Schiavo case: Professional Standards of Practice Leading to Judgment and Diagnosis
I wrote the following comment in Galen’s Log where Galen pointed out really the main issue in the Schiavo case.
Galen wrote: "The question is only if Michael is a credible witness in relaying his wife's wishes in absence of such legal documentation." Though I am not a lawyer, I suspect that making a legal "diagnosis" of this question is based on careful evaluation of all the facts with as much documentation as possible and in the end a conclusion is reached and acted upon. If this is done in good faith and according to the standards of judicial practice that is all one can expect. Of course there will be occasional errors. Is this the case with Mr. Schiavo's declaration of his wife's wishes? Who knows.. but the evidence and the decision is that it is not. Notice, how similar this is to the medical decision that the patient is in a permanent vegetative state. This is a clinical diagnosis without much help from outside documentation (EEG, MRI etc.). The diagnosis must be reached by careful examination of the history, the physical exam and the patient's course. Finally, a diagnosis is reached. There will be occasional errors. Is this the case with Terri Schiavo? Maybe, but she has apparently had a consensus by a number of neurologists, examining Terri, who were responsible for clarifying a diagnosis who agreed with a PVS diagnosis and which diagnosis was accepted by the court. That should be sufficient in both questions to settle the issue for this one tragic medical condition.
I feel that many in our Congress and perhaps the President himself and, indeed, the public itself either out of political bias or emotion or lack of knowledge, haven’t taken into consideration the standards of practice requirements that are part of the judicial and medical systems and how they played out in the Schiavo case. Decisions must be made in either discipline, sometimes swiftly. But everyone should know that if the established standards are followed faithfully, the decisions can and should be accepted. I think it would be rational and realistic at this time we accept them for the Schiavo case and go on to other issues with the goal to make life for the living better. Don’t you? ..Maurice.