STILL MORE SLOPPINESS AND/OR DUPLICITY FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES: Re the Schiavo case, a reader alerts me to the similar case of a California man named Robert Wendland.
Wendland was not in a “persistent vegetative state” but rather a “minimally conscious state,” but the case was otherwise very similar to that of Ms. Schiavo. The spouse and other witnesses said that he had told them he didn’t want to “live like a vegetable.” His mother and sister argued to keep him alive.
The California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a conservator could not refuse life-sustaining treatment for Mr. Wendland. (Wendland had died of pneumonia by the time the decision was issued, but the court decided the case anyway, due to the importance of the issues involved.) The court reasoned that, since he had not specifically indicated a desire to refuse such treatment in a formal way while competent, there was no “clear and convincing evidence” of his wish to die. The court stated that this ruling might be different if a patient were in a persistent vegetative state. However, in my opinion, the California Supreme Court’s approach is well-suited to the Schiavo case.
While reading about Wendland, I learned a very interesting fact in an article about his death. The article says that his wife, who had argued that he should die,
praised Dr. Ronald Cranford, a Minnesota neurologist and bioethicist, for providing her with medical and moral advice during Robert’s final days. Cranford, a consultant in several high-profile right-to-die cases, did not personally treat Wendland but advised doctors on his care. His presence at the hospital enraged some pro-life activists, who fired off a statement Tuesday denouncing his involvement.
Does the name “Ron Cranford” sound familiar? Maybe you remember him from the New York Times article I discussed here titled In Feeding-Tube Case, Many Neurologists Back Courts. As I pointed out in my post, the article failed to live up to its headline, because only one neurologist who had viewed the tapes believed that Ms. Schiavo had no chance of recovering: Dr. Ron Cranford.
The Times article mentioned that he had testified for Mr. Schiavo, and I discounted his opinion accordingly. But the article didn’t mention that he also regularly takes a pro-death position in litigated, high-profile “right-to-die” cases.
In these cases, Cranford’s opinion carries about the same credibility as that of Jack Kevorkian. To be accurate, the Times‘s headline should have read: “In Feeding-Tube Case, One Right-to-Die Activist Backs Courts.” Wow! Stop the presses!