I'm embarrassed to admit that I didn't have all the facts last week when I criticized a spokeswoman for the parents of Terri Schiavo for saying that Michael Schiavo isn't really a husband to Terri anymore because he doesn't live with her. I've learned that "Mr. Schiavo is now living with another woman; they have a child and are expecting another" (New York Times).
I don't know how much that really matters. Terri Schiavo fell into a persistent vegetative state on, to put it crudely, Michael Schiavo's watch. He became her legal guardian and, in a decade of fighting to have him removed as guardian, Terri's parents have been rebuffed by court after court.
I've been poking around at the parents' Web site -- terrisfight.org. The "Recent News" section of the site is awfully short on writing by people with medical knowledge and long on missives from the vast right-wing conspiracy (NewsMax, WorldNetDaily, the Concerned Women for America, CNS News, the San Francisco Chronicle's Debra Saunders).
Here you get the parents' petition to remove Michael Schiavo as guardian, and it's utterly pathetic in some of its particulars -- it accuses Michael Schiavo of violating Terri's right to privacy by appearing on TV (I guess the parents don't consider this still, or the repeated nationwide broadcasts of the videotape that's the source of the still, exploitative). It accuses him of mismanaging her assets by using a large amount of money on legal fees -- legal fees made necessary by the parents' lawsuits. And it tries to have it both ways -- while accusing him of pissing away all of Terri's money on defending himself against their legal actions, it includes a pathetically desperate attempt to charge him with trying to bring about her death for financial gain:
The conflict of interest arising from the fact that Schiavo will inherit Terri’s estate has not decreased as the guardianship fund has dwindled. There are other valuable assets of the estate, including Terri’ s engagement and wedding rings that Schiavo has already appropriated to his own use by making jewelry for himself [Deposition of Michael Schiavo in the pending case, Nov. 19, 1993, at p. 80.]
He's doing this for her rings? Are they serious?
A reality check, from The New York Times:
A vegetative state "is the ironic combination of wakefulness without awareness," said Dr. James L. Bernat, a Dartmouth Medical School neurologist and past chairman of the academy's ethics committee....
"Thirteen years is plenty long enough to tell," said Dr. Bernat, who said he had not examined Mrs. Schiavo or seen any videotapes. "Assuming she is in a vegetative state, I can say with medical certainty that there is no realistic hope that she'll recover."
...Mrs. Schiavo's parents and a Web site, terrisfight.org, have cited "miracle recoveries" by people who supposedly woke up, speaking and moving, after years in comas.
Dr. Bernat said his 1994 panel looked into more than 70 "alleged late recoverers" and found that "there wasn't a single one that was verified, so I'm very skeptical."
Dr. Ron Cranford, a Minneapolis neurologist who was Dr. Bernat's predecessor on the academy ethics committee, examined Mrs. Schiavo as part of the original trial and testified in favor of her husband's request to discontinue feeding.
He was adamant that she would never get better, and he says he is furious about the popular videotape.
"She's vegetative, she's flat-out vegetative, there's never been a shred of doubt that she's vegetative, and nothing's going to change that," Dr. Cranford said in a telephone interview. "This has been a massive propaganda campaign, which has been very successful because it deludes the public into thinking she's really there."
Her eyes do not steadily track objects, he said, and when she appears to look at her mother or a camera for a moment, it is merely rapid eye movement.
More important, he said, "the CAT scans indicate a massive shrinkage of her brain, with its higher centers completely destroyed, which indicates irreversibility."