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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Compassion and Choices Pushes Suicide by Starvation



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The people at Compassion and Choices are blatantly mendacious. And the media do not care.

In the wake of the Diane Rehm story, in which she describes her husband committing suicide by self-starvation (“voluntary stop eating and drinking,” or VSED) and pushes legalizing doctor-prescribed death, the suicide-boosting NBC claims that Compassion and Choices wants to prevent these kinds of deaths. From the story:

It’s just the type of death the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, among others, has been fighting to prevent. Instead, John Rehm should have had the option of an assisted death, the group says. They call for “aid in dying” — allowing mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor for a peaceful and painless death. It’s legal in several states, but not Maryland….

BULL! Compassion and Choices promotes VSED on its website. It has even published a booklet about suicide by starvation for those who are not terminally ill. From the introduction to Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking (my emphasis):

Some call us because they feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of chronic and progressive illnesses that fill their days with misery and suffering. There are also those who may not be seriously ill but are simply “done.” After eight or nine decades of life, they want information about ways to gently slip away in a peaceful and dignified manner.

Regardless of their clinical circumstances, these individuals share a common desire to maintain autonomy over their own end-of-life decisions. They want to die as they have lived, making the important decisions that affect their lives with collaboration and support from trusted healthcare providers, family members and other caregivers.

And they teach people what to do and how to do it.

The media either don’t care about the truth or are too lazy to find it. I think it is the former.

That’s why they rarely call anti assisted suicide sources when writing these stories: They know what they don’t want to know.

#lyingliarswholie

California Stem Cell Crony Capitalism



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Color me wondering why it took so long: The former head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine–once in charge of giving away billions of dollars of borrowed taxpayers’ money–has joined a company to which the CIRM gave a big grant. From the (surprising they published it–good for them!) San Francisco Chronicle story:

StemCells Inc.’s board of directors now includes the former president of the California stem cell agency that gave the company $19 million in research funding…

Trounson had led the agency since 2007. In April 2013, the agency awarded StemCells Inc. a $19 million forgivable loan to study potential stem cell therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

StemCells’ founders include Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, which is also the biggest recipient of funding money from the stem cell agency: about $280 million to date. As a board member, Trounson will receive cash and stock in StemCells, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Trounson once lied to misled the Australian Parliament about supposed advances in embryonic stem cell research. But so what? Connections!

CIRM has been rife with conflicts of interest from the start:

Created by voters in 2004, the stem cell agency has been criticized in the past for apparent conflicts of interest. In 2012, the Sacramento Bee noted that roughly 90 percent of its grants have gone to institutions that have been linked to members of its board.

And now, crony capitalism. Kill this money sucker!

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IVF Surrogate Baby Unwanted and Returned



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This celebrity gossip illustrates a profound wrong of our times. 

When a baby is created as a purchased product, we should not be surprised when the merchandise is returned. Well, you can’t actually return a baby. But you can reject it.  From the Daily Mail story:

She had been excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby carried by a surrogate – due in just a few weeks.

But following the acrimonious breakdown of her marriage to Lamar Sally, reports have emerged that Sherri Shepherd no longer wants anything to do with the unborn child. And according to TMZ, the 47 year-old has no genetic connection to the infant who was conceived through IVF with an egg donor and her estranged husband’s sperm.

And the website reports she allegedly wants a judge to rule she has no parental rights for the baby due at the end of the month.

This is the culture we are allowing to emerge. If she wanted the baby, it’s hers by right of contract.

She doesn’t want the baby? Well, it’s only a purchased product anyway.

Animals Equivalent to Humans in NYT--Again



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The New York Times is crusading against human exceptionalism. Indeed, articles that advocate human animal moral equivalency are so ubiquitous in the Gray Anti-Human Lady that I wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard a bit ago pointing out several examples of the continuing theme. 

The Magazine went there again on Sunday–without substantive rebuttal–in an article about purported psychological problems of zoo animals. From, “Zoo Animals and Their Discontents:”

The notion of animals as unthinking automatons has enjoyed curious staying power; one form it has taken is a tendency to study animal behavior to the exclusion of thoughts and feelings. The Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour, a longstanding reference, cautions behaviorists that “one is well advised to study the behaviour, rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion.”

