Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Rate Down: Pro-Abortion Types Will be Unhappy


The CDC has issued a report noting a steep decline in the number of abortions. From the report:

For 2011, a total of 730,322 abortions were reported to CDC. Of these abortions, 98.3% were from 46 reporting areas that submitted data every year during 2002–2011, thus providing the information necessary for evaluating trends.

These 46 areas had an abortion rate of 13.9 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years and an abortion ratio of 219 abortions per 1,000 live births.

Compared with 2010, this represents a 5% decrease in the total number (from 753,065) and rate (from 14.6 abortions per 1,000 women) of reported abortions and a 4% decrease in the abortion ratio (from 228 abortions per 1,000 births). Because of the size of these decreases, combined with decreases from the previous 2 years (15,16), all three measures of abortion reached their lowest level for the entire period of analysis (2002–2011).

That would be good news under the old baloney trope of “safe, legal, and rare.” But pro-choice is fast becoming pro-abortion, whose adherents bristle at the very thought that fetus killing could be immoral or a less favored action than giving birth.

Planned Parenthood executives probably aren’t amused either, as fewer abortions cuts into its revenue stream.

Interesting to note: California has failed to provide detailed abortion statistics, for example, how many adolescents terminated pregnancies.  I guess the state knows what it doesn’t want to know; not surprising given that voters twice rejected proposals requiring that parents be notified–not consent, notified–if their minor daughters had an abortion.

The CDC credits fewer unwanted pregnancies as causing the dramatic decline. I hope that is true.

But I think the pro-life movement also deserves credit. These dedicated and often scorned activists have kept abortion at the forefront of America’s moral concerns and promoted laws that have led to fewer abortions.

In any event, there are thousands of people alive today who might otherwise have never seen the light of day.  To me, that is reason for applause.

The Technocracy Fights Fat but not Promiscuity


I wrote a bit ago in the Weekly Standard that obesity is the new global warming, noting that the proposed policy solutions to both “crises” are nearly identical, each increasing the power of the international technocracy exponentially. 

Since then, the war against fat has increased in intensity. San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Andrew S. Ross–who writes a fine business column–describes some of the plans that are afoot. From, “Obesity Costs US. Health System $150 Billion a Year:”

“Education and personal responsibility are critical elements of any program to reduce obesity, but not sufficient on their own,” says McKinsey. “Additional interventions are needed that rely less on conscious choices by individuals and more on changes to the environment and societal norms.”

The consulting firm has a list of 74 “intervention levers,” based on dozens of antiobesity pilot programs around the world. They include reducing access to high-calorie foods on supermarket shelves and restaurants menus, eliminating such fare from vending machines in the workplace and schools, and banning TV ads for certain products (as was the case with smoking). “In some cases, regulation may be necessary to level the playing field in relevant industries,” the report states.

Proving that Obamacare has few ultimate limits, the ACA is also now the statutory predicate for aggressive regulatory promulgation:

On Tuesday, the Food and Drug Administration moved to enforce a provision in the Affordable Care Act requiring food establishments with more than 20 outlets nationwide to post calorie counts on menus and vending machines, and with prepared foods sold in supermarkets, grocery stores, movie theaters and amusement parks.

And that will just be the beginning.

But note, we don’t see the same kind of mobilization to fight another scourge that ruins lives and costs the health system tens of billions: promiscuity. (AIDS, STDs, unwanted pregnancies, abortion, suicide attempts, porn addiction, divorce, depression, etc.)

We don’t see concerted joint government/private/popular culture efforts to make sexual self-restraint a social norm. To the contrary, we see efforts to accommodate irresponsible sexual behaviors –including potentially very costly ideas such as having health insurance pay for expensive HIV-fighting drugs for people who are not infected. (By the way, such drugs taken by a gestating mother apparently are harmful to their baby’s developing hearts.)

We also are told that we can’t convince teens to delay sex until adulthood–but for some reason we can persuade them not to smoke or drink? Odd that.

So, the technocracy fights smoking with relish. It is now on the focused hunt against obesity. Regulations are proposed, reeducation campaigns mounted.

But promiscuity? Not so much–or at least, not with the same commitment or dedicated energy. Indeed, anyone who speaks out against sexual irresponsibility will often face charges of being moralistic, bigoted, or a prude.

In a technocracy, health care policy is often as much about politics and culture as keeping people well. 


Animal Research Points to Pain “Off Switch”


On this Thanksgiving Day, let us give thanks for the “grim good” of animal research to alleviate human suffering and point us toward methods to cure diseases.

