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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Elimate Predators to Eliminate All Suffering!



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I have written that our fear of suffering is becoming so neurotic that it threatens not only human exceptionalism, but our rationality. Not only has the desire to eliminate suffering mutated to eliminating the sufferer, but the concept itself has become so elastic it even includes the suffering of nature.

Case in point: One of the world’s most notable transhumanists, George Dvorsky–whom I saw advocate “uploading” animal consciences into computers to end the suffering caused by predation–has found another transhumanist who wants us to spend resources and energy in a ridiculous attempt to end predation in the animal kingdom.  From, “The Radical Plan to End Life’s Predatory Species:”

Should animals be permitted to hunt and kill other animals? Some futurists believe that humans should intervene, and solve the “problem” of predator vs. prey once and for all.

Why prey tell (get it?) should we do such a stupid thing? WE MUST END ALL SUFFERING!

But British philosopher David Pearce can’t imagine a future in which animals continue to be trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes. It’s up to us, he argues, to put our brains, our technologies, and our sense of compassion to good use, and do something about it. It’s part of his overarching Hedonistic Imperative, a far-sighted “abolitionist project” set with the goal of achieving nothing less than the elimination of all suffering on the planet. And by all suffering, he means all suffering.

Pearce is so morally confused–because he rejects human exceptionalism–that he apparently believes that our reaction to a lion taking down a zebra should be the same as if we saw a snake eating a toddler:

From the perspective of the victim, the moral status or (lack of) guilty intent of a human or nonhuman predator is irrelevant. Either way, to stand by and watch the snake asphyxiate a child would be almost as morally abhorrent as to kill the child yourself. So why turn this principle on its head with beings of comparable sentience and sentience to human infants and toddlers?

With power comes complicity. For better or worse, power over the lives of all sentient beings on the planet is now within our grasp. Inevitably, critics talk of “hubris”. Humans shouldn’t “play God”. What right have humans to impose our values on members of another race or species?

The charge is seductive but misplaced. There is no anthropomorphism here, no imposition of human values on alien minds. Human and nonhuman animals are alike in an ethically critical respect. The pleasure-pain axis is universal to sentient life.. The wishes of a terrified toddler or a fleeing zebra to flourish unmolested are not open to doubt even in the absence of the verbal capacity to say so.

No. “Wishes” isn’t the issue. The fact that the toddler is a human being with greater importance than the zebra should matter most to us morally. But when you give up human exceptionalism, well, a rat, is a pig, is a dog, is a snake, is a zebra, is a mouse–we’re all the same.

Okay, let’s cut through the blather and get to the chase (get it?): How would Pearce end suffering caused by predators?

First, wipe them out, the way we would the malaria-spreading mosquito. Second, if people don’t want to do that, genetically engineer them:

I’m not personally convinced that we need such predatory species to survive in any shape or form — not even genetically “reprogrammed” to be harmless to their usual victims. But let’s assume otherwise. Can the twin principles of conservation biology and compassionate ecosystem design be reconciled?

In principle, yes. If we really want to preserve free-living crocodiles, snakes and tigers and deliver a cruelty-free biosphere, then the carnivorous members of tomorrow’s wildlife parks will need to be genetically and behaviourally tweaked — with neurochips, GPS tracking and abundance of other high-tech safeguards to prevent accidents.

It’s good to be a philosopher. Even though your ideas have zero chance of success, you get paid to come up with ridiculous theories, use big words to be taken seriously, and receive awed covered by the best magazines (as has Pearce).

Here’s the irony: Transhumanists like Dvorsky and Pearce deny human exceptionalism. But it would take a very exceptional species to eliminate predation in the natural world. Indeed, that these guys want to eliminate all suffering demonstrates the same thing. 

Anti-human exceptionalism is self hatred. It drives people animal crackers. (Get it?)

Biological Colonialism Surrogacy Fraudsters



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The well off of the world increasing exploit the body parts and functions of the destitute–and then, call it “choice.”

Gestational surrogacy–to use the industry’s dehumanizing term–is high on the list of abusive practices. I have written of the dire conditions some women in India face who are paid to carry babies. But apparently there is also trouble in Mexico and elsewhere.

A medical tourism company called Planet Hospital is in involuntary bankruptcy and alleged to have defrauded customers. From the New York Times story:

Jonathan C. Dailey, a lawyer in Washington, wired Planet Hospital $37,000 in December 2013, the first installment on a contract for a single mother in Mexico to carry his child. He and his fiancée flew to Cancún to leave a sperm deposit at the clinic that would create the embryo and to visit the downtown house where their surrogate would live while pregnant.

They picked a “premium” egg donor from the agency Planet Hospital sent them to. But nothing happened. “It was just outright fraud,” said Mr. Dailey. “It’s like we paid money to buy a condo, they took the money, and there was no condo. But it’s worse, because it’s about having a baby.”

I don’t think Mr. Dailey gets the irony: Babies are being purchased like lumber at Home Depot!

The problems went beyond paying for products and services not rendered:

She said Planet Hospital also engaged in unauthorized egg-splitting. In at least one case, Mr. Rupak admitted taking eggs harvested for one intended parent, and giving some to another to keep his costs down.

