Patterico's Pontifications


Still More Doctors Amazed to Learn Patient in Persistent Vegetative State . . . Wasn’t

Filed under: General,Schiavo — Patterico @ 6:33 am

From the Daily Mail:

A car crash victim has spoken of the horror he endured for 23 years after he was misdiagnosed as being in a coma when he was conscious the whole time.

Rom Houben, trapped in his paralysed body after a car crash, described his real-life nightmare as he screamed to doctors that he could hear them – but could make no sound.

‘I screamed, but there was nothing to hear,’ said Mr Houben, now 46, who doctors thought was in a persistent veg[e]tative state.

If there’s one thing I learned from the Terri Schiavo case, it’s that when doctors say you are in a persistent vegetative state, you are. No arguing, Mr. Houben. You’re supposed to be dead.

Doctors are never wrong. Except when they are . . . and then they’re shocked, stunned, and amazed.


More on Trusting the “Experts”

Filed under: General,Schiavo — Patterico @ 12:38 am

The other day I told you about those doctors who are shocked, stunned, and amazed every time a “vegetative” patient turns out not to be — and are similarly gobsmacked whenever the physiology of the brain reveals a new and previously unknown wonder.

Now See Dubya brings word of another such story: Ambien waking up “vegetative” patients:



Vegetative Woman Not Vegetative — Experts Are Shocked, Stunned, and Amazed . . . Again

Filed under: General,Schiavo — Patterico @ 7:20 pm

The Washington Post today reports on an unprecedented experiment to detect awareness in patients previously classified as vegetative:

According to all the tests, the young woman was deep in a “vegetative state” — completely unresponsive and unaware of her surroundings. But then a team of scientists decided to do an unprecedented experiment, employing sophisticated technology to try to peer behind the veil of her brain injury for any signs of conscious awareness.

Doctors were shocked by what they found:

Without any hint that she might have a sense of what was happening, the researchers put the woman in a scanner that detects brain activity and told her that in a few minutes they would say the word “tennis,” signaling her to imagine she was serving, volleying and chasing down balls. When they did, the neurologists were shocked to see her brain “light up” exactly as an uninjured person’s would. It happened again and again. And the doctors got the same result when they repeatedly cued her to picture herself wandering, room to room, through her own home.

Doctors were also stunned:

I was absolutely stunned,” said Adrian M. Owen, a British neurologist who led the team reporting the case in today’s issue of the journal Science. “We had no idea whether she would understand our instructions. But this showed that she is aware.”

and they were shocked again:

“This is a very important study,” said Nicholas D. Schiff, a neurologist at the Weill Cornell Medical College in New York. “It’s the first time we’ve ever seen something like this. It really is kind of shocking.”

The article cautions that people should not take these findings and leap to the conclusion that they are applicable to the Terri Schiavo situation:

But Owen, Schiff and others stressed that the research does not indicate that many patients in vegetative states are necessarily aware or likely to recover. Schiavo, in particular, had suffered much more massive brain damage for far longer than the patient in Britain, making awareness or recovery impossible, they said.

“I’m quite confident that [Schiavo] would not have responded in this way,” said James L. Bernat, a neurologist at Dartmouth Medical School. But, he said, the findings indicate that current methods of evaluating awareness are unreliable. He added: “Still, if Schiavo had reacted this way, I would be shocked and stunned.”

OK, I made up that last line. But my point is very real: the experts are often wrong. This is a point I have made before (for example, see UPDATE x3 to this post). But it keeps getting made again — all the time.

Recall the case of Terry Wallis, the man who was in a minimally conscious state for 19 years, and whose brain then “spontaneously rewired itself.” The doctors were wrong about him too:

Wallis was frequently classified as being in a permanent vegetative state. Though his family fought for a re-evaluation after seeing many promising signs that he was trying to communicate, their requests were turned down.

When doctors turned out to be wrong about Wallis, they were amazed:

Krish Sathian, a neurologist and specialist in brain rehabilitation at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, US, describes it as an amazing finding. “The bounds on the possible extent of neural plasticity just keep on shifting,” he says. “Classical teaching would not have predicted any of these changes.”

