kolmapäev, märts 30, 2005

What Liberal Neurology?

Much has been made by some--well, really just by one of my friends and a few conservative radio hosts--of the bias of various doctors involved in the Schiavo case.

The reasoning goes that someone like Cheshire will be more likely to diagnose Terri as non-PVS because of his religious beliefs and vocal opposition to physician-assisted suicide. And if you accept that premise, Ron Cranford might be saying she is PVS because he wants to do some euthanizing.

I don't buy it.

I think it's significant that Cheshire sat in Terri's hospice room and observed her for quite a while but chose not to examine her. Why? Maybe because he knew he wouldn't like what he'd find? I've read his affidavit. He states that he saw no consistent signs of responsiveness but he really felt like he was in the presence of a living person. That really doesn't sound like science.

More importantly, though, I find it much more plausible that a doctor with beliefs like Cheshire's would lean toward a pro-life diagnosis because he wants Terri to live than that a doctor, any doctor, would want to find someone in a vegetative state knowing it would mean their death. I just don't see the upside to that. I don't believe a doctor would be so mean-spirited. I don't think there's an ideology that would seek out the death of patients. It seems to go against the concept of being a doctor at all. It's one thing to support mercy killing. It's another to actively desire diagnoses that could let you kill the patient. I've spent quite a while looking into Cranford's background. His support for euthinasia is indeed well-documented and I think it goes a bit further than most are comfortable with. That belief, though, has nothing to do with his ability to diagnose PVS. He is, in fact, one of the nation's leading PVS experts. He's been studying this for nearly 3 decades. He got game.

Much is made by people who really hate him of Cranford's diagnosis of police officer David Mack as PVS in 1979. 20 months later, Mack woke up. Setting aside that this was 25 years ago and both Cranford and medical technology have improved quite a bit, it's not clear that this was actually a misdiagnosis. It appears to be considered something of a medical mystery how he was able to recover. That recovery, however, did leave him in a state of disability where he and his wife would both come to say that they wished they had just pulled the plug and let him go in 1980. It's a bizarre case, and Cranford may have made a mistake, but that was very long ago and it hardly disqualifies him from offering his expert opinion here or in the many, many PVS cases he's been part of since. PVS is a difficult diagnosis. Some studies suggest it is misdiagnosed very often. This is why so many doctors were asked to look at Terri. And all of the credible neurologists (not including "Nobel Prize nominated" liar William Hammesfahr) said it was PVS. That's got to count for something.

Is it me or does Schindler family physician Jay Carpenter look kind of like Schindler family spiritual advisor Pat Mahoney with a different beard?

For that matter, does anyone else get the sense Jay Carpenter isn't a particularly good doctor?

Among other things, the internist (note: not a neurologist) stated:

a) There's no such thing as a persistent vegetative state.

b) Ron Cranford invented PVS because he wanted an excuse to kill people.

c) Terri Schiavo is awake and responsive.

And yet he seems to expect us to take him seriously or something.

What's up with that?

teisipäev, märts 29, 2005

The Unseen Costs of the Actions of Ignorant Right Wing Assholes II

In my continuing effort to remind everyone that there's more to this than just what appears to have become the right wing asshole equivalent of Sesame Place, I would like to point out that abuse hotlines are for, well, actual abuse complaint. I realize a lot of these people have trouble comprehending the notion of reality, but do they really think they'll be taken any more seriously if 100 of them call in a frivolous complaint than if 10 of them do? Besides, the DCF seems to be perfectly capable of fabricating their own baseless abuse allegations. They don't need help from somebody who has a low enough IQ to think that putting a picture of Terri and a picture of Jesus on the same poster constitutes a compelling argument.

If I were as immature as these assholes, I'd suggest that handing your children over to police to be arrested for trespassing is substantially more abuse than, you know, not abusing your wife.

And I'd tell you that the DCF hotline number is 1-800-96ABUSE and the parents of those children include Scott Heldreth Tete Donahue and Geilen and Chris Keys.

