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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

CNN: Maynard “Extraordinary” for Suicide



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The media’s worship of the euthanasia movement is really becoming evident. CNN has named Brittany Maynard one of its “11 Extraordinary People of 2014.” From the story:

Her example sparked a widespread debate about the rights of people with incurable illnesses to determine how and when they will die. Maynard followed through on her plans in November, dying on her own terms.

I guess that means people who decide to go naturally–no matter how courageous their struggle–just aren’t worth noticing.

Of course, such people don’t have a huge propaganda effort behind the way they die pushed by euthanasia groups, the “death with dignity” false meme happily amplified by the media.  

Besides, what made Maynard’s suicide any more extraordinary than 700 other people who have also died by doctor-prescribe death in Oregon? Funny, CNN did not name any of them to their list over the years.

Robin Williams committed suicide and he wasn’t called extraordinary as a result.

Two factors are at play:

First, the mainstream media clearly intends to transform assisted suicide into their new “cause” now that the same sex marriage controversy seems to be coming to a conclusion.

Second: Maynard was beautiful, bringing out CNN’s inner tabloid. 

Be honest: How many readers–whatever their view of legalizing assisted suicide–believe CNN would have named Maynard “extraordinary” for committing assisted suicide if she weighed 200 pounds, wasn’t white (for the same reason kidnapped white girls almost always get more media attention than kidnapped girls of color), or was aged and wrinkled?

Exactly! Is it any wonder the media is viewed with such low regard?

Rare Media Defense of Human Exceptionalism



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The media and the academy love anti-human exceptionalists–and I think for the same reasons. I believe the unremitting assault on unique human value–animal rights, nature rights, transhumanism, bioethics–aims to break the spine of Judeo/Christian moral philosophy (not the faiths, but them too) toward the end of destroying perceived moralism and opening the door to treating the most weak and vulnerable among us as objects.

It is thus rare to see much space devoted in mainstream media outlets to defending human exceptionalism. Hence, I want to compliment Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s Joe Golenesi for presenting philosopher Timothy Chappell’s rebuttal to rebut the noxious idea that chimps can be “persons” in a column about Steven Wise’s lawsuit to obtain a chimp write of habeas corpus.

Chappell seems to reject the dangerous notion that our value comes from our capacities of the moment of taking the pulse, but rather, is intrinsic to being human. From, “Is Personhood an Animal Right or a Human Privilege?”: (my emphasis)

What Chappell sees in the application of the checklist is pure horse-before-the-cart-ism. Persons, as Chappell sees it, exist first; the list can still be applied but it’s to a person already-made. This distinctiveness is ours, and ours only to share in what Chappell calls the ‘primary moral constituency’.

It matters that we are a species, and it matters that there are other species. For us though, our primary moral constituency is humankind, and it precedes lists of criteria and properties that might be applied to individual members.

Golenis explains:

Chappell’s notion of the primary moral constituency sets up an arena where we undertake meaningful and reciprocal moral relations—the sorts of relationships that can only exist intra-species, and has ultimately little to do with the power relations inherent in the idea of speciesism.

‘I think we lose something very important if we lose sight of that idea that what species you’re in does actually have some basic moral significance. I think that idea is just true. The basic campaign against speciesism has often been based on misunderstandings of that.’

Chappell rejects the cheap and intellectually vacuous canard–oft aimed in my direction–that because humans have primary value, we human exceptionalists believe that no other species matter:

‘There is often a danger in the debate of making it sound like that only humans matter morally and it’s only with humans that we can have deep and valuable relationships. I think that is patently and obviously false. There have been plenty of individuals for whom their most significant relationships were with beings of other species such as dogs.’

Exactly. The whole concept of animal rights is a misnomer–since no animal would have any rights vis a vis other animals. Instead, the question sounds exclusively on the extent of human duties–with animal rights believers claiming that we have a radical-self-sacrificial obligation to treat animals as we want people treated.

Only we have the capacity to be that (stupidly) altruistic and self-destructive. Ironically, this radical quest proves: We are exceptional!

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Good Grief: Now It’s “Death Doulas”



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The Hippocratic Oath is one of the last remaining impediments to the complete deprofessionalization of medicine.

Doctors don’t take it much anymore, but the people still embrace its core purpose as an essential protection of their lives and wellbeing

Now, in the LA Times, a doctor and journalist try to put the Oath out of its misery by taking the primary responsibility for interacting with dying patients away from physicians and handing decision-making over to “death doulas.” From, “The Hippocratic Oath and the Terminally Ill,” by Nora Zamichow and Ken Murray:

If we allow medicine to prolong life, should we also allow it to shorten life for the terminally ill?

We could, however, skirt the controversy entirely: What if we created another class of medical professionals known as death doulas, who could fill a gap between treatment doctors and hospice workers?

Death doulas would, in essence, become suicide facilitators:

In one recent study, 12% of doctors received one or more requests from patients asking about physician-assisted suicide; and an additional 4% received one or more requests for euthanasia. Another recent study put the numbers even higher: 57% of today’s doctors have received such requests.

And other studies show that most of those who ask, when treated properly, are glad they weren’t dispatched.

Back to the suicide pushing:

Don’t we owe it to our doctors to provide guidance in such matters? Do we want each doctor to grapple with these decisions individually?

No, we owe it to doctors not to ask them to participate in any way in killing. Death doulas would just let doctors shirk their professional responsibilities.

Moreover, if any doctors says they “can no longer help the patient,” it is time to get a better doctor!

