The Rhetoric in Schiavo Case

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A March 26, 2005 piece by Reason contributing editor and Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young noted a article by ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan while summarizing the controversy over removing the feeding tube of vegetative Terri Schiavo:

A neurologist with right-to-life affiliations and limited expertise opined, without a medical examination or tests, that Schiavo may be minimally conscious -- a claim one staunch conservative, Dr. Elizabeth Whelan of the American Council on Science and Health, dismisses as ''politically generated junk science."

The rhetoric flies high, with comparisons to Nazi Germany, concentration camps, and executions; with cries of ''death by starvation" (is it ''death by suffocation" to take a patient off a respirator?), ''murder," and ''medical terrorism" -- that last one from House Majority Leader Tom DeLay. Mind-bogglingly, some protesters have likened Schiavo to Jesus. Her husband Michael, who wants her feeding tube removed, has been compared to wife-killer Scott Peterson. On the website of the conservative National Review, writer Kathryn Jean Lopez railed at the feminist groups' lack of outrage that ''a man -- and his male lawyer and doctor -- backed up by a male judge, is cutting off his wife's food." We live in bizarre times when a conservative chides feminists for not acting like professional male-bashers.

Amidst such hysteria, is it any wonder that some champions of ''life" are making death threats against judges and legislators who have ruled or voted the ''wrong" way?

Various blogs also noted Whelan's piece, including's the Corner, where Ramesh Ponnuru said Whelan has lost her credibility, and Ponnuru in turn links to other blogs that address the topic.