Saturday, April 02, 2005

Pope John Paul II Is Called Home

After 26 years as Pope, 46 years as bishop, and 58 years as priest,
Pope John Paul II has entered eternity.

May he rest in peace.

Requiem aeternam dona ei, Domine:
et lux perpetua luceat ei.
Cum Sanctis tuis in aeternum:
quia pius es.

Inside Terri's Room

St. Pete Times Story: "Sense of Calm" Returns to Hospice

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Terri Has Died

Terri's struggle for life has ended this morning.
December 3, 1963 - March 31, 2005

There will be more to say about Terri later; her life, her struggle, her death. But now is the time to mourn. Mourn for her. Mourn for her family. And mourn for our nation, which has failed to protect one of our weakest and most vulnerable.

Wednesday, March 30, 2005

Michael's Autopsy Gesture Is Really Empty

In the previous post I explained why Michael Schiavo's consent to an autopsy is meaningless, because an autopsy will not prove (or disprove) PVS.

Well, Michael's "consent" is even more meaningless than it appeared before.

Why? Because he has no choice in the matter.

According to Florida Statute, the county medical examiner must approve all requests for cremation. At the Pinellas County District Six Medical Examiner's site, we read:
XI. CREMATION APPROVAL (Florida Statutes 406.11(1)(c))

A. All requests for cremation must be approved by the Medical Examiner prior to the actual cremation.

1. Before authorizing the irretrievable disposal of a body by cremation, the Medical Examiner must be assured that no future question will arise about the cause or circumstances of the death of the individual.

2. The death, if previously unreported to the Medical Examiner, must first be verified as a non-Medical Examiner case according to Florida Statutes, 406.11.

The website then provides instructions on how to complete and submit the "Cremation Approval Form", which must be signed by the Medical Examiner prior to cremation.

Given the controversy surrounding Terri Schiavo's case, the allegations of abuse, etc., the Medical Examiner would be a fool to "sign off" on the cremation without an autopsy. So what we have here is a case of Schiavo/Felos spin. If Florida statute didn't require the M.E.'s permission, I'd bet that Michael would rush Terri's remains off to the crematory within an hour of when she's pronounced.

Hat tip to reader Sylvia for the story.

This is Surreal

OK, let me get this straight: Michael Schiavo has insisted for years that when Terri dies, there will be no autopsy and her body will be cremated. Three weeks ago, Judge Greer confirmed Michael in these decisions, ruling against the Schindlers' motions to allow an autopsy and ordinary burial.

Now, out of the blue, Michael says he will permit an autopsy. George Felos said Michael "wants definitive proof showing the extent of her brain damage."

So, Michael will permit an autopsy to determine the true extent of her brain damage after she's dead, but he won't permit additional exams or testing to ascertain her brain function while she's still alive.

Dr. William Bell, a neurologist whom I interviewed for my recent NRO piece, reacted to this development by calling it "bizarre".

Bizarre is an understatement. This is like something out of a Kafka novel.

And the problem is that this autopsy will, in fact, "prove" next to nothing. In an article at MedPage Today, Dr. Michael De Georgia, head of the neurology/neurosurgery intensive care unit at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, said that the diagnosis of PVS "cannot be confirmed by autopsy." Another neurologist added:
The [pathologic examination of the] brain can't tell if there is a persistent vegetative state or not," says Harvard neuropathologist E. Tessa Hedley Whyte, MD. "The autopsy will show damage -- probably mostly scarring now -- and that damage will most likely correspond to some extent to what was seen on images."

While an autopsy will likely show that Terri has had significant brain damage and loss of brain cells, Dr. De Georgia added that "there is no standard cutoff that says if you lose this many brain cells you are in a persistent vegetative state."
Michael Williams, MD, an associate professor at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore, puts it this way. "If you only had the brain to look at and you didn't know anything about the history of the patient, pathology alone cannot prove or disprove a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state."

Dr. Bernardine Healy, a former Director of the National Institutes of Health, made a similar point today on MSNBC. She said that an autopsy will tell us what is physically there, but will tell us nothing about her neurological function.  In other words, an autopsy can tell us nothing about Terri's state of awareness or consciousness. She pointed out that there are very simple tests that can assess Terri's brain function now. But, of course, Terri would have to be alive in order for these tests to be performed.

It looks, then, as though Michael's consent to an autopsy is an empty gesture. It will give him and Felos a few more sound bites to fuel the MSM disinformation machine. Felos and Michael are allowing it because it can't cost them anything. The autopsy will reveal severe brain damage (which no one has ever denied), which they will attempt to invest with greater significance than it can have. What appears to be a concession in fact is part of the Schiavo/Felos/Greer campaign to prevent additional information from coming to light. Having precluded the possibility of obtaining the truly significant and relevant information which new neurological exams could provide, they are more than happy to give us pseudo-information which only serves their purpose.