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This question originally had the clickbait title of:

Did the UK government kill a baby with mitochondrial depletion syndrome against the parents' wishes?

This use of the word "kill" was potentially watered down compared to the claim quote in the question, namely that:

the court system in the United Kingdom, at the behest of National Health Service bureaucrats, abducted and murdered an 8-month-old baby

The question then posed at the end of the question body was:

Is this an accurate account of what occurred?

Given all this, the title seemed an accurate representation of the claim.

The title has since been edited to:

Did the UK government allow a baby with mitochondrial depletion syndrome to die against the parents' wishes?

The stated reason for the edit was:

kill may give the wrong impression

In my opinion this edit was incorrect and made for incorrect reasons. The claim is that the government killed (murdered) the baby, an answer should state that they didn't "kill" it, but "allowed it to die".

The edit substantially changes answers from being "No", meaning the government didn't kill it, to "Yes" meaning the government did allow it to die.


This is being raised as a meta question rather than a proposed rollback by me in order to avoid an edit war. Votes up on the question will be taken to agree with me that the title should be rolled back, votes down mean that the revised title should stand.

  • Note: I've included quote as per the top answer. – Sklivvz May 6 '17 at 16:27
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There is a lot of back and forth going on (including all this title editing) because it all hinges on interpretations of the facts that took place.

Since the phrase 'abducted and murdered' is used in the blog post that this question refers to (in the first paragraph, that can be seen as a resume of the rest of the post), I suggest we strip out any interpretation from anyone else and edit the title to 'abducted and murdered'. (with or without surrounding quotes?)

Anything else we try to make it is not properly quoting the claim.

As mentioned in comments, the fact that the claim is a misrepresentation of the facts, should be left to the answers.

The clickbait is not here, the clickbait is in that blog post.

  • I disagree with this answer. The use of "murdered' in the blog post was pretty obviously political hyperbole, whereas "killed" in the original post title was just an objective description of the asserted facts. Titles should reflect the claims of fact made by the source, even if the source is hyperbolic, offensive, or disreputable, but needn't - and often shouldn't - reflect the tone. If a far-right politician made a claim about crime rates among "niggers", it would be reasonable to ask about the claim here, but wholly unnecessary to frame the question using the source's words. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 17:12
  • Or, to take a particular example of hyperbole common in modern discourse - if a social justice activist condemned a speech at a university as an "act of patriarchal violence", it would be wholly pointless to ask here whether the speaker had actually carried out an act of violence at the university, because everybody reading would understand that no such claim had been made. I realise that sometimes what is literal and what is figurative is unclear, but the correct solution to that shouldn't be to pretend that every emotive expression used by a source is meant completely literally. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 17:19
  • @MarkAmery Yet the writer of the blogpost said "This might sound like a severe bout of hyperbole, but that is exactly what happened." Maybe he really believes it is abduction and murder. – Lag May 5 '17 at 18:24
  • @ElGuapo huh. You're right. That's pretty bizarre; a killing ordered by a court clearly isn't a "murder" almost by definition, at least as the word is normally used (to refer to certain kinds of unlawful killing). Perhaps he's using the term in some other sense? I've occasionally heard Christians ("thou shalt not murder") and animal rights activists ("meat is murder") use the word in ways that weren't referencing any kind of law, so I guess such usage isn't unprecedented. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 18:28
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    After seeing your edit suggesting using "abduct and murder" with the quotes, I've gone ahead and suggested that. I think that, with the quotes, it's sufficiently clear that "abduct and murder" is the political rhetoric of the source but not necessarily the literal claim being asked about. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 18:33
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As I commented on the question itself, the "allowed to die" framing is pretty perverse. The claim being made is that the UK courts prevented the baby from receiving life-saving private medical care that his parents were willing to pay for. The most natural interpretation of saying that the government "allowed" the baby to die would simply be that they declined to provide treatment. That's not the question at stake, here; it's whether they used the force of the law to prevent a third party from administering life-saving treatment.

That's not naturally framed as "allowing" the baby to die, any more than a government that forcibly prevented parents from feeding their baby would be "allowing" it to starve. The claim is about the state actively interfering to ensure a baby's death when the private sector would otherwise have acted to try and save the baby's life. It is inaccurate to frame that as if it is merely a claim about government inaction.

