Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Hucksterism Behind Brittany Maynard Media Blitz


I have had two great mentors in public advocacy work. The first, Ralph Nader, with whom I co-authored four books.

The second, Rita Marker–whose book Deadly Compassion compelled me to leave my former work in 1993 to advocate on behalf of human exceptionalism and the equal dignity of all human life. I’ve never looked back, and indeed, continue to work as a paid consultant to the Patients Rights Council, which Rita directs.

She has a piece out in the American Thinker that looks at the proverbial man behind the curtain orchestrating the Brittany Maynard media frenzy. From, “A Deadly Campaign Masked as a Personal Decision.”

This explosion of coverage was due to a public campaign facilitated by Compassion & Choices (the former Hemlock Society) to legalize Oregon-style doctor-prescribed suicide in every state.

The organization has established the Brittany Maynard Fund to raise money for political campaigns to legalize doctor-prescribed suicide in targeted states across the country.

And, to strengthen the resolve of the young woman for whom the campaign is named, Compassion & Choices has posted “Britanny’s Card” on its website. “Let’s get 1 million people to sign Britanny’s card,” states the message, adding, “Sign the card and let Brittany know you support her bravery in this very tough time.”

Wow. Does anyone think C & C would be doing that if Maynard wanted hospice (or indeed, would have mounted the media blitz)?  Not. On. A Bet.

Rita is right: The card-signing campaign pushes Maynard to carry through with suicide. What else could be meant by “support her bravery”?

Perhaps worse, C & C sees Maynard as an evergreen money tree:

But sending a message comes with a catch. In a startling note of hucksterism, the site states that “By signing Brittany’s Card, you agree to receive periodic communication from Compassion & Choices.”

Meaning, continual requests for donations.

I have seen repeatedly shocked at the cynical manipulations that erupt from time-to-time from assisted suicide volcano. But this crass using of Maynard’s tragedy–albeit with her cooperation–including applauding her planned suicide, is the most cynical of all. 


Euthanasia About Killer’s “Choice”--For Now


We keep hearing about the “right to die.” There is no right to die–no escape, of course,–but no right.

Yet, I hasten to add. No right to die, yet.

What do I mean? The killing decision in euthanasia and assisted suicide isn’t really the suicidal person’s “choice:” It is the killer’s or helper’s. In other words, life will end only if the joint venturer in the killing believes the suicidal person’s life is not worth living. 

This ultimate truth about euthanasia–even in wild death cultures like Belgium and the Netherlands–came to mind as I read about gay activist David Mixner’s confession that he “mercy-killed” 8 friends with AIDS during the height of the epidemic. From the Daily Beast story:

Into this network, says Mixner, came medical professionals—“nurses and doctors, heavily into the epidemic”—who saw what AIDS did to their patients and the lack of effective medicine to lessen their suffering, and who wanted to provide death with dignity.

“I would only do it when I was 100 percent sure that there was no hope,” Mixner tells me. “When I felt there was no hope, that all had been done for them, then I would do it. Some of the patients got angry. They’d say, ‘We want to die now.’ But I could only help to do it when it felt right to me.”

In other word’s, it was Mixner’s choice. And the killing is not really a medical act. Of course, in their hearts, people know that even if they pretend they don’t.

I moved to San Francisco at the height of the AIDS catastrophe. The underground euthanasia network Mixner described was well known. 

This was the time I began my anti-assisted suicide activism,  As my public profile rose, I would be invited to debate in SF about The City’s underground euthanasia network. 

In debating the underground killing network it became clear how subjective the kill decision was for assisters. One doctor told me in a debate that he wouldn’t do it unless the patient got below 90 pounds. That was his personal line and he stuck to it!

I challenged him:”But your colleagues have different lines, don’t they?” He admitted they did. Some didn’t wait very far along in the death process at all. 

Also, I sensed that the assisted suicide virus was as contagious as HIV. Dying in that way came to be seen as an act of defiance against an oppressive culture. The idea was, “You can’t tell us who to love or how to die,”–astonishing to me at the time that gay rights would be conjoined with the killing of (mostly) gay men.

So, whether a despairing and sick AIDS patient was killed depended on whether the killer thought the ill gay man’s life was still worth living!

Perhaps Mixner feels guilty in making his confession. Why? When the new drugs suddenly burst on the scene, AIDS patients literally bounced back from death’s door to vitality. In other words, some of those killed by the euthanasia network might not have died at all but for being the subject of homicide!

The same “doctor’s choice” phenomenon occurs in Oregon, Belgium, Netherlands, etc. This leads to what I call doctor shopping, that is, the suicidal person looking for a medic with a prescription pad willing to kill or help kill them under their individual circumstances. Heck, even Kevorkian said no once in a while.

But Wesley, you always warn that assisted suicide will end up in “death on demand!” Indeed, it will.  

The idea is to turn euthanasia into abortion. In Victoria, Australia, every doctor must be complicit in abortion-on-demand, either by doing the fetus killing or referring to a doctor know to be willing.

The KNMG (Dutch Medical Association) issued an ethical opinion–not yet law–opining that Dutch doctors opposed to a legally qualified patient being euthanized must refer to a death doctor willing to do the snuffing. 

In Quebec, that is already the law–and the homicide is paid for by the state.

But for now, the “right to die” is mostly the right to lethally prescribe or administer if asked. Think about the power in that–the right to determine whether another person lives or dies.


I Criticized Media, not Brittany Maynard


Sigh. This blog is linked over at CNN in a story about Britanny Maynard deciding to postpone her suicide.

But this blog is linked with the following words, meaning this is what the story says about me: 

She’s also become a lightning rod for criticism from people who criticize that approach.

No. I specifically didn’t criticize Maynard for wanting to commit suicide in the post CNN linked. I criticized the media! Here is what I wrote about her. From, “Brittany Maynard: The Vultures Circle:”

I wasn’t going to write about Maynard because I am not critical of her. No one knows what our limits might be. But more importantly, she is a living, very ill woman. No way I am going to do anything to add to her burden.