But people want what they want, and so the beat goes on:

Even with Mr. Rupak out of the Cancún surrogacy business, the demand for affordable surrogacy and the potential profits are such that all the former main players in Planet Hospital — its vice president, the head of the egg-donor agency it worked with, the woman in charge of the Cancún surrogate housing, and Ms. Moscarello, the client representative — are starting their own surrogacy businesses in Mexico.

In fact, hundreds of new surrogacy businesses advertise their services on the Internet because anyone can establish an agency, regardless of background or expertise. Agencies are started and disappear, sometimes reappearing under a new name.

I am told repeatedly by grieving infertile people that they will do “anything” to have a child. That often includes exploiting others. But it sometimes means having “anything” done to them.

Adding to the tragedies: There are so many parentless children who need loving families! Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

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Tirade Against Me Doesn’t Justify Assisted Suicide



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I am not sure why so many “science” bloggers and writers want to opine on ethics. Perhaps having to be objective and purely evidence based gets boring.

In this context, now comes the Evolution Blog by Jason Rosenhouse, which one would presume, would be about the evidence for, and arguments about, evolution.

But Rosenhouse attacks me over my recent First Things article about how the euthanasia movement is pushing suicide by starvation as a means of bludgeoning society into granting permission for lethal injections. (He also went after my Discovery Institute colleague, David Klinghoffer, who can defend himself.)

Rosenhouse badly misleads his audience about my position by basically stating I supported the starvation suicide of Diane Rehm’s husband:

It is hard to imagine anything more devaluing of human life than to force someone to persist in that condition [advanced Parkinson's]. A life is more than just a heartbeat, and death can come well before that heartbeat stops. What kind of person could think that what happened to John Rehm was the morally correct outcome?

Of course I didn’t think that self starvation was the morally correct outcome. But neither would it have been right to have the law allow a doctor have given him a lethal injection or a poison prescription. 

Then, Rosenhouse further misleads his readers about what I wrote in First Things:

His abstract musings about hope and meaning amount to nothing in the face of actual terminal illnesses like the one faced by John Rehm. There was no hope in his condition, and there is no meaning to existing in a state where you can do nothing but wait helplessly for your heart to stop, contemplating everything you’ve lost.

But I wasn’t “abstract.” Here is the link to my piece in question. Note, that I cited two true life examples of men suffering as badly as Rehm–Mark Pickup from progressive MS, and Bob Salamanca from ALS:

- Both wanted access to suicide.

- Both–and I could have given many other examples–couldn’t get it because it was illegal.

- Both were later very happy to still be alive.

- Both were alive to be happy precisely because they had not been able to access doctor-prescribed death.

That is beyond concrete–and should be at least equally compelling as the story of Rehm’s death. Moreover, their stories are highly germane to the question of whether Rehm’s resorting to self-starvation justifies legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia. 

Besides, how in the hell is it more compassionate to support a policy that allows killing as an answer to suffering, than to support a policy that involves caring enough to deny facilitated death to people along with efforts to help them get past the despair? It’s not: It’s just easier. 

To use Rosenberg’s insulting language–which I wouldn’t normally do–what kind of a person would think that what would have happened to Mark and Bob–hastened death–would have been better than the meaning and joy they eventually found in life precisely because assisted suicide was unavailable?

Rosenberg illustrates why assisted suicide would never be limited to the terminally ill:

And here’s the point: Everyone has to decide for themselves when that point [when life is too painful to go on] is reached. People like Smith and Klinghoffer have no business holding forth on the meaning of anyone’s life but their own.

If that is true, it means that assisted suicide must be available to anyone who wants to die for any reason they think sufficient. Who is Rosenhouse to say no to anyone who wants to die for any reason? That is the argument we should be having, because it illustrates the true stakes in the euthanasia controversy.

Unlike the author of Evolution Blog, I know that we need to apply reason to the question of legalization of facilitated killing, not just emotion. An issue that literally will determine whether people live or die deserves nothing less, which is why I have devoted 23 years to fighting the culture of death.

One may not agree with my conclusions. But far more than Rosenhouse, I know what I am talking about. 

Physician Heal Thyself on Guns



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The medical technocracy and our rulers want doctors to expand their jurisdictions to include gathering information about guns in the home, including apparently, from children.

This is an example of what I call health hegemony, that is, expanding the borders of the medical sphere to include issues that actually sound in social policy. 

Guns may or may not present a safety hazard in the home. Doctors are not trained experts in their proper storage and use. Practice guidelines that urge physicians to discuss guns seek to harness the physician’s authority to the ongoing campaign to promote certain public and social policies.

Florida fought against the health hegemony by passing a law restricting doctors from asking patients about guns in many situations. Some doctors sued, claiming infringement on their freedom of speech.

Now, a Federal Court of Appeals just confirmed the law’s constitutionality. From the decision in Wollschlaeger v. Florida:

The Act seeks to protect patients’ privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians regarding firearms. The Act recognizes that when a patient enters a physician’s examination room, the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness. The patient must place his or her trust in the physician’s guidance, and submit to the physician’s authority. In order to protect patients, physicians have for millennia been subject to codes of conduct that define the practice of good medicine and affirm the responsibility physicians bear.

