Saturday, March 24, 2007



Would it surprise anyone at all that Dr. Michael Egnor, the Discovery Institute's favorite surgeon for performing brain removals, warmed up for that gig by practicing some unsolicited, long-distance, politically-motivated, secondhand malpractice on Teri Schiavo?

In some ways worse than Bill Frist (who did the medical profession and the sick people of Tennessee a great favor by becoming a senator, even if the country as a whole couldn't say the same), Egnor persisted in misdiagnosing Ms. Schiavo as merely "a handicapped person," even after the autopsy results were in and it was clear to any sentient observer that Ms. Schiavo had died years before and all that had been left was a sad husk.

With all the honesty and attention to facts that we have recently come to expect from Dr. Egnor, he wrote a letter that appeared in the New York Times in June, 2005 that focused on how it was being touted in the media that the report stated that Ms. Schiavo "was probably blind" when she died. Actually, the report said that there was "hypoxic damage and neuronal loss in her occipital lobes which indicates cortical blindness." That's only a detail, of course, but isn't attention to detail something you might just want in a brain surgeon?

More egregious was his attempt to smear the people who brought attention to that part of the report:

Supporters of the decision to starve her to death have hailed this finding as bolstering their argument that withdrawal of her feeding tube was ethical.
I certainly do not remember anyone making that claim. In fact, the question of whether or not she could see was important only because Teri Shiavo's parents had been proclaiming that she could see and that was proof that she wasn't in a persistent vegetative state. In a monumental abuse of his power, Egnor's fellow spiritualist practitioner, Senator Frist, took to the Senate floor to issue a "diagnosis" of Shiavo as not being brain dead because, after watching a whole hour of videos of her, carefully selected by her parents, he could tell that "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

Thus, the real point of emphasizing that the vision centers in her brain were dead and gone was to demonstrate that idiots with more in the way of a political agenda than medical ethics can make fools of themselves before what is supposedly the greatest deliberative body in the world.

In an excruciating display of irony, Dr. Egnor said of the supporters of the concept that these decisions should be made by patients, their next of kin and their doctors:

Their reasoning is hard to follow.
Hey, Doc ... I have a diagnosis for your problem with that!

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