I'm better than that, though.
Respecting the Culture of Direct Marketing

Bob Schindler seems hellbent on testing my willingness to excuse anything he does or says, given his circumstances. I've tried to be very flexible about things. The man is clearly delusion and deeply traumatized.

But still, why the fuck did he have to go and do this?

I'm not sure if I'm bothered more by the fact that someone's going to profit from these donations--which, by the way, the family is still soliciting even now--or that right wing assholes are being so upfront about how little they actually care about Terri's life. It's just another list of dollar signs for them.

Actually, no, it's definitely the assholery that bothers me more.

pühapäev, märts 27, 2005

This Is Me Being Completely Serious

For all of us whole believe in God, I'd just like to ask that we take a moment to say a prayer for the Schindler family. They were finally forced yesterday to accept that their daughter will die within a week. As angry as I've been about the things they've done and, much more so, the things done on their behalf, they're losing a daughter. After years of right wingers giving them false hope that they'd somehow be able to rewrite Florida law to get what they wanted, I can't imagine how difficult these final days must be for them.

As long as we're at it, pray for Michael Schiavo. He has endured 15 years of pain and at least 5 years of assholes calling him a murderer. He has spent the last week by his wife's bedside, grieving. You can be suspicious of the guy all you want, but I guarantee you none of the sinister motives attributed to him by the prolife crowd--who, I'd like to reiterate, have no legitimate reason to connect themselves to this situation, given that it has nothing to do with the right to life--none of those motives make any sense when you look at the facts. This is a man who has fought for nearly a decade to give his wife what she wanted. The right wing will likely continue to slander him through the midterm elections. The man does not deserve any more pain than he's already endured.

Pray for them.
A Glimpse of the Future of American Right Wing Assholery

Via Knight-Ridder, a conservative political figure spells out for us exactly how he plans to exploit the Schiavo situation in a grossly dishonest fashion, as conservative political figures often do:

"The Schiavo case has further inflamed conservatives' long-standing antipathy toward the judiciary. The charge is that federal judges have defied Congress and sentenced her to death. Some religious conservative leaders, in fact, believe that "Remember Terri!" will become the movement's rallying cry. Gary Bauer, a religious conservative leader and former Republican presidential candidate, said, "If or when Terri passes away, she will become a symbol of conservative anger and disdain for what we see as out-of-control federal courts that are making decisions way beyond what they are authorized to do."

Let me just repeat: "making decisions way beyond what they are authorized to do."

Because the courts allegedly rejected the US Congress' efforts to insert themselves into one family's private medical decision. The courts went beyong their authority. Congress was totally in line though. Right. Makes sense.

See, what pisses me off is that anybody who thinks this has no understanding at all of the law and has no business criticizing judges for anything. If you want to blame somebody, blame the Florida legislature for passing an unambiguous law that clearly states that the husband has the authority to make medical decisions for his wife. The Schindlers were unable to make a compelling legal argument to supercede the power given to Michael Schiavo by law. Judges don't make laws. They uphold them. And yet they blame the courts for somehow overstepping their bounds by not doing something about a private dispute in which neither party is breaking the law. Gotta love the definition of "activist judge" that extends to judges who don't act on something at all. As this case makes abundantly clear, even a conservative Christian Republican judge like Judge Greer will uphold the law and the constitution rather than cave in to idiots screaming about "judicial murder". It terrifies me to think, if they've got a problem with all 30 something of these judges (including the entire federal appeals court for the southeast and the entire Supreme Court), what kind of judges are they looking for?

