Despite Medical Facts, Some Continue to Refer to Terri Schiavo as a Vegetable
by Steven Ertelt
March 23, 2009
Washington, DC (LifeNews.com) — New York Times health columnist Jane Brody is coming under fire for referring to Terri Schiavo as a vegetable in a recent interview. The comment has one bioethicist upset — saying the term neither confers the dignity and humanity patients deserve nor is medically accurate.
Speaking to the need for elderly people and terminally ill patients to begin planning for death, Brody told the Times that it is never to early to begin considering end-of-life plans.
"You don’t have to be old. If you recall, Terri Schiavo was 26 when she suffered a heart attack that deprived her brain of oxygen and left her a living vegetable for 15 years, at great cost and trauma to her family," she said.
But Wesley J. Smith, a noted author and attorney, considers the comments a catachresis and that the term "vegetable" is an offense similar to racial slurs.
"Terri Schiavo was not a carrot or a turnip," he responds. "She was a human being with a profound cognitive disability. Calling her a "V" demeans her and dehumanizes her moral worth as a human being–just as the odious "N-word" does people with dark skin."
"It should never be used among enlightened people. Indeed, we need to grow as a culture so that anyone using it is treated with the same disdain by polite society as we do now to anyone who uses the crude ‘N’ epithet," he explains.
Smith says the demeaning term also offends Terri’s family, who went out of their way to do everything they legally could to care for her and provide her proper medical care and treatment.
"Terri’s family was certainly grief stricken over her injury–the precise cause of which will never be known. But that is not what so badly traumatized them, and it is not what extracted a ‘great cost,’" Smith said.
"Those inflictions came from the horror they felt–and still feel–because they were not permitted to care for her for the rest of her life in order to, instead, slowly dehydrate her to death by court order to the applause of much of society," Smith adds.
He concludes: "Brody needs to get a clue as to both her facts and her lexicon."
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