Dispatches from the Creation Wars

Over the last few months, the state of Florida and the Schindlers have grown increasingly desperate to find anyone – anyone – with a medical degree who would say that Terri Schiavo is not in a persistent vegitative state (PVS). So far they’ve found two, the hilariously self-aggrandizing and deceitful Dr. Hammesfahr (complete with his fake Nobel Prize nomination – claiming to be a Nobel Prize nominee because your congressman wrote a badly worded letter to the Nobel committee on your behalf is like claiming to have won an international parenting award if your child buys you a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee cup that was made in China), and Dr. William Cheshire. It was Cheshire who was trotted out by Jeb Bush the a few days ago when he was making noise that the Florida Department of Children and Families might have to take protective custody of Terri because “new information” had shown that she might have been misdiagnosed. So what did this “new information” consist of? Did Dr. Cheshire examine Terri and find evidence of consciousness that no one else has found? Nope. Did he perform medical tests on her? Nope. He just had a sense:

“Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior,” he wrote, “yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her.”

So there’s no evidence that she is conscious, but he has a “sense” of her “presence”. One wonders if in the process of this thorough examination, the good doctor dimmed the lights, held hands with others in the room and said, “Terri….if you’re here, give us a sign”. And this, ladies and gentlemen, was the “new information” that led to Jeb Bush’s final bit of grandstanding.

Comments

  1. #1 GeneralZod
    March 28, 2005

    Sorry this is not exactly on topic, but I keep reading/hearing that Michael Schaivo had been offered a large sum of money to divorce Terri and let the parents take over her care. Is there any truth to this, and if so, can anyone point me to a good source (NY Times, WA Post, etc.) for the story? Thanks.

  2. #3 llDayo
    March 28, 2005

    Has anyone ever googled the name, “Sun Hudson”, yet? Amazing how hypocritical some people can be when the person is black. No prayer vigils or protests for that 5-month-old!

  3. #4 Steve Reuland
    March 28, 2005

    Sorry this is not exactly on topic, but I keep reading/hearing that Michael Schaivo had been offered a large sum of money to divorce Terri and let the parents take over her care. Is there any truth to this, and if so, can anyone point me to a good source (NY Times, WA Post, etc.) for the story? Thanks.

    I don’t have a good media source, but the guy who runs the abstractappeal.com blog (which is an excellent source) indicates that it’s true. Here’s what he says:

    Recently, Michael received an offer of $1 million, and perhaps a second offer of $10 million, to walk away from this case and permit Terri’s parents to care for her. These offers, assuming there were two, were based on a misunderstanding of the situation here. Michael lacks the power to undo the court order determining Terri’s wishes and requiring the removal of her feeding tube. He did not make the decision and cannot unmake it. The court made the decision on Terri’s behalf. Nonetheless, Michael apparently rejected each offer.

    Perhaps the biggest and most persistent misunderstanding in this case is the idea that the feeding tube was removed because Michael Shaivo wanted it to be. The courts ruled that removing the feeding tube is what [i]Terri[/i] would have wanted, hence they are doing it on her behalf, not on Michael’s.

  4. #5 Mike Stiber
    March 28, 2005

    “…your child buys you a “World’s Greatest Dad” coffee cup…”

    Please, it’s “World’s Best Dad”.

  5. #6 SR Snodgrass
    March 28, 2005

    You’re being too harsh with Dr. Cheshire. There has been too much name calling in this case. So far, the only winner has been Randall Terry and his attack dogs. All the doctors and judges involved are the subject of nasty name calling. This is not constructive. Bill Buckley, who often angers me, got it right. He wrote about “falsetto science” – that applies to Hammesfahr and many of the doctors who posted comments based on seeing an edited video sent around by the Schindlers’ foundation. He also said “It is simply wrong, whatever is felt about the eventual abandonment of her by her husband, to use the killing language.” I respect both Dr. Cheshire and Dr. Cranford. Let’s ease up on the quack language and the killing language and talk about how people can help one another, rather than fanning the flames of hate. I’ve seen more than one comment on leftist blogs about Schiavo being a vegetable and even a shitbag. I myself am a neurologist. It’s not right to make diagnoses from videotapes. Doctor Cheshire said that he had the impression that Schiavo was “more than PVS”. He didn’t carry out a systematic examination so his impression is only that. Even if he’s right that Schiavo is/was in MCS, I don’t think that there is a single documented case of a person like her ever getting back to normal communicative skills after 15 years. This issue will come up again because people don’t like to face the idea of their own death- they won’t create advance directives. We have to do better in the future, without making laws that benefit only one person, and without pretending that there is enough money for all medical needs. The money spent by both sides on legal costs would have covered at least five years of Terri’s care. If we spent less on lawsuits, we’d have more for medical care.
    SR Snodgrass, MD
    Torrance, CA.

  6. #7 GeneralZod
    March 28, 2005

    Thanks. I will check out that site. I never looked at the issue that way (that Michael could not reverse the court order even if he wanted to…i DID realize it was HER wish, not his, though). My girlfriend and I have been arguing over this for a while now. Can you please come over and try to talk some sense into her? Thanks.

    BTW, I am SOOOOO relieved she did not die over Easter since I would NOT have been able to stomach all the religious noise that surely would have followed!

