"She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli"

Bill Frist's "diagnosis" of Terri Schiavo's condition was all wrong.

By Page Rockwell
Published June 15, 2005 5:29PM (EDT)

The results of Terri Schiavo's autopsy are in, and they make one Senate Majority Leader look very foolish. According to Pinellas-Pasco, Florida medical examiner Jon Thogmartin, Schiavo's brain had suffered massive and irreversible damage; it "weighed 615 grams, roughly half of the expected weight of a human brain." Thogmartin also refuted assertions from Shiavo's parents and some members of the GOP that Schiavo could have recovered: "This damage was irreversible, and no amount of therapy or treatment would have regenerated the massive loss of neurons." But the kicker for those who tuned in to the footage of Schiavo seeming to follow the movement of helium balloons with her eyes is that the autopsy results show that "the vision centers of her brain were dead." In other words, Schiavo was blind.

Which, as blogger Nico at ThinkProgress aptly pointed out, is pretty much the opposite of what Bill Frist said in his "diagnosis" of Schiavo's condition back in March. Speaking from the Senate floor during a special late-night session, Frist disputed Schiavo's doctors' diagnosis of persistent vegetative state. "I question it based on a review of the video footage which I spent an hour or so looking at last night in my office," he said in a lengthy speech in which he quoted medical texts and standards. "She certainly seems to respond to visual stimuli."

Page Rockwell

Page Rockwell is Salon's editorial project manager.

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