Terri Schiavo Is Not PVS

By Paul Copeland
Feb. 26, 2005

Disclaimer. Please note that this article contains only my opinions, plus opinions of others. Some of the information here may be fact, while other information may be fiction. I have done my best to present fact, mostly gathered from the Internet, but cannot be held responsible for information that I present, which may be untrue.

Disturbing court evidence demonstrates that Terri Schiavo is not PVS!

 (Picture of  Terri just after she suffered from her brain injury
Taken from her site at
  Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation.

Judge George Greer, a committed Christian of long standing, has now issued an order that will cause Terri Schiavo to be starved to death on March the 18th.

In his ruling he has said that the case must eventually end and he will soon stop issuing new stays for new arguments to save Terri's life. "The court is no longer comfortable granting stays simply upon the filings of new motions," Judge Greer wrote. "There will always be 'new' issues that can be pled."

If Terri is starved to death, many people are wondering what, if anything, would she feel. Many people are asking "Is Terri in a PVS (persistent vegetative state)?" The courts have ruled that she is, but there is much evidence to say that she isn't. If Terri is not PVS, then her court ordered starvation would be a terribly painful experience, very similar to you or I being starved to death.

Most of the evidence so far stating that Terri is not PVS, have come from Terri's parents. They have videos at Terri's website that indicate that Terri is responding to input and smiling and making sounds, all indicative that Terri is not PVS. There have been visitors who have seen Terri, and are very confident that Terri is not PVS. Then there are the medical statistics, showing that something like 45%  patients who are diagnosed as being PVS, are in fact, not. The evidence is fairly conclusive, but not totally so, that Terri is not PVS.

One definition of PVS is as follows.

"By definition, patients in a persistent vegetative state are unaware of themselves or their environment. They are non-cognitive, non-sentient, and incapable of conscious experience". 

Terri's parents have had a lot to do with Terri. They are, if you like, 'expert' witnesses to her condition. There is another person who has been an expert witness, and that is Michael Schiavo, Terri's husband.

It is interesting that Michael  has been condemned so much and called a monster. It is factual that seven months after receiving a significant amount of money  for Terri and himself as a result of a malpractice suit, Michael instructed nurses caring for Terri not to give her antibiotics for a urinary tract infection. This untreated infection could have brought about Terri's death and this fact was known by Michael. In fact a common cause of death among severely brain injured people who are not mobile, is urinary tract infection.  It may be that he deserves such condemnation for wanting her to die. I really don't know. But there was definitely a time just after Terri's brain injury when Michael was most caring and loving.

For a few years Michael did a great deal towards seeing Terri rehabilitated. He spent many hours very day with her, working towards seeing her condition improve.

In Michael's sworn testimony at the jury trial, commenced on November 5, 1992, Michael had a great deal to say about Terri's condition and what was being done for her. 

An experimental implant at one time was tried in the hope that Terri would improve. 

Michael took Terri to a Dr. Hasbuchi in California, to have electrodes implanted in the hope that improvement would be seen. The implant was tried for two months.

The following is taken directly from the trial. (The parts in bold are emphasis that I have added.)

Q. Do you think that did any good? (relating to the implant ed.)

A. (Michael speaking ed.) It didn't do anything for her.

Q. But it was worth a try?

A. Yes, anything is worth a try.

Michael was at this time willing to try anything to see his wife's condition improve.

During the trial a video was presented, compressing the average day for Terri activities into about 20 minutes. The video clearly demonstrated that a lot of stimulation was provided for Terri, with Michael being involved most of the time.

From the trial :-.

A Right here, basically, you can see she's dressed, she's already had her shower and everything. We would get her dressed, put her shoes and socks on. I'm trying out her hands there. You have to keep the inside of the hands, since she's contracted, you have to keep them dry because infection can set in, and I usually do a little bit of range motion with her.

Q. And while you're doing that, do you talk to her?

A. Yes, I am talking to her right now telling her it's okay.

Q. She doesn't like that very much?

A. No, she doesn't. She does feel pain. 

And then a few sentences later from the trial :-

Q. Does she like that kind of treatment very much?

A. No, she does not. .. .

Further on in the trial :-

Q. I notice Michael, you're holding her head back. Why are you doing that?

A. Because she'll fall forward, and if she falls fast she gets excited. It's - - I was told by a doctor she was getting the feeling she's falling.

