Please Don’t Confuse This Story With Terri Schiavo

First appeared in the Dakota Voice, available here.

One can’t help but wonder if perhaps the mainstream media is feeling a growing sense of uneasiness regarding Terri’s death.

In the two years since my sister died I have witnessed an increasing determination on their part to convince the public that she was “hopeless” and in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) regardless of any and all evidence to the contrary.

I believe this is happening because of the increasing number of questions now being raised as to the veracity of the PVS diagnosis, which was the litmus test used to kill Terri – a litmus test which is still being used to justify the killing of others who are said to be in this condition.

Just last month researchers found that over 40% of the people diagnosed as being in a PVS are, in fact, misdiagnosed. This new study confirmed an already existing British study regarding the high rate of PVS misdiagnoses.

In addition to this, scientists are developing new technology that takes better images of brain function. Much to the surprise of researchers some of these images taken on persons that were thought to be oblivious to their surroundings show that they have some level of consciousness.

There have also been a growing number of persons diagnosed as being in “vegetative” conditions, predicted by doctors to never to regain consciousness, who have unexplainably awakened.

A number of these patients regained awareness after being in a “PVS” or similar conditions far longer than Terri was – Terry Wallis regained awareness after 19 years, Sarah Scantlin after 20 years, and Patricia White Bull after 16 years.

And then you have recent stories like that of 36 year-old Jesse Ramirez, whose feeding tube was removed by his wife only ten days after he suffered a severe head trauma in an automobile accident, when doctors said that he would most likely end up “vegetative.”

Fortunately his parents questioned the doctors, found an attorney and were able to get a judge to have his feeding tube reinserted. Days later Jesse began to make noticeable improvement and is now interacting with family and friends and scheduled for rehab.

Haleigh Poutre’s story is disturbingly similar. Doctors gave her a “no hope for recovery” diagnosis and recommended that Haleigh’s feeding be stopped so that she would die, only to be proven wrong when she started to improve.

One can only guess how often persons like Jesse, and Haleigh die without someone there actively advocating for their lives.

Moreover, what’s common to all these stories is the fact that the mainstream media reports them, not solely on their merits, but with the oft-repeated, almost frantic disclaimer that “of course this should not be confused with Terri Schiavo’s case.”

In an ABC News just a couple of weeks ago regarding Jesse Ramirez, they made certain to separate his situation from Terri’s. “But ethicists debate the extent to which this comparison is valid. This guy was not hopeless and in a persistent vegetative state by any means.”

Here is a USA Today story from June 2005. “The cases of Wallis and Schiavo are different biologically. Both slipped into comas when their brains were first injured, but then they diverged. Schiavo remained vegetative while Wallis moved into a state of limbo.”

And a Washington Post article from September 2006. “But Owen, Schiff and others stressed that the research does not indicate that many patients in vegetative states are necessarily aware or likely to recover. Schiavo, in particular, had suffered much more massive brain damage for far longer than the patient in Britain, making awareness or recovery impossible, they said.”

One has to wonder why the media goes to such extravagant lengths to distance Terri’s case from anything and everything that might connect her to a positive development or outcome.

Perhaps it is because they realize just how culpable they are in her death. Rather than report the facts of her case, the media championed the cause of the so-called “right to die” movement. They wrote Terri off as “hopeless” from the beginning and never bothered to examine the reality of her situation.

By trumpeting the decision of the judge who sentenced her to die, handling with kid gloves the “husband” who sought to kill her and giving a platform to euthanasia advocates, the media abdicated all responsibility to present the truth to the American public.

In situations like my sister’s, where a life was at stake, one would think that if even one doctor with proper credentials did not agree with the PVS diagnoses, common sense would dictate that the judge would err on the side of life.

What if, as in Terri’s case, there were 40 doctors who disagreed with the diagnosis?

Remember, the decision was left up to Judge George Greer who determined Terri was in a PVS despite hearing testimony from more physicians that physically examined Terri and believed that she was not in PVS than those who thought she was.

In addition to this there were more than 30 doctors that submitted affidavits to Greer corroborating with the doctors that said Terri either was not in PVS, or should have been given better testing in order to determine her actual condition, not to mention the videos of Terri that unmistakably contradict the PVS diagnosis.

And let’s not forget the autopsy which did NOT prove that Terri was PVS. The fact of matter is that the media – incredibly – continues to distort the autopsy with the public believing, all the while, that it confirmed Terri was in PVS.

Dr. Thogmartin, who performed Terri’s autopsy clearly stated, on at least three separate occasions, that he was unable to conclude whether Terri was in a PVS because it is a clinical diagnosis (person must be alive) and cannot be confirmed by autopsy.

Even more significant was the statement of Dr. Thogmartin’s colleague, neuropathologist Dr. Stephen Nelson, who said he could not rule out that Terri may even have been in a minimally conscious state (MCS) which is a higher level of consciousness than PVS.

However, even though all recent findings substantiate the already existing evidence that Terri was not in a PVS, Greer’s decision and that of the doctors with whom he sided will never be challenged. This is because no one can admit that a mistake was made and an innocent, conscious, disabled woman was wrongly dehydrated to death.

Sadly, the death movement has many years and millions of dollars invested in manipulating our culture and wooing the media into accepting this “quality-of-life” standard that uses the “PVS” diagnosis as a reason to terminate life.

Consequently, admitting Terri was conscious would be potentially devastating to their cause. They cannot and will not allow this to happen – thus the constant repetition that no matter how obvious the evidence may be to the contrary “we should not confuse” any of these findings “with the Terri Schiavo case.”

In fact, I expect it to get worse and for the media to become even more resolute in trying to justify Terri’s death, regardless that with each passing day it is becoming clearer that not only was Terri’s condition misdiagnosed, but that the PVS finding is a sham and should be completely abolished.