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February 21, 2005

Terri Schiavo, Judge George Greer, and The Persistent Vegetative State: What Judge Greer Doesn't Want You To Know

Topics: Terri Schiavo's Life Counts

If one is truly dying, nature will soon take its course. The target of the Judge George Greer, George Felos, and the Woodside Hospice crowd in Pinellas County, Florida is someone who is not  dying "quickly enough," those whom ethicist Daniel Callahan unkindly termed "biologically tenacious."

I am biologically tenacious, aren't you? Knowing what I know now,  I am extremely grateful that I have never lived under Judge George Greer's jurisdiction. I have chronic progressive multiple sclerosis, have an electric wheelchair, and have been through acute rehabilitation at the University of Utah Medical Center four times. In two of those extended stays in the hospital I was given the beautiful opportunity to learn how to swallow, speak, eat, and to continue with my life. I was treated by experts, a multidisciplinary medical team that had the experience to evaluate and rehabilitate me. All of these opportunities have been denied Terri Schiavo.

In previous orders by Judge Greer to remove Terri's feeding tube he based the orders on the testimonies of doctors who say Terri is in a persistent vegetative state(none of which were qualified medical rehabilitation experts). But doctors employed by the Schindlers to assess her condition conclude that with therapy, she could learn to eat and drink on her own and perhaps learn to talk. However, those assessments were not allowed in court by Judge Greer.

To suit their own purposes, the "Death Crowd" has labeled Terri Schiavo as being in a persistent vegetative state(PVS), a condition that even qualified medical experts disagree on as to what it is and how it should be determined; some medical dictionaries don't even include the phrase. While some standards have been proposed, they aren't accepted by the entire medical community, and methods and time-frame for diagnostic testing are widely disputed.

But even though PVS requires considerable skill to diagnose, requiring assessment over a period of time; diagnosis cannot be made, even by the most experienced clinician, from a bedside assessment. Accurate diagnosis is possible but requires the skills of a multidisciplinary team experienced in the management of people with complex disabilities. Recognition of awareness is essential if an optimal quality of life is to be achieved and to avoid inappropriate approaches to the courts for a declaration for withdrawal of tube feeding.

Of course none of this has ever been done for Terri Schiavo, yet....

• Out of 40 patients diagnosed as being in a persistent vegetative state, 17 (43%) were later found to be alert, aware, and often able to express a simple wish. The study is one of the largest, most sustained analyses of severely disabled people presumed to be incapable of conscious thinking, communication, or awareness of their surroundings. The author, London neurologist Dr. Keith Andrews, said, "It is disturbing to think that some patients who were aware had for several years been treated as being vegetative.

• Studies show PVS patients feel pain -- indeed, a Univ. of Mich. neurologist, in one of the most complete studies, concluded that, when food and fluids are withdrawn [to impose death], the patient should be sedated. 

• A study of 84 patients with a "firm diagnosis" of PVS found that 41% regained consciousness by six months, 52% by three years. These statistics certainly discredit the terms "persistent" and "permanent".

Some patients are not actually in PVS, but are "locked-in." They may be mute and immobile but mentally alert and able to communicate by blinking or through aids such as computers -- if someone gives them that opportunity. Others are severely physically disabled, which greatly impairs their ability to communicate. Of course in Terri's case, all of this has been denied for her by her husband who lives with another women and has two children by her.

In practice, the terms of PVS have become so elastic as to categorize Christine Busalacchi, a young Missouri woman, as PVS -- even though she said "Hi" to a doctor, made sounds to indicate which soap opera she wanted to watch, pushed buttons on a cassette recorder to play tapes and recognized her father on TV. (Hopefully, she never understood that he was seeking to have her legally killed by dehydration and starvation.) But of course, Terri Schiavo has never been given this opportunity and was even denied the repair of her wheelchair by this husband(sic) so she could be taken to the community room and outside sunlight, both of which would have been standard in any rehabilitation unit in America, but not for Terri!

And just what is Terri capable of doing now?

From the Empire Journal (please read the whole article), a list of Terri Schiavo's documented vocabulary references:

Witness:  Nurse Heidi Law
* mommy
* momma
* help me

Witness:  Nurse Carla Sauerlyer
* pay (meaning "pain" when she was in discomfort)
* Haaaiii (meaning "Hi" in response to "Hi Terri")
* mommy
* help me  ("Help me was, in fact, one of her more frequent utterances.  I heard her say it hundreds of times."

