DR. FRIST'S EXPERT. I want to return to Senator Bill Frist's remarks of a few days ago concerning the case of Terri Schiavo. Specifically, take a look at this:
I called one of the neurologists who did evaluate her, and evaluated her more extensively than what at least was alleged other neurologists had, and he told me very directly that she is not in a persistent vegetative state.
Who was this neurologist? The answer, apparently, is Dr. William Hammesfahr, who's been making the media rounds extensively this week. According to today's New York Times:
Several weeks ago, Dr. Frist said he contacted Dr. William Hammesfahr, a neurologist who has examined Ms. Schiavo and has generated controversy by saying that she might improve with treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, which forces oxygen into the blood. Dr. Frist said he used Dr. Hammesfahr as a conduit to obtain 33 court affidavits in Ms. Schiavo's case, along with video images of her.
That seems to match up perfectly with Frist's remarks. So let us consider this doctor who thinks Terri Schiavo can return to the living with some Michael Jackson-style treatments. On Monday, Sean Hannity interviewed Hammesfahr on his radio show. The audio is online here. I wish I had a transcript, but as you will hear, Hammesfahr claimed that, with proper rehabilitation, Schiavo could improve to the point where she could eat at restaurants, go to the movies, and enjoy life like anyone else. Hannity himself came within a millimeter of calling Terri's husband, Michael, a murderer; Hammesfahr demurred, explaining that he did not want to get sued.
Hannity also claimed repeatedly that Hammesfahr has been nominated for a Nobel Prize. This fits perfectly with one of Media Log's favorite pseudo-journalistic paradigms: "accurate but not true." The indispensable Bob Somerby digs up a report from the St. Petersburg Times that Hammesfahr's claim to Nobel glory rests on the fact that he once persuaded his congressman to write a letter to the Nobel committee. Hey, if that's all it takes, then I can claim to be a three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, based on my success in whining to my editor to please please please send in my stuff.
Somerby also notes that the St. Pete Times reported in 2003 that Florida judge George Greer, who's in charge of the Schiavo case, had once called Hammesfahr a "self-promoter" who had "offered no names, no case studies, no videos and no test results to support his claim" that he had successfully treated patients even worse off than Schiavo.
I have tried to take a reasonable approach in understanding an immensely difficult issue, only to learn that I've been lied to by the likes of Frist and Barbara Weller, a lawyer for Terri Schiavo's parents. I don't agree with Frist politically, and I understand that Weller is being paid to spin things her clients' way. But still, we have a right to expect basic truth from the Senate majority leader and from an officer of the court such as Weller.
Yes, my critics are nodding their heads sagely this morning, wondering why it took me so long to figure this out. Well, I don't want to travel down the road of terminal cynicism if I can avoid it. But it's moments like this that remind me of this Lily Tomlin observation: "No matter how cynical you get, it is impossible to keep up."
And I have merely been deceived. I can't imagine what it must be like to be Michael Schiavo today, lied about in the most grotesque and shameful manner, his very life at risk because people like Sean Hannity have no compunction about labeling him as a monster who's trying to murder his wife.