Sunday, March 20, 2005

What is Michael Schiavo hiding?

I suppose watching too many cop shows with twisted plots can affect your thought patterns. You'll be tempted to violate wisdom like "when you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras."

And of course in criminal justice you must come up with suspects and investigate them. At the end they're cleared or indicted. No matter how huffy someone might get, there's no shame in being a suspect per se - speaking of "accusations" is pointlessly inflammatory. The justice system owes it to you to clear you or indict you as soon as possible. As for the suspect, it only makes sense that they should be forthcoming with evidence that clears suspicions.

One other thing before I start. Some relatives of mine had a daughter with metachromatic leukodystrophy (MLD). A bright little girl, her descent into total incapacity started at about two. Her parents insisted on caring for her, and beyond all expectations she lived into her twenties. (Of all things, it turns out that her father was an insurance executive, and her healthy sister is an attorney.) I have to wonder what they would have done if someone had decided their girl should be deprived care while they were willing to give it.

Anyway, that's my baggage as I look at Michael Schiavo's behavior and the legal process to date. It seems clear to me that absent something compelling to the contrary, this woman's life is more important than upholding some right of her husband's to withhold her feeding.

Some questions haven't been answered to my satisfaction, or might take more digging that I have been inclined to do. Hey, bloggers know everything - let's see what turns up.
  • When Terri was taken to the hospital at the beginning, did anyone consider the possibility of foul play? Her husband Michael Schiavo's is the only account of what happened before he called 911. A bone scan in 1991 found evidence of past trauma, and there's more than one way for a woman to be deprived of oxygen Incidentally, Michael Schiavo is 6' 6" and 250 lbs.
  • I've read that Michael Schiavo wants to cremate her immediately after she dies. Why? Why not have an autopsy?
  • Similarly, why not have an MRI? A group of neurologists has written that that such testing would be expected in the normal ourse of a diagnosis of "persistent vegetative state"
  • A group of neurosurgeons has signed a letter saying that a diagnosis of PVS is not warranted despite testimony from doctors at earlier trials. The reasons which could ultimately amount to pettifoggery - from what I've seen it seems likely that as the expression goes, the lights are on but no one's home. But I would expect a court to impose a high burden of proof on those who are advocating an irreversible result like death, especially when her parents are willing to take her over. If the diagnoses were not per standards of the neurological profession, IMO the court failed in its fact-finding function and maybe some professionals need to be disciplined.
  • Near as I can tell, no one said anything about Terri Schiavo's desire to die until after Michael Schiavo received a malpractice settlement, and those are Michael Schiavo and two of his relatives. Her own relatives say otherwise. Whatever MS's rights as husband might be, how is it that the court determined who was telling the truth, if anyone? (sheesh, has everyone talked about this?).
  • As her husband, absent the claim about her wishes, he could have decided to pull the plug on her anyway, right? The advantage of claiming that she wanted to die shortly after the settlement arrived would be that he would have cover to put her down sooner, laving more of her treatment money for him to use for his own purposes. It would look cynical if not suspicious if he decided to off her right away. In fact, I understand he's spent about $300K of the $700K awarded for her care on lawyers and has withheld physical therapy on numerous occasions.
  • The court that found medical malpractice conclude that she was viable enough to be worthy of a $700K award for her care. But judging by how long Michael Schiavo has been trying to withhold life support and other care, she's allegedly been beyond help for years. What has changed about her health since the original malpractice settlement? If there have been changes, can it be traced to Michael Schiavo's supervision of her care? (incidentally, he got a $300K award for loss of consortium)
  • We've heard complaints about "demagoguery" by those who would keep Terri alive. OTOH Michael Schiavo has presented himself as one who has been steadfast in carrying out his wife's wishes despite the efforts of her parents, even rejecting a $10M offer to turn her over to her. That seems inconsistent with his and his lawyers' overtly political remarks implying of Congress's recent attempt at intervention that this could happen to you. (Yeah right - Congress will start passing lots of laws to regulate our behavior at the individual level. Yup, only a couple hundred million more Acts of Congress to go. Sheesh, that ought to be enough to make the tinfoil hat crowd blush). And he said this on CNN while, as he put it, he should have been "holding his wife's hand" (which one? - the one he wants dead, or the common law one who he's had two kids with without divorcing Terri?). By his choice of appearing on TV instead, is it fair to conclude that he was telling us that his political fight is more important than his wife now? He could have sent his lawyer, who as it turns out showed up anyway.
  • Why has Michael Schiavo ever denied Terri's family access to her? Surely he didn't think they were going to kill her...
I could probably come up with more. Meanwhile check links here, here, here, here, here, and here.

Hey, Michael Schiavo could be totally blameless, in which case I and countless others owe him huge abject apologies. But IMO questions like the above must be answered before we can determine that.

And lookie here - I did it all without mentioning the Bible once!

UPDATE: How could I leave out a link to Patterico, who has been following this for ages when not shredding the LA Times.

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