Culture & Ethics
Neuroscience & Mind
More Myths of Terri Schiavo
The myths about the Terri Schiavo case are repeated so often, it can be a futile effort to keep the story straight. One such myth is that the family somehow edited videos of Terri to make it appear falsely that she was conscious.
The latest example of this false claim comes gratuitously in a story on Jahi McMath in The New Yorker:
James Bernat, a neurologist at Dartmouth who helped develop the theory of brain death that formed the basis of the 1981 President’s Commission report, told me that [Alan] Shewmon showed him some of the videos.
“My thoughts about this are not fully formed,” he said, adding, “I’m always skeptical of videotapes, because of the videos of Terri Schiavo.” Her family had released video clips that they presented as proof of consciousness, but the videos had been edited, giving the illusion that she was tracking people with her eyes, even though she was blind.
But the family did not edit the videos in the sense of cutting and pasting to give a false appearance. Rather, they posted snippets of unedited video for ease of watching — you know, just like news organizations do all the time.
Nor did the family claim that Terri was “tracking” with her eyes. There is a video of the late Dr. Ronald Cranford — who testified for Michael Schiavo that Terri should be dehydrated — stating in his examination, “You do appear to see that, don’t you?” as she seems to follow a balloon with her eyes.
In another video of Terri’s mother seemingly being recognized by Terri, Terri reacts to her mother’s touch and voice saying, “It’s Mommy.” Terri turns her head and smiles, apparently at the sound of her mother’s voice.
Note, the autopsy did not conclude Terri was deaf.
In another video (below), Terri is asked by a questioner to open her eyes. She soon does, indeed, she opens them so high that she wrinkles her brow. Reflexes? I think not.
In any event, Terri is dead. But the falsehoods about her loving family don’t stop.
On a personal note: I am a very close friend of the Schindlers and was recently appointed to the board of the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network. I have never known finer or more honest people. Nor anyone subjected to so much calumny simply because they tried to save their loved one from a slow death by dehydration.
One can disagree with their cause. But the accusations of bad faith are not only wrong, they should be beyond the pale.
Photo credit: GordonWatts at the English language Wikipedia [GFDL or CC-BY-SA-3.0], via Wikimedia Commons.
Cross-posted at The Corner.