to Abstract Appeal, and agree with Isaac Bertram that everyone should read it. He gave the url.

    Angie asserts: To the person with the “living houseplant” comment, I disagree with adultery in any shape or form. However, I don’t see how he can abandon his marriage with his wife (which is what it amounts to) and yet still expect to remain her sole legal guardian. He’s either her husband or he’s not. And from his actions we can see that he is not, so her guardianship should have reverted back to her parents.

    She, Angie, is no wife; this is why Michael won a loss of consortium award in the med mal case. Beside the point that in many or most jurisdictions having intercourse with her would constitute rape (she is incapable of giving consent), she cannot maintain a relationship with Michael on any level at all. She is a shell.

    When this tragedy befell her, it befell Michael, too. They were starting to try to have children. He wanted children. (Should he have impregnated Terri to get them after her brain injury? Is not the very idea revolting?) So, after he made many good faith efforts to bring Terri back to absolutely no avail, he moved on to another woman, who could and did give him children. I do not remotely blame him.

    I have been separated from my husband for 8 years; he is gay and has had the same domestic partner since we split. If I fell into a PVS tomorrow, and did not have an advance directive (which I do), I would want him making my decisions well, well before I would wish for my parents to do so. He knows my feelings on these matters intimately (we are in agreement), while my hyper-orthodox Catholic parents could never be trusted to carry out my wishes.

  105. Angie writes: “The family made the tape public in a desperate attempt to save their daughter’s life. It is unquestionable evidence of life.”

    Actually, it is unquestionable evidence of heavy editing and cherry-picking of the best moments out of a large amount of video which showed Terri looking unresponsive to her environment.

  106. Reader review of George J. Felos book, “Litigation As Spiritual Practice.” at Amazon. Felos is Michael Schiavo’s lawyer. Shoot, he’d fit right in with 75 percent of the Reasonaniacs.

    Felos the Grim Reaper?, November 10, 2003
    Reviewer: A reader
    This book contains bizarre stories about the author’s fervent desire to end the lives of severely disabled or gravely sick patients. Estelle Browning’s case set a precedent whereby Felos advances his “right to kill” agenda while making a tidy profit for himself as an author.

    In this book, Felos claims he has the ability to psychically communicate with the souls of people in comas by SHOUTING at them, “DO YOU WANT TO DIE?? DO YOU WANT TO DIE??”. In response, he hears voices in his head that he claims to be emmanating from the soul of the patient. Predictably, the answer Felos hears is “yes”, which inspires him to take aggressive legal actions to dehydrate and starve a patient who has left no advance healtchare directives.

    This book strikes me as being authored by a new age nutcase at best, and a dangerous man at worst. In this book, Felos claims that he visualized a plane crash during a flight on which he was a passenger, which actually caused the plane to begin to crash. He writes that God Himself spoke to Felos to warn him: “Be careful what you think. You are more powerful than you realize.” I wonder if the FAA is aware of Mr. Felos’ claims!

    Felos is no simple legal advocate for Michael Schiavo in the Florida state courts where he is fighting for the death of Terri Schindler-Schiavo. He told the St. Petersburg Times he wants to write about this case too and his “spiritual journey” with Terri Schiavo. As Litigation as Spiritual Practice demonstrates, Mr. Felos is an egomaniacal visionary bent on death as the ultimate demonstration of his messianic powers. Judging from this book, Felos appears to be clinically delusional.

  107. Regarding the woman who heard Terri Schiavo say “I want to live” — when she told the story on Sean Hannity’s radio show and on Hannity & Colmes, the only thing that I heard her say was that Terri said “I want ….” Isn’t it just as plausible (maybe more plausible, given that a court has determined that she did not wish to be kept alive in such a state) that she was trying to say “I want to die”?

  108. “Long Live DHex, king of the kommenters.”

    huh?

  109. JEH asks: Isn’t it just as plausible (maybe more plausible, given that a court has determined that she did not wish to be kept alive in such a state) that she was trying to say “I want to die”?

    The lawyer testifying to this is either lying or deluded. I’ve worked with mentally retarded people, some of them profoundly retarded. I think of one who had an IQ no higher than 20. His favorite activity was smearing his own feces on his wall. The notion that he could have an intellectual grasp of what it means to be alive as opposed to dead, to connect one state or the other with the presence or absence of a surgically implanted feeding tube, and to articulate a desire to live with it, is preposterous beyond uttering. (And is why ever since he became a legal adult, his mother has been his legal guardian.)

    Terri Schiavo is not even retarded, and has no measurable IQ; she is in a permanent vegetative state, with no higher brain function — her EEGs are flat. She does not have a scintilla of the intellectual capacity to express either the desire to live, or to die.

  110. Terri Schiavo is not even retarded, and has no measurable IQ; she is in a permanent vegetative state, with no higher brain function — her EEGs are flat. She does not have a scintilla of the intellectual capacity to express either the desire to live, or to die.

    But, if we believe BillyRay, she has recently had enough presence of mind to legally change her last name.

  111. If you’re going to use the comments on the MRI reported on Empire Journal,shouldn’t you include these notes from the same record?

    Look carefully.

    6/27/1990
    Started to show some vocalization where she will say no and occasionally has had some voluntary movement on command of eyes and mouth as reported by husband and mother. Ready for inpatient rehab program here at Bayfront.

    She will close her eyes to any threatening response around her face and blink appropriately. Tracking is inconsistent. Verbal output reported by husband and other family members and therapists at College Harbor.

    Goals are interdisciplinary intensive therapy, P.T., O.T., Speech and Language, psychology, social services, rehaf, Recreational Therapy. Goal to advance her level of awareness and consciousness.

    7/12/1990
    Responsive, eyes open to sensory stimulation in arm.