For Philip Low, the Cambridge Declaration was aimed directly at the Cartesian prejudice against nonhumans. “The term ‘animal’ is simply an excuse not to look at something,” Low argues, citing eugenics, phrenology and “scientific” racism as byproducts of the tendency to elevate humans — especially certain humans — over other beings. Some scientists have criticized Low for not consulting with more colleagues before issuing the declaration. “Whom did Descartes consult before making his declaration?” Low asked me.

Understanding that there is a legitimate moral distinction distinguishing us from animals is not the same thing at all as humans invidiously discriminating against each other! The former accurately describes unequal things, while the latter inaccurately distinguishes among equals.

Similarly, the term ‘animal’ as distinguished from “human” properly reinforces the moral distinction between us and them. Indeed, I believe the term “nonhuman animal,” at least in part, seeks to erase that crucial distinction.

The NYT is intent on boosting those who, like Low, are intent on destroying human exceptionalism. It is up to those of us who understand the catastrophe that such a deconstruction would cause to point out the tactic every time it rears its anti-human head.

When Liberal Politics Get in Way of Scientific Facts



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Here we go again. The New York Times publishes an op/ed piece claiming that beliefs get in the way of accepting science–naming the usual suspects, e.g., human-caused global warming and evolution.

Boring! We’ve seen the same article written so many times. 

But there is some truth to be found in the article. From, “When Beliefs and Facts Collide,” by Brendan Nyhan:

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views.

I agree. For example, here’s a scientific fact we never see presented accurately in the New York Times: A human embryo is human organism, e.g. a “human life.”

Indeed, we continually see unscientific assertions among the Times’ own writers about this simple matter easily discerned from any embryology text book. Take Gail Collins’ recent column worrying about Hobby Lobby and a political movement to declare embryos “legal persons.” From, “The Eggs and Us:”

Many Americans are repelled by late-term abortion, but they don’t necessarily feel the same emotional affinity for a fertilized egg. The fact that this is actually a debate about theological dogma gets a lot clearer when you’re closer to the start of the gestational saga.

Junk biology alert! A “fertilized egg” is no longer an egg, but an embryo. Indeed, “fertilized egg” in the human context is an oxymoron.  An embryo is a human life.

That’s as far as the science can takes us, because whether that developing and unquestionably “human” life has moral value–and if so, its extent–isn’t a scientific question. 

But surely, ideologues like Collins’ can at least get the science part right! She can continue to be a good liberal and acknowledge the science that an embryo is a nascent human being. All she has to do is say that scientific fact doesn’t matter morally.

It’s hard to have a reasoned debate about that when so many on the political left allow their ideology to interfere with the scientific facts, isn’t it?. For as Nyhan put it:

Unfortunately, knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.

I hope Collins reads the piece in her own paper and looks in the mirror. But I am not holding my breath.

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Should Hospitals be “Touch Free Zones?”



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A provocative column in the San Francisco Chronicle argues that hospitals and doctor’s offices should become handshake free zones. From, “I Won’t Shake Your Hand,” by Mark Sklansky, MD:

Removing the handshake from the health care setting ultimately may become recognized as an important way to protect the health of patients and caregivers, rather than as a personal insult to whomever refuses another’s hand.

The bottom line is that we don’t want to lose a humanistic touch with our patients; we just don’t want to make them sicker. Banning the handshake in the health care setting may sound as ridiculous as banning smoking in public places did just a few decades ago. But, then again, how much cigarette smoke do you see these days?

I agree. Handshaking is a social custom that can be replaced by a wave, a fist bump, or a shoulder squeeze in these particular settings.

But how far should we go in trying to prevent infection?  For example, should we also prevent all medically unnecessary touching of patients, meaning, other than during treatment procedures?

I bring this up because our concern with safety can sometimes go too far. Hospital chaplains, for example, often hold patient’s hands or hug family members in their caring ministries.

Nurses similarly comfort the ill and grieving, as do hospice volunteers and professionals. And, of course, family and friends hug and kiss the ill as a natural human gesture of love and familial affection.

So, at what point do we say that the risk of spreading infection supersedes the need for human touch of medicine?

“Handshake free zones,” absolutely. But barring an unusual situation, let’s not allow that hygienic idea to become a “humanity free zone.” Hygiene is very important. But so too is a loving squeeze of the hand and a caring embrace.

No Public Money for “Orgasmatron”



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Back when I respected Woody Allen, I never missed a movie. One of my favorite was Sleeper, a great slapstick delight about a time traveler that made me fall even more deeply in love with Diane Keaton. 

