Chomsky Award

Clayton Cramer wins the Chomsky Award for most ridiculous and offensive comparison I've seen since last time I visited Cramer's blog. Speaking of the ongoing euthanasia of Terri Schiavo, who has been in a persistent vegetative state for the last 15 years and kept alive only through artificial life support, Cramer writes,

The more I think about this, the more angry I get. This is the modern equivalent of Dachau. Like so much of the German government's actions at the time, it is "legal" but so monstrous that no one should feel compelled to obey such laws.

Yes, Dachau. The merciful killing of an empty human shell with no possibility of recovery is the the modern equivalent of a Nazi concentration camp.

In the course of the war, the Dachau concentration camp increasingly became a site of mass murder: from October 1941 many thousands of Soviet prisoners of war were brought to Dachau and shot. Other prisoners, condemned for execution on Gestapo orders, were transported to Dachau and executed.

A large number of prisoners were abused by SS doctors for medical experiments; an unknown number of prisoners suffered agonizing deaths in the course of atmospheric pressure, hypothermia, malaria and many other experiments.

Beginning in January 1942, more than 3,000 prisoners were sent to the mental home at Hartheim Castle near Linz on the so-called invalid transports and murdered with poison gas.

Besides the 30,000 recorded dead, thousands of prisoners who were not registered lost their life at the Dachau concentration camp. They died of starvation, disease, exhaustion, degradation, from blows, and by torture; they were shot, hung, and killed by injections.

Compare:

Dr. Sean Morrison, a professor of geriatric and internal medicine at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York, said that while coma patients recover, patients in a persistent vegetative state do not.

He also said it was wrong to characterize Schiavo's death as starvation.

"What happens is she loses fluid from her body, she enters a peaceful coma and she gradually passes away, very gently and very peacefully," he said.

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We've also been under a

We've also been under a rather massive spam attack lately, so there were 780 comments in moderation before I found yours. They've been popped back over to the light(dark?) side for all to see.

Bleg to anyone else- is there an easier way to do mass deletion of comment spam in WP? It gets moderated, but then is a huge chore to slowly delete from that list...

That's right. Protestant

That's right. Protestant judges, at least, are trustworthy.

Right, I'm not stereotyping

Right, I'm not stereotyping the anti-euthanasia side; I'm stereotyping the "judges can't be trusted" side.

If you go back to my post

If you go back to my post about the vast conspiracy, my point was to parody the conservative myth that some nefarious “liberal elite” are legislating from the bench. Obviously I don’t believe that all judges are like this, which is why I was making fun of this conspiracy theory that judges cannot be trusted.

I realize that. I'm just saying that most people who are for putting the tube back don't believe in this conspiracy, so your stereotype is false.

I doubt that’s true. I’d

I doubt that’s true. I’d bet most are Protestants, simply because most people in the US are religious, and there are more Protestants and Catholics in the US. But even if it is, so? Are Catholics not allowed to use their values in making judgments about the case? If they value keeping Schiavo “alive” because of their religious beliefs, is that wrong? Perhaps they just don’t know what a PVS is, and if so, you might educate them in your arguments. But I don’t see what pointing out their Catholocism does any more than pointing out that someone who is black is in favor of affirmative action. It might be religion alone that motivates them; it might not be. But I don’t see the benefit of stereotyping.

Among philosophers, those who defend explicitely religious arguments tend to be Catholics, not Protestants. I think this goes back to Aquinas and the fact that Catholicism has a rich history in Western philosophy, while other forms of Christianity and other religions do not (at least not as much).

And there is good reason to be skeptical of these sorts of arguments. For one thing, divine command theory has lots of problems. For another, these are the sorts of values that, while legitimately motivated by religious beliefs , cannot be legitimately defended on religious arguments alone, at least not in terms of public reason.

I agree with the body of your argument. But when you talk about “vast conspiracy of judges who only care about abortion", you are inferring motivations about people, which is risky exercise mostly because it is often wrong and because it caters to stereotypes. I can see how you might link Schiavo with abortion to make an argument (a good one in fact), but that’s different from assuming why other people think what they do.

If you go back to my post about the vast conspiracy, my point was to parody the conservative myth that some nefarious "liberal elite" are legislating from the bench. Obviously I don't believe that all judges are like this, which is why I was making fun of this conspiracy theory that judges cannot be trusted.

I agree. I used to argue as

I agree. I used to argue as if all Catholics were vampires, but then I eventually realized that just because some Catholics are vampires by no means implies that all Catholics are vampires.

But this is precisely why I

But this is precisely why I bring up abortion. This sort of argument, alone, displays a startling unfamiliarity with ethical argumentation, and a resort to definitions in place of reason. It is certainly true that abortion entails killing an innocent human organism, and the same is true for the Schiavo case. No one disputes that a) Schiavo is innocent of any crimes deserving of execution and b) removing the feeding tube is (let’s be serious here) the moral equivalent of actively killing her. -snipped-

I agree with the body of your argument. But when you talk about "vast conspiracy of judges who only care about abortion", you are inferring motivations about people, which is risky exercise mostly because it is often wrong and because it caters to stereotypes. I can see how *you* might link Schiavo with abortion to make an argument (a good one in fact), but that's different from assuming why other people think what they do.

I'd take the blogosphere

I'd take the blogosphere over the "professional moral philosophers" (except Joe Miller of course), but that's just me. :razz:

...my educated guess is that the vast majority would oppose what the parents are doing, and the few who would support them would most likely be Catholics (not that I have anything against Catholics; only that they have their own sorts of biases on these sorts of issues).