Latest example: In animal studies, researchers may have found a pain “off switch.” From the Science Daily story:

In research published in the medical journal Brain, Saint Louis University researcher Daniela Salvemini, Ph.D. and colleagues within SLU, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other academic institutions have discovered a way to block a pain pathway in animal models of chronic neuropathic pain including pain caused by chemotherapeutic agents and bone cancer pain suggesting a promising new approach to pain relief.
The scientific efforts led by Salvemini, who is professor of pharmacological and physiological sciences at SLU, demonstrated that turning on a receptor in the brain and spinal cord counteracts chronic nerve pain in male and female rodents. Activating the A3 receptor — either by its native chemical stimulator, the small molecule adenosine, or by powerful synthetic small molecule drugs invented at the NIH — prevents or reverses pain that develops slowly from nerve damage without causing analgesic tolerance or intrinsic reward (unlike opioids).

Under an animal rights analysis, such experiments could never be condoned–no matter the human benefit–because it causes suffering to animals, deemed our moral equals. Thus, to the AR believer, this research is evil–in the same way and for the same reasons–as if these experiments were conducted involuntarily on humans.

Under an animal welfare analysis, we may morally make utilitarian use of animals if the good we may receive justifies whatever suffering might be caused to the animals. As an example, dog fighting is not justified because there is no real good to humans beyond blood lust and the thrill from gambling, while the suffering to the dogs is great. Hence the universal outrage over Michael Vick.

In this situation, the tremendous potential human (and animal) good that could be derived from this research to treat pain justifies the suffering caused to the animals. At least, that’s how I see it.

Animal rights activists flat-out lie when they claim we receive no benefit from animal research. The question really boils down to whether we are justified in each particular case in obtaining the benefit we seek.

With regard to animal research, I say yes. Not always, but mostly, yes: Love for our fellow humans demands it.

MS Patient “Hero” for Euthanasia/Organ Harvest


So, this is where euthanasia leads, and how its values spread like a virus.

Belgium permits euthanasia to be combined with organ harvesting.

That odious couplng has now apparently spread to the Netherlands, where Dickey Ringeling, age 61, came down with a serious case of MS. Rather than live with her disabling difficulties, she wanted be killed and harvested for her organs. And so it came to pass.

A newspaper there reports the story and calls her “a heroine.” From “MS Patient Saves Lives of Five People,” published Dageli Ikse Standard (Google translation):

Ringeling’s course [made her] a real heroine. Patients who received her organs should for her life be grateful.

Of course, she was supported in being killed by her children! That’s how things are these days in Euthanasialand–such as Belgian children supporting their elderly parents’ joint euthanasia killings to avoid ever being widowed.

Meanwhile, the Dutch Minister of Health is establishing protocols for euthanasia harvests. From the NLTimes story:

Minister Edith Schippers of Public Health is working on a protocol to guide people who want to donate organs after their euthanasia. This means, for example, that they will not be able to die at home, but will have to die in the hospital. The doctor should also perform the euthanasia in the hospital. 

Can you imagine anything more dangerous than to make disabled–or mentally ill people, who also have been euthanized and harvested in Belgium–believe that their deaths have greater value than their lives?

Well, I can think of one. When society thinks that way–as the Netherlands Minister of Health clearly does. 

Belgium and Netherlands are off a vertical moral cliff.  Logic dictates this is where we will go too, if we decide to follow them into the abyss. Good grief.

End America’s “Hospice Cruel Choice” Now!


Art Caplan and I co-penned (computered?) a piece in USAToday recently urging an important hospice reform: Stop making dying patients choose between the hope of living a quality life in hospice, versus the potential for life-extending or curative care in treatment.

That “Hospice Cruel Choice” (HCC) was created by Medicare regulators decades ago, and then as these things tend to go, adopted by private insurance.

But people deserve both hospice and treatment. HCC is unnecessary in terms of costs and causes people to miss out on the tremendous benefits hospice offers in order not to lose all hope.

Since then, I have learned that we appear to be unique in imposing this unnecessary cruel choice. As the piece stated, the UK doesn’t. Neither, I have since learned, does Canada. 

The good news: I have been contacted by readers telling me there are pilot programs under Medicare doing away with the HCC. Faster please.

Aetna also conducted a little research in this field–finding that doing away with the HCC improves lives and saves money. 

Physician Atul Gawande discusses this in his best-selling book Being Mortal, which I will be reviewing soon. Get this at page 176:

A two-year study of this “concurrent case” program found that enrolled patients were much more likely to use hospice: the figure leaped from 26-70 percent. This was no surprise because they weren’t forced to give up anything. The surprising result was that they did give up things. They visited the emergency room half as often as the control patients did [that had to make the HCC]. Their use of hospitals and ICUs dropped by more than two-thirds. Overall, costs fell by almost a quarter.