One of Sleeper’s great gags was the “orgasmatron,” by which future people received release since they didn’t with each other.

Now, a scientist has found that a device originally developed to relieve back pain may help women who can’t achieve climax. I have no quibble with that, but I do research into the device being paid for with NIH money. From the The Scientist story:

Meloy has applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the next phase of clinical trials. If the NIH isn’t willing to fund trials of the device, he may turn to crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter to get at least some of the money he needs.

Kickstarter, perfect. NIH, no!

Priorities, people! We increasingly hear angry complaints that budgetary problems impeded important medical research grants. If that is true, we need to triage our public money. Saving lives, restoring health, preventing illness must come before treating sexual dysfunction (whether male or female).

Besides, if this device can be developed into an affordable product, the private sector will gobble it up. Let them pay for its development.

Lying by Pretending Hospice Doesn’t Exist



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I once complained to my wife about how frustrated I was that euthanasia activists lie. She replied that if they are willing to kill, they are certainly going to be willing to lie.

I thought of that nugget of wisdom reading a column in The Guardian by Bronnie Ware, a  pro euthanasia palliative nurse who lies by omission (or is inexcusably ignorant of hospice)–another frequent tactic in assisted suicide advocacy. From, “I Regret the Way We Are Dying:”

Many were initially terrified of dying or would spend some time in denial of what was to come. As their suffering increased however, even those in denial came not only to accept their inevitable passing, but to wish for it. I cannot count the amount of times I heard, “I just wish I could die”.

Having witnessed many different deaths, there is no doubt that the physical suffering of a dying person is cruel and unnecessary. If someone allows their pet to suffer that much, it is called animal cruelty. Yet, we allow our fellow humans, people with the ability to clearly express their desire to die, to continue to suffer.

It is shameful that Ware leaves the impression that nothing can be done in these situations other than let these patient who just “want to die” to suffer on with out intervention or just give morphine and wait. But that is flatly not true.

Hospice experts–again not the same thing as a palliative nurse–know that the “I want to die now” problem is often treatable and can generally be ameliorated. They do it all the time.

They also know that a request for suicide can be a statement that something more needs to be done. Thus an essential aspect of hospice–almost as important as symptom control–can be suicide prevention.

As a hospice volunteer I have seen such interventions in action. I have seen the “I want to die now” wail change to “I wouldn’t have missed this time for anything!” Indeed, that is almost a hospice cliche.

And this paragraph really reveals the core mendacity of her piece!

Dying is not only a physical experience, but also an emotional one. So rather than finding solutions only through intellect, we need to consider the feelings of those who are dying.

With the subject of death so taboo in our society, it is heartbreaking to see the isolation that a patient experiences when having to deal with the emotions associated with their approaching passing. This is why the idea for end-of-life midwives makes so much sense.

But hospice is precisely about ensuring that patients don’t die in isolation. Good grief.

The founder of hospice, the great medical humanitarian Dame Cecily Saunders, was adamantly opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. She told me that facilitating killing denies the intrinsic dignity of the dying patient. (It should also be noted that some “dying” patients don’t and get kicked out of hospice. I have seen that too).

The harm that misleading articles such as Ware’s cause–by killing hope–will never be measured. But there is hope. Even in the most dire circumstances as life comes to a close.

More Baloney Over Hobby Lobby in the NEJM



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The New England Journal of Medicine is a cultural wrecking ball. Whenever it turns to ethics, it reliably sides with the culture of death–pro assisted suicide and health care rationing–or against conscience rights of those who dissent from the reigning moral orthodoxy. For example, it disdains the right of medical professionals to refuse participation in abortion.

Now, it has published a shallowly reasoned, follow-the-liberal-advocacy-meme article bemoaning the limited and eminently reasonable Hobby Lobby decision. From, “When Religious Freedom Clashes with Access to Care:”

The Court’s decision allows the beliefs of employers of various sizes and corporate forms to trump the beliefs and needs of their employees, potentially influencing the types of care that will be affordable and accessible to individuals and permitting employers to intrude on clinician–patient relationships.

It did no such thing.

Employers offer salaries for work. Part of the “package,” as it is called, often includes health insurance.

Employers have always made decisions about whether to offer this benefit and the extent of the policies offered. And no one suggested–until now–that they were interfering with doctor-patient relationships in the decisions they made about the kind of insurance to offer as wages.

