IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Terri Schiavo's 2002 CT scan

Dr. Ronald Cranford, who examined Terri Schiavo in 2002, explains how her CT scan differs from that of usual 25-year-old's, and what this says of her mental and physical state.
Terri Schiavo's 2002 CAT scan. Ronald E. Cranford, M.D., who examined her in 2002, provides this  scan of Schiavo's brain. Crawford is assistant chief of neurology at the Hennepin County Medical Center.
Terri Schiavo's 2002 CAT scan. Ronald E. Cranford, M.D., who examined her in 2002, provides this  scan of Schiavo's brain. Crawford is assistant chief of neurology at the Hennepin County Medical Center.Dr. Ronald Cranford

The overwhelming majority in the medical community say Terri Schiavo has close to no brain activity and has no chance of regaining awareness.  Dr. Ronald Cranford, who actually examined Terri Schiavo in 2002 and testified to her condition, joined "The Abrams Report" on Monday. Cranford is the assistant chief of neurology at the Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis as well as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota's Center for Bioethics. 

Below is the transcript of their conversation.

DAN ABRAMS, HOST: You're one of the few people who has actually examined Terri Schiavo and you're hearing all of these people who are coming on from the sidelines saying, "She's has been misdiagnosed," et cetera.  How confident are you in your diagnosis and why? 

DR. RONALD CRANFORD, UNIV. OF MN NEUROLOGIST: I'm extremely confident.  I think at the time of the trial in 2002 there had been eight neurologists who examined her.  And of those eight neurologists total, seven of them said beyond any doubt whatsoever Terri is in a vegetative state.  Her CT scan shows severe atrophy or shrinkage of the brain.  Her EEG is flat and there's absolutely no doubt that she's been in a permanent vegetative state ever since 1990.  There's no doubt whatsoever, Dan. 

ABRAMS:  Doctor, let me read you this from Dr. Cheshire.  I know you've heard about him.  He's from the Mayo Clinic and he is the reason that they appealed to the federal courts saying, look we've got a doctor who is saying the following.

“There remain huge uncertainties in regard to Terri's true neurological status.  I believe that, within a reasonable degree of medical certainty there is a great likelihood that Terri is in a minimally conscious state rather than a persistent vegetative state.”

Your response.

CRANFORD:  Well actually if you read his report, he says she has no visual tracking and she has no conscious awareness which are the cardinal signs of the vegetative state, so I don't think there's any doubt she's in a vegetative state.  He never examined her. 

He did an interview with her for 90 minutes, observing her.  He never viewed her CT scans.  He makes no mention of her EEG, so while he's a reputable neurologist, perhaps, at the Mayo Clinic, his report means absolutely nothing.  It's a desperation, last minute move by the governor who just doesn't know what else to do, so he brings in a Christian fundamentalist neurologist.  It's just not true. 

ABRAMS:  I feel for the parents here and I'm going to play a sound bite...


ABRAMS:  I want you to listen to it and just tell me if it's even medically possible that this is the case.

[Video] SCHINDLER:  She's alive and she's fighting like hell to live, and she's begging for help.  She's still communicating, still responding.  She's emaciated, but she's responsive. 

ABRAMS:  Doctor, I mean you hate to say it but that's just a father wishful thinking, isn't it? 

CRANFORD:  I hate to say it but it's a father wishful thinking.  These are sincere caring people.  I think the Schindlers as opposed to the right to life activists and the president and Congress and all the others, I think they really believe that she's interacting.  They really believe she's been denied medical care, and I think about sympathizes with their concerns.

This is a loving, caring family but they're wrong.  And they've known they've been wrong.  She's been diagnosed a vegetative state ever since the early 1990s. They were told that repeatedly in the early 1990s.  It's wishful thinking on the part of parents who dearly love their daughter and don't want her to be in the vegetative state she's in.  But Dan, there's really no doubt whatsoever. 

No credible neurologist has come along who's examined her who's said she's not in a vegetative state.  It's just what they want to see.  And you can see how scary the tapes are that show her apparently interacting with her eyes open.  But her eyes are open, but she's not even looking at her mother when you look at those tapes. 

ABRAMS:  Let's talk about the CT scan.  You actually have the CT scan. 

CRANFORD:  Yes, this is a CT scan of Terri Schiavo taken in 2002, the most recent CT scan done on her, 2002. 

ABRAMS:  Tell us what it means.

(Left) CT scan of a normal 25 year old; Right, Terri Schiavo's most recent scan

ABRAMS:  And what about those who say that there should have been more tests?  That she's never had a PET scan.  That she needs another MRI.

CRANFORD:  Well she doesn't need an MRI because a MRI will not show any more damage than this C.T. and you can again check with any radiologists.  They'll tell you this CT scan is more than adequate. 

ABRAMS:  You are at the center of a case—we've never received as many e-mails as we have on this case, this sort of divide and the passion in this case.  You're in the center of it.   How has that been for you? 

CRANFORD: Well, I'm not the doctor.  I mean they've had two other neurologists included a court-appointed expert...

One of the seven doctors who actually examined her who said beyond any doubt she's in a vegetative state.  So there's just no doubt about the diagnosis.  I know there's sympathy for the family.  When you see those pictures, it looks like Terri is interacting, but do you know what?  She's really not.  That's what the vegetative state is.  It looks like they're interacting, but they're really not.  And there's nothing I can do to change that. 

ABRAMS:  Dr. Cranford thanks a lot for taking time to come on the program.  Appreciate it.