June 17, 2005,
The results of the autopsy of Terri Schiavo are being taken as a vindication for the successful campaign to dehydrate her to death and a rebuke to those who unsuccessfully resisted this campaign. They should not be.
A great many claims and counter-claims were made in the course of the contentious debate over Mrs. Schiavo’s fate, and the autopsy sheds light on some of them. No evidence was found that Schiavo’s 1990 collapse was caused by abuse at the hands of her husband. Her brain damage was found to be irreversible. And she was found to have been blind. (News accounts of the autopsy leave it unclear whether it was determined when blindness set in and when the brain damage became irreversible.)
These are the three main findings that are held to retrospectively validate one side of the argument. But no responsible critic of Mrs. Schiavo’s dehydration rested his case on an allegation of abuse. (NR explicitly urged opponents of the dehydration not to make such reckless allegations.) While many people held out the hope that treatment might improve Schiavo’s condition, very few people thought it at all likely that she would recover to the point, for example, of being able to hold a conversation.
About the main arguments against killing Terri Schiavo, the autopsy had nothing to say. Many people believed that it is wrong deliberately to bring about the death of innocent human beings, whatever their condition; that it is especially wrong when there is doubt about what that person wanted, and when her family members are willing to provide care for her; that Mr. Schiavo was too compromised to make this decision; that a law enabling the killing of people in a “persistent vegetative state” should not be stretched to cover people who might be “minimally conscious”; and that the Supreme Court should not have established the current lax standards for denying incapacitated people food and water. Nobody who believed these things has any reason to change his mind based on this week’s evidence. The Editors