What about the words, “I am not critical of her,” does CNN not understand?

And here is what I wrote about media ghouls–like CNN–breathlessly acting as propagandists instead of journalists:

Media know they are being played. But, if it bleeds, it leads!

- By breathlessly pushing the Maynard story, the media are pushing suicide. This totally violates media guidelines for reporting suicide stories issued by the World Health Organization.

- Why is this case making headlines? There have been hundreds of assisted suicides with nary a peep from the media. And cases that make legalized prescribed suicide look bad are assiduously ignored.

- Many of the stories read as if she has no choice but to kill herself. No mention of the potential of hospice and other care opportunities to alleviate her suffering.

- By pushing suicide as death with dignity–and by giving so much attention to her death–the media tell others that suicide is the right answer for them too.

- Many media support assisted suicide and are using Maynard for ideological reasons.

- This is like 60 Minutes playing the video of Jack Kevorkian murdering Thomas Youk, with Mike Wallace repeatedly asking, “Is he dead yet? Is he dead yet?” Or the BBC playing the video of a death at one of the Swiss suicide clinics.

- And here’s the thing: If she kills herself on November 1, they will barely remember who she was on November 3.

So, thanks to CNN for linking me. I’m flattered. But I do wish it had reported that they–and cynical assisted suicide ideologues–are my lightening rod, not Maynard.

Using Maynard to Stifle Suicide Opponents


I find myself forced to yet again take keyboard in hand to point out that those who claim the loudest to want a substantive discussion of legalizing assisted suicide from the Brittany Maynard advocacy offensive, actually use her tragedy to stifle debate.

Latest case in point: Physician Anand Veeravagu and medical student Tej Azadand write in today’s San Francisco Chronicle in praise of Maynard–fair enough–arguing that her willingness to discuss her pending assisted suicide should spark meaningful discourse. But then they stamp on those who would debate legalization by suggesting opponents brand the dying woman “cowardly.” From the piece:

Conversations and decisions about death are difficult and emotionally charged. It is paramount that we treat differing opinions with respect and compassion.

There are those who will identify Maynard as weak and her decision as cowardly. This is as misguided as it is unfortunate. It poisons the well for an important national conversation that requires the perspectives of individuals, like Maynard, personally facing these decisions.

Do you notice how they write that differing opinions should be treated with “respect and compassion”–and then smear those with differing opinions with a vicious canard?

No one I know has called Maynard “weak, “cowardly,” or any such thing. I have seen people asking her not to kill herself out of care and concern, but not from a place of judgmental castigation. And, as I have noted, none of us knows what might cause us to be suicidal.

I have criticized Maynard for using her own tragedy as a means to shut others up about the issue as it relates to determining proper public policy. That’s not the same thing at all as criticizing her for her for being suicidal. In fact, it is treating her with respect. Refusing to criticize her where deserved because she is ill would be condescending. 

(And none of the, “She’s not suicidal,” nonsense. Maynard says she wants to kill herself to end suffering. That’s as much suicide as the mother who kills herself because of the intense grief caused by the deaths of her children or the person who kills himself from the agony caused by clinical depression.) 

Veeravagu and Azad only want one side to have the microphone. That’s all too typical in assisted suicide advocacy–and most particularly in the media which often only reports one side of the issue.

We should not surrender to emotional blackmail. No personal attacks on Maynard–opponents are usually the ones attacked personally–but no surrender to suicide promotion or the advocacy nuclear weapon of using her brain cancer as a bludgeon to silence opposing voices.

Only Pro-Assisted Suicide Types Yell “Religion!”


Such two-dimensional thinking by so many pro assisted suicide advocates.

It’s about forcing religion, they yell. “Pope, keep your hands off my body!”

For example, Steve Siebold–who laughably advertises himself as “an expert in the field of critical thinking” (who does that?)–says that assisted suicide isn’t legal throughout the country because of religion. From his blog post at the Huffington Post:

What’s holding back physician-assisted suicide to become the law of the land? For one, the Church. In the Roman Catholic Church, suicide is a sin because only God has the authority to end a human life. No evidence exists to support this claim, yet it’s the undercurrent of the laws banning assisted suicide.

It’s time for thinking people to stand up and start pushing back on issues that involve human suffering. If someone chooses to believe that God wants her to suffer through a terminal illness that’s her decision, but when you force the rest of us to obey laws based on evidence-less beliefs it’s wrong and needs to be stopped.

What utter, shallow crappola. What noncritical thinking!

All major opponent of assisted suicide of whom I am aware make rational, secular, and public policy-related arguments against legalization. They don’t talk religion.

I am a consultant to the Patients Rights Council, perhaps the most prominent nonprofit educational organization opposing assisted suicide. Check its Website: It never mentions religion.

Moreover, in my view, assisted suicide has been primarily thwarted by the disability rights movement, most members of which are distinctly secular, generally liberal politically, and indeed, not pro-life on abortion.

Sure, the Catholic Church opposes assisted suicide. But in so doing, it doesn’t make “sin” arguments.

Case in point: The splendid Richard Doerflinger is the point man against assisted suicide for the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He never talks sin, or God, but public policy. For example, hit this link to read his Congressional testimony against assisted suicide and in favor of the Pain Relief Promotion Act–ultimately killed by assisted suicide advocates because it didn’t permit killing–and you will see that religion is never discussed. Here is a brief excerpt:

When we accept assisted suicide as a “good enough” solution for these patients, we preach a counsel of despair to all terminally ill patients. We tell them that we find it easier to kill them than to find ways to kill their pain. By rejecting the “quick fix” of assisted suicide, however, we reaffirm to ourselves and to the medical profession that these patients have lives worth living, and that they deserve real solutions for the pain, depression and isolation that they may experience.