    8/25/1990
    Discharged from Bayfront Medical Center, pt did show some improvement in range of motion

    1/29/1991
    Noted increased alertness, turns head toward voice, turns head from tactile stimulation. Sucking and rooting response to olfactory stimulation. Spontaneously vocalized.

    2/1/1991
    Alert throughout treatment session, responds to pain, moaning, turns head from noxious stimulii.

    2/11/1991
    Swallowing improving, some possible following commands to voice.

    2/20/1991
    Pt has made significant gains since admission in all areas of range of motion. Have on one occasion when pt reclined, on command pt extended right knee, 4 X / 6 at random request. Appeared to follow command to turn her head while I had her on the mat the other day, but not (yet) consistant.

    3/16/1991
    Pt lifted head off pillow straining neck, look at something to her right. Pt making humming sounds for about 5 min.

    3/11/1991
    2 point increases in vocalization and eye-opening, motor response. Tactile increased 3 points. Overall her general responsiveness score increased slightly from 19 to 23. Remains at a Rancho level 2.

    3/26/1991
    Terri’s side-rail on her bed found down after Michael left. When told about it, he replied that “that was their job.”

    4/25/1991
    MS talking to her, she then lifted head off and away from chair. I asked her if she wanted to get up. She nodded. I asked her a minute later, she did the same motion.

    April 1995 to July 1996
    Michaels orders: no rehab, no range of motion, no nothing. Alert & oriented, spoke regularly “Momma,” “Mommy,” “Help Me”

    4/20/1998
    Husband declined P.T. evaluation for treatment of contractures

    7/9/2002 (Videotaped)
    (Examination of Dr. Cranford on July 9, 2002) – After Terri?s mother enters the room, Terri greets her by speaking the word ?Hi,? and makes good eye movement toward her. Later Dr. Cranford touches Terri?s face much in the same manner as her mother typically does. Terri responds to this stimulation initially by smiling, but the smile is not sustained, and it is not equivalent to her response to her mother.

    9/3/2002 (Videotaped)

    Terri?s mother enters the room and addresses Terri. Terri?s face goes from no expression (her typical baseline), to a smile with turned-up corners and eyes opening wider, indicative of recognition of her mother and a vocalization which appears to be specific to her mother (an appropriate vocal expressive gesture). Her eyes focused on her mother?s face with eye contact with her, indicative of cognitive recognition.

    When raised even with her head, Terri gave a slight grimace of pain, indicating sensorium between her conscious mind and that extremity. If the only reaction involved the extremity which was the source of the pain, it could be argued that this was a reflex, but reacting through facial expression necessarily involves the conscious mind. Minimal pain response (possible peripheral nerve atrophy). During the manipulation, the doctor asked Terri to open her eyes, and then to look at her mother. She responded well with slow movements.

    During a return visit from her mother, Terri greeted her by speaking the word ?Hi?. Dr. Hammesfahr introduced a balloon and asked her to look at it. Terri successfully accomplished this task. During eye examination, Terri responded to being asked to open her eyes and had effective pupil dilation to light.

    11/29/2002 (Audiotape)

    At the beginning of the recording, Robert Schindler greets Terri and asks how she is. Terri responds, albeit with a slight delay, with a throaty sound. Mr. Schindler asks Terri if she can smile for him, to which she responds by saying ?yeah?. He then asks how she is doing, and Terri changes tone and inflection to a sound which is apparently specific to her father. Early in the recording Terri responds to a number of Mr. Schindler?s requests by saying the word ?yeah,? including when he asks her to ?say something to me,? when he asks ?can you say hi,? and when he asks if something is hurting her.

    Under normal circumstances, Terri would receive the complete range of therapies, including physical and occupational, recreational, cognitive and speech-language therapy, and her family would become more skillful in her care through involvement in her treatment, but here they have been deprived of those experiences.

    Later in the recording there are several instances where Terri is apparently receiving no stimulation, and Terri remains quiet. This demonstrates that she does not vocalize randomly, as is also demonstrated by the several extended lengths of time during the Hammesfahr examination in which Terri remains quiet.

  112. While you were dissing my blogging credfentials you forgot to mention that I graduated from Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons, spent a year in the emergency department at Jacobi Hospital in the Bronx, and received four years of subspecialty training in radiology at the New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

    *Oh*

    I followed that up with 15 years of 24/7/365 in one of Florida’s busiest private hospitals and have personally interpreted over 10,000CT scans.

    *Oh*

    I didn’t ask for the blog awards and the medical award was voted on by fewer than 200 people, true, but they were a select few — mostly colleagues and science bloggers…people who really know what they are reading…unlike you who skimmed my posts about Yushchenko and Clinton.

    All of my work comes with references to the medical literature and there is nothing I have said that I cannot defend. Just try me.

    And BTW, the image from Terri Schiavo’s CT of the brain that I referenced (as the only one available to me)is not HALF as bad as the half-cocked neurologists (who officially and legally interpret NO CT’s of the brain in THEIR line of work)have been describing.

    I have made an offer to any of the neurologists seen on Hannity and Colmes or any other of these shows that I will pay them $1000,000 on a $25,000 bet that I can provide one hundred slices from CT scans of patient’s brains that look very similar to Terri Schiavo and I defy them to identify with better than 60% accuracy which of those patients is in PVS and which are not.

    *Oh*

    Sincerely,

    CodeBlueBlogMD

  113. “I have made an offer to any of the neurologists seen on Hannity and Colmes or any other of these shows that I will pay them $1000,000 on a $25,000 bet that I can provide one hundred slices from CT scans of patient’s brains that look very similar to Terri Schiavo and I defy them to identify with better than 60% accuracy which of those patients is in PVS and which are not.”

    Well, maybe if you looked at the EEGs, and the 1990 MRI, and not just the CT scans, you’d have a clue?

