Thursday, March 17, 2005

Progress and Hope for Terri Schiavo

National Review Online Tuesday posted a shockingly informative piece Starving for a Fair Diagnosis: Terri Schiavo is not out of medical options, but that’s the “fact” her husband wants you to believe.

Father Robert Johansen has important original reporting and many share Hugh Hewitt's observation:

Father Johansen has done real reporting among neurologists of undeniable stature and it is impossible to escape the conclusion that a rush to starve Terri Schiavo is underway.

Everyone should take the time to read Father Johansen's piece in its entirety.

It is disturbing, because it highlights the negligence of both her husband (of which much has been written, and who continues to get sympathetic treatment from the Culture of Death Legacy Media -- I emailed ABC Nightline via their Closing Thoughts site: "I assume you will interview Terri's parents tonight?"), but more importantly our justice system. A justice system which, in an ideal world, would protect the weak and defenseless such as Terri.

Again, this is difficult reading, but it is eye-opening:

Many people believe that Terri Schiavo has had “the best of care,” and that everything has been tried by way of rehabilitation. This belief is false. In fact, Terri has had no attempts at therapy or rehabilitation since 1992, and very little had been done up to that point. Terri has not even had the physical therapy most doctors would regard as normative for someone in her condition. The result is that Terri suffers from severe muscle contractures, which have caused her body to become contorted. Physical therapy could remedy this, but husband Michael has refused to provide it.

Terri has also suffered from what many professionals would regard as neglect. She had to have several teeth extracted last year because of severe decay. This decay was caused by a lack of basic dental hygiene, such as tooth-brushing. She also developed decubitus (skin) ulcers on her buttocks and thighs. These ulcers can be prevented by a simple regimen of regular turning: a basic nursing task that any certified nurse’s aide can perform. The presence of these easily preventable ulcers is a classic sign of neglect. Bob and Mary Schindler have repeatedly complained of Terri’s neglect, and have sought to remove Michael as guardian on that basis. Judge Greer was unmoved by those complaints as well.

Disgustingly negligent neglect.

These two paragraphs alone are grounds to impeach "Judge" Greer in my ignorant opinion.

Unfortunately, there is much, much more.

Father Johansen has interviewed and received commitments from 30 neurologists "who are willing to testify that Terri should have new and additional testing, and new examinations by unbiased neurologists."

This stopped me cold:

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.”

Ponder the neurologist's gut response: "That's criminal."

Father Johansen continues to take apart "Judge" Greer's path to his "finding of fact that she is PVS."

He discusses the "The Cranford Diagnosis" by the expert PVS witness who also happens to be a Right-To-Die proponent.

In published articles, including a 1997 op-ed in the Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune, he has advocated the starvation of Alzheimer’s patients. He has described PVS patients as indistinguishable from other forms of animal life. He has said that PVS patients and others with brain impairment lack personhood and should have no constitutional rights. Perusing the case literature and articles surrounding the “right to die” and PVS, one will see Dr. Cranford’s name surface again and again. In almost every case, he is the one claiming PVS, and advocating the cessation of nutrition and hydration.

A real sweetheart. Who would pay for this guy's advice without having a pre-purchased cemetary plot?

Let's see who is considered to be in a Persistent Vegetative State by this, uh, unbiased expert:

Dr. Cranford seems to have a knack for finding PVS. Cranford also diagnosed Robert Wendland as PVS. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could pick up specifically colored pegs or blocks and hand them to a therapy assistant on request. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could operate and maneuver an ordinary wheelchair with his left hand and foot, and an electric wheelchair with a joystick, of the kind that many disabled persons (most famously Dr. Stephen Hawking) use. Dr. Cranford dismissed these abilities as meaningless. Fortunately for Wendland, the California supreme court was not persuaded by Cranford’s assessment.

Would "Judge" Greer similarly sentence Dr. Stephen Hawking to death?

This is simply stunning.

Father Johansen concludes with observations on why legal issues have been trumping medical observations and advice for some time:

Given the difficulty of diagnosing PVS, the high rate of error, the obvious bias of the doctor whose judgment forms the basis of the judge’s ruling that Terri is PVS, and the growing outcry from the neurological community, how is it that Judge Greer’s ruling has been sustained? The answer is that in our legal system, once a judge has ruled on a matter of fact, it is very difficult to revisit such a ruling. The lawyers’ rule of thumb is that trial courts hear and rule on questions of fact, and appellate courts rule on questions of law; it’s unusual for an appellate court to overturn a lower court’s ruling because of an issue of fact. . . .

The legal system’s willful blindness to facts cannot succeed forever. The truth has a way of coming out. But will it do so in time to save Terri Schiavo? Dr. Morin said to me, towards the end of our conversation, that “the law can find a way to do the right thing if it wants to.” The problem so far is that those who have the power to do the right thing seem to have no desire or inclination to do so.

Hugh Hewitt makes the other obvious observation that is no less troubling:

The indifference of major media to the underlying facts of this case even as they obsess over the smallest detail in the proceedings surrounding Michael Jackson illustrates again the deep bias in the MSM against any story that is --in their minds-- identified with the pro-life movement. This is a real life-and-death drama, and the big papers haven't done a tenth of the basic reporting that an ordinary priest in Michigan has undertaken and completed.

Father Johansen's article is progress since Truth has the power of moral disinfectant, and National Review Online is a significant online journal.

The other progress report is that bills to give Terri and her family and supporters more opportunities to highlight medical facts which the trial "Judge" has deemed inadmissable are moving forward both at the state and federal levels.

Blogs for Terri has links and continuous updates.

US House OKs Schiavo Bill.

Let Your US Senator Know!

Florida Legislature Progress Update.