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Of Evidence and Wingnuts

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A couple months ago, your humble servant was attacked for noting that Nat Hentoff‘s claim that “[u]nlike people in a persistent vegetative state, Terri Schiavo is indeed responsive beyond mere reflexes” represented a “further descent into wingnuttery.” Anyway, I reiterate my remarks. Definitions of wingnuttery may differ, but “whatever Bill Frist says, in contradiction to many medical professionals and a number of fair trials, after spending an hour watching videotape must be true” is an easy case…

…as Rob notes in the comments, to give credit where credit is due John Derbyshire pre-emptively demolishes what I’m sure will be the new spin of the people whose credibility has just been permanently destroyed:

“Regardless of the severity of brain damage, it seems to me the moral principle still abides…”

Regardless? Regardless? So all those things we heard about Mrs. Schiavo’s condition not really being as bad as the husband & the doctors said, was just cynical propaganda? In fact, however bad her condition actually was, the right-to-life side would have held the same position? Then wasn’t it dishonest of them to raise the issue of Mrs. Schiavo’s actual neurological status? Even if she had had no functioning cerebral cortex at all (which seems, in fact, to have been pretty nearly the case) the right-to-lifers wouldn’t have budged — “regardless”? Which right-to-lifers — names, please — made this clear at the time? It sure wasn’t clear to me.

One can potentially argue that even someone in a PVS should be kept alive unless they have expressed different wishes explicitly in writing, as some states (though not Florida) require. Or one could even argue that they should be kept alive by all means possible no matter what. But remember–this isn’t the primary argument that was being made at the time. People like Hentoff and Frist and Lopez (remember William Cheshire?) argued again and again that Schiavo was not in a PVS, and used this lie to despicably smear the credibility of Schiavo’s husband and a good judge. And this lie was necessary, because without it the arguments against the Florida law and against its fair applications by the courts just isn’t one that most people believe. As Derbyshire says, “So if anyone, in any condition, has a metabolism that can be kept functioning somehow, that ought to be done, regardless (!) of what any person — spouse, parent, eminent neurosurgeon, judge — thinks? Start building some real big warehouses — you’re going to need them.”

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