    Do you think they’re diagnosing based just on a few CT scans, as you are attempting to do?

    Yes, a person can function after loss of cortex. You can even remove whole lobes of the brain. But they wouldn’t have flat-line EEGs, would they?

  114. 1) Spouting off about one’s professional credentials on an Internet site impresses me not one iota. I’m a geologist, and I wouldn’t dream of trying to interpret the geology of an area purely from phototgraphs, maps or geophysical data; I would insist on seeing the area first-hand, mapping, sampling and spending weeks or even months in direct contact with the rocks. Human beings are immensely more complicated than rocks, and yet we see clinicians and medical professionals claiming the ability to arrive at prognoses based on old CT scans and video clips, without any time spent with the patient? Come on!

    2) Quoting Amazon.com reviews is several levels below citing right-wing websites (if such a thing is possible). Fourth-hand character assasination is no more convincing than second- or third-hand attempts. Cut the crap, Billy Ray – either start coming up with credible sources, or STFU.

  115. Jon,

    Since you’re referring to the MRI again, any comment on the other medical record notes (just above CodeBlue’s post, taken from same site as the authors MRI reference)?

  116. A few comments in response to the posts here. First of all, thanks to everyone who liked my post. Now, on to the criticisms…

    Bonar Law:

    Once again there’s the tacit assumption that all of the pro-feeding side are activists on behalf of traditionalist Christianity.

    No, not all; but few would deny that this is where the main impetus comes from. I would add that some of the “disability rights” activists are pretty scary in their own right. It’s a movement caught up identity politics similar to those of gender and race, except that the disability rights movement fashions a positive identity out of disability. At its most extreme, it bristles at the idea that disability is something to be “cured” because talk of a cure suggests that it’s bad to be disabled. These were people who slammed the late Christopher Reeve because, after being paralyzed from the neck down in a fall, he focused his efforts on finding a cure for spinal cord injuries and refused to embrace the activist dogma that even a severe disability wouldn’t be much of a problem if the government just forced everyone to properly accommodate it. (This dogma, of course, goes far beyond the belief that a profoundly disabled person can still have a satisfying life.) Now, the movement’s fanatical insistence that life is always worth living (which in the past has led it to oppose a conscious patient’s right to voluntarily terminate life support) has led it to extend the concept of “life” to existence in a permanent vegetative state. A friend who was reading up on the case today asked me, genuinely nonplussed, what on earth the Schiavo case had to do with the disabled since she is not disabled but for all intents and purposes brain-dead. Good question.

    The latest news, of course, is that the Rev. Jesse Jackson has glommed onto the case. When Randall Terry and Jesse Jackson are on the same side of an issue, I feel pretty comfortable being on the other side.

    Billy Ray:

    For example, The Rev. Johansen’s claim that a leading expert witness for the parents, Dr. Ronald Cranford, had earlier misdiagnosed a minimally conscious patient as being in a persistent vegetative state appears to be false as well. Here’s what Rev Robert Johansen wrote “But the star medical witness for Michael Schiavo, Dr. Ronald Cranford of the University of Minnesota”. Dr. Cranford not only is an expert witness for Michael Schiavo, he’s also a big proponet of Euthanasia.

    Yes, you caught me, I made a typo. Of course Dr. Cranford was an expert witness for Michael Schiavo; I’ve corrected my post. Anyway, your comment is irrelevant to the point I made. The Rev Johansen claimed that Dr. Cranford once wrongly diagnosed a minimally conscious patient with PVS. He did not.

    Tom Knapp:

    Regarding the issue of Dr. William Hammersfahr, he was not disciplined for false advertising and providing substandard treatment because the administrative judge, Susan Kirkland, found that his treatment methods, while not accepted by the medical community, were protected by Florida law as a form of “alternative health care” (go here for a copy of the judgment and scroll down to p. 39-40 of the document/p. 31-32 of the judge’s “recommended order”). Dr. Hammesfahr’s credibility is further undermined by the fact that he has knowing misrepresented himself as a Nobel Prize nominee, and that he has never been published in any legitimate medical journals.

    Xlqr:

    I’m pretty skeptical about that claim myself, but making an issue of the “convenient” absence of a tape recorder is inexcusable. If the Schindlers tried to bring a tape recorder into the hospice, they’d be arrested.

    It was a lawyer, not the Schindlers. In any case: you may have a point about the tape recorder. However, the lawyer says that she begged Terri Schiavo to say “I want to live” and put an end to the whole dispute, and obtained a response. If she did resort to this desperate measure in the hope of eliciting a response, why would she do it when she was alone with Terri? As one of the other posters points out, it would have been easy enough to get a neutral witness. The story would have had more credibility if the lawyer claimed that this was a spontaneous utterance (though of course in that case, it would have been tough to make a case that “I waaaa” means “I want to live”).

    The issue of the MRI has been already addressed by other posters. (If the Rev. Johansen intended to say that Schiavo has never had an fMRI, he should have said so.) I want to add another point. In all the years of litigation, the Schindlers and their attorney, as far as I know, have never requested an fMRI or a PET scan. The issue only came up recently as the 11th hour. Why? Probably because for years, they did not even dispute the PVS diagnosis; and later, they probably knew that if they asked for an fMRI and the results showed no brain activity whatsoever, it would seriously undermine their ability to object to the termination of artificial feeding.

    Sean:

    If you’re going to use the comments on the MRI reported on Empire Journal,shouldn’t you include these notes from the same record?

    These notes are not an official medical case history. I’m not sure how they were compiled and what they are based on. I assume it’s mostly medical information in the Schiavo legal case file.

    The most startling claims in this chart, that Terri said “Momma,” “Mommy,” and “Help me,” come from two nurses’ affidavits that were filed years later and are totally lacking in credibility. (See the information on Carla Iyer in my post above.)

