« Of life and death | Main | Live from San Diego!! »

March 19, 2005

The dying of Terri Schiavo

Looks like my post onTerri is getting some recent traffic in the comments. I'm sad it's come down to one judge who has decided that the personal inconvenience to him of Terri's existence trumps the wishes of the people who are willing and able to take care of her.

And it really does come down to Greer's own hubris. I find his behavior from the bench of recent quite unfathomable from a legal standpoint, but sadly in line with his own quoted annoyance at the "inconvience" of Terri's persistence in living. Take a moment to read and wonder why.

Terri’s diagnosis was arrived at without the benefit of testing that most neurologists would consider standard for diagnosing PVS. One such test is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely used today, even for ailments as simple as knee injuries — but Terri has never had one. Michael has repeatedly refused to consent to one. The neurologists I have spoken to have reacted with shock upon learning this fact. One such neurologist is Dr. Peter Morin. He is a researcher specializing in degenerative brain diseases, and has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University.

In the course of my conversation with Dr. Morin, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused them.

There was a moment of dead silence.

“That’s criminal,” he said, and then asked, in a tone of utter incredulity: “How can he continue as guardian? People are deliberating over this woman’s life and death and there’s been no MRI or PET?” He drew a reasonable conclusion: “These people [Michael Schiavo, George Felos, and Judge Greer] don’t want the information.”


Posted by Darleen at March 19, 2005 09:10 AM


- The Senate has called a special session for 5pm this evening Dar... want to pass the legislation to push the whole thing into federal court and reinstall her feeding tub while they sort things out......

Posted by: Big Bang Hunter at March 19, 2005 12:22 PM

There's nothing there but a brain stem and cerebrospinal fluid, guys. The MRI would rip various sensors out of her head and kill her just as sure as anything; that's why it hasn't been performed.

It's criminal that our elected representatives are wasting their time on this and subpoenaing baseball players, when so many more important things are afoot in the world.

82% of Fox News poll respondents say it's time to let her go. If you really believe in the immortal soul, then isn't it time to let it go free?

Posted by: dzd at March 20, 2005 10:54 AM

Okay, dzd, you have a point, but... If the MRI has a high possibility of killing her, then why not go ahead and do the MRI? (And why do you not mention the PET scan?) Don't get me wrong, I'm all for releasing a suffering woman from her prison, but if we truly don't have any idea of what is actually wrong with her, then we can't just pull the plug, now can we? I say that they need to get some court-ordered tests going on this, but unfortunately, this judge seems hell-bent on defying Congress...

Posted by: Mordrach at March 20, 2005 07:28 PM

There has been no person on god’s green earth given a more thorough medical evaluation than Terri Schiavo. The courts have seen to that. For all the gory details go to http://abstractappeal.com/schiavo/infopage.html

An MRI would be totally besides the point, Terri Schiavo has little to no cerebral cortex left. She is nothing more than limbic system (reptilian brain) with flesh. The crux of the question the judge had to answer was “would Terri want to continue on this way or would she rather be dead?” Note it’s Terry’s wishes that loom large not her parents or some other agency. The judge took up this thankless task because the state of Florida required him to do so E.I. it’s his job to make these hard decisions.

This story is yet another example of political extremists turning tragedy into farce. Terry’s story is a tragedy, a vain and obsessed woman she crash-dieted herself into a heart attack. Her doctors completely missed her bulimia thus adding insult to injury. In an earlier time her heart attack would have killed her totally. But thanks to the “miracle” of modern medicine her comatose body was brought back “life.”

Early on both her parents and her husband tried to bring this shell of human flesh back to the land of the living. Finally her husband concluded that the cause was hopeless. Her parents clung on to the possibility that some miraculous form of intervention would occur. At heart this case is about the disagreement between the husband and the parents about what is the best course of action for Terri. If there was no disagreement there would be no court case. The husband concluded that Terri would rather die than stay in a vegetative state. Terri’s parents disagreed.

