Medical Analysis of The JFK Assassination Essay

This essay has a total of 3652 words and 18 pages.

Medical Analysis of The JFK Assassination

Dr. Charles Crenshaw's book Conspiracy of Silence caused a minor sensation when it was
released in 1992, even attracting the attention of the New York Times. Coauthored by Jens
Hansen and Gary Shaw, it told several conspiratorial stories about the assassination, and
especially about the role of Dr. Crenshaw, then a resident physician at Parkland Hospital,
in the care of John Kennedy and Lee Harvey Oswald.

It has since been reprinted as Trauma Room One.

Among the "interesting" things that Crenshaw claims are:

The back of Kennedy's head was blown out, clearly implying a shot from the Grassy Knoll in front of Kennedy.
A small wound in Kennedy's throat was an entrance wound, proving a shot from the front,
and not from the Sniper's Nest behind Kennedy.

Parkland doctors, knowing there was a conspiracy, have feared to speak out.
The President's body was altered between Parkland Hospital and the autopsy at Bethesda.
And the most sensational: Lyndon Johnson called the operating room were Oswald was being
treated and demanded a confession be extracted from the accused assassin.

Conspiracy authors, wanting to push the idea of a shot from the Grassy Knoll, have lapped
up Crenshaw's account. For example, Gary Aguilar quotes Crenshaw as follows:

He, with co-authors, Jens Hansen and Gary Shaw, recently published a book, "Conspiracy of
Silence" (Crenshaw, CA, Hansen, J, Shaw, G. "Conspiracy of Silence". 1992, New York,
Signet). Crenshaw has claimed both in his book and in public interviews that the
President's head wound was posterior on the right side. In "Conspiracy of Silence" he
wrote, "I walked to the President's head to get a closer look. His entire right cerebral
hemisphere appeared to be gone. It looked like a crater—an empty cavity. "

Conspiracy writer Gary Aguilar accepts Crenshaw's account. His essay on supposed "back of
the head" witnesses is useful and interesting — although many of his assessments of the
testimony are to be treated skeptically.

How does Crenshaw know such things? According to the book, he had a central role in
treating Kennedy. Yet when the New York Times called up Crenshaw in reponse to his book,
he backed away from the book's claims as to how central he was, saying that Hansen and
Shaw "took poetic license" on this issue. Crenshaw "admitted . . .that the role he played
in Kennedy's case was minor." See the Times of May 26, 1992.

It hardly inspires confidence in the book when Crenshaw says things like this.

Aguilar then quotes the following passage, where Crenshaw further described the wound:
All I could see there was mangled, bloody tissue. From the damage I saw, there was no
doubt in my mind that the bullet had entered his head through the front, and as it
surgically passed through his cranium, the missile obliterated part of the temporal and
all the parietal and occipital lobes before it lacerated the cerebellum. (Emphasis added,
p. 86).

In the first place, as Hank Sienzant has pointed out, Crenshaw cites several descriptions
of the head wound in his book, and they are far from being "back of the head"

Pg 2: "The entire right hemisphere of President Kennedy's brain was obliterated. . . . "
Pg 78: "Then I noticed that the entire right hemisphere of his brain was missing,
beginning at his hairline and extending all the way behind his right ear."

Pg 86: "His entire right cerebral hemisphere appeared to be gone. It looked like a crater, an empty cavity."
Pg 87: (Quoting Kemp Clark): "My God, the whole right side of his head is shot off... We've got nothing to work with."
Pg 89: "... there is still nothing that can save a victim who loses the entire right side of his brain."
In some passages (see p. 132), Crenshaw says that the damage extended around to the back.
But his description is mostly "side."

Even more striking is Crenshaw's claim that there was "no doubt in his mind" about the
trajectory being front-to-back. Compare this to other, more senior doctors, in the ER.

In another part of the essay, Aguilar quotes Ronald Jones:
Specter asked Jones to speculate from his observations the nature of JFK's wounding. He
asked, "Dr. Jones, did you have any speculative thought as to accounting for the point of
wounds (sic) which you observed on the President, as you thought about it when you were
treating the President that day, or shortly thereafter?" Jones answered, "With no history
as to the number of times that the President had been shot or knowing the direction from
which he had been shot, and seeing the wound in the midline of the neck, and what appeared
to be an exit wound in the posterior portion of the skull, the only speculation that I
could have as far as to how this could occur with a single wound would be that it would
enter the anterior neck and possibly strike a vertebral body and then change its course
and exit in the region of the posterior portion of the head." (WC.V.6:56)

And then there was Paul Peters:
Peters told author Lifton on 11-12-66, "I was trying to think how he could have had a hole
in his neck and a hole in the occiput, and the only answer we could think (of) was perhaps
the bullet had gone in through the front, hit the bony spinal column, and exited through
the back of the head, since a wound of exit is always bigger than a wound of entry."
(Lifton D. Best Evidence. p317. Peters repeated this speculation in a speech on the
subject on 4/2/92, in a talk entitled, "Who Killed JFK?", given at the 14th annual meeting
of the Wilk- Amite Medical Society, at Centreville Academy, Centreville, Mississippi,
according to a transcript furnished by Claude B. Slaton, of Zachary, Louisiana.)