    As for the rest, I assume it does come from contemporaneous medical records, but I notice that you chose your quotations very selectively. For instance, a mere two days after Dr. David Baras’s very positive report, there was this:

    6/29/1990 Neuro Consult Dr. Hernandez

    Pt. is arousable and has roving eyes, altho I do not think she is following any commands. Moans, has moments of alertness. Pupils symmetrical and contents show a slight response. Assessment: PVS

    The positive assessments all come from Dr. David Baras, who is the medical director of a rehabilitation center and, not surprisingly, sees potential for rehabilitation in Terri. (The other contemporaneous source of positive assessment is “MS Journal” — not sure what that is.) As has been stated numerous times, PVS patients often have random vocalizations and movements that can be mistaken for voluntary ones.

    Again, all the credible neurologists who have examined Terri Schiavo have concluded that she is not responsive.

    CodeBlueBlog:

    I have no medical expertise and will readily admit that I’m not qualified to debate you. I do, however, consider myself qualified to say that a medical expert who diagnoses someone with cancer or AIDS based on photographs in the news is not someone I’d consider trustworthy. And I have yet to see any proof that your opinion should count for more than those of the medical professionals who were directly involved with the case.

    (By the way, I didn’t merely “skim” your posts on Yushchenko, I followed the debate rather closely at the time.)

    Incidentally, in the comments section of his post, CodeBlueBlog has made it clear that he would not support the removal of the feeding tube even with a PVS diagnosis (“I just have never understood how a physician can support removing food and water from an otherwise living patient”).

  117. Just one more quick comment…

    zeroentitlement:

    … she’d probably be starving herself anyway, or upchucking anything that did pass her lips.

    … a human houseplant …

    his bulimic, f’ed-up wife is now an immobile meatsack with the cognition and personality of a cauliflower…

    Lovely. Go on and confirm the pro-lifers worst stereotypes of “pro-death” secularists.

  118. Cathy,

    I’m not sure if you are going to come back to this post again (it is quickly slipping into archives) but I wanted to comment on this from your latest comments.

    “I want to add another point. In all the years of litigation, the Schindlers and their attorney, as far as I know, have never requested an fMRI or a PET scan. The issue only came up recently as the 11th hour. Why? Probably because for years, they did not even dispute the PVS diagnosis; and later, they probably knew that if they asked for an fMRI and the results showed no brain activity whatsoever, it would seriously undermine their ability to object to the termination of artificial feeding.”

    I don’t have a link, but the info I was going from was Jay Wolfson, the Guardian Ad Litem, on Nightline last week. He said that he had recommended an fMRI be done, but that the two sides couldn’t agree on what the potential findings would mean, so it was scrapped. I feel that the court should have gone ahead and ordered it anyway (or a PET scan if there were metal implant issues). The latest call for further imaging is indeed a stall tactic, that boat has been missed. In future similar cases, it might be wise to have this done a standard procedure, even if both sides can’t agree on what the results will mean (better to have it and not need it sort of angle). Admittedly, the technolgy was relatively new in the 90’s and may not have been viewed as being quite as helpful at that point.

    All said, I find Wolfson’s take on the situation to be the sanest of anyone close to the case prior to a year ago. As for the MRI/fMRI distinction, I see neurologist/neuroscientists make this slip all the time, so I’m willing to let the Rev slide on this mistake, while still recognizing it as the last minute delay tactic that it is. Thanks for the thought and comment provoking piece.

  119. Thanks for the post, Cathy. Between Jim Henley and you, rational libertarianism is in good hands.

    If the fevered partisans that now make up pretty much the entire readership of the Weekly Standard and National Review (well, except Buckley. He’s still not going along with this frenzy) would just read the http://www.abstractappeal.com summary, they’d realize that their favorite publications were lying to them. I suspect that the courts are, and patient, reasoned, application of law itself, is the real target, here.

  120. By the way, I second the Dr. Jay Wolfson recommendation. He’s a lawyer and physician, and medical ethicist. He refuses to impugn the Schindlers or the Schiavos in the least fashion. He is matter-of-fact about Terri’s condition and legal history. He did an online chat at the Washington Post last week that is worth reading.

  121. (The other contemporaneous source of positive assessment is “MS Journal” — not sure what that is.)

    MS=Michael Sciavo. I’m sure you’re aware the MS testified during the malpractice hearings that Terri was able to communicate with him and family members.

    Again, all the credible neurologists who have examined Terri Schiavo have concluded that she is not responsive.

    What criteria are you using to make your assessment of which neurologists are credibale and which are not.

    The positive assessments all come from Dr. David Baras, who is the medical director of a rehabilitation center and, not surprisingly, sees potential for rehabilitation in Terri.

    The videotaped exam at the end was done by Cranford. This was long after Baras was out of the picture.

  122. I agree that Jay Wolfson seems to be the sanest and most objective person in all this.

    MS=Michael Sciavo. I’m sure you’re aware the MS testified during the malpractice hearings that Terri was able to communicate with him and family members.

    So, in other words, once again this assessment comes from someone who is not a medical professional and has a strong bias (or had, at the time) toward seeing Terri Schiavo as communicative.

    As I said in my initial post, I believe the worst that can be said of Michael Schiavo is that he put a positive spin on Terri’s condition in order to improve his chances in the malpractice suit.

    What criteria are you using to make your assessment of which neurologists are credibale and which are not.

    The only neurologist who personally examined Terri Schiavo and who testified that she was not in PVS and might recover is Dr. Hammesfahr. See my initial post, and my post in the comments section, for why Hammesfahr is not credible. (Of course it’s possible that the doc is a misunderstood genius and a great medical pioneer, but for every one of those there’s probably at least 200 witch doctors.)

