Nat Hentoff has long been one of my favorite writers. He is a consistent civil libertarian with a love for and long history with jazz, so there is much to admire. But on the Terri Schiavo case, he has swallowed the nonsense coming from the right hook, line and sinker. In his latest column, he writes:
She is not brain-dead or comatose, and breathes naturally on her own. Although brain-damaged, she is not in a persistent vegetative state, according to an increasing number of radiologists and neurologists.
Utter nonsense. There are two who claim she is not in a PVS, Hammesfahr and Cheshire. Neither of them has the slighest bit of credibility. Hammesfahr is a pure charlatan who told the court that he had helped people “far worse than Terri”, but could not produce a single case study or any test results or medical records to support that contention. All of Hammesfahr’s work has been with stroke patients, not with PVS patients. And that’s without even mentioning his ridiculous and dishonest claim to being a Nobel Prize nominee. Dr. Cheshire’s claim that she is not in a PVS is based, by his own admission, not on evidence but merely on a “sense” of Terri’s “presence”. The Guardian Ad Litem’s 2003 report noted that when the 5 doctors chosen by the court and the two sides in the dispute testified on her condition, the ones who argued that she was in a PVS had an enormous amount of empirical data to back them up – test results, comparisons to similar cases, cat scans, and so forth – while the other side only had anecdotal arguments. They even made a big deal out of someone in another state who had woken up without even bothering to find out if that patient was in PVS or not. The right is desperately clutching at straws, throwing out one unsupported argument after another. And I’m pretty disappointed in Nat Hentoff, truly one of my literary heroes, for falling victim to it.