Wednesday, March 30, 2005

The Hatcher Gets Polled on Terri Schiavo

CNN Pollster: Yes, Hatcher, this is CNN, and we would like to get your input with respect to the following poll question: do you think that Terri Schiavo should be allowed to die?

Hatcher: Well, I’m glad that you asked that question, because everyone knows that opinion polls are extremely important in situations like these, as they provide a rigorous framework for posing the tough questions and gauging the opinions of ordinary Americans like myself. But truth to tell, I don’t much follow the case, what with the NCAA tournament in progress and all, but I think I know the broad strokes well enough to provide a truly informed opinion for your unbiased poll.

That said, I’d like to lay out my basic assumptions for you, which, if true, lead me to say in an unequivocal manner that it is best she be able to die peacefully and with dignity.

First, I assume she is terminally ill, right? And that she cannot breathe on her own. I mean, it’s not like she only has a problem eating or drinking through her mouth. It’s not like anyone is proposing that she be starved to death or anything barbaric like that, right? Surely a dignified death wouldn’t have her eyes popping out of her skull, her lips cracked from dehydration, and her face sunken like a victim of the Holocaust. Hell, we wouldn’t even do that to a death row inmate, so surely we wouldn’t do it to the weak and infirm. And she is totally unresponsive, right? She doesn’t recognize her family members at all. She doesn’t smile or get agitated or feel pain, right?

Second, I assume that her husband, who I understand is her legal guardian and pretty much has had his say in this case is a devoted husband who is truly seeking what is best for his wife. I mean, it’s not like the guy moved in with another woman and had a couple of children while refusing to divorce Terri. How could she die with “dignity” if that were the case – surely he would divorce her and let those who have stuck by her take over her care. He wouldn’t make a mockery of his marriage and then stand by the sanctity of marriage as the argument that provides him guardian status. And there is no way he would have discontinued treatments that she was progressing under, or fight her caregivers from treating a potentially fatal infection.

Third, clearly she wrote a living will, right? I mean, it’s not like she made some off-the- cuff statement while watching some crappy TV show that she wouldn’t want to live that way, and a court decided on that basis that she would prefer to starve to death, slowly across a two-week period. I mean, I know these shows tend to rip their stories from the headline, but what would the odds be that she was watching a show and made a comment like that in regard to a person with the exact same disabilities she suffers under now?

And I’m sure her husband ordered an MRI (or at least didn’t refuse to let her have one) as part of the assessment to determine if she was in a permanent vegetative state, rather than just relying on a CT scan, because every brain surgeon knows you can’t assess the brain damage accurately with only a CT scan. It’s not like they would have their primary expert witness to her vegetative state sign-off on the assessment without an MRI – maybe an expert witness who is a published proponent of euthanasia would do that. Surely even if that were the case a judge would take such testimony with a significant grain of salt, right?

So put me down as one who says she should be allowed to die, because I know that if any of the assumptions I made in my considerations weren’t true, I’d have seen it reported by such reputable and unbiased sources like CNN. And I know I can trust that assumption.

CNN Pollster: Thank you Hatcher for your time, we’ll put you down in the let her die with dignity column.

(Hatcher tunes in to the CNN news later that day)

CNN Anchor: And a new poll we conducted today shows that the majority of Americans think that Terri Schiavo should have her feeding tube disconnected …


Blogger Professor Vic said...

How come a guy like me who gets the vast majority of his news from CNN knows of every single concern you raise if CNN is hiding all of this information?

You write a great article that is makes some excellent points (and is funny to boot), and then you ruin it with a stupid comment about left-wing bias in the press. Rather than a thoughtful guy, you come off sounding like a right-wing nutjob.

I try hard not to hurl insults in my replies, but you just can't seem to resist throwing in stupid, unnecessasary, and ultimately false jabs in your blogs. So instead of debating your great points regard Schiavo, I end up writing about your unending (and tiresome) persecution complex regarding the popular media (as well as higher academia.)