    The videotaped exam at the end was done by Cranford. This was long after Baras was out of the picture.

    Right. But you’re relying on someone’s interpretation of the videotaped exam. I saw some of the clips that have been shown as evidence of TS communicating and trying to verbalize. I don’t believe she is. The medical professionals and the judge who viewed the tapes in their entirely came to the same conclusion.

    Btw, if we’re going to talk about Michael’s faults, here is a good blog post that discusses the Schindlers. I concur.

  123. Hi there,

    Wow. I love the article – I agree with the article as well. But more seriously:

    In November my ‘adopted’ son, whom I loved more than life itself struck a tree, coming home in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning. Part of the tree fell on his car and caused him brain trauma.

    I’m an academic, and my administrative Dean is a bio-medical person, who was there throughout, explaining what the M.D.s meant. He was in a coma for several days. Every day I spent many hours waiting at the ICU and a few minutes with him — as did the members of his blood family. I read parts of a novel by David Eddings (his favorite author) to him. His lady (fiancee) held his hand — but. He wasn’t there. Oh you got eye movements sometimes, or twitches. But Pete wasn’t there. I began to suspect that he was effectively dead by the third day. It was the hardest time of my life, and it certainly was for his blood family as well.

    Pete’s only instructions were verbal – to his father, his sister and to me as well. Obviously his father and sister would have made the decision, but that was rendered unnecessary when the second peak in intercranial pressure burst the Atlas.

    What if that second peak hadn’t, but Pete had stayed in that coma? Even 30 years ago there was no way his body could have been sustained. Now there is. He could have been kept alive for years, with noone there at all.

    Everyone loved Pete, and the decision that would have been made would have been the right one for him — but what if someone had forced him to stay trapped in a sightless, senseless body and a dead brain? 13th century solutions don’t work for 20th century problems. I agree with the person who said “why can’t they inject her with something and not starve her to death?” That is what I would want if I were in her state. That is what my papers call for if I ever am brain damaged beyond repair. I hope they will obey my wishes, should it happen – but I’m fear it will not be too easy. Too many people trying to force their particular version of faith on the rest of us.

    Regards,

    Reynolds Jones

  124. Mr Jones:

    Terribly sorry about your loss. My heart goes out to you.

    And you’re quite right, of course — the dilemmas we’re facing now are created by the advances of modern medicine and technology. You could make a pretty effective argument that if a person is unconscious and requires a machine to keep them alive, that’s “against God’s will.”

  125. Sean,

    “Since you’re referring to the MRI again, any comment on the other medical record notes (just above CodeBlue’s post, taken from same site as the authors MRI reference)?”

    I don’t know the origin or veracity of those “medical record notes”. As Cathy says, it looks like some, such as the “Momma” claims, come from the discredited nurses. And, if as Cathy says, it’s cherry-picked, excluding records that don’t support the non-PVS diagnosis, I’m not sure what value those “notes” contain.

    Schindler’s parents didn’t dispute the PVS diagnosis until recently. I should think they would have, if Terri had been as active as described in what you posted.

  126. this was posted by: chthus at March 29, 2005 10:46 AM

    “Jon H,

    I was unaware of a metal implant and you are correct that it wouldn’t be wise to give the fMRI in such a case (I suppose the MRI Cathy mentions was done before the implant).”

    Here it is week 3 of this tragedy, and we still have people who are totally divorced from the baseline facts of this case. Please, chthus, I think you mean well, but you should go read the two GAL reports before you say another word anywhere to anyone on this case.

  127. “If I didn’t provide food and water for my dog – I’d go to jail. What makes it alright to treat a human this way?

    Comment by: FGG448”

    I don’t think you have to provide food and water to your dog through a feeding tube. If the dog can’t swallow, you’re off the hook.

    Maybe in honor of Johnny Cochrane, I should say “If it can’t swallow, no charges follow.”

  128. Jon:

    And, if as Cathy says, it’s cherry-picked, excluding records that don’t support the non-PVS diagnosis, I’m not sure what value those “notes” contain.

    Just wanted to make it clear that the notes were cherry-picked by Sean in his comment, not on the site. The records posted on the site do include numerous notes that support a PVS diagnosis.

  129. Serious question, asked without any sort of malice. Can somebody (preferably somebody with medical training) suggest a reason why Terri Schiavo might be given morphine for a reason other than pain relief?

  130. A particularly great post given that this topic challenges anyone to keep focus on reason and analysis rather then sheer emotion. However, the more that I’ve seen this story regretfully unfold before our collective eyes, the more I’m convinced no one wants to confront the 400 lb. gorilla in the living room. Plain and simple, I think the Schindler family is the epitome of “toxic parents”. That might sound cruel to say, but I can’t rationalize the events over the past few days any other way.

    What makes me come to this conclusion? Here are my observations:

    * Death threats have been made on Michael Schiavo, and yet this family issues no call for rationality. Instead, they stand by silent hoping that the mob mentality will prevail as long as the outcome is what THEY would wish.

    * A report today on MSNBC stated that local police have been flooded with bogus 9-1-1 calls stating that “a murder is taking place at (Hospice’s address)”. And, again, no family statement is issued to tell these fanatics that they might actually be costing a life if a genuine 9-1-1 call isn’t answered.

    * Mary Schindler’s impassioned plea yesterday to “Michael and Jodi” was completely contemptuous and ingenuine. In my opinion, her last minute plea is where this tragic story should have been centered many years ago. The plea could have been simple: “Relinquish your guardian duties; you’ve performed faithfully, admirably, and compassionately for all of these years and Terri would be thankful. We believe that Terri told you that she wouldn’t want to live this way. However, we, as her parents, want to assume the responsibilities and wishes. We’ll carry them out.” Instead, the family resorted to character assasination, misrepresentation, and deceit to achieve an end THEY could live with.