I doubt that's true. I'd bet most are Protestants, simply because most people in the US are religious, and there are more Protestants and Catholics in the US. But even if it is, so? Are Catholics not allowed to use their values in making judgments about the case? If they value keeping Schiavo "alive" because of their religious beliefs, is that wrong? Perhaps they just don't know what a PVS is, and if so, you might educate them in your arguments. But I don't see what pointing out their Catholocism does any more than pointing out that someone who is black is in favor of affirmative action. It might be religion alone that motivates them; it might not be. But I don't see the benefit of stereotyping.

Well, what are we to make of the “wife beating” accusations? It seems to me that the parents, while their desperation may be understandable to a point (but after 15 years don’t you think they should be able to get the picture?), are willing to libel the husband’s reputation - a husband whose financial interest is very small (less than $50,000), who has committed to giving away any left-over money to charity, and who has been offered $10 million to give up his legal guardianship. So how exactly does he benefit from her death? He could have avoided the hassle and cost of the last 15 years of litigation by just giving in to the parents. Yet he did not. That says a lot about his motivation.

Even if his motivation was solely monetary, he cannot give up guardianship for the money because that would "prove" that it money is what he was after in the public's eye.

I'm not convinced that he's after the money or the divorce, and I'm not convinced that he has her best intentions in mind. I'm only surprised at those who are.

Some might be. Most people I

Some might be. Most people I read on that side (read: the blogophere right) are not. They believe that removing the feeding tube would kill an innocent person.

But this is precisely why I bring up abortion. This sort of argument, alone, displays a startling unfamiliarity with ethical argumentation, and a resort to definitions in place of reason. It is certainly true that abortion entails killing an innocent human organism, and the same is true for the Schiavo case. No one disputes that a) Schiavo is innocent of any crimes deserving of execution and b) removing the feeding tube is (let's be serious here) the moral equivalent of actively killing her.

What we dispute, and what the anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia side all too frequently refuses to discuss, is whether killing an innocent human organism is always wrong. It is easy to conclude this, based on simple intuition and the appeal to dictionary definitions of terms like "murder," but this avoids the more important question of what makes human personhood valuable and why we generally feel an obligation to respect the lifes of human persons. Most of the anti-abortion side and the anti-euthanasia side are not willing to address this question, for once we do, we realize that it is not biological existence itself that makes life valuable, but a certain kind of life - a certain kind of existence.

but from what I can tell,

but from what I can tell, the blogosphere is pretty much split 50-50 down the middle on the issue.

I think that is evidence of the idiocy of most of the blogosphere more than anything else. Among professional moral philosophers, who have to think about these sorts of issues every day, my educated guess is that the vast majority would oppose what the parents are doing, and the few who would support them would most likely be Catholics (not that I have anything against Catholics; only that they have their own sorts of biases on these sorts of issues).

We don’t have to believe that the husband is “evil incarnate"; simply that he knows he benfits from her death, and after 15 years of waiting, he is actively taking a role in pursuing it. That seems entirely plausible to me.

I also don’t need to believe that the parents are saints, only that they are desperate to find a way to save their daughter. But I would hardly conclude that they are “making up accusations against the husband” either.

Well, what are we to make of the "wife beating" accusations? It seems to me that the parents, while their desperation may be understandable to a point (but after 15 years don't you think they should be able to get the picture?), are willing to libel the husband's reputation - a husband whose financial interest is very small (less than $50,000), who has committed to giving away any left-over money to charity, and who has been offered $10 million to give up his legal guardianship. So how exactly does he benefit from her death? He could have avoided the hassle and cost of the last 15 years of litigation by just giving in to the parents. Yet he did not. That says a lot about his motivation.

The parents (and the

The parents (and the husband) both have obvious biases that effect their decision making. We need some way to resolve this conflict. In a better world, the judicial system would be arranged differently. But until it is, we have to deal with what we have, and it makes no sense to claim that judges get every decision wrong; only that there are systematic flaws in the mechanism of the legal system that lead to sub-optimal results compared to a polycentric legal system.

I completely agree with this. The courts should decide. Congress should not have stepped in.

I trust the husband more than the parents, and part of the reason I do is because a number of different courts have sided with the husband. Now, it is surely possible that this is all just a vast conspiracy and the judges are evil liberals who only care about abortion on demand and killing innocent coma patients.

I think that's a bit of a strawman. I don't think most people coming down on the "place the tube" side are motivated by abortion-issues or by killing people in comas. Some might be. Most people I read on that side (read: the blogophere right) are not. They believe that removing the feeding tube would kill an innocent person.

Certainly the parents have

Certainly the parents have made accusations against the husband. It is not only they who have pointed to the incentives he has in his favor if Schiavo's dies, but from what I can tell, the blogosphere is pretty much split 50-50 down the middle on the issue. I don't find them all that extraordinary. Certainly he has incentives, both personal and monetary, from her death. While incentives do not prove guilt, they raise questions.

And even though a procedural point can and should be made to allow the courts to decide the case, it does not mean that the courts will make the right decision. O.J is free today. I think the legal system created a bad outcome, but also that it should continue to oversee cases.

We don't have to believe that the husband is "evil incarnate"; simply that he knows he benfits from her death, and after 15 years of waiting, he is actively taking a role in pursuing it. That seems entirely plausible to me.

I also don't need to believe that the parents are saints, only that they are desperate to find a way to save their daughter. But I would hardly conclude that they are "making up accusations against the husband" either.

If you trust the U.S.

If you trust the U.S. judicial system more than her parents, I’d have to think that you are insane.

