Euthanasia and Media Malpractice

Media Malpractice

Allegations of bias, cover-ups, giving misleading information and outright deception have been periodically leveled at the media by opponents to euthanasia and assisted suicide, especially over reports regarding Terri Schiavo.

  • Terri was constantly reported as being in a persistent vegetative state.
  • Terri's family were largely ignored by the media.
  • It was seldom mentioned that lawyer George Felos, a "right-to-die" expert, is a member of the Hemlock Society and Board member of the "Hospice" where Terri Schiavo resided.
  • Judge George Greer had close connections with people who were on the Board of the Hospice.
  • Media manipulated their coverage of the Schiavo case  in ways that bolstered her husband arguments to have her food and water withdrawn.
One of the most notable examples of media deception on end-of-life issues was the way they reported on the Terri Schindler Schiavo case.

In 1990 Terri Schiavo suffered anoxic brain injury from an unknown cause. She was left in a severly brain damaged condition with some doctors regarding her as being in a persistent vegetative state, although other doctors refuted that diagnosis.

Terri's husband and guardian, Michael Schiavo, claimed she had a potassium imbalance. A neurologist later testified that she had suffered a neck injury, the kind you get when someone tries to strangle you.

In 1992, Michael Schiavo was successful in a medical malpractice litigation against her doctors and received $600,00 for loss of spousal consortium. Terri was awarded over $1 million for her injuries. Of this, $750,000 was placed in trust to provide healthcare and therapeutic services for her.

Not long after that, Terri's parents disagreed with Michael about the treatment she should be receiving, and about the handling of her Trust. Terri's family believed that she should start receiving therapy again but Michael disagreed.

In 1998, Terri's husband petitioned the circuit courts in Pinellas County, Florida for the authority to withdraw her only physical dependency - a gastric feeding tube.

After years of litigation, Terri's feeding tube was removed for the third and final time on March 18, 2005. She died some 13 days later of dehydration.

The Public never Learned about Terri Schiavo's True Condition
Terri was constantly reported as being in a 'persistent vegetative state' although that was not factually the case. With very few exceptions, the media appeared to side with Terri's husband Michael in seeking her death.

Terri was not in a coma, had brain activity and interacted with her parents. David Gibbs, the attorney who represented Terri's parents in their efforts to save her life, said that although there was no denying the severity of the brain damage,

"There was a dynamic to her. She jabbered. She complained when she was in pain. She fussed at the staff. She laughed when her mother came in, and she cried when her mother left. She teased. Her father, Bob Schindler, would come in with his mustache and beard, and she would?in her own way?play with him about how they tickled her."

"I wish," Mr. Gibbs said, "that we'd been able to show the American public how very alive Terri was."

Mr. Gibbs was there repeatedly in those last days and hours, and says it was not a pretty thing. Terri's skin was stretched and dry; her lips and tongue were parched. "We killed her in a very barbaric manner," Mr. Gibbs charges. "She was feeling pain. There was an imploring look in her eyes. It was as if she were saying to me: 'I'm trusting you; can't you do something?'"

Terri's family were largely ignored by the media who seemed to go out of their way to convince people that Terri was somehow 'less then human.' Apart from reporting that the Vatican opposed Terri's starvation, comments were sought from religious leaders who were in favour of starving her, including American priests who openly disagreed with Catholic Church teaching.

A Reuters piece which appeared in hundreds of newspapers and on news web sites claimed Terri "will almost certainly never recover from her unconscious condition" and added that "neurologists agree." The article failed to mention that Michael had withheld appropriate medical care or rehabilitative treatment for Terri for years.

Media referred to a 10 year-old report on persistent vegetative cases and two doctors who had never seen Terri to evaluate her, but presumed she was in a PVS state. No reference was made to the dozens of doctors who signed affidavits in favor of motions submitted by Terri Schiavo's parents to have Terri tested before she was starved to death.

The Reuters article also did not feature quotes from any of the doctors who disagreed that Terri is in a PVS state -- such as Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist. Dr Hammesfahr videoed his examination of Terri, his Report can be read here.

Dr Hammesfahr has emerged as a somewhat controversial figure in the media since the Schiavo case. It seems that his method of treating stroke patients is not widely accepted by the medical community, nor is his research published in peer-reviewed journals.

Dr. Hammesfahr believed her injury, hypoxic encephalopathy, is a type of stroke that he treats every day with success.

