Patterico's Pontifications



Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 10:46 am

RE-START THE CLOCK: Mickey Kaus has a compelling post on bias in an NPR story on the Schiavo case. Interesting stuff.

I have a reader who is boycotting my site for three consecutive days every time the Schiavo case is mentioned. I had hoped to swear it off the other day, but the Kaus piece is just too good. I should never say that I am not posting on a topic any more, because that promise will hold only until I become interested in the topic again. [UPDATE: After reading this post, my reader complains: “Made the mistake of getting on your site, thinking ‘day three’ may have come and gone. Not only do I find an entry on Schiavo, but a veritable deluge of Patterico propaganda. Your site is beginning to have a Stalinist tinge to it. I am extending my boycott to at least a week.”]

Since I have lost this reader for the next three seven days, I might as well tell you some other interesting facts about the case that I found recently. I suppose you may have already heard these facts, perhaps on talk radio, but I haven’t seen this level of detail in any of the online commentary I have seen. If you have already read allegations that, for example, Mr. Schiavo mentally tortured Ms. Schiavo by ordering her radio and TV set to be kept on the same channel at all times, or that he openly exulted about how rich he would be if she died, you can probably skip the rest of this post.

I have expressed frustration at my inability to access the original Schiavo court documents. However, I have recently found what purports to be copies of many of those documents — including affidavits from a nurse and two nurses’ aides. This material is contained here, deep within a huge document that appears to be a call to action by activists writing before the Legislature acted. [UPDATE 3-21-05: the link is broken. Better links can be found in this post.]

Knee-jerk folks from the “kill Schiavo” camp will naturally say that we don’t know these are the actual affidavits, given the site where they are republished. But they sound genuine to me. If what is contained here is accurate, it’s worse than I had thought.

Perhaps the most dramatic affidavit is from Registered Nurse Carla Iyer. Here are some excerpts:

One time I put a wash cloth in Terri’s hand to keep her fingers from curling together, and Michael saw it and made me take it out, saying that was therapy.

Terri’s medical condition was systematically distorted and misrepresented by Michael. When I worked with her, she was alert and oriented. Terri spoke on a regular basis while in my presence, saying such things as “mommy,” and “help me.” “Help me” was, in fact, one of her most frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times. Terri would try to say the word “pain” when she was in discomfort, but it came out more like “pay.” She didn’t say the “n” sound very well. During her menses she would indicate her discomfort by saying “pay” and moving her arms toward her lower abdominal area. Other ways that she would indicate that she was in pain included pursing her lips, grimacing, thrashing in bed, curling her toes or moving her legs around. She would let you know when she had a bowel movement by flipping up the covers and pulling on her diaper and scooted in bed on her bottom.

When I came into her room and said “Hi, Terri”, she would always recognize my voice and her name, and would turn her head all the way toward me, saying “Haaaiiiii” sort of, as she did. I recognized this as a “hi”, which is very close to what it sounded like, the whole sound being only a second or two long. When I told her humorous stories about my life or something I read in the paper, Terri would chuckle, sometimes more a giggle or laugh. She would move her whole body, upper and lower. Her legs would sometimes be off the bed, and need to be repositioned. I made numerous entries into the nursing notes in her chart, stating verbatim what she said and her various behaviors, but by my next on-duty shift, the notes would be deleted from her chart. Every time I made a positive entry about any responsiveness of Terri’s, someone would remove it after my shift ended. Michael always demanded to see her chart as soon as he arrived, and would take it in her room with him. I documented Terri’s rehab potential well, writing whole pages about Terri’s responsiveness, but they would always be deleted by the next time I saw her chart. The reason I wrote so much was that everybody else seemed to be afraid to make positive entries for fear of their jobs, but I felt very strongly that a nurse’s job was to accurately record everything we see and hear that bears on a patient’s condition and their family. I upheld the Nurses Practice Act, and if it cost me my job, I was willing to accept that.

Here is the most amazing part of the nurse’s affidavit:

Throughout my time at Palm Gardens [one of Ms. Schiavo’s nursing homes], Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri’s death. Michael would say “When is she going to die?,” “Has she died yet?” and “When is that bitch gonna die?” These statements were common knowledge at Palm Gardens, as he would make them casually in passing, without regard even for who he was talking to, as long as it was a staff member. Other statements which I recall him making include “Can’t anything be done to accelerate her death – won’t she ever die?” When she wouldn’t die, Michael would be furious. Michael was also adamant that the family should not be given information. He made numerous statements such as “Make sure the parents aren’t contacted.” I recorded Michael’s statements word for word in Terri’s chart, but these entries were also deleted after the end of my shift. Standing orders were that the family wasn’t to be contacted, in fact, there was a large sign in the front of her chart that said under no circumstances was her family to be called, call Michael immediately, but I would call them, anyway, because I thought they should know about their daughter.

Any time Terri would be sick, like with a UTI or fluid buildup in her lungs, colds, or pneumonia, Michael would be visibly excited, thrilled even, hoping that she would die. He would say something like, “Hallelujah! You’ve made my day!” He would call me, as I was the nurse supervisor on the floor, and ask for every little detail about her temperature, blood pressure, etc., and would call back frequently asking if she was dead yet. He would blurt out “I’m going to be rich!” and would talk about all the things he would buy when Terri died, which included a new car, a new boat, and going to Europe, among other things.

Certified Nursing Assistant Heidi Law:

During the time I cared for Terri, she formed words. I have heard her say “mommy” from time to time, and “momma,” and she also said “help me” a number of times. She would frequently make noises like she was trying to talk.

The only stimulation she had was looking out the window and watching things, and the radio, which Michael insisted be left on one particular station. She had a television, and there was a sign below it saying not to change the channel. This was because of Michael’s orders.

As a CNA, I wanted every piece of information I could get about my patients. I never had access to medical records as a CNA, but it was part of my job duties to write my observations down on sheets of paper, which I turned over to the nurse at the nurses station for inclusion in the patients charts. In the case of Terri Schiavo, I felt that my notes were thrown out without even being read. There were trash cans at the nurses stations that we were supposed to empty each shift, and I often saw the notes in them. I made extensive notes and listed all of Terri’s behaviors, but there was never any apparent follow up consistent with her responsiveness.

Certified Nursing Assistant Carolyn Johnson:

I remember seeing Michael Schiavo only once the entire time I worked at Sabal Palms [another of Ms. Schiavo’s nursing homes], but we were all aware that Terri was not to be given any kind of rehabilitative help, per his instructions. Once, I wanted to put a cloth in Terri’s hand to keep her hand from closing in on itself, but I was not permitted to do this, as Michael Schiavo considered that to be a form of rehabilitation.

I cite this evidence only because I find it interesting, and because I find it reassuring that the right thing has happened. I don’t expect to convince people on the “kill her” side of this issue. Their minds are made up, no matter the evidence.

For example, I was in a debate with some people at one particular internet site in which a woman named “Anne,” who had read the above affidavits, discounted them because they were all notarized by the same notary public! Here is a direct quote from Anne: “Who is Patricia J. Anderson, Notary Public? What is her interest in all of this.”

I don’t mean to say that there aren’t rational arguments on both sides of the issue. I think there are. But people like Anne are in OJ-land. The above evidence won’t change their minds, because no evidence on earth could.

One Response to “RE-START THE CLOCK: Mickey Kaus”

  1. […] ut the controversy, in showing how the L.A. Times has misled its readers about the facts. October 26, 2003: I publish excerpts from affidavits from three nurses or nu […]

    Patterico's Pontifications » Terri Schiavo’s Feeding Tube Removed (0c6a63)

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