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Steven Hass: The Terry Schiavo Flying Circus

The Terry Schiavo Flying Circus

By Steven A. Hass

Terry Schiavo, the woman who had been brain-dead for fifteen years while a legal battle played out, is finally at peace. That's the good news. The bandwagon sympathy in her final weeks was the bad news. Bad news, bad taste, bad judgement, and very bad acting.

Those who came crawling out of the woodwork to grab their fifteen minutes of Schiavo Fame tried to claim that Ms. Schiavo was "fighting for her life", and "communicating, begging us to fight for her", and other odd claims. Odd, because Ms. Schiavo was not capable of communicating anything at all. She was not communicating, she was not reacting to those who desperately wanted her to be reacting, and she was not conscious of anything or anyone around her. Despite the fighting over her feeding tube, she wasn't even capable of feeling hunger.

Dr. Ronald E. Cranford was one of many top neurologists who did more than offer an outsider's opinion - he actually examined Ms. Schiavo and had a CT scan performed on her brain. The results of the CT scan speak more truth than everything said by every religious fanatic, legal leech, and right-to-life wacko who jumped in front of a television camera in Ms. Schiavo's final weeks.


LEFT: CT scan of a normal 25 year old RIGHT: Terri Schiavo's most recent scan

DR. RONALD E. CRANFORD, speaking with Dan Abrams of CourtTV: (The CT scan) shows extremely severe atrophy. Where those black areas are, that should be white. That should be cerebral cortex, and so really there is no cerebral cortex left. It's just a shrinkage of the cerebral cortex. It's a thin band of white on the outside and any neurologist or any radiologist looking at those CT scans will tell you that her atrophy could not be more severe than it is. So even if she were mentally conscious, which she's not, she's irreversible. She's been like this for 15 years, and that CT scan shows the most extreme severe atrophy of the higher centers of the brain.


This CT scan was done over two years ago, which means that her brain was even further atrophied in 2005 than it was as shown here. Anyone who looks at this CT scan can plainly see that there simply is no brain left. That's no anecdotal observation. The condition of the brain in this CT scan leaves absolutely no doubt that this person cannot possibly think, see, interact, contemplate, feel, or communicate, because this person no longer has the equipment required to do so. It does not illustrate a lack of desire to do these things - it illustrates the mechanical impossibility of it.

Ms. Schiavo's parents deserve some empathy for fighting as hard as they did, even with all medical evidence proving beyond a doubt that their fight was never going to change anything. Of course, as in almost any high-profile case, there is always at least one "expert" that can be found to contradict the unpopular truths, but that doesn't change anything, either. Those who were paraded in front of the cameras by Governor Jeb Bush, trying to convince us that the diagnosis was wrong, should be ashamed and embarrassed.

Much was said about Ms. Schiavo's husband, and many people offered their own opinion regarding his motives for wanting to disconnect her feeding tube. A common thread in these opinions was the million-dollar civil suit he won against the doctor who misdiagnosed the condition that led to her vegetative state. The claim was that Mr. Schiavo was a greedy and heartless husband. This argument falls flat, when considered against the facts. The truth, which is commonly the "missing link" in America's media today, is that Mr. Schiavo has but $40,000 to $50,000 of this settlement left, after spending the rest on the best care he could get for his wife, and the legal fees incurred in doing so.

With the Schiavo case, a new era has begun in America. Now, not only will your spouse be present in your hospital room, along with all the doctors, nurses, caregivers, and other family and friends, but the U.S. government will take a seat next to your bed, too. President Bush and his Republican Congress have trampled on the Constitution yet again. When has the U.S. Congress ever passed a bill without conducting any hearings whatsoever? Governor Jeb Bush even played politics against his own state's law, which had been held up as a shining example to the rest of this country. As Americans, we have the right to disagree personally with a judge's ruling in any case, but we also have the obligation to follow the law. Do we now have a government that amends laws on the fly, whenever it makes a good political statement? Thinking back over two-hundred years, there was a good reason why this country was founded with seperate Executive and Judicial branches. There was also a good reason for a Constitution. Neither of these points seem to matter much to this administration, nor to Americans in general. Like it or not, we are a nation of laws, whether they favor your opinion or not.

The only winner in this whole Terry Schiavo nightmare is Terry Schiavo herself. Finally, she is at peace, away from all the intrusion and political posturing which kept her tied to a non-existence. Did she have a right to live? Absolutely, as do we all, but she was not living, had not been living for years, and had no hope whatsoever of returning to anything resembling a life by any definition, medical or moral. In fact, Terry Schiavo died fifteen years ago. Her body, with its occasional involuntary reflexive movements, was all that was left.

Much has been said about the right to life, but the right to die with dignity is equally inherent. In spite of those who chased the spotlight, in spite of the politicians who disregarded the Constitution, and in spite of the "experts" who embarrassed themselves, Terry Schiavo finally got to leave. Rest in peace, Terry, fifteen years overdue.


Steven A. Hass

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