« Devastating Review of Michael Schiavo's PAC | Main | Terri's Story »


December 21, 2005

Top Story - No Story

Topics: Commentary

Pamela F. Hennessy

In recent days, major press and media outlets have produced and published their considerations for the top news stories of 2005. According to the Associated Press, a survey of the country's editors and news directors overwhelmingly tapped the story of Hurricane Katrina as the most significant and the most exhaustively reported.

Like most Americans, I watched in profound horror as Katrina annihilated populated areas, brought about the deaths of more than 1,300 innocent people and set into play a domino effect that would leave portions of the south devastated for months--if not years--to come.

I will not soon forget the almost relentless media coverage of the human tragedy, the faces of terrified people and their wailing children, the images of widespread destruction throughout several states or the surreal portrait of the Superdome, packed from floor to ceiling with desperation, sorrow and too few bottles of fresh water.

Though the coverage--at times--seemed incessant, the press and the media actually did a very good thing with their treatment of Hurricane Katrina. For, when it was revealed that local, state and federal agencies may have failed in their initial responses to the disaster, all eyes watching were opened wide to serious problems that plague our emergency response systems. Reporters, editors and columnists alike gave no quarter to those agencies and reported, with gusto, about their lack of aptitude.

Because of that glaring exposure (and following a few weeks of compulsory finger-pointing by the involved officials) the public was given a unique insight on an important and extreme problem effecting all of us--the failure of our public agencies to provide us adequate or timely relief in the event of a catastrophe.

Yes, the media did the public a great service by exposing some very valid issues and did so in such a manner that was rather unforgiving towards the failings and trespasses of the responsible parties.

For that, they should be congratulated and I won't take that from them. I will, however, point out their utter shame in the coverage of another disaster. This one can be easily seen as far smaller than the ghastliness of Katrina, but it is no less relevant to the American public. It is the case of Terri Schiavo.

Since before 2002 and, prior to my becoming involved in Terri's case, I watched the media's handling of her story with not just a diminutive amount of dismay. For years, the media reported Terri's condition as 'brain-dead', even though no such diagnosis had ever been proffered by examining physicians. They repeatedly referred to her as someone on life support, in a coma, terminally ill and dying. None of their descriptions had any basis in fact and they painted a very dismal image for the public to rely upon to form their opinions.

Terri was diagnosed by three of five examining physicians at trial to be in a persistent vegetative state. The media, however, failed to note that one of those doctors chosen by Michael Schiavo (Ronald Cranford) is, by his own admission, a proponent of 'death with dignity' and has gone so far as to suggest withholding ordinary care from patients with dementia. The media also failed to disclose that the other physician (chosen by Michael Schiavo), James Barnhill, is a business associated of Schiavo's attorney, George Felos (The pair have given seminars in end of life ethics during educational cruises for University at Sea).

Finally, the court-appointed examining physician, Dr. Peter Bambakidis, is brother to Dr. Gust Bambakidis. Gust serves in the same Greek association (American Hellenic Educational Progressive Association or AHEPA) as Schiavo's attorney, George Felos. AHEPA is a national association, but small enough in members that the connection is a bit disquieting.

This information was given to a number of outlets, yet it was only reported in two small online publications. The mainstream quickly and predictably gave it a pass.

Not surprisingly, the mainstream also gave a pass to Judge George Greer's ruling from February of 2005--that did not simply allow Michael Schiavo to direct the removal of Terri's assisted food and fluids--it ordered that he do so. Some, including myself, view this as a violation of Terri's privacy in that the state, the government, forced something upon her body: her death.

The media also fell down in reporting that the removal of enteral nourishment from a non-dying patient was not permitted in Florida (and only under certain circumstances) until 1999, months after Michael Schiavo petitioned the court for that authority. As Terri suffered her neurological injuries in 1990, it is impossible that she could have legally given informed consent to being dehydrated to death in such a predicament. After supporting documents, that outlined those statutes and retained protections, were given to major press and media outlets, not one reporter bothered to make mention of this particular.

Equally depressing are the reasons for the changed law in 1999. An End of Life Panel was commissioned to advise the Florida legislature on ethics at the end of life. Of that panel, three of George Felos' board-mates at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast (Mary Labyak, Michael Bell and Lofty Basta) were members. This suggests a conflict and occurred was just months prior to Felos and his client, Schiavo, transferring Terri Schiavo to the Hospice's house at Woodside in Pinellas Park, Florida without a terminal diagnosis.

