I promise, I'll get off the Schiavo case and get local again. But I've been getting a few "you disgust me" emails from people in America. The thing that strikes me is that their perceptions are taking shape in textbook conspiracy theory style: start with a conclusion and work feverishly backwards. You decide that no plane hit the Pentagon on September 11 and you stare at grainy photographs until it becomes true.
In common with other conspiracy theories, the "facts" look good until you compare them with the, er, facts. Take the widespread idea that Terri Schiavo was denied rehabilitative care, as advanced by one of my angry correspondents, Diane:
Could you please provide me with the names of the therapist that have been seeing Terri's all this time? The Speech therapist, the physical therapist? I keep hearing all these claims she's been given all this therapy but no one has the names of these therapists. Who was given it to her Casper? How many doctors has she seen over the last 12 years, since we have afforded her all this medical care, could I also get that list?
Well, let's start with Dr Carnahan and Dr Alcazaren of the Mediplex Rehabilitation Centre, both rehabilitation specialists. The miami.edu timeline says that she was discharged from hospital to the College Park skilled care and rehabilitation facility (May 1990), then to Bayfront Hospital for "further rehabilitation efforts" (June 1990); returned to College Park rehabilitation facility because her family was "overwhelmed by Terri's care needs" (September 1990); taken by Michael Schiavo to California for experimental "brain stimulator" treatment, via an experimental "thalamic stimulator implant" in her brain (November 1990); moved to the Mediplex Rehabilitation Center in Brandon where she receives 24-hour care (January 1991); transferred to Sable Palms skilled care facility for "continuing neurological testing, and regular and aggressive speech/occupational therapy" until the end of 1994. That's three and a half years of intensive rehabilitation theory.
Diane also offered links to a blog which speculates feverishly on both the 1991 bone scan and the two CAT scans of Terri Schiavo's brain. No, I can't read CAT scans, but I think I'll go with the expert clinical evidence on this one, and it is not remotely similar to that offered by the blogger. There is some interesting discussion in the comments of this blog, which lines up images from Terri Schiavo's brain and a normal brain.
And the bone scan? The Schindlers' own medical witness was interviewed by attorneys for both sides in 2003 and produced nothing that proved traumatic injury, let alone evidence that Michael Schiavo had beaten his wife. The witness, who thought abnormalities in the scan looked like the result of trauma, had no case history and actually specifically deferred to the doctors at the Mediplex centre who took a completely different view of the bone scan results, and agreed that he had seen such injuries in bedridden patients, if rarely. The scan appears to have been unusual, but you'd have to be barking mad to accept the evidence in court as proof that Michael Schiavo beat his wife.
Also: the claim that her husband and the courts have colluded to prevent an MRI scan. I'm trusting what I've read here, but apparently an MRI scan can't be done because she has thalamic implants - to prevent tremors like those produced by Parkinson's Disease. Removing those implants requires difficult and dangerous surgery.
For further reading, Majikthise rounds up the various myths, medical and otherwise, that have sprung up around the case. And Raw Story offers a backgrounder on Michael Schiavo that depicts a different man to the one currently being vilified by people who never met him or his wife.
Billmon notes the rather odd moral map of Bill Tierney, a US intelligence officer who is protesting outside the hospice in Florida - and who last month publicly admitted not just to practising torture in Baghdad, but to enjoying it. Wow.
Paul Krugman looks at what's happening and gets the fear. With some reason: a committee of the Florida legislature has approved a bill that could and would be used to require not just schools to teach creationism, but universities. Students could sue professors who questioned their beliefs on evolution, abortion, the Holocaust, or, indeed, anything. See also: The New Brown Shirts. In a lovely bit of doublespeak, this is being referred to as an "academic freedom" bill …
But it's all alright. Michael Schiavo has said through his lawyer that he will allow an autopsy of his wife's body to try and settle the various claims about her medical state. I guess that's a victory for somebody.
Although not for the likes of Pat Sebastian, who emailed to tell me that letting Terri die would expose America to terrorist attack:
You disgust me. Terri is an innocent person who is aware of what is going on around her. And, she is being given morphine for pain - the pain, the idiot "husband & his lawyer" and the ignorant "doctors" who want her dead say she doesn't feel. God have mercy on them.
Encouraging this country to be a country loving and encouraging death at the first opportunity is another big step away from God and a big encouragement for His to lift His hand of protection from Florida and this country as He did on 9/11.
Beware, God loves His children and Terri belongs to Him. Anyone a part of taking her life will surely feel the wrath of God.
One day each person - you, me, Jeb Bush, Greer, etc. WILL kneel before our Lord and judgement will be handed out. To GOD be the Glory - and may Terri enjoy relieve from the evil of this world.
I can't wait …