If talking about the state "killing" a baby is too hyperbolic or politically-charged for this community, then softer language can be used - I suggested "ended the life" instead. But the current title represents the claim as merely being about the state health service declining to offer treatment, and as such misleads the reader about what the claim being asked about is.

  • Meaning that your proposal is.... ? – Jan Doggen May 5 '17 at 16:14
  • @JanDoggen I'd be fine with pretty much anything other than the current title. A rollback to "kill" wouldn't bother me, and I've already made a (rejected) suggested edit that I linked to in this answer. Hopefully my second proposal (skeptics.stackexchange.com/review/suggested-edits/27774) will get through. The important thing is that whatever title we settle on should not carry the implication (which has already confused commenters on the question's answers) that this is about the government declining to fund a baby's medical care, when that's not at all what's being claimed. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 16:16
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    @Sklivvz since you rejected the edit linked in my comment above, could you comment here on why you did so and what rewording of the title you would accept? The currently title bears little relevance to the actual claim being made in the blog post; surely it cannot be right to leave it that way? – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 17:26
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I voted down, I would personally prefer the new title to remain.

It allows the actual question to be addressed, without the use of hyperbole. We have other precedent where a question is asked without duplication of the (biased) hyperbolic statement - I don't see why this is different.

If you were interested in the case, you would ask "Is it true that.... allowed to die....". If you're trying to bash the UK government you would ask "DID THEY KILL A BABY!!!!"

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    But the claim at stake isn't that the state allowed a baby to die, as the new title suggests; it's that the state actively intervened to mandate the death of a baby that would otherwise have received life-saving treatment from the private sector. The new title doesn't "allow the actual question to be addressed", it obfuscates what that question is. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 15:19
  • @mark We dont entertain hyperbolic statements from stormfront, why should we entertain them from that wacko publication? In the past people have asked about other touchy subjects (such as the truthfulness of the holocaust) without duplicating the hyperbole. – Jamiec May 5 '17 at 15:20
  • I think the difference between us is that you believe that it is "hyperbolic" to describe using force to prevent a dying person from receiving life-saving treatment as "killing" them, and I think that it's very obviously killing and that calling it "allowing" the person to die is a fairly crass euphemism. Would you argue for such language if I barricaded a door to stop paramedics from helping a man who was having a heart attack? If not, what is the difference here? – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 15:24
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    The difference is in the dictionary definition. exaggerated statements or claims not meant to be taken literally.. I dont think anyone LITERALLY thinks any member of the government (or judiciary, or any extension thereof) killed a baby. Its clear hyperbole.Its meant to bash socialist healthcare. – Jamiec May 5 '17 at 15:27
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    "I don't think anyone LITERALLY thinks any member of the government (or judiciary, or any extension thereof) killed a baby" - again, I have no idea why you think this. Turning off the life support of somebody for the precise purpose of preventing doctors from giving them life-saving treatment that they would otherwise have provided is pretty obviously "killing" both by the dictionary definition and as that word is used in normal language. If you or I were to do it without a court order legitimising our actions, it would be murder. Calling it "allowing" the person to die is euphemistic. – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 15:32
  • I think we just agree that we have different POV, huh? :) – Jamiec May 5 '17 at 15:34
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    The flipside to this coin is something like, "Parents want to subject child with irreversible brain damage, who has suffered significant deterioration in brain function evidenced by the development of persistent seizures, who is persistently encephalopathic, has severe progressive muscle weakness and cannot move his arms or legs or breathe unaided, to further suffering". But the title should be rolled back for the reasons given by Andy T – Lag May 5 '17 at 15:36
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    @ElGuapo none of that was mentioned in the blog post that the claim is taken from. That's not to say that it isn't true or important, only that it belongs in the answers the question. False or misleading claims shouldn't be addressed by censoring the claim being asked about in question itself, they should be explicitly rebutted. I'm not an active Skeptics user, but isn't that this site's whole point? (Edit: Oops, from your final sentence, I think we're on the same side with regards to that point.) – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 15:39
  • I have proposed another title change that is explicit about the claim that is being made but avoids any language that could possibly be seen as emotive. I think this will work as a compromise between our perspectives, @Jamiec? – Mark Amery May 5 '17 at 15:54
  • @MarkAmery very good. Lets see what reviewers think. – Jamiec May 5 '17 at 16:00

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