"There are many approaches that would help Terri Schiavo," he said. "I know, because I had the opportunity to personally examine her, her medical records, and her X-rays. It is time to help Terri, instead of just warehousing her. She would have benefited from treatment years ago, but it is not too late to start now."

The Right-to-Die Connection
Another point not often mentioned was that Michael Schiavo's lawyer, George Felos, a "right-to-die" expert, is a member of the Hemlock Society and Board member of the "Hospice" where Terri Schiavo resided.

Judge George Greer, who ordered Terri's food and water withdrawn, was legally blind and had to have his cases are read to him by an officer in the court. He also had close connections with people who were on the Board of the Hospice.

Judge Greer refused to acknowledge testimony of ten doctors and three nurses who had cared for Terri and who testified that:

a) Terri was not in a persistent vegetative state

b) Terri would have been able to be rehabilitated with care and therapy

c) Terri's original injuries were questionable and consistent with spouse abuse and attempted strangulation

d) Terri had been abused and neglected by her husband; denied treatment for infection and possible attempted murder while in nursing home care (discovery of empty insulin vial and temperature in room set at 64 degrees)

Judge Greer instead chose to believe contrary testimony by two of Michael's representatives who were:

a) A doctor who rarely saw Terri (Dr. Gambone who had resigned as Terri's doctor)

b) Ronald Cranford, Hannipeg County Medical Center , Minnesota who makes a habit of testifying in cases such as Terri's throughout the country, always on the side of dehydration and starvation.

ABCs Misleading Poll
ABC News commissioned a poll to gauge the attitudes of Americans about what should happen to 41-year-old Terri Schiavo. The poll that was released on March 21, 2005, was conducted the day before and consisted of telephone interviews with 501 adults. It was said to be accurate within plus or minus 4.5 points.

Fourty-four per cent of those polled told the questioners that they followed Ms. Schiavo's case either "not so closely" or "not at all". Sixty-three per cent of those polled felt that her feeding tube should be removed while twenty-eight percent were opposed to the actions that were ordered by the courts. The question asked:
"Schiavo suffered brain damage and has been on life support for 15 years. Doctors say she has no consciousness and her condition is irreversible. Her husband and her parents disagree about whether she would have wanted to be kept alive. Florida courts have sided with the husband and her feeding tube was removed on Friday. What's your opinion on this case ? do you support or oppose the decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube? Do you support/oppose it strongly or somewhat?"
According to Arthur Weinreb, an associate editor of The Canada Free Press, this showed how media polls can be manipulated.
This poll clearly illustrates how media polls can be manipulated to get a certain result by the way the facts are presented to people who have little or no knowledge of the subject matter. The result of this portion of the poll ? that 63 per cent of people approve the removal of the feeding tube while 28 per cent are opposed, is absolutely meaningless because of the way the facts were set out. It is also misleading to give the results of the poll without providing the facts that were given to the respondents before their answers were elicited. (Source: )
Allegations of Bias 
The Media Research Center is an organisation that seek to prove bias by using scientific studies and word-for-word quotes from the media. 

MRC analysts conducted a study that detailed how three broadcast network evening newscasts "tilted their coverage of the Terri Schiavo case  in ways that bolster her husband Michael's arguments that the severely disabled woman is in an irreversible vegetative state and had clearly expressed a desire to die. But network reporters have attempted to debunk arguments made by her parents ? namely that some doctors believe she could be helped and that Mrs. Schiavo, a Catholic, would not want her feeding tube disconnected." Their findings can be read here.

In 1979 and 1980, researchers professors Robert Lichter and Stanley Rothman conducted hour-long interviews with 240 members of the leading media establishments in the U.S. Lichter and Roberts published their research as a book entitled The Media Elite. 65% of those interviewed described themselves as liberal, 18% as moderate and 17% as conservative.

In 1985, the Los Angeles Times commissioned a study of 3,000 journalists at 621 newspapers. The results confirmed the Lichter/Rothman study: "Members of the press are predominantly liberal, considerably more liberal than the general public."

In BIAS: A CBS Insider Exposes How the Media Distort the News, Bernard Goldberg reveals just how biased the media are ? and how they create and manipulate news to help Democrats and the liberal agenda.

'Media elites' deny they are either liberal or biased in their reporting.

Goldberg says, "These guys, media elites, live in an elite, comfortable, liberal bubble, in places like Manhattan in New York. They can go for a week, a day, a month, a year, they can practically go for a whole lifetime and never run into anybody who has a different point of view than they have on all the big social issues."