Tuesday, March 22, 2005

WHO IS BARBARA WELLER? When I decided this past Saturday to dive into the Terri Schiavo matter, I did so largely on the basis of a statement by Barbara Weller, a lawyer who represents the Schindler family. As I noted at the time, this paragraph from the New York Times really got my attention:

Yet Barbara Weller, a lawyer for the Schindlers, told reporters outside the hospice that Ms. Schiavo had responded emphatically Friday morning when Ms. Weller asked her to say, "I want to live." According to Ms. Weller, Ms. Schiavo's eyes "just popped right open" and she made loud noises, startling a police officer stationed outside her room, and then wept.

Now that this tragedy seems finally to be drawing to a close, I find myself asking: who is Barbara Weller? If the testimony of Dr. Jay Wolfson is to be believed - and I find him utterly credible - then some of the things that Weller has been saying seem impossible.

For instance, I found this story on a website called LifeNews.com. Here is an excerpt:

"From the moment we entered the room, my impression was that Terri was very purposeful and interactive and she seemed very curious about the presence of obvious strangers in her room," Weller explained.

As she has been described by others who have visited with her, Weller indicated Terri as glowing when her parents entered the room or interacted with her.

"When she heard their voices, and particularly her mother's voice, Terri instantly turned her head towards them and smiled," Weller says, adding that Terri often purposefully established eye contact with her family.

Weller said Terri recognized every voice in the room with the exception of the deep voice of fellow Schindler attorney David Gibbs. She said Terri searched the room until she found the man with such a resonating voice.

Along with Gibbs, Weller met with Terri at Woodside Hospice, where Terri lives, and was joined by Terri's parents, Bob and Mary Schindler, Terri's sister and niece.

When Terri's family said their good-byes to leave, Weller says Terri was visibly upset.

"She almost appeared to be trying to cling to them," Weller said of Terri's interactions with her mother and sister.

"It was definitely apparent in the short time I was there that her emotions changed - it was apparent when she was happy and enjoying herself, when she was amused, when she was resting from her exertion to communicate, and when she was sad at her guests leaving," Weller said.

"The whole experience was rather moving," Weller says. "I never imagined Terri would be so active, curious, and purposeful."

World Net Daily has a greatly expanded version of Schiavo's alleged reaction to the news that her feeding tube would be removed. Again, Weller is at the center of the story, although some of this is from radical anti-abortion-rights activist Randall Terry:

Weller essentially told Terri Schiavo, "You had better say you want to live or they will kill you. Just say you want to live."

Schiavo responded with a drawn out, "IIIIII," then screamed out "waaaaaaaa" so loudly that a police officer stationed outside the room came in.

The officer then ordered Weller removed from the room, according to Terry.

The event was witnessed by Terri Schiavo's sister Suzanne Vitadamo and Suzanne's husband Michael.

"I talked to Suzy and Michael, and they both said it was unbelievable," Terry said. "It was very articulate, for Terri, but they also say this is normal [for her to communicate]."

Terry explained the family says Schiavo often is talkative, though similar to a 10-month-old.

"The words usually are not discernable, but she's responsive to commands, uses slow diction and her voice lilts to show emotion and context," he said.

Weller teared up after hearing Schiavo respond today, Terry said, and indicated Schiavo was crying.

It's because of Weller that I took the view that Judge Greer ought to visit the hospice and ask Schiavo himself whether she wants to live. I now have to believe that Weller is not telling the truth, and that the preponderance of the evidence is that she knows she's not telling the truth.

Which leads me to a final question: is it okay for a lawyer to lie in the course of representing her clients? Or is this something that the Florida bar should investigate?

Needless to say, if Weller's account is to be believed, then what's taking place right now is unspeakable. But the kinds of interactions that Weller reports would have been noticed by Dr. Wolfson and others, and could have been caught on videotape as well.

NOT STUPID ANYMORE. This story caught my eye yesterday, but I didn't have a chance to read it until this morning. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, John McKinnon reports that now that George W. Bush no longer has to worry about re-election, he doesn't have to pretend he's a moron who can't talk, can't think, and doesn't read books. How repellent is that?

Perhaps most sickening of all is that Bush and Karl Rove's view of the anti-intellectualism of the Republican base is probably right on target.


Anonymous said...

for more priceless commentary on the schiavo saga, check out david rees's take here:


- n8

Anonymous said...

Let me get this straight. You are saying that denigration of Bush's intellect is HIS fault? Sounds like he did a good job persuading a certain native of Mozambique, (THK)! When blues do it, it's "Realpolitik" but when reds do it, it's ruthless Rove-ism. I'm not holding my breath for "Kumbaya" around the campfire any time soon, if politicians telling people what they want to hear is a news flash.

