Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990?

By Hentoff, Nat | The Human Life Review, Fall 2003 | Go to article overview
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Was Terri Schiavo Beaten in 1990?


Hentoff, Nat, The Human Life Review


Will There Be an Investigation in Time ?

November 14, 2003

There is anew dimension in the fierce battle over whether Terri Schiavo's life is worth saving. A federally funded investigation has begun into certain medical judgments made by her husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, including decisions in recent months. But more important is whether the inquiry will discover what actually caused Terri Schiavo's alleged cardiac arrest in 1990, which is said to be the reason her brain was deprived of oxygen, resulting in her condition for the past 13 years.

The degree to which this investigation is widely reported by the media may help determine whether Terri Schiavo lives or dies. Her husband is in court again to demand that her feeding tube be removed once more.

If the courts continue to support the husband, she may die before the investigation is completed. But even in that case, the results may lead to a change of state laws that could save other lives.

Conducting the investigation is the Advocacy Center for Persons With Disabilities (ACPD). Its website says it is "Florida's protection and advocacy program for persons with disabilities." As reported by Jeff Johnson on cnsnews.com (October 29), the agency has, according to its website, "the authority to investigate incidents of abuse and neglect when reported if there is probable cause to believe the incidents occurred."

As Jeff Johnson writes, "How quickly ACPD makes a determination will depend on how difficult it is for the agency to gain access to Mrs. Schiavo's medical records and to the people it needs to interview on both sides of the legal battle."

I have learned that ACPD has sent Michael Schiavo's lawyer a request that he authorize the release of Terri Schiavo's medical records. There was initial resistance, but the records have been turned over.

What gives this investigation the potential for a dramatic reassessment of previous court decisions on the legitimacy of Michael Schiavo's guardianship is in the lead of Jeff Johnson's story: "The Schindler family [Terri Schiavo's parents, who are fighting for her life] has found a new ally in the battle-one it did not seek out-in the person of a famed New York forensic pathologist, Dr. Michael Baden." Former chief medical examiner for the city of New York and co-director of the Medicolegal Investigation Unit of the New York State Police, Dr. Baden is often quoted in news reports and interviewed on television.

In one such interview on Fox News Channel's On the Record With Greta Van Susteren, I heard Baden agree with a panel of lawyers that Terri Schiavo is in a persistent vegetative state, and will not recover. But on a subsequent October 24 appearance on that program, Dr. Baden had a different perspective on the origins of the Terri Schiavo case.

Baden had now seen a 1991 bone-scan report that cast considerable doubt on a claim in Michael Schiavo's successful medical malpractice suit, that Terri's brain injury was caused by a potassium imbalance that led to a heart attack depriving her brain of oxygen.

Dr. Baden, who has written three books on forensic pathology, told Van Susteren: "It's extremely rare for a 20-year-old to have a cardiac arrest from low potassium who has no other diseases .

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