One might disagree with Doerflinger–I agree with him–but it is a more substantive argument than screaming, “Look at Brittany Maynard!”, added to the bald assertion that assisted suicide is a “right.” Siebald calls that “critical thinking.” Hardly. 

But let’s get even more specific. Hit this link to read a “fact sheet” about assisted suicide put out by the USCCB. Note, no mention of God or “sin;” not one! Here’s an example of its rational advocacy:

A decade after Oregon’s law allowing physician-assisted suicide took effect, suicide had become “the leading cause of injury death” in Oregon, and “the second leading cause of death among Oregonians ages 15-34.” The suicide rate in Oregon has been rising since 2000, and in 2007 was “35 percent higher than the national average” – without counting physician-assisted suicides of seriously ill patients, which Oregon law does not allow to be counted as suicides.

State public health officials have recommended special efforts to prevent suicide among young people, seniors, and veterans (who tend to have more physical health problems than others), and to “promote universal depression screening and care for adults, particularly seniors by healthcare providers” — screening that Oregon law does not require, and Oregon doctors usually do not provide, for those requesting physician-assisted suicide.

One can think there is no connection between legalization of assisted suicide and the increased suicide rate in Oregon–I think there is–but it isn’t a religious argument.

Using the religion canard allows “critical thinkers” like Siebold to avoid a substantive and thorough discussion. It is a way of avoiding true engagement by setting up a straw man to knock down. It is lazy, insipid, and all too predictable.



Obama OKs IVF Industry to Sell US Citizenship!


Reverse biological colonialism!

I have written about this before, but now the Obama Administration has given its imprimatur to foreigners buying U.S. Citizenship for their babies.

Here’s how the scheme works: Imagine a Chinese couple create embryos using IVF in Beijing. The embryos are shipped to the USA and implanted in an American woman’s uterus. She gives birth and the babies are taken back to China by the biological parents. Should the kid be a US citizen?

The Obama Administration has just promulgated regulations saying yes! From the USCIS summary:

Under this new policy, a mother who meets this definition but does not have a genetic relationship with her child (for example, she became pregnant through an egg donor) will:

- Be able to petition for her child based on their relationship

- Be eligible to have her child petition for her based on their relationship

- Be able to transmit U.S. citizenship to her child, if she is a U.S. citizen and all other pertinent citizenship requirements are met.

Realize that under surrogacy contracts, THE SURROGATE WAIVES LEGAL PARENTHOOD! But for purposes of opening America’s doors, the Feds say baby citizen if surrogate was the legal mother at birth.

So, the contracts will just provide that the waiver of parenthood occur after birth, and voila, instant citizenship. For sale. Unbelievable.

The voracious IVF industry is way out of hand. And now, it has the seal of approval from the U.S. Government to sell American Citizenship.

This scheme will turn a pretty penny!


HT: Daily Caller

PS: Neil Munro of the Daily Caller shows another way this could work:

The change means that a woman who is a U.S. citizen can be hired by a reproductive medical clinic to become pregnant overseas and to give birth in China, Saudi Arabia, or anywhere else, and then effectively hand a U.S. passport to the baby.

Either way, there’s money in selling citizenship.

Brittany Maynard Tries to Stifle Debate


The Brittany Maynard media explosion (my takes here and here) is an intense advocacy offensive–funded substantially by the culturally subversive George Soros through his support of Compassion and Choices–that is intended to do two things:

1. Drive assisted suicide into implementation by the power of hyper-emotion.

2. Silence those who want to discuss non-lethal approaches to caring for terminally ill patients in the larger context of the issues raised by Maynard’s illness.

Thus, Maynard has unfairly attacked palliative care expert, Dr. Ira Byock, for daring to state that people with terminal brain cancer can die peaceful deaths without taking poison. From a transcript presented on Thaddeus Pope’s Medical Futility Blog:  

“I am Brittany Maynard and it concerns me that Dr. Ira Byock will speak on my ‘behalf’ at all again.

I watched a special on PBS where this same individual spoke about my case as though he knew personal details about me, saying some things that were quite frankly not true. “For example, he said that a gentle death would be available to me easily through hospice, unfortunately that would be after a great length of time, with lots of suffering (physical and emotional), and loss for my young body. 

Byock did not speak on her “behalf.” He hasn’t treated her and wouldn’t do that.

To the contrary, he addressed the issue of what hospice can do for patients with terminal brain cancer. Maynard–and more particularly, Compassion and Choices–are just trying to shut up voices they don’t want heard in the discussion by using her tragedy as a bludgeon.

Back to Maynard:

As a terminally ill patient, I find it disrespectful and disturbing when people discuss my personal health with details that are not accurate to push an agenda.

My request is that physicians speak only what they directly know to be factually true and have a right to discuss.

Do you see what is going on? Do you see the cynical tactic?

Maynard put herself into the international spotlight to push assisted suicide–and then uses her own tragedy as a bludgeon to shame anyone who gainsays the agenda into silence. 

Well, baloney: Nobody is violating Maynard’s privacy. To the contrary: She and C & C are inserting her story into in every possible venueThat being so, people have every right to comment about the ISSUE presented–and that includes what hospice can do for people with brain cancer–as well as whether assisted suicide is appropriate or beneficent public policy.

People also have every right to opine about whether she is doing the right thing in her campaign and in deciding to take poison. She brought the issue up.

To put it bluntly, whether to legalize physician-prescribed suicide is about much more than Brittany Maynard’s individual circumstances, as tragic and emotionally compelling as that may be.

Scotland Pushes Anyone-Assisted Suicide


So much for “aid in dying” as a “medical treatment.”

In Scotland, a bill is pending to authorize anyone-assisted suicides. From the honestly named–as opposed to US proposals--”Scottish Assisted Suicide Bill:”

No criminal liability for assisting suicide (1) It is not a crime (of any kind) to assist a person to commit suicide. 