The parents (and the husband) both have obvious biases that effect their decision making. We need some way to resolve this conflict. In a better world, the judicial system would be arranged differently. But until it is, we have to deal with what we have, and it makes no sense to claim that judges get every decision wrong; only that there are systematic flaws in the mechanism of the legal system that lead to sub-optimal results compared to a polycentric legal system.

I trust the husband more than the parents, and part of the reason I do is because a number of different courts have sided with the husband. Now, it is surely possible that this is all just a vast conspiracy and the judges are evil liberals who only care about abortion on demand and killing innocent coma patients. But I don't find that possibility very likely. These judges have no personal stake in the matter, and this case is sufficiently rare enough and deviates far enough from the more conventional controversies of doctor-assisted suicide and euthanasia that I don't think their political commitments (whatever those may be) have much to do with their decision here.

Unless you can give me some reason why we should distrust these judges, above the tired libertarian claim that since they are government employees they must be evil, I don't find your objection very persuasive.

"…and are willing to

"…and are willing to go to almost any length - including making up vicious accusations against the husband - to get their way."

What makes you think the parents are making up accusations against the husband?

If we are to take the parents' argument at face value, the husband is (a) a wife beater, (b) a "bigamist" who wants his wife to die so that he can marry another woman, and ( c) only in it for the money. Whereas the parents are only trying to respect the wishes they think their daughter must have had (even though they don't claim she told them so) because they claim she was a "devout Roman Catholic."

Now, we can either believe that the husband is just pure evil incarnate, despite the fact that all of these arguments were available to a number of judges who rejected them, or we can believe that the parents are desparate to keep their daughter alive by any means necessary, even if that requires attributing evil motivations to the husband. Which is more likely?

off topic, but do you have

off topic, but do you have an email micha? i tried to send one to your address here but haven't heard back. i'm not sure how else to contact you.

Your assertion that this

Your assertion that this "empty human shell" has "no possibility of recovery" is disputed by many, including a woman named Kate Adamson who did recover from her "persistent vegetative state" (http://www.rense.com/general44/vege.htm) -- after an attempt was made to starve her to death.

But even that's to the side. The overwhelming conflicts of interest under which Michael Schiavo labors (http://www.eternityroad.info/index.php/weblog/single/the_convergence_is_complete/), added to the multiplicity of persons who'd gladly accept Terri's care into their own hands, make this something other than you think it to be. There is simply no warrant for killing Terri Schindler-Schiavo by slow torture on her heavily conflicted husband-in-name's sole, uncorroborated representation that "she would have wanted it that way."

I severely doubt that Dr. Morrison has experienced slow starvation sufficiently to be authoritative about its effects. Kate Adamson has -- and she described it as unbelievable agony.

Dear God, what is the matter with us that we're so determined to spare convicted murderers but so willing to see the innocent and helpless killed -- and killed unnecessarily, and in unbelievable ways?

Dave, If you read up on PVS

Dave,

If you read up on PVS you'll find that the definition is distressingly ad hoc and does not at all entail a positive determination of massive damage to the cerebral cortex. In many cases its just "a coma that lasts too long". Jonathan or Trent can comment further on the medieval mindset of modern medicine better, but suffice it to say that even medical schools' webpage definitions of PVS were frightfully general.

Some of us are anarchists,

Some of us are anarchists, some are not.

In fact, I wonder if anarchist is even the best term, since to my knowledge, we only believe anarchy is preferable under certain conditions.

Anarcho-pragmatists perhaps.

Hey, I thought you guys were

Hey, I thought you guys were anarchists. Everything handled locally and personally. Dramatizing stuff like the Terri Schiavo tragedy is being used by activists to suck you in and create political pressure. Before the invention of instant opinion generating apparatus like CNN, the internet etc, people would be less likely to know about “outrageous” injustices being committed in some obscure Florida hospice or if they did they didn’t have the time to bother. Now with the increasing leisure time and people constantly listening to the intrusive mass media, public morality has become nationwide and is based doing something about various supposed outrages. All activists need to do is create a feeling of solidarity with the sufferer by dramatizing their take on the “victim’s” plight. Soon the grandstanding politicians move in.
The advocates of continued forced feeding of the unfortunate this woman are using these tactics. They have recruited public opinion and politicians in an effort to interfere in a private matter in which they have no business or expertise.
The battle is between the woman’s husband and her parent’s. Families of sick people can see things the way they want to see them and be totally irrational. The parents are fixated on having their daughter recover and are on record as having said that they would demand that doctors perform multiple amputations of her limbs and open heart surgery to make her keep living. Thus you have to be skeptical of any thing they say.
The issues have been thoroughly gone over by medical experts, and the law. As I understand the results of extensive medical and judicial review, the woman has no conscious existence. Apparently she has PVS which involves massive damage to the cerebral cortex, and is incompatible with a meaningful conscious existence. Thus she is incapable of suffering and has no hope of recovery. You can look at the CAT scan of her brain, which shows what looks like a hollowed out walnut and tell that there is nobody home. There is no duty on the part of anyone to continue futile medical care if the responsible party, the husband, no longer desires it. The local folks should have been able to handle this one but the parents claim that everyone in Florida is crooked or incompetent.
It is outrageous for the federal government to insert itself into this situation while ignoring conservative/libertarian principles such as family privacy, marital rights, states rights etc.
P.S. Terri is not in a locked in state. They have full cortical function, volentary eye movement and more normal CAT scan.
.

I would think the most

I would think the most offensive comparison would be you comparing Terri to a piece of broccoli over at No Treason.

