Those who demonised Michael Schiavo should be damned ashamed of themselves. In the light of this morning’s autopsy report, I want to remind you of some of the things said by the people who wanted to circumvent Michael Schiavo’s authority to speak on behalf of his wife Terri at the time, and contrast them with the results of the autopsy report today. The report concurs with what I said in my widely-read post on this blog dated Sunday, March 27th (four days before her death on March 31st). That post is now available in archives.

1) According to Medical Examiner Jon Thogmartin, “No amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons.” At the time, Michael Schiavo was blamed for stopping Terri’s therapy. The picture painted by many conservatives was that he had not even attempted to give her a chance of recovery. In actual fact, hundreds of thousands of dollars were spent by Michael Schiavo on her medical needs, and it was only after he realised (with the advice of many doctors and neurologists) that she was NOT going to get better that he demanded she be left to rest. Yet many people were left with the idea that she could improve with therapy.

That has been shown today to be FALSE.

2) According to the autopsy report, “Her vision centers of her brain were dead.” This means that she was blind. But at the time, her parents the Schindlers wanted so badly to believe that she was conscious that they furnished the media with a clip purporting to display her reaction to visual stimuli, or recognition of the faces of others (there is one rather memorable clip of her appearing to track a balloon). Rather than see this as the desire of desperate parents to hold onto a glimmer of hope that their daughter may someday get better, conservatives used it as ammunition to justify government interference into Michael Schiavo’s rights. They were happy to use a video which seemed to show her seeing and reacting.

But that too has been shown today to be FALSE.

3) Medical Examiner Thogmartin also says that Terri’s brain weighed only 615 grams, about half the size of a normal brain, when she died at the end of March. Yet Michael Schiavo was painted as almost evil, negligent and an incompetent guardian when he made the decision to remove her feeding tube, on the basis that Terri’s brain could one day function correctly.

That has been shown today to be FALSE.

4) As reported by Bloomberg, “[Terri’s parents] said Michael Schiavo had abused her …. The autopsy … found no signs of trauma or neck injury. She didn’t suffer any neglect or abuse, Thogmartin said.” But Michael Schiavo was demonised by the Schindlers and the conservatives that supported them as an abusive husband who probably caused her condition in the first place. These are disgusting lies.

And they have been shown today to be FALSE.

5) What of the “experts” who produced affidavits attesting to Terri’s potential to improve with therapy? As explained at the time by the author of the Alas blog, “[M]ost of them are not experts. There are more speech pathologists and psychologists than there are neurologists. And the most qualified experts in this group seem to take care not to state an opinion. For example, Dr Kennedy – arguably the best-qualified neurology expert of the 17 – says that he’s willing to examine Terri with the most modern MRI technology. And that’s all he says.” Of course there is a simple method to evaluate just how ‘expert’ these “experts” are – hindsight. The Schindlers touted these experts’ opinions to be, well, expert.

The opinions in their affidavits have today been shown to be FALSE.

6) Medical Examiner Thogmartin says that Terri did not actually starve to death, she died of dehydration. As Linda MacDonald Glenn pointed out, “One of the more disturbing aspects of the political rhetoric is the hyperbole of the politicians and Schindlers talking about how Michael is intent on “starving” Terri to death, as if she were a person who was totally healthy and fully functional … Hospice organisations have explained time and time again that someone at the end-of-life doesn’t experience thirst and hunger in the same fashion that healthy individuals do. The language the politicians and Schindlers are using is intended to provoke and inflame.” And, I would add, to show contempt for Michael Schiavo. That contempt was based on certain premises.

And they have today been shown to be FALSE.

The above is just the tip of the iceberg. Michael Schiavo had to make the most difficult decision of his life, and today he is owed some apologies.

John Wright