Anonymous said...

It disgusts me just how politicized this has become. This is a personal decision, not a political one. That our Federal Government should make laws that apply to specific people by name and give them special rights is disgusting.

I bet they're going to use this law as precedent to stop people from having abortions... after all, if it's not clear what is best for Terri Schiavo, who can say it for a fetus?

I give it six months before the neo-cons run down this road.

Anonymous said...

From The Modern American Liberal: "I bet they're going to use this law as precedent to stop people from having abortions... after all, if it's not clear what is best for Terri Schiavo, who can say it for a fetus?"

"I give it six months before the neo-cons run down this road."

What a phenomenal idea! As a full fledged member of "Longing for Less Liberals" (an offshoot of the D.C based lobbying group "Neo-Cons for Conning Congress Ltd.") and being assigned the usually painful duty of observing liberal web-based blogs like Danny's here in the Phoenix, I'm so relieved to have stumbled across your Media Log post here today.

As I'm sure that you're well aware; we've all been just doggone busy lately; what with the unpacking truckloads of boxes of bibles and moving in furniture; with all the liberals being shipped back home from Washington after Nov. '04. Therefore we hadn't really had the opportunity; much less the time to think of such an innovative idea as you have proposed here in the Phoenix Media Log today.

With us all Neo-Cons being rich fat-cats and all; we generally pay folks truckloads of money for ideas that exploit situations like the Schiavo case in order to further our goals of our Neo-Conniving group's members. However, since you appear to be a dreaded liberal – may I offer in gratitude a lifetime ATM Zip card which will allow you free access to the Ronald Reagan Library’s bathroom facilities (limited to use only on weekends and holidays).

I want express my gratitude from the bottom of my stone heart here; for initiating the idea of comparing the Terri Schiavo case to abortion and using this law as precedent to stop people from having abortions. Who would have thunk a godless fetus-flushing liberal like yourself would have come up with it? I guess the time-honored old saying is true – that "The Lord works in mysterious ways!"

As for the abortion topic in general; as we all know, abstinence would be more preferable than needless pregnancies and the abortions that sometimes follow. But let's face it; abstinence (like enacting as well as the burden of enforcing chastity belt laws) sounds a heck of a lot easier on paper than it actually works out in practice in real life. But who needs chastity belts (or abstinence, for that matter) when we have nice "loose-lipped" folks like you to find the answer to the perplexing problem of unplanned pregnancies?

Thanks again, and if you should come up with any more ideas; please post them again and we'll all be watching out (like a hawk) for it!

'Chilli Neo-Con' Carney
Assistant Liberal Blog Analyst
"Longing for Less Liberals"

OTE admin said...

So now we are going to look at the motives of anybody who supports the rotten Schindlers, but we are not going to look at the motives of those who support the likes of Michael Schiavo, including Schiavo himself.

I get it. It's all about defeating DeLay, and who gives a damn about whether somebody is starved to death?

OTE admin said...

Michael Schiavo has guaranteed because he will NOT allow the parents to have their daughter back, the matter is in the public sphere.

I don't know about you guys, but there's something wrong with this guy, and it has nothing to do with his phony claim--made YEARS after Terri's collapse--that she wanted to taken off "life support," which a feeding tube really isn't.

C'mon. His story NEVER rang true, but Dan and others want to use anything and anybody to try and discredit the Schindlers, who only want their daughter back.

It's not black-and-white, Dan, and you who think Michael Schiavo is a saint.

zadig said...

Susan, in 21 courtrooms judges have looked at the evidence, something you and I do not have access to, and decided that Michael Schiavo and other witnesses painted a more credible picture of Terri Shiavo's wishes than did her parents and sibling(s?) -- by all accounts, they appear to have presented an inconsistent and muddled testimony that, to go by the outcome of every single trial, didn't seem to have any clue what Terri Shiavo really wanted.

The law is clear in Florida -- if someone's incapacitated (and she surely is and has been for 15 years), the spouse has final say over health care decisions. The Shindlers have not provided any of those courts with evidence to circumvent that law, and a bunch of lying politicians and doctors who base their diagnoses on carefully edited video tape should be ashamed of themselves for interfering.

Anonymous said...

Susan- I assume Michael is an honorable man, I do not know for fact, neither do you. What has he done to deserve the contempt from you and much worse from others. I feel for the parents, but they do not get as much sympathy because they have been lying and hiring quacks. As far as I can see, everything Michael has done, and I mean everything, is beyond repproach. I wish I could say the same for the parents.

