Rhetorical Appropriation

On the whole, I like reading Michelle Malkin’s blog.  I more often than not agree with her posts.  Of course, she also tends to suffer from partisan blinders and fails to point out similar faults with conservatives, although not all the time.  However, in reading this post about the plight of Haleigh Poutre there is this part of Michelle’s post that I think is precisely backwards.

As state officials prepared to remove Haleigh’s life support, the supposedly impossible happened:

A day after the state’s highest court ruled that the Department of Social Services could withdraw life support from a brain-damaged girl, the agency said yesterday that Haleigh Poutre might be emerging from her vegetative state.

DSS also said it has no immediate plans to remove her feeding tube.

”There has been a change in her condition,” said a DSS spokeswoman, Denise Monteiro. ”The vegetative state may not be a total vegetative state.”

Monteiro said Haleigh is breathing on her own, without the ventilator she has depended on for four months. Monteiro also said that doctors at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield elicited responses from Haleigh during tests performed yesterday.

Everyone had given up on Haleigh–except Haleigh.

This is a huge story, a wake-up call to “right-to-die” ideologues who recklessly put such unlimited trust in the medical profession and Nanny State.

At that point I came to a screetching halt.  The “Nanny State”?!?!?  Excuse me, but I tend to think there might very well be something to this right-to-die position.  And for me, part of it is precisely what Michelle is saying, I don’t want the Nanny State making a decision for me.  If I want to die, then why should the state have a right to prevent me from making that decision and following through on it?  Granted, this is different than the case of Haliegh Poutre in that she hasn’t indicated anywhere that she wanted to die if she came to be in such a state, but to use the rhetoric that Michelle is using is rather disingenuous, IMO.

Michelle continues,

The same government bureaucrats and doctors who had conclusively deemed the 11-year-old girl “hopeless” and her vegetative state “irreversible” now tell us she is responding to stimuli and breathing on her own.

They were wrong.

Yes, they were wrong.  But the wrong people have been executed by the state, yet I didn’t see Michelle arguing for a moritorium on the death penalty.  I’m sensing a fair amount of hypocrisy here.

Further, one of the differences between this case and the Terri Schiavo case is the length of time.  Terri Schiavo was in a persistent vegetative state for years.  From the sounds of it, Haleigh Poutre has been in a “persistent vegetative state” for months (note that the quotes in this sentence are deliberate).  Perhaps if Haleigh were 25 years old, blind, and with all indicators pointing towards severe atrophy of the brain tissue I think the issue would then be similar.

Frankly I find Michelle’s rhetoric misleading and more than a tad hypocritical on this one.

FILED UNDER: Health, US Politics, , , , , , ,
Steve Verdon
About Steve Verdon
Steve has a B.A. in Economics from the University of California, Los Angeles and attended graduate school at The George Washington University, leaving school shortly before staring work on his dissertation when his first child was born. He works in the energy industry and prior to that worked at the Bureau of Labor Statistics in the Division of Price Index and Number Research. He joined the staff at OTB in November 2004.


  1. floyd says:

    steve , where do you stand on the mandatory use of seatbelts? how about helmet laws?

  2. Mark Jaquith says:

    Personally, I oppose helmet laws, but support seat belt laws (but only for the driver). Sounds contradictory, but it has to do with what happens after a car crash vs. what happens after a motorcycle crash. If you get into a relatively minor car crash, and don’t a seat belt on, you could be thrown from your seat. You could lose control of the car and cause a secondary accident. In this way, driving without a seat belt is dangerous to others, just as rubbing your hands down with vaseline before driving would be dangerous to others.

    With a motorcycle, the helmet just protects your head. It doesn’t help you keep control of the car. It only comes into play when you crash, and let’s face it: when a motorcycle crashes, you’re not going to regain control. So if you want your head splattered across the asphalt, more power to you… because it doesn’t affect anyone else.

  3. floyd says:

    steve; you pass the consistency test on this one,eventhough it is hard to drive with a deployed airbag or a passenger in your lap[lol]i support the use of belts but not the law. now on the right to die; i say if you support this idea, you should not support the involvement of a physician since this would change hippocratic to hypocritic.just open a dieoria right next to the pizzaria and offer employment opportunities to serial killers.even at fifty bucks a pop it would be easy to give a lifetime guarantee for your work,don’t you think?

  4. M. Murcek says:

    Steve, you wreck your own argument when you veer into “the state has executed the wrong person” non-argument. Every time someone says this, someone (today it’s my turn) responds “Who? When?” and of course you can’t answer that. It’s a generic assertion, which, whether true or not, falls on its face when you can’t provide specifics.

    Shame on you…

  5. McGehee says:

    Steve, you wreck your own argument when you veer into “the state has executed the wrong person” non-argument. Every time someone says this, someone (today it’s my turn) responds “Who? When?” and of course you can’t answer that.

    Thank you, M. Murcek — I was about to ask that very question.

  6. Steve Verdon says:

    Well look at the Creationist style arguments. “I don’t know of anybody who was wrongfully executed by the State, therefore nobody has been wrongfully executed by the State.” Hugo Bedau and Michael Radelet’s research indicates that as many as 23 people have been wrongfully executed.

    From their 1996 paper on the topic of miscarriage of justice they suggest that about 1.2% of the death sentences between 1972 and 1998 were in error (i.e., those prisoners on death row were released from death row due to serious doubts about their guilt).

    This article by Radelet and Bedau point to the Jacobs-Tafero incident. Tafero was executed, Jacobs who was facing the death penalty on exactly the same evidence was later released due to the suppression of exculpatory evidence and perjury by a prosecution witness. In other words, Tafero would have likely been released and not executed if similar evidence had not been supressed.

    So, until I find other evidence I stand by my comments.

  7. floyd says:

    steve ; for your best arguement, look at illinois, more than a dozen wrongfully convicted death row inmates have been released, leading to a moratorium on the death penalty.the problem is incompetent government and bad public defenders. as for the “creationist”reference; aren’t you sorta “beating a dead……uh dinosaur?”