Thursday, June 16, 2005
So Much for Tele-Medicine
Funny, the passions of a few months ago over the sad case of Terri Schiavo have now passed...at least for most of us. Yesterday the long awaited autopsy report was released. The most shocking aspect of the report is that is affirmed every decision made by every state and federal court that heard the case. More sadly, looking back are the comments of Senator Frist during the debate on "Terri's Law".
I have had the opportunity to look at the video footage upon which the initial facts of this case were based. And from my standpoint as a physician, I would be very careful before I would come to the floor and say this,that the facts upon which this case were based are inadequate. To be able to make a diagnosis of persistent vegetative state--which is not brain dead; it is not coma; it is a specific diagnosis and typically takes multiple examinations over a period of time because you are looking for responsiveness--I have looked at the video footage. Based on the footage provided to me, which was part of the facts of the case, she does respond.
Senate Transcript of Terri's Law Debate:
A Delay Late, & A Dollar Short
Or better yet, Tom Delay:
House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.) said Schiavo "talks and she laughs and she expresses happiness and discomfort." He said she was unable to speak because "she's not been afforded any speech therapy -- none!"
Sadly, here's what the medical examiners report concluded:
Terri Schiavo suffered severe, irreversible brain damage that left that organ discolored and scarred, shriveled to half its normal size, and damaged in nearly all its regions, including the one responsible for vision [note: she was blind], according to an autopsy report released yesterday.
Schiavo's brain damage "was irreversible . . . no amount of treatment or rehabilitation would have reversed" it, said Jon Thogmartin, the pathologist in Florida's sixth judicial district who performed the autopsy and announced his findings at a news conference in Largo,
I bring these points up not to gloat, that would be morbid and offensive, rather to point out that in disputes that arise such a passion and deal with issues so personal (rights of parents vs. a husband, right to make medical decisions) that the most appropriate forum for deciding such disputes is not the political process, but rather the courts system. While our court system is far from perfect, its rules are designed to provide as fair a forum as possible to decide such matters and hear testimony so that the case and facts can be hashed out in as accurate a way as possible. In this case, a review of every single court decision will show that these forums concluded that Mrs. Schiavo was in a PVS and was unlikely to recover. The political process determined that she was merely patiently waiting therapy so that she could go out and do door to door campaigning for Tom Delay.