So both parties did what people do when they can’t get there way in our litigious society, they went to court. The court did what they do when matters of life and death are brought to it, it slowly and painfully came to a decision. Doctors were consulted, medical records perused, the judge watched four hours of tape with Terri front and center trying to discern if there was anyone in that body. Finally he concluded that there was no there there and that Terri would rather be dead than “live” in such a fashion.

Of course our courts being our courts there were appeals and hearings and further appeals and attempts to get the Supreme Court involved and endless wangling. And of course our political system being our political system our legislative branch is trying to butt in for partisan political advantage. Seeing that they could feed red meat in to the maw of religious right, Republican hacks have tripped over themselfs to beat their chest on this issue. “Screw the right to privacy we got to pay off the Christian Coalition” “Screw the power of courts, let’s noisily (and unconstitutionally) intervene so we can wow the Pat Robinson crowd.” “Screw the wishes of the person involved we’re going keep them alive come hell or high water (unless their on Medicare or Medicaid or Illegal Aliens or Registered Democrats)” Long lost are the wishes of the 27 year old woman who suffered a heart attack 15 years ago.

[Darleen sez] James, don't spam my comment section. I've left your comment up here but deleted it from the San Diego thread.

BTW, I'm so glad to hear you are a better neurosurgeon than Dr. Morin who is aghast that the minimal accepted medical standards to even approach a diagnosis of PVS were not done.

Where did you get your medical degree?

Posted by: James at March 21, 2005 05:34 PM

dzd states "The MRI would RIP (capitals mine) various sensors out of her head and kill her just as sure as anything; that's why it hasn't been performed". What kind of mindless tripe is this??
Exactly what sensors are you speaking about? I've had 3 MRIs done over the last 5 years and at no time were ANY "sensors" ripped, pulled, yanked or even pureed out of my head, let alone my body. I am a clinical biochemist working in a major medical facility in Ohio and have spoken to a number of people in radiology where MRI, CAT and PET scans (along with regular x-rays) are performed and to a person they have been utterly amazed that NO MRI has been performed on Mrs. Schiavo. The CT scans that have been mentioned in other articles on this case can't possibly give any useful information, as s CT scan givs only about 10% as much information as a MRI scan does.
Again the question is - Why was no MRI done to confirm the extent of brain damange in Terry Schiavo? What kind of game is Michael Schiavo, George Felos, judge George Greer, Dr. Ronald Cranford and others playing?

I recommend Rev. Robert Johansen's article in NATIONAL REVIEW ONLINE from March 16 for further information on these anaytical procedures.

Posted by: JJB at March 28, 2005 06:32 PM

I've often wondered why Michael Schiavo refused to allow Terri to receive therapy and why he was obsessed with seeing Terri die. Seemed irrational to me. He found a new woman and is having children with her and stopped visiting Terri after he received settlement money, so we can assume he had little or no concern for Terri. Terri's parents and siblings loved her and were willing to care for her as needed and able. Many statements on the internet indicate police originally investigated Terri's accident(?) as a homicide because injuries to throat, legs, and head were consistent with homicide. Terri's brother said when he arrived at Terri and Michael's apartment on the night of the accident(?) Michael was a basket-case on the coach while Terri lie on the floor. Previous to the accident(?) Terri indicated she was afraid of Michael and wanted to leave him. I've read statements from health care workers indicating Terri was responsive and other patients in her condition are given rehabilitation therapy. I've watched many Sherlock Holmes and other detective movies and television programs and Terri is a classic murder case. Michael's obsession with Terri's death can be easily explained if Michael attempted to murder Terri in 1990. After brief treatment attempts, Michael became obsessed with seeing Terri die because he was afraid she might say something that would put him in prison for many years. For a bit of extra insurance, Michael is cremating the body, ensuring no one can reexamine it if allegations go to court. Although I despise the man, I must admit Michael is a criminal genius. But I can't give Michael all the credit because it takes hubris judges and a naive unsuspecting public to make it all work. This case reminds me of the O.J. Simpson case and I think it would make an excellent novel, or perhaps an investigative non-fiction book.

Posted by: Michael Jeffrey at April 2, 2005 11:02 AM