Endangered spouses

by Chris Bertram on March 23, 2005

I don’t know — and neither do you — if “Glenn Reynolds is trying to murder his wife”:http://instapundit.com/archives/021948.php (or if Bill Hobbs is trying to murder his) …. but I do know that I find it gratuitously offensive just to leave the possibility open, just hanging there, for rhetorical purposes. But, whatever … if they can dish it out, they can presumably take it. Read the whole thing.



P O\'Neill 03.23.05 at 9:27 am

This is just another variation on the rhetorical trick used against John Kerry — “if John Kerry committed war crimes in Vietnam, then he should face the full extent of the law.” By the time that statement gets to the evening cable news cycle, Kerry has committed war crimes in Vietnam.


cleek 03.23.05 at 10:01 am

Rush has taught his children well


Thomas 03.23.05 at 11:41 am

I confess I don’t know if Glenn or Bill is trying to murder his wife, but it’s clear to me that Michael Schiavo is trying to murder his wife.


C. Schuyler 03.23.05 at 11:57 am

It must be nice to be clairvoyant. Or do clairvoyants just foretell the future? It’s nice to be one of those too, I’m sure, but I’m thinking of mind reading here.


Anderson 03.23.05 at 11:59 am

Thomas, while you’re at it, can you give us a fix on Osama bin Laden’s exact location? All I can get is a hazy impression of a rocky location.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 12:50 pm

Let’s not prejudge Glenn. It may be that he’s been pushed past all endurance by a psychotic, manipulative, and potentially homicidal woman whom he married in a haze of amphetamines and peppermint schnapps. Furthermore, a woman like that could be trying to frame him, perhaps in revenge for twenty years of merciless daily beatings.



Mick H 03.23.05 at 1:42 pm

Given that a number of people have been suggesting that Michael Schiavo is effectively trying to murder his wife – see Thomas’ comment above for example – Bill Hobbs’ phrase seems entirely reasonable. Of all the many emotive and ill-considered remarks floating around about this case, to pick out this mild Instapundit post as “gratuitously offensive” is frankly ridiculous. But then Instapundit is an easy target for less popular bloggers.


Dan Simon 03.23.05 at 1:45 pm

Chris, we also don’t know if you have a secret, unstated desire to be starved to death. But for some reason you didn’t complain when Hobbs made that unknowable imputation regarding Terry Schiavo.
What’s weird is that Hobbs and Reynolds aren’t the ones being simplistic fanatics here. On the contrary, they both readily concede that this issue is a horribly difficult, painful one, in which both sides have powerfully compelling arguments. They obviously weren’t intending to accuse Michael Schiavo of murder, as you imply–they were simply pointing out the ambiguities that arise in situations like this.
You, on the other hand, have declared Michael Schiavo’s position to be so self-evidently devoid of even a shred of wrong, that even pointing out any ambiguity is like accusing someone of attempted murder based on no evidence. That’s about as extreme a position as I can imagine anyone taking on this issue. Are you really that full of moral certitude? Is this case really such a (common but horribly inapt slang term for “easy decision” thankfully omitted)?


blah 03.23.05 at 1:45 pm

I don’t know if Laura Bush intentionally killed her high school boyfriend, and neither do you.


blah 03.23.05 at 1:48 pm

I don’t know if Joe Scarborough murdered his intern, and neither do you.


blah 03.23.05 at 1:49 pm

I don’t know if Bill Frist murdered many of his patients, and neither do you.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.23.05 at 2:04 pm

Do you have evidence that if Reynolds had his wife killed he would get a large sum of money from her injury settlement? Do you have evidence that Reynolds’ wife has had broken bones of the type typical of physical abuse? Were there allegations that Reynolds attempted to induce diabetic coma with insulin?
If not, there might be some differences in the two cases that are worth examining. Saying “I don’t know and neither do you” isn’t the same as looking at the evidence available. I don’t know. The evidence is tricky. The justifications are even trickier. But I am certain that the current available evidence that Schiavo is attempting to effectively murder is wife is stronger than the evidence that Reynolds is attempting to murder his.


cleek 03.23.05 at 2:55 pm

Were there allegations that Reynolds attempted to induce diabetic coma with insulin?

allegations, eh? ya think maybe one of the courts in the, what, 8 years this has been in litigation would’ve sided with the parents, at the very least, if there was any evidence of attempted murder.
or maybe it’s all a big conspiracy.