And I don't think it's just me. You got almost no comments on your 4 days of "Couch the Conservative" because I think most readers find your fury at the fact that some academic is asking why conservatives think the way they do a bit off-putting. I mean, Ann Coulter calls me a "traitor," and I don't get all bent out of shape. Maybe I'm just not a good enough liberal.

8:20 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

Ouch! You make a good point – I’ve seen snippets of the coverage on CNN wherein I didn’t see any of these things mentioned, so I cannot say that they haven’t been reported there. But it is not unreasonable for me to assume that news organizations like CNN will not provide me full coverage. Maybe they’ve changed their ways, but it wasn’t too long that they admitted keeping an office in Baghdad during the Saddam days that heavily censored itself to protect its journalists from Saddam’s retaliation. In the business world, that would be a scandal that would require some serious house-cleaning, but the journalism business seems to be immune from such. And I’ve seen enough of their non-coverage on other issues to merit the same assumption as rational. That said, I regret that the jab diverted you from other comments you might have offered – you are right that it wasn’t necessary and was obviously distracting. But it's not like I spend hours editing these things.

But I’ll make several points: 1) the jab doesn’t negate the asininity of a poll on a question where those asked will have very different information sets that they are dealing with; 2) the poll itself is likely to bias the results toward the result it does in fact produce precisely because those who aren’t very informed would likely assume that she is connected to fifteen machines that go bing; 3) I’ll chalk up the presentation of a poll question that is likely to lead to biased results that support the more liberal view on this matter to the stupidity of the press rather than their bias, but surely an argument can be made for either, or perhaps even both.

As for the Couch the Conservative entries, well, what can I say, I find it very interesting that conservatives are a subject of study to psychologists. I don’t feel persecuted by it, because after all these guys are harmless academics; in fact I truly feel the opposite – I think it is very funny, and that the efforts themselves reveal more about the researchers than their subjects. I don’t think that the entries got much comment because there wasn’t much opinion being spouted on my part – a few facts about the research program and some lame jokes – nothing really controversial or meriting debate.

9:17 AM  
Blogger pbryon said...

I'm not sure if your post is talking primarily about the media (you had to pick CNN for a reason), inadequate polling, Schiavo, or all of the above equally.

Personally, I'm on the side of removing the tube, but that's another story I won't get into here. I've had enough conversations about that, and don't want to get all riled up about it again.

I've done my fair share of polling in my life, and know the many potential failures of polls, and the importance of asking the right questions in an unbiased way. Its an imperfect science, and most pollsters will ask multiple questions to check for consistency.

Which leads us to the media. Lots of things out there regarding the Schiavo case aren't exactly presented factually. I was thrilled to see MSNBC start to put dates on the assorted Terri videos. Most people assume these videos were made yesterday. I also heard an interview with the former FL-appointed legal guardian of Terri. He said that she's never been mistreated during the extent of her illness. Never once had a bedsore. And that Michael was running himself into the ground during the first 3 years of her illness, visiting, and suggesting all manner of conventional and experimental therapies. After this, it was HER PARENTS who suggested that he should look for some other companionship--this is what galls me when he's painted as an adulterer.

Its so easy to make this into a good vs. evil story, no matter how often the word "tragedy" gets used. (As if that makes it better.) And it isn't a good vs. evil story. This is one of those rare stories where there are no winners whatsoever--her parents, her husband, the protesters, the Republicans, the Democrats, the judiciary, Jeb, George, the media, the pundits, and anyone else involved can all be painted in a negative light as a result of this story.

She's become a pawn. Even if she wouldn't want to have her tube removed, my guess is that she wouldn't have wanted to be in the greater social position she's in, and everything she's become associated with. I hope that she simply dies peacefully, the way medical experts say she will.

And as an aside, if you do want to slam the media, here's a link to a transcript from Scarborough's show last night. Interesting exchanges, to say the least.

9:28 AM  
Blogger Hatcher said...