That basically means anyone can assist

The person who wants to die has to be age 16 or higher, have two doctors state that he or she has a terminal or “life-shortening” illness–which,when you think about it, could be almost anything:

(5) The kind of illness or condition referred to in subsection (4)(a) is—(a) an illness that is, for the person, either terminal or life-shortening, or (b) a condition that is,;for the person, progressive and either terminal or life-shortening.

That’s a wide enough gap to drive a hearse through. Many conditions are far from terminal but could be considered “life shortening,” including diabetes, asymptomatic HIV infection, MS, plugged arteries in the heart, bi-polar disease, Lupus, perhaps even, obesity or nicotine addiction.

And they are pursuing Jack Kevokian’s dream of non-physician “licensed suicide facilitators:”

A licensed facilitator is to use best endeavours—

(a) to provide, before, during and after the act of suicide (or attempted suicide) by the person for whom the facilitator is acting, such practical assistance as the person reasonably requests,
(b) to provide the person with comfort and reassurance,
(c) to be with the person when any drug or other substance or means dispensed or otherwise supplied for the suicide of the person is taken or used by the person,
(d) as soon as practicable after the expiry of the period of 14 days referred to in section 17(2), to remove from the person any such drug or other substance or 20 means still in the person’s possession.

“What do you want to be when you grow up, Bonnie?” “I want to help people kill themselves, Ma!” “That’s a good girl.”

Note there is no provision for intervention by a suicide preventer.

And this provision turns over the whole process of licensing to suicide promoters:

Licensing of facilitators
(1) The Scottish Ministers may, by order, appoint—(a) a person or a body, association or group of persons to be the licensing authority, or (b) persons or bodies, associations or groups of persons to be licensing authorities,for facilitators

Think about how the ideologues at Compassion and Choices or Dignity in Dying would tingle at the mere thought of being able to license suicide assisters! 

As radical as the bill already is, it would only be a launching pad for eventual active euthanasia as people got used to killing as an acceptable answer to human suffering.

We are being pushed steadily and consistently toward a culture of death on demand.

Different places are further down that road than others. But make no mistake: All assisted suicide/euthanasia roads lead to the same destination



Equality? Point Should be Well-Adjusted Children


In Brave New World, society “hatches” children instead of women giving birth. We know where that leads…

Now, some are extolling using artificial wombs as a means of guaranteeing women “equality.” From,“The End of Pregnancy,” by Reihan Salam:

I think Tong is probably right and that something essential would be lost if pregnancy becomes obsolete. Yet, artificial wombs still seem inevitable. The powerful, feeling-filled bond between a mother and her child is a big part of what leads working mothers to take their child-rearing responsibilities more seriously than working fathers.
If this essential difference is the problem, if it is the root of gender equality in the workplace, and if our highest priority is to eliminate gender inequality, then ectogenesis offers a way forward.

And here I thought the “highest priority” was to have well-adjusted and happy children. Oh, Wesley, you’re so 1950s!

Of course, if there were artificial wombs and a woman didn’t want to be pregnant, there would be a solution that could both save the baby and give the woman “choice.”

Right, that’ll really fly!

If Suicide a Right Must be Open to All


As regular readers know, I am increasingly impatient with the phoniness of the assisted suicide debate.

Hemlock sellers pretend that it will be strictly limited. But they also claim that assisted suicide is the ultimate civil right.

If that is so, how can it be limited strictly? Indeed, other than, say, a troubled teenager or someone with an impulsive or transitory desire to die, how can it be restricted at all?

Logically, it can’t, the point made in a typically excellent column by the Canadian journalist, Andrew Coyne. It is important to read the article from the beginning, because he follows the logic. For example, we are told euthanasia is only for the terminally ill. Except, Quebec already left that limitation behind. From, “If Assisted Suicide is a Right, How Can It Not be for All?”

Under the Quebec law the pain could be “physical or psychological.” And the patient doesn’t actually have to be incapable of killing themselves or even disabled: just in “an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability.” So we have expanded the definition somewhat from our initial argument. But that only makes sense. Would we extend a right to the disabled we would deny to everyone else?

Along these lines, I once did a talk radio show in San Francisco, shortly after one of the host’s colleagues jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge due to a business scandal. Within one minute, he went from arguing assisted suicide should be severely restricted to asserting that his friend should have been able to go to a doctor rather than take the big jump! Logic moves inexorably in the human mind.

Back to Coyne:

In those European countries that permit the practice — Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and Switzerland — there is no requirement of terminal illness, either. Again, this is only logical: A disease can cause unbearable suffering without being fatal. Neither would it seem necessary that the suffering be disease-based. For example, Belgium has lately extended the right to euthanasia to prisoners serving life sentences.

Yup. Simple logic.

More of Coyne’s applied logic and dot-connecting:

Similarly, should the right to a painless death really be restricted to adults? As Eike-Henner Kluge, former director of ethics and legal affairs for the Canadian Medical Association, has argued, this is an obvious example of age discrimination. Here again Belgium has shown the way, amending its legislation this year to allow children to seek help in killing themselves, albeit with the consent of their parents or guardians. That’s probably unavoidable, though it is natural to ask whether parents who could refuse their children that request, if the alternative were constant and unbearable physical or psychological pain, should really be left in their charge.

Well, you get the picture. Coyne concludes:

The more clearly we think about the issue, the more we will realize how incomplete, how inconsistent current models of legalization are. This is not a matter of slippery slopes, but of respect for personal autonomy and equal rights for all. The euthanasia most people have in mind — severely disabled adults, at the end of their lives, making a conscious choice in the absence of other alternatives — is not in fact what is at issue. Indeed, if we are honest with ourselves, we will see that what we are really talking about here is not the rights of the disabled, but the normalization of suicide, as the rational alternative to suffering.

No longer something to be discouraged, stigmatized as an act of individual aberrance, it will henceforth be a social act in which others are expected to assist. Just so long as we acknowledge that that is what we are doing.

