Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Wow... but not what some folks will think.

I've seen a post recently about a woman in a persistent vegetative state who was found to have higher levels of consciousness than previously believed.

Today, I saw this. Pretty fascinating stuff... but the article incorrectly mentions another particularly famous case, the case of Terri Schiavo.

The article claims that Michael Schiavo petitioned the court to remove his wife's feeding tube, and her birth-family disagreed with the diagnosis. See, that's not what happened.

Everyone agreed she was in a PVS as of the first court trial. There was some disagreement about her wishes. So, Michael invoked the courts, asking the court to look at all available evidence, and render a determination of what Terri would have wanted.

The original trial court's ruling seems to suggest that the court ordered the removal of the feeding tube. What the court actually ruled was that there was clear and convincing evidence, based upon her medical condition (all, or so close as to make no difference, of her cerebral cortex was physically absent. Gone. Not "presumed damaged beyond repair", but dead, and broken down and absorbed by the body), and a recounting of conversations she'd had, as an adult, while talking about end of life, that she would not consent to continued tube feedings. If she knew that she would be in this situation, she'd have said "no, don't do that."

There's one other important point. The judge decided the recounting of the conversations that led to his decision were clear and convincing because the witnesses were believable, forthcoming, did not change their stories, and freely admitted to information that weakened their case. They came across as people who were trustworthy, and trying to do what's right.

The witnesses for the Schindlers were counted as untrustworthy. They'd changed their stories, and gave self-serving answers for why. More importantly, the judge notes that not even the transcript of their testimony would show you what they looked and sounded like.

Listen, everyone can be conned... especially people who think they're "pretty good" at spotting liars. But if a seasoned judge tells you that, due to behavior and the type of testimony given, he thinks a person is lying, I give that a lot of weight. Judges see a lot of liars, and good judges have to determine who's hiding something big, and who's just hedging the truth a tiny bit (and who is telling the truth as best as possible, but mis-remembering or mis-stating details).

If Judge Greer thought the witnesses were trying to snow him, and can point to differences between testimony and the deposition, and, in addition, feels that the people are lying, I'm pretty convinced.

I should note that Judge Greer is an evangelical Christian, who went against the teachings of many evangelicals. This is another thing that convinces me.

In addition, Jay Wolfson later reviewed the case, and he, too, determined that the law had been followed, and the best possible attempt was made to find out about Terri's wishes. He later mentioned desperately wishing he'd seen some sign that she was still conscious, but did not, and couldn't stop questioning himself.

I say that it's nearly impossible that Terri would have been helped, by anything. You know what? I'd love to be proven wrong. I'd love for the next person with an absent cerebral cortex would be cured. But it wouldn't change the facts of the Schiavo case, and those facts are this:

After making the best determination that we, as a society can make, we determined that Terri would have refused tube feedings, based upon her own words. As such, we, as a society, were obligated to follow her wishes.

You don't force medical treatment on anyone without that person's consent. Oh, sure, there are exceptions... but none that applied to Terri Schiavo's situation.

I despise the way the Congress played politics with this issue. I don't fault them for caring, and talking, but I do fault them for not learning the facts of the case. But there are two men who earned my utter contempt with regards to that case.

The first is Jeb Bush. Remember I mentioned Jay Wolfson's report? The one that said the law, and medical ethics, all came down in favor of granting Terri's request? That report was written on the orders of Jeb Bush. Apparently, he ignored it.

Search for the report; it's on the web. See if you think Solomon himself could have done what Jay Wolfson did. He got the families talking, and almost agreeing, on a course of action that would have determined Terri's future treatment.

But Jeb Bush couldn't be bothered by an intelligent presentation of the facts, nor by compassion and wisdom... he had pro-life special interest groups to court!

The other person who earns my special contempt is George W. Bush. The Congress, well, they can be stupid. They might not talk to governors about state issues; after all, they're the Congress. Hey, maybe the President wouldn't speak to some mere governor about an issue of state law... but any man who won't talk to his own brother to learn the facts of the case before making a big show about claiming to be acting out of "compassion" isn't someone I can trust.

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