DGF 03.23.05 at 3:00 pm

The Oxford English Dictionary defines “murder” as
1. a. trans. To kill (a person) unlawfully, spec. with malice aforethought (in early use often with the additional notion of concealment of the offence: see note s.v. MURDER n.1 1a); to kill (a person) wickedly, inhumanly, or barbarously.

So the burden of finding a malicious motive lies with all those who allege it. From what I’ve heard, the money’s gone, so what else ya got?


blah 03.23.05 at 3:02 pm

“But I am certain that the current available evidence that Schiavo is attempting to effectively murder is wife is stronger than the evidence that Reynolds is attempting to murder his.”
And .0001 is larger than .00001. So what? Does the so-called evidence rise to the level that one can responsibly suggest that Schiavo is trying to murder his wife, rather than respecting her wishes? Does the so-called evidence rise to the level that one can responsibily question the finding in a court of law that his wife did not want to be kept alive in these circumstances?


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 3:07 pm

Yeah, Instapundit is OK, because so many others are at least as bad. As long as you don’t originate a rumor, you can spread it freely. And no one with fewer hits than him should say anything. (Politics of envy, etc.)
Michael Schiavo, without any evidence (rumors, yes, allegations, yes), has been accused in the national press of grievous crimes by people who disagree with him on a political issue — standard character assassination based on conjecture. And Hobbs and Reynolds are relaying the smear. No problem there, right?
Few of the blogosphere opponents of Michael Schiavo seem to have informed themselves about the most basic facts: that Terri’s cerebrum has been replaced by CSF, that the issue has been through the courts time and again for a decade or more, that Michael spent three or four years trying to revive his wife, in the face of medical opinion that cases of this type are hopeless after about a year, and the money has all been used up and will not go to Michael.
Rivka at “Respectful of Otters”is a handicapped, anti-euthanasia MD with neurology training (though not specialization). Go here.

It really seems that reasonable discussion is no longer possible on any issue any more. This issue should never have been raised nationally, and never would have been except for DeLay’s legal troubles, but there’s always someone willing to jump in with both feet before they inform themselves.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 3:11 pm

Hint: Sebastian, none of us actually think that Reynolds is planning to kill his wife — though of ourse, we could be wrong. We’re just saying.
And the new software apparentll reads the ampersand as ill-formed XTML.


Mick H 03.23.05 at 3:16 pm

John Emerson – Have you read the Instapundit post? They’re not suggesting Michael Schiavo does want to murder his wife. Jesus Christ!


nick 03.23.05 at 4:13 pm

mick h: airing such an allegation while giving himself plausible deniability is such a Reynolds tic (or tactic), I’m surprised you’re not already aware of it.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 4:14 pm

No, he was insinuating it. He was leaving the possibility on the table as a live option, rather than ignoring it.
I’m not saying that you had carnal knowledge of a blowup doll either. You probably don’t even have one in your house — smart move on your part!
This is a classic smear strategy — putting something in the air without really saying it.
There are quite a few intelligible issues here which Insta deliberately ignored. The medical issues aren’t that hard — the cerebrum isn’t there, and the “persistent vegetative state” is a standard diagnosis.
The legal issues are trickier, but the guy is an effing law professor. And one of the things the law frequently has to do is make decisions in the face of “unknown or unknowable facts”.
Of all the many things to write about, one of the few he chooses is a scurrilous 15-year old rumor insinuating a capital crime.


nick 03.23.05 at 4:15 pm

And the new software apparentll reads the ampersand as ill-formed XTML.
Which it is: you need to use & instead.