In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters…

The Act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.

The medical technocrats are unhappy. From a Tampa Times column:

“We strongly disagree with the 11th Circuit’s decision. It is an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of pediatricians and threatens our ability to provide our patients and their families with scientific, unbiased information,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, president of the Florida chapter of the AAP, the Florida Pediatric Society.

Except “unbiased sciencitic information” isn’t what the push to get doctors to gather information about guns in the home is all about.

Back to the FPS statement:

“This dangerous decision gives state legislatures free license to restrict physicians from asking important questions about health and safety that are vital to providing the best medical care to patients.” Added Dr. James M. Perrin, president of the national group: “State legislatures should not stop physicians from practicing good medicine. This law has a chilling effect on life-saving conversations that take place in the physician’s office.

Physician heal thyself. The NRA knows better how to keep and use guns safely than do doctors.

This is an example of the law of cause and effect in action. If the medical technocracy would stop trying to harness the practice of medicine to promote liberal social policy, conservative states would not react by passing defensive and (perhaps) constitutionally questionable laws.

Assisted Suicide Death Cult “Death Coaching”



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I discovered the assisted suicide death cult when my friend Frances killed herself under the influence of the Hemclock Society, since evolved into Compassion and Choices. This pernicious group taught her how to kill herself, what drugs to take, how to use a plastic bag–and gave her moral permission to do it. It was literally proselytizing for suicide.

Since 1993, I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts about this topic, as well as a book–now in its third iteration–Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die

Perhaps that is why I am always a bit surprised that others are surprised at the tragic consequences that flow from death cult advocacy. Now, in Australia, Philip Nitschke has lost his medical license. Having traveled there to expose this ghoul–I helped end his importation of suicide bags into Australia–my only question is: What took the authorities so damn long?

Why take his license? From The Australian story that discusses the “death coaching” among a large segment of the movement:

The term “death coaching” is how Judi Taylor describes the tragic suicide of her 26-year-old son Lucas in a deserted park in Germany. “It was death-coaching, not life coaching, that killed him,” says the Melbourne mother of three sons.

Lucas, a talented linguist, ended his life after taking an -euthanasia drug he had bought in Peru. Judi Taylor says her son’s every step and every instruction – and strong encouragement – came from a Peaceful Pill online forum run by Exit International, the pro-euthanasia lobby group run by now-suspended medical practitioner Philip Nitschke.

Take a look into the death cult world of Nitschke, Derek Humphry (founder of the Hemlock Society), the Final Exit Network, and Jack Kevorkian, among others:

It is the case of Lucas Taylor, whose unpublicised suicide -occurred in April 2012, and his mother’s detailed plea to the medical board that may have sealed Dr Nitschke’s fate. Lucas spent many hours chatting online with fellow paid-up members of Exit Inter-national, who are sent an ebook copy of Dr Nitschke’s writing on euthanasia as part of their fee.

It was a secretive world that Judi Taylor discovered only after his death, when she and her -remaining sons hacked into his computer, found his Peaceful Pill forum password and began reading a bizarre and grim litany of -online conversations. “There seemed to be hundreds of people busying talking to each other about the best methods to commit suicide,” she says. “Lucas mentioned in his posts that he’d learned about importing illegal drugs and what airports to use.

One person would say: ‘Oh, Nembutal’s the way to go.’ They’d discuss whether the best place to go was China or Peru. “It seemed to be peer-to-peer communication, and in all the hundreds of messages nobody was saying they had a terminal illness…

Because assisted suicide/euthanasia isn’t about “terminal illness” and never has been.

It is important to note that Nitschke is not a pariah in the international assisted suicide movement. He is a rock star. He has often spoke at big “right to die” events, including past biannual conventions of the The World Federation of Right to Die Societies. (This year, Derek Humphry–who published the newsletters that helped lead Frances to the grave and whose advocacy has led to dead teenagers–will be an honored speaker. It’s what they all are.)

Media love Nitschke too (and Humphry, and Kevorkian, etc.). I recall debating him on CNN, and in the moments before we went live, the producer effusively thanked him for appearing on the show: “Thank you, Dr. Nitschke! Oh, thank you for being with us! Thank you!” I am not exaggerating. It made me sick.

So does the euthanasia movement. Some advocates present a far more sophisticated approach than Nitschke, Humphry, and Kevorkian. But scratch beneath the veneer, they are all part of the same death cult, promoting in different versions, the same death coaching. 

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Lying Their Way to Brave New World



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Apparently the UK government wants to push 3-parent IVF. But fearing an adverse public reaction to genetically modifying progeny, is trying to hide what they are doing. But some scientists have called foul. From the Independent story:

The move, buried within a Department of Health document published last week, is designed to take the sting out of hostility towards mitochondrial donation – a process that aims to avoid the certain inherited diseases being passed on by using healthy mitochondria (microscopic structures in the cell) taken from a donor egg or embryo. Opponents believe that using the healthy donor mitochondria will result in “three-parent embryos” and could usher in an era of “designer babies” and “genetically modified children”.