Why, doctors would have bet money it never would have happened this way:

Most neurologists would have been willing to bet money that whatever the cause of it, if it hadn’t changed in 19 years, wasn’t going to change now,” [Dr. James] Bernat said. “So it’s really extraordinary.”

An amusing side note: the research in the Wallis case was led by Dr. Nicholas Schiff — the same guy who was shocked by the revelations in today’s Washington Post article. He termed Wallis’s case “miraculous” — but apparently thought that the era of brain-related miracles ended with Wallis.

So evidently, these doctors can be shocked and stunned by the power of the human brain . . . and then quickly retreat back into their natural state of all-knowing complacency — only to be shocked and stunned again when the next extraordinary case comes along.

Maybe this will help explain why some of us weren’t so quick to write off Terri Schiavo’s life just because some “experts” assured us that she was in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery. I’ll concede that, with the autopsy, the experts were almost certainly right — and they usually are.

Except when they’re not — at which point they become shocked, stunned, and amazed.


Schiavo (or His Ghost Writer) Blogging at Kos

Filed under: General,Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:53 pm

Michael Schiavo is blogging at Kos. (H/t Malkin.) Or, more likely, his ghost-writer is ghost-blogging there.

Go say hi.


Richard Bennett Testimonials

Filed under: Morons,Schiavo,Scum — Patterico @ 8:43 pm

Recently I posted that Michael Schiavo had used Terri Schiavo’s gravestone to take a parting shot at her parents — one of the most shameless acts of petty, self-absorbed nastiness in recent memory. (See here for more details.)

Michael Schiavo defenders have made different arguments. Some have questioned whether he really meant to insult the Schindlers. Others have admitted that, of course, he did — but have argued that, while that’s regrettable, it’s perhaps understandable given all the supposed slanders the guy has had to endure.

And then there’s a third opinion, which as far as I can tell, is held by one guy on the Web, and one guy alone. This fellow actually argues that it’s appropriate for Michael Schiavo to use his ex-wife’s tombstone to exact revenge upon his in-laws:

The Schindlers have misbehaved and they need to be punished.

Words cannot describe my contempt for someone who actively approves of using someone else’s gravestone to psychologically punish that person’s parents. But some words come pretty close, and they have been spoken by other respected bloggers, whom I’ll allow to speak for me:

Dean Esmay, Dean Esmay again, and Bill from INDC Journal (see bottom of comment thread).

UPDATE: In case anyone is wondering why I might experience schadenfreude in seeing this guy’s true character gradually revealed to bloggers whom I respect, read this post.

I don’t really see any point in leaving comments open on this.

UPDATE x2: I’ve removed the quotes from these bloggers from the post. You can go read them yourself if you want to.


Michael Schiavo’s Latest: Using Terri Schiavo’s Gravestone to Take a Dig at Her Parents

Filed under: Schiavo,Scum — Patterico @ 6:37 am

There is no evidence that Michael Schiavo is a murderer. There is ample evidence that he is scum. Apparently having failed in his efforts to hide his wife’s remains from her parents, he has done the next best thing. Despite the existence of a court order that he inform the Schindlers of any memorial service, he held the memorial service without informing them, and decorated her gravestone with an inscription specifically designed to serve as a figurative thumb in the Schindlers’ eye, every time they come to visit their daughter:



Give It Up

Filed under: General,Schiavo — Patterico @ 10:33 pm

Regular readers know I am not a Michael Schiavo fan. However, this L.A. Times story says that Jeb Bush is investigating him for supposedly waiting 40-70 minutes to call 911 on the night Terri Schiavo collapsed. As far as I can tell, this request appears to be based entirely on discrepant testimony Schiavo has provided over the years regarding when he found his wife collapsed on the floor. Yet he has apparently always described the times as approximate.

If that’s really the entire basis for Jeb Bush’s request, as the story makes it sound, then that’s pathetic. And I gotta say, it looks a heckuva lot like grandstanding on the part of old Jeb.

P.S. No comments on this one. I’ve had it with comment wars over this case.

P.P.S. One more thing: let’s say that you think, like I do, that Michael Schiavo was an unreliable witness to Terri Schiavo’s wishes. Supporting nonsense like this undercuts your credibility when you make those arguments.

P.P.P.S. This is especially true given that, as I observed when the autopsy report came out, “nothing in the report suggests abuse on the part of Michael Schiavo, and plenty (including the major points I noted above) seems to contraindicate that.”