Anonymous said...

You have just made a very serious and disturbing accusation that Barbara Weller is knowingly, purposely, and blatantly lying. The only "support" or "proof" you gave for this accusation is the opinion of someone else who disagrees with her about Terri's state and abilities.

If you are going to make such accusations against someone, you need to provide actual support, not just assume she is lying because her opinions and observations disagree with those of another observer. Such poor journalism is not convincing on any level.

As for whether Terri is "in a persistent Vegetative State" or not, the definition of such a state is itself in debate. (See articles such as the ones here, here and here for more info.) If a person diagnosed as having been in a persistent vegetative state recovers (as some have done) or is proven to have more purposeful response and congnition than previously thought, the response of much of the scientific/medical community is to say that therefore they must never have been in one in the first place--let's just solve the problem with circular reasoning, why don't we?

Apparently many people who are diagnosed as in such a state can and do have movements and vocalizations that often "seem" to be purposeful and responsive, but because the person has damaged parts of their brain which in theory are supposed to control things like emotion and cognition, they are often disregarded.

In Terri's case, nobody denies that she frequently seems to respond to stimulus and to people around her, or that there are times she doesn't respond. The difference of opinion is in how to interpret this, and how much is necessary to prove a point.

The people who say she is in a persistent vegetative state argue that

(1) these responses are not repeated enough--she doesn't respond to every stimulus the same way every time, and often she is (as far as an observer can tell) unresponsive, and

(2) Anyway, it's impossible for her to have thinking or feeling functions because she is missing the parts of her brain that theoretically control these functions.

There are problems with both of these.

First, exactly what number of repetitions and surrounding factors qualifies as "repeatable" ENOUGH to be valid? There is no standard. How many times would Terri have to repeat an action or exactly how purposeful would she have to be in order to convince someone who believes she is physically incapable of having thought or purpose? Nobody is completely unbiased, and beyond the fact of bias there is the problem that cognition, feeling and thought simply CANNOT be conclusively proven or disproven by a third-party observer.

We all know that awareness, thought and feeling can take place with no external observable output, so to say conclusively that it is not happening is conjecture. We simply do not know for sure how thought, feelings, and responses take place or even whether they are seated solely in the brain. To simply say that someone like Terri doesn't have the physical parts of her brain that are thought to control these functions intact enough to allow purposeful interaction, and so therefore what appears to be purposeful interaction is just an illusion, is scientifically unbased and circular reasoning.

There are, however, impartial and scientific ways to measure brain activity and electrical currents taking place in the brain. These types of tests have been denied to Terry by her husband and lawyer, for whatever reason. The only tests done on Terri have been to measure the physical characteristics of her brain, not the existence or characteristics of brain activity.

And then there is the problem of observation itself changing the situation. (as in Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle). I know that my 2-year-old can repeat a fairly long story almost word-for-word, and she has done it several times, but she often fails or refuses to perform when being observed by others. That doesn't automatically mean that the times she has done so "don't count" or weren't valid. Anybody who has tried to get a dog or a child to perform knows this happens frequently. Just because someone doesn't respond in the expected way at one time doesn't mean they can't, or won't another time.

Since there is no way in this sepcific situation to conclusively prove or dispove by observation alone whether Terri is purposefully responding to and aware of her environment, to categorically say that any observer who believes she IS doing so is lying--with that accusation based only on the evidence that their opinion and observation disagrees with someone else's, is irresponsible at best.

Anonymous said...

Who is Barbara Weller?

From The Christian legal Society website: " And just as the faithful women, kept watch at the cross and later at the tomb, I am inspired to report to you that a member of Christian Legal Society, Barbara Weller, has been doing what she can in the courts while she keeps watch with Terri Schiavo. Barbara, who is a fine lawyer and pastor’s wife..."

I was curious too, so I searched Google, which is how I found this blog. But I also found that. I assumed it anyhow. She's part of the religious right politcal movement; she has an agenda. And therefore, imo, she's either exaggerating or flat out lieing.

Anonymous said...

Woah! You're saying that just because she's a Christian lawyer, that proves she must be egaggerating or lying???? THAT's your proof that she's lying--her religious affiliation?

Anonymous said...

Re-read what the person said! Religious right political lawyer does not equal Christian lawyer. Talk about circular reasoning ... sheez!

Who is Barbara Weller ?

Anonymous said...

It still doesn't conclusively prove she's lying by any means, any more than the fact that Dr. Cranford is a proponent of assisted suicide and advocates removing feeding tubes from alzheimers and minimally conscious patients "proves" that he is lying.

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