  7. #8 rw
    March 28, 2005

    A curious footnote: Cheshire appears to be an intelligent design proponent. A google search on Cheshire brings up the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity website, where Cheshire had this to say:

    Other questions lie beyond the reach of science. Whereas science deals only with those things which are objectively quantifiable and empirically verifiable, not all truth fits into such categories. The discerning investigator will look also for the indirect evidence provided by science where the record of nature points to something just beyond the limits of scientific inquiry. Nowhere is this more evident than in the compactness, elegant order, and irreducible complexity of the human genome, which time and chance alone fail to explain. Codes are not known to arise spontaneously. Though molecules can carry them, they cannot generate them. Codes are the result of creative mental process. For there to have arisen a genetic code of life, there must be an inconceivably wondrous intelligence behind the code.

    You can find his entire essay here. At least he’s consistent — he offers up both non-medicine and non-science for public consumption.

  8. #9 raj
    March 28, 2005

    Steve Reuland at March 28, 2005 12:37 PM

    Perhaps the biggest and most persistent misunderstanding in this case is the idea that the feeding tube was removed because Michael Shaivo wanted it to be. The courts ruled that removing the feeding tube is what [i]Terri[/i] would have wanted, hence they are doing it on her behalf, not on Michael’s.

    True. And the second most persistent misunderstanding is the idea that Mrs. Schiavo did not have a lawyer who was to represent her interests. In point of fact, the lawyer who was “representing” Mr. Schiavo, was representing him in his capacity as guardian of Mrs. Schiavo. The lawyer’s real client was Mrs. Schiavo, and he would have had to have been an idiot not to recognize that.

  9. #10 Dave S.
    March 28, 2005

    “Although Terri did not demonstrate during our 90-minute visit compelling evidence of verbalization, conscious awareness or volitional behavior,” he wrote, “yet the visitor has the distinct sense of the presence of a living human being who seems at some level to be aware of some things around her.”

    Well dammit, somebody call the Nobel Committee, because I think we have another candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine.

    The next thing you’ll hear about Mike the Headless Chicken as evidence in this case.

    http://home.nycap.rr.com/useless/headless_chicken/

    Gen Zod sayz: Sorry this is not exactly on topic, but I keep reading/hearing that Michael Schaivo had been offered a large sum of money to divorce Terri and let the parents take over her care. Is there any truth to this, and if so, can anyone point me to a good source (NY Times, WA Post, etc.) for the story? Thanks.

    Pulled this off the Christian Wire Service:

    http://www.earnedmedia.org/ga0310.htm

    It’s through lawyer Gloria Allred, so you know it can’t just be a media stunt.

    Apparently electronics entrepenure Robert Herring Sr. was willing to give Michael Schiavo a million bucks to walk away and leave Terri to her parents. It was kind of a double-edged offer, as Herring has an especial fondness for embryonic stem-cells in their potential for helping Terri. Everyone concerned ignored him as far as I could tell. There’s also rumors of much more money offered.

  10. #11 Ed Brayton
    March 28, 2005

    SR Snodgrass wrote:

    It’s not right to make diagnoses from videotapes. Doctor Cheshire said that he had the impression that Schiavo was “more than PVS”. He didn’t carry out a systematic examination so his impression is only that.

    It was bad enough for a doctor to claim, in the face of all the medical evidence, that Terri is not in PVS because he had a “sense” of her “presence”. But to allow that ridiculous and anti-medical claim to be used as an excuse for yet another desperate attempt to intervene in this situation is simply unconscionable. Dr. Cheshire absolutely deserves every criticism he gets here. For crying out loud, what kind of doctor in their right mind would announce a diagnosis, especially one that flies in the face of the far more comprehensive examinations of his colleagues and all of the medical data and test results found here, on the basis of some vague sense of “presence”? A quack doctor, that’s who. If my mechanic tried to diagnose my car based on vague feelings and senses rather than on logical deduction from the evidence, I’d pronounce him a quack and fire him. We should certainly demand far more intellectual honesty and rigorous thinking from a doctor, don’t you think?

  11. #12 Grumpy
    March 28, 2005

    “Well dammit, somebody call the Nobel Committee, because I think we have another candidate for the Nobel Peace Prize in Medicine.”

    No doubt. What they’re saying now is that Terri has survived so long without food because her will to live is so strong. Maybe so — and that means we’ve discovered that the “will to live” does not reside in the part of the brain that, in Terri, turned to fluid. An amazing discovery!

    As for “the presence of a living human being,” I also heard the family’s spiritual advisor say that Terri “interacts” with her parents. To which I say, sure — she exerts a small gravitational pull.

  12. #13 RBH
    March 29, 2005

    This is off-topic, so I’ll restrain myself. Cheshire writes

    Nowhere is this more evident than in the compactness, elegant order, and irreducible complexity of the human genome, which time and chance alone fail to explain.

    Cheshire apparently hasn’t actually looked at the human genome. Earlier this evening I was at a bioinformatics colloquium at the college with which I’m associated in which a central message was how the human genome is a bloody confused mess of introns, exons, retrovirus fragments, and garbage, all of which makes it harder than Hell to figure out how it operates. (I won’t even start on the “time and chance alone” bullshit.)

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