So, why do we continue with rigidity when people can be given greater hope and quality of life by allowing more freedom?

Once again, stupid regulations and bureaucracy work as the enemy of humanity. End the Cruel Choice now!


Invisible National Hospice/Palliative Care Month


Did you know that November is National Hospice and Palliative Care Month? A time when hospice organizations publicize the truly compassionate care for the dying and those in pain? A time when media should be presenting high-profile stories of dying patients receiving excellent care and living quality lives?

Oh, you didn’t hear any of that? Neither did I.

All we hear and see in the media on this important issue are: SUICIDE IS DIGNITY! BRITTANY MAYNARD! Hospice? What’s that?

Indifference has many mothers:

1. Assisted suicide advocates damn hospice with faint praise and falsely imply–or state–that the care is inadequate to prevent death with agony. Indeed, Maynard eschewed hospice, stating both that she wanted to put herself out of her family’s misery (my words) before significant decline, and apparently, accepted a worst case scenario for her own future. Hmmm. I wonder who might have given her that idea. 

2. Hospice has gone silent on fighting assisted suicide–betraying their own calling–as hastened-death is directly antithetical to its purpose of helping dying people live with dignity. Part of the problem, I think, is that hospice has been partially co-opted by assisted suicide advocacy and, in my experience, those in charge fear controversy and its potential impact on fund raising.

3. Hospice is seen wrongly by many as an “abandon hope, all ye who enter here,” endeavor. Why? In the USA, we force people to forego life-extending treatment or curative care to receive the benefits of hospice. But hospice is all about hope! As Art Caplan and I wrote in USAToday recently:

Hospice is all about realistic hope: hope of not being in pain; hope of being able to enjoy family until the very end; hope of maintaining a good quality of life throughout the dying process; hope of dying at home surrounded by those you love.

4. A few hospices alienate those they serve, by making the service about death instead of life. For example, by refusing tube-supplied food and water, on the basis (false) that it is life-sustaining care. (If sustenance isn’t comfort, what is it?) In any event, ending the cruel choice would do away with confusions that cause some hospices to pursue wrong strategies of care.

5. The media chases blood and controversy. A dying patient saying that he or she wouldn’t have missed the experience for anything–happens all the time, in hospice–is not seen as selling newspapers or getting internet clicks.

6. The media are deeply ideological, generally loving transgressive and radical causes at the expense of traditional forms of care and values. Assisted suicide fits the bill, hospice impedes the change-for-change’s sake agenda.

7. People avoid dying issues like the plague. We don’t like being reminded of our mortality.

That’s not an exclusive list, but the many factors thwarting hospice vitality are causing unnecessary suffering that could readily be relieved.

Assisted Suicide Causes PTSD


In a way, this may be a hopeful sign. A study in European Psychiatry shows that 20% of close friends or family who witness assisted suicide develop post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). From the study:

Of the 85 participants, 13% met the criteria for full PTSD (cut-off≥35), 6.5% met the criteria for subthreshold PTSD (cut-off≥25), and 4.9% met the criteria for complicated grief. The prevalence of depression was 16%; the prevalence of anxiety was 6%.


A higher prevalence of PTSD and depression was found in the present sample than has been reported for the Swiss population in general. However, the prevalence of complicated grief in the sample was comparable to that reported for the general Swiss population. Therefore, although there seemed to be no complications in the grief process, about 20% of respondents experienced full or subthreshold PTSD related to the loss of a close person through assisted suicide.

By way of comparison: 11 percent of American soldiers serving in Afghanistan have PTSD, and 20% of Iraq veterans. So, witnessing assisted suicide would appear to be equivalent in upset to serving in war zones. Perhaps that will give the suicidal pause before they order the pills.

Of course, the suicide pushers at Compassion and Choices aren’t bothered in the least, sending “counselors” to give advice in many cases. Indeed, C & C acts as death matchmaker or otherwise helps facilitate more than 80% of all assisted suicides in Oregon. 

But, you know, normal people react to the awful nature of what is done. That’s healthy, and as I said, in an ironic way, perhaps a cause for hope that the death tide will ebb. 

HT: Carol Sutton

Media Indifferent to Euthanasia Victimized Families


Imagine you are at work, going about your day. The phone rings. You pick up and it is a mortuary informing you they have your mother’s body.

“What do you mean you have my mother’s body!” you exclaim in utter shock.

“She was just euthanized today,” they mildly answer. “What should we do with the body?”

That is exactly what happened in 2012 to Belgian chemist Tom Mortier, who spoke (via Skype) yesterday at the very well-attended East Coast Conference Against Assisted Suicide.  

