Medical expert in Terry Schiavo case dies
MINNEAPOLIS – Neurologist Dr. Ronald Cranford, one of the nation’s leading medical ethicists and right-to-die advocates, died Wednesday at a hospice in Edina, from complications of kidney cancer. He was 65.
Cranford was thrust into the public spotlight by the case of Terry Schiavo, a Florida woman he diagnosed in 2002 as being in an irreversible vegetative state. He defended his diagnosis throughout her husband’s court battle to remove her feeding tube in 2005.
Cranford’s daughter, Kristin Cranford of Long Beach, Calif, said her father was a “down to earth, easy going, non-pretentious man who told it like it was. He was extremely funny and witty and he will most be remembered by how generous he was, especially with his time.”
Ronald Cranford graduated from the University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago in 1965. He served in the U.S. Air Force as a flight surgeon during the Vietnam War and came to Minnesota to complete his residency.
He practiced medicine for 35 years, most recently as a neurologist and clinical teacher at Hennepin County Medical Center in Minneapolis.
According to information provided by his family, he wrote more than 90 papers on subjects at the crossroads of medicine, law, and ethics, including determining brain death and when to stop food and water for patients who were permanently unconscious.
His wife, Candy Crawford, told the Star Tribune that although her husband spoke forcefully about his view on patient’s rights, he did not support euthanasia or physician-assisted suicide.
Ronald Crawford is survived by his wife, sons Craig Losure and Michael Don Carlos; brother Tom Cranford and daughters Kristin and Robyn Moder. His daughters were holding his hands when he died, the family said.
I’ve been reading some interesting comments on the ‘Net about Dr. Cranford’s passing. Some are downright cruel and vicious, speculating on his fate. I won’t even dignify them by repeating them here.
I think that my dear friend, Wesley J. Smith, got it right, as he most always does:
I disagreed vehemently with Dr. Cranford. I saw him testify in the Robert Wendland case and his cool recounting of the process of dehydration chilled me to my bones, as did his ready admission that he had removed sustenance from people who were clearly conscious. I actually think that testimony was the primary reason the court refused to allow Wendland’s tube sustenance to be stopped. And his examination of Terri Schiavo seemed conducted in such a hurried way that she would be unlikely to respond.
We met only once at a debate about Terri Schiavo in Florida. We were pleasant and civil to each other. Nothing more.
What is the proper response to the death of someone who has been an implacable adversary? I think it is the response we should have to the death of every human being. We should set those old disputes aside and hope that in the Great Beyond, he finds forgiveness and peace.
I have no knowledge of Cranford’s spiritual or religious beliefs or affiliations. Whether or not he believed in God is a mystery to me. And where he spends eternity is not for me or any other mortal to decide. That is between Cranford and the God that I believe exists.
I also believe that it is too late now for any human being to do anything to assist Cranford. I believe that, at the moment of our death, our fate is sealed because we have been given free will and the opportunity to choose to believe or not. Therefore, there is nothing that any survivor can do after the point of death to assure his/her loved one’s entrance into the Church Triumphant (heavenly kingdom). That is why there are never any prayers offered for the deceased during funerals or memorial worship services in our church. We do not believe in purgatory, baptism for the dead, or any of the many concepts embraced by other religions. We pray for the survivors who mourn and we offer prayers of thanksgiving and remembrance for the life of the departed love one — we thank God for the joy that person brought to us, the way he/she enriched our life, etc.
I do know that both Robert Wendland and his mother, Florence (my client), were believers. Florence and I talked about faith at length during the six long years that we fought together to save Robert from the fate that Ron Cranford would happily have dealt him.
And so tonight, as I ponder his passing, it seems to me that what is far more interesting than spewing hatred and exhibiting glee about Cranford’s demise, is to imagine the conversations that might be taking place now in a magnificent kingdom that we can only imagine. If, in fact, Ron Cranford is in the same place as Robert and his dear mother, Florence, not to mention Terri Schiavo, they might be having quite a conversation about now, especially given that they have knowledge and understanding beyond anything that we can envision or comprehend. Also, the Bible teaches that there will be no wars, no strife, no disagreements and no conflicts there. Just peace and forgiveness.
Quite a picture, isn’t it?
Like Wesley, I would be an immense hypocrite if I failed to acknowledge that, despite our vehement disagreements, Ron Cranford was a human being whose life had value and he deserved to die with dignity and in accordance with his wishes regarding end-of-life treatment and care. I hope that he did.
I extend my condolences to his family, friends, coworkers and colleagues who loved him.