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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

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.

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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.

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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.

ACLU to Force Doctors to Take Human Life



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The wailing and gnashing of teeth over the very modest Hobby Lobby case shows that it was a precursor for the real game that is afoot; forcing those with religious beliefs against abortion and assisted suicide (among other “interventions) to participate or get out of medicine. No conscience allowed!

That means they are not civil libertarians. By definition, a civil libertarian stands up for the freedom of others when one’s own skin is not in the game.

Proof of the pending attack on religious liberty comes with an email I received (by accident, I am sure) from the ACLU of Washington trolling for clients to become litigants in lawsuits aimed at breaking the backs of people who withhold “medical” services based on their religion. I wrote about it generally at The Corner.

I have now looked more closely at the types of ”medical” services that the ACLU intends to force religious objectors to participate in, and they include being complicit in the taking of human life. From the ACLU’s list of interventions:

Abortions;

Information about Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;

Referral to support organizations or cooperating providers to assist a patient in using Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;

Allow medical providers to participate in Washington’s Death with Dignity Act…

Palliative care/nursing support for patients who choose to stop eating and drinking to allow natural death[e.g., participation in suicide by starvation, not a natural death].

Pharmacy dispensary [e.g, forced dispensing of drugs used in assisted suicide, RU 486 abortions, etc.]

In a Religious Freedom Restoraction Act (RFRA) context–the law that afforded HL relief–each of these would have to be looked at individually to determine the sincerity of the religious belief, the compelling state interest, if any, in compelling the individual to participate, and whether a method could be found to gain the government purpose in a less intrusive manner than the law or regulation under consideration.

But the RFRA does not apply to state law! The ACLU troll for clients shows that we are about to see a concerted attack on religious freedom at the state level–with the intent to drive certain religious, pro life, and/or Hippocratic medical professionals out of medicine altogether, and break the spine of religious liberty in the name of reigning secular moral agendas imposed through the medical context.

No, they won’t leave you alone.

Planet of the Apes’ Not “War on Humans”



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It’s part of my job as a human exceptionalism apologist to see movies that try to tear down the unique value of human life. I have some good news to report: Unlike Noah and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t fit snugly into that misanthropic category. 

The movie has a rather trite plot about how a man-made plague–caused by attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer’s–decimated humankind. But some genetically altered chimps escaped and now they are proliferating (aptly) in Marin County.

But the humans still living in the now-mostly destroyed San Francisco–homelessness remains a problem–need to access a hydroelectric dam in ape territory to save themselves. War ensues, despite the efforts of a good ape (Caesar) and a good human to prevent it. Sequel alert!

Still, there is some fun to be had in this formulaic bit of popular entertainment.

​Here are Five Reasons Why Liberals will Hate Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

1. Female apes are consigned to traditional female roles, looking pretty, giving birth, being supportive of the male-ape folk, and being kept away from the fighting.

2. Apes hunt deer and eat meat.

3. Some apes really like guns and killing!

4. Apes live in a hierarchical society.

5. Apes clearly don’t practice family planning!

And now, Five Reasons Why Liberals will Love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

1. Apes are anti-human;

2. Apes don’t emit greenhouse gasses;

3. Apes oppose animal research;

4. Apes live like indigenous tribes;

5. Apes believe in ape diversity;

In the end, it’s all our fault. We caused the villain ape to go bad by experimenting on him. We caused the plague. But the movie doesn’t argue that the world would be better off if all the humans were dead. In these days of growing anti-humanism, that’s a victory.

Self Restraint, Not Drugs for All, to Stop HIV



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Are we so politically correct now that we can’t discuss what can really stop HIV?

According to the World Health Organization, the HIV epidemic is exploding again “among men who have sex with men.” And the answer being proposed? All sexually active gay men take anti-retroviral drugs. From the Agence France Presse story:

In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency therefore for the first time “strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection”.

US authorities made the same recommendation in May. Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert “up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years”.

The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide – Putting overall progress at risk -

Clearly, personal irresponsibility is putting progress at risk.

Where is the “war” against that? Do we have such a low opinion of people that we don’t think we are capable of self-restraint? Or–I have to ask–do we just not want people to be sexually responsible?

We should treat promiscuity just as we do smoking, it should be a legal but publicly disfavored activity, with public campaigns to convince people to stop. Good grief, we even go after fake cigarettes and don’t want smoking favorably portrayed in movies. Hello!

But promoting self control apparently, isn’t high on the WHO program:

Promoting condom use, wide-spread voluntary HIV testing, treating at-risk individuals with antiretrovirals, voluntary male circumcision and needle exchange programmes figure among the other WHO recommendations for battling the disease.

And how is this prophylactic drug treatment–which is very expensive–to be paid for? Are we supposed to further strain our health care system by paying for universal access to these drugs–to enable unsafe lifestyles–while cutting treatment for people with late stage cancers, etc? And it isn’t as if the drugs don’t have side effects! Besides, if people won’t stop having irresponsible sex, what makes us think they will reliably take their drugs?