Thomas 03.23.05 at 4:55 pm

John, to the extent that a Florida court decided that Terri’s wishes were “unknown or unknowable” and then further decided that she should be starved to death, that court violated the law. The presumption under Florida law runs the other way. So, remember, never concede anything, which in your case may mean, don’t say anything at all.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 5:10 pm

Thomas, how many times have the Florida courts decided in Michael’s favor? Does Reynolds have a specific reason to question their decisions? Do you? Or are opinions just being pulled out of butts?
What you and Reynolds use the words “murder” and “starved to death” is hysterical bitchery. This kind of withdrawal of medical support for hopeless terminal cases happens all the time. If you are bothered by it, there are hundreds and thousands of cases for you to be upset about. You will be able to be upset all the time without even leaving your home state.
Actually, Reynolds did not raise the issue of murder quite as unmistakably as our friend Sebastian here did. But he did use the m-word.


snuh 03.23.05 at 5:10 pm

Saying “I don’t know and neither do you” isn’t the same as looking at the evidence available.
so we agree, then: professor reynolds is not interested in the available evidence. i mean, hobbs even goes so far as to say explicitly that the evidence is “too complex” for him to bother informing himself about it; this comes just prior to him making his murder comment.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.23.05 at 5:27 pm

“Hint: Sebastian, none of us actually think that Reynolds is planning to kill his wife—though of ourse, we could be wrong.”
Yes, I know. But you are also ignoring the distinction between no evidence that Reynolds wants to kill his wife, and the fact that Schiavo really does want to kill his wife.
Schiavo may have a justification for wanting to kill his wife. He may also be motivated by money. Suggesting that people are sometimes motivated by money and not principle should be rather unshocking on this site.


Uncle Kvetch 03.23.05 at 5:40 pm

But you are also ignoring the distinction between no evidence that Reynolds wants to kill his wife, and the fact that Schiavo really does want to kill his wife.
Now it’s a “fact”? You’re not insinuating, you’re accusing. Would you please share with us the evidence for this conclusion?


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 5:41 pm

I’ve looked into the rumors about money. Schiavo says the money is all gone. I wasn’t able to find any non-ideological source contradicting him or giving any evidence or detail about the money. Just rumors. (“Rightnation” “gopusa” “Freerepublic” etc. are not credible with me.)
She’s been unconscious now for fifteen years. People are acting as if the accident was yesterday. Schiavo spent several years trying to revive her, even though medical opinion says these cases are usually hopeless after a year or less. This is not an obscure or controversial diagnosis.
Considering the shit he’s been through, some compensation would hardly seem shocking. That’s what life insurance is all about, you know. Your wife dies, for example, and you get some money. Does the idea shock you? Would you refuse it and give it to the poor? Would you feel crushing guilt? This is medieval.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.23.05 at 6:18 pm

“Now it’s a “fact”? You’re not insinuating, you’re accusing. Would you please share with us the evidence for this conclusion?”
I suspect you are overlooking the kill/murder distinction.
So far as I can tell, it is uncontroversial to note that Schiavo desires to kill his wife (or have the hospital do the job). The question posed is whether or not he wants to murder his wife.


Uncle Kvetch 03.23.05 at 6:49 pm

I suspect you are overlooking the kill/murder distinction.

My bad: you weren’t calling Michael Schiavo a “murderer,” but merely a “killer,” which is a completely uncontroversial term.

So in the interest of proper terminology, removal of a feeding tube should be properly referred to as “killing”–and the relatives/guardians who make the decision to do so as “killers”–in all cases, correct? Or is this a special case?


Richard 03.23.05 at 6:57 pm

I’m guessing that Chris actually stopped reading the post when he got to what he found to be the offending passage or just wanted to intentionally misread it. What Mr. Hobbs said was that the situation allowed for multiple interpretations, but that the congress should not have intervened to try to have the Florida court’s order overturned.

It did not require a charitable interpetaiton to gleem this. It’s the clear meaning. You may enjoy taking cheap shots at the Instapundit, but this one is ridiculous.


blah 03.23.05 at 6:57 pm

Over his career, Bill Frist intentionally killed numerous patients. The Senate Majority Leader is a prolific killer.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 7:04 pm

This issue never should have been. It’s strictly lose-lose-lose-lose. The Republicans look like horrible, lying creeps now, but it’s not like the Democrats or anyone else will gain anything. There’s just a national net loss and one more step toward an even uglier, even stupider world.

Starting from fifteen years ago, there never was a moment when there would be a happy outcome for Terri Schiavo or the Schiavo family. That’s a medical fact. Never the least possibility — it was strictly choice of evils from the beginning. It was bad enough when the immediate family members went to the courts. But when the case became ideologized and federalized, the harm was spread as widely as possibly, with no possibility of anything good happening.