A self-described secular humanist, he described his agony at the euthanasia killing of his depressed mother, Godelieva De Troyer, by an oncologist. His continuing pain was vivid in every word he spoke.

You might assume that since De Troyer was killed by an oncologist, she had terminal cancer. Wrong. She was a cancer patient but knew she was cancer free at the time of her death.

But she did have chronic depression. She was killed without any notice to her son. 

And here’s the kicker: What I didn’t know–and it made my jaw drop–was that Mortier’s mother willed her body to science, as a result of which, he was forced to deliver his mother for dissection and experimentation to the very hospital at which she had been killed.

Can you imagine? Yet, this horrible and heartless medicalized killing has made nary a ripple in the culture of death-besotted media. Compare that to the feeding frenzy over a young woman planning assisted suicide, with the media’s reporting crossing, in my view, into enthusiastic encouragement. 

I think that speaks volumes. ​

I hope Mortier’s presentation at the conference is posted on YouTube or some other platform. His presentation–that went into much more detail than the embedded video above–illustrates vividly how badly family members can be victimized by the coldness of assisted suicide and euthanasia. 

(See also the Italian woman made dead at a Swiss suicide clinic because she was distraught at having lost her beauty. The first her family knew was when her ashes where shipped home. Very little coverage.)

Mortier has filed a lawsuit against Belgian euthanasia in the European Court of Human Rights.

No Orangutan Writ of Habeas Corpus


How does one type the words–”Organugan writ of hapeas corpus”–without the laptop exploding.

It should be ludicrous. But animal rights activists are suing, or planning to sue, all over the place looking for just one judge willing to go radical and grant one animal “personhood,” Here in New York, for example, the NonHuman Rights Project has brought a similar suit, to a laudatory cover story in the New York Times Magazine

A Brazilian judge came close a few years ago to granting a chimp the Great Writ. But the animal died,, forcing the disappointed judge to dismiss the case as moot.

Now, a Brazilian judge has thankfully said no to making an orangutan a “person.” From the Merco Press story:

“Sandra is in captivity, living in absolute solitude in the Buenos Aires city zoo” argued AFADA, which requested the orangutan be transferred to a sanctuary to preserve the species. “She is being treated as a prisoner and has to suffer the presence of the public staring at her”.

AFADA said in the presentation that it was appropriate “to question the deprivation of liberty of the primate, based on illegitimacy and the acknowledgement she is a non human person”. The animals-rights activists’ organization anticipated they would be appealing the ruling and demanded Sandra’s protection on “at least three basic rights, the right to life, the right not to be tortured or ill treated physically or psychologically”.

Those putative rights come from Peter Singer’s, The Great Ape Project.

Previosly, PETA sued Sea World seeking to have orcas declared “slaves.” The case was tossed out, but only because the judge ruled only humans can slaves, based on pre Civil War definitions describing African-American slaves as persons.  

So, for now, human exceptionalism has not been hit with a sledge hammer. But animal rights anti-humanists will keep trying. And very rich and powerful people keep donating tens of millions for the cause.

Of course, human exceptionalism supports proper animal welfare practices as a duty. But proper care of animals isn’t the ultimate goal of animal rightists and utilitarians like Peter Singer, rather, their goal is to reduce us to just another animal in the forest.

So sleep well, tonight. Sandra the orangutan should be cared for properly. But she remains legally what she is: by definition, not a person.

But don’t sleep too well: Remember: It takes only one judge wanting to go down in history.

Mutilating Girls in Egypt Gets Court Boost


Female genital mutilation is apparently a big thing in Egypt. And now with a doctor acquitted of manslaughter, after a 12-year-old girl died during an alleged mutilation, it seems that it is full speed ahead to prevent women from experiencing sexual pleasure. From the Guardian story:

The case was pursued rigorously by activists and state officials in the hope that it would send a strong message to doctors that FGM, which was nominally made illegal in 2008, will no longer be tolerated in Egypt. Instead, said a lawyer from a local rights group – the first to take up Sohair’s case – the verdict signalled the opposite.

“Of course there will be no stopping any doctor after this. Any doctor can do any FGM he wants now,” said Atef Aboelenein, a lawyer for the Women’s Centre for Guidance and Legal Awareness, who was the first to find out the verdict.

This is a human rights violation of the first order, which is intended to oppress, diminish, and destroy natural response.

The world may not be able to do much about what happens in Egypt or other countries where cutting off a girl’s clitoris is common. But when it happens in the West, we should come down like a ton of bricks.

