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Michael Schiavo’s web of deceit

By Anita Crane, editor of American Life League's Celebrate Life magazine

It’s easy to see why lies can be so tempting. For those intent on having things their own way regardless of the cost, lies are useful because they can injure and destroy people. They are especially useful when propagated by journalists; because under the guise of journalism, lies have an air of legitimacy, enabling them to influence untold millions.

Michael Scherer broke’s Dec. 7 story on Michael Schiavo’s project Terri PAC, the political action committee he formed “with the hope of raising money to defeat the politicians who tried to intervene in the legal battle between Schiavo and Terri's parents.”

Scherer opened his piece with these words: “At the height of the battle, Michael Schiavo appeared to be a reluctant cultural warrior. His wife, Terri, lay comatose, in her 15th year of vegetative slumber, connected to a feeding tube, but well beyond resuscitation.” I daresay almost everyone who paid attention to the Terri Schiavo story saw video showing that she was anything but comatose. And any good reporter would be able to find exam reports verifying her consciousness and interaction with people. Ah, but should readers expect more from Scherer who, in the same article, showed that he can’t be bothered to know the definition of “anniversary”?

Moreover, Robert Destro, an attorney who represents Terri’s parents Bob and Mary Schindler in league with the Gibbs Law Firm, said this after Terri’s autopsy: “We knew that Terri was severely brain damaged before she died. Though we did not know that she was blind, blind people can be just as responsive to their families as sighted people can. After the initial guardianship judgment was rendered, there were significant attempts to rehabilitate Terri. And if you look, as we did, very carefully into the medical record, you’d see there were occasions when Terri actually responded to direct questions: ‘Do you want us to move your legs?’ And she said, ‘No.’ We still believe she was MCS [in a minimally conscious state], and we had expert opinions to that effect.”

Who’s the victim?

Scherer persisted with material from Michael Schiavo’s web site at "'For 15 years, I have been watching the politicians working their ways into my case. I felt I needed to do something when this was all said and done,’ Schiavo told Salon on Tuesday. ‘I didn't ask for this fight, but now I am ready.’"

Furthermore, Schiavo makes this claim on his site: “Many observers believed this unprecedented political intrusion was purely political. During the debate in Congress, a memo surfaced from the office of Senator Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) outlining Republican political advantages that could be gained by intervening in the Schiavo case.”

Yet neither Schiavo nor Scherer refer to the April 7 Washington Post report that the senator’s legal counsel Brian Darling took responsibility for the memo and resigned his position.

Schiavo goes on: “It would be easy to dismiss my actions as partisan. But I was a life-long Republican before Republicans pushed the power of government into my private family decisions. And it is not so simple to forget those politicians who shamelessly sought to squeeze political leverage out of my family’s most emotional hour.”

Well now, there’s a half truth. Judge George Greer is a Republican who certainly pushed the power of government into Schiavo’s family affairs by sentencing Terri to death. (For a detailed account of Greer’s illegal doings, see my earlier report, "Inside the Terri Schiavo case.") Except Schiavo and Scherer neglect to mention that S. 686, the famous bill to provide relief to the parents of Terri Schindler Schiavo with a federal court hearing, passed in the U.S. Senate by unanimous consent-meaning that all Senate Democrats had agreed to it. And in the U.S. House, 47 Democrats helped pass the bill as well. Furthermore, 102 House Democrats, including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), abstained from voting on the bill. So where’s Schiavo’s outrage towards all of them?

Destro explained why certain prominent Democrats couldn’t justify starving and dehydrating Terri. “People did a lot of posturing on this case. Jesse Jackson did show up at the end and a lot of people thought he was grandstanding,” Destro said. “But the fact of the matter is he called up and said, ‘What can I do to help? Originally I was against you, but my son Jesse, Jr. called me after the House vote and said Terri’s not dying, she’s not in a persistent vegetative state.’” Then Rep. Jackson (D-Ill.) urged his dad to call Aretha Franklin. Jesse Jackson said the great singer declared that caring for her late ailing father was one of the most honorable things she’d ever done and it moved him to decry “Terri-ism.”

The Cranford connection

Schiavo reads like his key witness, neurologist Ronald Cranford. Dr. Cranford made a career out of the quest to euthanize patients. In the November issue of Medical Ethics Advisor, Cranford stated: “The state and federal governments made fools of themselves by intervening in Schiavo… [Terri] Schiavo was the culmination of my career.” Now that Terri is dead, evidently Cranford isn’t above bragging about how he tried to manipulate public opinion through the media: “I came up with a figure of 5,000 to 10,000 [PVS patients]. In a way, I just made it up, even though I tried to be accurate. But the media doesn’t like ranges like that, so they just said ‘10,000,’ and that became the standard. But we really didn’t know then how many people were in a persistent vegetative state, and we really don’t know now, either.”

In the same interview, Cranford preached: “In the elderly, dementia is more common than the vegetative state. What are we going to do with humane care for the elderly? One-third to one-half people over the age of 80 will have some form of dementia.” But why, pray tell, should anyone believe that?

Michael Schiavo reportedly endorsed Tim Kaine, the Democrat in this fall’s Virginia gubernatorial election, because Jerry Kilgore, the Republican candidate, had stated that “he did not agree with the forced starvation of any individual.” Since Kaine won, Schiavo told Scherer that Rep. Tom DeLay (R-Texas), Sen. Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pa.) are his “primary targets” for defeat in next year’s midterm elections. He’ll also wield his opinions upon Florida voters during that state’s 2006 race for governor. Let’s hope that Schiavo endorsements will signal grave concern to voters.

Schiavo’s book, Terri: The Truth, is due for release in March 2006. Likewise, Terri’s family will publish their memoirs upon the anniversary of her death. Given Schiavo’s record of storytelling, I’ll look to the Schindlers’ account for truth. How about you?