Hard News by Russell Brown

Missing George

Well, if you had the choice, wouldn't you put Rob Robinson up for a TV interview over George Hawkins? The Police Commissioner ("a civil servant!" hissed John Campbell) was clearly paying attention during media skills training, and handled an enjoyably energetic Campbell Live interview last night with aplomb. So much aplomb as to make me wonder whether to trust what he said.

The fact that 11 complaints "of a sexual nature" are unassigned in the Counties-Manukau police district is clearly unsatisfactory, but it's hard to know how unsatisfactory. Is it simply standard practice not to allocate a file until, say, DNA evidence comes back? Is there, historically or nationally, a typical number of such cases at any point in time that aren't assigned? Is this an out-and-out shocker? Or, as Robinson contends, a case of exaggeration for political ends? Whatever, I suspect police resourcing might now feature prominently in the Budget …

The matter raised by Winston Peters seems clearer to me. This is a terrible story, and it hardly matters whether the victim of an alleged assault by an off-duty police officer later died principally as a result of the incident, or as a result of his chronic sickle-cell anaemia. There is simply no way that any officer should be trying settle an argument with another member of the public by even laying a finger on them. We rely on the police to be better than that.

Fran O'Sullivan has a good story on the first claim under the Seabed and Foreshore legislation, and the role of Judge Joe Williams of the Maori Land Court. But is anyone else thinking that - with the claim lodged in the name of Whakatohea, but without the approval or even knowledge of the iwi's own trust board - this is shaping up as a potentially dreadful way of testing the new law?

Speaking of which, Michael Cullen needs to calm down. So does John Tamihere.

Reader opinions seem to vary on my focus this week on the Schiavo case. Some are grateful for the spadework, others think it's a distraction. As ever, I'm really just blogging about what interests me; and I find the wider story intensely interesting. Anyway, my mate Rob, a doctor, was in touch with a comment well worth repeating here:

I concur with your sentiments, but thought I would add a more philosophical approach, coloured with the background that I am a doctor.

Oddly enough, I concur with the Bush line of "always err on the side of sustaining life" but that needs to be tempered with the quality of that life, and the more philosophical argument about what makes us "human".

People have an intrinsic quality, which I will call "soul" for want of a better word, and this is the quality that give us a sense of who we are as people, our sense of being. Once that sense of being or soul has gone, I think from a philosophical point of view, so has true human life. Sure you can still have a heartbeat, or brain activity, but the vital things that define you as a sentient being are gone. And I think when those things are gone there is no point in intervening against nature's natural course.

I am against euthanasia as in my opinion it is completely unnecessary, there are always other solutions to the problem. And I think that sustaining human life is one of the core tenets of modern medicine. But the main aim can only be to restore people to where they have a good quality of life, and integral to that is the sense of being or soul. I think it is reasonable to give people every chance to recover from illness, and that it may take months for the body to recover.

But in Terry Schiavo's case this is really clear cut. She was treated appropriately, and has had lots of rehabilitation. There has been no significant improvement. Her head CT is awful. She is incapable of performing the all basic functions that define life on her own, ie, she cannot feed herself.

She has had adequate time for recovery (actually too long IMO), and most importantly the things that define her as a person, that "soul" concept does not exist for her. In philosophical terms her humanity is gone. Given this, there is no point in providing artificial means of sustaining here. It is not natural, and not "human".

And I guess the bits that really incense me are the politicians meddling to try and subvert the law for presumed political gain, and the crazy conservatives with their muddled philosophies about right to life. Oh, and as final note, this sort of palaver only ever happens with dysfunctional family groups (sensible people always work out an appropriate course) and that?s what this is *really* about. Rant over. Cheers, Rob.

Thanks also to Benita for her email. She has a husband in 24/7 care as a result of medical misadventure nine years ago, and is living the kind of thing the rest of us talk about:

We've learned new things about ourselves and the world around us. Humility in the face of something so big for one. The hysteria surrounding Terri's case is such a worry. I just wish people would afford this couple a little more dignity. Certainly it has been our experience that the support systems, doctors, caregivers, etc, and yes even ACC when it came on board; live that every day. If they (the doctors and caregivers and nurses) seem a little insular at this time, then the rest of the world should heed their example. There has been a loss and more loss to come, but this is where the healing will - or should - be taking place … one needs not to seek blame or anger; you go for realistic, honest and loving outcomes and get on with it.

It seems worthy of note that while some leading conservative bloggers seem uneasy with the Terri hysteria, their slippery contention that both sides are to blame doesn't really wash. Instapundit murmurs about "the excesses of either side". He points to a Reason opinion piece to support his contention. That concludes: "Reasonable people reading the evidence can differ as to what Schiavo would have preferred, but one thing they can't do is declare there's no question about what she wanted 16 years ago. In the last few weeks, alas, reasonable people have sometimes been scarce." Well, yes, the facts are in dispute. There wouldn't have been a story otherwise. But you people have a well-established and frequently-used way of assessing disputed facts. It's called your judicial system.

Inevitably, one of the dullards at Power Line blames liberals who "hate".

Um, excuse me, but I don't recall any liberals issuing contracts on the lives of judges, making apparently baseless accusations of assault and murder against those involved in the case or, in the case of former Republican party congressional candidate and New Jersey Party chair Hal Turner, declaring that Terri Schiavo should be "rescued" and that "I further advocate the killing of anyone who interferes with such rescue". That would be the police … And really, this is just a small sample of the outright insanity going on over there.

Also: a doctor tears into an MSNBC host who doesn't know what he's talking about. And Christopher Hitchens tells the same host he's a megaphone for fraud.

On the other side? Lately, some fairly vicious humour, as seen in Get Your War On. And of course you've seen Terri's Blog. Poor taste, certainly, but no one advocating mob rule and murder …

PS: A reader has pointed out that the comments in Terri's Blog - which I hadn't thought to read - contain some really obscene and unpleasant material. I guess having posted it, after being forwarded the link by quite a few readers, I should leave it up as an example of "the other side", but I think think any reasonable person would find those comments grossly offensive.