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March 16, 2005
Did Terri Ever Receive A Fair Examination?

Hugh Hewitt links to a shocking article on the Terri Schiavo case in National Review today that calls into question the entire premise of her husband's case to remove her feeding tube. According to a number of board-certified neurologists, Terri never got the requisite testing to certify her as suffering from persistent vegetative state (PVS), and the doctor who has testified to her diagnosis has a long track record of right-to-die activism.

Father Robert Johansen, a Catholic priest working on behalf of the Schindlers, explains:

I have spent the past ten days recruiting and interviewing neurologists who are willing to come forward and offer affidavits or declarations concerning new testing and examinations for Terri. In addition to the 15 neurologists affidavits Gibbs had in time to present in court, I have commitments from over 30 others who are willing to testify that Terri should have new and additional testing, and new examinations by unbiased neurologists. Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terris diagnosis of PVS. All of these neurologists are board-certified; a number of them are fellows of the prestigious American Academy of Neurology; several are professors of neurology at major medical schools. ...

Terris diagnosis was arrived at without the benefit of testing that most neurologists would consider standard for diagnosing PVS. One such test is MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging). MRI is widely used today, even for ailments as simple as knee injuries but Terri has never had one. Michael has repeatedly refused to consent to one. The neurologists I have spoken to have reacted with shock upon learning this fact. One such neurologist is Dr. Peter Morin. He is a researcher specializing in degenerative brain diseases, and has both an M.D. and a Ph.D. in biochemistry from Boston University.

In the course of my conversation with Dr. Morin, he made reference to the standard use of MRI and PET (Positron Emission Tomography) 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 them.

There was a moment of dead silence.

Thats criminal, he said, and then asked, in a tone of utter incredulity: How can he continue as guardian? People are deliberating over this womans life and death and theres been no MRI or PET?

Terri had a CT scan done, which Morin says is analogous to a poorly-focused photograph. It only has use as a diagnostic tool when dealing with major acute trauma to the brain, not in determining chronic brain death, and does not reveal the hydrocephaly that Schiavo and his doctors claim Terri has.

Why would a doctor get up on the stand and claim a diagnosis using tests that aren't designed to support it? Perhaps the doctor has an axe to grind and sees Schiavo's case as a way to promote his personal views. That appears to be at least likely, as Dr. Ronald Cranford has testified in a number of such cases, always on the side of PVS and the removal of care. It turns out that Cranford, who works at the same university hospital where the First Mate got her pancreas transplant, also has a long history of advocating euthanasia for a variety of other causes:

Dr. Cranford was the principal medical witness brought in by Schiavo and Felos to support their position that Terri was PVS. Judge Greer was obviously impressed by Cranfords rsum: Cranford travels throughout the country testifying in cases involving PVS and brain impairment. He is widely recognized by courts as an expert in these issues, and in some circles is considered the expert on PVS. His clinical judgment has carried the day in many cases, so it is relevant to examine the manner in which he arrived at his judgment in Terris case. But before that, one needs to know a little about Cranfords background and perspective: Dr. Ronald Cranford is one of the most outspoken advocates of the right to die movement and of physician-assisted suicide in the U.S. today.

In published articles, including a 1997 op-ed in the MinneapolisSt. Paul Star Tribune, he has advocated the starvation of Alzheimers patients. He has described PVS patients as indistinguishable from other forms of animal life. He has said that PVS patients and others with brain impairment lack personhood and should have no constitutional rights. Perusing the case literature and articles surrounding the right to die and PVS, one will see Dr. Cranfords name surface again and again. In almost every case, he is the one claiming PVS, and advocating the cessation of nutrition and hydration.

In the cases of Paul Brophy, Nancy Jobes, Nancy Cruzan, and Christine Busalucci, Cranford was the doctor behind the efforts to end their lives. Each of these people was brain-damaged but not dying; nonetheless, he advocated death for all, by dehydration and starvation. Nancy Cruzan did not even require a feeding tube: She could be spoon-fed. But Cranford advocated denying even that, saying that even spoon-feeding constituted medical treatment that could be licitly withdrawn.

In cases where other doctors dont see it, Dr. Cranford seems to have a knack for finding PVS. Cranford also diagnosed Robert Wendland as PVS. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could pick up specifically colored pegs or blocks and hand them to a therapy assistant on request. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could operate and maneuver an ordinary wheelchair with his left hand and foot, and an electric wheelchair with a joystick, of the kind that many disabled persons (most famously Dr. Stephen Hawking) use. Dr. Cranford dismissed these abilities as meaningless. Fortunately for Wendland, the California supreme court was not persuaded by Cranfords assessment.

Up to now, my inclination was to consider this an unfortunate case of dueling experts and bitter family feuding. Now I think this is something more. The people who want the feeding tube pulled all seem to have vested interests outside of Terri's well-being -- Cranford wants to push an agenda for euthanazing people who he finds inconvenient, and Michael Schiavo appears to have a long history of neglect, or at least disinterest in pursuing the proper testing for his wife's condition.

As I wrote earlier, when in doubt, we should err on the side of life rather than death. As Father Johansen points out, grave doubts exist about Terri's true condition. It seems almost perverse to insist on pulling out her feeding tube until the proper testing can be done, and if Schiavo won't allow it, the court should demand it. A few more weeks to determine the real diagnosis of Terri Schiavo won't hurt anyone, and might just save a life. Read the entire article -- it's lengthy but fascinating and horrifying. Don't forget to check out the Schindlers' web site, Terri's Fight, for further updates.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at March 16, 2005 10:14 PM

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Listed below are links to weblogs that reference Did Terri Ever Receive A Fair Examination?:

» Terri Schiavo - Never Properly Diagnosed from Bogus Gold
Captain Ed weighs in with his take on the article. Most telling are his comments at the end of his post [Read More]

Tracked on March 16, 2005 11:29 PM

» Why Hasnt an MRI been done for Terri? from ProLifeBlogs
Fr. Rob Johansen (Thrown Back) has written an exception article that appeared today in the National Review. He completely erodes the medical arguments behind assertions that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) and that her brain has... [Read More]

Tracked on March 17, 2005 12:11 AM

» Why Hasnt an MRI been done for Terri? from bLogicus
Almost 50 neurologists all say the same thing: Terri should be reevaluated, Terri should be reexamined, and there are grave doubts as to the accuracy of Terris diagnosis of PVS [Read More]

Tracked on March 17, 2005 12:14 AM

» Terri has never had an MRI? from The Anchoress
This is staggering and unbelievable. Terri Schiavo, aside from not having any therapy of any sort since 1992 has never had an MRI??? Fr. Robert Johansen gives us the news in this NRO article. [Read More]

Tracked on March 17, 2005 12:43 AM

» Today Is A Fast Day from Cosmic X
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Tracked on March 17, 2005 5:45 AM

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» Terri's Death Begins from Myopic Zeal
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Tracked on March 17, 2005 7:12 AM

» Did Terri Receieve Qualified Medical Care? from HCS and Gen's Pad
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Tracked on March 17, 2005 7:54 AM

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» The U.S. Federal Government Acts to Save Terri Schiavo from OKIE on the LAM - In LA
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» About Terri Schiavo: Shut Up from WuzzaDem
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» Snuffing Out Justice for Terri from CollegePundit
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» Terri from
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Tracked on March 24, 2005 12:50 PM



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