This article demonstrates once again how the death movement distorts, twists, and subverts everything it touches. You see, a doula isn’t about death and darkness, but about enhancing and increasing the joy of childbirth, e.g. the giving of new life! Here is the definition:

The word “doula” comes from the ancient Greek meaning “a woman who serves” and is now used to refer to a trained and experienced professional who provides continuous physical, emotional and informational support to the mother before, during and just after birth; or who provides emotional and practical support during the postpartum period.

The point of the doula is to uplift! It is to help assure that the experience of birth is a positive one that the mother “remembers for the rest of her life.”

“Death doulas” turn that concept on its head.

But Wesley, wouldn’t a death doula be akin to hospice? Quite the contrary: Hospice is about living, not dying. When a hospice professional runs across a patient with a suicidal desire, the team engages to help the patient not want to kill themselves.

That’s an essential service. In direct contrast, death doulas be about making sure the dying gets done.

And who would want to be death doula? At least some would be the kind of people who now facilitate suicides because they like it.

Here’s an example from pro-assisted suicide advocate Lonnie Shavelson’s book, A Chosen Death about the time he witnesses a Hemlock Society leader assist the suicide of a depressed and lonely man named Gene, partially disabled by a stroke. From my description in Forced Exit:

Gene wants to end it all. He contacts an undisclosed chapter of the Hemlock Society and asks its head, a woman given the pseudonym “Sarah,” to assist in his death. According to Shavelson, Sarah has experience in this dark business, having previously assisted a close friend to commit suicide. Sarah found her first killing experience tremendously satisfying and powerful, “the most intimate experience you can share with a person. . . . More than sex. More than birth . . . more than anything,” including being present for “the deliveries of my four grandchildren.”

Jack Kevorkian used to promote a similar idea, which he called a “lay executioner.” Pending Scottish assisted suicide legislation would authorize “licensed suicide facilitators,” and now it’s “death doulas.”

We live in increasingly dark and death-obsessed times.

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Can a Man be Both Mother and Father of Child?



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We are speeding toward a time when human skin cells or embryonic stem cells can be morphed into sperm and eggs. The precursor of these gametes have been made in the lab. From the Guardian story:

Scientists have made primitive forms of artificial sperm and eggs in a medical feat that could transform the understanding of age-related diseases and fertility problems.

Researchers in Cambridge made the early-stage sex cells by culturing human embryonic stem cells under carefully-controlled conditions for a week. They followed the success by showing that the same procedure can convert adult skin tissue into precursors for sperm and eggs, raising the prospect of making sex cells that are genetically matched to patients.

The cells should have the potential to grow into mature sperm and eggs, though this has never been done in the lab before. The next step for the researchers will be to inject the cells into mouse ovaries or testes to see if they fully develop in the animals.

What are some of the potential consequences of being able to make unlimited sperm and eggs at will? 

- Unlimited eggs for human cloning;

- Creating mass cloned embryos to research genetic engineering;

- Eugenic manipulation at the egg and sperm stage;

- Human life will increasingly lose its unique value as procreation becomes the scientific equivalent of the Dada Movement in art:

- Twisting and deconstructing family structures until there is no such thing as a “norm;”

- Not only women as fathers and men as mothers, but a man could potentially become both the father and mother of his own child, gestated by a  surrogate or–channeling Joseph Fletcher’s advocacy–by implanting a womb into his abdomen so he could also bear the child:

Skin cells from a woman could only be used to make eggs because they lack the Y chromosome. Those from a male might theoretically be turned into eggs as well as sperm, but Azim Surani, who led the work at the Gurdon Institute in Cambridge, said that on the basis of current knowledge, that was unlikely. “It’s not impossible that we could take these cells on towards making gametes, but whether we could ever use them is another question for another time,” Surani told the Guardian.

No, that is a question for now, when we have the time to discuss fullybefore we attain sufficient technological prowess to accomplish the above–through legal limits and control via funding approvals or rejections.  

Good luck with that, Wesley: The human cloning debate–or non debate–has pretty clearly demonstrated that our fractured moral values will prevent us from doing anything meaningful to impede the approaching Brave New World horrors: Scientists want an unlimited hand. We are so neurotically afraid of suffering that promises of CURES! CURES! CURES! sweep away moral objections. 

And people demand the right to get what they want, no matter what–no matter the potentially deleterious impact on the glue of society, the family.

Today, the transgressive is always celebrated and enabled. 

Of course scientific information derived from these efforts will increase our knowledge. But it seems to me that much of the emotional force behind a lot of this research is a profound anger at the idea of limits and boundaries, a desperate desire for control. 

That may sound exciting. But I don’t think this ends well. What do we want? Social anarchy. When do we want it? Now!

Why Bioethics Should “Fail”



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Julian Savulescu represents all that I find so objectionable about the mainstream bioethics movement.

Rejecting the sanctity/equality of human life, utilitarian in outlook, embracing a eugenics point-of-view, the Oxford professor–what does that tell you?–would lead society in a way opposed by most of the very people bioethics claims to serve.

Savulescu ”gets” that the field has not swept all before it–to which I would add, not for lack of trying.  But he is clueless as to why.

He writes that the alleged problem can be cured by somehow improving the “philosophy.” From, “Bioethics: Why Philosophy is Essential for Progress,” published in the radical Journal of Medical Ethics, which he edits:

Ethics is not peripheral to medicine and research—it is central. What you study will determine what you will find. It is an ethical decision, as is when you will start treating, or whether to stop treatment. One excellent example of hidden ethical values is the concept of futility used to limit treatment. There are many definitions.14 Some are quantitative, such a treatment with a <1% chance of a beneficial effect.

