Barnes wrongly attacked "biased" ABC News poll on Terri Schiavo case, falsely claimed Schiavo "hasn't had a brain test for 10 years"


Weekly Standard executive editor and Fox News contributor Fred Barnes attacked an ABC News poll for describing Terri Schiavo as being on "life support," suggesting that this language was inaccurate and produced an overly large majority of respondents who favored removing Schiavo's feeding tube. In fact, other polls on the issue that made no reference to "life support" showed similar public support for the removal of the feeding tube.

Barnes also falsely claimed that Schiavo "hasn't had a brain test for 10 years." In fact, a computed tomography (CAT) scan was performed on Schiavo's brain in 2002.

In an article in the April 4 edition of The Weekly Standard, Barnes accused ABC News of "crude liberal bias" in its coverage and polling of the Schiavo case:

Bias seeped into polling. An ABC News poll question said Terri Schiavo was on "life support" and has "no consciousness and her condition is irreversible." "Do you support ... the decision to remove Terri's feeding tube?" A large majority said they did. But Schiavo was not on life support as most people understand the term, may have some consciousness, and some neurologists believe she has a chance of partial recovery. Given those facts, would you want to stay alive? ABC didn't ask.

When asked the question Barnes called "biased," 63 percent of respondents supported the decision to remove Schiavo's feeding tube, while 28 percent disapproved. While Barnes did not offer further explanation on what "most people" understand "life support" to be, polls by other organizations, which made no mention of "life support," demonstrated similar support for removing Schiavo's feeding tube:

  • A CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll conducted March 18-20 asked: "As you may know, on Friday the feeding tube keeping Terri Schiavo alive was removed. Based on what you have heard or read about the case, do you think that the feeding tube should or should not have been removed?" A majority of respondents -- 56 percent -- believed the feeding tube should have been removed, while 31 percent did not.
  • A Fox News/Opinion Dynamics poll conducted March 1-2 asked respondents: "Terri Schiavo has been in a so-called 'persistent vegetative state' since 1990. Terri's husband says his wife would rather die than be kept alive artificially and wants her feeding tube removed. Terri's parents believe she could still recover and want the feeding tube to remain. If you were Terri's guardian, what would you do? Would you remove the feeding tube or would you keep the feeding tube inserted?" In response, 59 percent of respondents said they would remove the feeding tube, while 24 percent said they would not.

As part of the "All-Star Panel" on the March 24 edition of Fox News' Special Report with Brit Hume, Barnes falsely claimed that Schiavo has not had a "brain test" in the past decade:

BARNES: You know what Robert Destro said, the lawyer for the Schindler family who was here [earlier in the program]? He talked to Dr. [Ronald] Cranford, her original lawyer. You know who Dr. Cranford is. He was the doctor who came in, Michael Schiavo's doctor, who came in and examined her at one point. Now, what does he say? He says she should have had an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] and PET [positron emission tomography] scan. And who blocked it? Michael Schiavo and his lawyer blocked her from having that. Well, she hasn't had a brain test for 10 years, Juan [Williams, fellow panelist], 10 years.

The Associated Press reported on March 24 that Schiavo's "most recent brain scans and examinations were done in 2002." A November 22, 2002, ruling from the Pinellas County, Florida, Circuit Court denying an appeal by Schiavo's parents to prevent the removal of her feeding tube referenced the results of a 2002 CT scan -- or CAT scan -- Schiavo had received. According to the court's decision: "Dr. Maxfield also felt that '02 CT Scan showed improvement in the quality of the remaining brain matter and that one reason Terry [sic] Schiavo was not in a persistent vegetative state was that she could swallow her own saliva and breathe on her own. These views were not supported by any of the other doctors and Drs. [Melvin] Greer, [Peter] Bambakidis and Cranford strongly disagreed with his '02 CT Scan opinion. Dr. Cranford further testified that saliva handling is from the brain stem, a reflex."

Posted In
Health Care, End of Life Issues
Terri Schiavo
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