Saturday, February 26, 2005

How Can He Continue As Guardian?

That's the question a well-respected neurologist asked me yesterday about Michael Schiavo.

I was interviewing him for an article I'm working on about Terri, and he readily admitted that up until the last week or so, he hadn't followed her case very closely. He told me that he had the impression that the case had become a vehicle for the "right-to-die" movement (which it certainly is). He also said that given the Schindlers' willingness to take care of Terri, he couldn't understand why there was even talk of ending her life. "In the medical community", he told me, "there's generally a default position to preserve the patient's life in doubtful cases, especially when there are family members willing to bear the burden of caring for the patient."

In the course of our conversation, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET scans to diagnose the extent of brain injuries. He seemed to assume that these had been done for Terri. I stopped him and told him that these tests have never been done for her; that Michael had refused these tests.

There was a moment of dead silence.

"How can he continue as guardian?", the neurologist said in a tone of utter incredulity. "He refused a non-invasive test? How can they be debating a life and death decision without these tests?"

He explained to me that the use of the MRI and PET scans are considered standard for diagnosing brain injuries. He told me that he wouldn't dream of making a diagnosis in a case like Terri's without those tests. I told him that CT scans had been done, and were the basis for the finding of PVS.

The doctor snorted, and said, "A head CT is useful in cases of trauma, in an emergency room situation, but it only gives you a tenth of the information an MRI does." He said, "people trying to do the right thing want the best and most complete information available. We don't have that in Terri's case."

He said, "I can't believe intelligent people are debating this woman's life without these tests."

Doctor, you're not the only one wondering...

So Michael and Judge Greer, just why won't you permit an MRI to be done on Terri?