But this is not futile. Imagine that you have had a massive stroke and will die, but there is a treatment that has a 1/10 000 chance of saving your life and returning you to full health. Such a treatment is not futile in the way that trying to sew a decapitated head back on is futile (that is, being incapable of achieving the desired result); it is just very unlikely to achieve the desired result.

What people who deploy ‘futility’ arguments usually mean is the treatment is cost-ineffective. Such judgments are most justifiably made as resource allocation and distributive justice decisions.

The example he gives of “futile” is known as physiological futility, and contrary to Savulescu, bioethics has pretty clearly delineated what medical futility means–a combination of the cost/benefit value system he identifies, mixed with a disdain for life of perceived low quality. 

Thus, the futility question sounds in raw power: Whose values prevail, the patient and/or family, or the Julian Savulescus?

People get that: Medical futility hasn’t (yet) become the rule in health care because it has been insufficiently philosophically masticated, but because patients and families who would be victimized by the policy want no part of it!

We also know that, despite its claim to high regard for autonomy, as an essentially utilitarian enterprise–whether explicit or in outcomes–the field would eventually include coercion. Thus, Savulescu believes the state should require organ donation (which would not make it “donation” at all):

There is a basic moral obligation to donate organs. Why? Because this is not just an easy rescue, it is a zero cost rescue.

Organs are of no use to us when we are dead, but they are literally lifesaving to others. Nonetheless, most people choose to bury or burn these lifesaving resources, and are allowed to.

Yet the state extracts death duties and inheritance taxes, but not the most important of their previous assets—their organs. (My emphasis.)

I agree we should generally be organ donors after death.

Why aren’t we?  Lack of trust, for one thing–easily understood when you read bioethicists urging that doctors be permitted to kill for organs or pushing “presumed consent” that all patients are organ donors–and then in the next breath urge that doctors/bioethics committees be empowered to unilaterally withdraw life-sustaining treatment.

Connect the damn dots!

And, of course, Savulescu wants policy dominated by the “experts,” e.g., people like him:

But for many people working in bioethics or medical ethics, or formulating guidelines or policy, ethics is a ‘hobby’. They have no formal training in ethics. Imagine that I was to sit on a cardiological research funding panel, or review a paper in cardiology, or stem cell science. It would be laughable. Yet I have 7 years formal training in medicine and research. Many people ‘doing medical ethics’ have nothing like that training or experience.

Sorry, a corner barber has as much right to a voice in these subjective issues of public policy as the highest Oxford don. Moreover, who wants Julian Savulescu philosophical clones dominating medical ethics? I sure don’t. 

Savulescu grouses that in his entire career he has rarely accomplished any good:

From time to time, we ought to ask how well we are doing. In my own career, apart from promoting people’s careers, I am only aware of two instances where my work did some good…

It is hard to know how much good or harm we have done. But I think we should at least reflect. Modern medical ethics, as a field, seems to me to have failed in many important respects.

May it continue to be so!

Considering what he perceives to be “good.” if Savulescu succeeds, society will be less moral, the weak and vulnerable will be at greater risk, and a bioethics authoritarianism will be loosed upon the land.

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Time to Make Organ Buying a Felony



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This is biological colonialism turned into biological terrorism. ISIS is apparently financing its vicious atrocity campaign through killing for organs and selling them on the black market. From the Daily Mail story:

Islamic State has turned its hand to human organ trafficking to fund terror across the Middle East, it has been claimed. The jihadist group has until now filled its $2 million-a-year war chest from a variety of shadowy sources including oil production, human trafficking and drug smuggling.

But it was revealed today that it has been recruiting foreign doctors for months to harvest the internal organs not only from the bodies of their own dead fighters but also from living hostages – including children – snatched from minority communities in Iraq and Syria.

Corrupt doctors are part of the criminal trade:

The report went on: ‘Surgeries take place within a hospital and organs are quickly transported through networks specialized in trafficking human organs.

Mosuli said that the organs come from fallen fighters who were quickly transported to the hospital, injured people who were abandoned or individuals who were kidnapped.’

We now live in a world in which there are no seeming limits. China has allowed organ tourism for years. The Philippines had to pass a law forbidding non nationals from receiving organ transplant surgery to protect its destitute from avaricious organ peddlers. Pakistan had to pass a law forbidding live organ donation to non relatives.

The doctors and organ merchants are looked upon–quite properly–as criminals. Sometimes they are caught and punished.

But this market is driven by immoral buyers who think their lives are worth so much they are justified in acting in the most immoral ways.

And now, with organ supplies potentially coming from terrorism–and financing the beheaders of Christians and journalists–it is time for us to make organ buying a crime and punish purchasers who come home with new organs. No one should be allowed to save their own lives at the cost of someone else’s murder.

How would we find out? It wouldn’t be that difficult. Organ recipients need continuing medical care. We could make a non bona fide organ transplant a reportable condition by doctors–just like we do spousal abuse or child sexual exploitation,

I don’t support refusing further treatment because that would be a death penalty. But I do think that reporting the buyer should become an ethical and legal responsibility.

When common decency no longer serves to keep society moral, sometimes the law has to step in.

Court Declares Orangutan “Non Human Person!”



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I have been warning you and warning you: It just takes one judge, wanting to make history, to kick the props out from under our tottering societal embrace of human exceptionalism.

