Dr. Ronald Cranford testified in the court cases before county court Judge George Greer that Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state with no hope of recovery.
"I've seen her," he told CNN. "There's no doubt in my mind, whatsoever, she's in a permanent vegetative state. Her CAT scan shows extremely severe atrophy to the brain. And her EEG is flat. It doesn't show any electrical activity at all."
His diagnosis has been disputed by Dr. William Hammesfahr, who said, "I spent about 10 hours across about three months and the woman is very aware of her surroundings. She's very aware. She's alert. She's not in a coma. She's not in PVS."
Hammesfahr added, "With proper therapy, she will have a tremendous improvement. I think, personally, that she'll be able to walk, eventually, and she will be able to use at least one of her arms."
"There's no way," responded Cranford. "That's totally bogus."
Cranford is a member of the board of directors of the Choice in Dying Society, which promotes doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia.
He was also a featured speaker at the 1992 national conference of the Hemlock Society. The group recently changed its name to End of Life Choices.
In 1997, Cranford wrote an opinion piece in the Minneapolis Star Tribune titled: "When a feeding tube borders on barbaric."
"Just a few decades ago cases of brain death, vegetative state, and locked-in syndrome were rare," he wrote. "These days, medicine's 'therapeutic triumphs' have made these neurologic conditions rather frequent. For all its power to restore life and health, we now realize, modern medicine also has great potential for prolonging a dehumanizing existence for the patient."
He explained that while landmark legal cases like those of Karen Ann Quinlan and Nancy Cruzan demonstrated it was "sensible to stop treatment in patients lingering in permanent vegetative states," it was now time to look beyond those cases.
"The United States has thousands or tens of thousands of patients in vegetative states; nobody knows for sure exactly how many," he wrote. "But before long, this country will have several million patients with Alzheimer's dementia. The challenges and costs of maintaining vegetative state patients will pale in comparison to the problems presented by Alzheimer's disease."
The answer, he suggested, was physician-assisted suicide.
"So much in medicine today is driving the public towards physician-assisted suicide," he wrote. "Many onlookers are dismayed by doctors' fear of giving families responsibility in these cases; our failure to appreciate that families suffer a great deal too in making decisions; our archaic responses to pain and suffering; our failure to accept death as a reality and an inevitable outcome of life; our inability to be realistic and humane in treating irreversibly ill people. All of this has shaken the public's confidence in the medical profession."
He blamed "right-to-lifers" and "disability groups" for discouraging families from making the choice for euthanasia. He applauded European values that embrace euthanasia.
"But here in the United States, many caregivers wouldn't consider not placing a feeding tube in the same patients," he wrote. "It's hard to understand why. If we want our loved ones to live and die in dignity, we ought to think twice before suspending them in the last stage of irreversible dementia. At it is, it seems that we're not thinking at all."