Haleigh’s “right to die” or right to live?

Haleigh’s “right to die” or right to live?

The media can’t help itself sometimes. The fingers fly of their own accord, framing stories according to a specific template, no matter the specific circumstances.

When the issue is the taking of the life of someone who is not dying, but whose life depends on ongoing care, then it must always be framed as a “right to die”, even when the person involved is not asking anything of the sort.

A couple of years ago the tragic case of Massachusetts girl Haleigh Poutre was front-page news nationwide. The then-11-year-old was on life support after allegedly being beaten into a coma by her stepdad and her adoptive mom, who happened to be her biological aunt. The Department of Social Services, whose primary duty is supposed to be to help children in need, had gone to court to have her terminated. Ironically, the man accused of beating her opposed the motion, since he would have faced murder charges.

And while DSS prevailed in the court fight, Haleigh herself made a case for herself by showing signs of recovery the day after the court order was issued in defiance of her doctors’ iron-clad judgment that she would make no “meaningful recovery”. And two years later, Haleigh herself is working with prosecutors to build the case against her stepfather (her adoptive mother having killed herself and Haleigh’s grandmother days after the initial criminal case began).

Good for Haleigh.

Unfortunately, the news coverage of this inspiring event is full of the most slanted language. Consider these bits from the Boston Herald’s coverage.

The case sparked a passionate right-to-die debate when, eight days after Poutre’s beating, DSS sought a court order allowing her to be removed from life support.

Consider those bits I’ve highlighted. Who was seeking a “right to die”? Certainly not Haleigh. The young girl was fighting to live, as evidenced by her miraculous recovery. No, Massachusetts was seeking a “right to kill” the girl who had become just another statistic in the long, sad list of children who have suffered while in the care of the commonwealth’s social service apparatus.

And certainly the court order “allowed her” nothing in her own interest, since Haleigh was not seeking to be removed from life support. No, the court order allowed the commonwealth to have her removed from life support.

But the template imposed on such cases by the mainstream media is so ingrained that they can’t write the story any other way, even when it makes no logical sense. When the issue is the taking of the life of someone who is not dying, but whose life depends on ongoing care, then it must always be framed as a “right to die”, even when the person involved is not asking anything of the sort.

Because the near-silenced conscience of a nation still can’t confront the truth the “right to die” is often a “right to kill the mute and defenseless” or a “right to be killed while in the midst of despair.” And the rest of us better hope we don’t end up in the medically nonsensical “vegetative state”, or at least that we don’t end up that way in certain hospitals or under the care of relatives who would just as soon be rid of us.

 

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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