This is the argument we would be having if assisted suicide advocates were interested in honest and open debate. But they are not. And neither is the media who are huffing and puffing so hard about Brittany Maynard.They just want society to let them light the fuse, you know, just an itty-bitty fire.

Of course, they also know that small incendiary action that leads to a much bigger boom. Advocates know the cultural bomb will eventually go off. It’s what they want.

Peter Singer to Court: Make Chimps Persons!


There he goes again. Peter Singer–who has argued that cognitively devastated people should have been used instead of chimps in the creation of the hepatitis vaccine–urges a court to impose chimp personhood on society.

Why? Well, because he wants to destroy human exceptionalism

And what could accomplish that task better than “breaking the species barrier” (his term from The Great Ape Project) by making some animals legally and morally equivalent to people–thereby reducing us (and our self-perception) to just another animal in the forest.

But Singer doesn’t get into that, for obvious reasons, in his Daily News column on making chimps persons. Instead he invokes emotionalism. From “Chimpanzees Are People Too:”

Tommy is 26 years old. He is being held in solitary confinement in a wire cage. He has never been convicted of any crime, or even accused of one. He is not in Guantanamo, but in upstate Gloversville.

How is this possible? Because Tommy is a chimpanzee.

I have pointed out previously in writing about this case, that the Nonhuman Rights Project has not sought to improve Tommy’s welfare. For example, they have not, to the best of my knowledge, called in the animal welfare authorities to conduct an investigation.

If the law permits chimps to be kept in ways harmful to these magnificent animals, change the law to create proper care requirements. Neither Wise–nor Singer–promotes this proper animal welfare approach.

Instead, NHRP is using Tommy for its own ideological purposes. e.g., as an excuse to have a court rule that chimps are equivalent to human beings.

Singer simply asserts that chimps are persons because of their intelligence and supposed rudimentary moral sense.  (No way are chimps moral agents. Only we are.) He then invokes a straw man:

Contrary to the caricatures of some opponents of this lawsuit, declaring a chimpanzee a person doesn’t mean giving him or her the right to vote, attend school or sue for defamation. It simply means giving him or her the most basic, fundamental right of having legal standing, rather than being considered a mere object.

I may have missed it: But I don’t know anyone who has claimed that allowing chimps to be persons would require that they vote.

But it would require that they have equal legal and moral standing in every way–which Singer conveniently forgets to mention.

That goal isn’t about improving their welfare and standards of care–fully in keeping with human exceptionalism–but rather, is aimed at destroying the unique value of human life; AGENDA 1 for animal rights activists.

Singer then brings up an irrelevancy:

Over the past 30 years, European laboratories have, in recognition of the special nature of chimpanzees, freed them from research labs. That left only the United States still using chimpanzees in medical research, and last year the National Institutes of Health announced that it was retiring almost all of the chimpanzees utilized in testing and sending them to a sanctuary.

If the nation’s leading medical research agency has decided that, except possibly in very unusual circumstances, it will not use chimpanzees as research subjects, why are we allowing individuals to lock them up for no good reason at all?

The chimp research decision–note that they can still be used in special cases–was based on animal welfare principles, not animal rights. (Hit this link for my post about the NIH decision.)

Then, the usual Leftist resort to judicial tyranny:

It is time for the courts to recognize that the way we treat chimpanzees is indefensible. They are persons and we should end their wrongful imprisonment.


Note, that Singer slyly uses the supposed abuse of Tommy to argue that we should not be able to use chimps instrumentally at all. Ever. For any reason. 

But as I said, even that, isn’t what the case is really all about. It’s just the pretext. For if some animals can be elevated to personhood, it also means some people will be demoted to non-personhood–essentially dehumanization, for which Singer has advocated for decades. As I wrote some time ago in the Weekly Standard:

These and other concerted efforts to knock ourselves off the pedestal of exceptionalism are terribly misguided. The way we act is based substantially on what kind of being we perceive ourselves to be. Thus, if we truly want to make this a better and more humane world, the answer is not to think of ourselves as inhabiting the same moral plane as animals–none of which can even begin to comprehend rights. Rather, it is to embrace the unique importance of being human.

That is why rights should be seen objectively intrinsic to our humanity. Cut to its core, personhood theory is actually about opening the door to treating some of us as less than human.

Why CA CAN Order Churches to Cover Abortion


I wrote previously about radical California’s order that insurance companies cover elective abortion as “medically necessary” health care. Ridiculous and ideological.

Now, The Federalist reports that the order also applies to insurance purchased by churches. From the story:

While California (like the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, or HHS) exempts churches from its contraceptive mandate, there is no exception to this bureaucratic abortion mandate. This leaves California churches in the illogical and impossible position of being free to exclude contraceptives from their health plan for reasons of religious conscience but required to provide their employees with abortion coverage.

What?How can they get away with it?

First, the California abortion mandate is a law of general applicability. This means no violation of the First Amendment: Under U.S. Supreme Court precedent, religious freedom doesn’t matter.

But Hobby Lobby! Nope. HL is a limited cased based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The RFRA only applies to federal law, not state.

Since California could care less about religious freedom, we don’t have an RFRA-type law.

But Obamacare forbids states from discriminating against policies that don’t provide abortion coverage. True. Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation are on the case:

Alliance Defending Freedom and Life Legal Defense Foundation have filed administrative complaints with the HHS Office of Civil Rights (which oversees this federal law) on behalf of individual employees and seven California churches forced into abortion coverage in violation of their conscience. 

Go get them, guys, but as the story says, good luck with that.

The Obama Administration is pro-abortion. More, it has amply demonstrated it won’t enforce laws or regulations with which it disagrees. Thus, I would be very surprised if Obamacarians brought its fellow ideological travelers in California to heel.

So sue! Sure. But I have two words for you: “Ninth Circuit”

Bottom line: California has crossed the post-Christian bridge into the anti-Christian era.