Micha, Seems to me that it

Micha,

Seems to me that it is clear her husband does not have her best interests at heart. A good case was made in the no-treason comments that the husband is just acting in spite. He does have a conflict of interest. There is no proof of what he is claiming. The parents are willing to take over care. Etc.

If the judge is basing his decision merely on her husband being the guardian than he is wrong. Guardians need to have their wards best interest at heart. So the husband should have his guardianship revoked.

I was engaged at one point to a girl who had come out of a coma after a long period. So I find your valuing her on the level of broccoli just a little disturbing. In fact, your comments make it clear that you do not have Terri's best interests at heart either. This is coming from someone for whom Terri Schiavo has no personal value. That doesn't mean I do not understand that she has value to others. Your statements are abusive to this idea and I find it hard to believe that you don't understand this. Her parents do value her and that mere fact makes her more that broccoli.

Even if she had made a clear statement of her wishes to die in these circumstances, it seems to me that if they are going to dehydrate her to death the least they could do is get her high on crack or heroin as she dies of thirst so she doesn't notice her suffering, in case they are wrong.

What the heck is going on

What the heck is going on here? I posted a short comment on the Idol post. It shows up immediately. I post a rather long one on the Consequentialist rights post. It doesn't show up. Now a short one on this thread and it again shows up immediately. Is there some filter that holds up only long posts for moderation? A prior very long post of mine on the issue of immigration seemed to have never gotten out of moderation, so I just gave up on it.

What exactly are the rules here anyway?

Hi Brian, No rules

Hi Brian,

No rules particularly other than the software's automatic settings. We're taking stuff apart beyhind the scenes on a regular basis to try and improve things so don't give up yet. :) I haven't noticed too much of a moderation problem lately (as opposed to when we move over to WP) but I do notice that *my* comments tend to get stuck for moderation a lot. So its not just you.

Scott, Try me at mghertner

Scott,

Try me at mghertner at gmail.

Francis, I refuse to accept

Francis,

I refuse to accept anything from rense.com. It is an anti-Semitic conspiracy theory website. I'm going to take the word of medical professionals and respected journals over anything that comes from rense.

Second, I haven't seen any convincing argument that the husband has a conflict of interest here. It certainly isn't about the money, which isn't even much ($1 million), because people have offered him much more to give up his legal rights and he has refused. The courts have repeatedly sided with him, and rejected Schiavo's parent's absurd and offensive claims.

There is simply no warrant for killing Terri Schindler-Schiavo by slow torture on her heavily conflicted husband-in-name’s sole, uncorroborated representation that “she would have wanted it that way.”

Of course there is. First of all, the only reason we can't kill her outright is because of stupid laws that prohibit active forms of assisted suicide. The passive/active distinction fails here, and that is the fault of the "pro-life" side which does everything they can to keep people from ending their own suffering and the suffering of their loved ones on their own terms. Moreover, the husband's claim is not uncorroborated - two other people support that claim. This is from a religious, anti-euthanasia source:

While discussing the movie, Michael claims that Terri stated she would not want to live hooked up to a "machine" (she's not), or be a "burden" (her parents don't consider her a burden and want to care for her). Michael's brother, Scott, backs up his claim, while his sister-in-law, Joan, told the court that Terri had approved of pulling the life support from the dying baby of a mutual friend and said that if she ever wrote a "will" she would say that she didn't want "tubes."

Dear God, what is the matter with us that we’re so determined to spare convicted murderers but so willing to see the innocent and helpless killed – and killed unnecessarily, and in unbelievable ways?

Ask the Christians and other religious fundamentalists who prevent the legal system from accomodating more human forms of euthanasia and assisted suicide. And killing people who are brain dead, in persistant vegetative states, or otherwise suffering without any hope of meaningful life is certainly not cruel - artificially prolonging their lives is. How any reasonable person can compare this to the death penalty issue - or worse, the Holocaust, is beyond me.

Billy, I would think the

Billy,

I would think the most offensive comparison would be you comparing Terri to a piece of broccoli over at No Treason.

That's what she is. An empty shell of a human that used to be a person. Whether you think that is offensive to Terri is arguable, but more offensive than the systematic murder of innocent Jews and other undesirables by the Nazis? Please.

Brian Macker, Seems to me

Brian Macker,

Seems to me that it is clear her husband does not have her best interests at heart. A good case was made in the no-treason comments that the husband is just acting in spite. He does have a conflict of interest. There is no proof of what he is claiming. The parents are willing to take over care. Etc.

How is it clear that her husband does not have her best interests at heart? I've seen no evidence that this is the case, and the courts have consistently ruled in favor of the husband, so unless you have some evidence that the courts did not have access to, I am sceptical of these sorts of claims. I don't recall any good case made at No-Treason. And there certainly is independant proof (or at least evidence) of what he is claiming - see above. Even the anti-euthanasia side admits this.
The fact that the parents are willing to take over care is irrelevant - the husband is her legal guardian, she told him and others she did not want to be kept alive artificially, and the parents have no valid legal claims to contest any of that.

Further, I've always wondered who exactly has been paying for all of her medical costs and the costs of continuing to keep her alive? That can't be cheap. Is it the tax-payers, the insurance, the husband or someone else?

If the judge is basing his decision merely on her husband being the guardian than he is wrong. Guardians need to have their wards best interest at heart. So the husband should have his guardianship revoked.

Based on what? What evidence are you using to make these extreme legal claims?

I was engaged at one point to a girl who had come out of a coma after a long period. So I find your valuing her on the level of broccoli just a little disturbing.

Terri is not in a coma. She is in a persistent vegetative state. The two are not the same thing.

