Dismissing science at our peril

Terri Schiavo, who had been in a brain damaged state for 15 years, died on March 31st. It was the end of a long legal process after her parents disagreed with her husband who wanted to remove her feeding tube.

Conservatives and religious right activists jumped on the band wagon to prevent her husband from carrying out her end of life wishes. They simply dismissed the scientific diagnosis that there was no hope in her recovery. Yet, Congress passed an unprecedented law, which President Bush signed, that allowed the case to heard in Federal court. The parents lost again and the tube was never put back. She passed away 13 days later.

Polls taken during the debate in March showed the public wanted the government to mind their own business and let the issue remain within the family and state courts.

Conservatives and the religious right, in their “pro-life” zeal ignored the polls and continued to work to force the feeding tube back into Schiavo.

Results of an autopsy, released on June 15th confirmed the diagnosis. She had severe brain damage and had no chance of recovery.

However none of the major GOP players in the debate in March would admit they were wrong and only one had second thoughts about the Federal government getting involved in the issue.

The most telling was the contrast in comments from Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist who is a doctor:

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn., a surgeon

“That footage, to me, depicted something very different than persistent vegetative state.” – on March 23, on the floor of the Senate, after reviewing a videotape of Schiavo.

“He never made a diagnosis.” – Amy Call, Frist’s spokeswoman. The senator said he looked forward to reading the autopsy report.

House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas

“She is as alive as you or I, and as such we have a moral obligation to protect and defend her.” – in a March 18 statement to the news media.

“Congressman DeLay’s thoughts and prayers remain with the friends and family of Terri Schiavo.” – Dan Allen, DeLay spokesman.

Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla.

“Several of Terri’s caregivers … feel that, with proper therapy, she may even be able to learn to eat without a feeding tube.” – in a March 16 column for National Review.

“I’ve had second thoughts as to whether a federal review was the right way to go or not.”

Schiavo autopsy results reach a divided Congress

I know that we are all humans and tend to act on our emotions. Sometimes science gives us answers we don’t like but to simply let emotions allow one to dismiss valid scientific answers just because it doesn’t fit your beliefs or fantasies, is intellectual dishonesty on the nth level. It is that anti-intellectualism that harms people – like the Schiavo family.

Nature works in a certain way but it almost never conforms to one’s wishes and dreams and if does then it is plain luck.

The GOP and religious right’s reactions in dismissing science reminds me of kids who stand on the roof of their house wearing capes made of Mom’s good towels. They want to be Superman and think that by leaping off the roof they will be able to fly.

Senator Frist and Rep. Delay have capes made of towels and believe they can fly.

My worry is that their actions just don’t harm themselves.


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