    * The underlying causes of Ms. Schiavo’s underreported bulimia as a teen is likely attributal to familial issues. The photos of Terri Schiavo at her happiest are unbelievably radiant. It’s very possible that those photos were taken by Michael. However, to my knowledge, the Schlinder’s have never publicly acknowledged any culpability in the incremental steps leading her to illness. Instead, they now agree to an autopsy in the vain attempt to prove that foul play was involved.

    It pains me to say these things without knowing the family, but in a way they’ve forced a nation to peer inside and look at their inner dynamics, and that’s what I see.

  131. Maybe in honor of Johnny Cochrane, I should say “If it can’t swallow, no charges follow.”

    Cal Cal, I’m sure that, were your daughter dying right now, you would appreciate a little levity, right?

    Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

  132. Btw, if we’re going to talk about Michael’s faults, here is a good blog post that discusses the Schindlers. I concur.


    Folks, this is sickening. Please ask yourself what standard of morality could possibly lead one to derive “joy” by sustaining a family member as a mindless, amputated plaything, merely because you lack the guts to confront the blatant fact of her death, or to respect her own right to the disposition of her own life.

    No…upon further reflection, I withdraw my earlier expressions of sympathy for this so-called “family.”

    So why don’t you just come out and say so yourself?

    It’s interesting how so many people think it would be “gruesome” to agree to let Terri live if she had to have one or more limbs amputated.

    I guess Max Cleland is one limb away from having the plug pulled. No, wait, he can feed himself. Maybe if he suffered a brain injury and lost the ability to swallow. Then he would definitely be useless.

    He’d better not move to Florida.

  133. this is bull shit!

  134. fuck you!

  135. So why don’t you just come out and say so yourself?

    *shrug* Because I wanted to give Robert Bidinotto’s blog a plug. Are you implying that I’m afraid to openly say what he says?

    And how typical that you would zero in on the amputation angle. Yes, Sean, you smoked me out (and Robert Bidinotto, too): obviously, we believe amputees have no right to live.

    The point is that the Schindlers explicitly stated that they were willing to keep their daughter “alive” even if she had absolutely no awareness — not only by means of artificial feeding but also by means of major, aggressive surgery. Personally I find open-heart surgery on a person in a vegetative state as gruesome as the amputation. Furthermore, they admitted that they would do this even if she had personally told them she didn’t want to go on “living” like this.

    That’s sick.

  136. Dave Ruddell writes: “Can somebody (preferably somebody with medical training) suggest a reason why Terri Schiavo might be given morphine for a reason other than pain relief?”

    For what it’s worth, I heard on the news that the amount of morphine was very small – described as less than a vicodin tablet. (Or maybe it was percocet.) It was said that two morphine suppositories were given. I think the dose mentioned was 5mg, but I can’t be sure.

    So, if this is accurate, then to the extent that morphine is being given, it’s a low dose, not a powerful anesthetizing dose, or a continuous drip.

    As to why, it may be, as has been suggested, that it’s really for the family’s emotional benefit.

    It may also be, in part, that doctors aren’t 100% sure that there is *no* discomfort in all cases, and a small dose might be helpful while not being dangerous.

  137. Re the morphine: this is from the March 29 Miami Herald.

    Doctors said pain relief is often prescribed in such circumstances to ease symptoms — such as labored breathing — that might give the appearance of struggle.

    ”In the instance when the family is present, you want to avoid any seeming discomfort,” said Dr. Morton Getz, director of Douglas Gardens Hospice in Miami. ”If the patient is truly vegetative, there is no suffering.”

  138. Boy, for someone at death’s door for the last decade, a brain-dead vegetable who wants to die, Terri Schiavo sure is hanging on a long time.

  139. Cathy, that was a terrific post. You covered all the bases, and your links provide ample support for your case.

    Thanks also for your link to my blog entry, which quotes directly from the 2003 report of Terri’s guardian ad litem. It tells of the ghoulish, expressed wishes of her family to preserve her in her present state at all costs — even if it required amputating her limbs or performing heart surgery to keep her going, and even if it were against Terri’s expressed wishes. Why? Simply because they — THEY — “derived joy” in keeping her alive.

    And these creatures dare accuse Michael Schiavo of being selfish!

    Follow the link and see for yourself, folks.

    And thanks again, Cathy, for bringing refreshing sanity to this fifteen-year moral and legal travesty.

  140. RETRACTION!

    Cathy and her readers, please listen up! It was just called to my attention that, buried in a footnote on page 34 of the Guardian Ad Litem report, is a statement that completely contradicts and rejects the claim that the Schindlers endorsed the gruesome position detailed earlier in the report, and which I quoted in this blog entry. The text which I quoted from page 14 of the report gave no indication that this claim was untrue. Still, I should have been more careful; I usually am.

    I’ve issued a retraction and apology on my blog, and despite my embarrassment, I am relieved that the Schindlers are apparently much better people than that misleading passage had caused me to believe.

  141. Robert: Although I think it’s important to point out the footnote on pg 14 of the GAL report, I wouldn’t totally discount the Schindler’s remark. Remember, that was sworn court testimony captured through the Florida court system. It is not just some wild, infactual text to made it’s way into a report. The GAL mentioned it for a reason on pg 14 and then subsequently added his commentary on the footnote on pg 34. Similarly, the GAL offers a correction regarding Michael Schiavo’s financial motives.

    In my view, it’s critical to understand what has led to the point we are witnessing now. Obviously, the parties couldn’t even agree to the GAL report.

