Terri Schiavo’s Father Reacts to Woman in Vegetative State Responding

Bioethics   Steven Ertelt   Sep 10, 2006   |   9:00AM    WASHINGTON, DC

Terri Schiavo’s Father Reacts to Woman in Vegetative State Responding Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
September 10
, 2006

St. Petersburg, FL (LifeNews.com) — Terri Schiavo’s father reacted to news about a 23 year-old British woman supposedly in a so-called "vegetative state" who stunned doctors by responding to certain commands asked of her. The results have been displayed in brain imaging showing more is going on in her head than meets the eye.

Although the unnamed woman can’t move or speak, she has responded to sentences spoken to her and even played an imaginary game of tennis in her head, her doctors say.

The results have all been recorded on a brain scanner and show that disabled patients like Terri Schiavo or those who are comatose may be much more aware than they appear.

Terri’s father, Robert Schindler, agrees and, in a statement sent to LifeNews.com, said the case shows more should have been done to save his daughter’s life and to listen to experts who said she wasn’t as bad off as her former husband made it appear.

“This new case is not surprising to our family," Schindler said.

"We are seeing a growing amount of evidence indicating that the diagnosis of ‘Persistent Vegetative State’ (PVS) is often misdiagnosed, resulting in dangerous and potentially fatal consequences for people with brain injuries, as documented in this new account of a brain injured woman," he explained.

"The danger of this diagnosis is that it is being used as a reason to kill innocent people with disabilities, like Terri," her father added. "We believe that this PVS diagnosis is inhumane and it should be abolished.”

A team from the Medical Research Council’s cognition and Brain Sciences Unit in Cambridge carried out the research on the patient and reported their results in the medical journal Science.

Their study showed that when the woman was asked to imagine herself playing tennis or walking through the rooms of her house, her neural responses were indistinguishable from those of healthy patients.

"Her decision to co-operate… represents a clear act of intention which confirmed beyond any doubt that she was consciously aware of herself and her surroundings," the researchers wrote in the Science article.

Adrian Owen, a Cambridge University scientist who led the study, wrote, "These are very exciting findings. This technique may allow us to identify which patients have some level of awareness."

Steven Laureys, a neurologist at the University of Liege and co-author of the study, says the study shows more care needs to be taken before killing patients like Terri by taking away their food and water.

"From cases in the UK and the US, we know that end-of-life decisions are extremely important and this will definitely change the way we deal with these patients," he said. "When you have signs of consciousness, you cannot decide to stop hydration and nutrition."

Terri’s family argued in court, pled to the public and the media, and petitioned lawmakers to allow similar tests to be performed before making the irreversible decision to starve Terri to death.

The pleas of the Schindler family were rebuffed by Judge George Greer, who became the final medical authority in Terri Schiavo’s diagnosis. The decision was court-ordered starvation.

After thirteen days of no food or water, Terri died a painful death in March 2005.

Terri’s family, including her mother Mary, brother Bobby Schindler and sister Suzanne Vitadamo now work full-time to run the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, which helps disabled patients and their family make sure they receive appropriate medical care.

Related web sites:
Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation – http://www.terrisfight.org