Terri Schiavo Family Says Terry Wallis Case Shows Errors Diagnosing PVS

Bioethics   |   Steven Ertelt   |   Jul 12, 2006   |   9:00AM   |   WASHINGTON, DC

Terri Schiavo Family Says Terry Wallis Case Shows Errors Diagnosing PVS Email this article
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by Steven Ertelt
LifeNews.com Editor
July 12, 2006

St. Petersburg, FL (LifeNews.com) — The family of Terri Schiavo says news about a man in a coma for 20 years who awoke from it and regained his speech and movement capabilities shows the limitations of diagnosing a permanent vegetative state. Doctors said Terry Wallis was PVS, but he was actually in a minimally conscious state similar to Terri.

Like Terri Schiavo, doctors predicted that Terry Wallis would last indefinitely in this condition and not improve.

However, Wallis now speaks and interacts and can count to 25 on his own. His brain has rewired itself by growing new connections from those that were severed in an automobile accident.

Researchers published a paper earlier this month in the Journal of Clinical Investigation about Wallis’ story and say that his case provides strong evidence that the brain heals itself by forming new neural connections. The article includes images of Mr. Wallis’ brain, the first ones to be taken from a recovering comatose patient.

“This new finding will hopefully save many lives, as we are repeatedly seeing a growing number of people being incorrectly diagnosed as ‘PVS’ which is essentially a death sentence,” Robert Schindler, Terri’s father, said in a statement LifeNews.com obtained.

“Sadly, this only confirms the subjectivity of the PVS diagnosis which, according to a recent study by the British Medical Journal, is misdiagnosed 43% of the time," Schindler added.

Schindler is concerned that a "PVS diagnosis is too often used as criteria to terminate life and common sense dictates that it should be abolished.”

While some observers say the situations of Terry Wallis and Terri Schiavo are different, Schindler maintains that the only difference was Wallis was given proper medical care and rehabilitation while Terri’s former husband Michael refused her care for many years.

During the long legal battle between the Schindlers and Michael Schiavo, Dr. William Maxfield testified that he believed that part of Terri’s brain was improving. The autopsy conducted on Terri confirmed her frontal temporal, temporal poles and insular-cortex demonstrated relative preservation.

This meant the parts of her brain that control higher level thinking was more normal than some believed.

He also pointed to the 40 medical affidavits submitted to the court saying Terri was not PVS and that she could improve with rehabilitative therapy.

"Sadly, no one will ever know how much Terri would have improved because she was warehoused and denied any form of therapy or rehabilitation for over thirteen years," Schindler said.

The family has established the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation to help disabled, elderly, and vulnerable patients and their families obtain proper medical care and treatment.

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