Someone told me recently "Ventilators kill people," adding, "70% of people put on ventilators die. They're killing people." So I argued with her.
But what if she'd written an article and hired me to edit it? What if her article began exactly as above? What would I do?
My first "edit" would complain that "Ventilators kill people" is stated like fact while, since it's not common knowledge and it's not yet supported by facts, it can only be opinion. I'd suggest she change it to read "I think ventilators kill people." Then, if the article contains an argument to prove her statement, she could end with "So, ventilators kill people" as her conclusion.
Next I would complain about the 70% statement, arguing that writers should not deliberately mislead their readers. Looking for minimal edits, I'd suggest "70% of victims put on ventilators die" or "70% of people put on ventilators still die," (since people sick enough to go on ventilators are already actively dying). Better might be "70% of victims put on ventilators are not saved." If asked how I would phrase it, I'd suggest "30% of people put on ventilators are saved, but 70% still die," but that's probably because I prefer being positive.
Finally, I'd argue that "They're killing people" is false. You might as well say bread kills people because, eventually, 100% of people who eat bread die. Maybe I'd edit it to read "They're not saving everyone," or "They're not a magic bullet" if you want to be more imaginative. But...
Of course, by this point, the author might feel there's a disconnect between what they want to say and what I want them to say. They'd be right, and we would part ways, not through any fault of the author, but because I could not be party to risking lives with lies.
So, thank you for reading my rant, and please may I conclude by ethically editing that friend's statements:
Ventilators save people. 30% of victims put on ventilators survive. Ventilators don't save everyone and are not magic bullets, but they're essential if we want to keep the death rate down. Please can we have more ventilators!