But once the government seized centralized control over these decisions–and used the cudgel of Obamacare regulations to impose the politically progressive moral view on everyone in the guise of regulating healthcare–it suddenly became a right to have employers pay for certain procedures, even if the person who owns the business believes it would be sinful to so participate in the action.

That’s what happens with centralized control. Government power is used to impose a preferred moral view.

Then comes the NEJM hysteria:

Finally, in the wake of Hobby Lobby, we may anticipate challenges to other medical services that some religions find objectionable, such as vaccinations, infertility treatments, blood transfusions, certain psychiatric treatments, and even hospice care.

Good grief: What religions opposes hospice care? Christian Scientists, I suppose, because they don’t believe in most medical care–for themselves. I don’t think CS theology considers it sinful for an employer to purchase medical insurance. Indeed, I am not sure that faith accepts the concept of sin.

But here’s the larger point. The Hobby Lobby decision (and subsequent actions) restricted its terms to the HHS mandate re birth control–which the editorial acknowledges.

There’s a reason. Under the law, these issues must be looked at on a case-by-case basis because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows the government to prevail if it has a compelling interest, not to mention analyzing whether the least restrictive method was used by the government and the bona fide nature of the complainant’s religious objection.

Hence, as I wrote at The Corner, a refusal to cover blood transfusions or inoculations for infectious disease would be looked upon more skeptically than covering medically unnecessary contraception.

Also, publicly traded companies like, say Chevron, will never be deemed to have a “religion” because they have millions of owners, thereby further limiting the potential scope of the ruling. 

Bottom line in my book: The HHS mandate was intended to prepare the way for an eventual order for free abortion, free sex change surgery (already happening), free IVF, and perhaps, assisted suicide. One reason–beyond politics–for the rage is that the case throws a minor impediment in the way of using health care to transform the culture into the secular progressive image.

 

Great Apes Cannot be Slaves



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Because of the ridiculous politically correct times in which we live, I have to start this post by decrying the illegal poaching of great apes and the captivity of ape young that is threatening their numbers in the wild.

But we can decry such criminal activities–in support of our human exceptionalism duties toward these endangered animals–without equating the wrong that is being done to human slave trafficking.

But that is precisely what one ape protection organization does. From a story in Business Insider:

Thousands of great apes are killed or trafficked into “slavery” each year in a multi-million dollar illegal trade that is driving some of man’s closest relatives towards extinction, conservationists said Tuesday. “Organized criminal networks, involving corrupt government officials, threaten great apes with extinction by trafficking them to be used as performers or pets,” said Daniel Stiles, from the Project to End Great Ape Slavery (PEGAS), a campaign group launched Tuesday to raise awareness of their plight.

“To capture one infant ape, as many as 10 apes are ruthlessly killed… The orphans are sold into what can only be called slavery, as great apes are the closest species to humans,” he added.

No! The kidnapping of the school girls in Nigeria and selling them as “wives” is slavery. The sex trafficking of children around the world is slavery. The poaching of apes is not slavery.

The words we use matter. Equating the sheer evil of the examples above with the wrongful slaughter and capturing of apes is to reduce “slavery” to something less than the wholly evil activity it is.

Abusive actions done to animals can be, as here, vile.  But we should not conflate them with the worst evils done against humans. It creates a false equivalency, which in this case, was the explicit point.

Centralized Healthcare Hurts the Dying



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We should look with great trepidation at the experience of the NHS for what Obamacare’s centralized control is bringing our way–I mean beyond bitter societal division currently tearing the country apart.

The care of the dying vividly illustrate my point. Years ago, too many dying people on the NHS were allowed to die in agony. So well  meaning palliative care experts created the Liverpool Care Pathway, a compassionate care plan for the dying that sought to ensure patients were treated like individuals and given the pain control, etc. they needed.

But then the centralized controllers reduced a care plan to a bureaucratic memo, resulting in the Pathway becoming a sclerotic practice-medicine-by-the-numbers mess that sustantially lost the idea of treating patients as individuals and not only opened the door to back door euthanasia, but also saw non terminally ill people put into comas and dehydrated to death.

After a public outcry and bureaucratic defense, the Pathway was finally euthanized and consigned to the bureaucratic burial ground.