Again, more than 400 news outlets were given hard copies of the End of Life Panel's report to the Florida legislature, Michael Schiavo's 1998 petition to the court, the 1999 amended statute and Terri Schiavo's Hospice admitting record, yet none tapped out a single word about the apparent conflict.

Not one of the majors asked a single question, did a minute of investigative work or threw the first hardball inquiry at the involved parties. Instead, they took the posture that Terri Schiavo had been well represented and her husband was a perfectly swell guy for ensuring her 'dying' wish.

To be fair, at least one local outlet kept their reporting of the Schiavo matter down the center and objective. Another, in the competing market, has been nothing short of an unpaid public relations agency for Michael Schiavo, insistently skewering those who would support Terri Schiavo's retained rights (under Florida law) to ordinary care. We were made out to be religious freaks and, although a good many religious people demonstrated when Terri's feeding tube had been taken away, the sum total of those objecting came from every political, social and cultural walk there is. A loud voice came from the disabled community, but you likely never heard it. Since sensible people don't sell newspapers, what you saw was sensationalistic and ugly.

Perhaps the most egregious trespass the media committed in Terri's case was the panic-selling of living wills shortly after her death. To be certain, living wills, advanced directives, surrogate or proxy arrangements and even protective medical declarations are all things that warrant studious and careful consideration. They should not be entered into lightly or as a knee-jerk reaction to an emotionally troubling news story. Those in the written press and in the media who coaxed their audiences into the notion that a living will would have circumvented the drama of the Schiavo case should retire their pens and hang their heads in shame.

I'm looking at you, St. Pete Times.

Though the Schiavo coverage was almost non-stop during the two weeks she was made to go without food and fluids, I maintain the opinion that it was poorly researched, badly slanted and did a tremendous disservice to the viewing public. Even those on her side fell far from dealing with the real issues her case presented. The spider-web of troubles in Terri's case is, as I see it, not just interesting but important. People should understand what can be done to them without their consent but, instead of treating the story as a public service opportunity, the media handled it like a well-crafted advertisement for the death with dignity movement, never once telling you why the case is cause for concern.

If I could pick my own top story for 2005, it would be the media's hatchet-job on reporting the Schiavo case, how millions of Americans were lulled into thinking what they witnessed was ethical and how the most apparent of things can be buried by irresponsible and arrogant attitudes.

When I look back on this year, I'll certainly remember those who suffered through Hurricane Katrina, the many scandals the government has been caught up in, the devastation from earthquakes around the globe, the soaring petroleum prices, CIA leaks, political infighting, the deaths of Shirley Chisholm and Rosa Parks and the great sadness and waste that is the Iraq war. For those stories, the media has been thoughtful and deliberate.

Most of all, however, I will remember Terri Schiavo and how the press and the media went to such great lengths to hush the world into believing that what happened to her was, somehow, okay.

--------------------------------------------
Pamela F. Hennessy is a marketing and media executive in Florida and has volunteered for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation (www.terrisfight.org) since November of 2002.

Posted by tim at December 21, 2005 9:48 PM


Articles Related to Commentary:

Comments

The media wasn't interested in the Schindlers' side of the story for a couple of reasons- 1) Mickey had the more media-savvy 'Felos and Co.' working for him and 2) the media had no ideological stake in presenting and exploring evidence which would hamper Mr. Slime's case.

Thus, the incessant reports on how 'doctors (meaning those paid by Mike and George) say _____' but next to none on the opinions of those scores that the Schindlers had down in writing.

Posted by: thedegu [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 2:03 AM

Equally depressing are the reasons for the changed law in 1999. An End of Life Panel was commissioned to advise the Florida legislature on ethics at the end of life. Of that panel, three of George Felos’ board-mates at the Hospice of the Florida Suncoast (Mary Labyak, Michael Bell and Lofty Basta) were members. This suggests a conflict and occurred was just months prior to Felos and his client, Schiavo, transferring Terri Schiavo to the Hospice’s house at Woodside in Pinellas Park, Florida without a terminal diagnosis.

Again, more than 400 news outlets were given hard copies of the End of Life Panel’s report to the Florida legislature, Michael Schiavo’s 1998 petition to the court, the 1999 amended statute and Terri Schiavo’s Hospice admitting record, yet none tapped out a single word about the apparent conflict.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~


And Jeb Bush and Charlie Crist can't smell a conspiracy in that one?? Do they not know the connections to Felos, Greer, Rice, King and Schiavo in all of this? How can the FBI over look this?? I don't get it! The color of code law would nail them all and send them to death row for this! What is the law for anyway? How can these politican's sleep at night. George Felos is a slithering evil snake and so is Mary Labyak. http://www.apfn.org/apfn/Terri_labyak.htm

Praying for hope these people will change is not going to cut it. They are pure evil and should go before a Grand Jury to explain.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 12:45 PM

I only wish so. As long as the politicos are more worried about what's 'popular' than what's right, we won't see any justice in the case. Everyone seems to have forgotten, as Pamela's article suggests. How many more will die as a result...

