I originally viewed the “sinister cabal” blogcritics tagline as innocuous pleasantry, but a review of some of the commentary on the Schiavo matter raises the possibility that it’s in earnest.
In Disabled or Dead?, the faith-swaddled Denise Jones proposes, in the name of her deity, to overrule living wills that are “based in ignorance” and hijack their authors’ fates:
If a living will exists but was made under very different conditions to the one they now find themselves in, who is to be sure the reality of living as a disabled person rather than the hypothetical scenario it once was still holds the same meaning?
Terri Schiavo made her statement, which her life-ending decision was based upon, when the scenario to her was hypothetical. She died on the basis of a hypothesis. Is that how any of us should live or die?
“Gonzo Marx” responds to Jones’s piece with a dissent, but errs by overreaching to the opposite extreme:
Denise..as has been stated over and over..all this had been brought up in Court…the court appointed doctors agreed she was in a state where no recovery was possible, the areas of the brain in question had liquefied.
The article, by James Q. Wilson, who has taught at Harvard, UCLA and Pepperdine, begins with an error:
Ms. Schiavo is in what many physicians call a “persistent vegetative state,” or PVS. That means that she lacks an awareness of herself or other people, cannot engage in purposeful action, does not understand language, is incontinent, and sleeps a lot. To be clinically classified as being in a PVS, these conditions should be irreversible.
Wrong. The American Academy of Neurology (AAN), responding to many inquiries from the press in light of the Terri Schiavo case, points to its 1995 practice parameter, which makes it clear that recovery from PVS is not an absolute impossibility:
Recovery from PVS [persistent vegetative state] can be defined in terms of recovery of consciousness and recovery of function…. [D]ata were collected for patients in PVS for more than 12 months, and these show almost no probability of recovery. The available data indicate that recovery of consciousness from post-traumatic PVS after 12 months in adults and children is unlikely. Recovery from nontraumatic PVS after 3 months is exceedingly rare in both adults and children. The above data are based on [well-designed clinical studies]. Several individual case reports … have described a few verified late recoveries of consciousness from traumatic (>12 months) or nontraumatic (>3 months) injury.
Wilson goes on to liberally brandish the term “murder” against conscientious medical practitioners, judges, genuinely loving relatives, and others:
If [chances of recovery] are not zero, then withdrawing a patient’s feeding tubes and allowing her to die from a lack of water and food means that whoever authorizes such a step may, depending on the circumstances, be murdering the patient. The odds against it being a murder are very high, but they are not 100%.
He proceeds to join blogcritic Denise Jones’s call for hijacking:
[I]gnoring [living wills] is often the right thing to do, because it is virtually impossible to write a living will that anticipates and makes decisions about all of the many, complicated, and hard to foresee illnesses you may face.
Wilson offers the example of an advanced Alzheimer’s patient whose advance directive dictates that his plug be pulled, although he now wishes to survive long enough to see his daughter’s imminent college graduation.
So Wilson has a better idea:
There is a document that is probably better than a living will, and that is a durable power of attorney that authorizes a person that you know and trust to make end-of-life decisions for you.
Having conjured his clever college graduation scenario to object to living wills, Wilson seems touchingly unaware that his own proposal is at least as vulnerable. Surely the man who commits oversights in designating his intentions in his own living will can just as easily blunder in handing the power to end his life to some other individual. I won’t insult the reader’s imagination by constructing scenarios. They are innumerable.
Wilson’s and Jones’s reasoning about the fallibility of human sovereignty has much broader applicability than just living wills. In the overeating, oversedated, excess-TV-watching nation of America, it would be very very easy to argue the case for jettisoning many other individual freedoms as well.
I did find a kindred spirit in Pete Blackwell, whose Starved for Logic, after a quick review of some of the tube-pushers’ malevolent rhetoric, points out that “Terri Schiavo’s slow starvation is more of an argument for euthanasia than against it.”
Indeed, it’s sad and silly that America is too intellectually immature to take active measures to end a life promptly once the decision to end it has been conclusively arrived at.
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