The Government admits it has decided to adopt “a working definition [of ‘GM’] for the purpose of taking forward these regulations” but scientists believe that the redefinition of GM is dishonest. They also warn it could undermine public trust in medical experts arguing for its introduction in the UK, the only country where it will be permitted in law if legislation is passed.

To be sure, on these–among too many other issues–our governments cannot be trusted.

Lies by government officials particularly serve as the lubricant that furthers our steady advance toward Brave New World. For example, Senators Feinstein and Hatch have twice filed legislation to “ban” human cloning, but they used a false definition to the effect that had the legislation passed, it would have actually legalized the act of human cloning. From one of my 2007 piece, “Cloning Doubletalk:”

Feinstein and Hatch mendaciously named S. 812 the “Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Protection Act of 2007.” How can a bill to legalize human cloning be instead called a ban? Through the time-tested method of disingenuous legislating–the bogus definition.

Here’s a rarely discussed truth: Key words and terms in legislation mean only what a bill’s authors say they mean, rather than their actual definitions. If a dung beetle was defined in legislation as a butterfly, for the purposes of that bill, the dung beetle would be a butterfly. Which is essentially what S. 812 does. It defines the term “human cloning” inaccurately and unscientifically so that Feinstein and Hatch can pretend their bill will outlaw human cloning.

The bill lied by defining cloning as the “implanting” of the “product of SCNT”, e.g., a cloned embryo, when the actual act of cloning is the act of SCNT:

This definition is pure bunk. Implantation is no more human cloning then implanting an embryo created via IVF is human fertilization. Rather, implantation is one potential use of the embryo created through human cloning. The bill’s definition is junk biology. The point being to allow Senators Feinstein and Hatch to pretend that they are banning human cloning when their bill actually legalizes it.

No, when it comes to Brave New World–with the money and ideological implications–our politicians cannot be trusted.

Scientists are the good guys of the UK story, properly pushing for truth in advertising. But that is often not the case. When it comes to human cloning, some scientists lie through their teeth in the popular media, while accurately describing the process in science journals. Science mendaciously is also found in public presentations about human cloning.

Oh, and let’s not let the media off the hook, examples of which could be linked all the day long.

Opening the door to Brave New World will have tremendous public consequences, many adverse, some positive. If we are going to be respectful of democratic governance, we need an honest, open, and candid debate.

But that is precisely what too many politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, scientists, and members of the media want to deny us.

“Euthanize Dying Poor” in Lithuania?



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This is the inescapable logic of euthanasia: It is much more expensive to care for ill and disabled patients than “compassionately” kill them. As I like to say, it may take $1000 for assisted suicide but $100,000 to provide the care that helps the patient not want end to their lives.

The new Lithuanian Health Minister–apparently not having yet received her talking points from the Hemlock Society Compassion and Dying–clearly followed this logic in describing why she might support legalizing euthanasia. From the Delfi.It story:

New Health Minister Ilze Šalaševičiūte took an awkward and sensitive topic – it proposes to legalize euthanasia debate…

According to Salaseviute, Lithuania is not the welfare state, which would be enough to focus on palliative care, euthanasia legalization would help so fatal in patients who do not want to agonize and torture your family members, relatives who care for them. He find an alternative way to get out of life. It would inject medication or another approach, which is equivalent to euthanasia “- television said the Minister.

So, rather than develop a palliative care sector, just open the door to euthanasia to help the poor. That’s the false compassion of euthanasia.

Relevantly, the health system in the euthanasia capital of the world, the Netherlands, has been criticized frequently over the years as having a stunted palliative care sector.

For example, Dr. Bert Keizer, a Netherlander nursing home doctor, wrote in Dancing with Mr. D of angrily warning his colleagues not to talk about trying “cortisone” as he was on his way to euthanize a patient he thought had cancer. Cortisone!? For cancer? He didn’t care enough, apparently, to learn what real pain control can do.

Dame Cecily Saunders, the developer of hospice, told me that she knew of many cases in which people wanted suicide until receiving proper hospice care. I suggest the Lithuanian Health Minister work to improve the quality of care in her country rather than open the door to medicalized killing.

Professor Guilty in Assault on Young Pro Lifer



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Some readers may recall the UC Santa Barbara professor who was so incensed at seeing pro-life demonstrators that she attacked a teenage girl and stole her protest sign.

Law enforcement took the smirk off her face–seen in the video of the incident–by charging Professor Intolerant with crimes, and now she has pleaded no contest–which has the same effect as a guilty plea–to three misdemeanors. From the DA;s press relief:

Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce E. Dudley announced today that UCSB Professor Mireille Miller-Young pleaded no contest to all charges filed against her. No plea bargain was entered with the District Attorney’s Office and no charges were dropped. The charges include Grand Theft Person, Vandalism, and Battery, all of which are misdemeanors.

A sentencing hearing is scheduled for Thursday, August 14, 2014, at 10:30 a.m., in Dept. 2 of the Santa Barbara Superior Court. 

Waddya know: Being a radical usually means never having to say you’re sorry.

I know of several assaults on pro lifers on college campuses. This is the first time I know of in which consequences were paid. 

Now, will the administration lower the boom as they should? I am not holding my breath. After all, the victims were only pro-lifers.

Will Doctors be Forced to Kill?



