Tuesday, December 09, 2003

Polls vs. Truth

Yesterday, Patricia Anderson, attorney for Bob & Mary Schindler, issued the following statement in response to the St. Petersburg Times/Miami Herald poll which reported that sixty-five percent of the poll's 800 respondents disagreed with Governor Jeb Bush's order to reinstate Terri Schiavo's feeding tube.

Attorney at Law

Any first-year political science student knows that poll results are only as good as the bias of the questioner. 
The fact is that unless Florida law is changed to honor only written advance directives, we will all see other cases like Terri Schiavo, in which a spouse, now living with another woman with whom he has had two children, suddenly and  conveniently remembers years after the fact the disabled spouse's wishes in the matter.  If we, as a society, are prepared to accept these remembered wishes as a cover for getting rid of seriously disabled persons, where is that line going to be drawn?  Who's next?  Children with cerebral palsy?  Alzheimer's patients? People who wear contact lenses?  Are the lives of the disabled less valuable?

Pat Anderson is on to a very important point: if we are going to allow half-remembered, uncorroborated (I will not dignify Michael Schiavo's last-minute production of his brother and sister-in-law with the term "corroboration") casual statements to dictate life and death decisions, many of those people writing opinion pieces and answering pollsters that they think it's OK to starve Terri may come to rue their offhanded comments. Some one of their relatives or children, in a few years, may be able to say, "Well, I remember Mom telling that pollster she thought it was OK to pull the plug on Terri Schiavo, so I guess we can just let that pneumonia run its course and finish her off."