In fact, your comments make it clear that you do not have Terri’s best interests at heart either. This is coming from someone for whom Terri Schiavo has no personal value. That doesn’t mean I do not understand that she has value to others. Your statements are abusive to this idea and I find it hard to believe that you don’t understand this. Her parents do value her and that mere fact makes her more that broccoli.

You are confusing two things here: Terri's value to herself and her value to her parents. No one disputes that the parents want to keep her alive. But that alone doesn't mean that her parents have her best interests at heart.

Even if she had made a clear statement of her wishes to die in these circumstances, it seems to me that if they are going to dehydrate her to death the least they could do is get her high on crack or heroin as she dies of thirst so she doesn’t notice her suffering, in case they are wrong.

I agree. Unfortunately, the anti-euthanasia crowd, generally motivated by religion, refuses to permit active measures, and only allows passive forms of killing. Luckily, there is evidence that she won't feel any pain, and any future pain she would experience will be avoided. I should also note that it is because her parents and her parents supporters have fought this so hard that she has been taken off her feeding tube three times already, and put back on the first two because of legal shenanigans. To me, that is much more cruel than just letting her die the first time.

Brian Doss, I know nothing

Brian Doss,

I know nothing about WP but I looked it up. Why aren't you using a plugin like this to control spam before it gets in?

There is a big list of different solutions here or via here.

How can it be merciful to

How can it be merciful to kill an empty shell? If she's truly an empty shell, then she's not capable of suffering. Killing her can be merciful only if she's aware of her condition and so dissatisfied with it that she'd prefer to die.

Wasn't Cramer comparing the

Wasn't Cramer comparing the prohibition against killing her/letting her die to Dachau, not the killing?

Frankly, Micha, I don't know

Frankly, Micha, I don't know the facts. I really don't care enough to learn more about it. My opionion isn't going to effect the reality in the least. I haven't read a heck of alot about it.

I was aware that PVS was different from a coma. The only thing I read on it was at wikipedia and it did talk about recovery from PVS, whatever that means. There are enough variation in humans and injuries that the doctors can not be sure of anything in cases like these.

Here's the thirdhand info that you didn't refute that lead me to believe the husband should not be the guardian:

I've read, there's a lot of doubt as to whether she is in a PVS. For all the effort that Mr. Schiavo has put into the legal fight, I don't understand why he wouldn't authorize an MRI.

and this

"...at a September 27, 1999 deposition, he told why he refused to turn over guardianship to Terri's parents. He said it was, "because they put me through pretty much hell the last few years [with] the litigations they put me through [and] their attitude towards me because of the litigations. There is no other reason." After consultation with his attorney, he later added that "another reason would be that her parents wouldn't carry out her wishes."[25]

and this

They seek to revoke his legal guardianship of Terri, arguing, among other things, that his living with another woman since 1995, with whom he has two children, makes him legally estranged from her

Regarding your arguing for her interests: I don't think that arguing for her termination is evidence of not acting in her interests. After all she might have wanted it that way. However, it just makes sense to me that you shouldn't be making jokes about her being a botanical side dish if you want to be taken as seriously forwarding her interests.

I do think that Sabotta's original article over a no-treason seemed a little over the top. It's not clear to me that the husband is a murderer. I do think the reasonable thing for him to do at this point would be to recluse himself, even if it was the wish of his wife to be terminiated. If she truly is in PVS then she isn't going to know the difference anyway. It's her parents that matter at this point, despite your opinion. She didn't make her desires clear so her parents cannot know enough to believe the husband. It is only natural that they not believe him.

I really don't care about the economics as long as it is not being forced onto others who do not care.

I also see now that the MRI argument is sort of baseless since she has had CAT scans and such. The MRI cannot be done unless some electrodes are removed from her brain.

Terri Schiavo could be evaluted with a PET scan in her current condition. However, an MRI cannot be done without first removing experimental electrodes which were implanted within her brain in 1992. The doctor who implanted them instructed Michael Schiavo to have them removed, but that has not been done.

I really was not trying to get down on you Micha. It's just I don't think you were expressing yourself very well if you believe she would be best off dead. Sabotta already had already worked himself up before you posted, so it was not like you were just making a joke with someone who didn't care. You shouldn't be surprised if he or others do not think you are concerned about the victims wishes.

Micha, Is there a ghost in

Micha,

Is there a ghost in the shell (dualist interpretation), or is discrete human existence tied to and dependent upon a material matrix (materialist)?

It would seem that if one takes the view that Terri Schiavo's body is an empty shell (no discrete human consciousness at work within), then from the dualist perspective talk of mercy is moot since, ala Brandon, there's nothing relevant there to suffer (the spirit has departed leaving a living shell that, nonetheless, is no longer going to house an animus), or from a materialist perspective the system is nonsentient and again, there is no moral agent to be merciful to.

So either conception of the self makes mercy talk moot if you accept that the body is a shell and there's no "there" there.

If you believe that the sentient human existence is an emergent property of a particularly ordered state in a human brain, then it remains an open question about whether Terri Schiavo can come back/resume existence. AFter all, if I know how to build an engine, and I happen to have the tools and parts to fix whatever is wrong with it, I can make the engine run again. If one had the same tools/knowledge about a human brain it seems reasonable to believe that there is nothing theoretically impossible about restarting Terri's existence. The only way to argue otherwise, it seems, is to posit some sort of "essentialism" whereby once linear existence is interrupted you are no longer X and so any existence that came back would be someone else. But that gets us back to the original objection re: nonapplicability of mercy to shells.