Don’t Make Human Three-Parent Children


I had a run in last year with Science 2.0’s, Hank Campbell, over my opposition to the manufacture of three-parent embryos, for which opinion, Campbell tried to saddle me with the dreaded ”anti-science” epithet. (I think the new version of that pejorative for opposing what “the scientists” supposedly think is “science denier.”) He even argued that NRO should throw me off the site.

My opposition to three-parent embryos is based in ethics, but also on safety–in eminently reasonable concern given that IVF children generally have poorer health outcomes than those conceived naturally, and more particularly, the technique in question creates embryos using two broken eggs and one sperm. Animal studies seem to show reason for concern.

I thought of that tempest in a teapot the other day when a reader sent me a story reporting that a major NIH science adviser has warned against trying the technique in humans for safety concerns.  From the Daily Mail story:

Professor Evan Snyder, the top scientific adviser on the issue to US authorities, yesterday warned there were unresolved safety concerns…

‘The gap I’m talking about is about how much pre-clinical scientific work needs to be done before scientists or someone on the FDA would feel comfortable that we’re assured of safety.’ Asked whether it would be justifiable to permit the procedure to go ahead on compassionate grounds, Professor Snyder said it should not be allowed until all the extra research is completed.

Of course, Snyder is talking about animal research. The horror!

Snyder’s opinion is important because the we-never-say-no UK Embryo Authority seems on the verge of approving using the technique in humans. But that would be human experimentation in which the human involved could not give consent. By definition.

I understand that mothers don’t want to pass mitochondrial disease on to their progeny. I know there is a strong maternal drive to bear one’s own child. I get that it can be a heartbreaking situation for the want-to-be parents.

But our empathy for women who have to choose between being a biological mother and bearing a healthy child, as the professor said, should not mean we put potential children into peril.

Moreover, we live in an anything goes culture in which “I want!” subsumes all–which is why the technique would eventually spread to polyamorous relationships in order to allow all members to have a biological connection to the child. That would be a radical alteration in our understanding of parenthood and needs much consideration before being permitted.

I would say, “Adopt,” as I have previously, but some people get very angry with me when I do. I still don’t understand why that is cruel. A mother gets to become a mother and a child gets a loving home. Everybody wins.

Danger of “Presumed Consent” Organ Donation


I am not prejudging this case, but I bring it up here because I think it illustrates the loss of trust that a “presumed consent” organ donation scheme would engender in people. (Current law requires us to “opt-in” to be an organ donor–as I have. Presumed consent would require us to each “opt-out.” Otherwise, we would automatically be organ donors, no consent required.)

I worry that a presumed consent regimen would lead catastrophically injured patients to be looked upon more as organ farms than patients. Take a look at the story I quote below–particularly the parts I italicized–and you will see what I mean:

According to family members of 26-year-old Martha Perez, her organs were removed on Friday against their wishes. Fox 4 spoke to the family before the removal and they said the third woman confirmed dead of injuries sustained in an Arlington wreck involving a suspected drunk driver was technically still alive.

The Tarrant County medical examiner says Perez died Wednesday and doctors have declared Perez brain-dead, although the hospital declined to confirm that citing patient privacy. “But she still has heart and lung functions,” said family member Juan Martinez. “They took her off the life support and she was still breathing.”

First, “brain dead” is dead and the organ removal protocols would not require the removal of life support. More, if Perez was indeed breathing on her own, by definition, she wasn’t dead.

Now, see how a presumed consent would breed distrust and anger:

Perez was a registered organ donor and doctors told the family they were prepared to harvest the organs for donations. Perez did not have a will or an advance directive that would have instructed doctors exactly what to do in regards to taking her off of life support.

According to Martinez, the family felt it was too soon. “We don’t want to be pressured. My family feels pressured and it’s just hard for someone to make that kind of decision when this just happened,” Martinez said Friday before her organs were removed.

Legal expert Jessice Dunne said the family has the legal right to keep Perez on life support if her organs are still functioning. If they stop, then it’s up to the hospital what to do. “We know we have to come to a decision but we aren’t going to let no hospital or no state make that decision for us,” Martinez said. That wasn’t the case as the hospital decided to move forward in the process.

Under presumed consent, anytime a hospital stopped life support and removed organs, loved ones could become similarly suspicious, feeling that a rushed decision was made because the organs mattered more than the patient.

(That seems to be the concern here because Perez had opted-in. Even so, permission is requested prior to procurement. This is the first case I have heard of where organs were taken under these circumstances without family permission. That could also sow distrust, but I don’t want to get into that now.)

The distrust would be especially acute in a medical system increasingly obsessed with cost control and in a milieu in which bioethics “experts” increasingly reject the sanctity/equality of human life in fabor of a utilitarian “quality of life” ethic.