In Argentina–next door to Brazil, where a judge was previously poised to grant a writ of habeas corpus to a chimp when the animal died–a court has declared an orangutan a “person.” From the Reuters story:

An orangutan held in an Argentine zoo can be freed and transferred to a sanctuary after a court recognized the ape as a “non-human person” unlawfully deprived of its freedom, local media reported on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners filed a habeas corpus petition–a document more typically used to challenge the legality of a person’s detention or imprisonment–in November on behalf of Sandra, a 29-year-old Sumatran orangutan at the Buenos Aires zoo.

In a landmark ruling that could pave the way for more lawsuits, the Association of Officials and Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) argued the ape had sufficient cognitive functions and should not be treated as an object.

The court agreed Sandra, born into captivity in Germany before being transferred to Argentina two decades ago, deserved the basic rights of a “non-human person.”

Hopefully, this will be overturned on appeal.

If it isn’t, some will simply shrug.  Others will laugh and roll their eyes.

But indifference is the enemy of maintaining a righteous society and there is nothing funny about erasing human exceptionalism. “Breaking the species barrier,” as Peter Singer put it in the Great Ape Project, will have calamitous impact on human self-regard, and eventually, freedom.  

The animal rights agenda–completely unnecessary to protect animal welfare–won’t elevate animals to the level of humans, but reduce us to the value of animals. And that means that the weakest and most vulnerable–the disparaged and the outcast–will eventually lose their inherent protections based simply on being human

I don’t have time in this blog post to make the argument again: It took an entire book to engage in my A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy.

But my good friend, the novelist Dean Koontz, was absolutely correct–in the same way and for many of the same reasons as C.S. Lewis was in The Abolition of Man–when he wrote in the book’s introduction that from seemingly small shifts, portentous forces are set in motion:

…[I]f they [the animal rights movement] established through culture or law that human beings have no intrinsic dignity greater than that of any animal, the world would not be a better place for either humankind or animals.

Instead, it would be a utilitarian nightmare in which the strong would destroy the weak, in which power-crazed leaders would destroy everyone who loved peace, in which the wealth of the world would be concentrated in the hands of a murderous few, in which mercy would be unknown and the only virtue would be the ability to survive, in which the only right would be the right to die.

These lawsuits have been filed here. This will just fuel the ideologues’ zeal.

Our courts must say no, and do so with unequivocal force and ringing eloquence. Human well-being and liberty are–literally–at stake.

Why Revulsion at Dead Woman Giving Birth?



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So a woman is declared brain dead in Ireland, but not taken off maintenance so her unborn child can gestate long enough to survive. The family wants to bury her.  But a human life can be saved!

This really upsets Emer O’Toole in The Guardian. From, “A Brain Dead Irish Woman’s Body Is Being Used as an Incubator: Be Angry:”

It is right to be angry and upset in the face of injustice… Be angry that a dead woman’s body is being used as an incubator. Be upset that Miss Y was forced to carry her rapist’s child to 24 weeks. These are women’s bodies. These are women’s lives. And that is what matters here.

Why the dripping disdain? Anger at Ireland’s anti-abortion laws is the pretext. But is this case really about abortion?

I understand the family can’t move on. That has got to be terribly painful.

But how is the woman hurt in any way? Her life isn’t affected. She’s gone. Her body isn’t being harmed, but it is benefiting her child–just as she did before her brain failed.

Would the same people think it wrong to try and save the baby in a mechanical incubator? I suspect so. Because, well, the baby should be dead.

Meanwhile, in Italy, another brain dead woman’s baby has been saved. From the The Local IT story:

In what has been hailed a miracle, a baby boy has been born to an Italian woman pronounced clinically dead in October. The 36-year-old woman was 23 weeks pregnant when she was rushed to Milan’s San Raffaele hospital after suffering a brain hemorrhage.

Doctors were unable to save her, but with the agreement of her family, they kept her on life support for the next nine weeks. She was kept alive with equipment that kept her breathing and her blood flowing, while a tube to her intestines fed the growing fetus.

When she reached the 32nd week of pregnancy on Thursday, doctors performed a cesarean, La Stampa reported. The baby boy was born weighing 1.8 kilos and in good health.

A new baby has been born and joins us in the world! Surely, saving a life is worth the effort. I believe that greater good should matter most.

I am beginning to believe that lurking underneath it all, some people loathe the female reproductive function. 

Citizen Pig!



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Liberal media love anti-human exceptionalism. I have written how the NYT will seemingly publish any idea and promote any cause that would destroy the unique value of human life.

Now Vox has joined the list, with an interview of Will Kymlicka, a Canadian professor (of course!), who wants to make all domestic animals citizens of our societies. Why should animals be citizens? From, “Should Dogs be Citizens?”

The first idea is that we’ve brought dogs and other domesticated animals into our society. That’s a decision we have made — to domesticate animals — and the very term domestication indicates that’s process of incorporating them into our world. So we need to ask: what do we owe them in virtue of the fact that we’ve brought them into our world?

We owe them membership. We need to recognize domesticated animals as members of our society. And citizenship is the legal and political term that we have historically used to recognize membership. The ways in which humans stake claims to membership is by staking claims to citizenship. It’s our legal and political tool for recognizing it.

This is just another way of making animals our equals.

Citizenship in the human case is typically thought of a set of rights and responsibilities. [Co-author Donaldson and I] go through each one of them and ask when they’re applicable to animals. We end up arguing that yes, most of them are [applicable to animals], quite directly.