    And, I’m still left with the reverberating theme in the GAL report: “put yourself in the shoes of Theresa Schiavo”. Say for example that Mr. Schiavo had relinquished guardianship to the Schindlers. Do you truly see any of their recent actions contradictory to the sworn testimony stated on pg. 14? I don’t. If the feeding tube were reinstated this very moment and it was determined that Ms. Schiavo needed a kidney transplant, I think the family would publicly pursue that path as well.

  142. Cathy,

    —–
    Regarding the issue of Dr. William Hammersfahr, he was not disciplined for false advertising and providing substandard treatment because the administrative judge, Susan Kirkland, found that his treatment methods, while not accepted by the medical community, were protected by Florida law as a form of “alternative health care” …. Dr. Hammesfahr’s credibility is further undermined by the fact that he has knowing misrepresented himself as a Nobel Prize nominee, and that he has never been published in any legitimate medical journals.
    —–

    I’m not particularly interested in debating the guy’s credibility or lack thereof. It’s pretty clear to me that he’s a publicity hound whose methods and evaluations are at best dubious.

    However, you seem to be alluding to an entirely different claim than a) you originally made or b) I alluded to. Above, you refer to a court decision. In the original article, you referred to Dr. Hammesfahr as having been “disciplined by the Florida Medical Board.”

    I have read the Board’s findings of fact; their disinclination to discipline him for his treatment methods was very specifically outlined not as being based on any Florida law protecting “alternative medicine,” or on any court decision, but rather on an overt finding that the treatments caused no harm and seemed, in some cases, to result in improvement for the patient. The board did not endorse the treatment, and there was of course no reference to whether or not it might be relevant to Terri Schiavo’s condition, but …

    The substance and entirety of the _Florida Medical Board’s_ decision (as opposed to a court proceeding of which I was unaware) to discipline the doctor was that a patient accused him of not providing some services he charged for, and that the board found the allegation to have merit. Assuming that the board’s finding was correct, and that it was not a simple oversight but rather an intentional bilking of a patient, it is, of course, reprehensible … but it says nothing about his qualifications to evaluate or treat patients.

    But enough of the unpleasant doctor. I agree with you that all too many people (myself included) have had a tendency to get downright mean in this whole debate, and that that’s unfortunate. Thanks for attempting to inject some civility.

    Regards,
    Tom Knapp

  143. Robert — your retraction is very gracious, but I actually have to concur, somewhat, with Greg. I don’t think the Schindlers’ recorded comments can be so easily dismissed. These comments were made at a legal proceeding. The Schindlers later assured Dr. Wolfson that they didn’t mean it, and Dr. Wolfson, who appears to be a very fair-minded person, wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt.

    Greg makes a very salient point: the Schindlers’ recent conduct has been consistent with their testimony at the time.

    To Tom Knapp: Judge Susan Kirkland was not a judge in a court of law, but an administrative judge for the Florida Dept. of Health. The Florida Medical Board acted on her recommendation. That recommendation very specifically stated that while Dr. Hammesfahr’s methods do not fit accepted medical standards, he could not be charged with failing to meet proper standards of medical care becuase his unorthodox method was protected by Florida’s law on alternative health care.

  144. After all this is over and done, will we as a society really have learned anything?

    As a Christian I am saddened by the position of many of the “Pro Lifers” who also claim to be christians. They seem to enjoy picking and choosing from God’s word to fit their agenda convieniently forgetting other parts that would contradict them. Terri Schiavo’s parents are to be commended for loving their daughter, how ever when she married her husband their direct involvement ended. As her husband, Michael should have the final “say” in this and the parents, courts, govenment, should never have gotten involved.

    When we marry we leave our parents and join as one with our spouses; to depend on one another in all things; but being Catholic I’m sure the Schindlers already are aware of this. It’s ok for them to have concerns and emotions as it would be unnatural if they didn’t, but they have over stepped their boundries. They must respect the sanctity of Michael and Terrie’s marriage and stay out of it. If they are going to bring their faith into this situation then they must bring all of it or none of it, picking and choosing isn’t an option. Jesus says be either hot or cold, but the luke warm is spit out, (yes it’s a poor paraphrasing – best I can do on spur of the moment)luke warm = fence sitting (picking and choosing). The Schindlers seem to do a lot of this in their actions, they want what ever fits their cause best at the moment. The word selfish comes to mind.

    Michael Schiavo on the other hand is at least staying the course, good or bad, hot or cold, taking whatever comes as it comes even to the point of being reviled. He is sticking by her through all, to see that her wishes are carried out. That is what a “spouse” is supposed to do.
    Who else would know intimately what her wishes are regarding a situation such as this? Well, because society has become so jaded to marriage; IE: there are no good marriages any more, every one abuses, cheats, etc. we just have a hard time believing that this could be true. Well it is true, there are good marriages out there (I said good not prefect). No marriage is pefect as they are works in progress, I think Michael is doing what is right by his wife. I do believe she made it known to him her wishes regarding this kind of a situation. My wife and I have disscussed this also (long before we ever heard of Terri Schiavo) but we also have made legal arraingments to cover it.

    To end this rant, two things…

    1. It may sound funny to some, but I see God already having her soul and looking down at us and sadly shaking His head at our foolishness.

    2. It at least has woke me up to the fact that not all things/people/parties are what they claim to be…

    Oh yeah, I used to call my self a Republican.

  145. Cathy,

    Thanks for the answer to my question. It had really been bugging me.

  146. Rich, in America it is not legal to abuse one’s wife, whether it is by physical mistreatment, neglect, or premeditated murder. I don’t feel any such circumstance justifies Christians from turning aside from Terri’s neglect and abuse because Michael was her husband and ordered her treatment.

    As far as her “wishes”, you will never convince me that Terri had seven different conversations with members of (ironically) Michael’s family, expressing a wish not to be administered food whether by tube or mouth, but that all seven of those conversations were forgotten about until such a time as Michael found himself awarded over one million dollars as well as a new love interest. I can’t believe any of you are so gullible where Michael’s statements or intentions are concerned.