Now, a new (obvious) 5-point plan is emerging. From the British Medical Journal report:

The five priorities for care listed in the response were:
- The possibility that a person may die within the next few days or hours should be recognised and communicated clearly, decisions about care should be made in accordance with the person’s needs and wishes, and these should be reviewed and revised regularly.

- Sensitive communication should take place between staff and the dying person and those important to them.

- The dying person, and those identified as important to them, should be involved in decisions about treatment and care.

- The people important to the dying person should be listened to and their needs respected and met as far as possible.

- An individual plan of care, which includes food and drink, symptom control, and psychological, social, and spiritual support, should be agreed, coordinated, and delivered with compassion.

Why do we keep remaking the wheel? Dame Cecily Saunders showed the way with hospice care.

Whatever. And here comes the bad news:

The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence plans to develop new clinical guidelines on the care of dying adults and end of life care for children. These guidelines will inform the development of a quality standard for end of life care for children and an update of the current standard for adults. From October 2014, inspections by the Care Quality Commission will incorporate the priorities as part of the inspection of end of life care.

Sigh. Centralized planners never learn. The answer isn’t more bureaucracy! It is reinvigorating the medical professionalism that centralized control over health care has done so much to enervate.

This is the kind of “medicine” that Obamacarians have planned for us. Beware.

IVF With Donated Eggs Can be Deadly



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A new study reports that women who use donated eggs in IVF have a greater likelihood of dying. From the Daily Mail story:

Women who have IVF babies using donor eggs could be much more at risk for a common but potentially dangerous complication of pregnancy, warn researchers. A new study shows a threefold higher risk of hypertension – high blood pressure – and an even higher risk of pre-eclampsia.

Pre-eclampsia is a severe disorder of high blood pressure in pregnancy that is potentially fatal for the mother and baby and the only cure is to deliver the baby surgically. The use of donor eggs in IVF (in vitro fertilisation) is increasingly common among older women trying for a baby who have no eggs of their own.

The numbers are pretty startling:

But French researchers say the pregnancies of egg donation patients are at a higher risk of disorders caused by high blood pressure, than the pregnancies of IVF patients using their own eggs. They found almost one in five pregnant women using a donated egg developed hypertension, compared with one in 20 women using their own eggs during IVF.

Altogether 11 per cent of women using donor eggs suffered pre-eclampsia, compared with less than three per cent of women using their own eggs.

These risks don’t even count the hazard faced by egg donors, which can include infertility, infection, perhaps cancer, and death.

We have rushed into IVF and surrogacy with few regulations and a lot of profit-making. Some are paying devastating consequences.

Don’t Force Doctors Into Gun Control Decisions



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We are told constantly that we have to control medical costs. Then, we expand what is considered “health care.”

Latest example: Force doctors into decisions about gun permits. From a column in The Atlantic:

The American Medical Association, the American College of Physicians and U.S. Surgeon General nominee Vivek Murthy are calling gun violence a public health crisis. Physicians, including family doctors and general practitioners, are increasingly seen as a crucial link in the prevention chain.

It may be a crisis, but not of the kind we usually associate with public health, such as an epidemic caused by a virus. In other words, the causes of the problem are cultural, not medical.

No matter. Some now advocate that doctors become central in the decision about who can have concealed weapons permits. Why? Most gun killings aren’t perpetrated by those concealed weapons permits. Who cares?

“When you do a transportation physical, there are forms that ask about cardiac, respiratory, emotional, neurological, and psychiatric conditions,” Goldstein explained. “If, for instance, one has neuropathy, dementia, or a cardiac condition, you would want to know how severe it is. We could develop such forms [for concealed weapons permits] relatively quickly and educate providers about what the expectations are.”

But determining whether a person could be a danger with a concealed gun is much more a subjective question than the objectively testable question of whether a patient is in imminent danger of having a heart attack while driving.  

Again, who cares? Let’s put even more burdens on doctors than they already carry:

Although law enforcement has the last word in granting or denying a gun permit after taking into consideration a slew of factors, doctors are no doubt the most qualified to assess patients’ physical, mental, and emotional challenges. A 2013 Annals of Internal Medicine article argued that doctors can play various roles in the gun policy dialogue: from researchers and policy advocates to managers of patients’ fear of victimization.

What about privacy? What about malpractice lawsuits if a “medically certified” person kills someone with a gun?

Will health insurance have to pay for doctors to review their patient’s records and give an opinion?

