Monday, July 03, 2006

Thoughts on Schiavo

During the whole Terri Schiavo mess I was skeptical about the way the Schindler family was handling the case and felt that the whole fight was being mischaracterized as a euthanasia case when it was actually just a custody battle, but I'm getting a little bit of a new angle now that I'm working at the firm that represented the Schindlers. Turns out it really was "just a custody battle" but that there was more going on below the surface. I don't know a whole lot about PVS, or about autopsies (maybe our medical friends can help us here), but it sounds to me like "vegetative" didn't really mean "vegetative" and some actors who should have been impartial got more personally invested in the procedural history of this case than justice allowed. It also sounds like medical determinations that should have been made by people in white coats were being made by people in black robes. All the right-to-life stuff in the media was a last-ditch effort to get a horrible, horrible lower court decision overturned when the procedural doors were closed, and the lesson perhaps we should learn (my analysis now, not to be mistaken for that of any parties or representatives thereof) is that maybe procedural doors shouldn't be so airtight (even in civil court) when finality of the decision is also finality of life.

Incidentally, David Gibbs' book Fighting For Dear Life came out today, and we'll probably be seeing and hearing him talk about it on national media over the next few weeks. (early review of the book)

Tangentially related, I noticed an article on New York Times today about another Terry (Terry Wallis) who suddenly "woke up" from PVS (kinda takes the "P" out of PVS, huh?) three years ago after being "mute and virtually unresponsive in a state of minimal consciousness" for 19 years. Good thing there was no custody battle over him. Quotation from the article:

"Mr. Wallis spent the second 19 years of his life at a nursing home in Mountain View, and family members who visited said they saw plenty of hints of awareness along the way. He seemed to brighten when they walked in his room. Something in his face would tighten when he was impatient or hungry."

I don't know; it sounds a little familiar. It seems like the Willis family would have filed an amicus brief or something in the Schiavo case, or that I at least would have heard of Terry sometime during the whole media furor. Was he talked about and I just missed it?

5 comments:

Monica said...

Actually, the NYTImes article pointed out that Wallis was classified as being in a minimally conscious state within months of the accident, which as I understand it, is different from a PVS.

Becca said...

The difference seems to be just a little subjective. The only difference is that there seems to be "someone home" in the MCS, while in PVS there doesn't. There is hot dispute about whether Schiavo should have been classified as MCS rather than PVS. Her family and others who were with her (including some of the attorneys I talked to) give a story I didn't hear in the media. Since the labels doctors stick on conditions can be subjective (especially in this field), who your doctor is can have a huge impact, and guess who was in control of her medical care?

Monica said...

It was certainly an ugly fight. The stuff I read at the time (including some of the amici briefs) certainly sounded like she wasn't really there any more, but I've seen other stuff since then that seemed to say the opposite. All I know is that Chris and I are definitely going to get that kind of stuff nailed down long before we get there.

Curious said...

"The difference seems to be just a little subjective. The only difference is that there seems to be "someone home" in the MCS, while in PVS there doesn't."

Didn't you just say in the original post that you know very little about PVS or autopsies? Because you're displaying that ignorance here. The medical facts behind the PVS/MCS distinction is far more important than the distinction itself, and Terri's situation was miles beyond Wallis' when it came to their actual medical conditions.

Also:

"There is hot dispute about whether Schiavo should have been classified as MCS rather than PVS."

Could you point me to this hot dispute? Because I actually remember a consensus amongst the disinterested (read: not hired by either the Schindlers or Mike Schiavo and not elected to the U.S. Senate) medical professionals viewing the case that Schiavo's situation was PVS and irreversible.

Again, if I'm wrong, please point me to the contrary evidence. But you keep vaguely referring in this post to facts that have changed your mind this summer, yet you don't disclose them. Specifics would be very helpful, because you're not exactly working for an objective source, here.

Also:

". . . horrible, horrible lower court decision overturned when the procedural doors were closed . . ."

You don't seem to explain what was so horrible about it. Was it horrible because it was against your personal interest or that of your employer, or do you have some argument that it was legally deficient? Because as to the latter, it was fairly routine and an almost inevitable legal result (of course, I'm assuming you're referring to the final ruling, and not the lower court's ruling on the merits of the case, but since you're not clear on what you're referencing, I cannot be sure). I would be interested in hearing the reasons why you think it's horrible, becuase as someone who followed (particularly its legal aspect) this story fairly closely, your opinions seem based on some highly selective facts.

It would make for a more robust discussion if you explained yourself a bit better and shared some of the facts influencing your opinion.

Becca said...

Unfortunately not all the facts are mine to share (confidentiality and whatnot), but many of them are in Gibbs' book, so I guess they are public info now.

I'll try to come back to this.