I never wanted to say a word about this or read a word about it, and in a healthy world I never would have had to. But whenever the Republicans try to cash in on something, they have to be opposed. Otherwise creepiness wins.


bza 03.23.05 at 8:36 pm

“So far as I can tell, it is uncontroversial to note that Schiavo desires to kill his wife (or have the hospital do the job).”

If there is anything to the distinction between killing and letting die, then it is indeed controversial to say that Schiavo wants to kill his wife.

But however that question be decided, it’s too cute by half, and rather unworthy of you, Sebastian, to pretend that talk of “killing” is in this context merely descriptive.


asg 03.23.05 at 8:40 pm

John Emerson’s comment ties into the other Schiavo thread here, in which someone says people who think Terri Schiavo might not be in a PVS are the equivalent of creationists.

Emerson writes:

“This kind of withdrawal of medical support for hopeless terminal cases happens all the time.”

As a disability-rights activist points out in Slate (http://www.slate.com/id/2115208/), Schiavo is not terminal. She needs assistance to eat, which is not the same thing. And, of course, they are not talking about withdrawal of “medical” support, they are talking about withdrawal of food and water, which of course are not “medical support”.

As it happens, my intuitions favor those who feel Terri Schiavo’s life is not worth living and that she would probably not want to be living in her current state, but nonetheless I am amazed at the sheer moral certainty that prevails here on this case. At CT I am accustomed to seeing fairly nuanced thinking on these sorts of difficult topics, even if I disagree with it, but there appears to be a blind spot for Schiavo.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 9:16 pm

She cannot recover. But yes, she could be warehoused for 20-30 more years without hope of recovery or consciousness.

My point was that withholding water and food from incurable patients, which she was, happens all the time. People have been talking about “dying of hunger and thirst” as though it were a unique form of torture, but it’s a common medical practice to quit feeding patients of this type.

Schiavo can’t swallow. Feeding through tubes is a medical procedure. The Catholic church now disagrees with me about this, but it didn’t use to; the present pope changed the classification of this kind of care.

To me this was a sad, hopeless case from day one, purely for medical reasons. Nothing good could ever have happened. When the kin disagreed and start litigating, it got worse. When some of the sleaziest politicians in the US picked it up for the sleaziest of reasons, it got worse still. And I really resent every minute I’ve been forced to talk about this hopeless, lose-lose case, but I don’t want the sleazebags to score a bunch of cheap points so that they can go on to do more harm in other areas.

Michael Sciavo has been slimed. The medical condition of Terri has been repeatedly misrepresented. The financial facts have been misrepresented. Everyone seems to have forgotten that she’s been comatose for 15 years and her cerebrum is gone. Everyone seems to have forgotten that the courts have heard this case over and over again.

But the problem is my certitude. Sure, asg. Because after all, the polite liberal uses every issue as an opportunity to show nuance and good breeding. And conservatives love polite liberals.

But I’m not a polite liberal. You can look it up.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.23.05 at 9:30 pm

“But however that question be decided, it’s too cute by half, and rather unworthy of you, Sebastian, to pretend that talk of “killing” is in this context merely descriptive.”

If you say so, but really killing is about as descriptive as you can get on the issue. If you think there is a hyper-technical moral distinction between ‘killing’ and ‘not feeding someone who can’t get up and feed herself until she dies’ I don’t really see it. If I had a 6 month old child in a room and chose not to feed it or allow it water that would be killing. At most your version is still under the general rubric of justified killings. The distinction is between justified and unjustified killing. Pretending that denying someone food and water isn’t killing them is not accurate.

Which brings me back to my point. There is some evidence that there are factors other than mere justifiable concern for Mrs. Schiavo wishes on the table. Hell that is true of people who want her feeding to continue. But focusing ONLY on those concerns of your opponents while studiously avoiding discussion of those concerns of your allies isn’t discussion or rational. That is playing politics just as much as anyone.


asg 03.23.05 at 9:44 pm

Being accurate with words has nothing to do with politeness. You say Terri Schiavo has been “comatose” for 15 years. Really? Then why does everyone, on both sides of the issue, refer to her state as a PVS, when it’s really a coma?

Yes, the problem is your certitude, when you throw around statements like “Terri’s condition has been repeatedly misrepresented.” Are you making this statement based on your personal examination of her CT scans?!


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 9:45 pm

Sebastian, rather than simply referencing the evidence, could you present it?

