NRL News

What’s airing on Pro-Life Perspective Today? “Minimally Conscious State,” Part 1

by | Jun 18, 2012

By Dave Andrusko

Editor’s note. There is still time to register for the National Right to Life convention June 28-30 and to reserve a hotel room at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City in  Arlington, Virginia. Just go to


NRLC President Carol Tobias

National Right to Life President and Pro-Life Perspective Host Carol Tobias begins an important series with a keenly insightful opening sentence:

“One of the hallmarks of the so-called ‘right-to-die’ movement is the eagerness to extend the so-called ‘benefit’ of hastened death to wider and wider populations of vulnerable people.”

The tactics employed in the pro-euthanasia camp mirrors those employed by pro-abortion strategists: use the hardest cases to begin to tear down laws and/or medical practices that protect vulnerable populations.

For example, in the Netherlands, the first euthanasia cases in the early 1970s were said to involve terminally ill patients in intractable pain. That first step down to slippery slope has culminated in a soaring rate of euthanasia, some 550 cases a year of people who were euthanized without giving explicit consent, and euthanasia done to people with chronic depression or mental pain and even a reported case of euthanasia for macular degeneration.

Mrs. Tobias establishes the foundation for her series by talking about an article in the “Western Journal of Medicine” written by the late bioethicist Ronald Cranford in the context of the case of Robert Wendland.

You will want to listen to the full report at, because the Wendland case is instructive on many levels.

Wendland had been severely injured in a 1993 car accident, and awakened from a coma but was left with significant brain injuries. He was not in a “persistent vegetative state,” but his wife declared that Robert would not wish to live in that diminished capacity. Robert’s mom and sister contested Wendland who had taken her case to court.

Fortunately, in a 2001 ruling, the California Supreme Court held that a conservator, in this case Wendland’s wife, must show “clear and convincing evidence, either that the conservatee wished to refuse life-sustaining treatment or that to withhold such treatment would have been in his best interests.” Because there was no such evidence in Mr. Wendland’s case, the court ruled that the life-sustaining food and water could not be denied. Documents filed with the court, showed Wendland had been improving.

But, according to Mrs. Tobias,

“Cranford, who testified in many food and fluid withdrawal cases, dismissed the unmistakable evidence of Wendland’s improvement. Author Wesley Smith notes, ‘According to Cranford, these and other of Wendland’s activities mean little. He also opined in his testimony that Wendland’s therapists, who believe he has slowly improved, should be disregarded by [the trial judge] because they are only ‘seeing what they want to see.’”

The larger context of this and other similar cases is the attempted coinage of assorted lethal categories for cognitively-injured patients which would justify their deaths. In other words, since persistent vegetative state diagnoses are notoriously hard to make and—in any event—since there are thousands of vulnerable patients who are brain-injured but not in a persistent vegetative state, if the objective is to legitimize their deaths by starvation and dehydration new labels must be created to justify a painful, ugly death.

“Which brings us to Cranford’s article in the Western Journal of Medicine, which we’ll examine tomorrow,” Mrs. Tobias explains. “By way of preview, there’s this highly pertinent statement, referring to the term ‘minimally conscious state’ or MCS.” Cranford wrote

“Just as the first quarter-century of the right-to-die movement may be exemplified by the medical, legal and ethical assessments of brain death and the vegetative state, so the first quarter century of the new millennium may be the era of patients who are substantially neurologically impaired but conscious to a variable degree. Perhaps MCS will capture the essence of this next wave.”

Be sure to listen to Mrs. Tobias at

Categories: Euthanasia