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Examining Metaphors in Biopolitical Discourse
Unformatted Document Text:  Metaphors in Biopolitics, page 27 characteristics” while “tens of millions [are] dying of AIDS and hunger all around the world” (2005). The term vegetable, as a metaphor for symptoms of a permanent coma, crept into popular news discourse. The following example, taken from the MSNBC program “Hardball,” illustrates how the host equated vegetative state with vegetable. Chris Matthews noted: “I want to get some facts here. I want to end this discussion on a point. There’s a great discrepancy in the assessment as to this woman’s vitality. Some people say she’s a vegetable. Some say she’s capable of emotional responses. Vegetables don’t have emotional responses. I’m still trying to get to that fact” (Hardball, 2005). In another example, a National Public Radio reporter asked a neurologist to define vegetative state and said, “Do you regret at all the word vegetative? The idea of wakefulness and motion just seems to be in conflict with being a vegetable. It perhaps might be a misleading misnomer.” The neurologist called vegetative state an “unfortunate term” that is derogatory because “it sounds like vegetable” (Siegel, 22 March 2005). Although the two terms are often stitched together, it is difficult to trace a direct relationship between public discourse about the Schiavo case and whether American publics equate “vegetable” with vegetative state. Numerous polls were conducted during the years of the Schiavo legal skirmishes, and pollsters found that Americans favor ending life support when a partner is in a vegetative state. For example, a CNN- USA Today-Gallup Poll in 2003 reported that 80 percent of Americans endorsed the right to die for a terminally ill patient. The question was worded as follows: “When a patient is in a persistent vegetative state caused by irreversible brain damage, do you think his or her spouse should or should not be allowed by law to make a final decision to end the patient’s life by some painless means?” (Newport, 30 October 2003).

Authors: Coleman, Cynthia-Lou. and Ritchie, L. David.
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Metaphors in Biopolitics, page 
characteristics” while “tens of millions [are] dying of AIDS and hunger all around the 
world” (2005). 
The term vegetable, as a metaphor for symptoms of a permanent coma, crept 
into popular news discourse. The following example, taken from the MSNBC program 
“Hardball,” illustrates how the host equated vegetative state with vegetable. Chris 
Matthews noted: “I want to get some facts here. I want to end this discussion on a point. 
There’s a great discrepancy in the assessment as to this woman’s vitality. Some people 
say she’s a vegetable. Some say she’s capable of emotional responses. Vegetables 
don’t have emotional responses. I’m still trying to get to that fact” (Hardball, 2005). In 
another example, a National Public Radio reporter asked a neurologist to define 
vegetative state and said, “Do you regret at all the word vegetative? The idea of 
wakefulness and motion just seems to be in conflict with being a vegetable. It perhaps 
might be a misleading misnomer.” The neurologist called vegetative state an 
“unfortunate term” that is derogatory because “it sounds like vegetable” (Siegel, 22 
March 2005). 
Although the two terms are often stitched together, it is difficult to trace a direct 
relationship between public discourse about the Schiavo case and whether American 
publics equate “vegetable” with vegetative state. Numerous polls were conducted 
during the years of the Schiavo legal skirmishes, and pollsters found that Americans 
favor ending life support when a partner is in a vegetative state. For example, a CNN-
USA Today-Gallup Poll in 2003 reported that 80 percent of Americans endorsed the right 
to die for a terminally ill patient. The question was worded as follows: “When a patient is 
in a persistent vegetative state caused by irreversible brain damage, do you think his or 
her spouse should or should not be allowed by law to make a final decision to end the 
patient’s life by some painless means?” (Newport, 30 October 2003). 

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