The two things in question seem to be that Terri Schiavo’s health problems are the result of a murder attempt by her husband Michael, and that he wants her to die now because he’ll come into a heap of money if she does.

These are two very harsh accusations, and at this point (after spending some time Googling the financial accusations) I believe that they are both vile, conjectural smears not worthy of anyone’s attention. You really have to flesh these out or you are just spreading, ill-intended, self-serving, malicious rumors.

I don’t think that Michael S. can be faulted for wanting to go on with his life, BTW. From what I’ve seen his behavior towards Terri has been about right, except by medieval Irish-Catholic standards.


John Emerson 03.23.05 at 9:57 pm

You’re swinging wildly, asg. “Comatose” is an ordinary English word describing someone who is unconscious and unable to communicate, as Terri has been for 15 years. Not a technical medical diagnosis. (I forgot the acronym, BTW, so I used the word “comatose”. So sue me).

No, I’m not a doctor. From what I’ve read, a lot of people are saying that Terri might get better, and from what I’ve read that’s not true and they should know better. She has had medical care, you know.

Sorry, not every issue someone raises is a real issue. I started out relatively indifferent to this case, wanting to ignore it, and the more I learned about the layers of misrepresentation, slander, sophistry, demagogy, and exploitation, the angrier I got. I think that this case is one where certitude is an appropriate response.


Matt Weiner 03.23.05 at 9:58 pm

Sebastian, isn’t there a very well established legal distinction between withdrawal of care and euthanasia? That’s your killing/letting die distinction right there. To say that it is uncontroversial that withdrawing the feeding tube (that six month old child can swallow, yes?) is killing her is flat out false.


MQ 03.24.05 at 1:59 am

Sebastian, you’re acting like a twit and a troll. Did Tom Delay call you up and inform you that Michael Schiavo was a murderer? Well it must be true then. There’s been a decade plus of litigation over this case, all judges overlooking evidence of murder, but Sebastian Holsclaw, boy detective, solves the case right away!


MQ 03.24.05 at 2:17 am

Also, there is a very good argument that Terry Schiavo is already dead — neurologists define her condition as “cortical death”, meaning that the parts of her brain that control higher order thinking and consciousness are completely dead — it is a little rich to talk about killing her.


Uncle Kvetch 03.24.05 at 8:38 am

There is some evidence that there are factors other than mere justifiable concern for Mrs. Schiavo wishes on the table.

I don’t know that there is, in fact, “evidence” for this. If you know otherwise, please enlighten us.

There are certainly allegations of some kind of dark motives on Michael Schiavo’s part; but those have been considered repeatedly in a whole slew of legal proceedings, where they have been found to be baseless. If you think all of those judges were consistently in error, please tell us how they erred, and how you know this to be true. Otherwise, these shadowy references to “factors other than mere justifiable concern” are truly grotesque.


John Emerson 03.24.05 at 8:48 am

After fifteen years it is reasonable for Michael Schiavo to want to go on with his life, especially given the fact that Terri Schiavo is to all intents and purposes gone, and will never come back. So I suspect that, indeed, that he quite rightly has other motives, in addition to (not instead of) his concern for Terri. I think that he did much better than most men would in the same circumstance.


mq 03.24.05 at 11:30 am

There is some not inconsequential chance that Michael Schiavo will end up attacked or even killed as a result of these kinds of slanders being spread about him. Anyone who participates in whipping up this kind of mob mentality should be ashamed of themselves.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.24.05 at 1:57 pm

I have no problem with Mr. Schiavo wanting to get on with his life. I have a problem with his need to make sure that Mrs. Schiavo dies in order to get on with his life.

Evidence of Schiavo’s state of mind, his unwillingness to allow her to receive physical therapy and her ability to respond to stimuli (at least at the time):

Iyer Affidavit

To the best of my recollection, rehabilitation had been ordered for Terri, but I never saw any being done or had any reason at all to believe that there was ever any rehab of Terri done at Palm Gardens while I was there. I became concerned because nothing was being done for Terri at all, no antibiotics, no tests, no range of motion therapy, no stimulation, no nothing. Michael said again and again that Terri should NOT get any rehab, that there should be no range of motion whatsoever, or anything else. I and a CNA named Roxy would give Terri range of motion anyway. One time I put a wash cloth in Terri’s hand to keep her fingers from curling together, and Michael saw it and made me take it out, saying that was therapy.