Later on the video showed a speech pathologist, working with Terri.

Q. You hoping he can get her to the point where she swallows?

A. Yes. You see here rubbing the bottom of her throat, that's, I don't know what the word is, gets them to swallow when you rub the bottom of their throat. She just swallowed that time. . . . . .

The video then shows a physical therapist working with Terri:-

Q. Does she express discomfort when some of these things are happening to her?

A. Yes. Yes, she does.

Q. How does she do that?

A. She'll moan and groan.

Everything that was done for Terri in those few early years after her brain injury was not just hard work and stimulation. Michael would take her out for walks and take her out to the pond and sit and feed the ducks. In the cooler weather she would be taken to a baseball field nearby  where the little leaguers play ball. Michael said at the trial. "I like to get her outside for fresh air."

If we look at Michael's sworn statements we see very clearly that Terri is not PVS at all! This is not testimony by biased people who believe that Terri is not PVS (Terri's parents and brother and sister), but by Michael himself who now wants her dead!

Michael said that Terri doesn't like her hands being stimulated and stretched. A person in PVS, is incapable of disliking something. To dislike something demonstrates cognitive ability and demonstrates that the person is not PVS.

Michael says that Terri can feel pain. A person in PVS cannot feel pain and has no conscious experience.

Michael says that if Terri's head falls forward she 'gets excited' and gets the feeling of falling. This is known as the vestibular function of the brain. People with PVS don't experience this.

Michael acknowledged that when a physical therapist worked with her she would 'moan and groan' showing discomfort when some of these things were done to her. In other words, she was selective about what she felt was uncomfortable. No person in a PVS state can be selective about anything.

In Michael's testimony there is nothing that suggests that Terri is capable of feeling pleasure. Perhaps we should ask the question, "Can Terri experience pleasure?". 

One definition of pain is

a somatic sensation of acute discomfort; "as the intensity increased the sensation changed from tickle to pain"

Pain can really be an extreme amount of pleasure in excess. For example, a warm bath may be very pleasurable, but if boiling water is added to the bath slowly, the person would at first feel discomfort and then pain.

** An expert in pain is David Borsook, a Harvard Medical School associate professor of radiology, who both treats patients and conducts research. Borsook and his colleagues once decided to conduct an experiment to see which areas of the brain are activated by pain, and which by pleasure. To their surprise, the researchers found that pleasure and pain are recorded in the same brain structures.

We must not complicate the issues here. If Terri can feel pain, then she also can experience pleasure. Her parents have said this and the videos testify to this. There is much hope for Terri to lead a contented and peaceful life. Yes, she is profoundly disabled. But also, there is much hope for her to improve, however limited the improvement is, with stimulation and care which her parents want to give her, but which has been denied by Michael for over 10 years.

The sworn testimony of Michael above, to me clearly indicates that Terri is almost definitely not PVS. Can we say absolutely for sure that Terri is not PVS?  No we can't. But I believe we can say that there is perhaps a 99% possibility and probability that Terri is not PVS.

Unfortunately for Terri, the courts have ruled that Terri is PVS, and because of this the courts can, without any fear of discipline or being assumed to be in error, order the starvation of Terri on the 18th of March. That's how the court system works. Unfair? Totally! Unjust? Absolutely! Un-American? I would certainly assume so.

If you are a Christian and can say without any hesitation that 'Jesus is Lord', then I would like to suggest that it is time to stand up and be counted for Terri. She is, whether you like it or not, your sister in Christ. Christian's must, simply because they are Christians, do something for Terri. Indeed they must do everything they can to see Terri returned into the arms of her loving parents.

If you are not a Christian, then perhaps you will agree with many hundreds of thousands of other people that Terri deserves a fair go. She really does deserve to have outings in the sun and enjoy the fresh air.

Is there anything that can be done to save Terri? I believe there is a lot.