I encourage you to read the link provided by PBryon, and then chase it with this article:

9:49 AM  
Anonymous Jim O said...

Considering that I don't believe either side of this situation has anything like the best interest of the victim in mind, I have decided to jump into the mocking and derision of the entire subject with both feet. Hence, I forward to you the meanest, cruelest thing I have seen in some time. Come wallow with me!!

10:00 AM  
Blogger Professor Vic said...

Ok, let me say that Hatch's response to my first post was pretty good. I can't argue with him at all (as much as I generally like to) about the absurdity of polling. I certainly appreciate Hatch's sense of fair play in agreeing with me that media stupidity is often a bigger problem than media bias.

His response was so good, in fact, that I have promised to refrain from using the term "right-wing nutjob" in reference to him except in the most extreme circumstances.

12:12 PM  
Anonymous the_giant said...

Quite frankly I'm really sick of the subject. There is just way too much none-news on tv and far too many "news" shows.

I spent the Easter weekend w/ my inlaws, and my wife's grandmother had it on the entire time. I have now seen and heard every spin on every angle on every participant that I really do not know what to think, nor do I really care. This type of scenario plays out every day in every state and the families come to a decision with consultation from doctors and then events play out. Only because of the disagreements b/w the families has this made "the news".

On a side note, the wife and I did get to leave the kids for a little bit and catch a movie. Not really knowing much except that it won an Oscar, we decided to see "Million Dollar Baby". Probably the wrong weekend to choose this one!!!!

2:15 PM  
Anonymous Lime said...

Try going 1 day without water and food and see how "peaceful" you feel. Then times it by 13! This stinks to high heaven and no matter how relative you want to make the moral issues on display here, there's clear good and evil playing out before our eyes. This is all about eliminating this woman through the courts. This isn't a "right to die" case, it's a disability case. Just ask the large number of disability advocate groups that are pointing out the obvious gross miscarriage of justice on display. The slippery slope continues, and now every caretaker who wants to be relieved of a burden can suddenly remember a conversation from years ago (after of course they settled their malpractice case for $$$$$), and he's guaranteed that the good folks from the Hemlock Society will finance his legal bills and he'll get to be a regular on Larry King as a bonus! Of couse the next logical progression is that they will admit that this is a terrible way to do it so why don't we just ust the lethal injection. This will free up the hospital bed a lot sooner. Anyone caring for severely disabled children, anyone with elderly parents with alzheimers, anyone who doesn't fit the Peter Singer definition of a worthy life should be very afraid. Anyone who thinks this is humane needs help.

On a side note, did Prof Vic call journalism majors stupid? Wow, I finally agree with him.

10:14 PM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

I agree with the Giant that the reason this is in the news so much is because of the dispute between the husband & the parents.

I also agree with Lime, starvation & dehydration seems like a bad way to "end someone's suffering".

If people on death row, or the prisoners at Abu Graib, or Saddam Hussein, were treated like Terry Schiavo, I believe the press would react quite differently.

The idea of a public opinion poll on the matter is ridiculous: polls don't determine truth, they don't express the facts of the issue, & they don't determine right & wrong. I wonder how people would react to a poll question that asked, "Do you think Terry Schiavo should be starved & dehydrated?", or, "If you become brain damaged without a living will, would you want to be starved & dehydrated?"

5:11 AM  
Blogger Incredible Dirigible said...

One more thing:

When a famous old person dies, such as Bob Hope or Katherine Hepburn, the news usually shows an old picture of them when reporting on their death. This makes sense; people would rather see Hope in his prime or see a young beautiful Katherine Hepburn, than photos of them in their late 90s, old & decrepit.

Similarly, I've noticed that now the newspapers & news shows are showing photographs of the young, lively Terry Schiavo, rather than photos of bedridden, brain-damaged Terry. Could that be because no one wants to see her emaciated, with sunken eyes & bleeding lips? Could that be because people don't want to be reminded visually of what's actually happening to her?

5:17 AM  

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