Comments: "Schiavo doctor a right-to-death activist"

Irving News Comments
Copyright March 23 2005
Reproduced with Permission

As one of the few academics anywhere with a formal academic doctoral degree concentration in "bioethics" from the Kennedy Institute of Ethics at Georgetown University (1991), and as a member of the First Generationers to study "bioethics" there at the graduate level, I feel compelled to comment briefly on the article below concerning Dr. Alan Cranford -- the "medical ethics expert" and neurologist who testified before the Schiavo court for Michael Schiavo that Terri is in a "persistent vegetative state" (PVS) and that her feeding tube "should" be removed. Dr. Cranford is a lot more than just a neurologist, a "medical ethicist", and a pioneer in euthanasia and right-to-die issues. What the article fails to identify is that he is also a BIOETHICIST. If you don't understand that and what that means, then you don't know who you are really fighting.

It continues to amaze me on a daily basis why people do not know how and why bioethics suddenly came on the national scene, why it is not synonymous with "ethics" in general, and how its "ethical principles" often arrive at such preposterous and counter-intuitive conclusions. This utter lack of information about bioethics on the part of the public as well as professionals strikes me as some sort of a national/international conscious vacuum -- or perhaps a massive case of denial or amnesia. It's been almost 30 years now that bioethics has gone unchallenged. Until people are willing to do their homework and take a long hard detailed look at the formal "birth" of bioethics in 1978 (The Belmont Report of the National Commission, as mandated by the 1974 National Research Act), who its founders and disciples were and still are, its intimate connection with the government and thus the law, and its horrific legacy to this country since then on a wide range of "ethics" issues, they will never comprehend the fundamental "why" of the Terri Schiavo case or be able to change anything. Despite the "good intentions" of many of its practitioners, bioethics is the machine that is behind so much of what is wrong with our culture today -- including Terri's case.

Euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide laws were put in place in most states by bioethics lawyers several years ago -- including in the State of Florida. They are now "stare decisis" -- legal precedent -- and the courts have no other choice but to apply such legal precedent. For bioethicists, Terri Schiavo is a euthanasia "test case" to set legal precedents in euthanasia and physician-assisted suicide for bioethics worldwide. The real legal issue, it seems to me, is a juris prudence one: not what the current bad laws already are (that is already obvious), but what they ought to be. Unfortunately it is probably too late for this to help Terri Schiavo, but unless these legal precedents are changed, and changed fast, it will also be too late for the rest of us.

This fetish with euthanasia is not new, not unexpected, not secret, and has been exhaustively discussed and argued among bioethicists for 30 years now in the bioethics literature (e.g., The Hastings Center Reports since 1975, and now hundreds of "bioethics" journals since then). Yet for some unexplained reason those outside of bioethics have never bothered to read it. They are totally oblivious to it. If they had, then the arguments and conclusions of Dr. Alan Cransford (discussed in the article below) would not be so shocking. Nor would it be "incomprehensible" why the courts can keep passing the buck.

When pressed last night on TV about the well-known and well-documented fact that at least 43% of patients with PVS were found to be misdiagnosed (British Medical Journal,, he affirmed this, yet stubbornly stuck to his guns. Why? Because like all bioethicists he knows perfectly well that regardless of what the objective medical or scientific facts are, the bioethics power elites are behind him and will back him up no-matter-what, will flood the media with bioethics colleagues peddling similar fairy tales, and re-convince everyone overnight that the rest of us are just too stupid to understand. No way are these power elites going to allow 30 years of bioethics law go down the drain. [See Irving, "What is 'bioethics'?", at:].

World Net Daily
March 23, 2005

Schiavo doctor a right-to-death activist

Neurologist chosen by husband addressed Hemlock Society The neurologist chosen by Michael Schiavo to examine his estranged wife, Terri, is a right-to-die activist who has been a featured speaker for the pro-euthanasia Hemlock Society.

Dr. Ronald Cranford testified in the court cases before county court Judge George Greer that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.

"I've seen her," he told CNN. "There's no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, she's in a permanent vegetative state. Her CAT scan shows extremely severe atrophy to the brain. And her EEG is flat. It doesn't show any electrical activity at all."

His diagnosis has been disputed by Dr. William Hammesfahr, who said, "I spent about 10 hours across about three months and the woman is very aware of her surroundings. She's very aware. She's alert. She's not in a coma. She's not in PVS." Hammesfahr added, "With proper therapy, she will have a tremendous improvement. I think, personally, that she'll be able to walk, eventually, and she will be able to use at least one of her arms."

"There's no way," responded Cranford. "That's totally bogus."

Cranford is a member of the board of directors of the Choice in Dying Society, which promotes doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

He was also a featured speaker at the 1992 national conference of the Hemlock Society. The group recently changed its name to End of Life Choices.

In 1997, Cranford wrote an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled: "When a feeding tube borders on barbaric."

"Just a few decades ago cases of brain death, vegetative state, and locked-in syndrome were rare," he wrote. "These days, medicine's 'therapeutic triumphs' have made these neurologic conditions rather frequent. For all its power to restore life and health, we now realize, modern medicine also has great potential for prolonging a dehumanizing existence for the patient."

He explained that while landmark legal cases like those of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan demonstrated it was "sensible to stop treatment in patients lingering in permanent vegetative states," it was now time to look beyond those cases.

"The United States has thousands or tens of thousands of patients in vegetative states; nobody knows for sure exactly how many," he wrote. "But before long, this country will have several million patients with Alzheimer's dementia. The challenges and costs of maintaining vegetative state patients will pale in comparison to the problems presented by Alzheimer's disease."

The answer, he suggested, was physician-assisted suicide. "So much in medicine today is driving the public towards physician-assisted suicide," he wrote. "Many onlookers are dismayed by doctors' fear of giving families responsibility in these cases; our failure to appreciate that families suffer a great deal too in making decisions; our archaic responses to pain and suffering; our failure to accept death as a reality and an inevitable outcome of life; our inability to be realistic and humane in treating irreversibly ill people. All of this has shaken the public's confidence in the medical profession."

He blamed "right-to-lifers" and "disability groups" for discouraging families from making the choice for euthanasia. He applauded European values that embrace euthanasia.

"But here in the United States, many caregivers wouldn't consider not placing a feeding tube in the same patients," he wrote. "It's hard to understand why. If we want our loved ones to live and die in dignity, we ought to think twice before suspending them in the last stage of irreversible dementia. At it is, it seems that we're not thinking at all."

Editor's note: WorldNetDaily has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002 - far longer than any other national news organization - and exposing the many troubling, scandalous, and possibly criminal, aspects of the case that to this day rarely surface in news reports. Read WorldNetDaily's unparalleled, in-depth coverage of the life-and-death fight over Terri Schiavo, including over 150 original stories and columns.

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