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New Yorker Presents Editorialized Speculation and Hearsay on Terri Schiavo as News, Offers No Correction

Contact: Tom Shakely, Executive Director, Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network, 855-300-4673, tshakely@lifeandhope.com
PHILADELPHIA, Feb. 13, 2018 /Christian Newswire/ -- Rachel Aviv's "What Does it Mean to Die?" profiles Jahi McMath, outlining this resilient and courageous young girl's situation in much of its depth, conveying the complex nature of Jahi's medical and legal situation as it relates to the neurological criterion for death ("brain death") and many medical, bioethical, philosophical, and religious dimensions of the issue of human life. Unfortunately, in this same piece the New Yorker presents editorialized speculation and hearsay on Terri Schiavo as if it were objective news. Worse, after nearly two weeks of appeals, the New Yorker's "fact checking" staff and editors refused any correction.

The New Yorker editorializes that footage of Terri Schiavo appearing conscious and aware "had been edited, giving the illusion that she was tracking people with her eyes, even though she was blind."

These "fact free" assertions dramatically misleads readers about the nature of the early 2000s Terri-related footage. 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."

After nearly two weeks, the New Yorker simply changed "illusion" to "impression," while adding that "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."

Egregiously, the New Yorker's "fact checking" department reached out to Bobby Schindler prior to publication of "What Does It Mean to Die?" but did not disclose these assertions about Terri. "There is zero value to maintaining a so-called 'fact checking' department that not only refuses to check its journalists' facts, but worse refuses to issue legitimate corrections when called out," said Bobby Schindler.

"Characterizing footage of Terri'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," explained Tom Shakely, executive director of the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network. "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."

"The footage of Terri with which so many are familiar," continued Schindler, "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. Now, 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."
Notably, while Terri's autopsy established that she was blind at the time of her death, to state definitively and without caveat that Terri was simply "blind" prior to her fatal dehydration is simply not supported by any medical evidence.

"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," observed Shakely. "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."

The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network upholds human dignity through service to the medically vulnerable. This mission is expressed by affirming essential qualities of human dignity, which include the right to food and water, the presumption of the will to live, due process rights for those facing denial of care, protection from euthanasia as a form of medicine, and access to rehabilitative care. The Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network has supported more than 2,700 patients families through its National Crisis Lifeline and has directly advocated hundreds of cases since its founding. 
Dr. Ronald Cranford's Neurological Examination- youtu.be/5rqMZDcl9n4
Dr. Hammesfahr's Examination (Swab)- youtu.be/Be5ZpXSgVXQ
Dr. Hammesfahr's Examination (Open Your Eyes)- youtu.be/v-mtNm-BO2A