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The left’s reaction to Hobby Lobby is part cynicism–”war on women” nonsense–and part true belief.  And it demonstrates that many progressives aren’t civil libertarians–since a true civil libertarian will care about protecting freedoms in which they have no personal skin in the game.

The denial of conscience has significant implications beyond birth control, and raises the question of whether medical professionals may be required one day to kill.

That’s the subject of my biweekly First Things column. First, I set up the problem. From, “Will Doctors be Forced to Kill?”

The wailing and gnashing of teeth in some quarters over the modest Hobby Lobby decision has me worried. Apparently, many on the political port side of the country believe that once a favored public policy has been enacted, it immediately becomes a “right” that can never be altered or denied. More, once such a “right” is established for the individual, others should have the duty to ensure access—even at the cost of violating their own religious consciences.

If such thinking prevails, medical professionals could be forced to participate in the taking of human life, for example in abortion, assisted suicide, and (given the research trends in regenerative medicine) providing treatments derived from the intentional destruction of human embryos or fetuses.

I get into the ACLU trolling for clients to (I believe) bring suit against religious institutions or individuals that have denied the right to interventions and transactions–even those like abortion and assisted suicide that involve killing.

I point out that the RFRA does not protect these conscientious objections from state laws that allow medicalized killing and that the religious left is not about to cooperate in creating any more state laws in this regard because of its potential impact on issues such as gay rights.

And I note that much of the medical establishment is hostile toward medical conscience. I conclude that forcing medical professionals to be complicit in killing could result in a professional culling:

Such denial of medical conscience is not yet embedded in American law. But if the anti-religious liberties lobby gets its way, it will be. Indeed, in coming years, medical professionals who believe in the Hippocratic Oath’s prohibition against killing could well be driven out of medicine.

It will be tragic if only those with the least regard for the intrinsic dignity and sanctity of human life are allowed to practice medicine, nursing, pharmacology, and the other healing professions.

Another Cruel and Unusual Death with Dignity



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The drugs that are used in lethal injection executions are also used in assisted suicide/euthanasia. 

Yet, we are told with regard to the former lethal use, that they cause pain and suffering–but with the latter use, it is peaceful, calm “death with dignity.”

Another execution using lethal injection has gone wrong. From the FNN story:

A so-called botched execution in Arizona is reigniting the debate over the death penalty and how lethal injections are administered. Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer ordered a review of the state’s execution process after a convicted double murderer gasped and snorted for more than an hour and a half before his death Wednesday.

Studies have shown that euthanasia and assisted suicide killings can also take much time and cause adverse side effects–other than death, I mean–such as vomiting and seizures. 

But that fact interferes with the death with dignity narrative, while promoting these problems furthers the cruel and unusual punishment meme.

Which is why I calls stories like this, “cruel and unusual death with dignity.” 

Texas Law Causes Dramatic Drop in Abortion



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Whether one thinks this is good news or not will depend on how one perceives the value of unborn human life.

The Texas law that has caused so much consternation in some quarters is succeeding in its purpose–dramatically reducing the abortion rate. From the Star Telegram story:

The number of abortions in Texas decreased by about 13 percent statewide and 21 percent in the Lower Rio Grande Valley following the passage of strict abortion regulations that went into effect last November, according to a report that academic researchers released Wednesday.

The study, by the Texas Policy Evaluation Project at the University of Texas, which is analyzing the effects of reproductive health-related laws passed during the last two legislative sessions, found that as the number of clinics that provide abortions declined, so did the number of abortions performed statewide.

Justifications aside, that was the bottom-line point, which is fine with me as I think reducing the abortion rate is just as legitimate a state interest as lowering the number of suicides.

Some may be upset with this news. But I’ll bet the children who will now have the opportunity to lead a full life will not be among them.

ISIS Orders Females to Have Genitals Mutilated



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Denial of human exceptionalism always leads to bioethical authoritarianism. Mengele experimented on Jewish twin children. The Soviet Union imprisoned dissenters in mental hospitals for mind control. Eugenics led to mass involuntary sterilization.

Now, ISIS–the fundamentalist Islamist terror organization that treats women as chattel–has ordered all women to undergo genital mutilation. From the Reuters story:

The militant group Islamic State (Isis) has ordered all girls and women in and around Iraq’s northern city of Mosul to undergo female genital mutilation, the United Nations says. The “fatwa” issued by the Sunni Muslim fighters would potentially affect 4 million women and girls, the UN resident and humanitarian coordinator in Iraq, Jacqueline Badcock, told reporters in Geneva by videolink from Irbil.

“This is something very new for Iraq, particularly in this area, and is of grave concern and does need to be addressed,” she said. “This is not the will of Iraqi people, or the women of Iraq in these vulnerable areas covered by the terrorists,” she added.

Tyranny is about exercising hyper-control and convincing the subjugated that they have no value. How better to treat humans like mere things than to painfully strip them of their sexual response?

Your Body Belongs to Us for Experimentation



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The obligation of researchers to gain informed consent from those willing to be human subjects is a sacrosanct human right established by the Nuremberg Code.

But some in the bioethics movement seek to undermine this crucial human subject protection–to a respectful listen at the highest level of bioethics discourse, including the Hastings Center Report.

