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May 24, 2006

Chuck Colson: Right on Michael but Wrong on Terri Schiavo

Topics: Commentary, Terri's Autopsy Report

Chuck Colson gets it right in his commentary about the worldview represented in Michael Schiavo's book:

Joking aside, Michael Schiavo's world is a dangerous and scary place, a place where the "survival of the fittest" is taken to a whole new level--a place where a badly brain-damaged woman should have her food and water taken away simply because she is badly brain damaged and her husband says she would not want to live that way. It's a place where it's easy for even a registered nurse like Michael Schiavo to confuse food, which everyone needs, with the kind of life support, like a respirator, which his wife did not need. It's a place where, as Schiavo is accustomed to saying with a straight face, taking someone's food away is not starving her to death; it's simply allowing her to die peacefully and painlessly. (Why a hospice needs to administer morphine to a person dying painlessly is something that Schiavo does not bother to explain, like so many other issues.)

Unfortunately, Colson is completely off-base in his statement that Terri's "autopsy showed that she had been brain-dead when she was in a comatose state." The fact that Terri could breath on her own is ample evidence that she was not "brain-dead."

Dr. Thogmartin, the Pinellas County Medical Examiner, and Dr. Stephen Nelson, the consulting neuropathologist, stated clearly in their autopsy report, and reiterated several times during the related press conference, that persistent vegetative state (PVS) is a clinical diagnosis and cannot be confirmed by autopsy. They confined themselves to stating that Terri had severe brain damage (not brain-death), and that such damage was "consistent with" a diagnosis of PVS. They could not, in fact, conclude that Terri was PVS and didn't come anywhere near suggesting that Terri was brain dead. This is public information that Colson should have known (the autopsy report is here).

Consider that ...

A reporter questioned Dr. Nelson about whether Terri's autopsy results meant that Terri's family could not have interacted with her, as they claimed. Dr. Nelson, to his credit, said quite emphatically, "no, not at all". He again reiterated that pathological studies cannot confirm PVS.
Jerri Lynn Ward of Austin, Texas, notes the report states: "The frontal temporal and temporal poles and insular-cortex demonstrated relative preservation."

"What this tells us is that her cortex retained function and that her brain was more normal in the area that controls higher-level thinking," said Ward. More by Ward here and here.

Posted by tim at May 24, 2006 10:03 AM

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Could you guys contact Chuck Colson and enlighten him? I was surprised he would say that - it didn't make any sense.

Posted by: Dilek at May 24, 2006 11:21 AM

Would be delighted to contact Colson - can anyone help with contact info?

Posted by: tim at May 24, 2006 11:36 AM

i cant believe chuck colson would say something like that about terri's husband. he is her HUSBAND after all, for 10 years. of course he is experiencing pain too, just like her parents.

Posted by: betty at May 29, 2006 1:49 PM