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Tuesday, August 29, 2006


N.Y.Times- Connecting 'God Squad' With 'Overused' Health Care

-By Warner Todd Huston

The New York Times' article Choosing a ‘God Squad,’ When the Mind Has Faded is a perfect example of the editorial position of a newspaper misleading with a headline.

When headlines like this are chosen, one wonders what exactly is going through the mind of the headline writer (most should know that headline writers are often different people than the authors of the article). Regardless, though, the headlines reflect the policy and position of the paper, which may or may not be the same as that of the article's author.

This example of a headline that does not really fit the article comes to us from the August 29th edition of the New York Times topping what is billed as an "essay" about the efficacy or sense of giving dialysis, paid for by the tax payer, to a patient with brain damage.

Now, the headline would make one assume that a battle between religion and healthcare is the subject of the piece, but that is not really the case. The essay itself questions the sense of providing expensive procedures to people who Doctors determine really have no chance of getting better. The author, Doctor Barron H. Lerner, questions the practice of dialysis as it currently stands.

"When patients went into kidney failure, dialysis was reflexively instituted. The fact that some of the patients had advanced Alzheimer’s disease, some other type of brain damage or a terminal disease received insufficient scrutiny.

Of course, aggressive care is hardly limited to dialysis. Throughout the United States, other potentially lifesaving technologies, like respirators and cancer chemotherapy, have been overused."

But Dr. Lerner makes no concerted attempt to bring religious views into question. The closest the essay gets to discussing principles outside of strict medical diagnosis is the following:

"But the fear of lawsuits continues to worry many nephrologists who believe that it is safer to provide dialysis. And there remains that old American unwillingness to let people die, even when it is surely their time."

Perhaps an oblique reference to religious practices of the sanctity of life, but hardly a direct attack on religion.

Now, certainly Dr. Lerner's position could be cast into the "culture of death" category that many religious believers have identified that represents the views of too many of our ethically challenged medical establishment. but, all those arguments would count as follow up to this piece and NOT as its subject matter.

However, the editorial opinion of the paper is what drove this headline to be written, quite regardless of the piece it precedes. The New York Times has long ago staked out an anti-religious editorial position especially where it concerns health care. And even though this essay is not about religion versus health care, the headline immediately takes the reader to that supposition by interjecting "God Squad" into the discussion at the outset.

Just one more tiny example of bias in the New York Times and how they insist on infusing everything they print with that bias. Health care, sports, travel... they may as well all be on the Op Ed pages.
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