Of voices and tubes

Boy was this ever a bad time for the Vatican to release the news that complications from the pope's tracheotomy have made it so difficult to swallow that he must have a feeding tube inserted. According to a story in The Times of London, the pope appeared at his study's window today and visibly "struggled once more to bless thousands of pilgrims in St. Peter's Square."

He made the sign of the cross silently and then tried to speak, but his words "were not clear," The Times reports. "It was a Vatican official who read out greetings and prayers."

This followed his Easter appearance, when John Paul II attempted the address an audience, failed, and banged his fist on the podium out of anger.

Stateside, Terri Schiavo continues to linger. Who knew one could live so long without water?

Over at Reason magazine, Boston Globe columnist Cathy Young wrote that while she doesn't think the Taliban and the "religious right" are a one-to-one match, the latter are "about as close to a Taliban as you can have in modern American society. These are people who really do want the state to enforce their vision of 'what God wants.'"

This prompted Reason managing editor Jesse Walker to reply, "If anything, the forces of dehydration are even more of a headache. At least pro-lifers -- not all of whom are from the religious right -- know that they're on a moral crusade."

By contrast,

Much of the pro-death side pretends that they're neutral bystanders who don't want to "interfere" with a family's private business, even as they actively argue for one side of the family dispute. They say they want to respect the woman's wishes, even as [they] refer more readily to what they'd want for themselves in such a situation. And they warn gravely of a slippery slope to theocracy, without pausing to wonder whether there are any other slippery slopes to worry about.

He then linked to a piece in the Catholic magazine Voices in which a registered nurse offered a scenario that Walker judged to be "a lot more plausible than any American Taliban nightmare."

The picture was of a soft, suffocating, ever-evolving consensus between doctors and medical ethicists to refuse to offer treatment to ever more patients whose chances they judge to be futile -- and not in the classical understanding of the word.

"Instead," the nurse wrote, some medical ethicists now "argue for a new definition of futility to overrule patients and/or families on a case-by-case basis based on the doctor's and/or ethicist's determination of the 'patient's best interest.'"

Regarding National Post columnist Colby Cosh's latest fusillade on the Terri Schiavo matter, let me just say he reaches a remarkably churlish conclusion based upon one angry, misinformed e-mail.

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