When I came into her room and said “Hi, Terri”, she would always recognize my voice and her name, and would turn her head all the way toward me, saying “Haaaiiiii” sort of, as she did. I recognized this as a “hi”, which is very close to what it sounded like, the whole sound being only a second or two long. When I told her humorous stories about my life or something I read in the paper, Terri would chuckle, sometimes more a giggle or laugh. She would move her whole body, upper and lower. Her legs would sometimes be off the bed, and need to be repositioned. I made numerous entries into the nursing notes in her chart, stating verbatim what she said and her various behaviors, but by my next on-duty shift, the notes would be deleted from her chart. Every time I made a positive entry about any responsiveness of Terri’s, someone would remove it after my shift ended. Michael always demanded to see her chart as soon as he arrived, and would take it in her room with him. I documented Terri’s rehab potential well, writing whole pages about Terri’s responsiveness, but they would always be deleted by the next time I saw her chart. The reason I wrote so much was that everybody else seemed to be afraid to make positive entries for fear of their jobs, but I felt very strongly that a nurses job was to accurately record everything we see and hear that bears on a patients condition and their family. I upheld the Nurses Practice Act, and if it cost me my job, I was willing to accept that.

Throughout my time at Palm Gardens, Michael Schiavo was focused on Terri’s death. Michael would say “When is she going to die?,” “Has she died yet?” and “When is that bitch gonna die?” These statements were common knowledge at Palm Gardens, as he would make them casually in passing, without regard even for who he was talking to, as long as it was a staff member. Other statements which I recall him making include “Can’t you do anything to accelerate her death – won’t she ever die?” When she wouldn’t die, Michael would be furious. Michael was also adamant that the family should not be given information. He made numerous statements such as “Make sure the parents aren’t contacted.” I recorded Michael’s statements word for word in Terri’s chart, but these entries were also deleted after the end of my shift. Standing orders were that the family wasn’t to be contacted, in fact, there was a large sign in the front of her chart that said under no circumstances was her family to be called, call Michael immediately, but I would call them, anyway, because I thought they should know about their daughter.

When Michael visited Terri, he always came alone and always had the door closed and locked while he was with Terri. He would typically be there about twenty minutes or so. When he left Terri would would be trembling, crying hysterically, and would be very pale and have cold sweats. It looked to me like Terri was having a hypoglycemic reaction, so I’d check her blood sugar. The glucometer reading would be so low it was below the range where it would register an actual number reading. I would put dextrose in Terri’s mouth to counteract it. This happened about five times on my shift as I recall. Normally Terri’s blood sugar levels were very stable due to the uniformity of her diet through tube feeding. It is my belief that Michael injected Terri with Regular insulin, which is very fast acting.

The longer I was employed at Palm Gardens the more concerned I became about patient care, both relating to Terri Schiavo, for the reasons I’ve said, and other patients, too. There was an LPN named Carolyn Adams, known as “Andy” Adams who was a particular concern. An unusual number of patients seemed to die on her shift, but she was completely unconcerned, making statements such as “They are old – let them die.” I couldn’t believe her attitude or the fact that it didn’t seem to attract any attention. She made many comments about Terri being a waste of money, that she should die. She said it was costing Michael a lot of money to keep her alive, and that he complained about it constantly (I heard him complain about it all the time, too.) Both Michael and Adams said that she would be worth more to him if she were dead. I ultimately called the police relative to this situation, and was terminated the next day. Other reasons were cited, but I was convinced it was because of my “rocking the boat.”

Law Affidavit :

I know that Terri did not receive routine physical therapy or any other kind of therapy. I was personally aware of orders for rehabilitation that were not being carried out. Even though they were ordered, Michael would stop them. Michael ordered that Terri receive no rehabilitation or range of motion therapy. I and Olga would give Terri range of motion anyway, but we knew we were endangering our jobs by doing so.

Terri had very definite likes and dislikes. Olga and I used to call Terri “Fancy Pants,” because she was so particular about certain things. She just adored her baths, and was so happy afterward when she was all clean, smelling sweet from the lotion her mother provided, and wearing the soft nightgowns her mother laundered for her. Terri definitely did not like the taste of the teeth-cleaning swabs or the mouthwash we used. She liked to have her hair combed. She did not like being tucked in, and especially hated it if her legs were tightly tucked. You would always tell when Terri had a bowel movement, as she seem agitated and would sort of “scoot” to get away from it.

