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Schiavo Autopsy Prompts Closure, Denial

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The results of Terri Schiavo’s autopsy were made public yesterday, and they totally vindicate the claims—viciously attacked as they were at the time—of Terri’s husband.

The autopsy reveals that Terri suffered from extreme and irreversible brain damage that made her blind and incapable of any cognizance or interaction of any kind. These revelations prove beyond any doubt that claims made by Terri’s parents and other family members that she could see, could recognize voices and could even attempt to speak were false.

This doesn’t necessarily mean that the family lied, but rather it points out the incredible and sometimes overwhelming power of wishful thinking in sad cases such as this—a power that sometimes borders on the delusional.

Terri’s life is over and the “crisis” has passed; only the delusion remains. While Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, once an outspoken critic of Terri’s diagnosis, seems to be backing down, members of Schiavo’s family and the religious-right icons who flocked to their cause say the autopsy changes nothing. They put no faith in doctors while Terri was “alive,” so it is unsurprising that they scorn conclusive scientific evidence now.

It’s easy to see the family’s reaction as one of denial brought on by extreme grief. Unfortunately, there are religious fundamentalists in this country who have no qualms about taking advantage of this grief, and using this sad event to further their own agendas. Those who can stare in the face of irrefutable evidence and say, “it doesn’t matter,” are a danger to public discourse and, in the degree to which they have political power, to this country as well.

Originally published as Schiavo and the Politics of Denial

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  • Serena

    Well to be honest with you!! i dont think it is up to anyone if a person should live or die…it just makes me sick to my stomach, I am for the family it should have been up to them!! her mother and father of all people not her husband…thats how i would want it to be

  • I agree with much of what you say. However, after all the outright lies that have been told about Michael Schiavo, I think we might want to pause before giving creedence to the claim you mention.

    That said, I don’t think legalized euthanasia would ever be solely at the discretion of the family. The doctor would probably need to be involved in the decision making process as well. This would keep people from simply offing an inconvenient or expensive relative.

  • Pete, you can blame everyone for the method of her death. Euthansia is a very tough call in this country – as I believe it should be. There are far too many people who have some degree of control over a disabled loved one and motive to end their life far sooner than that end would come naturally. “When will that bitch die?” remarks unproven from Michael Schaivo’s lips notwithstanding, the sentiment is surely common.

    This case, though relatively simple in terms of Florida law (the law, as I have pointed out elsewhere, allowed everything that happened to occur), is incredibly complex in ethical terms. You have a husband and his relatives (purportedly, and I will stipulate, friends of Terri), coming forward after a substantial period of time to reverse their prior claims and argue that Terri would not have wanted this, based on perhaps one comment made by the woman. You have a diagnosis of PVS, probably correct, but not necessarily, based on good faith disagreement by other medical professionals. All of this adds up to a very troubling situation in which to put a *potentially* conscious (albeit at a minimal level) woman through a painful death.

    Yes, it would have been nicer to “put her to sleep” the way we do dogs, but as some advocates on the husband’s side have argued, you need to take that to the legislature and the people.

    This entire situation has been a tragedy for all concerned, and a black eye in what we call our “civilization”.

  • Bill, if your qualm is with the method of her death, then the same people who fought to keep her alive can be blamed for that by fighting to keep euthanasia illegal. She was treated, as many have said, “worse than a dog” due to the very actions and beliefs of those making the complaint. I elaborate here.

  • KC

    “Words cannot describe my contempt for such a move.” —Temple Stark

    I can understand how you’d feel this way.
    What irks me (beside everyone else knowing Al Gore’s grades except me apparently) is that the media has not presented all the information possible that came from the autospy. This will extend the harsh emotions and arguments endlessly and in circles.

    Pete’s right in that Terri’s condition at the time of her death has been confirmed, but the autospy brought up new questions. The theory that she was abused was disproved, and so was the theory that the collaspe was caused by an eating disorder. The cause of death (the origin of the collaspe) was not determined so an investigation is not that out of line. In fact it would be odd for an undetermined death not to be investigated. We can of course hope it will be fair, and not turn into political circus.