The Obama Administration has too.

So have most courts, particularly the Ninth Circuit.

I don’t expect these churches to find legal relief short of the Supreme Court. And that will take years.

As I always say: Abortion–like slavery did in the 19th century–corrupts everything it touches.

Unconscious Patient Heard End Care Push


Sometimes, I think, the medical system is in too big a rush to assume that people with brain damage are out and gone.

This is the fruit of a “quality of life” value system that increasingly infects medicine. Human life matters far less now than the supposed quality of the life expected to be lived. 

That’s very dangerous. Here’s an example: An Australian woman had a stroke. She appeared completely unconscious, but was really awake and aware. And she heard the push by her medical team to end life support. From the story:

Kate Allat is a mother who suffered a stroke at 39. She spent 10 days in a coma after the stroke, and came around in a hospital bed – but her consciousness was a living nightmare. The Daily Mail reports Kate’s mind was functioning perfectly, but everyone around her, including medics, thought she was brain dead. She lay paralysed, without the ability to speak or even breathe on her own, listening as medics discussed switching off life support with her loved ones.

Kate was suffering from “locked-in syndrome” – where you can feel, hear and think – but you can’t communicate at all. It took two weeks for Kate to be able to communicate with medics and loved ones she was mentally alert. “They thought I was in a vegetative state. I couldn’t move a muscle. There was no signal I was in there,” 

Imagine hearing people discuss prognosis and knowing that you could be cut off from life. Brrrr.

I know another such case: Kate Adamson–who said that being without food and water was worse pain than when she was operated upon with inadequate anesthesia–also was misdiagnosed incorrectly as persistently unconscious.

We should remember that before supporting the dehydration of people with extensive brain damage.

There are many lessons to learn from this, among which are:

1. A proper diagnosis of persistent unconsciousness takes months, not days. Don’t be pushed into a decision that can’t be reversed.

2. Never speak in front of an unconscious patient about things you would not want her to hear. She might be awake.

Paralyzed Walk--Without Embryonic Stem Cells!


“Embryonic stem cells are the only hope!” 

Remember? Please do, because it was always a lie and the embryonic hypers knew it. And they castigated those who painted a broader, more accurate portrait of regenerative medicine possibilities. 

Now, a paralyzed man is walking after transplant of his own olfactory cells. From the Guardian story:

A man who was completely paralysed from the waist down can walk again after a British-funded surgical breakthrough which offers hope to millions of people who are disabled by spinal cord injuries. Polish surgeons used nerve-supporting cells from the nose of Darek Fidyka, a Bulgarian man who was injured four years ago, to provide pathways along which the broken tissue was able to grow.

The 38-year-old, who is believed to be the first person in the world to recover from complete severing of the spinal nerves, can now walk with a frame and has been able to resume an independent life, even to the extent of driving a car, while sensation has returned to his lower limbs.

More research to be done, but it turns out that embryonic stem cell “deniers” were right all along. Color me not surprised.

The Surrogate Who Changed Her Mind


What a mess. What a God-awful mess the new reproductive technologies in general—and commercial surrogacy, in particular—are making of family life. What a legal, emotional, and moral mess.

The Center for Bioethics and Culture asked me to sort out one such circumstance from Tennessee that went all the way to the state Supreme Court–and it still isn’t resolved. From, “A Case of Surrogacy’s Gordion Knot:”

Here are the facts: Unmarried Italian citizens—”L.G.” the “intended mother,” and “A.T.” the “intended father,” paid more than $73,000 to pay for “expenses” and “pain and suffering” to “J.J.E.,” the surrogate. She agreed to be artificially inseminated with A.T.’s sperm, to gestate any babies conceived, and then surrender the child and her parental rights to the intended parents. In other words, the baby would be the biological child of the intended father and the surrogate mother. In Tennessee such contracts are called “traditional surrogacy…”

After birth, mom was asked to nurse baby–not part of the contract. That seemed to have bonded mother and child and she decided not to give up her rights. Litigation ensued:

Tennessee law doesn’t explicitly govern this particular circumstance–and so the court applied the law of private adoption, a reasonable approach.

The Court ruled that the mother’s waiver of parental rights before birth was invalid. Since she never waived her rights after the baby was born, the situation resulted in a legal, emotional, and parenting mess:

Cutting through the legalese at the end of the decision’s winding road, here how the whole mess all sorted out:

- A.T., the intended and biological father, is a legal parent of the child, with full rights of visitation, custody, and obligations of support.

- J.J.E., the surrogate and biological mother, is also a legal parent with full rights to pursue custody, visitation, and obligations of support.

- Custody, visitation, support, and other such issues will be made in the child’s “best interests,” not based on the terms of the surrogacy contract.

- The intended mother, L.G., is a legal stranger to the child.

- Surrogacy contracts are enforceable in Tennessee generally, but clauses that violate public policy, as occurred here, will not be enforced.

It is also worth noting that the baby is a U.S. citizen, based on both place of birth and citizenship status of the legal mother.) And what about J.J.E.? What the child will think of all this later in life—and how it will impact his or her wellbeing—is anyone’s guess. But hey, the lawyers probably did well.

I conclude:

The ruling all but begs the Tennessee Legislature to create explicit statutes and regulations to apply in surrogacy situations—which range in the country from legal bans on commercial surrogacy to anything goes.

Good luck with that. Surrogacy itself is the problem, with infinite possibilities for creating discord, chaos, and betrayal. Oh what a tangled web we weave when deploying surrogacy technologies to conceive.

Just because we can do some things technologically, that doesn’t mean we should.

Now UK Media Pushes Suicide by Starvation


The media have become so in the tank for assisted suicide they now treat some suicides more as a necessity than as a choice.

Take the Independent’s headline about an elderly assisted suicide campaigner woman who intentionally starved herself to death. Note the tone of the story. From, “Grandmother Starves Herself to Death After UK Assisted Suicide Laws Left Her ‘No Alternative’:”

An elderly woman has starved herself to death to get around the UK’s tight and restrictive laws on assisted suicide.

