Patterico's Pontifications

10/21/2003

THE DEEMING IS THE HARDEST

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:30 pm

THE DEEMING IS THE HARDEST PART: In my continuing quest to learn more about the husband’s side in the Schiavo case, I present this TIME magazine article. Since it’s TIME, you can be sure it is not taking a reflexively right-wing position. I doubt that any document short of Michael Schiavo’s court filings will present a more sympathetic view of his arguments.

The article does not mention Michael Schiavo’s “When is the bitch going to die?” comment. Nor does it mention the fact that he won a bunch of cash from a jury by arguing that he wanted to rehabilitate her, and then — after the cash from the verdict had hit his bank account — refused to pay for her rehabilitation. Only then did he mention that she had supposedly told him she did not want to stay alive through the use of extraordinary measures. These facts, which I find more compelling than any others, are nowhere in the article.

The story quotes an associate director of neuropsychology (who watched the videos of Ms. Schiavo) as saying: “There are many, many behaviors that look like conscious behavior that are reflexive or automatic.” This guy says of the videos: “This is not compelling evidence. It’s interesting and suggestive. But most of these responses could occur in a vegetative state.”

This opinion appears to be different from what my friend — a former head of neurology at a major metropolitan hospital — told me based on his watching of the same videos (as described in this post immediately below). Still, as support for the Michael Schiavo position, the TIME expert’s statement is underwhelming, to say the least. “Most” of these responses “could” occur in a vegetative state? This does not strike me as compelling enough evidence to justify killing someone when we don’t know for sure that they want to die (because we can’t trust the person who’s telling us — for details, read my posts here and here and the links in those posts).

My favorite part of the TIME piece comes after the main text of the article. There is a feature called called “Altered States” which is meant to describe varying degrees of consciousness. It contains this gem of an explanation: “A vegetative patient may recover; one deemed permanently vegetative will not.

Got that? It’s all about the “deeming.”

A NEUROLOGIST ON THE SCHIAVO

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 7:20 am

A NEUROLOGIST ON THE SCHIAVO VIDEOS: Those people who defend the starvation of Terri Schindler-Schiavo often point to the opinions of so-called experts (like this guy), who claim to know that her apparent conscious reactions are “reflexive actions” that simply mimic ordinary human actions. I am highly suspicious of such explanations, because I wonder: how do they know?

As I said Saturday, I decided to pose the question to a friend of mine who is a brilliant neurologist. He was until recently the director of neurology at a major metropolitan hospital. He left that hospital to work at the hospital where his wife works, where he is now the sole full-time neurologist, and is working on setting up a center to treat multiple sclerosis.

I e-mailed my friend with a link to the videos of Terri. I asked him to answer the following question: “is she/could she be in a ‘persistent vegetative state’ — and should it be okay to starve/dehydrate her to death?” I decided that, unless my friend objected, I would print his opinion regardless of which way he came down. Here is his e-mail to me (with emphasis added by me):

Hey Pat,

The responses she demonstrates indicate that her brain is functioning above the level of the foramen magnum and therefore she is not brain dead. Therefore, it is inhuman to stop feeding her or giving her hydration.

I don’t know what exact medical condition led to her present neurological state but I saw that she was admitted to the hospital in 1990.

What usually happens in this case is that a person is admitted to a SNF — Skilled Nursing Facility — where nutrition (via PEG or by mouth) is given, other general medical issues are covered by the house doctor and whatever therapy is indicated gets done.

These cases go on all the time and if there is money involved, it gets messy.

I don’t know what he means by that last sentence, and I am almost afraid to write him back and ask. Does he mean that people who are really not in a coma are being starved and dehydrated to death all the time, by people who want their money?? Is this case not unusual?? I’m not sure I want to know. . .

In any event, I respect my friend’s opinion much more than the opinion of so-called experts whom I don’t know personally. I am more convinced than ever that, as my friend said, what is happening here is inhuman. I pray that the Florida Senate acts on Terri’s Bill this morning, and that something can be done to prevent what appears to me to be a deliberate, premeditated, state-sanctioned murder. That phrase — often glibly misused by death penalty opponents protesting the execution of cold-blooded murderers — seems to fit these facts distressingly well.

UPDATE: I have already reported this in updates to the post immediately below: the Florida Senate has passed the bill. Gov. Bush has signed it, and has ordered the feeding tube re-inserted. It will be when it is safe to do so. For further information, consult the links at the end of the next post.

UPDATE x2: Many readers are used to reading that most neurologists agree with the courts on this issue. But if you take a look at some of the stories making this claim, you’ll see that it’s not necessarily as cut-and-dried as it has sometimes been portrayed.

For example, see the post immediately above this one (here), showing that the key issue is whether Ms. Schiavo’s vegetative state has been “deemed” permanent. Or read this post, which shows that a New York Times story on the topic fails to deliver what the headline promises.

Evidence about the case can be found all over this site, but this post has lengthy excerpts from affidavits by nurses and nurses’ aides — both about Terri’s condition, and Mr. Schiavo’s (alleged) incredible behavior throughout. And here is my reaction to a recent interview of Mr. Schiavo by Larry King.

I don’t know all the answers, but I am looking at things with a critical eye, and I hope readers will as well. I have posted my reflections on the controversy here.

TERRI’S BILL: It appears that

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 6:59 am

TERRI’S BILL: It appears that the Florida House has overcome the obstacle I mentioned last night, that Terri’s Bill is unrelated to “business incentives to get the Scripps research facility along the I-4 corridor.” Xrlq, via Justene of Calblog, reports here that the Florida House has passed Terri’s Bill. Xrlq says that debate in the Senate begins this morning at 8 a.m. — meaning it should have begun about an hour ago Eastern time.

However, WorldNetDaily reports here that the President of the Senate, one Jim King (a Republican!), is known to oppose the bill. This may be why the staffer whom I quote in this post from last night said any bill on this issue coming from the House “would go over to the Senate to die.” (Also, I am not clear as to whether it needs a 2/3 majority in the Senate as well. The whole Scripps incentives thing again. K. Lo from the Corner says yes, but I don’t know if she’s right.)

Sen. King’s e-mail address (which I just love) is king.james.web@flsenate.gov. I don’t see how it could hurt to write him, even if you don’t live in Florida. I just did.

And for any smart-alecks intending to write Sen. King and tell him to oppose the bill, please read the opinion of my neurologist friend in the post immediately above this one. He says what is happening here is “inhuman.”

UPDATE: The bill has passed.

UPDATE x2: Apparently, Sen. King had a change of heart, as this story describes him as a “supporter,” albeit one with second thoughts. The e-mails and phone calls must have done some good.

UPDATE x3: Gov. Bush has signed the bill and ordered the feeding tube re-inserted.

With what we know, I think we have to be happy at the outcome; Mr. Schiavo’s assertions regarding what Terri Schiavo wanted were not reliable, in my view. Still, one never knows for sure. I certainly hope this is what she would have wanted.

UPDATE x4: Kathryn Jean Lopez at the Corner says that a judge in Florida “has denied Michael Schiavo’s request for a court injunction to deny the governor’s order for the reinstatement of Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube.” But don’t expect this to be the last attempt by Michael Schiavo to reverse Gov. Bush’s order.

UPDATE x5: She is currently receiving fluids by IV. She’s not ready for the feeding tube yet, because she has been starved and dehydrated for six days, pursuant to court order. (Via Xrlq.)


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