Marlowe's Shade

Friday, February 25, 2005

Blogburst for Terri: A Case for Abuse

Yesterday Mystery Achievement posted about this older article that questions the "bulimia" story from, of all places, the Village Voice. Hats off to Nat Hentoff for being an old school liberal whose beliefs are still based on real compassion.

The degree to which this investigation is widely reported by the media may help determine whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies. Her husband is in court again to demand that her feeding tube be removed once more.

If the courts continue to support the husband, she may die before the investigation is completed. But even in that case, the results may lead to a change of state laws that could save other lives.

Conducting the investigation is the Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities (ACPD). Its website says it is "Florida's protection and advocacy program for persons with disabilities." As reported by Jeff Johnson on (October 29), the agency has, according to its website, "the authority to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect when reported if there is probable cause to believe the incidents occurred."

As Jeff Johnson writes, "How quickly ACPD makes a determination will depend on how difficult it is for the agency to gain access to Mrs. Schiavo's medical records and to the people it needs to interview on both sides of the legal battle."

I have learned that ACPD has sent Michael Schiavo's lawyer a request that he authorize the release of Terri Schiavo's medical records. There was initial resistance, but the records have been turned over.

What gives this investigation the potential for a dramatic reassessment of previous court decisions on the legitimacy of Michael Schiavo's guardianship is in the lead of Jeff Johnson's story: "The Schindler family [Terri Schiavo's parents, who are fighting for her life] has found a new ally in the battle—one it did not seek out—in the person of a famed New York forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden." Former chief medical examiner for the city of New York and co-director of the Medicolegal Investigation Unit of the New York State Police, Dr. Baden is often quoted in news reports and interviewed on television.

In one such interview on Fox News Channel's On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, I heard Baden agree with a panel of lawyers that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, and will not recover. But on a subsequent October 24 appearance on that program, Dr. Baden had a different perspective on the origins of the Terri Schiavo case.

Baden had now seen a 1991 bone-scan report that cast considerable doubt on a claim in Michael Schiavo's successful medical malpractice suit, that Terri's brain injury was caused by a potassium imbalance that led to a heart attack depriving her brain of oxygen.

Dr. Baden, who has written three books on forensic pathology, told Van Susteren: "It's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to have a cardiac arrest from low potassium who has no other diseases . . . which she doesn't have. . . . The reason that she's in the state she's in is because there was a period of time, maybe five or eight minutes, when not enough oxygen was going to her brain. That can happen because the heart stops for five or eight minutes, but she had a healthy heart from what we can see." (Emphasis added).

Dr. Baden then addressed the 1991 bone-scan report on Terri Schiavo, which was completed on March 5 of that year by Dr. W. Campbell Walker in order to "evaluate for trauma" that may have been caused by a suspected "closed head injury." In the report, Walker wrote:

"This patient has a history of trauma. The presumption is that the other multiple areas of trauma also relate to previous trauma." (Emphasis added).

Here we get to what focused Dr. Baden's attention. On, Jeff Johnson reported, "Walker listed apparent injuries to the ribs, thoracic vertebrae, both sacroiliac joints, both ankles and both knees."

In his interview with Greta Van Susteren, Dr. Baden noted "that the bone scan describes her having a head injury . . . and head injury can lead to the 'vegetative state' that Mrs. Schiavo is in now."

But, Baden continued, the bone scan "does show evidence that there are other injuries, other bone fractures that are in a healing stage [in 1991]."

Those injuries could have happened, Baden continued, from "some kind of trauma. The trauma could be from an auto accident, the trauma could be from a fall, or the trauma could be from some kind of beating that she obtained from somebody somewhere. It's something that should have been investigated in 1991 . . . and maybe [it was] by police at that time."

ProLifeBlogs cites another expert with impeccable credentials who also brings up evidence of abuse.

Dr. William Hammesfahr, a world renowned neurologist wrote a complete report concerning the Schiavo case in September, 2002, revealing that medical tests conducted after her collapse did not show evidence of a heart attack. In the emergency room, a possible diagnosis of heart attack was briefly entertained but then dismissed after blood chemistries and serial EKG's did not show evidence of a heart attack. Dr. Hammesfahr testified that she had sustained injuries consistent with abuse.

Although the investigation mentioned by Hentoff in 2003 was not successful in freeing Terri, a new investigation by the State of Florida gives us cause to hope.

The administration of Gov. Jeb Bush, already forcefully rebuked by the Florida Supreme Court for trying to override judicial orders and block the removal of a brain-damaged woman's feeding tubes, launched itself back into the case Wednesday by asking for a delay to investigate abuse allegations.

We can pray this one is more successful. But at the same time it is critical to keep the facts in the forefront of public opinion. The bulimia myth is a major pillar of Michael Schiavo's story, and if we can bring that down the rest of his case could very well go with it.
papijoe 7:26 AM