I have no idea what happened in this case. But if we adopt an opt-out organ donation system, I will remove myself as an organ donor. I wouldn’t have enough trust to “leave it to the doctors” whether the time had come to harvest my organs.

Transhumanism’s Utopian Fantasy Land


I wouldn’t mind transhumanism’s fantasies–eternal  life, uploading minds into computers, changing our bodies so we can fly. Whatever. Whatever gets people through the night.

I don’t think it will ever happen. But: The movement is driven by a neurotic fear of suffering–terror of death–and a loathing of the normal vicissitudes of human living.

In short, transhumanists are on a quasi-religious quest to gain hyper-control over every aspect of living. Add it all up, and you have a distinctly Utopian movement.

History tells us clearly that Utopianism is one of humankind’s most dangerous propensities. 

An article–at NPR, no less–predicting that the “singularity” will bring an end to the human race as we know it, illustrates my reason for concern. From, “Should  Science End Humankind?” by Adam Frank:

But if you’re an optimist, then you think something wonderful is going to happen. With the help of our super-intelligent machines we become more. “More what?” you ask. Well, more than human. We become the next step in evolution — and that will mean humanity, as we know it, will come to an end. What comes next will be a new post-human era

That would be intelligent design, not ”evolution.” But I quibble.

Realize that part of this supposed Nirvana includes genetic manipulation of progeny, remaking them in the parents’ image. In other words, they would not be free, but pre-programmed to serve the desires of their manufacturers.

Even more disturbing is the transhumanist belief that “science” can end human death, as well as bring about an end to “suffering:”

Given the likely completeness of the post-human transformation, how ready are we to be so completely replaced? It’s a question that has to be on the table because we are, as a culture, rapidly pushing the enabling technologies forward right now.

So even in the most optimistic scenario, does the end of human suffering have to mean the end of human kind (at least this version)?

Now, there’s the nub.

Utopians believe that ends justify means. For example, up-and-comer transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan, has said that impeding transhumanism would be just cause for war.

And what could be a more Utopian end than no more suffering?

Very dangerous stuff. Fantasies. But if enough people ride the transhumanism Fantasy Land roller coaster, people could get hurt.

Will “Gay Gene” Impact Abortion Views?


Lately, “pro-choice” has been “evolving” into “pro-abortion”–including support for sex selection abortion.

But what if we find there is a gay gene that could identify fetuses who would have a propensity to be homosexual?  That may be on the horizon. From the New Scientist story:

A genetic analysis of 409 pairs of gay twins has provided the strongest evidence yet that gay people are born gay. The study clearly links sexual orientation in men with two regions of the human genome that have been implicated before, one on the X chromosome and one on chromosome 8.

The finding is an important contribution to mounting evidence that being gay is biologically determined rather than a lifestyle choice.

The story notes that the gene factor would not be determinative, but one factor in sexual orientation as a biologically-caused phenomenon.

So, if a test became available to determine such a propensity–as is currently available for sex or Down syndrome–should we permit abortion to eliminate babies likely to be gay from being born, e.g.,–or for that matter, straight–e.g., eugenic abortion?

Or, will we allow likely orientation to be used as a factor in determining whether to implant an embryo after IVF?

I hope not. But I do sense the potential for a real cultural clash.

Gay Marriage, Assisted Suicide Different Issues


Assisted suicide advocates continually try to link that agenda with other causes they deem to have greater public appeal.

For example, doctor-prescribed/administered death has been called the “ultimate civil right,” in an obvious attempt to co-opt our high regard for the Civil Rights Movement. But many civil rights organizations such as LULAC and the disability rights community oppose the death agenda.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been linked to abortion, in the belief that more people support that agenda than oppose it. But pro-choice people oppose assisted suicide as do pro-life people–for example the American Medical Association that is decidedly in favor of the right to an abortion.

Suicide advocates never stop pushing the anti-Catholic button. Yes, the CC opposes euthanasia. But in the public square, its representatives do so using rational and secular arguments. They don’t say, “It is a sin, and so it should be against the law.” 

Making a larger point, many of the most noted opponents of assisted suicide are distinctly secular. Here’s a short list:

- Atheist civil libertarian, Nat Hentoff;

-Leftist, secular writers, Kevin Yuill and Robert P. Jones;

- The country’s best palliative care physicians, such as Ira Byock, Kathleen Foley, and Diane Meier;

- Suicide experts, such as the psychiatrist Herbert Hendin;

- The great Ralph Nader.

The list could go on and on.

Now, it is same sex marriage. From a column in the Huffington Post by Ronald A. Lindsay:

Legalization of same-sex marriage and PAD is properly regarded as a continuation of the process of granting greater scope to personal freedom. People should be free to marry whomever they love, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex, and they should be allowed a measure of control over the most intimate decision a person can make, namely whether to hasten their death.

