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  1. Florida Politics

Ben Carson backpedals from 'much ado about nothing' remark about Terri Schiavo case

The scene during a vigil outside the Woodside Hospice Villas on Oct. 15, 2003. [AP photo]
Published Nov. 20, 2015

Dr. Ben Carson is trying to walk back recent comments in Florida in which he called the Terri Schiavo controversy "much ado about nothing" and appeared to disagree with efforts by then-Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, Congress and then-President George W. Bush to bypass a court ruling to keep the Pinellas County woman alive.

But Schiavo's brother said he and other family members remain "deeply troubled" by what the renowned neurosurgeon, leading presidential candidate and favorite of social conservative voters said about Schiavo. She died in 2005 after years of legal and political battles, and 15 years after slipping into a coma that doctors later called a persistent vegetative state.

"I regret that my recent comments about Terri Schiavo have been taken out of context and misinterpreted," Carson told LifeSiteNews on Wednesday, after his comments to the Tampa Bay Times drew criticism from a number of prominent social conservatives, including Bobby Schindler, Terri Schiavo's brother.

"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."

At the Friday evening press conference in Orlando where he made the comments, however, Carson never mentioned the media, and he wasn't asked about the media. Here is the full transcript of the Times 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.

The Carson campaign did not respond to requests for comment, but in a statement to LifeSiteNews on Wednesday, the Republican West Palm Beach resident said that "when the patient is not terminal, as Terri Schiavo was not, the treatment plan should be determined on the basis of the consensus between the family and the health care providers."

Schindler, who leads the Terri Schiavo Life & Hope Network and has praised Jeb Bush's handling of his sister's case, said in a column that Carson's followup comments are not reassuring.

"I have deep respect for the accomplishments and commitment Dr. Carson has shown for life," Schindler wrote in the column available on the Buzz blog at tbtim.es/s0q. "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," Stemberger said.

"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."

Contact Adam Smith at asmith@tampabay.com. Follow @adamsmithtimes.

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