Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Science Can Save Her.

I've intentionally avoided the Terri Schiavo issue on this blog. Partly because I know you've all been deluged with information about it. Partly because I wasn't sure what to say about the issue. I keep hearing people say, "we should do the right thing for Terri." I honestly haven't been too clear about what the "right thing" means in this situation. I just haven't been able to take a side. One critical problem is that I simply don't know what "persistent vegetative state" means. Does it really mean that the person is brain dead? What is the quantitative measure of whether or not a person is brain dead? As a result of the sloppiness in definition I've wavered on the issue.

I'm done with the indecision. Here's the deal -- Terri Schiavo needs to undergo an fMRI. What the hell is fMRI? It's functional Magnetic Resonance Imaging. (also see here) Using this technique, scientists can directly and quantitatively observe Terri's cerebral response to physical and intellectual stimulation. This should tell us conclusively if her mind really is the black hole that everyone claims it is.

Let's say the fMRI indicates that Terri's brain is simply not reacting to stimulation. In that case we should save her -- pull the feeding tube and let her die. If the results show that she is, in fact, not brain dead then save her -- put the feeding tube back in and let her parents take care of her. Her parents can put her in therapy and use fMRI further to track Terri's progress. If her husband won't grant permission for the fMRI, then get a court order for it to be done.

It's that simple.


Blogger Julie D. said...

Exactly right.

10:06 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

Isn't it intersting how one simple set of scientific tests could resolve this bitter controversy?

10:19 PM  
Blogger Merry Stitcher said...


1:30 AM  
Blogger coturnix said...

The scans of her brain have been around the blogs (Alas a Blog, Pharyngula, Majikthise, I think, and others) and her brain is a liquid mush. Only the brainstem is still there. The fMRI would detect function in an active brain, but in this case, there is no brain to be active in the first place.

6:50 PM  
Blogger Vavoom said...

coturnix: It was my understanding that the controversy revolves around a lack of pure quantitation of what's mush and what's still alive. Would an fMRI not provide that?

7:05 PM  

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