So just to reiterate: Florida law gives Michael Schiavo the right to make this decision. The Schindlers, as is their right, challenge that right in court. Two full trials are held and Michael wins both and all subsequent appeals. The Schindlers still file motions to stop him. The court follows a strict interpretation of the law. The Schindlers appeal. The appeals court follows a strict interpretation of the law. The Florida legislature passes "Terri's Law", a law they know is unconstitutional and will not be upheld just so they can take illegal action without consequences within the brief window of time needed to declare it unconstitutional. Then Terri's Law is declared unconstitutional. The Florida legislature chooses not to pass another unconstitutional law to prevent a husband from granting his wife's final wish. Republicans in Congress and President Bush decide they know better than the Florida legislature and 19 judges. They ram through a likely unconsitutional law that calls for a new trial in federal court. (This would also be the point where Bush flies home from Texas and goes to sleep so he can be awakened at 1 am to sign it in DC rather than just signing it at 3 am in Texas, which would have made absolutely no difference under any circumstances since no action could be taken until the courts opened in the morning.)A federal judge holds a hearing to determine whether an injunction should be issued to put the tube back in until that trial can be held, as is the proper procedure. As the law dictates, that judge must consider whether the Schindlers are likely to win that trial before taking action to invalidate an existing court order. The federal judge, a 3 judge federal appeals panel, an entire federal district appeals court, and the US Supreme Court all refuse to file that injunction, citing the lack of a chance in hell that the Schindlers will win. Conservative Christians whine like little bitches. Let me just emphasize again that this decision was a necessary first step in the process that Congress apparently forgot about. The Schindlers appeal again. The judges again follow the established legal procedures required in situations like this and deny it.

But it's the judges who are the problem here? Scalia wasn't even willing to speak up against the lower courts' decisions. He could have written a dissenting opinion if he disagreed. Do you realize how wrong you need to be when Scalia won't support a Christian conservative moral argument?
The judges were right. The system worked exactly the way it is supposed to. Nothing went wrong here, other than the courts being clogged for years with baseless, hopeless appeals by this family and their rather incompetent attorneys.

I don't really expect the kind of person who respects Gary Bauer to understand that, but I know he does and it makes me sick that he's willing to mislead his followers about it.
Why We Fight

Somebody asked me why this case matters so much to me and what it has to do with the liberal political agenda. That question seems to miss the point, but this is my answer.

Personally, I don't see this as a liberal issue or a conservative one. I don't think of it politically. I don't care if its a Republican or a Democrat, everyone responsible for passing that bill in Congress disgusts me. I think Republicans and right to lifers desperate for a cause to rally around made it political and made it a conservative issue. But this case ultimately has no relevance at all to the liberal agenda, except in the sense that some (Tom Delay) are trying to abuse it to advance the conservative agenda.

It matters to me because I think it's insane that it's become such a national spectacle. Because this attention is the last thing Terri Schiavo would have wanted. Because her parents' insistence on feeding pictures of her in her state to the media destroy any sense of dignity that remained. Because she and her parents have been abused and exploited by polticial activists. Because this is not an unusual situation and it has somehow become one for some people who don't care about the truth. Because I see so many people talk about the situation without knowing a damn thing about it.

I've had to study and research this case very heavily for my job. I've dealt with some of the family members and spokespeople. I know how many lies are out there. I watch people call Michael Schiavo a murderer as he sits crying by his wife's bedside. I watch people say there's been no due process as if there haven't been trials and many, many appeals. I watch people trot out former coma patients and act like it's the same thing. I watch protesters push their children out with cups of water just so they get arrested on camera. I watch so many people who know so little about this and still take a side with such conviction. I watch people who know nothing about the law argue that this is judicial tyranny even though, given the evidence, there was no other conclusion for any of the 30 something judges who have no been involved with it to reach. I watch people who are bizarrely unwilling to even consider that maybe someone in this kind of state might actually once have told their husband they wouldn't want to live on. I watch people give these parents, who have already suffered so much, false hope. They have no legal case. They have no medical case. They cannot win. Their lawyer should have sat them down 10 years ago and explained that to them.

