The Terri Schiavo Autopsy: The Hype Doesn’t Match Up With The Facts

Many people in the mainstream media are drawing wild conclusions (Ex: Schiavo autopsy sides with her husband. No treatment could have helped her, doctors conclude) from Terri Schiavo’s autopsy that are not supported by the facts in evidence.

To begin with, the fact that Terri Schiavo was confirmed to have brain damage & was blind is being trumpeted as proof that she was in a persistent vegetative state. But, that’s completely incorrect.

No one was questioning the fact that Terri Schiavo had brain damage before she died, the question was whether or not she was in a persistent vegetative state. That’s not the same thing. A person can have severe, irreversible brain damage, and still not be in a persistent vegetative state. That’s why a PVS diagnosis makes all the difference in the world.

A person with PVS can’t feel agony as they’re being slowly dehydrated to death. A person with brain damage may very well suffer horribly in the situation and be unable to call out for mercy, which is why, in part, a PVS diagnosis is required to kill a patient by withholding nourishment.

Even after the autopsy, we don’t know which condition Terri Schiavo was in and we never will, because the further tests and examination that could have confirmed a PVS diagnosis had to be done while she was alive, and despite the desperate pleas of her parents, her husband wouldn’t allow further testing.

As far as the blindness goes, there’s been nothing in any report I’ve seen that speculates on WHEN she went blind. The assumption — quite possibly an incorrect assumption — is being made that she was blind all along. Again, from the reports I’ve read, that isn’t being asserted by the people who did the autopsy, nor do we deny people food and water in this country for being blind and brain damaged.

The reality here is that although the autopsy did add some new information (What caused Terri’s problem is unknown, she doesn’t appear to have been abused, she went blind at some point, she lost the ability to drink water and eat food at some point), it sheds no light on the two central questions of the Terri Schiavo case: what Terri Schiavo’s wishes were and whether she was in a persistent vegetative state.

So the fundamental issues remain unchanged, as does the fact that killing Terri Schiavo by denying her sustenance, without verifying that PVS diagnosis, was callous, inhumane, and cruel.

Further links on this issue: From Michelle Malkin’s take, a link to the autopsy report (This is a .PDF file and it appears to be swamped. I haven’t been able to get it to open yet), and my Terri Schiavo FAQ, which was written before she was killed.

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