And if there is no moral agent within the body then it is a question ultimately of interest & property rights to the body. Does the husband own the body of the wife? Who has a greater genetic interest/stake in the body? It seems odd to favor the genetically unrelated party, who has nothing more than sentimental attachment to the body (we're still positing that its a shell) to end the continued vegetative existence of the body vs. those who want to keep it alive. If someone *has* regained existence from a body in PVS then its not at all clear why Michael Schiavo's wish to terminate the biological existence of the body should be honored at all. IF and only if the situation is as Brandon described in his alternative (a concrete existence remaining but preferring to be released from that existence) would it seem that Michael has a point. But then, Michael has argued the opposite (Terri is dead) and is simply asserting (without evidence) that the previous owner of the body wanted it killed if her sentient existence was disrupted/absent for a long period of time.

Brian Macker, I'm not the

Brian Macker,

I'm not the tech guy behind the site. I'm more of the Mr. Magoo who lets more competent people do the dirty work. When I tried to monkey around with the technical aspects of the site, I (in clouseauvian fashion) managed to erase the templates, make the font sizes wacky, change te color scheme, and make it impossible to permalink. But I'll pass along the info to the guys that *do* know what they're doing...

The most sickening thing was

The most sickening thing was hearing Tom DeLay calling the husband, Michael, 'a man of questionable morals', and then some other slimy Republicans calling him a bigamist, because he's had kids w another woman, rather than waiting for a vegetable, which she is, and courts and doctors have determined she is.
Were I Michael I'd kick those slimebags’ asses back to their home states.
Yet, the thing that I wonder of the most is, ala Nicole Simpson, Laci Peterson, and JonBenet Ramsey, would anyone give a damn of her were she black or Hispanic? DAN

I don't know if this would

I don't know if this would interest you or not, but here is a link: http://www.whsv.com/home/headlines/1383937.html.

Trey

I think Digby at Hullaballoo

I think Digby at Hullaballoo puts it in proper perspective:
-------------
By now most people who read liberal blogs are aware that George W. Bush signed a law in Texas that expressly gave hospitals the right to remove life support if the patient could not pay and there was no hope of revival, regardless of the patient's family's wishes. It is called the Texas Futile Care Law. Under this law, a baby was removed from life support against his mother's wishes in Texas just this week. A 68 year old man was given a temporary reprieve by the Texas courts just yesterday.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are also aware that Republicans have voted en masse to pull the plug (no pun intended) on medicaid funding that pays for the kind of care that someone like Terry Schiavo and many others who are not so severely brain damaged need all across this country.

Those of us who read liberal blogs also understand that that the tort reform that is being contemplated by the Republican congress would preclude malpractice claims like that which has paid for Terry Schiavo's care thus far.

Those of us who read liberal blogs are aware that the bankruptcy bill will make it even more difficult for families who suffer a catastrophic illness like Terry Schivos because they will not be able to declare chapter 7 bankruptcy and get a fresh start when the gargantuan medical bills become overwhelming.

And those of us who read liberal blogs also know that this grandstanding by the congress is a purely political move designed to appease the religious right and that the legal maneuverings being employed would be anathema to any true small government conservative.

Those who don't read liberal blogs, on the other hand, are seeing a spectacle on television in which the news anchors repeatedly say that the congress is "stepping in to save Terry Schiavo" mimicking the unctuous words of Tom Delay as they grovel and leer at the family and nod sympathetically at the sanctimonious phonies who are using this issue for their political gain.
--------------
http://digbysblog.blogspot.com/2005_03_20_digbysblog_archive.html#111134934659869241

This post at Patterico's

This post at Patterico's place refers to a woman who was diagnosed as being in a PVS, had her feeding tube removed and lived to tell about the agony it put her through. So tell me again why Terri Schiavo hasn't had an MRI or a PET scan?

Brandon Berg, How can it be

Brandon Berg,

How can it be merciful to kill an empty shell? If she’s truly an empty shell, then she’s not capable of suffering. Killing her can be merciful only if she’s aware of her condition and so dissatisfied with it that she’d prefer to die.

I can think of at least three answers to this question: one analogical, one metaphysical, and one medical.

First, the analogy. We generally think it is ethically unobjectionable, and perhaps ethically required, to put suffering animals out of their misery, assuming that we cannot or will not cure their medical condition. Even those who believe in the strongest forms of animal rights seem to agree with this principle.

Animals are capable of suffering. If you do not believe that animals have rights (or if you believe their only right is the right not to be needlessly tortured), then you can believe it can be merciful to kill an empty shell (empty in the sense that the animal lacks the qualities that would make a human person deserving of moral treatment).

Second, the metaphysical point. We can still have moral obligations to respect the wishes of people even after they are dead. A promise to visit your grandmother and pray at her grave in the cemetary, for example. Or to use a person's inheritance in the way they want you to.

So, assuming she did not want to continue living in her present state, as her husband and other witnesses claim and as the courts have concluded, then it would be merciful (or at least morally praiseworthy) to respect her wishes and end her biological life, and it would be cruel (or at least morally blameworthy) to keep her alive.

Third, the medical point.

From the wikipedia entry on persistent vegetative state:

They are unresponsive to external stimuli, except, possibly, pain stimuli.

From the wikipedia entry on Schiavo:

The medical definition of a vegetative state varies, but Stedman's (http://www.stedmans.com/) definition is a state "in which an individual is incapable of voluntary or purposeful acts and only responds reflexively to painful stimuli."

So it is simply false to say that empty shells are not capable of suffering and that "Killing her can be merciful only if she’s aware of her condition and so dissatisfied with it that she’d prefer to die."

