Thursday, June 16, 2005

Terri Schaivo autopsy

The Terri Schaivo autopsy results were made public on Tuesday. In order to get the facts straight, I sent a correspondent, Emily Lutella, to Tampa, Florida, to interview the medical examiner firsthand. The following is the interview in it's entirety:*

Emily: Dr. Thogmartin, I understand that Mrs. Schaivo's autopsy report confirms that she was in a persistent vegetative state.

M.E.: the autopsy showed that Ms. Schiavo's condition was consistent with a person in a persistent vegetative state.

Emily: So does that mean she was or she wasn't?

M.E. "This damage was irreversible. No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons. That term refers to a clinical diagnosis, not a pathological diagnosis. There was nothing in the autopsy that is inconsistent with persistent vegetative state."

Emily: Do we now know why she collapsed in the first place?

M.E.: "I consider the manner of her death to be undetermined."

Emily: Is there any evidence that her collapse was caused in any way by her husband?

M.E.: "The autopsy showed that physical abuse or poison did not play a role in her collapse."

Emily: What about the assertion that she was bulimic?

M.E.: "There was no evidence she had had an eating disorder before she collapsed, although a disorder was widely suspected because she had diminished levels of potassium in her blood."

Emily: What about the fact that she was able to follow that balloon with her eyes?

M.E.: despite a widely televised video that appeared to show Ms. Schiavo responding to voices and other movement in her room, the autopsy said that Ms. Schiavo was blind in her final days. She would not have been able to eat or drink had she been fed by mouth, as her parents had requested. The autopsy found no evidence that she suffered a heart attack, or that she had been given harmful drugs that may have accelerated her death.

Emily: In spite of her being in that state, it seems that starvation is a particuarly cruel and painful means of euthanasia. In your opinion, does being in a PVS justify starving her to death?

M.E.: "Ms. Schiavo technically died of marked dehydration - not starvation - after her feeding tube was removed."

Emily: Dehydration? Well. That's very different. Nevermind.

Point is: I can accept that Mrs. Schaivo was in a persistent vegetative state as her husband and his lawyer asserts. But, if you are going to euthanize someone, anyone, why starve that person to death (or dehydrate them)? Isn't there a quicker, less painful way to do it? And why was killing her necessary in the first place? Her parents only wanted her husband to release her into their care. Why couldn't he have dome that? This whole sordid episode is just sickening. And, I am afraid, it leads to the proverbial "slippery slope" towards wholesale euthanasia of anyone that we feel has "outlived their usefulness".

* The above interview is a parody, however everything attributed to Dr. Thogmartin is a direct quote from the New York Times' article on the press conference. Emily Lutella is a character from "Saturday Night live" played by the Late Gilda Radner.


Garza said...


I certainly see your side of things, but if the autopsy is accurate, would you want to live in that condition, or would you want someone you cared for to live in that condition, especially if they told you they did not. This may be hard to understand unless you have been faced with this decision. My wife has with one of her parents.

I feel the family was being very selfish by wanting to hang on to their daughter. It is hard for us to give up hope on a loved one, but after a certain period of time we must face the facts. I feel the family only wanted to keep her around to surpress their pain, in my humble opinion, the husband loved her more than the family.

Mark said...

Garza, you are certainly entitled to your opinion, and I welcome your input. You are also entitled to be wrong. And in this case, as in every case where euthanasia is used, the taking of life is always wrong unless God Himself is the one taking it.

Garza said...

Mark, if you look at this issue from purely a religious perspective I totally agree with you. I was looking at it from a non-religious perspective. What are your thoughts if God is not in the picture? Good discussion.

Mark said...

Garza, a better question is "how do I know that the doctors and lawyers and Michael Schaivo, etc are not the tools that God uses to take her life?" I don't but I cannot leave God out of the equation for all life and all things are His creation, and all ethical and moral questions must be weighed according to His law. There is no other standard.

tugboatcapn said...

Okay, Garza, let's leave God out of it for the sake of this discussion.
My wife cannot take $20 out of my bank account unless I go to the bank and fill out paperwork beforehand giving her permission to do so.
We are not talking about $20 from her bank account, we are talking about her LIFE.Neither you nor anyone else can say what Terri would have wanted, because there is no documentation at all. No paperwork. I can't think of another instance in which ANYTHING would have made it this far in the court system without SOMETHING on paper.
The courts basically said "Oh, well, if you say so, Mr. Schiavo..."and then proceeded to deprive this helpless woman of her life.
If she really was as much of a vegetable as everyone is saying,then she obviously wasn't suffering. The only people who were suffering were her family, because she was under attack by her husband, and her husband, because he couldn't go ahead and get rid of her.
If we must leave God out of things, there are still plenty of reasons not to kill helpless people...

Garza said...

Thanks for the discussion. I could not do what the husband did in this case either. You are right in the end. God has control of life, not man. Maybe there is still hope for me?

Shesawriter said...


What people seem to forget about this whole sordid mess as that a human being, a woman was dehydrated to death, treated no different than those who died in the death camps. ALSO, why in Hades does a man who has been living with another woman have a say so in whether his "wife" is KILLED? This makes no sense. This is madness. This man has fathered children with another woman, yet he had the power of life and death over a woman whom he's broken his marriage vows?

Why should anyone believe him? And why couldn't he just turn the woman over to her parents, THE PEOPLE WHO REALLY LOVED HER. And I don't give a crap what her autopsy said. She was alive, and it doesn't matter how **I** would want to live. It's Terri that mattered and she wasn't given a voice. All we had was that man's word of an offhanded conversation that took place years before. Who are we to impose our own personal standards onto a helpless woman who can't speak. So what if others wouldn't want to live like that. Nobody bothered to ask Terri. No, they listened to an adulterer who has gone on with his life. May God have mercy on us all.