Mayo Clinic Neurologist Says Terri’s “Persistent Vegetative State” a “Misdiagnosis”

WASHINGTON, March 24, 2005 ( - An expert from the famed Mayo Clinic and the head of the Christian Medical Association today questioned the diagnosis of Terri Schiavo as one of a persistent vegetative state.

Dr. Wm Cheshire of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, spent one hour in Terri’s room observing her and also watched the full set of the exam videos of Terri. He has concluded that Terri has been misdiagnosed and is not in a Persistent Vegetative State (PVS), but instead is in a minimally conscious state.

Christian Medical Association head, Dr. David Stevens, added, “I, like many Americans who have seen the videos of her interacting with her parents, also question the PVS diagnosis. In fact, I question the validity of the concept of Persistent Vegetative State diagnosis. It is pejorative because it labels a person as being a vegetable—taking away their humanity. It is also impossible to establish this diagnosis. Some patients who have come out of PVS have stated that their mind was in a prison but they knew what was going on around them.”

Dr. Stevens also addressed the pain of dying from starvation.

“Is dying of thirst and dehydration a painless death as some experts have asserted? Most so-called experts have never seen someone die in this manner. Unfortunately, having worked for 13 years in Africa, where the most common cause of death in children is dehydration from gastroenteritis, I have seen hundreds if not thousands of patients with dehydration and some of them so far gone, that despite resuscitation attempts, they died.”

“As dehydration begins, there is extreme thirst, dry mouth and thick saliva,” Dr. Stevens explained. “The patient becomes dizzy, faint and unable to stand or sit; has severe cramping in the arms and legs as the sodium and potassium concentrations in the body go up as fluids go down. In misery, the patient tries to cry but there are no tears. The patient experiences severe abdominal cramps, nausea and dry-heaving as the stomach and intestines dry out.”

“By now the skin and lips are cracking and the tongue is swollen,” Dr. Stevens continued. “The nose may bleed as the mucous membranes dry out and break down. The skin loses elasticity, thins and wrinkles. The hands and feet become cold as the remaining fluids in the circulatory system are shunted to the vital organs in an attempt to stay alive. The person stops urinating and has severe headaches as their brain shrinks from lack of fluids. The patient becomes anxious but then gets progressively more lethargic.”

“Some patients have hallucinations and seizures as their body chemistry becomes even more imbalanced. This proceeds to coma before death occurs. The final event as the blood pressure becomes almost undetectable is a major heart arrhythmia that stops the heart from pumping.”

“Contrary to those that try to paint a picture of a gentle process, death by dehydration is a cruel, inhumane and often agonizing death.”


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