Ben Carson is in another controversy.
This time it’s over what he said about the tragic case of Terri Schiavo — the woman who died in 2005 from dehydration and starvation, after years of legal and political battles, and 15 years after slipping into a coma that doctors later called a persistent vegetative state.
On Nov. 14, 2015, Adam C. Smith of the Tampa Bay Times reported that Carson disagreed with then-Florida governor Jeb Bush’ attempt to bypass court rulings to force the re-insertion of feeding tubes for Schiavo, and referred to the Terri Schiavo case as “much ado about nothing.”
Consistent with his reaction in previous controversies, Carson insisted in an exclusive to LifeSiteNews on Nov. 18 that his remarks had been “taken out of context and misinterpreted.” He said: “When I used the term ‘much ado about nothing,’ my point was that the media tried to create the impression that the pro-life community was nutty and going way overboard with the support of the patient.”
Ben Johnson reports for LifeSiteNews, Nov. 19, 2015, that some pro-life leaders remained uneasy after hearing Carson’s explanation, and numerous LifeSiteNews readers said they wished they could know “the context” via a full recording of the exchange between the Tampa Bay Times (TBT) reporter and Ben Carson.
The same day, Nov. 19, TBT reporter Adam C. Smith posted a full transcript of the exchange with Carson during the Florida GOP’s Sunshine Summit conference:
Times: Dr. Carson, a few years ago when Gov. Bush was in charge of the state, he and the Florida Legislature moved to overturn the court decision on Terri Schiavo to force the feeding tube to be reinserted. What was your view of that as a doctor at the time?
Carson: Well, I said at the time, “We face those kinds of issues all the time and while I don’t believe in euthanasia, you have to recognize that people that are in that condition do have a series of medical problems that occur that will take them out. And your job is to keep them comfortable throughout that process and not to treat everything that comes up.”
Times: Did you think it was appropriate for Congress and the Legislature to —
Carson: I don’t think it needed to get to that level. I think it was much ado about nothing. Those things are taken care of every single day just the way I described.
From the transcript above, by “much ado about nothing,” Carson clearly was referring to the efforts by then Florida governor Jeb Bush to intervene in the Schiavo case in order to save her life.
Schiavo’s brother, Bobby Schindler, who leads the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and has praised Governor Bush’s handling of his sister’s case, said in a column that Carson’s followup comments are not reassuring. Schindler wrote in TBT‘s Buzz blog:
“I have deep respect for the accomplishments and commitment Dr. Carson has shown for life. But our family remains deeply troubled that in seeking to clarify his remarks, he has not unequivocally condemned what happened to my sister. In fact, his suggestion that simple ‘consensus’ among family members and health care providers could justify what happened to my sister is problematic. If I had agreed with Michael Schiavo (Terri’s husband) to starve and dehydrate my sister to death, would that have made it right?”
Orlando lawyer, John Stemberger, one of Florida’s most prominent social conservative activists, said Carson’s Schiavo comments have seriously damaged his appeal to many voters:
“I like Ben Carson a lot, but it is very disappointing that he does not even understand the basic pro-life principle that life begins at conception and ends at natural death. Terri was never in an active dying process. She was a severely disabled person who was killed through the brutal and painful process of starvation and dehydration. While Ben Carson may think this is ‘much to do about nothing,’ for most pro-life voters, it morally disqualifies him as a candidate. He is not thinking clearly about this matter and should reconsider his careless comments.”
Ben Carson has a painting in his home of himself in the foreground, with Jesus standing behind him.
Would our Lord Jesus Christ call Bush’s and others’ efforts to rescue Terri Schiavo “much ado about nothing”?
There are also important policy reasons for conservatives to be skeptical about Ben Carson, see Kelleigh Nelson’s article in NewsWithViews.