Patterico's Pontifications


The Question Not Asked

Filed under: Dog Trainer,Schiavo — Patterico @ 9:41 pm

The L.A Times has a story today about two mothers with children in persistent vegetative states. One decided to let her child live; the other chose death for her child. The article portrays the Schiavo case as a simple choice between decisions made by families, and those made by strangers:

There is no one correct course, [Kaye] O’Bara says. It’s a private decision one a family must make on its own, with love.

[Shirley] Bradley feels the same. Watching politicians and protesters presume to know what’s best for Terri angers her. She would not have wanted a stranger to make the choice for Randy.

Neither claims to have made the right choice. Just the choice that was best for her child.

The implication is that the family in the Schiavo case made the decision, but now strangers are trying to interfere. Never mind that a stranger — Judge George Greer — has made all the decisions in the Schiavo case.

There is an obvious question that a reporter with no axe to grind would have asked these mothers:

Obviously, you feel very strongly that your decision for your child was right. But how would you feel if your child had been married, and your child’s spouse had disagreed with you? What if you didn’t trust your child’s spouse — but a judge agreed with the spouse’s decision?

I would love to hear these mothers answer this question.

I wonder why the L.A. Times didn’t ask it.

Yes, that was a rhetorical question.

AP Doesn’t Read Its Own Story

Filed under: Media Bias,Schiavo — Patterico @ 4:07 pm

Here is yet another news story that confuses Terri Schiavo’s dehydration and starvation with the experiences of terminally ill people. I discussed this the other day in connection with an L.A. Times story that made the same error.

What amazes me is that the story even quotes a doctor who understands the distinction:

[Dr. David] Stevens says the quiet death that physicians often associate with dehydration comes to patients whose bodies were already shutting down from cancer or another terminal illness.

“That’s a whole different thing than someone like this [Terri Schiavo], whose body is in metabolic equilibrium,” he said.

But the article then proceeds to completely ignore what the doctor just got through saying — instead discussing the Schiavo case as if we were talking about a terminally ill patient:

But in a statement, groups representing hospices said the Schiavo case has raised “erroneous medical claims” that stopping food and water causes terminal patients considerable discomfort.

“Most studies show that patients nearing the end of their lives do not experience hunger,” said Ryan Walker, a spokesman for the Hospice and Palliative Nurses Association. “Dry mouth is the most common symptom, but it easily can be alleviated.”

Arrgh. The doctor just said Ms. Schiavo is different because she is not otherwise “terminally ill.” The story ends with this similarly inapplicable description of a study of terminally ill patients’ response to starvation and dehydration:

In a recent New England Journal of Medicine study, hospice nurses rated the deaths of terminally ill people who voluntarily stopped eating and drinking. On a scale of zero to nine, with the highest number being “a very good death,” their average rating was eight.

Great to know, AP! But it has nothing to do with Terri Schiavo. So: save it for another story at another time. Or put it in context — tell your readers that, just because some say Terri Schiavo might be suffering, that doesn’t mean that your grandma with cancer will feel the same thing; probably, she won’t.

But quit spreading the canard that Schiavo is having a pleasant death. Since she is not otherwise terminal, the studies that say starvation can be pleasant don’t apply to her. The best we can hope for is that her brain is so far gone that she is feeling nothing. Tragically, I doubt that. Even guardian ad litem Wolfson says that people in a PVS state respond to deep pain stimuli. We just don’t know whether she has experienced pangs of thirst or hunger.

If she is feeling anything, it isn’t euphoria. It’s torture.

No Thanks . . . Our Cats Use the Litterbox

Filed under: Dog Trainer — Patterico @ 3:07 pm

Apropos my post about the declining circulation of newspapers:

Some guy just knocked on my door offering a free sample of the L.A. Times.

At least he didn’t just dump it on my doorstep. I don’t think he did, anyway.

Giving Her the Finger — Or, “Finger Food” Acquires a New Meaning

Filed under: Humor — Patterico @ 1:00 am

Wendy’s digitizes its chili.

It’s funny because it didn’t happen to me.

11th Circuit Rejects Schindlers’ Appeal

Filed under: Court Decisions,Schiavo — Patterico @ 12:50 am

The Eleventh Circuit has rejected the Schindlers’ appeal, in a decision you can read here.

The decision purports to address the “state action” issue I discussed earlier, and in doing so uses what I believe to be imprecise language:

Plaintiffs argue that Judge Greer is a state actor simply because he is a state judge. That does not follow. See Paisey v. Vitale, 807 F.2d 889, 893–94 (11th Cir. 1986) (“Obviously the mere fact that Judge Vitale is named as a defendant does not create the requisite state involvement,” because “[p]roviding a neutral forum for adjudication is an essentially neutral act.”).

I’m not sure how the appellate judges square that with the language from their own circuit’s 1992 decision that I mentioned in my earlier post. That case, Harvey v. Harvey, 949 F.2d 1127 (11th Cir. 1992), states:

A county probate judge clearly is a state actor.

I think they mean to say that the involvement of a state judge does not automatically create state action — not that a state judge is not a state actor. That continues to strike me as an illogical statement.

Anyway, this is no surprise.

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