Sunday, September 17, 2006

Study reveals brain activity of patient in ‘vegetative state’

This article from Baptist Press (below) provides proof that our Justice system was wrong in the Case of Terri Shiavo in 2005. I spoke at the Rose Rally for Terri at the Capitol in Tallahassee on March 13, 2005 on behalf of American Family Association. As Terri was being starved to death by way of a court order, we were rallingFlorida legislators and Govenor Bush to intervene in the killing of this innocent woman. I spent time on that somber day with Terri's parents; Bob and Mary Schindler. I found them to be God fearing people who were doing everthing possible to fight for their daughters life while mainting an icredible faith in God. My heart went out to them as I honestly don't know what I would do had I been the one in their shoes.

In “Fighting for Dear Life: The Untold Story of Terri Schiavo and What It Means for All of Us,” David Gibbs, who took the case at the request of Schiavo’s parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, offers a firsthand account of the family’s emotional struggle to keep their daughter alive, the legal appeals that moved through the Florida courts and the effort to protect Schiavo with state and federal legislation. Click Here to order the book from AFA.

Study reveals brain activity of patient in ‘vegetative state
By Gregory Tomlin
Baptist Press
Sep 11, 2006

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--A patient said to be in a persistent vegetative state (PVS) had the capacity to understand and respond to verbal commands, a team of European researchers reported in the journal Science Sept. 8.

Researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) technology to examine the brain of a woman who was critically injured in an automobile accident in July 2005. When they provided voice commands, such as instructions to imagine herself in a game of tennis, portions of the woman’s brain showed a surprising amount of activity, not unlike those of healthy people who agreed to participate in the same study.

“Her decision to cooperate ... by imaging particular tasks when asked to do so represents a clear act of intention, which confirmed beyond any doubt that she was consciously aware of herself and her surroundings,” the researchers noted in the study.

Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission, said the results of the study were “very encouraging to this woman and those treating her.” He said the same kind of tests “should be done on all people who have this kind of brain injury to help us determine whether they are in a persistent vegetative state or whether they are in a minimally conscious state and the degree to which there is any hope for recovery of brain function.”

The findings have rekindled the debate surrounding the starvation death of Terri Schiavo in 2005 and are prompting further discussion of long-term care for brain-damaged patients. Southern Baptist ethicists are calling the findings further proof that, when there is doubt, the justice system should side with life. They also said the justice system had clearly erred in the Schiavo case.

Schiavo died of complications from dehydration after husband Michael Schiavo and pro-euthanasia attorney George Felos successfully argued before a Florida court to have her feeding tube disconnected. She had been receiving nutrition and hydration through a tube since her collapse and subsequent brain injury in 1990.

C. Ben Mitchell, associate professor of bioethics at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and a research fellow with the ERLC, said the new study is a reminder “that we know far less than we think we know about what is happening in the brain of comatose patients.”

“In this case, the patient was hardly ‘vegetative.’ In fact, she was quite alive. A PVS diagnosis should not be a death sentence, but a cause for special care. We may well be caring for someone who is aware of every conversation, every act of compassion, and every hint of abandonment,” Mitchell said.

Initially, Michael Schiavo pledged to take care of his wife for the remainder of her natural life, but after he received a $1.2 million medical malpractice settlement in 1992, he refused to provide further rehabilitative services for her. In 1998, he filed suit in court to have Terri’s life ended, arguing that Terri had stated that she would not want to live in a persistent vegetative state. The court accepted the hearsay as evidence of Terri Schiavo’s end of life wishes.

The decision to allow Schiavo to die touched off a 12-year legal battle in which the parents of Terri Schiavo, Bob and Mary Schindler, argued that their daughter was able to respond to their voices and verbal commands, just as the patient in the most recent study had. Bob Schindler issued a statement following the publication of the findings last week.

“This new case is not surprising to our family,” Schindler said. “We are seeing a growing amount of evidence indicating that the diagnosis of ‘Persistent Vegetative State’ (PVS) is often mis-diagnosed, resulting in dangerous and potentially fatal consequences for people with brain injuries, as documented in this new account of a brain injured woman. The danger of this diagnosis is that it is being used as a reason to kill innocent people with disabilities, like Terri. We believe that this PVS diagnosis is inhumane and it should be abolished.”

Land echoed the sentiment, saying that the PVS diagnosis could lead to a barbaric conclusion to life.

“The giving of food and water to people who are not able to feed themselves and hydrate themselves is an act of mercy and an act of charity in a civilized society. To deny access to food and water is indeed ‘euthanasia by omission,’” Land said, referencing the opinion of the late Pope John Paul II. Land said the practice of depriving PVS patients of nutrition and hydration should be condemned by all civilized societies.

“Just a reminder: When Terri Schiavo’s feeding tube was removed, it took her about 13 days to die of dehydration, which is approximately how long it would take anyone reading these remarks to die if they were not in critical medical condition. In other words, Terri Schiavo was nowhere near death. Her death was not imminent from any medical complication. It took her as long to die as it would take any normal human being who was denied hydration,” Land said.

According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, researchers in the recent study at the University of Cambridge “noticed activity in the language-processing regions” of the patient’s brain “when words were spoken to her, specifically with sentences containing ambiguous words such as ‘creek/creak.’”

“Investigating further, the authors asked the patient to imagine herself playing tennis or visiting all of the rooms in her house. Again, her brain responses closely matched those of healthy volunteers and perhaps show a deliberate effort to follow instructions,” the AAAS news report said.

While the authors of the study warn against drawing conclusions about all PVS patients from their study of a single patient, they agree that the patient’s responses could force the use of new techniques to measure the brain activity of patients thought to have irreversible brain damage. Study author Adrian M. Owen, who led the Cambridge team of neurologists that reported the findings, told the New York Times the conclusions were “stunning.”

Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Dieter's Prayer

A couple of weeks ago I got a little bad news as the result of major physical exam. The doctor says something like my bad cholesterol is good and my good is bad. I don’t fully understand it all but he did explain that I should have it checked again in 3 months to see if loosing 20 pounds and adding more exercise to my daily regimen would help my numbers. If not, he says that I will need to start taking medication for it. The doctor had me thinking about the need to shed some of these extra pounds when I learned of a friendly weight loss competition at my workplace. It is now reported that fifteen of us have paid $10.00 each with the biggest loser taking the pot on October 31. It’s been almost a week since we started and I have a pretty good start with -5.

I noticed a cute little poem in Paul Heil’s The Gospel Greats newsletter a few days ago titled, “A Dieter’s Prayer. "

A Dieter’s Prayer

Lord, grant me the strength that I may not fall
Into the clutches of cholesterol.
At polyunsaturates, I'll never mutter,
For the road to Hell is paved with butter.
And cake is cursed and cream is awful
And Satan is hiding in every waffle.
Beelzebub is a chocolate drop
And Lucifer is a lollipop.
Teach me the evils of hollandaise,
Of pasta and globs of mayonnaise.
And crisp fried chicken from the South -- Lord, if you love me, shut my mouth.