Basically, this case matters so much to me because I find the things that are being said and done about it so incredibly offensive. I want this family to be left alone to say goodbye to their loved one with the peace, privacy, and dignity that thousands of people across the country are afforded every day. That's not going to happen and that's what makes me so angry.
Bringing a Gun to a Knife Fight

What sickens me about this case is that Republicans and activists are using misleading words and distorting the facts (calling Terri a “victim,” etc.) as if this was just another political debate. But they're not fighting Democrats here. They're fighting regular citizens who know a hell of a lot more than they do. The doctors and legal experts trying to explain the medical and legal reasons why this is the right thing to do aren’t used to that and aren’t prepared to fight it. They’re speaking plainly and accurately, as they have been trained and have taken oaths to do. In our media culture, that never works. Look at the way even liberals here are talking about “starvation” like it’s some horrible torture and not an incredibly common and humane way for very ill patients to die.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again, this is NOT a right to life issue, no matter how much the right wing wants it to be. This is a case built on two basic questions. Did Terri say she wanted to die in the situation? And is she incapable of recovery? Neither of those have anything to do with the right to life. An impartial court determined after hearing both sides that there was clear and convincing evidence that Terri could not recover and would want to die. You think that judge was wrong? Fine. Appeal it. You’ll lose. But there’s no moral question at stake here. There is no political issue. These people have twisted the situation to create one.
The Unseen Costs of the Actions of Ignorant Right Wing Assholes

There was an AP story that came across the wires Friday. Even if you have heard it, I'm going to say it again because it's disgusting and it hasn't been reported enough. A 24-year-old girl was called to the hospice the other night to be with her dying grandfather. She had sworn to him that she wouldn't let him die alone. When she arrived, it took several minutes to get through the protesters. Once she did, because security was tightened in response to the protesters and the violent pro-life nutjobs, she had to be searched and that also took several minutes.

She arrived at his room about a minute after he died.

God, I want to hit something.

So over the last 24 hours or so, I've posted a number of comments at the Washington Monthly's blog about the Schiavo case.

I think they cover the situation pretty well and I'm honestly just way too lazy to bother writing new ones. So I'll be reposting them here under authority granted to me by the Governor of Florida, who, if I understand Randall Terry correctly, has approximately as much power as God.

laupäev, märts 26, 2005

Bob Schindler yesterday: Terri's in her last hours. It's like a concentration camp.

Bob Schindler today: She's putting up a tremendous fight to live. She's doing very well.

God, I feel sorry for this guy.

I really wish his attorney or a doctor would sit him down and explain this is over so he can say goodbye to his daughter with something at least resembling dignity.

esmaspäev, märts 21, 2005

Yeah, I'm just that pissed off

I've said it before, I'm sure I'll say it again: Fuck Tom Delay.

Let me state 10 basic, undisputable facts about the Terri Schiavo situation.

1) Her cerebral cortex is pretty much gone. That doesn't grow back.

2) People in persistent vegetative states have expressions and motions that often fool their families into thinking they're responding.

3) 19 judges have ruled on this case and Michael Schiavo has won every time.

4) Michael Schiavo will recieve no money (actually, disputably, maybe up to $50,000) after her death. He has refused millions of dollars to divorce Terri and give control to her parents, who will then do what he does not believe she would want.

5) This has been going on for 15 years. Congress got involved 3 days ago. That's how much they care about the situation.

6) The courts have found that having the tube removed is what Terri wants, not what Michael wants. This was her choice.

7) No court has found any evidence of abuse and certainly not any evidence that Michael Schiavo tried to kill Terri.

8) Terri Schiavo is not in a coma. She is in a persistent vegetative state. Huge difference. This isn't Pat Boone's son we're talking about.

9) Those videos of a few seconds of apparent response are taken from several hours in which Terri responds only at random.

10) She is not in pain. She does not feel pain. Death by starvation will be painless, peaceful, and humane, however unpleasant it may sound to us.

Turn on your TV. Count how many of these facts Republican assholes get wrong.

Damn, I am so pissed off right now.

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