According to Jon Trogmartin, medical examiner and board certified neuropathologist, who was in attendance at the autopsy (as pursuant to Florida chapter 406) of the late Terri Schiavo:
“Her brain was profoundly atrophied. The brain weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain. This was due to diffused hypoxic ischemic damage. There was massive neuronal loss or damage. This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.
Of note, there was severe occipital lobe necrosis resulting in lateral geniculate nucleus (visual) demonstrated transneuronal degeneration with gliosi. Her vision centers of her brain were dead. Therefore, Mrs. Schiavo had what’s called cortical blindness. She was blind, could not see.”
In spite of Dr. Throgmartin’s tongue-twisting medical jargon, the conclusions are stark – massive brain damage, atrophy and total blindness with no possible hope of recovery.
Like most of America this past spring, I was subjected to the heart-rending (and now known to have been carefully edited) videos of Terri Schiavo allegedly following a balloon waved by her father. The St. Petersburg Times has published a link to that particular clip where it becomes evident that Terri was not the only one in the room who had been blinded by her awful reality.
But, none was so blinded by the Terri Schiavo case (or was it ambition) than the Senate Majority Leader, Dr. Bill Frist. Frist, an MD and heart specialist, led the fight to intervene against pulling Schiavo’s feeding tube, claiming he was defending a “culture of life”. In a bid to bring her case into federal court, Congress held its emergency session and passed the Terri Schiavo bill, which allowed her case to be considered by a federal judge. President Bush flew back from his ranch Texas on Palm Sunday to sign it into law.
On March 17th, on the floor of the senate, Dr. Frist made this pronouncement:
“To be able to make a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state – which is not brain dead; it is not coma; it is a specific diagnosis and typically takes multiple examinations over a period of time because you are looking for responsiveness – I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond.”
NBC’s Today Show host Matt Lauer questioned Frist’s now infamous diagnosis in the wake of the autopsy findings. It seems that Senator Frist has now developed a case of amnesia that would delight a medical malpractice defense attorney.
LAUER: But when you stood on the floor and you said, She does respond, are you at all worried that you led some senators…
FRIST: I never said, She responded. I said I reviewed the court videotapes – the same ones the other doctors reviewed – and I questioned, Is her diagnosis correct?
You’re right Bill, you said, “she does respond”.
Representative Barney Frank (D- Massachusetts) in the New York Times said, “I think it will been seen at some point as a turning point in America about what’s going on with the Republican Party – namely that you have this fanatical party willing to impose its own views on people, and frankly, powerful enough to do it.” Frank, who was among the most vocal critics of the Schiavo bill, continued, “This is particularly a problem for Dr. Frist. This is a direct refutation of his TV diagnosis.”
Frist, who is viewed as a potential presidential candidate for 2008, has pandered to the right wing extremist elements of the Republican Party not only in the Schiavo case, but also in the debate over the use of the filibuster in judicial hearings when he appeared along with other far right Christian luminaries such as Tony Perkins and James Dobson on “Justice Sunday” where it was declared that the Democrats were attacking “people of faith”.
It seems the good doctor may arguably be in violation of AMA ethics opinion E-5.045 by his amateur video “diagnosis”. But, there is no doubt he has abandoned the Hippocratic Oath where he swore “I will apply, for the benefit of the sick, all measures which are required, avoiding those twin traps of overtreatment and therapeutic nihilism.” Or, “this awesome responsibility must be faced with great humbleness and awareness of my own frailty. Above all, I must not play at God.”
Perhaps the good doctor might want to consult the Bible he is so fond of defending and read Jeremiah 5:21:
“Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not:”
©2005 Barney F. McClelland