Today's release of findings in the autopsy of Terri Schiavo leave the central issues in her life and death unanswered, says a national disability rights group.
For example, contrary to articles stating the autopsy report 'supported' the diagnosis of 'persistent vegetative state (PVS),' a neuropathology expert today was careful to say that PVS is a clinical diagnosis rather than a pathological one. He added that nothing in the autopsy was 'inconsistent' with a PVS diagnosis.
The real elephant in the living room, of course, is whether or not we can really know how conscious anyone labeled 'PVS' really is. Several studies have revealed high misdiagnosis rates, with conscious people being mistakenly regarded as totally and irrevocably unaware.
The autopsy also documented significant brain atrophy, and the medical panel called the damage 'irreversible.'
This is not the same as saying she had no cognitive ability.
'It's always seemed to us that PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis,' said Stephen Drake, research analyst for Not Dead Yet, a national disability rights group that filed three amicus briefs in the case. 'When it comes to the hard science, no qualified pathologist went on the record saying she couldn't think or couldn't experience her own death through dehydration.'
"PVS isn't really a diagnosis; it's a value judgment masquerading as a diagnosis." That's the money quote. That the judicial system was making life-and-death decisions for a woman based upon a diagnosis as fungible as PVS went largely unremarked. The fact that our deaths may be decreed because a more powerful clique of doctors and lawyers have looked into our face and decreed that, like reading images in clouds, they have determined that we are no longer "there," this should scare us.
Hat Tip: Michelle Malkin.