The ability to experience pain is not itself evidence of consciousness or awareness of one's surroundings.

Maestro, Wasn’t Cramer

Maestro,

Wasn’t Cramer comparing the prohibition against killing her/letting her die to Dachau, not the killing?

No, just the opposite. Cramer apparently believes that putting an empty human shell out of its misery is the moral equivalent of the systematic mass murder of innocent healthy people.

Micha, I agree with all

Micha,

I agree with all that, but--and I mean no offense, simply offering my reaction--I do think it's callous to analogize the patient to a piece of broccoli.

Whether that's worse than a Holocaust reference, I can't say--it's certainly less cliched, and that's a plus. But I can see why some might feel the two to be equitable.

billy jay, This post at

billy jay,

This post at Patterico’s place refers to a woman who was diagnosed as being in a PVS, had her feeding tube removed and lived to tell about the agony it put her through. So tell me again why Terri Schiavo hasn’t had an MRI or a PET scan?

Let's see: a blog post that refers to a claim made on rense.com, a notoriously unreliable anti-Semitic conspiracy theory website, and a Catholic website (Catholics who believe in the "value" of all human life, regardless of medical condition, suffering, chance of recovery, or consciousness). If this woman's story is true, let's see some more mainstream, non-clearly biased sources, preferably with some evidence that medical doctors agree that there are cases of PVS in which the person recovered. All of the evidence I have seen from non-biased sources indicates that this is not possible.

But let's suppose it is. Chances of recovery should matter. If the chance is small enough, than we should be willing to weigh the chances of recovery with the suffering and expense of keeping the patient alive. So even saying it is possible is not enough: we need to know the probability and the costs and benefits of both options.

As for why Shciavo hasn't had an MRI or a PET scan, I am not a doctor, but the doctors who were consulted in the case and the judges who heard all of the arguments from both sides did not conclude that this was necessary or desirable. This seems more like a publicity stunt to prolong the inevitable. One can always claim that yet another expensive medical procedure is necessary. But at some point you have to say enough is enough and accept the opinion of medical experts.

Here's the Wikipedia entry which provides some background information relevant for examining these sorts of claims.

Michael Schiavo, and the doctors he has chosen to care for and evaluate her, such as Dr. Ronald Cranford, contend that she is indeed in a persistent vegetative state, that her occasional apparent responses are actually reflex or random behavior common to PVS patients, and that therapy would be fruitless. Accordingly, Mr. Schiavo halted all therapy for her in late 1992.

In 2002, a trial was held to determine whether or not any new therapy treatments would help Terri Schiavo restore any cognitive function. A new computed axial tomography scan (CAT scan) was done, as was an electroencephalography (EEG).

Five doctors were selected: two doctors were selected by Schiavo's parents, two by Schiavo's husband, and one by the court. These five doctors examined the records, scans, videos, and Ms. Schiavo herself. The physicians were divided in their conclusions. The two doctors selected by Schiavo's parents supported their conclusion; the two doctors selected by Schiavo's husband and the doctor appointed by the court supported Michael Schiavo's position. Greer ruled with the latter that Ms. Schiavo was in a PVS and was beyond hope of significant improvement.

The Second District Court of Appeals reviewed all the evidence and upheld the trial court's decision, saying had they heard the case themselves they would have ruled the same as Greer. Some physicians, such as Dr. Peter Morin and Dr. Thomas Zabiega, both neurologists, say that no such diagnosis can reliably be made without more sophisticated tests such as an MRI or PET scan. Judge Greer reviewed a six-hour tape of Schiavo and concluded that her vegetative condition was factual and not subject to legal dispute (see link 5, above).

Terri Schiavo could be evaluted with a PET scan in her current condition. However, an MRI cannot be done without first removing experimental electrodes which were implanted within her brain in 1992. The doctor who implanted them instructed Michael Schiavo to have them removed, but that has not been done.

Scott, That certainly does

Scott,

That certainly does put things in perspective with regards to the Republican showboating.

But ... if you read liberal blogs you'll also learn:

That circa 1970 typewriters can produce documents that are identical to those produced by Microsoft word, complete with kerning and proportional fonts, and default MS word tabbing.

That Michael Moore's Farenheit 911 was a factual documentary.

That Karl Rove is behind everything.

That Bush was AWOL.

That Bush stole the last election, over and over and over.

That the Swift Boat Vets never served with John Kerry.

Scott, I do think it’s

Scott,

I do think it’s callous to analogize the patient to a piece of broccoli.

It may be offensive to some, but I think it is not only perfectly appropriate, but instructive. There is a reason we call the condition a persistently vegetative state. Vegetative in the medical sense means "an impaired level of brain function in which a person responds to certain sensory stimuli but demonstrates no cognitive function." I don't think it is mere coincidence that the same is true with vegetables. Plants are not conscious or even purposeful, and can only reflexively respond to stimuli. We have no problem killing a piece of brocolli; we should similarly have no problem killing a human vegetable.

Am I being callous? Only in the sense that I am not giving in to my immediate emotional response that all human life is valuable but instead am thinking about it rationally. But I am certainly not being callous in the sense that I am indifferent to the suffering of others. It is precisely because human vegetables can experience suffering that I support euthanasia. (And even if human vegetables couldn't experience suffering, it would be cruel to violate their previously indicated wishes and to spend as much as people do on extending their lives when millions of otherwise perfectly health people starve to death because they don't have enough money.)

Oh, and Micha, I had no

Oh, and Micha, I had no problem with the original point of your post. I do think that Cramer's comparison to Dachau is ridiculous.

