Monday, March 21 2005

Apparently I’m supposed to have an opinion…

…about Terry Schiavo. It seems to be one of the most important issues in the country, judging from the amount of ink, pixels, and heat that it’s generating.

After reading up on the facts of the case (well-referenced and presented with a refreshing lack of bias), I think the key point is that the medical experts agree that her brain scans consistently show that there is little or nothing remaining of her cerebral cortex. That is, the portions of the brain responsible for everything we associate with a functional living being are just plain gone (sorry, Rachel, but your analogy fell apart the moment your arthritic dog licked himself).

The only debate between the doctors is whether she has a small amount of isolated living tissue in her cerebral cortex or whether she has no living tissue in her cerebral cortex.

I’m not familiar with any existing or promised medical procedure that promises to grow a new brain, and even if one existed, that person would have little or nothing in common with the previous occupant of that body. Unless you believe in miracles, Terry Schiavo can never wake up, because she’s not there any more.

Since I don’t think the courts have any business basing their decisions on the likelihood of a miracle occurring, they must balance the medical testimony against the emotional appeal of the family. The judge chose medicine, which sounds perfectly reasonable to me.

I don’t actually care if the family manages to win the right to keep her body running on life support for another fifteen years. I think it’s a pretty morbid way of coping with loss, but they’ve apparently got the money to do it, so who am I to interfere?

I do care about politicians and pundits suddenly pretending to care about her. It reminds me of the old VH-1 Earth Day commercial “we’re not doing it because everyone is doing it, we’re doing it until everyone is doing it”, one of the more blatant lies in the history of environmental activism.

Update: The American Council on Science and Health speaks up.