HIV is preventable. It will stop spreading once people stop doing what causes it.

If we only have sex with a monogamous uninfected partner, and don’t share needles, we will not get HIV. Anything else is just putting a Scotch tape over the cracks in a crumbling dam. 

Shame on Pro-Assisted Suicide Desmond Tutu!



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How would legalizing assisted suicide help the downtrodden, poor, and discriminated against?

It wouldn’t, which is one reason why legalizing doctor-prescribed death is mostly a cause of the well off, for whom access to quality health care is not a problem. To be blunt, these folks know what they want for themselves and don’t care who else gets hurt.

But for the destitute, the elderly, people with disabilities–the multitude who can’t access quality care–it is a tar pit. That is why advocates for the poor, disability rights activists, and civil rights groups like LULAC oppose legalizing assisted suicide. It is why the philosophy of hospice–which is about caring, not killing–rejects giving patients overdoses of poison to make them dead.

Now, South African anti-Apartheid icon Desmond Tutu has come out for assisted suicide. From The Guardian story:

Writing in the Observer, the 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop, revered as the “moral conscience” of South Africa, says that laws that prevent people being helped to end their lives are an affront to those affected and their families.

He also condemns as “disgraceful” the treatment of his old friend Nelson Mandela, who was kept alive through numerous painful hospitalisations and forced to endure a photo stunt with politicians shortly before his death at 95.

Tutu, who calls for a “mind shift” in the right to die debate, writes: “I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost.”

Shame! If Mandela was treated that badly, it wasn’t because assisted suicide is illegal. It is because he was used for political purposes. No one forces people to accept extreme measures to remain alive. The Catholic Church does not require it, for example, as illustrated by the death of Pope John Paul II.

More to the point, South Africa is riddled with destitution. About one in five people are HIV positivea staggering 5.6 million were living with HIV at the end of 2001, including 460,000 children! Until recently, the official government policy thwarted HIV prevention and the bulk still can’t get quality care.

Multitudes don’t even have potable water. Good palliative care in that country is not accessible for most. How can Tutu even begin to talk about assisted suicide in such a catastrophe for his people? It is a betrayal of the poor and destitute of his own country.

The people are not in the streets demanding the right to be killed by a doctor. They want ready access to a doctor! They want decent medical care.

How much research has he put into the subject? Does he know the horrors such a law would open to society’s devalued and despairing? Has he seen what is happening in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland? Does he know–or care–that in Oregon poor people have been refused life-extending chemotherapy under health care rationing–but offered payment for assisted suicide by the state?

Tutu’s call serves the desires of the elite at a terrible cost to the downtrodden he supposedly champions. He is using his considerable moral authority in a way that, by definition, devalues human life.

I Miss Our Missing Down Syndrome Friends



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When I was young, people with Down syndrome were common and visible members of the community. I remember in particular one Down friend I made while working my way through college selling televisions at JC Penney. Her mother would take her to the mall every couple of weeks, she’d see me, her face would light up with a huge smile, and she’d come running over for a big hug. She brought joy wherever she went.

We rarely encounter people with Down any more. Not because science found an ethical way to prevent or cure the condition, but because ninety percent of our brothers and sisters with Down are killed in the womb. Ditto fetuses that test positive for dwarfism.

Worse, parents who give birth to Down babies may face anger or castigation by their loved ones or community. Indeed, one of the reasons for the seething hatred of Sarah Palin, I think, was her family’s decision to welcome Trig into life. The Palins are pro-life and walked the walk, and for some reason, despite the paeans to “choice,” that blistered some like acid.

We call ourselves enlightened, but the search and destroy mission against fetuses with genetic anomalies is anything but.

Perhaps we could learn something from our ancestors of the “Dark Ages.” The 1500 year old grave of a child with Down has been found, and from all indications was a fully accepted part of the community. From the Abstract:

The pathological skull of a 5–7 year old child from Saint-Jean-des-Vignes (Saône-et-Loire, north-eastern France) dated to the 5–6th century AD is described. Morphological and radiographic features, metrical data and Computed Tomography (CT) scans are used to study the osteological abnormalities in comparison with normal skulls of individuals of similar age and geographic origin. The combination of features is consistent with the diagnosis of Down syndrome…

Cases of Down syndrome in past populations are rare, frequently poorly described or discovered out of context. This case represents the earliest and youngest example of the condition in the archaeological record. The context and funerary treatment of this child suggests that he/she was not stigmatized by other members of the community, who afforded a normal mode of burial.

I’m glad for the child. I just wish we could welcome our brothers and sisters with Down as fully in our own time. Not only are we depriving them of life–with mothers often pressured to abort by societal prejudice–but ourselves of their joyous presence.

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!

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.

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