Please note that I never saw SSM and assisted suicide prominently connected when SSM was strongly disfavored in the pollsBut here is a truth worth hearing: Supporters of SSM and opponents of SSM oppose assisted suicide. 

Moreover, beyond a few surface similarities invoked by Lindsay–whose treatment of assisted suicide opposition is about as deep as an evaporating puddle after a light rain–the arguments against the respective agendas come from distinctly different places. For example, the Hippocratic Oath has proscribed doctor participation in assisted suicide for 2500 years.

Elections demonstrate that the more people learn about the reality of assisted suicide, the more they tend to oppose it–at least five refusals by voters to legalize, versus two in favor since 1991. That is why supporters work overtime to create false equivalencies.

This is just the same old bootstrapping.

More Time for Maynard-Type Cancer Patients


We have been hearing so much that suicide is “dignity” in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s death by lethal prescription, I thought this story should receive more play.

An experimental device, with no serious side effects, appears to be extending the lives of people with the kind of brain cancer with which Maynard struggled. From the NYT story:

An electrical device glued to the scalp can slow cancer growth and prolong survival in people with the deadliest type of brain tumor, researchers reported on Saturday.

The device is not a cure and, on average, adds only a few months of life when used along with the standard regimen of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Some doctors have questioned its usefulness. But scientists conducting a new study said the device was the first therapy in a decade to extend life in people with glioblastomas, brain tumors in which median survival is 15 months even with the best treatment.


Patients who wore the device fared better than those who did not: Their median survival was 19.6 months, compared with 16.6 months in those on standard treatment alone. Among those with the device, 43 percent survived two years, compared with 29 percent among those receiving only standard therapy.

That’s no small thing for someone facing imminent death. For example, my dad died of cancer and really valued the extra year that a last ditch chemotherapy unexpectedly gave him.

One study participant has had a remission parallel to the time she participated in the study:

She has been wearing the device since August 2011 — more than three years. Her tumor is gone, and the disease has not returned. She has M.R.I. scans every two months. “I get two months at a time, always thinking I might have a recurrence,” she said.

There is no way to tell whether the device has been keeping her alive, or whether she would have done just as well without it. But when she completed the period she had signed up for in the study, and the researchers told her that she could stop wearing the device if she wanted to, she said, “Oh, yeah, I’m keeping it.”

I would too.

I am reminded of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco and the underground assisted suicide networks that ended the lives of people who would have lived had they waited long enough for the new drugs to come on-line–drugs that literally brought HIV patients back from the brink of death.

This is still experimental and could not pan out. But good grief, there is real hope–and true dignity–in raging “against the dying of the light.”

New treatment breakthroughs happen all the time. Suicide pushers should think about that as they work to convince society that self-destruction equals “dignity.”

Swiss Nursing Homes Forced to Facilitate Suicide


The Culture of Death brooks no dissent!

The invaluable Bioedge reports that a Swiss canton has legally forced all government funded nursing homes to allow suicide clinics to push their killing services to the elderly. From the story:

The legislature of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel has voted overwhelmingly to force government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services. (Neuchâtel is in the west of Switzerland, bordering on France, and is predominantly French-speaking.)

There are no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes. The only critierion, according to, is the personal choice of the patients. Personal autonomy must take precedence over the rules of the nursing homes. About 60 institutions will be affected by the decision.

The new regulations specify that nursing home personnel will not be allowed to interfere if a patient chooses to die. In fact, they are required to set aside a room where the staff of the assisted suicide organisation Exit will help the person to die.

Imagine the potential impact on other patients. Imagine knowing that there is a suicide room in your nursing home.

And imagine knowing your caregivers have to cooperate in the suicides of you or your friends. One might think the government hopes you will use the service.

This is the future if we swallow the hemlock! Eventually, no dissent allowed.

Dying: Put Selves Out of Loved Ones’ Misery


Imagine describing suicide as a “gift” to your family. But, as I wrote today in First Things, that is the bottom line meme driving the assisted suicide movement. Assisted suicide isn’t “death with dignity” but “death with aesthetics.”

A perfectly-timed article in Slate precisely proves my point. John La Grange describes Brittany Maynard’s suicide as a “gift” to her family. From, “Brittany Maynard’s Gift to Her Husband:”

As I see it, Maynard gave her husband a gift. She gave him a gift by preventing painful images from being burned into his brain. He will not have memories of his beloved gradually losing her mind and control over her bodily functions. He will not have memories of watching the person he loves most moaning in pain, and not being able to do anything about it.

