Meet Ronald Cranford, M.D.

cranford.gifBoth sides in the Terri Schiavo tragedy have found specialists to examine Terri (or her medical records) and testify on their findings. These specialists sometimes have a history of activism for or against euthanasia, and it’s fair enough to note their history.

In a generally evenhanded story today, Jill Barton of The Associated Press highlights one specialist’s history but neglects the history of another:

Gov. Jeb Bush and the state social services agency filed a petition to take custody of Schiavo and, presumably, reconnect her feeding tube. It cites new allegations of neglect and challenges Schiavo’s diagnosis as being in a persistent vegetative state. The request is based on the opinion of a neurologist working for the state who observed Schiavo at her bedside but did not conduct an examination.

The neurologist, William Cheshire of the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, is a bioethicist who is also an active member in Christian organizations, including two whose leaders have spoken out against the tube’s removal.

Ronald Cranford of the University of Minnesota, a neurologist who was among those who made a previous diagnosis of Schiavo, said “there isn’t a reputable, credible neurologist in the world who won’t find her in a vegetative state.”

Cranford’s interest in euthanasia surpasses merely belonging to organizations whose leaders have spoken on the issue (though his webpage mentions that he has served on the board of New York City’s Choice in Dying since 1992). Cranford has had plenty to say on the matter himself.

The Rev. Robert Johansen told Cranford’s back story in an essay last week for National Review (and I’ve added some links for readers’ convenience):

In published articles, including a 1997 op-ed in the Minneapolis–St. Paul Star Tribune, he has advocated the starvation of Alzheimer’s patients. . . .

In the cases of Paul Brophy, Nancy Jobes, Nancy Cruzan, and Christine [Busalacchi], Cranford was the doctor behind the efforts to end their lives. Each of these people was brain-damaged but not dying; nonetheless, he advocated death for all, by dehydration and starvation. Nancy Cruzan did not even require a feeding tube: She could be spoon-fed. But Cranford advocated denying even that, saying that even spoon-feeding constituted “medical treatment” that could be licitly withdrawn.

In cases where other doctors don’t see it, Dr. Cranford seems to have a knack for finding PVS. Cranford also diagnosed Robert Wendland as PVS. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could pick up specifically colored pegs or blocks and hand them to a therapy assistant on request. He did so in spite of the fact that Wendland could operate and maneuver an ordinary wheelchair with his left hand and foot, and an electric wheelchair with a joystick, of the kind that many disabled persons (most famously Dr. Stephen Hawking) use. Dr. Cranford dismissed these abilities as meaningless. Fortunately for Wendland, the California supreme court was not persuaded by Cranford’s assessment.

UPDATE: Robert K. Vischer, assistant professor at St. John’s University School of Law, has weighed in on a profile of William Cheshire in today’s New York Times. Cranford has never heard of Cheshire, but dismisses him anyway:

Dr. Ronald Cranford, a neurologist and medical ethicist at the University of Minnesota Medical School who has examined Ms. Schiavo on behalf of the Florida courts and declared her to be irredeemably brain-damaged, said, “I have no idea who this Cheshire is,” and added: “He has to be bogus, a pro-life fanatic. You’ll not find any credible neurologist or neurosurgeon to get involved at this point and say she’s not vegetative.”

Which of course leads to the logical conclusion that Terri Schiavo should be deprived of all food and hydration until she has died.

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  • Brad

    That these kinds of things don’t get out there in the press more often is one of the more disturbing facts of this case to me. That it has been framed as a “right-to-die” issue in all the MSM despite the fact there is no medical treatment involved (unless food and water is a medical treatment, in which case we all are receiving it) is a travesty and the recent polls, I believe, only prove people are misinformed as to what is involved here.

    I have a sister, 21 years old, who has had cerebral palsy all her life, and I can’t tell the difference between her capabilities and those of Terri Schiavo.

    My family has not hesitated to take care of her since her diagnosis, but with the direction our country is moving in, those in her condition will soon be discarded simply for the fact we don’t like to see the life they live.

    The Romans used to kill unwanted babies through “exposure,” putting them out in the elements to die by cold, starvation, dogs, or whatever came along. How long before that’s the standard treatment for all our unwanted fellow human beings?


  • jquinby

    How long before it’s standard treatment?,3604,1439312,00.html

    I’d say Real Soon.

  • Terry Mattingly

    As Doug continues to ride herd on this crucial element of the story — the REPORTING of the story — I keep asking the question: Is being brain-damaged the same thing as being a vegetable? There are those who say Terri is basically in the mental condition of a 6- to 9-month-old child. That is not normal. That is severe damage. But isn’t that still human life?

    We are not into writing about PR releases at this blog, but there still is some interesting alternative information circulating out there today.

    For the family’s perspective — such as the source for the infamous quote from the husband, “When is that b–ch going to die” — please see:

    Many of the family videos are stored at this site, as well. Meanwhile, the former Los Angeles Times editor turned religious activist Bob Knight has posted an analysis of the current poll data:

  • Cathy

    Showing our stripes now aren’t we… all polls are biased if they don’t match what we believeÂ…..

  • Stephen A.

    Cathy, if a poll question lies about her state of health, the entire poll is worthless and is suspect.

    Given the level of misleading reporting in this case, I won’t be terribly surprised by the results any poll that comes out from this point onward.

  • Terry Mattingly

    For those watching the reactions of religious groups and media watchdogs, Baptist Press — the info source for the conservative majority in America’s second largest flock — has weighed in with:

  • Cathy

    Yes people are swayed by the media all of the time that is why you can’t trust a poll…. and the Baptist Press has no bias… OH Yeah I forgot there bias is the right one… How Ironic…

  • Terry Mattingly


    Baptist Press has tons of bias. We know that.

    However, one of the purposes of this site is to air materials of interest to real, live journalists who often read materials from both sides of hot issues — especially when they in some way represent 15 million or so people (or the conservatives in that large flock).

    We are happy to receive links to material from candid groups on both sides.

    And, BTW, the word “their” is spelled t-h-e-i-r, not t-h-e-r-e.

    As a frequent typo-victim, I feel your pain.

  • Dan Berger


    It ain’t just knee-jerk right-to-lifers. Check out Not Dead Yet, a disability-rights group with an extreme sense of black humor. Their take on Terri Schiavo? She was killed because folks were grossed out by her feeding tube.

    “Disability activists must express our ridicule for the pathetic response of the nondisabled majority to these simple pieces of latex rubber.”

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