Author Barbara A. Koenig writes in the context of genetic research, but the adverse principles she espouses could apply to any human subjects research. First, she sniffs that our devotion to consent has a religious or cult feeling to it. From, “Have We Asked Too Much From Consent?”

My view, though, is that the focus on consent in contemporary biomedical research has become the modern equivalent of a fetish. Recitations of consent’s key components in consent forms and institutional review board protocols have a liturgical feel. Name an issue in human research protection, and the answer is “more consent.”

Rather than each subject deciding whether to participate in certain experimental protocols based on receiving full disclosure of the hoped-for benefits and potential adverse consequences, a group of community representatives–selected and informed by the researchers–would be empowered to decide:

In this model, the meaning and moral force of the initial consent derives not from specific upfront choices, but from consent to a governance scheme. A participant agrees to be governed by the deliberations of others…

The focus turns away from a ceremony of individual control and choice. Instead, consent is about giving up control, agreeing to accept a set of procedures and practices created and interpreted by a group of fellow citizens; it is “consent to be governed.”

Escaping Koenig: It is always easier to decide the ends justifies the means for someone else.

Koenig believes ”experts” brought in by the institution sponsoring the experiments should have the power to consent for the subject:

I would argue that IRBs [Institutional Review Boards] have the authority to authorize experiments that test novel methods, even though exercising that authority requires a reexamination of the dominant liturgy.

And get this ending:

I hope an alternative, favoring talk over technology and community wisdom over individual control, will prevail.

You first, Ms. Koenig.

“Community wisdom,” in the wrong hands, becomes authoritarian. No way anyone should consent to participate experiments in which they lose the right to truly consent. 

 

Self Intelligent Design Proves Human Exceptionalism



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The anti-human exceptionalists never tire of inventing arguments about why we do not deserve any special moral standing.

The varying anti-humanists among us seek differing (and some similar) outcomes: Environmentalists get an enemy “cancer” afflicting Pachamama (the Inca earth goddess) to rail against.

Animal rightists get an emotional high from thinking that cattle ranching is an equivalent evil to slavery.

Utilitarian bioethicists hope to distinguish between human persons and “nonpersons,” in order to allow the weakest among us to be killed for organs, euthanized, medically discriminated against, or experimented upon.

Transhumanists get a thrill out of gaining a license to somehow seize control of evolution–at which point it would become intelligent design–to recreate humans into their own image. They won’t actually be able to do what they want, but the eugenic values they espouse are very dangerous.

All grasp at different arguments to make us think we are nothing to write home about. Now, a transhumanist article by Jason Dorrier at Singularity Hub says we are not exceptional because a billion years from now, we will far more advanced–as if that is relevant to matters as they stand today. From, “Humans Aren’t the Pinnacle of Evolution:”

In his latest video, host of National Geographic’s Brain Games and techno-poet, Jason Silva, explores the universe’s tendency to self-organize. Biology, he says, seems to have agency and directionality toward greater complexity, and humans are the peak. “It’s like human beings seem to be the cutting edge,” Silva says. “The evolutionary pinnacle of self-awareness becoming aware of its becoming.”

Isn’t that true? What does that have to do with anything: it is unacceptably anthropocentric:

the line about humans being the “evolutionary pinnacle” reminded me of a trap we’ve fallen into time and again—the temptation to place ourselves at the center of all things. We once believed the cosmos revolved around the Earth. Now, we know the Earth is a vanishingly tiny fragment of metal and rock revolving around an average yellow star.

Apples and oranges. Mistaken cosmology isn’t the same thing at all as the truth that we are the exceptional species in the known universe.

Even if that is so, Dorrier argues, we will evolve someday into something else, beyond what we already are:

In a recent interview, Cambridge’s Martin Rees put human evolution in context as only a cosmologist can. Rees says most of us are probably aware that humans are the result of four billion years of evolution—but we tend to think we’re the apex of the process.</p>

Well, aren’t we the apex? Name one species above and beyond us:

Most folks have little notion of what he calls the “far future.” Astronomers, on the other hand, know that the sun is middle-aged and that the Earth has at least as much life ahead of it as it has behind. The universe itself may have an infinite future. We’re perhaps only halfway (or less) “in the emergence of ever greater complexity.” “Any creatures who will be alive to witness the death of the sun won’t be human—they could be as different from us as we are from protozoa.

Indeed future evolution is going to take place not on the Darwinian time scale, of natural selection, but on the technology time scale, because we’re obtaining the capacity to modify the genome.” Add accelerating evolutionary processes to cosmological deep time, and a future when intelligence has evolved beyond humans, indeed, a future far surpassing even our wildest guesses becomes an inevitability—if our descendants can make it that far.

Like I said, that would be intelligent design, not evolution–which proves our exceptionalism! Name one other species that could step outside of natural forces to remold itself. Doh!

How ridiculous to deny the undeniable truth of human exceptionalism because someday what we are today won’t be that exceptional.

That’s not only nonsensical, it’s dangerous. Human exceptional is the crucial understanding that protects human equality, liberty, and promotes prosperity and our thriving. It anchors our duties to each other and the natural world. Casting it aside, in the name of whatever fiction, would do incalculable harm.

