Dark Bilious Vapors

But how could I deny that I possess these hands and this body, and withal escape being classed with persons in a state of insanity, whose brains are so disordered and clouded by dark bilious vapors....
--Rene Descartes, Meditations on First Philosophy: Meditation I

Home » Archives » March 2005 » A quick Schiavo post....

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03/22/2005: A quick Schiavo post....

I had a few minutes today to catch up on my blog reading. Some interesting comments out there regarding the Schiavo case....

First, a non-blog moment; while taking care of my morning ablutions I heard an interesting thing on the hourly newscast on Air America's Morning Sedition; apparently earlier in the show Mark Riley and guest host Mick Foley had interviewed a medical ethicist, who apparently had some sharp words for the grandstanding done by some physician-legislators (including my very own Senator Bill "Cat Killer" Frist), who were claiming (on the basis of videos provided by Ms. Schiavo's parents) that Ms. Schiavo was not in fact in a persistent vegetative state. Said medical ethicist apparently pointed out that making a diagnosis of a patient via a video, without actual patient contact, is apparently not in conformance with the highest standards of U.S. medical practice. 'Nuff said.

Over at Why Now?, Bryan points us to some interesting facts and documents, including the report of Jay Wolfson, Terri Schiavo's third guardian ad litem (.pdf file). I find an interesting internal contradiction within the GAL's report that I'd be curious to see resolved. On p. 14 of the report, where he is summarizing testimony in an earlier hearing, Wolfson writes:

Testimony provided by members of the Schindler family [Terri Schiavo's parents and siblings] included very personal statements about their desire and intention to ensure that Theresa remain alive. Throughout the course of the litigation, deposition and trial testimony by members of the Schindler family voiced the disturbing belief that they would keep Theresa alive at any and all costs. Nearly gruesome examples were given, eliciting agreement by family members that in the event Theresa should contract diabetes and subsequent gangrene in each of her limbs, they would agree to amputate each limb, and would then, were she to be diagnosed with heart disease, perform open heart surgery. There was additional, difficult testimony that apeared to establish that despite the sad and undesirable condition of Theresa, the parents still derived joy from having her alive, even if Theresa might not be at all aware of her environment given the persistent vegetative state. Within the testimony, as part of the hypotheticals presented, Schindler family members stated that even if Theresa had told them of her intention to have artificial nutrition withdrawn, they would not do it. [emphasis supplied --LRC]
Whereas on the last page of the report proper (right before an appendix thereto), we see this curious footnote:
Of the Schindlers, there has evolved the unfortunate and inaccurate perception that they will "keep Theresa alive at any and all costs" even if that were to result in her limbs being amputated and additional, complex surgical and medical interventions being performed, and even if Theresa had expressly indicated her intention not to be so mainteained. During the course of the GAL's investigation, the Schindlers allow that this is not accurate, and that they never intended to imply a gruesome maintenance of Theresa at all costs.
It'd be interesting to know which is the correct view; I think the GAL (who in several places in his report is very upfront about his perception that one of his jobs in that case was to build "bridges of trust" between the three parties in the litigation at that time (the Schindlers, Michael Schiavo, and Governor Jeb Bush, who at that time had issued a stay of the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube)) was bending over backwards, probably against the manifest weight of the evidence, to paint the Schindlers in the best possible light.

Meanwhile, the GWBBlows Blog has an interesting post: Schiavo Case in Pictures (no apparent permalinks; scroll to the March 21, 2005 entry by that name). Especially enlightening are the pictures of a normal brain versus Ms. Schiavo's brain; notice that there's a significant amount of brain tissue missing in the latter case. (There's also an editorial cartoon that Karen might enjoy, given that it features a caricature of Her Own Congressman...). Not to mention this gem:

For the story behind the cartoon see this Houston Chronicle story: Baby dies after hospital removes breathing tube.

Len on 03.22.05 @ 03:04 PM CST

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