Thursday, March 24, 2005

Heart surgeon Frist has pulled the plug regularly

New York Daily News
Heart surgeon Frist has pulled the plug regularly
Wednesday, March 23rd, 2005

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, who has championed the "rescue" of Terri Schiavo, is a renowned heart surgeon who has pulled the plug on a "regular basis," his office acknowledged yesterday.

But Frist (R-Tenn.) ended life support only when the patient was ruled brain-dead, and he is convinced Schiavo is not brain-dead.

"He certainly has a lot of clinical experience" in the withdrawal of life support, said Frist spokeswoman Amy Call.

Frist, the driving force behind the Senate bill to move Schiavo's case to federal court and a likely 2008 presidential candidate, is under fire for declaring she is not brain-dead after reviewing a video of Schiavo.

"On a regular basis, he's dealt with a diagnosis of brain death," Call said defending Frist, a heart and general surgeon.

Medical ethicists like Dr. Kenneth Prager, chairman of the Medical Ethics Committee at Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center, say it's "inappropriate" for Frist to make an armchair diagnosis. "A diagnosis should be made bedside by a neurologist. He's not a neurologist, and he wasn't bedside," Prager said.

In a 2002 interview with the Chicago Tribune, Frist recalled moral debate into "Why is somebody dead when there's no brain activity, but everything else is warm and beating?" from the early days of organ transplants. "Finally, we came to a consensus, an ethical framework, that people can generally agree to and have faith in."

The other driving force behind the Terri Schiavo bill, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), is accused of using the Schiavo case to divert attention from his own ethics problems. A Texas grand jury has indicted three of DeLay's cronies and is now looking into his campaign finances.

A DeLay spokesman said, "Anybody would be hard-pressed to question Congressman Delay's commitment to life issues throughout his career."