He will not have memories like the ones I have—of vomit and bedsores and things so horrible that I cannot bring myself to type them into this keyboard. He will not have memories of reaching the point where he started wishing that his wife, his partner of 38 years whom he loved with all his heart, would die. Those memories don’t go away; they come back in dreams and nightmares.

Anybody experiencing such bed sores and etc. received inadequate care! Focus on that, not killing!

But to the larger point: La Grange is arguing that the dying should put themselves out of their loved ones’ misery!

Imagine the hurt that kind of thinking causes the sick and dying.

If people can’t see the danger in that, they are not awake!

Not “Death with Dignity,” “Death with Aesthetics”


As the media and assisted suicide advocates continue to exploit the Brittany Maynard tragedy to push for legalization, I have been pondering how very harmful such advocacy is to people struggling with serious and terminal health conditions. 

It also isn’t “dignity.” Rather, many who want assisted suicide are deeply worried about what could be called aesthetics. I ponder this question over at my First Things biweekly column. From, “Death with Aesthetics:”

When we look more deeply at arguments in favor of legalizing assisted suicide, we see that the assisted suicide discussion is really more about what I will call the aesthetics of dying than it is about potential pain. This is no small matter. Nor is it in the least a frivolous concern. Worries about lost looks or, perhaps, how the sick room might smell can be devastating to those approaching the end of life.

Indeed, our self-esteem—and perhaps more important, how we perceive that others view us—can materially impact our mental and emotional states as we approach the end of life. (For example, I used to be a hospice volunteer. One of my patients became so distraught by his changed appearance that he covered all the mirrors in his home.)

I quote Maynard on why she eschewed hospice for assisted suicide. This quote describes exactly the phenomenon I am describing:

[Maynard:] Not only do I want to save myself from that fate [of suffering and decline], but I love my family too much to make them carry the memories of my deterioration for the rest of their lives.

Assisted suicide activists scream PAIN AND AGONY to sell the death agenda. In practice, statistics show few kill themselves over pain. Existential fear and despair often drive those who commit assisted suicide to an early grave.

These are more than important issues:

This is how the assisted-suicide movement hurts the very people it claims to champion. During my years working with hospice, I was struck by how my patients would focus intently my face when we first met. I soon realized they were seeking assurance of acceptance.

Thus, pitching suicide as a remedy for such people is not just harmful to society, it can be cruel to people struggling each day to keep on keeping on:

For sick, disabled, disfigured, and dying people, our faces can be like mirrors: If they sense that we think they are less than “we” are, it can crush the spirit. Yet, isn’t this the very message conveyed when we validate suicide as the “dignified” way to die?

I quote my hospice patient, Robert Salamanca, who died of ALS and was furious that people like him were used as euthanasia’s bloody battle flag. He despised the assisted suicide movement because they made his life more difficult to bear. And argued vehemently that we should care and love the dying, not support their hastened deaths. 

I conclude:

There is no question that Maynard’s perspective is integral to the assisted-suicide debate. But Salamanca’s should be, too. Ultimately, his view accords more with the true meaning of human dignity and the intrinsic value of all our lives.

The death pushers are causing more harm than they will ever know.

Caplan & Smith on Improving Hospice


The noted bioethicist Arthur Caplan and I tend to disagree about issues. For example, he reluctantly supports the Oregon assisted suicide law and I adamantly oppose it.

That issue tends to suck all oxygen from the room. But there are other things that need to be discussed about end-of-life care.

Toward that end, we came together and co-authored a column in USAToday urging a reform that could drastically increase hospice participation.

As things now stand, a patient who chooses hospice has to forego curative and life-extending treatment. For some, that is akin to saying, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

We urge ending that “awful choice” to increase hope. From, “Give Terminally Ill Patients Both Hope and Hospice:” 

For many, that is akin to giving up all hope, and thus they delay entering hospice until it is too late to benefit from it. But hospice is all about realistic hope: hope of not being in pain; hope of being able to enjoy family until the very end; hope of maintaining a good quality of life throughout the dying process; hope of dying at home surrounded by those you love.

We quote the splendid hospice physician, Ira Byock, in support of our proposal:

Hospice expert Ira Byock, author of The Best Care Possible, concurs with the change we suggest. He told us: “A third of all U.S. hospice patients die within a week of being admitted. Thus, because of the ‘terrible choice’ Medicare rules impose, hospice is not doing end-of-life care as much as brink-of-death care.”

We conclude:

Whatever happens with the assisted suicide debate, the more attractive we make hospice to those in need, the more they and their families will benefit from this truly beneficent approach to caring for the dying.

This is not a “compromise” about assisted suicide. It is about improving care. It is about basic decency and respect for the dying.  


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