March 3, 2005

A Moment of Dead Silence

Justin Katz

As a subjective guide to Don's previous post, laying out facts and considerations in the case of Terri Schiavo, I offer the following anecdote from Fr. Rob Johansen, which I found via Lane Core:

In the course of our conversation, [a well-respected neurologist] 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 said, "I can't believe intelligent people are debating this woman's life without these tests."

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Brings it into an all-the-more frightening focus, no?

Posted by: ELC at March 3, 2005 8:01 AM

I guess this is the conservative version of the Dan Rather Syndrome -- accept without verification anything that supports what I believe. But then again it was on the internet, so it must be true...

The 2nd district court full panel, Judges Alterben, Fulmer and Stringer (no Greer in sight) looked at the work of a panel of 5 neurologists who examined Terri. Two chosen by the Schindlers, 2 by Michael Schiavo, and 1 by the court, a Prof at Case Western U.,%202003/2D02-5394.pdf

"Through the assistance of Mrs. Schiavo's treating physician, Dr. Victor Gambone, the physicians obtained current medical information about Theresa Schiavo including high-quality brain scans. Each physician reviewed her medical records and personally conducted a neurological examination of Mrs. Schiavo. Lengthy videotapes of some of the medical examinations were created and introduced into evidence. Thus, the quality of the evidence presented to the guardianship court was very high, and each side had ample opportunity to present detailed medical evidence, all of which was subjected to thorough cross-examination. It is likely that no guardianship court has ever received as much high-quality medical evidence in such a proceeding."

The results of the panel was a split decision. The doctors appointed by the Schindlers said that she was not in a PVS, the ones appointed by Michael and the Case Prof agreed that she was.

What's more interesting is that all were in complete agreement on her present condition. All 5 (including those appointed by the Schindlers) agreed that she had massive and permanent damage to her brain. All 5 agreed that no treatment would restore any cognitive ability. The difference is whether there is a small, isolated section of her cerbral cortex that is still alive.

There's a lot of crap on the internet about this case. Most isn't true. Some has been put out by the parties themselves, some by interested bystanders.

At it's heart this is a really nasty family quarrel. The kind that way too many families enter from time to time. Both sides would cut off their nose to prove the other wrong. Unfortunately a large share of the conservative blogosphere has become a participant in this white trash feud to the point of accepting easily debunked internet stories as truth.

Posted by: Buckland at March 3, 2005 12:06 PM

While on the subject of internet myths:

One (not mentioned in this posting but on this site) is the whole "bone scan" topic.

A bone scan was done that show multiple injuries before her death. That means that the death was probably caused by her husband. For some reason neither the court nor law enforcement really hasn't looked into this.

One minor issue...


The bone scan issue came from an October 2002 filing that the Schindlers made. It said they had a bone scan made in 1991 that shows multiple injuries. However they refused to produce it for the court and in Novemer 2002 the judge ruled it out of order.

So, if there's a "bone scan" out there that shows such dramatic proof, why was its existence hidden for 11 years? Why has it still not been produced?

The reason, of course, is that it doesn't really exist, and nobody really cares to go back and ask tough questions of a grieving family. Besides spouse abuse is a cool story that everybody understands.

So, my challenge is -- before you refer to Michael Schiavo as an criminal again -- find this bone scan. Not a synopsis of it. Not a review. I'll pay copying expenses if it can't be posted on the internet.

But then again, it's referred to so many times on the internet that it MUST be somewhere.

One final point on this:

After Terri's collapse Michael and the Schindlers sued her doctors (they were still friends then) for malpractice. The doctors failed to diagnose and treat Terri's bulimia problem, contributing to the collapse. The family won a judgement (about $1.5 million, can't remember right now) and later settled the case with the doctors for less before the appeal.

During the malpractice pretrial, the doctors examined Terri a number of times to determine what had happened. If there was a smallest piece of evidence that her condition was related to abuse, they had a $1.5 million incentive to jump all over it. But they never said a word. They didn't find it even though it was in their interest to find it. If they missed something that bad, I guess they deserve a malpractice suit.

Posted by: Buckland at March 3, 2005 12:39 PM

This is the last post I'll make here. I'm a long time lurker here, but rarely post anywhere. Three in 1 day is above my monthly limit. As you guys probably don't care for what my posts by now I won't post again.

Last internet myth -- the video tapes showing Terri responding to her mother, watching a balloon, sometimes trying to talk, etc. These have proved to many people that she's still a caring, loving, human being, albeit with a few problems now.

In the past when I've discussed Terri Schiavo, the usual rejoinder is "haven't you seen the tapes? They show everything". To which my (unspoken) thought tends to be -- "No, I haven't, and neither have you."

The tapes, to me, represent a cynical depth to which few people will go. Terri Schiavo, like many patients with severe brain injuries, moves. She makes sounds. She twists. That doesn’t mean she’s reacting to anything, she just moves.

The tapes are made for public consumption, not to prove a legal point. They’re made by point a camera at Terri and doing things around her. Her random movement occasionally looks like she’s reacting to the stimulus in the room. The tape is then edited to show only those motions that appear to be reacting to her mother or other stimulus.

Hard to believe? Don’t take my word for it. Here’s the FL court of appeals:

"Despite our decision that the appropriate standard of review is abuse of discretion, this court has closely examined all of the evidence in this record. We have repeatedly examined the videotapes, not merely watching short segments but carefully observing the tapes in their entirety."

They go on to talk about the differences between the edited version and the complete version.

