The Boys Are Back in Town

by JHS, Esq.

The following is from the North Country Gazette, February 13, 2006.

by Pamela F. Hennessy

On April 30 and May 1, 2006, the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Bioethics will be hosting their 10th annual symposium. Their case study for this year’s gathering has been titled “The Legacy of the Terri Schiavo Case: Why is it so hard to die in America?”

I didn’t realize it was hard to die in America. I always thought it was rather easy. Become fatally injured, suffer a terminal disease, put a gun to your own head and I’m almost entirely certain it’s an easy task to die . . . in America.

Perhaps a more apt legend for this particular exercise would be “Why is it so hard to kill someone in America?”

Certainly, the guest speakers seem to all share the sentiment. What’s just a tad more disturbing is that they know each other.

Kicking off the fun-filled extravaganza and addressing “Personal Experiences with Death and Dying” is none other than self-made widower, Michael Schiavo. I can only imagine Schiavo will spend his time, once again, bemoaning lawmakers who tried to protect the life of his disabled wife, Terri Schiavo, by calling them intruders on a private and family matter.

Schiavo never discloses to the public that it was he who involved the government in 1998 by petitioning the circuit court in Pinellas County, Florida to decide what to do with his wife in her incapacitated state. It’s not to be missed that Schiavo had never — not once — approached his young wife’s parents or siblings, urging that the entire family openly discuss the best course for her, her wishes, her personal feelings on such subjects and what would be most loving and respectful for her.

I understand that Schiavo had a row with Terri’s father years previous. Still, in a case of ending someone’s life, I’d think he would have been man enough to put angry feelings aside and do right by his mate. He didn’t.

I can only hope that someone at that symposium will ask him why not.

Following what will surely be a riveting performance by Schiavo (which I don’t doubt will include him yanking out a hair from his bushy moustache to bring forth a tear) is none other than court-appointed and ‘independent’ guardian ad litem, Jay Wolfson, discussing “Who Should Decide – Surrogates or Families?”

Wolfson’s appearance at such a jamboree is not just a little improper. It’s downright outrageous. Charged with tendering an independent and unbiased report of an incapacitated ward to Florida’s Governor, Jeb Bush, in 2003 should have set forth a path for Wolfson to remain impartial, serving only his incapacitated ward and upholding both the law and practical ethics as they relate to the treatment of people who can no longer speak for themselves.

Instead, it’s become something of a macabre celebrity for the University of South Florida professor. This is not his first speaking engagement standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Schiavo. Earlier this year, the pair were featured in a Minnesota conference of much the same nature.

Wolfson should rethink his career path. Either he is an unbiased presenter of fact to the court or he is yet another out of place seeker of poorly placed praise. Can you imagine having any comfort level with him representing your loved one?

It comes as no surprise that the presentation of “How Should American Society Cope with Death” is given by the man who calls himself “Dr. Humane Death”, Ronald Cranford. [Note to readers: Review my discussion about the real “Dr. Death” — nothing “humane” about it.]

Having been an expert witness in the cases of Nancy Cruzan, Robert Wendland, Terri Schiavo and many more (according to him), Cranford isn’t exactly the picture of a caring and helpful physician. Instead, he has employed himself as a spokesperson for dehydrating and neglecting non-terminally ill patients with severe cognitive and neurological injuries to death. Cranford has opined that Alzheimer’s patients need not be kept alive. Surely, he’s forgotten the Hippocratic Oath, his calling as a physician and the very concepts of medicinal art. Instead, he’s floundered in an odd notoriety as the grim reaper’s unpaid spokesman.

Imagine him treating your child or spouse.

If all of this hasn’t sickened you enough, there is one other name that bears mentioning in this all-star line up of soulless prostitutes: Judge George W. Greer.

Yes, Greer himself will be presenting “Who Should Decide – Courts or Legislators?”

I simply cannot imagine that the embattled Greer would openly promote passage of laws protecting the disabled from people like himself. Imagine him deciding the life of your child.

Words cannot possibly express how utterly distasteful and inappropriate Greer’s presence at such an event is. After all, he is supposed to be an unbiased, fair finder of fact and applicator of the law – not an advocate for the right-to-die movement. His presence at a symposium of this nature casts a very jaundiced eye on his ability to act as an impartial and fair jurist. The thought of him favoring a bioethics conference with a slant on death makes me shake in my shoes for any incapacitated person whose case comes before him.

In a word: this round up of goodfellas is ghastly and worthy of scrutiny.

Say what you want about your own desires and wishes, would you want this to be the crew making decisions for you?

While all of these men were charged – by either law or simple humanitarianism – to act with compassion and kindness to a woman so utterly vulnerable against them, they didn’t. Now – they are hanging together like the cast of a bad movie – taking their bows and spewing their nonsense and no one is asking the first question about the ethics of it.

Expect no less from a ‘bioethics’ symposium. 2-13-06

Pamela F. Hennessy is a marketing and media executive in Florida and has volunteered for the Terri Schindler-Schiavo Foundation ( since November of 2002.

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