Heavy Lifting - thoughts and web finds by an economist
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Friday, March 18, 2005
So the good folks in Florida have decided that pulling the feeding tube on Terri Schiavo is the right thing to do. A lot of things bother me about this case, primarily I am concerned that the courts have decided to support the husband's claim even when he has no evidence that Terri ever said that she wanted to die if she faced the life she is living now.
A few weeks ago, ER had an episode in which a patient was fully lucent and trying to communicate but because of a stroke she could not say anything to the doctors or her family. "Johnny Get Your Gun" is another example of people being trapped inside of their body and not able to communicate. I would put the problem in this context. My null hypothesis is that life is desirable and hence Terri would want to live. To reject the null hypothesis we need some convincing evidence to the contrary. If the null is rejected correctly, then Terri wants to die and pulling the tube is the appropriate action. If Terri does not want to die and cannot communicate this to others, then pulling the plug is a Type I error - falsely rejecting the null hypothesis.
If Terri does want to die and the plug is not pulled, then Terri stays alive even though she doesn't want to live. This would be a Type II error. Typically, we are more comfortable with Type II errors than Type I errors. This is one of the benefits of our judicial system - you are presumed innocent until you are proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The Type I error is putting the innocent man in jail. The Type II error is letting the guilty man go free. In general, we are more comfortable with the Type II error in our judicial system. However, in Terri's case, it seems that many people are comfortable with possibility of a Type I error.
I heard Mike Schiavo's lawyer complain that Congress's attempt to pass a law to keep Terri alive was akin to the Politburo. The lawyer should be disbarred for that claim. The Politburo never acted in secret to save anybody's life. The Politburo only acted to kill people - either immediately or slowly in the Gulag. To claim that a Congressional attempt to save a person's life, regardless of the appropriateness of Congressional action, is akin to the actions of the Politburo is a disgrace.
I have wondered why the statists in this country and their fellow travellers think that what happened in Stalinist Russia, Nazi Germany, and Mao's China, can't happen here or at least claim that is what they believe. I am more convinced that many of statists simply want to be in charge, the individual either contributes more than they are worth or not. If they do not, they are expendable. Either shoot the individual, shut them away in a gulag, or starve them to death. This was literally what Mao did to 30-40 million in China (number still unknown), it is what Stalin did to the Ukrainians (5-10 million dead), it is what the statists in Florida will do to a single woman. Is the magnitude of the number killed the only difference?
Our Declaration of Independence includes a principle of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The second two cannot possibly occur without the first. If the last cannot occur, it seems the statists are comfortable with removing the second. If you cannot pursue your happiness then you have no liberty, that is you are dependent upon your husband, your wife, your parents, or society at large. From there it seems that without the ability to pursue your happiness, and hence a loss of liberty, then life itself is determined by those on whom you depend.
We cannot send convicted mass murderers to the electric chair but we can abide killing a woman for no other reason than her husband says so? Her only "crime" seems to be not having written a living will or having expressed such desires in front of more than one person.
What a shame. The culture of death is clearly around us. Abortion, euthanasia, and now court ordered death for the innocent. Just because the courts say it is legal does not MAKE IT RIGHT. Lenin accurately predicted that if the Communists could corner the courts in Russia, many people would abide by court decisions that seem insane, simply because most people are law abiding folks and agree that the courts have some authority. It seems that the statists in this country have used the same tactic.
Surely something can be done to SAVE one life. If Terri is kept alive against her will, there are only two people who are truly harmed by this. Terri and her soon-to-be ex-husband. If Terri wants to stay alive, killing her only helps the husband and hurts everybody else. In a cost-benefit analysis, unless Terri's value on life is a very large negative number, keeping her alive is a net benefit to society.
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