Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990?
Fri Nov 14 19:58:03 2003
Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990?
Will There Be an Investigation in Time?
November 14th, 2003 5:30 PM
There is a new dimension in the fierce battle over whether Terri Schiavo's life
is worth saving. A federally funded investigation has begun into certain medical
judgments made by her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, including decisions
in recent months. But more important is whether the inquiry will discover what
actually caused Terri Schiavo's alleged cardiac arrest in 1990, which is said to
be the reason her brain was deprived of oxygen, resulting in her condition for
the past 13 years.
The degree to which this investigation is widely reported by the media may help
determine whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies. Her husband is in court again to
demand that her feeding tube be removed once more.
If the courts continue to support the husband, she may die before the
investigation is completed. But even in that case, the results may lead to a
change of state laws that could save other lives.
Conducting the investigation is the Advocacy Center for Persons With
Disabilities (ACPD). Its website says it is "Florida's protection and advocacy
program for persons with disabilities." As reported by Jeff Johnson on
(October 29), the agency has, according to its website, "the authority to
investigate incidents of abuse and neglect when reported if there is probable
cause to believe the incidents occurred."
As Jeff Johnson writes, "How quickly ACPD makes a determination will depend on
how difficult it is for the agency to gain access to Mrs. Schiavo's medical
records and to the people it needs to interview on both sides of the legal
I have learned that ACPD has sent Michael Schiavo's lawyer a request that he
authorize the release of Terri Schiavo's medical records. There was initial
resistance, but the records have been turned over.
What gives this investigation the potential for a dramatic reassessment of
previous court decisions on the legitimacy of Michael Schiavo's guardianship is
in the lead of Jeff Johnson's story: "The Schindler family [Terri Schiavo's
parents, who are fighting for her life] has found a new ally in the battle—one
it did not seek out—in the person of a famed New York forensic pathologist, Dr.
Michael Baden." Former chief medical examiner for the city of New York and
co-director of the Medicolegal Investigation Unit of the New York State Police,
Dr. Baden is often quoted in news reports and interviewed on television.
In one such interview on Fox News Channel's On the Record With Greta Van
Susteren, I heard Baden agree with a panel of lawyers that Terri Schiavo is in a
persistent vegetative state, and will not recover. But on a subsequent October
24 appearance on that program, Dr. Baden had a different perspective on the
origins of the Terri Schiavo case.
Baden had now seen a 1991 bone-scan report that cast considerable doubt on a
claim in Michael Schiavo's successful medical malpractice suit, that Terri's
brain injury was caused by a potassium imbalance that led to a heart attack
depriving her brain of oxygen.
Dr. Baden, who has written three books on forensic pathology, told Van Susteren:
"It's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to have a cardiac arrest from low
potassium who has no other diseases . . . which she doesn't have. . . . The
reason that she's in the state she's in is because there was a period of time,
maybe five or eight minutes, when not enough oxygen was going to her brain. That
can happen because the heart stops for five or eight minutes, but she had a
healthy heart from what we can see." (Emphasis added).
Dr. Baden then addressed the 1991 bone-scan report on Terri Schiavo, which was
completed on March 5 of that year by Dr. W. Campbell Walker in order to
"evaluate for trauma" that may have been caused by a suspected "closed head
injury." In the report, Walker wrote:
"This patient has a history of trauma. The presumption is that the other
multiple areas of trauma also relate to previous trauma." (Emphasis added).
Here we get to what focused Dr. Baden's attention. On cnsnews.com, Jeff Johnson
reported, "Walker listed apparent injuries to the ribs, thoracic vertebrae, both
sacroiliac joints, both ankles and both knees."
In his interview with Greta Van Susteren, Dr. Baden noted "that the bone scan
describes her having a head injury . . . and head injury can lead to the
'vegetative state' that Mrs. Schiavo is in now."
But, Baden continued, the bone scan "does show evidence that there are other
injuries, other bone fractures that are in a healing stage [in 1991]."
Those injuries could have happened, Baden continued, from "some kind of trauma.
The trauma could be from an auto accident, the trauma could be from a fall, or
the trauma could be from some kind of beating that she obtained from somebody
somewhere. It's something that should have been investigated in 1991 . . . and
maybe [it was] by police at that time." (Emphasis added).
Why not see if there was a police report on those traumas to Terri in 1990? The
Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities should look into this during its
investigation of possible incidents of abuse and neglect of Terri. Moreover,
Pamela Hennessy, spokesperson for Terri's parents and her brother, told
cnsnews.com, "This is what the family and their doctors have been saying for a
number of years."
I asked Hennessy to clarify that statement. "From the beginning," she told me,
"they had serious doubts as to the reason for Terri's collapse. Then, when they
first heard about the bone-scan report in November of last year, they tried to
file a report with the police on a possible battery on Terri. But the police
wouldn't help them."
The family believes that after Terri and her husband had a violent argument
earlier on the evening she collapsed, Terri might have been strangled later that
night. Says Pat Anderson, the lawyer for Terri's parents:
"Governor Jeb Bush should order the state-wide prosecutor of Florida to convene
a jury to investigate all of this." And the Advocacy Center for Persons With
Disability has that 1991 bone-scan report. Will the courts wait for the
investigations—or hurry to send her into eternity? Should Michael Schiavo have
the guardianship power to terminate her?
Recent Nat Hentoff columns
# Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990? Will There Be an Investigation in Time?
# A Woman's Life Versus an Inept Press The ACLU Supports a 'Constitutional'
Death by Starvation
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