Animals don’t have any responsibilities! They are incapable of understanding the concept. So, what about that?

The right to vote doesn’t apply to animals, but the deeper ideas behind them do. So we need to find mechanisms that ensure their interests are counted in determining the public good. And we need a way for them to have a say in matters that affect them. It won’t be through voting, so we need to find other ways of soliciting and responding to their preferences.

In other words, animal rights ideologues would be given the political power to represent those that “can’t speak for themselves.”

And the usual animal rights insult that fauna are akin to people with cognitive disabilities:

In the cognitive disability literature, there’s a discussion about how you can bring choices, meaningful choices into people’s lives so that they’re able to experiment with different possible activities and relationships. We think a lot of that stuff is applicable to animals.

So I wouldn’t get hung up on voting. We need to think about it as a mechanism, and even in the human case we’re going to need more than just voting to achieve this deeper ideal of counting interests and enabling people to participate.

Animal rights aren’t even enough:

We need to create a shared interspecies society which is responsive to the interests of both its human and animal members. That means that it’s not just a question of how you ensure that animals aren’t abused. If we view them as members of society — it’s as much their society as ours — then it changes the perspective 180 degrees.

The question is no longer “how do we make sure they’re not so badly treated?” We instead need to ask “what kind of relationships do they want to have with us?”

THE QUESTION IS WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO OUR UNIVERSITIES?

And here I thought Animal Farm was a political satire.

Hey Kids: Let’s Organ-Harvest the Suicidal!



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I warned this would happen back in my first anti-assisted suicide article–Newsweek, June 28, 1993–in which I wrote:

Of greater concern to me is the moral trickledown effect that could result should society ever come to agree with Frances [to legalize assisted suicide].

Life is action and reaction, the proverbial pebble thrown into the pond. We don’t get to the Brave New World in one giant leap. Rather, the descent to depravity is reached by small steps. First, suicide is promoted as a virtue. Vulnerable people like Frances become early casualties. Then follows mercy killing of the terminally ill. From there, it’s a hop, skip and a jump to killing people who don’t have a good “quality” of life, perhaps with the prospect of organ harvesting thrown in as a plum to society.

As I have covered here, Belgium doctors now harvest the disabled and mentally ill who ask to be euthanized. The Netherlands is drawing up regulations to do the same.

Switzerland law allows suicide clinics to which people fly from all over the world to be made dead. Now, a Brit bioethicist–and organ ethicist!–named David Shaw sees these suicidal people who live in or travel to Switzerland as splendid sources of organs. From the SwissInfo.ch story:

D.S.: I’ll just say upfront I’m not saying that we should be killing people to take their organs. But Switzerland is one of the few countries in the world where several hundred people use assisted suicide every year. This is a situation where you have people who want to die, you know when they’re going to die, and many of them are probably registered organ donors.

So it’s also more respectful to the people to let them do this final kind of parting gift to humanity.

The trouble when you have an idea like this is that some people might get a hold of it and say, ‘These crazy ethicists. They want to kill everyone and take their organs out.’ Not the case at all. I’m just saying, people are dying because we don’t have enough organs.

There are also ethical objections, that more people will choose assisted suicide because they think that they can save other people’s lives and they feel they’re a burden. The burden argument is used a lot in assisted suicide debates, and it’s not really very convincing. The bioethics literature is quite clear on that. 

None of us should give a fig about the opinions expressed in “bioethics literature:” Like I say in Culture of Death, bioethics has become an orthodoxy, perhaps even, an ideology. But we don’t have to succumb to “expertitis.” We don’t have to allow those with views fundamentally different than most of the people (I hope) to control our health policies.

Where are organ professional organizations condemning harvesting the suicidal? As far as I can tell, they are silent! That too will undermine our trust in the sector.

I can think of nothing more dangerous than for vulnerable and despairing people to believe their deaths have greater value than their lives. Well, perhaps one thing: When their own society believes the same.

We are going to hell, whether metaphorical or literal, take your pick.

Attack of the Killer Suicide Potatoes



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Good grief. So obsessed are some among the assisted suicide set, that they keep thinking of ever-more bizarre ways for people to make themselves dead. 

Latest example, Faye Girsh, a biggie in the assisted suicide movement internationally. How big? She is the current president of the International Federation of Right to Die Societies.

In a question and answer interview, Girsh offers potatoes as a means of suicide. From the Vice interview:

Question: Well, guns are so accessible in America. People are going to use whatever they can get their hands on [to commit suicide].

​Girsh: We would love to find a better, more gentle method. At our upcoming conference, someone is presenting [a device] that we started out calling “the killer potato.” It’s a contraption with two potatoes that you place on your carotid arteries. Then you have this thing that tightens them automatically.

I’ve had people suggest that [the device] could be marketed for autoerotic asphyxiation. There is some question about whether it would really work. The problem is, how do you try these things out?

Ai, yi, yi: These people are completely out of their minds.

Infanticide Now “Debatable” in Bioethics



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The late Richard John Neuhaus famously wrote of bioethicists:

Thousands of medical ethicists and bioethicists, as they are called, professionally guide the unthinkable on its passage through the debatable on the way to becoming the justifiable until it is finally established as unexceptionable.

In my over 20 years engaged in trying to push back against the bioethics movement, I have found that to be an absolutely accurate formula.

Take, as one example, dehydrating the cognitively devastated to death–a slow and potentially agonizing death. That was once unthinkable, it became debatable in the 1980s, and is now unexceptional.

