Sunday, March 20, 2005

Well, if Herr Professor Congressman Bill Frist, MD thinks she can testify . . .

The latest round of "strange but true" episodes of the life of Terri Schiavo came from House Majority Dictator Bill Frist (R-TN) in which Terri was, essentially, subpeona'd to testify. The Schindler's chimed in claiming Terri would not support removal of her PEG " because it violates her Catholic religious beliefs." This is, of course, based on the way they raised her and the fact she went to Cathloic school (she's a graduate of Archbishop Wood in Warminster, PA).

Having friends who went to Catholic schools for 12 years, I'm pretty sure that graduating from one does not necessarily mean you abide by the church's teachings. If Terri so much as engaged in sex prior to marrying Michael Schiavo or use birth control other than NFP, the entire premise of their argument is undermined. But then, haven't her parents stated that even if Terri had verbalized wishes not to be kept alive under these circumstances, they would not have honored those wishes?

This case is completely out of control. Amp posted a side by side shots of CT scans of Terri's brain and a healthy one today. The differences should not be lost on laymen. For those who doubt that the damage to Terri's brain is significant, check out the whole brain atlas and Brain Basics.

Attorney Barbara Weller was with Terri and told the media that, during her visit with Terri, she explained to her what was happening. According to Weller, Terri began to cry and could not be quieted. She tried to coach Terri to say "Let me live" but she simply was having too much difficulty.

Emotional response is also difficult to determine because a response must be directly related to specific stimulus. This can be difficult because patients in PVS can scream, cry, grunt or have other actions associated with emotional responses, which are not done in response to stimuli. Therefore significant testing must be done to determine that emotional responses are not being done randomly, but are performed as responses.[Persistent Vegetative State]

The timeline for this case says a lot, in and of itself. The Schindler's had not objection to Michael Schiavo being appointed guradian 5 months after the PEG tube was inserted (would anyone really allow this if they knew, as the "save Terri" blogs now claim, that Michael was an abusive husband?) Everything seemd just fine until, after years of taking care of Terri without positive change in condition and attempts at experimental treatment to bring her back, her husband gave up on a painful lesson in futility. The falling out between the Schindler's and Schiavo happenned in 1993 (3 years after the saga started; Schiavo & the Schindler's lived together for 2.5 years of that time). The accusations from the "prolife" movement against Schiavo stand on the claims he abused Terri and tried to murder her, he now has a girlfriend with whom he has children (the implication is that he's had an illicit affair) and he's wants Terri dead for $1M in insurance money. As amp has , those who've written affadavits on Terri's behalf are woefully unqualified to make such statements based on their background/lack of direct access to examin her or her medical records.

As Andrew Cohen has noted in Trial by Legislation, Congress has interjected itself into a state law dispute, at the end of that dispute, on the side of one litigant over another. Due to all this legal and legislative wrangling, Terri is being deprived of her right (and the right of her legal guardian) to refuse medical treatment, which includes the unlawful invasion of her body with a gastric tube - all of this without due process because Congress' legislative action automatically voids many year's worth of the legal efforts and trials that granted Michael Schiavo legal guardianship that grants him the right & responsibility to make this decision. This sort of legislation by design in order to affect a specific outcome does not bode well for any of us.

I'm off to Brussels tonight. If my connections are working, I'll check in (and, maybe, post some pics - if I have time to take any).


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DLW said...

seems well reasoned.

I wish people would put more of a fuss up about Sudan rather than Terri.


thecutter said...

This is a very good and clear article. Living outside of the US, yet being forcefed all things American, I've been looking at the case distractedly. It is so sad that the media and the rightwingers exploit any personal tragedy for their own ends.

Mike Mansfield said...

Teen pregnancies and STDs increase when "abstinence only" curiculum is the only curriculum, yet evangelicals continue to fight against anything else. "Pro-Life" folk don't seem to care that the abortion rate has increased considerably during the current Bush administration, after falling during the Clinton administration. Now congress is calling for "brain dead" folk to testify to congress.
And the only time we hear much about any of it is when it creates dissension and causes people to watch TV or listen to the radio or buy printed copy.
Our democracy is in peril; and it will take determination on the part of the people to change the course.

DLW said...

It will also take better inter-cultural communication and more groundwork activism like what Frederick Clarkson is advocating.