I wish they were tight and restrictive. The Public Prosecutor issued directives promising not to usually prosecute family or medical caregivers who assist suicides.

Meanwhile, those trying to change the law insist it will be reserved for the terminally ill. Yet, the self-starved assisted suicide campaigner wasn’t dying:

Octogenarian Jean Davies, who is also a right-to-die campaigner, spent five weeks attempting to end her life and succeeded in doing so on 1 October.

The former math teacher, 86, did not have a terminal illness, but suffered a range of conditions that made her life uncomfortable including chronic back pain and fainting episodes.

She told the Sunday Times: “It is hell. I can’t tell you how hard it is. You wouldn’t decide this unless you thought your life was going to be so bad. It is intolerable.” It is understood that she stopped drinking water on 16 September and was frustrated that her death wasn’t days after, but two weeks.

So, Davies was talking to the media as she starved herself to death?

Talk about terminal nonjudgmentalism! Where was the suicide prevention? Where were those in a position to help save this clearly ideologically driven and depressed woman from herself?

Ms Davies’ four children and two grandchildren were reportedly supportive of her decision.


The point of stories like this is to bully people into legalizing euthanasia. We are supposed to swallow the hemlock that Davies had to kill herself so we were cruel for not making it easy–when the opposite is true.

Someone has to say it: If this report is true, shame on her family. And doubly shame on the media for their crescendo of suicide promotion, e.g., the Brittany Maynard feeding frenzy, 60 Minutes, and now Davies.

Apple/Facebook’s Anti-Woman Egg Freezing Perk


I have been planning to post about Apple and Facebook’s decisions to offer their women employees free egg freezing services to allow them to delay having children. As a friend of mine put it, the policy is just about keeping younger women pounding away at their computers–youth being highly valued by Big Technology.

But then I read my wife’s colleague (and our friend) Caille Millner’s righteous rant against the policies of these proudly politically progressive companies in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. And I decided, heck, Caille did a better job criticizing than I would, so I’ll let her do most of the work. From, “Egg Freezing Perk from Apple and Facebook is Creepy:”

Why offer this at all?

Most of the employees at these companies are paid well enough to afford egg-freezing on their own, should they wish to go that route. Meanwhile, there are plenty of other family-friendly benefits that these companies could have offered women. (It’s worth noting that the option to delay childbearing was offered only to women; there were no free sperm bank visits for men. That’s a statement in itself about who these executives believe must remain responsible for the weight of family life.)

They could have offered on-site day care. (Currently, Facebook offers full-time on-site day care only for dogs; Apple offers none for dogs or humans.)


They could have offered to ease negotiations about flexible work schedules for new parents.

Above all, they could have offered transparent salary scales and guaranteed pay equity. Women feel far better about starting a family when they know they won’t be penalized, either economically or in terms of career opportunity, for doing so.

Pow! Take that Koch Brothers Apple and Facebook

More seriously and potentially consequentially for women, Millner correctly notes that egg harvesting can be an onerous and dangerous procedure:

[E]gg-freezing [is] an intrusive procedure with a limited success rate. It’s a complicated, physically grueling process that provides no guarantees about future parenthood.

Because egg-freezing is such a major procedure, a few of the media reports called the announcements “creepy.” Indeed they are.

Allow me to be more specific: Egg harvesting requires massive hormonal whiplashing of the ovaries so that they release twenty eggs rather than the usual one.

Extraction involves anesthesia and the insertion of a collection needle through the vaginal wall. No fun.

Side effects can include ovary swelling, infection, infertility, increased chance of cancer, and in rare cases, even death.

To which, I will add: When it comes time for the eggs to be thawed and children gestated–it will also be exploit-a-destitute-surrogate time!

Sure, eggs can be thawed, IVF embryos implanted, and babies born when women are above normal child-bearing years. But it’s more difficult.

Consequently, if free egg freezing policies spread–and with “healthcare’s” definition ever-expanding, don’t think that intrusive Obamacare bureaucrats won’t insist eventually that insurance pay for it–women from the developing world will do much of the actual child-bearing. 

These “gestational carriers”–in the IVF industry’s dehumanizing parlance–often are kept in quasi-slave conditions including forced to undergo Caesarians.Oh, and if a baby doesn’t pass eugenic muster, then the surrogate may be pushed to have an abortion or the baby abandoned by the womb renters–something that is already happening.

Millner is absolutely correct. The egg freezing perk is a misogynist wolf in feminist sheep’s clothing with–to mix my metaphors–many long tentacles.

Read Caille’s whole piece: It’s well worth your time. And it saves me from idiotic comments about how a man has no right to express an opinion about the reproductive lives of women.

60 Minutes Proselytizing for Suicide Again


In the wake of the Brittany Maynard media full court press to convince America to accept assisted suicide, comes 60 Minutes, interviewing a woman who was charged with assisting the suicide of her father, later dropped, who has advocated for legalization. Wanna bet there is only one side meaningfully presented?

60 Minutes has long been in favor of assisted suicide, so in the tank for the agenda it even aired a video Jack Kevorkian took of his murder by lethal injection of Thomas Youk. From my 1998 article in the Wall Street Journal, A Snuff Film Comes to Prime Time:”

Mike Wallace morphed into Jerry Springer last Sunday night, as “60 Minutes” aired a videotape of Jack Kevorkian killing Thomas Youk, a 52-year-old man suffering from Lou Gehrig’s disease.