Terri's Mediplex records:
* stop (in reference to one medical procedure being done on her)

Terri's family members:
* ugh-hugh (meaning yes)
* ugh-ugh (meaning no)
* yea ('yea' was a word she reportedly first re-learned to speak in 2002.)
* No

All this, despite being refused any rehabilitative services, such as speech therapy.

On Feb 20, the Orlando Sentinel  wrote:
Early this week, the 2nd District Court of Appeal in Lakeland or Pinellas Circuit Judge George W. Greer could end her parents' seven-year legal battle to keep their daughter alive, paving the way for her husband to carry out what he says were her wishes and remove the feeding tube that sustains her unconscious state.

In a fast-becoming infamous mainstream media failure (but not the case with bloggers who constantly cross-check eachother and sources) the Orlando Sentinal has called this unconscious.

Based upon my own experience and that of others, which includes me seeing a woman walk out of the Univ. of Utah Medical Center who had originally been life-flighted from Idaho with her brains exposed, following long and arduous rehabilitation therapy, I believe that Terri deserves her chance at being rehabilitated instead of Judge George Greer and Michael Schiavo killing her by painful and terrible starvation and dehydration. At the very least, she deserves her chance too long denied.

We need your help to convince Judge George Greer, Governor Bush, and the Florida Legislature - to demand that Michael Schiavo, the man who could be responsible for her being in the condition that Terri now finds herself in, be removed as her guardian. It simply is not reasonable to believe that he has acted in Terri's best interest. He has repeatedly denied her a chance to be rehabilitated.

I plead with everyone that read's this, please, please help us give Terri her chance!

Contact by email and telephone Rep. Baxley(supporting HB 701), the Governor, and the Florida House and Senate.

Cross posted at BlogsforTerri

Posted by Hyscience at February 21, 2005 6:50 AM

Thank you very much for writing some of the best posts in blogdom about Terri. I have am one of many outraged by those who would aid and abet the murder of any innocent. I have a multiply handicapped son who will probably outlive me. What happens to him when he becomes 'inconveinent'? I have a pictorial history of the results of the tremendous effort of many fine people who cared enough to help Alex live at my journal\blog.

Posted by: Alnot at February 21, 2005 7:07 AM

I too would like to express my heart felt " thank you" to all bloggers who support Terri. Ever since we moved to Florida 1 1/2 years ago I have been haunted, fearful and upset about what is taking place here in Florida. Over a year ago I cancelled my daily Orlando Sentinel because of their repeated opinionated bias against Terri's case. I am the sole caregiver for my husband who suffered a severe closed head injury at the age of 31, over 15 years ago. In the beginning the HMO wanted me to believe he was in a pvs state but I would go to the hospital daily and would talk and work with him til he would wiggle his thumb and when that wasn't enough I would work with him til he would track with his eyes. He was later diagnossed with speach and motor Apraxia due to injury to his frontal lobe. The frontal lobe controls emotion, spontinaity, initiating and processing. Apraxia is having difficulty in processing a command to act even tho having the ability.Hence the difficuly for him to respond to doctors with their quick commands. It took over a year when he was home to have his feeding tube removed (hospitals are reluctant to do this since there is not enough staff to feed a patient). I know first hand how important rehabilation is for someone who suffers from a head injury and the lack of understanding brain functions. I take my husband out as often as I can to restaurants, concerts and to cheer on our favorite sports teams after all he is still part of this society we live in. He is very content. I always joke that I have the best husband for we never argue, I always know where he is at and most importantly he mouths out "I love you" every nite for over 15 years!

In 2001 the California Supreme Court ruled that "clear and convincing evidence" must be present that those were the patient's wishes overriding a guardian. I believe the bill HB 701 authored by Rep. Baxley is very important to support .

I wish I had more time to encourage more to help Terri but I must tend to my husband and prepare to go to work. Again my heart felt thanks for all who support Terri.

Posted by: Caryn Snell at February 21, 2005 11:07 AM

I forgot to add for the record in my previous post that when I ask my husband if he wants to die or if he wished to die he has always shook his head "NO".

Posted by: Caryn Snell at February 21, 2005 11:32 AM

Thank you for sharing your heart and your experience. Yours is one of the most touching and persuasive articles I think I've seen yet. It's really sad that the South Florida Sentinel-Sun, St. Petersburg Times, etc. don't have access to such insightful journalists.