Will applicants without a doctor, or a doctor not deemed qualified to opine on the question, have to get a physical or psychiatric exam from another doctor?

Will the decision be medical or ideological? And since the problem of gun violence isn’t about concealed carry permits, how long before doctors would have to sign off on anyone who wants to buy a gun?

The health care system’s ability to serve the actual health care needs of the American people is already strained to the tearing point. Leave doctors alone to do their real jobs. Stop health care imperialism.

GG Bridge Suicide Barrier Violates Right to Death



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We are told continually by the “right to die” crowd that suicide/euthanasia is the “ultimate civil liberty.” Indeed, these purveyors of suicide argue that we all of the RIGHT to determine the time, manner, method, and place of death.

If that is so, the Golden Gate Bridge District Board of Directors are civil rights abusers! From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

The decades-long effort to build a suicide barrier on the Golden Gate Bridge succeeded Friday as the transportation district’s Board of Birectors OKd funding for nets that will be installed about three years from now.

Of course, some people–like me–believe that the lives of all suicidal people are equally worth trying to save, whether the cancer patient afraid of losing dignity or the disgraced business owner who wants to become food for the sharks.

To be consistent, the suicide-is-a-right crowd should criticize the barrier as a profound insult to liberty and personal autonomy.

But that won’t play politically. Thus, they pretend that some suicides aren’t suicide (the “aid in dying” gooey euphemism) to avoid the logic of their own position. 

But its mendacious sophistry–like so much of assisted suicide/euthanasia advocacy. 

Animal Testing Boosts Transplant Medicine



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Animal research is vital to human welfare. Latest example: A great advance in organ transplant medicine. From the BBC story:

A new technique can preserve organs for days before transplanting them, US researchers claim.

“Supercooling” combines chilling the organ and pumping nutrients and oxygen through its blood vessels. Tests on animals, reported in the journal Nature Medicine, showed supercooled livers remained viable for three days, compared with less than 24 hours using current technology.

If it works on human organs, it has the potential to transform organ donation.

Here’s why the breakthrough is so important:

One of the researchers, Dr Korkut Uygun, from the Harvard Medical School, told the BBC the technique could lead to donated organs being shared around the world. “That would lead to better donor matching, which would reduce-long term organ rejection and complications, which is one of the major issues in organ transplant,” he said.

Those, like PETA, that say animal testing never produces human good are lying.

Those who oppose animal research have to be ready to state that advances such as this are unethical because it took what I call the “grim good” of animal research.

Starving Patients Who Eat Next Stop on Slippery Slope



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No line in bioethics is ever fixed.  Rather, the push to eradicate the boundaries that keep medical professionalism tied to Hippocratic values (sniffed at as “paternalism” by many in the field) continues unabated, with new boundary lines created, consolidated, and then moved again into ever-more extreme territory.

Some call this, the “slippery slope.” Case in point: Suicide by starvation, known as VSED (voluntary stop eating and drinking). Not only do bioethicists say doctors should participate in this method of suicide by palliating the pain starvation and dehydration causes, but also DO IT FOR THE PATIENT if they stated they wanted to die by VSED in an advance directive and they become mentally incapacitated.

More: They want nursing home or hospital personnel to starve such patients to death even if they willingly eat and drink! From a commentary in the Journal of Clinical Ethics by Thaddeus Mason Pope, about the Margot Bentley case:

Mrs. Bentley may have the capacity to “communicate a choice.” But this is just one component of capacity. 

She does not understand the relevant information., does not appreciate the situation and its consequences, and cannot reason about treatment or care options…If the test for capacity is really this low, then current “consent” will often trump even the clearest prior instructions.”

When it comes to eating and drinking by mouth it damn well should! What if the patient said she didn’t want to be turned, whether in advance or currently? Should that be honored even if it leads to terrible bed sores? No! Turning is basic humane care.

But Pope, in a Twitter exchange with me, said yes. That ” medical paternalism” is over, apparently regardless of the cost.

Please note that this isn’t refusing medical treatment–like a feeding tube–but denying basic humane care, e.g. oral sustenance.

And this should really chill your blood:

Medical, ethical, and legal commentators are reaching near consensus that capacitated patients may make a contemporaneous choice of VSED.