Posted by: thedegu [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 12:58 PM

One of the many things that nags at me is the fact that Michael Schiavo was taking valium the night Terri had her "unexplained collapse". The police made a terrible error when they did not count the pills in the bottle and determine how many he had taken since it was prescribed. Apparently it escapes many, but Valium can have serious adverse effects on some people. It can make them lethal, combative and violent as well as sleepy and dopey. Since Terri told her brother and her best friend, Jackie Rhodes, she and Michael had been fighting all day, it is easy to imagine knowing his history of verbal abuse that Michael lost his cool and smothered Terri under the influence of valium. I don't know if he drinks, but he was in the bar/resturant business, and he had worked that night. If he had mixed it with alcohol he would be more lethal. NOTE: one of the side effects is "RAGE". I have observed a few people in my years under the influence of this dangerous drug. This should have been investigated. Schiavo should have been drug tested, like Terri was that night. I noticed in an interview with Larry King that Schiavo said he would not take a Lie detector test. I have to ask myself, WHY NOT? Terri Fighters should not give up seeking Justice for Terri. There is no statue of limitations on collusion, conspiracy and murder. It is going to be hard to keep it alive since many feel it is a political issue but it really is a murder issue. This is the perfect crime, in my humble opinion. Now People Magazine has name Michael Schiavo the (KILLER) newsmaker of the Year. Unreal. I don't buy People but never will now, that is for sure.


Valium (Valuim, vallium, valiam, valiun, vailum) is a member of the benzodiazepine family. Benzodiazepines are sedatives that cause dose-related depression of the central nervous system. They are useful in treating anxiety, insomnia, seizures, and muscle spasms.
The most frequent side effects of Valium (Valuim, vallium, valiam, valiun, vailum) are drowsiness, fatigue, and ataxia (loss of balance). Rarely, Valium (Valuim, vallium, valiam, valiun, vailum) causes a paradoxical reaction with excitability, muscle spasm, lack of sleep, and rage. Confusion, depression, speech problems, and double vision are also rare side effects of Valium (Valuim, vallium, valiam, valiun, vailum).
http://www.trustedmeds.com/trm/valium-daizepam-diazepan-diazepam.jsp

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 1:10 PM

"As long as the politicos are more worried about what's 'popular' than what's right, we won't see any justice in the case."

Don't put up your pots and pans, ever. Make noise where you can. We can't give up! I sure hope Crist, Rice, Gus and King don't get re elected. I think there is more people on to them than the SPT is aware of. Greer is retiring, good for him, the best decision he has ever made in his life. He has killed atleast two women that I know of, since he sat on that wobbly bench. I would like to see Terr's blog turn into a sleuth blog. Dissect every little piece of information on Terri's case. And send it to the Justice Department, be relentless.

I am not giving up.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 1:20 PM

NOTE: one of the side effects is "RAGE".

I just noticed the drug company said it is rarely a side effect. They are playing it down but it most certainly happens more than they are reporting. Valium can be a dangerous drug. It can make people mean and violent.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 1:29 PM

That is one thing I have been wondering about, but know not the answer. You have a 20-something lying there unconscious, the police show up, aren't they going to be suspicious and treat the matter as such?

Maybe they did and maybe they didn't, I don't know, but generally I'd think you're going to be all over the guy trying to figure out what's going on before things start to go 'cold.'

The matter of the initial police response is one aspect of the case I'm not well-informed on. I might have to see the Fuhrman book for this.

Posted by: thedegu [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 1:33 PM

As far as I know there was no real investigation that night. They did note the many bottles of drugs on the kitchen counter and only two were Terri's. One was to treat a female infection and the other was to make her ovulate. The Valuim made my radar go up and twirl around. They must have had Barney Fife responding to that call that night. They really dropped the ball. The paramedics are the ones that said the scene looked suspicious. Gee, you would think he would have turned Terri's body over to clear her airway and try CPR, or call 911 first, instead of her Father. We didn't the Police jump all over this. Better yet, why doesn't the MSM jump on it too, this is attempted murder, pure and simple.