So while doctors like Jones and Peters were engaging in rather wild speculation as to the
trajectory Crenshaw, a very junior bit player, had "no doubt."

In fact, nobody at Parkland could offer more than a wild guess about the trajectory, since
nobody did (or had any need to do) the sort of forensic examination that would have
allowed determining trajectory.

Crenshaw's assurance here is necessarily bogus, and detracts from his credibility.

Conspiracy of Silence?
Then there is Crenshaw's "Conspiracy of Silence" thesis. For Crenshaw:
Every doctor who was in Trauma Room 1 had his own reasons for not publicly refuting the
'official line' . . . . I believe there was a common denominator in our silence — a
fearful perception that to come forward with what we believed to be the medical truth
would be asking for trouble. . . . Whatever was happening was larger than any of us. I
reasoned that anyone who would go so far as to eliminate the President of the United
States would surely not hesitate to kill a doctor. (pp. 153-154.)

This is almost breathtaking in its absurdity. Crenshaw published a book in 1992 claiming
he was breaking a "conspiracy of silence." Yet the other Parkland doctors had been talking
their heads off for nearly 30 years by this time. Many have talked to conspiracy authors
like Groden, Lifton and Livingstone. Their statements can be seen in books like Six
Seconds in Dallas, High Treason, High Treason II, and Best Evidence. They can be seen in
videos such as The Men Who Killed Kennedy, Bob Groden's The Case for Conspiracy, and
NOVA's Who Shot JFK? Most have given statements that — if they have been quoted
accurately — imply a conspiracy. The conspiracy writers (including Gary Aguilar) know
this, because the have been quoting these doctors extensively!

If the thesis of the book is bogus, the details aren't any better.

In the first place, the book is littered with silly conspiracy book factoids. To give just a very few examples:

The Julia Ann Mercer story (p. 55).
The claim that seventy-five percent of the witnesses in Dealey Plaza who identified the
source of the shots said they came from the Grassy Knoll (p. 66).

Crenshaw accepts Seth Kantor's testimony that Ruby was at Parkland Hospital about 1:30 (p.
108). This is perfectly reasonable, but then Crenshaw reports that Jack Ruby was in the
Texas Theater at the time of the Oswald arrest! (p. 117) Although this doesn't exactly put
Ruby in two places at one time, it implies an absurd mad dash by Ruby from the Dallas
Morning News to Parkland Hospital to the Texas Theater and back to the Carousel club
(where he returned about 2:00 pm.) in well under an hour.

Crenshaw recounts how Dallas cops and Federal agents descended on the Texas Theater "all
to capture a man suspected of entering the theater without paying" (p. 115).

Jack Ruby's correcting DA Wade about Oswald's role in the "Fair Play for Cuba" committee
indicated he was "a person very familiar with Cuban politics" (p. 145).

The bogus Bobby Kennedy "only the powers of the presidency" quote (p. 138).
All these silly conspiracy factoids could be blamed on Crenshaw's conspiracy-oriented
coauthors Shaw and Hansen. But Crenshaw's own supposed account (it's set in a sans-serif
typeface) is full of Crenshaw's claims to have seen things that he could not in fact have

As Roger Bynum has pointed out, Crenshaw provides the following tidbit about his actions
on the morning of the assassination:

Having visited all my patients, I went to the dining room on the first floor, and was
eating two hardboiled eggs, toast, and coffee while reading the newspaper. The Dallas
Morning News was full of information and stories about President Kennedy and the First
Lady. . . .

With sickening clarity, I recall a full-page editorial purchased by an extremist group
that viciously attacked the integrity of President Kennedy by claiming he was a Communist.
The President was posed in a frontal and side mug shot atop the message, "This man is
wanted for treasonous activities against the United States." The article further claimed
President Kennedy was " . . . turning the sovereignty of the U.S. over to the communist
controlled United Nations." p. 33

But Crenshaw could have seen no such editorial, since none existed! The ad attacking
Kennedy in the Dallas Morning News was quite different from Crenshaw's description. It was
headlined (sarcastically) "Welcome Mr. Kennedy." Crenshaw provides an accurate description
of a handbill that was distributed in the Dallas area.

Here is the handbill.
Here is the advertisement.
Is this issue — handbill versus advertisement — one that could be easily confused?
Yes, if you are getting your information from reading books on the assassination. But
Crenshaw claims that he remembers "with sickening clarity" an ad in the Dallas Morning
News which never appeared!

This raises the issue of other things he claims to remember "clearly."

For example, Crenshaw claims he literally ran to the Emergency Room with Dr. McClelland,
and that he and McClelland approached Dr. Perry (who was already treating Kennedy)
together. See pages 73-78. He describes the head wound, and then recounts:

I also identified a small opening about the diameter of a pencil at the midline of his
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