Terri Schiavo prior to her brain injury.

Terri Schiavo prior to her brain injury.

A foundation advocating for the disabled is accusing the New Yorker of presenting “fact-free assertions” that mislead readers about the death of Terri Schindler Schiavo.

WND has reported extensively on Schiavo, most recently when her brother, Bobby Schindler, lobbied for 11-month-old infant Charlie Gard, who died after Britain’s High Court ruled a hospital could take him off life support, even though his parents had raised more than $1.8 million to transfer him to the U.S. for treatment. Schiavo died after a court allowed doctors to withhold food and water.

WND has been reporting on the Schiavo story since 2002, compiling unparalleled, in-depth coverage of her life-and-death fight.

The New Yorker piece focused on the case of Jahi McMath, who was declared dead after a tonsillectomy.

However, a judge later ordered a trial, which is coming in a few weeks, since McMath has been kept on life support by her family. An expert now has concluded that while she may have met the definition of death several years ago after her surgery, she no longer does.

Evidence shows that her heart rate speeds up when her mother talks to her, and she is able to respond to instructions to move her fingers or toes. There’s also been an absence of decomposition.

In the New Yorker report, the writer said Schiavo’s family “had released video clips that they presented as proof of consciousness, but the videos had been edited, giving the impression that she was tracking people with her eyes, even though she was blind.”

That, said Tom Shakely, executive director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, was misleading. The New Yorker initially refused to correct it, although the magazine later added an asterisk to the report with a short note at the bottom stating, “Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo’s brother, contends that, although an autopsy confirmed that she was blind at the time of her death, it is unclear if she was blind when the video was recorded.”

Her death drew the attention of governors and presidential candidates, as well as the Supreme Court, because of her husband’s effort to stop giving her food and water and allow her to die.

Shakely told WND that the addition of the note wasn’t enough to correct the New Yorker article.

The magazine’s “‘fact free’ assertions dramatically mislead readers about the nature of the early 2000s Terri-related footage,” he said.

“A much more objective and medically sound characterization in the form of a correction was proposed to the New Yorker but rejected: ‘Short video footage of Dr. Ronald Cranford’s neurological examination of Terri Schiavo on behalf of her husband, Michael Schiavo, remains controversial, due to the uncertain nature of her visual and cognitive abilities.'”

Shakely said that characterizing footage of Schiavo’s “neurological examinations as having been ‘edited’ is a too-clever-by-half attempt to imply this footage was altered, manipulated or doctored in post-production.”

“Not only was the footage never altered or manipulated, but it was in fact presented as court evidence, thereby meeting a very high standard for its authenticity,” he said.

Schindler added: “The footage of Terri with which so many are familiar includes a neurological examination by Dr. Ronald Cranford and other neurologists. Dr. Cranford, in particular, was a physician ultimately hostile to Terri’s right to life but who nonetheless acknowledges in the footage that Terri seems aware and conscious. We released that footage so many years ago not to establish Terri’s degree of sight, but first and foremost to demonstrate that Terri was potentially in a ‘minimally conscious’ state rather than totally unresponsive. It certainly stands as evidence that she was not comatose, as had been widely misreported at the time.”

Schindler said that years later, the New Yorker “strongly implies that we manipulated footage to portray Terri’s condition falsely.”

“These are outrageous lies, and just the latest example of the strange and frankly bizarre obsession so many apparently still have with continuing to denigrate Terri and her memory, long after she suffered death by a horrendous starvation and dehydration death.”

Shakely continued: “The incredible footage of Terri Schiavo opening her eyes, smiling at her mother’s voice, and attempting to respond to physician commands demonstrates that Terri Schiavo was at least minimally responsive. Moreover, whatever her condition, Terri was a living human being, whose basic dignity and right to life should never have been denied simply due to her cognitive ability.

“That footage demonstrates that she was not dying. That footage demonstrates that she was not reliant on artificial life support. That footage demonstrates that Terri was not a comatose ‘vegetable’ on the edge of life, but a lively and disabled American who deserved the love and rehabilitative support of a society that should have responded differently than it did. And for all these reasons and more, too many in our culture try to bury the truth about Terri-and about our horrendous cultural choice to dehydrate her to death-because distracting lies about her birth family’s credibility or her degree of vision are more comfortable than the painful truth: a disabled American in the 21st century had less legal protection that someone on death row.”

WND has been reporting on the Terri Schiavo story since 2002. Read WND’s coverage of her life-and-death fight, including more than 150 original stories and columns.

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