Schiavo is a bully and he has proven to be mean as a snake. The whole world knows that by his actions when Terri died, kicking her family out of the room, cremating her, hiding her ashes for months, and then burying her without telling the Schindlers. And ofcourse, he
had her exterminated. If that isn't a snake from hell, I don't know what is. My point being, The Valuim made him meaner and more abusive and it also causes severe mood swings. Combined with the other anti depressants that he was prescribed, this is a bomb waiting to go off. Schiavo was very unstapled and had trouble keeping his jobs. It certainly would be embarrassing for all involved to admit Schiavo made a fool out of everybody and finagled the State of Florida to do his killing for him. One of the things he told the police that night, "I don't know why she would want to commit suicide". Hello.................that was strange to say. It is my understanding that atleast one of the cops on the scene was a new green cop. They really screwed up bad. You know Jodi has had a few traffic accidents and suffers from chronic pain. I bet their kitchen counter is full of various meds as well.

I have Mark's book but have not read it yet. I am not sure he touched on the meds, that will be interesting to see. It was a red flag to me because I know what valuim does to people.

Later and Merry Christmas everybody!

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 2:03 PM

Excuse my spelling errors, typing to fast I guess.

The bottom line, Mark said there was enough for a Grand Jury and Bernie McCabe and Crist were so arrogant and pompous they didn't care about the truth to avoid embarrassing themselves, the State of Florida and the Courts. Apparently Jeb Bush felt the same way since he blew off the investigation. This is why I know he is a corrupted official now. He should have stood his ground.

Mark nailed a Kennedy relative for Murder I after 20 years. Mark knows his job very well.

Chatterbox off for now. SYL

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 2:11 PM

Terri had PID, pelvic inflammatory disease. This is caused by a promiscuous partner. I don't believe Terri was the guilty party. This will cause infertility. Michael worked the bar/resturant late night scene. How many girlfriends did Schiavo have after Terri fell? I know of at least three.

This should have been considered important too, but it was not. This really is very important, it proves again and identifies what kind of creep he really was.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at December 22, 2005 2:25 PM

"I sure hope Crist, Rice, Gus and King don't get re elected."

Please add Jeb Bush to this list... because he may run for higher office. I say this because he went from never wanting to run for the presidency, to leaving open the possibility in the future.

How can we be sure he'll stand up to the aggressors of this world if he can't even stand up to a lower court judge and some local police, when he had his state police and his power as gov on his side.

The day he becomes president will be the day that more spouses will suddenly become incapacitated due to some "heart or anorexia problem".

I say all this even tho i voted in his brother George. He also should have done more as well. But the responsibility rests on ole Jeb's shoulders.

Posted by: AletdownGov [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2006 11:22 AM

Yea, I voted for Bush 43 too and adored him until he let Terri die her heinous death. You can't convince me that tyrant probate has more power than President Bush. Delay, Frist and Bush(s) let Terri die. Jeb could have atleast forced the investigation on Schiavo but he let him off the hook. There is a federal law that would have fixed them all (police and judges and nursing homes) but to many of their buddies would have been in jail.

It still makes me sick to this day! Can you believe two slime balls like Felos and Schiavo did this to America. A certain outing for the corruption in Florida State. Jeb Bush is finished in politics. No way would he get elected President. That is a sick joke, all on him and his Dad.

I am so frustrated because this should not have happened and after the fact, no action has been taken. I have NO respect for the FBI, they are worthless. They didn't do their job or use their laws!

Who leaves their wife faced down after she collaspes and leaves her there and doesn't call 911 first. Maybe OJ or Robert Blake.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2006 6:48 PM

"Stroke survivors and their advocates said Tuesday they were cheered and inspired by Dick Clark's New Year's Eve appearance, ringing in 2006 a year after his debilitating stroke."

This is good to see however last night on Fox news, Bill O'Reilly was questioning a Neurologist and saying Dick Clark should not have come on TV, that people wanted to remember him the way he was before his stroke! I couldb't believe my eyes and ears! Another Fox News reporter (woman) said the same thing, it was like they were grossed out! I was shocked they had that attitude. Having a stroke is now considered the end of your life, according to Bill O'Reilly and his peers.

This disgusts me, and I hope they never suffer from a stroke. I was very happy to see Dick on the job, even if he couldn't speak as well as before. Where do these people get off saying things like that! I hope Dick Clark didn't see O'Reilly make those statements.

Posted by: SherlockRWBShoes [TypeKey Profile Page] at January 3, 2006 7:02 PM