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Modest proposals


Hal Herzog, a "biological psychologist," weighs in on the Terri Schiavo case on the op-ed page of The Asheville Citizen-Times:

Here are the facts. According to a 2002 report in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry, the frequency of persistent vegetative state in the United States is 64 to 140 per million people. Thus, somewhere between 538 and 1,176 North Carolinians are probably afflicted with this condition. At a cost of about $80,000 a year per person, this translates to an annual financial burden to the North Carolina health-care system of $43 million to $94 million—enough to hire between 1,500 and 3,500 additional public school teachers.

The Wall Street Journal's James Taranto asks: "Does Herzog really mean to suggest that some people should be killed in order to expand the membership of the teachers unions?"

The logic of Dr. Herzog's "facts" certainly seems to be headed in that direction.

But really—why stop there? According to statistics from the Bureau of Justice, at the close of 2003 there were 2,085,620 prisoners being held in Federal or state prisons or in local jails. Just imagine what could be accomplished if we were to make every offense that's currently punishable by incarceration a capital crime instead.

Moreover, by applying the $24,000 or so it costs per year to house a prison inmate to the funding of education, we could all but eliminate the $55 billion of the Federal budget that now goes to providing student loans. And imagine the real estate the government could liquidate (or turn into revenue-generating tourist attractions like Alcatraz, pictured above).

Smarter kids, safer streets—and no folks in a persistent vegetative state siphoning off our hard-earned tax dollars with their pesky feeding tubes.

At long last, Herr Doktor Herzog—after some two decades' study of animal-human interaction and a self-confessed fascination with "Adolf Hitler's commitment to animal welfare"—has come up with a creative alternative to compassionate conservatism: Take-no-prisoners liberalism.

Is Howard Dean listening?

UPDATE: In its Nov. 2003 issue, the same Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry cited by Professor Herzog features this remarkable account of three awakenings from persistent vegetative state induced by treatment with levodopa, a drug commonly used to treat Parkinson's. The drug has proved effective in only a few cases, but the mere fact there have been successful instances of treatment provides (pardon the pun) food for thought.

Posted by Rodger on April 5, 2005 at 04:32 PM | Permalink


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