Allowing infanticide has now reached the “debatable on the way to justifiable” stage–with some of the world’s most prominent bioethicists and medical/bioethical journals publishing apologies for infanticide. (Remember the “after-birth abortion” article in the Journal of Medical Ethics two years ago?)

Latest example: The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery hosted a debate on infanticide–See!–in which the prominent Canadian bioethicist Udo Schuklenk​ argues in favor of the propriety of infanticide.

Killing severely ill or dying babies is okay, don’t you know, because human beings don’t have intrinsic dignity. What matters is the “quality of life ethic.” From, “Physicians Can Justifiably Euthanize Certain Severely Impaired Neonates​:”

A quality-of-life ethic requires us to focus on a neonate’s current and future quality of life as relevant decision making criteria. We would ask questions such as: Does this baby have the capacity for development to an extent that will allow him or her to have a life and not merely be alive?  If we reach the conclusion that it would not, we would have reason to conclude that his life is not worth living. 

That is an entirely subjective question, isn’t it? It’s in the eye of the utilitarian beholder.

Schuklenk might say–I don’t know–that only a baby that would never be conscious should be killed. But the authors of Journal of Medical Ethics article opined that Down babies could be killed because they can be aborted. 

Netherlander doctors have killed babies with spina bifida and other physical disabilities. Once human value becomes subjective, the extent of the right to life is reduced to who has the power to decide.

Sometimes when this issue comes up, opponents yell, “But that’s what the Nazis did!” NO. That is what the Nazis allowed doctors who wanted infanticide to do.

German infanticide was driven by doctors and what we would now call bioethicists. Indeed, the very first infanticide, Baby Knaur, would almost surely receive the Okay-to-Kill rubber stamp from Schuklenk. From my book Culture of Death, quoting three notable history books that focused on the case:

The first known German government-approved infanticide, the killing of Baby Knauer, occurred in early 1939. The baby was blind and had a leg and an arm missing.

Baby Knauer’s father was distraught at having a disabled child. So, he wrote to Chancellor Hitler requesting permission to have the infant “put to sleep.” Hitler had been receiving many such requests from German parents of disabled babies over several years and had been waiting for just the right opportunity to launch his euthanasia plans.

The Knauer case seemed the perfect test case. He sent one of his personal physicians, Karl Rudolph Brandt, to investigate. Brandt’s instructions were to verify the facts, and if the child was disabled as described in the father’s letter, he was to assure the infant’s doctors that they could kill the child without legal consequence. With the Fuhrer’s assurance, Baby Knauer’s doctors willingly murdered their patient at the request of his father. [Burleigh, Death and Deliverance, pp. 95-96; Lifton, Nazi Doctors, pp. 50-51; Gallagher, By Trust Betrayed, pp. 95-96.]

Brandt was hanged at Nuremberg. These crimes came from a rejection of intrinsic human dignity and accepting a subjective quality of life ethic. 

Schuklenk also spills the beans that infanticide will be about money:

The question of whether it would be a wise allocation of scarce health care resources to undertake the proposed surgical procedures invariably arises in circumstances such as this.
Continuing life-prolonging care for the infant would be futile, it would constitute a waste of scarce health care resources.

Health care resources ought to be deployed where they can actually benefit patients by improving their quality of life. This cannot be achieved in the scenario under consideration.

Several years ago at Princeton, I castigated the university for giving infanticide proponent Peter Singer one of the most prestigious endowed chairs in the world. He was brought to Princeton not in spite of believing in the moral propriety of killing babies (because they are supposedly not “persons”) but because of it.

In the Q and A part of the presentation, one professor objected, saying he liked academic freedom and the interplay of ideas. In reply, I asked if Princeton would ever bring the racist Noble Laureate William Shockley to the university, regardless of his expertise in physics. He said, honestly, “No.” 

Exactly. Racism is beyond the pale–and properly so. The fact that Shockley’s expertise would have had nothing to do with racial politics wouldn’t have mattered. He would have been unemployable at any major university.

Infanticide is the same bigotry aimed at different victims. It is now considered a respectable and debatable proposition in bioethics.

If we don’t keep pushing back very hard, it will, one day, become unexceptional.

Senior Depression Often Untreated? Euthanize!



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I get such whiplash. On one hand, we are oft told in the media that assisted suicide/euthanasia are “dignity” and “choice”–that ending one’s own life at the time and in the manner of one’s choosing the “ultimate civil right.”

On the other, some of the same boosters of the culture of death worry justifiably about poor quality medical care and untreated depression in vulnerable populations–as if the two issues exist in different universes! I call this disconnect, Euthanasialand.

Latest example, a story in the Washington Post–which has run many an assisted suicide friendly storyrecently published a story about how much depression among eldsters goes untreated. From the story:

By 2030, there will be as many as 14 million American seniors with mental health or substance abuse disorders, up from 5 million to 8 million today, according to the Institute of Medicine. Depressive disorders, along with dementia-related behavioral and psychiatric symptoms, are the most common maladies facing that group. Some experience depression for the first time in older age; others have chronic conditions.

“Depression is underrecognized and undertreated in older adults,” Bartels said.

The article makes clear depression combined with any of a number of stressors–including physical illness–can lead to suicidal thinking.

But don’t we want to honor those thoughts? In Beligium, Netherlands, and Switzerland, seniors who are tired of life, lonely, or worried about being widowed are provided lethal overdoses. And the push continues to expand the culture of death anyway.

Hey kids! I have an idea: Let’s legalize assisted suicide!

