Baroness Finlay’s casebook

Baroness Finlay claimed adamantly on Radio 4 yesterday morning that only Terri Schiavo’s husband had ever maintained that she was in a persistent vegetative state (PVS). She suggested that there was no clear expert evidence of PVS, or that it had at any rate never been presented in court. Then she went on to make comments about Michael Schiavo being in another relationship, and that perhaps the force-feeding of his wife was “burdensome to him”, if not burdensome to her.

This allegation—stunning in its implications of moral wrong—blew a hole into Rev Richard Harries’ typically reasoned and compassionate arguments. Which was presumably the baroness’ intent, being on the Today programme, with its desperate desire for false dichotomies and combative debate.

But what Baroness Finlay was simply untrue. Several doctors did actually agree that Schiavo was in PVS, and that this evidence was presented to judges on at least one of the occasions in the past few months that the case went before a judge. Along with contrary testimonies and video evidence, the court weighed up these expert decisions and found:

“… that the credible evidence overwhelmingly supports the view that Terry [sic] Schiavo remains in a persistent vegetative state. Even Dr. Maxfield [author of a dissenting testimony] acknowledges that vegetative patients can track on occasion and that smiling can be a reflex…”

So: will Lady Finlay retract her potentially libellous and factually incorrect comments, or will she let them stand as evidence of further politicization and point-scoring in the Schiavo case?

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