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March 22, 2006

Terri Schiavo, Judge George Greer, and The Persistent Vegetative State: What Judge Greer Doesn't Want You To Know

Topics: Remembering Terri

We wrote one year ago....

If one is truly dying, nature will soon take its course. The target of the Judge George Greer, George Felos, and the Woodside Hospice crowd in Pinellas County, Florida is someone who is not dying "quickly enough," those whom ethicist Daniel Callahan unkindly termed "biologically tenacious."

I am biologically tenacious, aren't you? Knowing what I know now, I am extremely grateful that I have never lived under Judge George Greer's jurisdiction. I have chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, have an electric wheelchair, and have been through acute rehabilitation at the University of Utah Medical Center four times. In two of those extended stays in the hospital I was given the beautiful opportunity to learn how to swallow, speak, eat, and to continue with my life. I was treated by experts, a multidisciplinary medical team that had the experience to evaluate and rehabilitate me. All of these opportunities have been denied Terri Schiavo.

In previous orders by Judge Greer to remove Terri's feeding tube he based the orders on the testimonies of doctors who say Terri is in a persistent vegetative state(none of which were qualified medical rehabilitation experts). But doctors employed by the Schindlers to assess her condition conclude that with therapy, she could learn to eat and drink on her own and perhaps learn to talk. However, those assessments were not allowed in court by Judge Greer.

To suit their own purposes, the "Death Crowd" has labeled Terri Schiavo as being in a persistent vegetative state(PVS), a condition that even qualified medical experts disagree on as to what it is and how it should be determined; some medical dictionaries don't even include the phrase. While some standards have been proposed, they aren't accepted by the entire medical community, and methods and time-frame for diagnostic testing are widely disputed.

But even though PVS requires considerable skill to diagnose, requiring assessment over a period of time; diagnosis cannot be made, even by the most experienced clinician, from a bedside assessment. Accurate diagnosis is possible but requires the skills of a multidisciplinary team experienced in the management of people with complex disabilities. Recognition of awareness is essential if an optimal quality of life is to be achieved and to avoid inappropriate approaches to the courts for a declaration for withdrawal of tube feeding.

Of course none of this has ever been done for Terri Schiavo, yet....

• Out of 40 patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, 17 (43%) were later found to be alert, aware, and often able to express a simple wish. The study is one of the largest, most sustained analyses of severely disabled people presumed to be incapable of conscious thinking, communication, or awareness of their surroundings. The author, London neurologist Dr. Keith Andrews, said, "It is disturbing to think that some patients who were aware had for several years been treated as being vegetative.

• Studies show PVS patients feel pain -- indeed, a Univ. of Mich. neurologist, in one of the most complete studies, concluded that, when food and fluids are withdrawn [to impose death], the patient should be sedated.

• A study of 84 patients with a "firm diagnosis" of PVS found that 41% regained consciousness by six months, 52% by three years. These statistics certainly discredit the terms "persistent" and "permanent".

Some patients are not actually in PVS, but are "locked-in." They may be mute and immobile but mentally alert and able to communicate by blinking or through aids such as computers -- if someone gives them that opportunity. Others are severely physically disabled, which greatly impairs their ability to communicate. Of course in Terri's case, all of this has been denied for her by her husband who lives with another women and has two children by her.

In practice, the terms of PVS have become so elastic as to categorize Christine Busalacchi, a young Missouri woman, as PVS -- even though she said "Hi" to a doctor, made sounds to indicate which soap opera she wanted to watch, pushed buttons on a cassette recorder to play tapes and recognized her father on TV. (Hopefully, she never understood that he was seeking to have her legally killed by dehydration and starvation.) But of course, Terri Schiavo has never been given this opportunity and was even denied the repair of her wheelchair by this husband(sic) so she could be taken to the community room and outside sunlight, both of which would have been standard in any rehabilitation unit in America, but not for Terri!

And just what is Terri capable of doing now?

From the Empire Journal (please read the whole article), a list of Terri Schiavo's documented vocabulary references:

Witness: Nurse Heidi Law
* mommy
* momma
* help me

Witness: Nurse Carla Sauerlyer
* pay (meaning "pain" when she was in discomfort)
* Haaaiii (meaning "Hi" in response to "Hi Terri")
* mommy
* help me ("Help me was, in fact, one of her more frequent utterances. I heard her say it hundreds of times."

Terri's Mediplex records:
* stop (in reference to one medical procedure being done on her)

Terri's family members:
* ugh-hugh (meaning yes)
* ugh-ugh (meaning no)
* yea ('yea' was a word she reportedly first re-learned to speak in 2002.)
* No

All this, despite being refused any rehabilitative services, such as speech therapy.

On Feb 20, the Orlando Sentinel wrote:
Early this week, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland or Pinellas Circuit Judge George W. Greer could end her parents' seven-year legal battle to keep their daughter alive, paving the way for her husband to carry out what he says were her wishes and remove the feeding tube that sustains her unconscious state.

In a fast-becoming infamous mainstream media failure (but not the case with bloggers who constantly cross-check eachother and sources) the Orlando Sentinal has called this unconscious.

Based upon my own experience and that of others, which includes me seeing a woman walk out of the Univ. of Utah Medical Center who had originally been life-flighted from Idaho with her brains exposed, following long and arduous rehabilitation therapy, I believe that Terri deserves her chance at being rehabilitated instead of Judge George Greer and Michael Schiavo, killing her by painful and terrible starvation and dehydration. At the very least, she deserves her chance too long denied.

Original Post here

Posted by richard at March 22, 2006 12:43 PM


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