Friday, July 07, 2006

A tale of two (Terri Schiavo & Terry Wallis)

Friday, July 7, 2006

Live and learn
Posted: July 7, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

By Joseph Farah
© 2006

During the Terri Schiavo debate, there were some cynics, including her estranged husband, who proclaimed the brain-injured woman had no chance to recover or even improve her condition.

It would take a miracle, they said. And they didn't believe in miracles.

Now a university study of a man who recovered after spending 19 years in a minimally conscious state is suggesting such miracles do happen.

In 1984, 19-year-old Terry Wallis was thrown from his pick-up truck near his Massachusetts home. He was not found until about 24 hours later in a coma with massive brain injuries.

Within a few weeks, he had stabilized in what was termed a minimally conscious state. Doctors predicted it would last indefinitely. And it did – for 19 years. Then, in 2003, he started to speak.

Over a three-day period, Wallis regained the ability to move and communicate, and started getting to know his daughter – 1 year old at the time of the accident and then 20 when he awoke. Wallis thought he was still 19 years old. He thought Ronald Reagan was still president.

Even while the Terri Schiavo case raged, Wallis' case was termed a miracle by doctors and family members.

The study of the case by Nicholas Schiff of Weill Medical College of Cornell University suggests the human brain has far greater potential for recovery and regeneration then ever suspected. It also suggests gross inadequacies in the system for diagnosing and caring for patients in vegetative or minimally conscious states.

Schiff and his colleagues used a new brain imaging technique called diffusion tensor imaging. The system tracks water molecules and reveals the brain's white matter tracts – akin to a wiring diagram. They combined this with more traditional PET scanning to show which brain areas were active.

The study found Wallis' brain had, very gradually, developed new pathways and novel anatomical structures to re-establish functional connections, compensating for the brain pathways lost in the accident.

They found that new axons – the branches that connect neurons together – seemed to have grown, establishing new working brain circuits.

Like Terri Schiavo, Wallis was frequently classified as being in a permanent vegetative state. Though his family fought for a re-evaluation after seeing many promising signs that he was trying to communicate, their requests were turned down.

Wallis, now 42, still needs help eating and cannot walk, but his speech continues to improve, and he can count to 25 without interruption.

No doubt some cynics would say his quality of life is not much better than when he was in a coma. And that's the trouble with the quality-of-life arguments made in cases like Wallis' and Schiavo's.

Terry Wallis – like Terri Schiavo – should remind us that there is something meaningful and wonderful and miraculous about life itself. Those who would cut off water and food to people in such circumstances should remember that's the way it began in Nazi Germany. The arguments then were all about "quality of life" rather than sanctity of life.

America seems awfully eager to forget about Terri Schiavo – to put the whole sordid episode behind us. But the problem with that kind of denial is that the lives of others in her circumstances are being snuffed out every day because of the precedent set in that national debate by secular high priests in black robes who insisted on imposing their morality on the rest of us.

Their worldview doesn't allow for miracles – like the kind of miracle that took place in the life of Terry Wallis. It defied all the medical literature. It defied the "wisdom" of the judicial activists. It defied all the talk about "permanent vegetative states."

And now that miracle has been documented clinically by top medical researchers.

Is it time to rethink the way we kill brain-injured and handicapped people?

Related special offer:

Get the definitive book on Schiavo's life and death, "Terri's Story"

Joseph Farah is founder, editor and CEO of WND and a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. His latest book is "Taking America Back." He also edits the weekly online intelligence newsletter Joseph Farah's G2 Bulletin, in which he utilizes his sources developed over 30 years in the news business.

Friday, July 7, 2006
10 million females illegally aborted in India
Parents desperate to bear son changing nation's demographics
Posted: July 7, 2006
1:00 a.m. Eastern

© 2006

By conservative estimates, sex-selective abortion in India accounts for the termination of about 10 million females over the past 20 years.

"This is the world's biggest genocide ever," Chetan Sharma, a campaigner against female feticide, told the Daily Mail of London.

Chetan is founder of the Delhi-based group Datamation.

India's 2001 census shows a drop in the number of girls 6-years-old and under per 1,000 boys, to 927, compared to 962 in 1981.

"The future is frightening. Over the next five years we could see more than a million fetuses eliminated every year," said researcher Sabu George."At this pace we'll soon have no girls born in the country. We don't know where it will stop."

The problem of undervaluing women is an old one. In the 19th century, British leaders tried to eradicate female infanticide. Female feticide, however, is a new phenomenon brought about by advances in technology along with liberal attitudes toward abortion, which was legalized in India in 1971.

Kalpana Sharma, a columnist in The Hindu newspaper, says "anyone can walk into a government hospital and ask for an immediate abortion up to the 20th week of pregnancy, free, merely by saying there has been a failure of contraception."

India has a law barring medical personnel from from using prenatal diagnostic techniques to determine the sex of an unborn child. But the law is widely ignored because local officials are reluctant to fight the will of the people, the Daily Mail said.

Generally, in Indian society, woman who produce only daughters are pitied, in some cases abused and in many cases regarded as betrayers.

A woman who had nine abortions of females said it's important to have a son because of the family's big business.

"I want what my husband has built from scratch to go to his own blood," she said.

It's not just the assets of having a son that motivate feticide – carrying on the family name or business and taking care of elderly parents. The practice of providing a dowry to the grooms' family creates an enormous financial burden on parents who have a daughter.

Kalpana Sharma said the dowry demands today are nothing short of extortion. Many families sell off land and are forced into debt they can never pay off.

The affluent also are choosing feticide, as evidenced by the fact that states with the lowest ratios of girls to boys also are the most prosperous, such as Punjab, Gujarat and Haryana.

Affluent women, the analysts say, believe they will have a better standard of living if they have only sons.

Land inheritance also is an issue, as daughters now are entitled legally to an equal share of land when their parents die.

Many unqualified technicians are operating ultrasound machines throughout the country, finding it relatively easy to get a license. While there are 25,770 officially registered pre-natal units in India, one doctor estimates as many as 70,000 ultrasound machines are in operation.

Long-term consequences of the gender imbalance include the rise of prostitution and sex trafficking and the danger to women's emotional and physical health from repeated abortions.

The Indian government is taking steps to impose regulations on the registered ultrasound clinics throughout the country, but Chetan Sharma, of Datamation, says that local officials are guilty of corruption and will simply continue to turn a blind eye.

As WorldNetDaily reported in 2004, the Bush administration withheld a $34 million payment from the United Nations Population Fund to China over the issue of forced abortions.

The communist government of China maintains, at least in some areas of the country, a one-child policy sometimes enforced through a policy of forced abortions. It is believed China performs some 10 million involuntary abortions a year. The abortions disproportionately affect female babies.

Facing a critical shortage of women that could leave millions of men without wives, China is trying to convince its populace of the value of girls, who have been systematically killed during birth or after as a result of the one-child limit on most families.

Beijing has developed a five-year plan to correct the alarming disparity in the numbers of males and females in the country.

First exposed by WND in 1997, what has come to be known as "gendercide" in China has resulted in the deaths of at least 50 million girls.