Ellen Goodman, the syndicated columnist at the Boston Globe is an enthusiastic leader of the band when it comes to promoting the culture of death.
On September 15th she opined on the research coming out of England about the mental activity of people in an unconscious or semi-conscious state. Here's the link to Goodman's column, available through Wesley J. Smith's weblog, followed by direct excerpts from her column:
Playing Vegetative Mind Games by Ellen Goodman (complete link via Wesley J. Smith)
In Britain, researchers have reported that a totally unresponsive 23-year-old woman showed signs of awareness on a brain-imaging test. When asked to imagine playing tennis, her brain lit up the same neural pathways as a healthy brain. When asked to imagine walking through her house, the MRI revealed changes in specific brain regions that mimicked healthy people.
The exuberant lead researcher, Adrian Owen, said the results ``confirmed beyond any doubt that she was consciously aware of herself and her surroundings." A colleague even raised the possibility that some vegetative patients have ``a rich and complex internal life." Tennis in her head.
What are we to make of this? An editorial in Science magazine, which published the research, was quick to warn that this case is nothing like that of Terri Schiavo. The British woman has something Terri did not have: a cortex. She suffered an injury, not a lack of oxygen. She was in her unresponsive condition for five months, not 15 years. She was not in a persistent vegetative state....
But what about the rest of us ? What about those of us who believed all along that Terri was, ironically, one of the easy cases. Surely, as one bioethicist said, this research creates another shade of gray in the understanding of gray matter. And in decisions that revolve around life and death.
We don't know if similar patients will show the same level of awareness. ...
But we do not know whether the researchers who suggest that vegetative patients may be aware of themselves and their surroundings have given us a hopeful story line or a horror story.
Attorney and bioethicist Wesley Smith wrote about this on his weblog.
Goodman is an archetype of a species of relativists who are ever wringing their hands about hard choices that lead to death and burbling on about how guidelines will protect vulnerable people from abuse, but somehow never manage to say no. I recall seeing an article of hers written in the late 80s, claiming that IVF doctors would never create excess embryos, we would never treat nascent human life as if they were no more valuable than salmon eggs, and urging that the technology go forward with society putting the IVF practitioners on notice that there are lines we will not permit to be crossed. (I wrote in more detail about this column in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.)
Of course, no lines were ever drawn, IVF doctors did create hundreds of thousands of excess embryos, and now Goodman leads the pack supporting their use as a mere natural resource to be exploited and used as so many crops in research.
I e-mailed her about her old column, noting that she had once said she would say no, but hadn't managed to do so yet. She responded politely that her "lines have changed." Of course they did because they were never real. Her old soothing words were never about creating real ethical boundaries, just offering a wary public false assurances.
Terri Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler is quoted extensively about the Goodman article here: Terri Schiavo's Brother Says Ellen Goodman Op-Ed Misguided, Inaccurate The link contains the full letter he wrote to the Boston Globe. Here is an excerpt:
What is so profoundly frightening about what you wrote is the effort to use this scientifically inaccurate persistent vegetative state (PVS) label to indiscriminately decide when it’s permissible to kill those that are disabled. As you pointed out in your column, there are tens of thousands of people that have experienced a brain injury. The idea that certain lives have somehow lost their meaning because they exist in this so-called PVS, which according to you, is some type of "horrifying" state of consciousnesses or lack thereof (not quite sure how you or anyone would have knowledge of this) is equally alarming. It is this form of lethal bigotry that my family battled in our efforts to get help for my sister.