When Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-TN) tried to diagnose Terri Schiavo from an hour’s worth of videotape — saying that “footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state” — the conventional wisdom was that he was looking at the famous images of Schiavo smiling and seemingly responding to family members.
But today, on NBC’s Meet the Press, viewers learned that Frist based his opinion on “court-appointed video by a board certified neurologist who came to the conclusion that she was not in a persistent vegetative state.”
That neurologist was almost certainly Dr. William Hammesfahr.
JABBS readers should be very familiar with how the conservative media used Hammesfahr to try to present the “other side of the story.”
Viewers of several conservative shows — MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes and Christian Broadcasting Network’s The 700 Club — were not told that Hammesfahr’s testimony was discredited by multiple courts for failing to back up his claims with actual facts. For example, a 2003 article in the St. Petersburg Times said that video supplied to Florida Circuit Judge George Greer showed Hammesfahr giving Schiavo 105 commands and 61 questions. The court reported it could not determine whether Schiavo’s responses were more than random motions.
Was that the video that Frist watched?
The conservative media pushed Hammesfahr — even falsely claiming he was a “Noble Prize nominee” — to rally the troops against all the things it hates: the dreaded “liberal media,” and those “liberal activist judges.”
As a heart surgeon, Frist should have done his homework before trying to diagnose Schiavo via video. He should have spoken to her doctors. He should have been briefed that Hammesfahr’s testimony had been discredited.
As a legislator, Frist should have known that 10 courts and 19 judges sided with Schiavo’s husband and upheld Florida law. He should have known that as governor of Texas, President Bush signed the 1999 Advance Directives Act, which allows a patient’s surrogate to make end-of-life decisions — and is consistent with the current Florida law.
Sadly, Frist did what a lot of conservative politicians did during the Schiavo ordeal — ignore facts, ignore legal precedents and ignore science, and instead kowtow to their base and the loud voice of the Religious Right.
Here’s a portion of the interview with NBC’s Tim Russert:
FRIST: … Now, the video footage that I looked at, it wasn’t what you saw on TV, it was court-appointed video by a board certified neurologist who came to the conclusion that she was not in a persistent vegetative state.
RUSSERT: But, Senator, you will acknowledge that people who looked at this believed, suggested that you were trying to diagnose from your office, that the Senate was kept in session over the weekend. The president flew back from his ranch. For something that happens a thousand times a day, in terms of removing tubes, and … (a)nd that this was used in a way to exploit politics and to play to the conservative base of the Republican Party. … Do you regret going to the floor of the Senate and saying, “I watched the videotape and that’s not a persistent vegetative state.”
FRIST: No, I don’t. I’m a physician. I was watching a board-certified neurologist…
RUSSERT: Were you wrong in your diagnosis?
FRIST: I didn’t make the diagnosis. I raised the question of whether or not she’s in a persistent vegetative state. …
RUSSERT: No regrets?
FRIST: Well, I’ll tell you what I learned from it, which is obvious, is that the American people don’t want you involved in these decisions. …
Well, at least Frist has learned one thing from this embarrassing time in his Senatorial career.
This item first appeared at JABBSPowered by Sidelines