Men Who Have Sex With Men as Blood Donors?



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AIDS has been too caught up with politics from the beginning, treated often as more a civil rights issue than one of public health.

Partially as a consequence, we still have a terrible rate of annual new HIV infections–to the point that there are now serious calls for all men who have sex with men to take anti-retroviral drugs as a prophylactic! In other words, the danger of becoming infected remains alarming.

This is why I find my jaw dropping at advocacy in the Journal of the American Medical Association to drop the lifetime ban on blood donation from men who have sex with men. From the article by law professor, I Glenn Cohen, et.al.:

In 2013, the US Supreme Court took a historic step in United States v Windsor by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it imposed a “disability on the class [of gay Americans] by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper.”

This milestone in gay rights stands in stark contrast to the ongoing lifetime ban imposed in 1983 on blood donation by men who have ever had sex with men (MSMs)
even once.

This is mixing apples with oranges. The marriage issue isn’t a scientific question. In contrast, whether it is safe for MSMs to donate blood should solely be an issue of science. 

Cohen seems to believe that social policy is the primary concern:

Viewed in the aggregate, the current FDA policy may be perpetuating outdated homophobic perceptions. Even though well intentioned and guided by a need to protect the integrity of the national blood supply, a policy that demands permanent deferrals for sexually active MSMs raises the specter of exclusion, stigmatization,and marginalization.

Given the discerning capability of contemporary behavioral assessments and the ever-improving sensitivity of modern diagnostic technology, the disproportionate share of HIV cases among sexually active MSMs can no longer support the current restrictive policy of the FDA.

Cohen even opposes a more moderate deferral from donating for 12 months from last MSM sexual contact:

Accordingly, policy makers should consider…an “assess and test” approach. Specifically, a thoughtfully reformulated risk level–focused assessment of donor eligibility should be coupled with rigorous testing (and retesting) of identifiably high risk groups who may present for donation. 

He also believes the current policy could be unconstitutional discrimination, as if there is a “right” to donate blood.

And he doesn’t mention the value of increasing the blood supply, so caught up is he in issues that should have no relevance to the question at hand.

But here is an issue that is relevant to the question of safety: The infection rate for MSMs is going up. From an AP story about the otherwise reducing infection rate for HIV in the USA:

The only group in which diagnoses increased was gay and bisexual men, the study found.

After 9/11, I tried to donate blood and was turned away because I had been to a rain forest within the previous twelve months. That was a wise policy to keep me from spreading a malady inadvertently.

So is this policy, barring absolute proof that the ban can be lifted safely. With the call going out for all men who have sex with men to take prophylactic anti-retrovirial drugs, I don’t see how that can be done. Keep social issues and politics out of the safety of our blood supply.

And really: How many people would really think worse of men because they can’t donate blood? And why should anyone care what those people think?

Starving Our Way Toward Lethal Injections



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I continue to push back against the starvation killing agenda now being promoted vigorously among assisted suicide advocacy groups and by some bioethics. 

Toward that end, I have a piece just out in the Weekly Standard warning about where this is heading. First, I establish context. From, “The Ethics of Food and Drink:”

Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application of assisted euthanasia.

The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly, once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive.

I point to, and describe, four killing agendas either being implemented or proposed that individually and collectively seek to push society into a box canyon trap:

1. Removing feeding tubes from the elderly and cognitively disabled.

2. Legalized assisted suicide.

3. Pushing suicide by self-starvation (VSED):

​4. Promoting what I call “VSED-by-proxy,” e.g. withholding spoon feeding.

I describe the sophistry behind the argument for permitting VSED by proxy.

Even today, the courts do not deem spoon-feeding to be medical treatment. It is basic, humane care—no different ethically from turning a patient to prevent bed sores or providing hygiene. Just as an advance directive instructing that a patient not be kept clean should be disregarded, so should an order to starve a patient.

Second, VSED is suicide. Legally requiring nursing homes to commit VSED-by-proxy would be forcing them to kill—and to kill cruelly. A legal regimen that did this would drive many doctors and nurses out of medicine.

Third, even in the states where assisted suicide is legal, the person being helped by a doctor to die has to be capable of making decisions. Demented patients are incompetent.

Finally, in cases such as Bentley’s [subject of VSED-by proxy-lawsuit], the patient is not being force-fed. She is taking nourishment willingly.

There is a pointed goal in pushing death by starvation:

If the law ever allows patients to order caregivers to starve them to death, the next step will surely be to legalize lethal injections for such patients.

After all, why force anyone to undergo a slow and potentially agonizing death by VSED or VSED-by-proxy when he or she can be dispatched quickly?

Euthanasia pursuant to advance directive is already practiced in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is possible that this has been the stealth goal from the time advocacy for removing feeding tubes from incompetent patients began decades ago—and that now, with the open advocacy of VSED and VSED-by-proxy, the camouflage is coming off.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death? 

The good news, if there is any: It is still not too late to reject the unethical and immoral killing agenda.

