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Monday, March 28, 2005

Media Hypocrisy Hunt: Day 8

It's been 8 days now since President Bush signed the legislation passed by Congress, under the leadership of Tom DeLay, aimed at obtaining a de novo federal court hearing for Terri Schiavo. During those 8 days the media and their Democratic colleagues have hunted for stories designed to expose the Republican leadership as hypocrites for supporting the bill.

It took only two days for the media hypocrisy talking point to emerge on President Bush with the Associated Press story about the Texas law that Bush signed as governor which permits a hospital to stop treatment against family and patient wishes.

It took The Los Angeles Times five more days to provide the ammunition for partisans to fire the hypocrisy charge at Tom DeLay with its story about the death of DeLay's father.

The charges against DeLay and Bush are spurious. In Bush's situation the law he signed established Advanced Health Directives in Texas but it included the provision that permits hospitals to stop treatment of patients with terminal illnesses and irreversible conditions. What isn't reported much is the background of the bill.

As this post reveals the situation facing patients in Texas was worse before Bush signed the Advanced Health Directives legislation. Before the law hospitals in Houston were unilaterally terminating treatment for patients with only three days notice and without any provision for judicial review. Bush vetoed a bill that didn't outlaw that practice but the best that could be had after negotiations was the law he signed that extended the time to 10 days, maintained the status quo during those 10 days, and, most importantly, specifically provided for judicial intervention. Rather than being a hypocrite for signing that bill and later Terri Schiavo's bill, Bush has been consistent in signing legislation that provided additional court hearings for patients about to have their life-saving treatment terminated.

The DeLay hypocrisy charge also misfires. Unlike Terri Schiavo, who was not dying from her brain injury, DeLay's father was. Not only was his father irreversibly brain damaged, he couldn't breathe without a ventilator and his organs were failing. The two situations are not comparable. In the case of DeLay's father, the decision not to continue so-called heroic measures was made because the man was dying. In the case of Terri Schiavo, the decision to remove her feeding tube was made despite the fact that she was not dying. There is no hypocrisy in permitting nature to take its course in one situation and opposing the deliberate death by dehydration in the other.

Yet the charge of hypocrisy is a useful tool for partisans who don't wish to discuss the issue but want to use the issue to attack their opponents for partisan advantage.

So don't be surprised if a similar story taken from Senator Bill Frist's career as a doctor gets twisted and told soon.

-tdr

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