Far less clear is whether individuals can choose to VSED in advance, as an exercise in prospective autonomy. Fortunately, physicians and philosophers are developing the theories, tools, and maxims to help define how and when the practice of advance VSED can be legitimately and safely [!!!] implemented.

In other words, we want to make sure these people die, now we just have to figure out how to get there.

I call this “gotcha” killing. The statement of the person when fully compettent trumps the actions or, perhaps (why not?) statements of the same person if they become mentally incapacitated, even if they eat, and perhaps, even if they ask to eat. 

It’s also another frontal assault on medical professionalism. But more on that later.

Slip-Slidin’ Away/ Slip-slidin’ away/The nearer your destination/ the more you slip-slidin’ away.

Fish Rights!



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Animal activists continually try to corral the acceptable methods and use of animals. 

Sometimes this is great. But sometimes, it seems more as if the intent is to handcuff  human thriving–even materially restrict diets. 

Now, we are being told that fish deserve the same welfare standards as mammal food animals. From the abstract of “Fish Intelligence, Sentience, and Ethics:

A review of the evidence for pain perception strongly suggests that fish experience pain in a manner similar to the rest of the vertebrates.

Although scientists cannot provide a definitive answer on the level of consciousness for any non-human vertebrate, the extensive evidence of fish behavioural and cognitive sophistication and pain perception suggests that best practice would be to lend fish the same level of protection as any other vertebrate.

Realize, that implementing such rules would mean the complete end of sport fishing, material and industry-destroying restrictions on commercial fishing, and tremendous burdens on fish farming.

Animal welfare is important. But so is human welfare. That too often gets lost in these “ethical” discussions.

Wisconsin Democrats Endorse Assisted Suicide



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Disability rights activists are, generally speaking, part of the Democratic coalition. They also, generally speaking, are the country’s most effective opponents of assisted suicide.

I hope my disability rights activist friends take note that the Wisconsin Democratic Party has now explicitly endorsed assisted suicide. From the 2014 Wisconsin Democratic Party Platform:

We believe in freedom of reproductive choice, family planning, and the individual’s right to choose death with dignity including physician‐assisted end‐of‐life.

I have always thought that opposing assisted suicide should be a major liberal agenda item, as liberals used to be about protecting vulnerable populations. Some, like Robert P. Jones, still do.

Too bad that the WI Democrats have, instead, embraced the culture of death.

Dutch MDs: Prepare to Kill More Alzheimer’s Patients!



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A Dutch report shows that Alzheimer’s disease will cause more deaths soon than lung cancer. From the story:

Dementia will be the biggest cause of death in the Netherlands by 2030, overtaking lung cancer, the public health institute RIVM says in a new report…

Lung cancer accounted for 8% of deaths in 2012, followed by dementia and heart problems. In 2030, dementia will be behind 12% of deaths while lung cancer will account for 9%, the RIVM figures show.

Dutch doctors now kill Alzheimer’s disease patients in the Netherlands under the euthanasia law. I guess the time has come for them to order increased quantities hypodermics and the poison with which to keep up with the demand!

Presbyterians OK with Killing Born Babies



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The Presbyterian Church USA General Assembly has been making a lot of news on the same sex marriage issue. But this vote has my eyebrows raised. The convention voted no on protecting babies born alive after a failed abortion. From the failed motion:

1. Call for the Presbyterian Mission Agency and member congregations to enter a two-year season of reflection upon the plight of children unwanted by human society, both born and not-yet born, and to purposefully seek to enter the pure worship of God by offering aid, comfort, and the Gospel to those responsible for the care of our most desperate orphans (including those who survive abortion procedures): parents, siblings, church and community leaders, and the medical profession.

2. Direct the Moderator of the General Assembly and the Stated Clerk to issue statements that denounce the practice of killing babies born live following an abortion procedure, such as was revealed in the Dr. Kermit Gosnell clinic in Philadelphia.

There was more to the motion, which supported a pro-life perspective. But it is breathtaking that the Church wouldn’t even agree to “reflect” on protecting the lives of born babies and denounce Kermit Gosnell-style murders.This is akin to refusing to oppose the terminal neglect of unwanted infants, even infanticide.

This isn’t a matter of protecting “reproductive rights.” A baby that is born is no longer in his or her mother’s body and thus nothing is being done to interfere with her privacy or autonomy.

Peter Singer believes that unwanted infants can be killed in the same manner as they can be aborted. Apparently, so does the Presbyterian Church, USA.

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