When Olga was talking with Terri, Terri would follow Olga with her eyes. I have no doubt in my mind that Terri understood what Olga was saying to her. I could tell a definite difference between the way Terri responded to Olga and the way she reacted to me, until she got used to my taking care of her. Initially, she “clammed up” with me, the way she would with anyone she did not know or was not familiar or comfortable with. It took about the fourth or fifth time taking care of her alone, without Olga, that Terri became relaxed and cooperative and non-resistant with me.

At least three times during any shift where I took care of Terri, I made sure to give Terri a wet washcloth filled with ice chips, to keep her mouth moistened. I personally saw her swallow the ice water and never saw her gag. Olga and I frequently put orange juice or apple juice in her washcloth to give her something nice to taste, which made her happy. On three or four occasions I personally fed Terri small mouthfuls of Jello, which she was able to swallow and enjoyed immensely. I did not do it more often only because I was so afraid of being caught by Michael.

In the past, I have taken care of comatose patients, including those in a persistent vegetative state. While it is true that those patients will flinch or make sounds occasionally, they don’t do it as a reaction to someone on a constant basis who is taking care of them, the way I saw Terri do.

During the time I cared for Terri, she formed words. I have heard her say “mommy” from time to time, and “momma,” and she also said “help me” a number of times. She would frequently make noises like she was trying to talk. Other staff members talked about her verbalizations.

As a CNA, I wanted every piece of information I could get about my patients. I never had access to medical records as a CNA, but it was part of my job duties to write my observations down on sheets of paper, which I turned over to the nurse at the nurses station for inclusion in the patients charts. In the case of Terri Schiavo, I felt that my notes were thrown out without even being read. There were trash cans at the nurses stations that we were supposed to empty each shift, and I often saw the notes in them. I made extensive notes and listed all of Terri’s behaviors, but there was never any apparent follow up consistent with her responsiveness.

I discussed this situation with other personnel at Palm Gardens, particularly with Olga, and another CNA, an older black man named Ewan Morris. We all discussed the fact that we could be fired for reporting that Terri was responsive, and especially for giving her treatment. The advice among the staff was “don’t do nothin’, don’t see nothin’ and don’t say nothin’.” It was particularly distressing that we always had to be afraid that if Michael got upset, he would take his anger out on Terri.

Two nurses, working at completely different times in the nursing home, both allege that Mrs. Schiavo was responsive, both allege that their notes on her responsiveness were destroyed, both allege that Mr. Schiavo was cruel to the staff for helping Mrs. Schiavo.

The judge dismisses these claims because Mr. and Mrs. Schindler did not remember the names of the nurses for a subpoena many years later (as if most parents would remember every nurse taking care of their daughter over a 15 year period) and because their notes do not appear in the file (both allege that they noticed their notes being removed at the time) and because it would require a huge conspiracy (Huge? One doctor agreeing with Mr. Schiavo and a cowed staff in a nursing home. Not huge and not unlikely.)

BTW, do I believe there is a huge settlement left for Mr. Schiavo to collect NOW? No. I understand that legal bills regarding the fight to let her die and care bills have eaten up a large portion of it. But that wasn’t true years ago when the court battle began. I wouldn’t find it shocking to believe that in the early phases, large amounts of money could have been large factors.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.24.05 at 2:06 pm

I should note that I am not a fan of the odd Congressional action in the Schiavo case. I think the case has wound its way through many courts and at the end of a long process you don’t always get what you want.

But that said, I’m also not a fan of those (including those on this board) who seem to think that the objections to starving Schiavo are mere pretense or those who seem to lionize Mr. Schiavo despite noticeable evidence that he has strong interests that don’t seem to be in line with Mrs. Schiavo’s.


John Emerson 03.24.05 at 3:16 pm

We do not have testimony from Olga. Just hearsay from Iyer. For whatever reason, Iyer’s testimony was regarded as not credible. At this point you’re asking us to go back and retry a case on the basis of testimony on events that happened ten years ago.