That would really get the old ’seniors-have-a-duty-to-die-and-get-out-of -the-way” ball rolling.

 

Driving Pro-Lifers Out of Medicine



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Fifty years ago doctors were prohibited by the Hippocratic Oath–and most laws–from assisted suicide and abortion.

Now, we see the opening stanzas of forcing doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals to be complicit in such killing actions or be driven out of their professions.

The Canadian province of Ontario is the latest example. Today, rules permit dissenting doctors from having to participate in abortions. New rules will force all doctors to be complicit in abortion by either forcing them to do the deed or refer to an abortionist they know will make the unwanted fetus dead. From the Brandon Sun story:

The regulator, which oversees, licenses and regulates some 28,000 physicians, is also updating its guidelines on how to balance the charter rights of doctors and patients. The proposed changes mean doctors who refuse to perform certain procedures — such as abortions — on moral grounds would have to refer patients to another doctor.

Physicians were previously allowed to withhold treatment that clashed with their religious and moral beliefs but had no obligation to provide a referral, said Dr. Marc Gabel, the regulator’s former president.

Should assisted suicide/euthanasia become legal throughout Canada–which its Supreme Court may soon impose–doctor-prescribed death will be quickly included in the complicity mandate. That’s already the law under Quebec’s new euthanasia legalization. 

An anti-conscience law already exists in Victoria, Australia around abortion. In my last national speaking tour there, I met doctors who picked up stakes and moved to another state to keep from being complicit in abortion. But what will they do if the NO CONSCIENCE ALLOWED! law goes national? Either comply or give up medicine.

The Dutch Medical Association (KNMG) has proposed a similar rule for doctors and euthanasia. Meanwhile, doctors are allowed there to teach their patients how to commit suicide.

The Culture of Death brooks no dissent! The time is coming–and is already here–when willingness to kill or be complicit in killing, will be a prerequisite to entering or practicing the medical professions.

No Hippocratic-values believers or pro-lifers allowed!

Making Sure Jahi Stays Dead?



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I accept properly diagnosed brain death as dead.  Hence, when three doctors found that Jahi McMath was tragically gone, I accepted the diagnosis. 

But I also wrote that if her body did not deteriorate–as happens in almost all brain death cases–that would raise my eyebrows.  Now, it’s one year later, and she remains here. My eyebrows are now above my receding hairline.

Moreover, I am increasingly suspicious of the seeming ideological commitment of some to making sure she stays dead. The intensity of their resistance to even the possibility that a mistake has been made–or that we can learn something new about the elasticity of the brain–reminds me of the emotional intensity of those who wanted Terri Schiavo dehydrated to death.

I bring this up because I suspect that the case will return to court sometime soon. Also, I think it is important to keep certain facts straight and point out media bias/ignorance when it rears its ugly head–sometimes, it is hard to tell which. 

Let’s look at a Q & A format AP story about the sad anniversary and straighten things out a bit:

Q: Why does her family want to keep her on a ventilator?

A: Jahi’s relatives say their religious beliefs dictate that as long as her heart is beating, Jahi is alive and deserves long-term care. In October, the family released videos of the girl showing her foot and hand appearing to move in response to her mother’s commands.

In other words, they think she’s alive–not because “their religious beliefs dictate” anything. Plus, if she did comply with requests, she’s not brain dead by definition.

But look at what the story completely fails to report: Two very respected neurologists have testified via sworn declarations that she is not now brain dead. This is the most important evidence presented that she may not actually be dead. How could the reporter fail to even mention that?

Then, there is a bit of confusing verbiage:

David Magnus, director of the Stanford Center for Biomedical Ethics, has said there is no evidence that patients who are brain dead can ever recover. Still, he said that it’s somewhat surprising her body has lasted as long as it has and that some patients can live for years on ventilators.

Well, it’s very rare–but occasionally happens–for a truly brain dead body to be maintained. More to the point, a truly brain dead does not “live” on a ventilator. 

The unprecedented nature of a brain dead person recovering function–which may have happened with Jahi–makes this a very important case. If she has come back, that opens a whole new area of scientific inquiry. From that perspective alone, why fight taking a thorough new look to see if it happened?  

I strongly believe this case needs to be reopened–for Jahi, for her family, for the integrity of the system, and for the good of science.

The harder the “establishment” resists, the more I think their objections are ideological, reflecting deep concerns about how a finding that she is alive would rock their world. 

They are right: It would. But that’s no reason to force her to remain among the dead if that is not where she belongs. 

 

Reducing Animal, Increasing Human, Euthanasia



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I am all for reducing animal euthanasia in shelters if the dogs and cats can be cared for humanely. And indeed, shelters appear to be moving in that direction. From a Madison County Record story about one such case:

The Madison County Pet Shelter has made strides in the last four months to become recognized as a no-kill shelter, dropping its euthanasia rate an estimated 78 percent since August.

Well, good for them. But isn’t it ironic that as we value the lives of animals to the point of raising them in importance to those of people, we are increasing reducing the value of human lives by allowing euthanasia/assisted suicide–and continually expanding the categories of those who qualify to be medically killed.

Animals: Care not kill. Ill, disabled, despairing humans: Kill not care.

We live in very weird times.

Canada Bill to Legalize Euthanasia of Disabled



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Like I keep saying: Euthanasia/assisted suicide is not about terminal illness. It is ultimately about allowing anyone with more than a transitory desire to die to be killed–whether by a doctor, a lay suicide facilitator, or even, family and friends. 