Andrew Lloyd Weber Changes Mind on Suicide



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Andrew Lloyd Weber might not still be here if assisted suicide had been legal. He wanted to die and almost was set to go to Switzerland. Now, he’s glad he didn’t. From the Telegraph story:

Lord Lloyd-Webber, the West End impresario, was so convinced he wanted to die last year that he took steps to join Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide clinic, he has disclosed. The composer said he now believes that taking such a step would have been “stupid and ridiculous” but that it was all he could think of amid a bout of deep depression triggered by the pain from a series of operations.

He is among members of the Lords likely to oppose the bill tabled by Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying”, which will have its first parliamentary airing today. It came as Dominic Grieve, who until this week’s reshuffle was the Government’s chief law officer, said the proposals could open the door to a form of “legalised execution”. “It is not something that a civilised society should do,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

Indeed.

And don’t tell me he didn’t die so what’s the big deal. If it had been legal he might have. Indeed, I have no doubt Dignitas would have helped poison him and happily garnered the publicity. 

And don’t tell me he isn’t terminally ill, so he couldn’t have obtained assisted suicide. That limitation is just a way station on the way to death on demand.

Moreover, many of the Swiss assisted suicides by Brits have been by people who were not terminally ill. Dying isn’t driving this agenda, despair and fear are.

Way to go ALW! That’s beautiful music to my ears.

The Collatoral Damage From Suicide Advocacy



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We are quickly becoming a pro-suicide culture–indeed to the point now that organizations like the Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices, bioethicists, and the mainstream media promote suicide by self-starvation as the new big thing in making oneself dead.

Philip Nitschke is one of the international rock stars of euthanasia advocacy. He is also its most candid. He believes that everyone owns their own body absolutely and thus have a right to suicide whenever they want and for whatever reason. Indeed, he told NRO’s Kathryn Lopez that suicide pills should even be made available to “troubled teens.”

I clashed with Nitschke in Australia when I traveled the country on an anti-euthanasia tour in 2001. First, I busted him for the above assertion. It created a media fire storm.

While there, I also made front page news by revealing that he was importing and distributing suicide bags. I am proud to say, my effort led to the passage of a law that forced Nitschke to move his suicide industry offshore. It was one of my most successful public advocacy campaigns. 

Now, Aussie medical authorities want him struck off as a doctor because of the suicide of a healthy but depressed man which he facilitated. What. Took. Them. So. Long?

As for troubled teens and other young people, a study showed that many used his favorite method of suicide–and Nitschke doesn’t care. From a column by anti-euthanasia campaigner Paul Russell:

It is this supposed right-to-die that is the false over-arching philosophy by which the death of a young person can be somehow ‘rationalised’ by Nitschke and Exit. In 2010, in response to a Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Report showing that two thirds of deaths in the preceding decade using the Exit drug-of-choice, Nembutal, were for people under the age of 50 with nearly one-third being younger than 40 and six being in their 20s,

Nitschke said: ”There will be some casualties … but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.” Tell that to the families of the two men featured in the 7:30 Report! Suicide prevention should never accept the notion of acceptable casualties!

Nitschke just oozes compassion,doesn’t he?

But it isn’t just Nitschke. All suicide promoters know–or should know–that their work will lead to the suicides of some people who are not the prime targets of their advocacy. And they don’t care.

For example, Derek Humphry’s New York Times best selling how-to-commit-suicide book Final Exit–what does that tell you about our degrading culture!–has been found next to the dead bodies of troubled teens, and he could not care much less.

Compassion and Choices pushes self-starvation for people tired of life, not just the sick.

In Belgium elderly couples receive joint euthanasia and a psychiatric patient sexually exploited by her psychiatrist was killed by another psychiatrist. And the world shrugs its shoulders.

Most assisted suicide promoters know that there will be deadly consequences from their advocacy–I mean beyond the suicides they support, and it doesn’t matter. They want what they want and don’t care who gets hurt.

The rest of us should care, but increasingly, we don’t. Why? As I wrote above, we are quickly becoming a pro-suicide culture.

See This Movie Before Donating Eggs



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Ounce for ounce, human eggs are the most valuable commodity in the world. Think about it: A beautiful and brilliant woman can get $50,000 for supplying 30 eggs that can only be seen under a microscope. And now that human cloning has succeeded and is accelerating, the demand for eggs may grow exponentially. 

But, there is a potentially terrible price these sellers and donors pay. Supplying eggs can cause terrible side effects, ranging from infection, to infertility, to in rare cases, death.  Adding insult to potential injury, the egg suppliers are sometimes treated with indifference by the fertility clinics, as a means to an end rather than as patients. Their goal is harvesting the eggs from which so much of their profit flows.

No group has done more than the Center for Bioethics and Culture to bring the potential danger of egg donation–as well as other serious IVF controversies–to light. (I am a paid consultant for the CBC.) It’s award-winning documentary Eggsploitation has just been updated and released in a digital format. 

If you are someone you love–a daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, best friend–is seriously considering selling or donating eggs, see this movie first.  The health you save may be your own or that of your loved one.

Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App



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Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.

And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along. From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

So, it is the end of treating patients as individuals, as we expand healthcare into areas that don’t treat illness but expensively enable desired lifestyles.

We are all just cattle now. Mooo. 

Read the entire column. It is very sobering.

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