    As for Terri, she is resting today, and there is some comfort in that. This is a great injustice, but we can find peace in believing that there WILL be justice found upon all people, one glorious day.

    Ecclesiastes 5:8
    “If thou seest the oppression of the poor, and violent perverting of judgment and justice in a province, marvel not at the matter: for he that is higher than the highest regardeth; and there be higher than they.”

  147. Regarding CodeBlueBlogMD’s response,

    All this talk of CT’s, MRI’s, fMRI’s is beside the point (god, we love our technology). PVS is and will always be a CLINICAL diagnosis, made by bedside clinicians. You can put all sorts of pretty pictures on the screen, but spend some time examining the patient if you want to make a diagnosis.

    Mr BlueMD is right, you can’t tell PVS by the CT. You can, however, get a general idea of how much cerebral cortex is left. Whether that patient has PVS, advanced Alzheimers, or some other process is beyond the scope of the radiologist.

    Regargding his “bet”; sure he can randomly throw up some really bad CT scans…. such as the one he has one his site under the headline “not that bad” [if you have spent ANY time with CT’s you will laugh at his assesment], and many of those CTs may not of patients with PVS (a relative rare condition to be in, thankfully). HOWEVER, they will not be NASA rocket scientists either. More likely than not they will be in an advanced demented state, lucky if they know their own name or able to feed themselve or get out of bed. But they proabably don’t have PVS….

    Side question: In how many of his MORE THAN 10000 CT SCANS READ has CodeBlueBlogMD examined the patient that went with the CT scan. Probable answer: none. Radiologists stay in there dark rooms.

    Most of you can probably see through the sillines, and are not intimidated by credentials (the louder they spout their own credentials, the more you wonder why they need to, no?).

    BFM

  148. People. People. People. Her condition is/was irrelevant. (The “crime” of parody: there are only two people in the world who understand the mystic of the human brain…and they disagree.)

    He said, she said, they said is blather. “She was a ‘vegtable;’ end her suffering…” – you can’t have it both ways, my friends, carrots do not, in any circumstance, ‘suffer.’ But, that, in itself, isn’t really, truly a deal maker… anyway.

    Hey, I don’t know. Maybe Mikey is a holy picture. Maybe there was ‘no greater love.’ Hell, who knows – you don’t and I certainly don’t know. Isn’t important, anyway.

    So then what, if anything, is important. I am so glad you asked…. value. Her life, whatever that life may have been, had value to her parents. It should have meant something. It didn’t. Damn shame.

    (Note: ‘Value to your parents,’I just talked to a kid who was on the verge of tears… his ‘parents’ were not going to be able to attend his wedding – they were in the ‘finals’ of a bridge tournament and they were so, so very sorry…) Guess, with us, the way we are, it all couldn’t have ended any other way.

  149. My husband and I have been married for 21 1/2 years. 2 years ago I was faced with making decisions that I wished I didn’t have to do but I had not choice. Due to unforeseen complications during my husband’s hospitalization, he came closer to dying than I could ever had imagined. One minute we were talking and laughing and 10 minutes later he was dying. In attempt to save his life I had to give permission to the doctors to do emergency surgery and place him on life support. Finally after about 3 weeks he had improved enough to remove him off the life support machines. The next obstacle was to find out if he was actually going to be able to wake up due to the possibility of brain damage that would have been the result of the lack of oxygen and if so the extent of the damage. Thank God, he was alright, so I did not have to carry out the promise that we had made to each other years ago.
    That if for some reason either of us was no longer able to live on our own we would not allow each other to be kept alive by life support or feeding tubes. We have discussed this many times together. I did not want to have to let my huband go but making him live the way he did not want to live would have been wrong. My husband says that people who are in a vegetative state, basically trapped in their body with no way out, would not want to be left to live that way. He is thankful that I waited to see if he would recovery. But for people who have been medically proven to never recovery are in a living hell.
    He says that being placed in a medically induced coma was the most horrible experience he hopes to ever have to be in. People don’t know what it is like. He said that you are just lying there, unable to move. You can hear people talking to you that you don’t know who in the world they are. The worst part is to have your family talk to you and you are unable to respond to them. You try to open your eyes, you can’t. You try to speak, you can’t. You try to squeeze their hand when they are holding yours, you can’t. You want to know why you are unable to do anything. You have the most horrible nightmares that no one could ever imagine having. One problem you can’t wake up to make them stop, the dreams just continue like a living horror movie that has come to life. My husband said why anybody would believe that someone would want to be left living in that type of hell for the remainder of their life, that is not living at all. He says that he feels so sorry for people that are in comas with no hope of recovering. He said I understand what they are going through. Trapped in their bodies with no way out and no way to let anybody know that you don’t want to be left to live this way is aweful. Its been 2 years and my husband still has nightmares about what it was like during his coma. I know 2 other people that were in the same situation my husband was in and they also say that they hope that is the closet to going to Hell they ever get.

    I hate to think about what Terry Schiavo as well as others have had to live through because people are agruing over who thinks they know better than the other what they may want.My mother doesn’t know how I feel on certain issues. The things she does know about, she thinks I am wrong for the way I feel. No one knows my husband and I,the way we know each other. Our oldest children know what we want and would carry our wishes out to the last detail. I guess my husband and I better look into having Living Wills made so no one can dispute what we want.

  150. I am so glad you asked…. value. Her life, whatever that life may have been, had value to her parents. It should have meant something. It didn’t. Damn shame.

  151. Fully perceive what your stance on this matter. even though i may disagree on few of the finer main features, I think you probably did an awesome job explaining it. Sure beats having to analyze it on my own. Thanks. http://theoryinstitute.org/

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