A CNA’s testimony should not be regarded as medical testimony. CNA’s have very minimal training and are limited to specific tasks. They have no medical training beyond the tasks. Their judgement about the medical condition of the patient isn’t a professional judgement. Even now that parents are interpreting as “responses” things that aren’t.

As far as I know, their written comments are not charted; they’re for the use of the nurse. What Iyer reports requires that the whole professional nursing staff (everyone who ever worked there on the shift when Iyer was there) was in on the coverup/neglect. That’s a considerable number of people, and they have to be deliberately covering up because this is a famous case. (And at one point Iyer made statements implying that the parents were neglecting their daughter too, which is probably why they didn’t ask for her testimony).

I don’t see any reason to dispute the court’s dismissal of Iyer’s testimony, or to keep alive the rumor that ten years ago he was trying to kill her for money.


Sebastian Holsclaw 03.24.05 at 5:54 pm

Ah, good, CNAs not knowledgeable enough for evaluation purposes. The arrogance is typical. They work with such people every single day. Clearly they don’t have any insight worth looking into.

But even given that attitude, I presume you are dismissing both nurse’s comments about the husband.

“And at one point Iyer made statements implying that the parents were neglecting their daughter too, which is probably why they didn’t ask for her testimony”

While we are making stuff up, can I assert that they didn’t supoena her because they didn’t remember her name years later?


John Emerson 03.24.05 at 7:36 pm

Why was her testimony rejected by the court? And she really did make accusations against the parents.

It looks to me as though she, like the parents, was reading things into small signs and behaviors that were not significant, the way the people found stuff in the edited film that looked like responses.

1979-1984 worked as “ancillary personnel” at the CNA level (phlebotomist) so don’t give me that arrogance crap. Neither I nor they had any medical training beyond the task.

As for the comments about the husband, I can’t say.

If you are serious about all this, I suggest getting on the case. It’s a big case, involving many doctors and nurses — not just the husband.
Casually throwing out rumors isn’t enough. I still don’t think that there’s enough here to justify nationwide involvement by anyone. You and Reynolds were way too quick to pass on the politically- motivated character-assassination rumors.


Jesurgislac 03.26.05 at 5:59 pm

FWIW, I understand Carla Iyers’ testimony was deemed incredible because she had not contacted Terri Schiavo’s parents about this interactive behavior Iyers claims she witnessed, by their daughter back in 1997, which was when Iyers was working at that care home.

In 1997, Terri Schiavo had been in a persistent vegetative state for 7 years. She’d been fitted with a PEG tube because she couldn’t swallow. If Iyers really had fed Terri Schiavo “small spoonfuls of jello” and it had been swallowed, it would have been a bloody miracle. Same for speaking words aloud – even Terri Schiavo’s parents have never claimed she spoke understandable words.

It’s really freaking unbelievable that, if Iyers genuinely had seen real evidence that Terri Schiavo was communicating, and had discussed it with her colleagues, that everyone would just have agreed to shut up about it because they were “scared of Michael”. (And presumably, are keeping quiet about it even now, because they’re “scared of Michael”. His surname is Schiavo, not Corleone!)

But even given that attitude, I presume you are dismissing both nurse’s comments about the husband.

Actually, I’m remembering a comment Jay Wolfson made about Michael Schiavo in his GAL report. He said that Mr Schiavo was a headache to nursing home administrators because he insisted on the best possible care for his wife, and he’d make trouble if she didn’t get it. (Terri Schiavo has never had a bedsore.)

Given two possibilities:

1. Carla Iyers witnessed a medical miracle: the regrowth of cerebral cortex tissue enabling a patient who had been in a PVS to speak and communicate and swallow semi-solids. She spoke about it to her colleagues. All of them kept quiet about it then, and are keeping quiet about it now, apart from Iyers, who said nothing to anyone else about it at the time, not even Terri Schiavo’s parents.

2. Carla Iyers got into trouble at work as a result of being careless or slipshod, and blames it on Michael Schiavo. She has ever since been telling a story that makes her look like a little heroine and Michael Schiavo like the villain of the piece, and has repeated it so often, with embellishments, that she’s come to believe it.

So, yeah, I do dismiss Carla Iyers claims. Even without the motive I think is plausible in 2, I still think it intrinsically more likely that she’s lying than that Terri Schiavo really did regrow cerebral cortex tissue and start communicating in 1997… but no one mentioned it.

Comments on this entry are closed.