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Quackwatch In The Schiavo Case!
That brilliant, "Nobel Prize-nominated" doctor, William Hammesfahr, who testified for the Schiavos, was indeed nominated for a Nobel Prize. Daily Howler even says so:

Here’s what we found when we ran a search: Three years ago, David Sommer of the St. Petersburg Times reported that Hammesfahr “advertises himself as a nominee for a Nobel Prize based on a letter his congressman wrote to the Nobel committee.” Yes, Hammesfahr was “nominated” for the Nobel Prize by his Republican congressman, Peter Bilirakis, back in 1999!

Oh, and there's a lovely piece on him on the web...on And yes, the name says it all. To get the real picture -- literally -- turn to Amptoons again. Here's an exerpt of what Cerebrocat, a recent behavioral neuroscience PhD, says about the image of her brain compared to a healthy brain:

There is no way any qualified brain doctor or scientist could look at this image and suggest that significant recovery of function is possible. The fact that we could have all this discussion on the subject is a triumph of politics over science. Tragic for Terri Schiavo, and really for us all.

About his qualifications, he says:

I am not the most qualified person to evaluate Terri Schiavo’s status from one small CAT picture on the web; that would be someone who evaluates scans professionally (or at least, regularly). But part of the point of my post was that I don’t have to be - I know how brains work (I mean, up to a point, obviously), I know what healthy ones and sick ones look like, and I know what I’m looking at when I look at a brain image. Schiavo’s damage is so severe that it doesn’t take an *expert’s* eye, but merely an *educated* eye, to understand the basics of her status. That’s why I’m so amazed that her prognosis is being discussed as if it were controversial.

Posted by aalkon at March 24, 2005 8:52 AM

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As a physician, I can assure everyone that Cerebrocat's assessment of the Shiavo CT brain scan slice is dead on (assuming that it is actually a scan of her brain; I'm not clear how an actual part of her scan could have ended up on the net - though I have been itching to look at it, if indeed that's it).
In any case, her CT scan, even if that's not it, would look similar anyway. The point is to demonstrate the extensive cerebral atrophy that has occurred. Mincing words about the value of an MRI is pointless anyway - everyone knows she has marked brain damage. Neither CT nor MRI reveals the state of the remaining brain tissue.
Is she in a persistent vegetative state, with only brainstem function and zero consciousness? Or is she "minimally conscious", with some neurons firing here and there in response to outside stimuli, but unable to assimilate and respond to anything?
It seems likely that there is a gradient scale from PVS to minimally conscious to profoundly retarded to a state where some interaction is possible. Certainly, other brain testing can narrow it down to the likely category, but what then?
Despite the diversity of "medical" opinions on Terry Shiavo's condition, most legitimate experts agree she is in a PVS. I think this case hinges more on the issues surrounding withdrawing supportive care in desperate or hopeless medical situations, and who gets to make such decisions.

Posted by: Jeff R at March 24, 2005 1:03 PM

The media has been doing its best to protect the public from a few simple facts about Schiavo's degraded quality of life. Every time I see a photograph of her face with that goofy-looking smile, I think "just show us her legs."

In another lifetime, I did gruntwork in a hospital, and I worked with patients who were bed-bound for years due to stuff like advanced multiple sclerosis. It’s horrifying to see what happens to someone’s legs after years of lying in bed. Their knee joints develop internal adhesions that never straighten out; their hip joints also develop adhesions and their legs cannot be spread -- which makes it difficult to clean them properly after removing their shit-filled diapers. In the resting position -- which is their position round-the-clock, of course -- their legs look a whole lot like chicken wings.

Physical therapy to halt this process involves applying a whole lot of pressure to the joints in an attempt to tear the adhesions and to force and hold the joint in an extended position. Yep -- the goal is to TEAR something inside the joint, repeatedly. This is not a whole lot of fun for anyone involved. I bet Schiavo's reflexes respond a lot more to that kind of workout than they do to any cooing from her selfish, ignorant parents.

The media doesn't give us any glimpse of the reality of how Schiavo has been living, day in and day out. What we get is as sanitized as our war coverage – I mean, when was the last time you got to hear an Iraqi adolescent talk about what it felt like to have his foot blown off? Yeah, me neither.

Read a transcript from a debate on Schiavo between a bioethicist and a disability rights advocate:

Posted by: Lena, the angry transvestite at March 24, 2005 2:13 PM

Yesterday I completed my living will, to make sure that *my* stupid, selfish parents don't try to hang on to *me* when it is time for me to move on. Furthermore, I made my best friend my decision-maker, and had it witnessed by two people. That whole "as long as there is life, there is hope" is an ignorant viewpoint brought on by an irrational belief system. How dare they interfere with her wishes and try to keep her body alive when already her ability for thought and realization has already left the building? How dare they drag the American taxpayer into a decision that she made clear to her husband years ago? That's not love. It's a travesty.

Posted by: Goddyss at March 24, 2005 3:18 PM

Great link, Lena...I especially liked this, from the bioethicist:

"What you notice is a consistent pattern of judges from local circuits to federal appeals, all coming up with exactly the same conclusion. You notice a series of neurologists, board-certified neurologists, all coming up with the same conclusion. You notice doctors, lawyers and people who teach ethics in our medical schools all coming up with the same conclusions. It has nothing to do with what you just heard from the representative. It has nothing to do with euthanasia, nothing to do with starvation. Nothing to do with dignity.

It has to do, precisely, with the flip side of dignity, namely the right to refuse medical treatment. Terri Schiavo is not being starved to death. And anybody who uses the language of starvation and suffering is doing so to deceive you. Talk about framing the debate. That's exactly what's happened here for partisan political purposes. She's uncontroversially in a persistent vegetative state according to credible neurologists. That does not include any members of our Congress. And the fact of the matter is anybody who suggests otherwise is trying to advance an agenda that has nothing to do with poor Terri Schiavo."

Posted by: Amy Alkon at March 24, 2005 6:29 PM

Amy, you should've heard the live debate. The ethicist was relentless -- like he'd just guzzled down a ritalin smoothee!

Posted by: Lena at March 24, 2005 6:42 PM

Matt Miller pointed out on the radio yesterday that if the Schiavo feeding tube frenzy has been a circus, her funeral will be a full-on carnival.

Posted by: Lena-doodle-doo at March 26, 2005 10:22 AM

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