Posted by: Tiffany at February 22, 2005 10:16 PM

Does anyone out there have any idea why
Michael Sciavo and George Greer are so bent on killing Terri before she can be rehab'd and start talking? Could Michael and Greer have some hidden ties? Does Michael have a particular reason for wanting Terri's body destroyed (cremated) right after he kills her. Might michael have had something going with his Mistress before Terri had her "accident"?

I hate to sound like a radical conspericy theorist but this whole mess is starting to smell like something that really stinks.

Posted by: Life Matters at March 4, 2005 1:43 AM

Could it be that Greer wants his own wife dead, and is living vicariously through Michael Schiavo?

Posted by: L at March 11, 2005 9:06 PM

My father is a two-time quadruple bypass heart surgery patient and almost a transplant patient on his second time around. He was only 40 when he had his first bypass (with almost complete blockage in every main artery going to his heart). The second surgery took place about 3 years ago. He almost didn't make it the second time. My father has a will and has had one for some time. He has clearly stated in that will that he wants to be removed off of any ventilators and/or feeding tubes in the event that this is all that is keeping him alive. As much as my heart and my mother's would ache to have to make a decision such as that, we would do it for my father and grant him the wish of his heart. It would not be immoral, non-Christian or sadistic to remove the tubes as he wishes, it would actually be very humane.

Has anyone here ever considered that Ms. Schiavo wished to be taken off of any ventilators and/or feeding tubes and had expressed that to Mr. Schiavo as he claims she did?

I'm just trying to point out a different point of view that noone seems to notice here. Just something to ponder....

Posted by: Anonymous at March 18, 2005 3:08 PM

Motive is an important factor in any investigative reporting. It took a conscientious and courageous journalist to investigate and expose the WaterGate scandal.

It will take tremendous generosity and humility for a journalist to enquire into the hidden agendas of those that are intent in seeing Terri dead. What are their motives and what are their fears? It is a classic case for FBI intervention

Posted by: Annie Rose at March 22, 2005 3:18 AM

I wish you bible thumpers would mind your own business!! Get a life of your own and stay out of others!

Posted by: Lee Van Horn at March 23, 2005 7:28 PM

I have reveiwed much information on the Terri Schiavo situation and it does not take a genus to know a great injustice is being done to Terri. To the one who wishes bible thumpers mind your own business I have to say: Terri's family has asked for the public to help their daughter!! When someones rights are being violated and they are being murdered with the help of a court judge, it is the publics business! When Michael Schaivo can use our court system to do this, it is an outrage and very disturbing!!! Throughout our country's history People have spoken out against injustices, such as slavery, which by the way was legal at the time, just to name one. Judge Greer has not even followed Florida's laws. We are talking about the life of a woman whose only crime (and I say that w/ scarcasism) is that she has become disabled!!

Posted by: Sharon Crabtree at March 26, 2005 9:30 AM

This whole case stinks. Judge Greer is killing this girl on heresay from Michael Schiavo. Michael took great care of Terri until he won over a million dollars in lawsuits. Terri was 25 when this happened to her. Quite possibly she is a victim of domestic violence. I don't know anyone who is 25 and knows what they would want if they were on life support. People that age do not think like that. Most people that young would choose life. That should be obvious to everyone. Judge Greer must be brain dead to not see the facts. check out

Posted by: Lisa Haner at March 28, 2005 5:53 AM

Annie Rose is content to live on her own
cozy world. To take a look beyond it may be too scary. Unfortunately we have too many ignorant people who have no clue that there is a group of people working hard to destroy the morality, the
culture and the Constitution of the United
States, which guarantees us the rights to Life,
Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

First, Life. Do your homework, Annie,
before you open your mouth. If you can't grasp the truth that a judicial homocide is taking
place in Florida, right now, before our eyes, I
strongly recommend you enlighten yourself.

This is just the first step toward
accepted euthanasia by the judicial system in
the United States. Handicapped people now
have a reason to fear their lives can be snuffed out...they serve no purpose.

You, I, our children, etc. could very well end up handicapped. We don't know, do we?
According to Michael Schiavo (find video) who
stated on television about a week ago (Sat.
March 19, was the date my husband and I saw and
listened to his statement) he actually said that
Terri had made CASUAL comment(s) that she
wouldn't want to live that way, comments made in her TWENTIES! Note his work CASUAL!

She is being starved to death for her

Watch what you say.

Posted by: Jo-Girl at March 30, 2005 1:34 AM

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