The tapes are edited, short segments. Again a challenge – If a longer version exists, why hasn’t it been released to the public? If you guys have contacts close to the Schindler family, ask for the longer version. Disk space is cheap anymore. I’ll pay bandwith costs if that’s the issue. But if you choose to accept the challenge you can't refer to the edited versions until you've seen the full version.

But the real problem is that longer versions show that Terri moves randomly, not in response to a stimulus. These tapes have given large parts of the blogosphere hope that she can be OK. However they’re just a cynical publicity move.

So I’m done with my comments barrage. I really don’t have any good feelings for Michael Schiavo either, other than he’s not a brutal murder.

Like I said in my first comment today –this is a nasty family quarrel. There’s a reason that cops hate to get involved in these. Feeling run so hi that unthinkable things can happen in family quarrels, like accusations of murder.

One final thought. The key to a good con is getting people to believe new things in small steps. Nobody would give all their money to a stranger. Buy by feeding one piece of information at a time the mark goes down a path and accepts things that they never would have accepted at once.

Do you believe that when you first heard of Terri Schiavo that you would go down the logical path you have? First that the parents should have custody –easy. But then that the husband is not fit and later a brutal would-be murderer, also pretty easy. But then the courts kept ruling in the murderer's favor so the judge must be corrupt. But the appeals kept upholding that judge so they must be corrupt. The local Constabulary won’t investigate the obvious foul play so they must be corrupt. With each step it’s gotten less likely, but each is only a small step. But now corrupt judges at all levels are doing the bidding of a murderer and the local police must be in on it since they won’t investigate. Not something that would have been accepted at first.

Well, I’ve said my piece. I won’t be back. Have a nice life.

Posted by: Buckland at March 3, 2005 1:52 PM

Final thought (really).

After I wrote the notes above, I got a call from an very conservative attorney friend of mine. He brought up a good point.

Have you ever wondered why no conservative media person will touch this story? Sure, David Limbaugh wrote a pretty generic support of Terri, a few other weak drinks elsewhere.

You'd think that if things were this bad some of the really good, well known writers or talk show hosts would join in. But really nothing about the bonescans from Hannity or any other. There's a simple reason for this.

Right now people are terrified (horrible pun) of libel. They are afraid that if they cover this issue on a show that a guest will say something that's both false and easily verifiable -- like Schiavo is a murderer. Presto, $1 million vanishes in an easy libel judgement.

Saying things that are false when they can be easily verified can cause trouble.

But we each have to find a comfort zone for these things.

Posted by: Buckland at March 3, 2005 3:49 PM

Gee, Buckland, does the "right to die" crowd send its talking points in Microsoft Word, or do you have to type them out yourself?

I'll leave your comments up so that readers can read another side, but I trust that they will find, as do I, your silence on the great bulk of points to be conspicuous. Perhaps they'll also find it curious that an anonymous commenter repeatedly offers to pay for things. Or perhaps they'll shake their heads in knowledge that the reason the bone scan's existence was "hidden for 11 years" was that Michael Schiavo kept Terri's medical records sealed. And there's no physical bone scan available because there was only a report of the scan in the files. (For all I know, that is or was the standard procedure for handling bone scans, so there may be nothing peculiar about missing the physical scan, anyway.)

And as for your lightly veiled libel threat, well, on that count, I hope readers will laugh.

Posted by: Justin Katz at March 3, 2005 7:45 PM

Obviously I have offended much more than intended. For that I offer my sincere apologies.

The libel post should not have been made. It was just that I got a call from a friend right after making the earlier posts. But you're right, it did come more as a threat than intended. BTW, I am not an attorney.

As for posting anonymously is that the tensions are way too high on this point. Buckland is a town in the Shire, in Middle Earth (Lord of the Rings) known for its tobacco production, much like my former hometown in Virginia. Judge Greer has gotten over 100 death threats over his handling of the issue. Discussions of life and death I can do. Flames or even worse I can live without.

As to the bone scans -- From the appeals court decision the Schindlers claim to have it. Schiavo's attorneys claim to have heard of it, but don't have it in their posession. A doctor claims to have ordered it in 1991, but doesn't actually say that it was done.

So you may be right on the fact that a scan was actually done (the wording is ambiguous on that). But if it was done by their own admission it has been in the possession of the Schindlers since 1991.

If there are other points you wish addressed I will address them. I stopped at 3 because these seem to be the biggest out there and I didn't want to fill up your inbox on this subject.

I'm not part of any right to die group, but my political leanings lead to a lot of choice for what medical procedures will be accepted when near the end, and if a patient is not able to choose, then those nearest the patient should have a similarly wide latitude to make those choices.

This is a great opportunity to debate where we as a society stand on end of life issues. But relying on flimsy accusations to demonize one side takes from the debate.

Posted by: Buckland at March 4, 2005 9:00 AM

Hey, Buckwheat. The next time you send me a smarmy e-mail, you summon what little courage is needed to use your own name and a real e-mail address. Text follows.


It's horrible to withhold such basic medical care.

Good thing it didn't happen.,%202003/2D02-5394.pdf

Trashing somebody because you don't like them or they do something you don't
approve of is internet cool today.

Spreading an internet story without checking it out is unforgivable.




Quite a few hundreds of millions of people could conceivably send an e-mail to me. Each one gets one chance to make a first impression, by which I must decide whether I want to pay that individual any attention. You blew yours big time. Named or not, you're nobody deserving of my attention, ever again.

Sorry to slop up your comments, Justin.

Posted by: ELC at March 5, 2005 11:39 AM