I would like to share something that happened in Australia a while back, which I believe clearly indicates that Terri's life can be saved.

One of the most controversial events during Victoria's history (Victoria is a State in Australia)  was the Ronald Ryan hanging in 1967. The penalty imposed for murder was the death sentence. The premier of Victoria Henry Bolte, was adamant that it be carried out. Unfortunately it was!

The premier, was both surprised and angered when it became clear that the anti-hanging protests would not be confined to the Anti-Hanging Committee, the media had launched a massive and intensive campaign against the hanging. Those who would protest his decision to hang Ryan, and in many cases publicly campaign against it, ranged through to political opponents of the Bolte government, politically diverse organizations and individuals, ordinary average Australians, the National Youth Council of Australia, The Australian Universities Liberal Federation, the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party, the Teachers' Union, Law Council of Australia, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Cardinal Norman Gilroy, religious leaders from the Anglican, Presbyterian, Methodist, Baptist, Church of Christ, Congregational, Society of Friends, Hebrew Congregation of Melbourne, writer and satirist Barry Humphries, federal Labor Party Leader Arthur Calwell, left-wing federal MP Dr Jim Cairns, right-wing political commentator Bob Santamaria, Retail Traders Association, Transport Workers Union, Waterside Workers Union, and the Trade Workers Union.

As a result of Ronald Ryan's hanging, laws were changed. Australia no longer has the death penalty. It was too late for Ronald Ryan, but it was not too late for criminals since convicted of murder would no longer be executed.. Australia has had some terrible mass murders occur over the years. Thankfully in Australia the inexcusable death penalty will not be introduced again in the foreseeable future. Australia in that respect is very different from America.

Terri, of course is not a criminal, although some would say she is being treated like one.

Terri's life can be saved now only by a peaceful public outcry from everyday American's who are willing to say 'Enough is enough'. 

At the moment, the main group of people concerned about Terri's welfare seem to be the Right to Life folk, the Pro-Life folk, many folk from disability groups, Catholics, and a relatively small number of the general public. If the numbers of people wanting to save Terri's life doesn't  increase dramatically immediately, Terri will die.  Please don't wait until Terri is dead before doing something to save this innocent woman's life. The 'rules' have to be changed immediately to not only save Terri's life but all the other folk who may become disabled and be fed on gastronomy tubes..

If you want to know what you can do to save Terri's life, please email me at paulcopeland@saveterri.com. You can also visit my site at www.saveterri.com  for further information.

My other articles about Terri are

In my first article on Terri, I shared my observations regarding Terri's gastronomy tube, (the tube that provides Terri with hydration and nutrition). The Case Against Terri Schiavo (part 1)

In my second article on Terri, I shared my observations regarding the suggestion (that is now a 'rule' of the court), that Terri is in a PVS (persistent vegetative state). The Case Against Terri Schiavo (part 2).

In my third article on Terri, I shared my observations regarding her alleged 'Death Wish'. The Case Against Terri Schiavo (part 3).

In my fourth article about Terri, I shared my observations about so called 'force feeding of Terri, The Case Against Terri Schiavo (part 4.)

Link mentioned in this article

**Pain and pleasure activate same brain structures

As of this writing Terri's situation is critical. Judge Greer has decided that Terri's gastronomy tube can be removed on March the 18th. Although Terri's parents can appeal at another court, Judge Greer has made it quite clear that he does not want to keep granting stays. It would seem that Judge Greer has had enough. Please consider visiting Terri's site at www.terrisfight.org and see how you can help save Terri. There is a great deal that you can do to save Terri.

The perceived injustices mentioned in my articles are only the tip of the iceberg, regarding Terri's plight and what would seem to be the totally unfair treatment that she has endured because she is disabled. . I will write another article soon. 


About the author:

Paul Copeland is 58 years young. He is happily married to Alison. Their children are Tim, aged 16, who is profoundly disabled and Alicia who is 22 and engaged to be married. Paul's family are Christians. He, is very concerned about Terri's welfare and has set up a site at www.saveterri.com, to alert folk about Terri's plight. Paul can be contacted at:


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