The decision to air the program–essentially a snuff film–was protested by disability-rights activists, several media commentators and some religious groups. A CBS spokesman brushed off the criticism, claiming that “60 Minutes” was merely “allowing Kevorkian to tell his story.” It’s a flimsy excuse. The program had two clear purposes: to boost ratings and to serve as propaganda for legalizing euthanasia…

If viewers wanted hard-hitting journalism to go along with their voyeurism, they were disappointed. The acerbic Mr. Wallace, who usually can be counted on to ask hard questions, treated Dr. Kevorkian with kid gloves. This is not surprising. It was Dr. Kevorkian who sought out Mr. Wallace, a well-known advocate of legalized euthanasia, as his interlocutor.

I will never forget Wallace repeatedly asking Kevorkian:”Is he dead yet? Is he dead yet?”

60 Minutes was also there to boost K when he was released from prison. From my 2007 article for NRO, “Dr. Death Returns:”

Jack Kevorkian is set to be released from prison today. Don’t expect Dr. Death to keep a low profile. He is already scheduled to appear on 60 Minutes, where he will be interviewed by euthanasia proponent Mike Wallace. After that, the rest of the media is likely to extravagantly tout Kevorkian as the compassionate, if eccentric, retired doctor who helped desperate, terminally ill people put themselves out of their misery.

And that is exactly what happened. Why, I hear the Muppets are going to soon include a fuzzy Jack Kevorkian puppet!

Make no mistake: 60 Minutes won’t be engaging in journalism Sunday night. Once again, it will be proselytizing for suicide. 

Brittany Maynard vs. Michael Landon


I wrote my first anti-euthanasia article for Newsweek. Here is a small piece of, “The Whispers of Strangers,” which lamanted my friend Frances’ suicide under the influence of Hemlock Society (now Compassion and Choices) how-to literature:

Frances once told me that through her death she would be advancing a cause. It is a cause I now deeply despise. Not only did it take Frances, but it rejects all that I hold sacred and true: that the preservation of human life is our highest moral ideal; that a principal purpose of government is as a protector of life; that those who fight to stay alive in the face of terminal disease are powerful uplifters of the human experience.

As originally written, the last phrase read, “that those who fight to stay alive in the face of terminal disease–like Michael Landon–are powerful uplifters of the human experience.”

Some readers might not remember Landon. He was a very popular television actor, who died young of pancreatic cancer in 1991. I have been thinking of him again lately amidst the media frenzy over the planned suicide of cancer patient Brittany Maynard.

So, I compared the media’s treatment of the two in my current First Things article:

Landon’s grit and determination inspired the nation. When he died a few months later, praise for his unshrinking courage led the obituaries. “Goodbye Little Joe,” in People, exemplified the media’s approach:

As word of his condition spread, thousands of letters of encouragement and sympathy arrived daily. Scores of friends visited the house and stood vigil at the gates of the ranch. “I have X amount of energy,” said Landon, “and what I have, I want to spend with my family.” Landon’s youngest children, Sean, 4, and Jennifer, 7, were “emotionally distraught,” says longtime friend and business partner Kent McCray, “but Michael passed his strength along to them.”

According to colleague John Warren, Landon also spent time videotaping his last wishes to family and friends. If his friends and family had solace, it was in Landon’s extraordinary calm. Says Flynn of his old friend’s last hours: “It was like going off a diving board. He knew it was coming, and he was brave to the last.

Attitudes have changed about disease and death since then—and, in my view, not for the better. Indeed, today, many might secretly consider Landon a chump for choosing to struggle until his natural death.

I then note how the striking similarity in the media’s take on Maynard’s planned suicide to the praise it once heaped on Landon for “fighting against the dying of the light.”

More, it is striking how the reporting about Maynard’s decision to die resembles the reporting about Landon’s courage twenty-three years ago. For example, People, which once applauded Landon for fighting to the end, now has the mirror-opposite take about Maynard. It even made her a cover story:

For the past 29 years, Brittany Maynard has lived a fearless life—running half marathons, traveling through Southeast Asia for a year and even climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. So, it’s no surprise she is facing her death the same way. On Monday, Maynard will launch an online video campaign with the nonprofit Compassion and Choices, an end-of-life choice advocacy organization, to fight for expanding Death with Dignity laws nationwide.

Suicide has made Maynard an international celebrity. Partly, that’s because she is the perfect icon: young, pretty, newly wed, tragically dying, and transgressive for wanting to kill herself rather than face the rigors of late-stage brain cancer.

And here’s a telling truth about our dissipating times:

But what if Maynard followed Landon’s path instead? She’d still be young, pretty, newly wed, and tragically dying—but there would be no cover stories in People or applause from Rosie O’Donnell. In fact, we would never have heard of her.

I conclude:

If assisted suicide is now considered “courageous” and equates with “death with dignity,” doesn’t that imply that people like Landon who choose to “fight against the dying of the light” are undignified and perhaps less courageous? Maynard isn’t nihilistic. She is just scared.

Those using her tragedy for their own purposes—policy advocacy, ratings, Internet hits, etc.—can’t say the same. The words of Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne keep ricocheting around my brain: “A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it should be endured.”

Worse, as I wrote here at HE, if Maynard dies on 11/1 as apparently planned, the media will have forgotten who she is on 11/3, as they stampede off to the next emotive story. Sickening.


UK Prosecutors OK Nurse-Assisted Suicide


We live in an era when the rule of law means zero. It used to be: If you don’t like the law, change the law. Now: If you don’t like the law, pretend it doesn’t exist.

UK prosecutors have announced they won’t prosecute doctors or nurses who commit assisted suicide. From the Telegraph story:

Doctors and nurses who help severely disabled or terminally ill people to take their own lives are less likely to face criminal charges after Britain’s most senior prosecutor amended guidelines on assisted suicide. Until now all health care professionals faced a greater chance than others of being prosecuted for helping people to die because of the trust their patients placed in them.

Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said this special deterrent would now only apply to those directly involved in a person’s care.

Well, isn’t that comforting.

No! Once you announce you won’t enforce the law, the rules you claim will be enforced are rightly seen as total mush.

In the UK you can be jailed for making intemperate comments about certain minority groups. But no worries if you help kill some people.




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