I met a concentration camp victim who was a friend of my fathers. She had related stories that are incomparablely worse than this incident. Things like taking a baby by the feet and swinging it against a tree to kill it in front of it's mother. Making women fuck dogs for entertainment. Simultaneous starvation and forced labor. Etc.

Micha, it's entirely within

Micha, it's entirely within your rights to use whatever metaphors you please--I'm simply expressing what was my gut reaction. Perhaps you wanted such a gut reaction, and if so, no foul.

There might be a better way to word the subject in the future. But perhaps not.

Brian Macker: As a Canadian

Brian Macker:

As a Canadian observer of this sad story.. I think Digby's statements are relevant to the Terri Schiavo case showing Republican hypocrisy on the issue.. I'm not sure what you listed is.

I speak as a Christian for this next part; the best thing that can happen right now is for Terri Schiavo to pass away peacefully in the next day or 2 to prevent further showboating by this Congress (I really dont think this issue has as much traction or support as the Republicans seem to think (beyond their radical Christian right fanbase among the public.) I think a lot of Americans from the polls and stories I see are very uneasy with what Congress is trying to do here.

IF current US constitutional law is upheld, I think this bill gets ruled unconstitutional very quickly... and I think the members of Congress know it... its just grandstanding.

Micha, It is simply not the

Micha,

It is simply not the case that "we" must judge anything at all with regards to your statement:

Chances of recovery should matter. If the chance is small enough, than we should be willing to weigh the chances of recovery with the suffering and expense of keeping the patient alive. So even saying it is possible is not enough: we need to know the probability and the costs and benefits of both options.

It would seem that the only relevant parties here are the people on the hook for paying for the care of the shell. Why should I have a say in this matter to rule one way or the other? As Peggy Noonan said (by way of a Ross Douthat quote, via Jane Galt):

In the absence of definite proof of Terri Schiavo's desires, she asks, why not choose life? Who's hurt by it? If the materialists are right, and we are our brain functions, then Terri is gone forever -- so she isn't hurt. Her husband can get a divorce, so he isn't hurt. The parents are willing to take care of her, so the state's pocketbook isn't hurt. So what's the harm? Why not let her live?

Indeed, why not? The case here is letting an organism continue living at voluntary expense vs. saying "no, you cannot let this organism continue to live regardless of willingness to pay."

I don't think that a human in PVS can be successfully analogized to an animal, or at least not in the sense that the "anti-animal-suffering" position uses. Animals that can suffer also have coherent & responsive mental functions; my cat understands who I am and her place in the universe (as much as cats do) and reacts at a cat-level to stimuli. She's actually rather clever, but regardless she could suffer and I find the thought of that abhorrent.

But precisely because of the definition of PVS, a human in such a condition cannot really be said to suffer. Indeed that is the argument that pulling the plug won't increase misery, because it will be "painless" (painless precisely because there's nothing to feel or register pain in any coherent manner). Suffering can only come from a developed enough nervous system that can process, endure, and remember the pain qua pain.

As regards the metaphysical point:

Second, the metaphysical point. We can still have moral obligations to respect the wishes of people even after they are dead. A promise to visit your grandmother and pray at her grave in the cemetary, for example. Or to use a person’s inheritance in the way they want you to.

So, assuming she did not want to continue living in her present state, as her husband and other witnesses claim and as the courts have concluded, then it would be merciful (or at least morally praiseworthy) to respect her wishes and end her biological life, and it would be cruel (or at least morally blameworthy) to keep her alive.

This may be true but it smuggles in facts not agreed to beforehand, as well as making the rather large assumption that she didn't want to continue living in her present state. But that begs the question again of whether or not "she" is actually there, which is precisely what Michael Schiavo doesn't argue, and apparently is unwilling to argue. If he grants that she is still in there, he grants the parent's concern (they're not irrational in that case). But without it, Terri Schiavo died a long time ago and we're just talking about her body, which happens to be still alive. IN which case there's not really a question of her continuing to live, its her body, which is a distinct and separate category- its a property dispute and not one of personal autonomy.

Finally, your third and medical point fails to follow:

Third, the medical point.

From the wikipedia entry on persistent vegetative state:

They are unresponsive to external stimuli, except, possibly, pain stimuli.

From the wikipedia entry on Schiavo:

The medical definition of a vegetative state varies, but Stedman’s (http://www.stedmans.com/) definition is a state “in which an individual is incapable of voluntary or purposeful acts and only responds reflexively to painful stimuli.”

So it is simply false to say that empty shells are not capable of suffering and that “Killing her can be merciful only if she’s aware of her condition and so dissatisfied with it that she’d prefer to die.”

Pain stimuli is the only thing that can evoke a response from a PVS human organism. Of which dehydrating to death is one of the more painful stimuli known. So if we follow your analogy here, we must reject your conclusion, for it simply does not follow that a person in PVS is suffering if they have their food & water needs met, but we know that dehydration does not peacefully kill but is rather a nasty way to go. And the reasoning of the doctor seems to beg the question- if "losing water makes you drop into a coma" then what precisely is a PVS? Something higher in functionality than a coma? It seems like sophistry to me, of a deliberatively deceptive nature that should be morally blameworthy if we enjoy or are in favor of honest argumentation.

I find it telling that a

I find it telling that a "libertarian" like Micha trusts the U.S. judicial system on this issue.

Cramer should be ashamed of

Cramer should be ashamed of himself. Can one invoke "Godwin's Law" against a Jew?

...and are willing to go to

...and are willing to go to almost any length - including making up vicious accusations against the husband - to get their way.

What makes you think the parents are making up accusations against the husband?