And here we go again! Canadian legislation would legalize active lethal-injection euthanasia and assisted suicide for people with disabilities. From S. 225 (my emphases):

In order to be eligible to make a request for physician-assisted death, a person must…

have been diagnosed by a physician as having an illness, a disease or a disability, including a disability arising from traumatic injury,
     (i) that causes the person physical or psychological suffering that is intolerable to that person and that cannot be alleviated by any medical treatment acceptable to that person, or
     (ii) that results in the person being in a state of weakening capacities with no chance of improvement…

Do you see how broad and wide-open a killing license that would be allowed? This definition would permit Netherlands-style euthanasia of the diagnosed mentally ill, paraplegics, or even, asymptomatic HIV infection causing the patient great distress. 

And can you understand why? This is the actual agenda–death on demand.

Whether to permit that is the debate we should be having. Anything else is phony, baloney pretense. 

China Promises to End Harvesting the Executed



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China has–for a second time–promised to stop organ harvesting those it executes. From the BBC story:

China has promised to stop harvesting organs from executed prisoners by 1 January, state media report…Death row inmates have long served as a key source for transplants.

This is not the first such promise:

It has said for many years that it will end the controversial practice. It previously promised to do so by November last year.

I’ll believe it when I see it.

Realize that a lot of these organs did not go to the Chinese people. Rather, they were sold to people like author Dana Asa Rose, who bought a kidney for his cousin and then wrote a comedy book about it called Larry’s Kidney. But it wasn’t Larry’s kidney. It almost surely belonged to prisoner who was tissue-typed and killed for the money Rose paid.

The organ market in China has been huge, with organs selling for tens of thousands and more. That means tremendous corruption. Not only that, but the organ market is already supposed to be illegal but still carries on..

Time will tell if China keeps its words, but color me doubtful.

It’s a Kevorkian World



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In the midst of the Brittany Maynard media mania, it struck me how prophetic Jack Kevorkian was about how deeply the culture of death would subsume the culture of the West. So, I took to the pages of the Weekly Standard to issue a storm warming. From, “Kevorkian’s Vision:”

The last time the media swarmed so feverishly in favor of assisted suicide was when they touted Jack Kevorkian’s defiant assisted suicide campaign in the 1990s. As they later would with Maynard, the media substituted intense emotionalism for reporting and analysis, focusing almost exclusively on the suffering of those who wanted to die rather than the radical societal changes Kevorkian hoped his death campaign would bring about.

Kevorkian is dead, but the policies he advocated are becoming reality​—​one bit here, another bit there—​throughout much of the West.

I go through an alarming and depressing litany. Here’s a sampling:

The list of Kevorkian proposals being implemented or proposed as a means of “death with dignity” could go on and on:

Kevorkian wrote in the journal Medicine and Law (1986) that laymen should be permitted to assist suicides. Today, Scotland’s pending assisted suicide legislation proposes the creation of a new profession—the “licensed suicide facilitator”​—​who would be permitted to assist suicides of those found medically eligible by a doctor.

Kevorkian argued that euthanasia should be available to babies and children. In the Netherlands, terminally ill and seriously disabled infants are euthanized under what is known as the Groningen Protocol, while Belgium recently legalized assisted suicide for children with no age restrictions.

Kevorkian believed that the bodies of those being euthanized should be used for society’s benefit. He even removed the kidneys of ex-policeman Joseph Tushkowski​—​a quadriplegic he assisted in suicide​—​offering them at a press conference, “First come, first served.” Belgium now couples euthanasia with organ harvesting. Doctors there have even held seminars urging that patients with neuromuscular disabilities should be considered prime candidates because they have “good organs.” The Netherlands is now drawing up regulations to do likewise.

Kevorkian proposed setting up regional death centers to make the “service” more accessible. In the Netherlands, doctors make euthanasia house calls while mobile euthanasia clinics travel to nursing homes and elsewhere, to facilitate suicides in cases where personal doctors refuse euthanasia requests.

There are more examples, of course, but I’ll let you read the piece.

We are becoming a Kevorkian world. We don’t have to, it’s not too late not to–but unless we stop slouching toward indifference and succumbing to emotional bludgeoning, Kevorkian will be the face you see in the mirror.

Courts Should Punish Animal “Person” Litigators



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The Nonhuman Rights Project lost a unanimous opinion in a New York Court of Appeals ruling that ruled–properly–chimpanzees are not persons. From the New York Times story:

In a blow for animal lovers and simian-rights advocates, a five-member state judicial panel unanimously ruled on Thursday that a chimpanzee could not be considered a “legal person” and thus sue for his freedom.

Oh, good grief, reporter Jesse McKinley: That is not a “blow for animal lovers!” One can love and deeply care for animals and not think they deserve treatment akin to humans

It is a blow to ideologues who think animals and people are moral equals.

It is a blow to those who seek to destroy human exceptionalism.

Back to the story:

“Unlike human beings, chimpanzees cannot bear any legal duties, submit to societal responsibilities or be held legally accountable for their actions,” wrote Justice Peters, the presiding justice for the Third Judicial Department. “In our view, it is this incapability to bear any legal responsibilities and societal duties that renders it inappropriate to confer upon chimpanzees the legal rights” such as habeas corpus.

Bingo!

These animal rights activists need to pay a stiff price for filing these radical claims. The courts have the power to sanction frivolous lawsuits through financial sanctions. The time has come to impose those penalties now.

Otherwise, they will just keep suing hoping to find that one judge who wants to make history.

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