  • My apologies for the thread-drift, but I no longer have specific links for Gore’s grades, however, it was the subject of quite a bit of media (not just internet) discussion during the 2000 campaign. Gore flunked out of divinity school even, if memory serves.

    Pete, you are correct, you do not use the phrase “brain-dead”. However, your statement that Terri was “incapable of any cognizance or interaction of any kind” perhaps reads too much into the report. The autopsy does not rule out the possibility that Terri was in a minimally conscious state rather than a PVS, for much the same reason as the report could not confirm a PVS diagnosis. The worst damaged and atrophied areas were the occipital lobes “with relative preservation of the frontal and temporal lobes”.

    Mind you, I’m not saying Terri’s quality of life was high, or anything I would want to go through myself. My point, as explained on my own blog at the time of Terri’s death, is that she might have had some horrific remainder of consciousness, and to suffer through death by dehydration was needlessly cruel; this is particularly true in light of the balancing of “evidence” of Terri’s wishes in the matter.

  • Bennett

    You want a moonbat? Jeb leads the pack.

  • You’ll never guess – they wouldn’t let Terry Schiavo die in peace; they won’t let the issue dies.

    Jeb Bush fights for your right to be fucked up and not enjoy it.

    One day after an exhaustive autopsy sought to end much of the controversy over Terri Schiavo’s life, and eventual death, Gov. Jeb Bush said he plans to ask prosecutors to investigate whether her husband took too long to call for help on the night she collapsed in 1990.

    A lawyer for Michael Schiavo called the governor’s comments ”disgusting” and said there was no delay in the husband’s call for help.

    That is, – he wants an investigation into the night, 16 years ago, that Terry fell. Words cannot describe my contempt for such a move.

  • Just for the record, my article does not claim that Schaivo was brain-dead (that comes from Shark’s comment). What I said was, “Terri suffered from extreme and irreversible brain damage that made her blind and incapable of any cognizance or interaction of any kind.” I stand by that. No one questions whether Terri was alive in a physical sense. The real question, I guess, is what constitutes “life.” I’d say that Terri was not alive in any meaningful way. I’m sure others will disagree.

  • KC

    “Now, as to the autopsy results, “consistent with a persistent vegetative state” does most emphatically not mean that the ME ruled she was in one. An autopsy cannot confirm such a diagnosis, since the diagnosis of a PVS is a *clinical* one. The autopsy report, itself, made this point.” –Bill Bacon

    You’re completely correct. The autospy itself is available on the The Smoking Gun site, and contains facts that either didn’t make it out into the mainstream media, or were reported less than accurately.

    “both had worse grades in school than Bush, according to their records”

    While this not the topic (sorry Pete!), I was aware of the John Kerry grades being released, I hadn’t heard about Al Gore’s. May I ask where you got this information? Thanks!

  • “Brain-dead”? Sorry, but the evidence of the autopsy shows otherwise; heck, no one except the blogospheric supporters of Michael Schiavo claimed that Ms. Schiavo was “brain-dead.” She wasn’t. Brain death is when the entirety of the brain has ceased working and no electrical activity can be detected. This wasn’t the case until she died of dehydration.

    Now, as to the autopsy results, “consistent with a persistent vegetative state” does most emphatically not mean that the ME ruled she was in one. An autopsy cannot confirm such a diagnosis, since the diagnosis of a PVS is a *clinical* one. The autopsy report, itself, made this point.

    Now, as to the ad hominem against George Bush; does that mean John Kerry and Al Gore(who both had worse grades in school than Bush, according to their records) should also be “put out of his misery”?

  • Shark

    news report DETAILS:

    “Terri Schiavo… severe, irreversible brain damage…

    “… [her brain] shriveled to half its normal size, and damaged in nearly all its regions, including the one responsible for vision…”

    “…brain damage “was irreversible… no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed” it…”

    “…her brain was “consistent with a persistent vegetative state”


    Do you wonder why the GOP, the Christoid Right, and the “culture of life” folks would encourage extraordinary measures to keep a brain-dead woman’s body alive?

    1) Using the above criteria, George W. Bush would qualify for euthanasia;

    2) They were hoping to draft Terri as a *GOP candidate for the 2008 Presidential election.

    Now it all makes sense!