A MoDo Waiting in the Wings

Filed under: Schiavo,Scum — Patterico @ 6:53 am

This is rich. It shows the desperation that some of the “moderates” will engage in to try to smear conservative Republican bloggers.

Background: in a Dean’s World thread, Richard Bennett made this accusation about me:

Like many other self-absorbed tubers and vegetable rights advocates, you’ve claimed that Michael Schiavo abused his wife and actually put her in her coma in the first place by beating her.

That is a lie. I have never made that accusation. I called him on it, noting that he can’t prove that false accusation with a link. If you’re really interested (why would you be?), you can click on the link above and scroll down to see his incredible dishonesty and nastiness.

But Bennett is not the sort to back down just because he’s wrong. So ever since, he has desperately sought evidence that I really made that claim — and he has repeated the libel all over the Internet. He even tried it again the other day here at my site, attempting to leave a comment that said:

Well congratulations for turning the autopsy on its head. It clearly shows that Terri was not an abuse victim (as you claimed) and that she wasn’t capable of the responses to stimuli claimed by her parents toward the end.

Because Bennett is banned here, his comment went into automatic moderation. Since it repeated a lie he has spread about me on comment threads to at least a dozen different blog posts, I didn’t approve it, and it was never published. That’s the background. Now to the fun stuff:

In the comment thread to that John Cole post I linked last night, a commenter relied on the recent Schiavo autopsy report to make this claim:

Michael’s not a wife-beater and Terri wasn’t a bulimic (and all the smart-asses who claimed that her “eating disorder” proved that she didn’t want a feeding tube are, I’m sure, sanctimoniously polluting the comments section of DailyKos as we speak).

I made the observation:

I don’t think the report disproves the idea that she was a bulimic any more than it disproves the idea that Michael Schiavo abused her. In each instance, it simply debunks evidence previously thought by some to support the theory.

Anyone who actually glances at the damn thing can see this is true. The report does much to debunk each of those theories. But no definite conclusion is reached on either issue, despite what you are reading in the media and all over the Web. The main point of my comment was to attack the commenter’s overstatement regarding the report’s conclusions on bulimia. That point favors the perspective of Michael Schiavo supporters. It was a balanced comment, as anyone who reads the whole thing can see.

Yet Richard Bennett has this to say further down the comment thread:

“I don’t think the report disproves the idea that …Michael Schiavo abused [Terri]” – Paprika

There it is.

Yup, there it is: the evidence that you never had, and still don’t. And all you had to do to get that evidence is butcher my quote with an ellipsis to make it sound like the point of my comment was to attack Michael Schiavo. Which it wasn’t.

Hey, Bennett. I heard Maureen Dowd is on vacation. With a nasty, vicious, dishonest Dowdification like that one, you’d be a perfect guest columnist for her.

P.S. Bennett’s comment was posted at 4:18 a.m. this morning. (Note to Bennett: get some sleep!) Yet none of his supporters has yet stepped forward to denounce his dishonest quote-chopping. How about it, fans of Richard Bennett? Why the Silence?


Schiavo Autopsy Released

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 12:39 pm

You can read the autopsy report here. (Link via How Appealing.)

I’ll have to read it later. Here’s what seemed significant to me after a brief lunchtime glance: her brain was half the size it should have been; there is no conclusion as to whether she was in a PVS, as that diagnosis must be made of a living person; she probably could not have learned to swallow on her own; there are indications of “cortical blindness”; it’s unclear whether she suffered from bulimia; she apparently did not have a heart attack; there are no signs of strangulation (though this is based primarily upon medical records and not the pathological examination); and there is no sign of trauma (though here again the report relies heavily on contemporaneous records).

Take a look and tell me what you see.



Joan Didion on Terri Schiavo

Filed under: Schiavo — Patterico @ 11:52 pm

Joan Didion has a long article about Terri Schiavo in the New York Review of Books. Anyone unfamiliar with the case should read this lengthy and detailed article. It is a great place to learn the facts the media has largely hidden from you.

It is hard to excerpt — you really should read it all. I’ll quote only a couple of passages that shatter myths you have heard about the case, including many repeated by commenters to this and similar sites:


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