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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

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. 

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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.

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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.

Why Not Get Stop ICU Child Care OK in Writing?



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Apparently legislation in Missouri is controversial among the bioethics set because it requires written consent to stop ICU care for a child. From Thaddeus Mason Pope’s valuable Medical Futility blog:

Ordained Christian minister and Missouri state representative Bill Kidd has introduced H.B. 113. It contains two main provisions…

More controversially, the bill also follows Idaho and Oklahoma in always requiring consent to stop life-sustaining treatment. But in contrast to those other states, the Missouri bill is focused on only treatment of children.

Hmm. I am not sure what the legislator being a pastor has to do with the merits of the legislation. I would say, nothing. 

But I am puzzled why this proposal is “controversial.” So, I went to the legislation. From, H.B. 113:

4. No health care facility, nursing home, physician, nurse, or medical staff shall withhold life-sustaining procedures, food, medication, or nutrition, nor place any restrictions on life-sustaining procedures including, but not limited to, food, medication, or nutrition for any minor patient, resident, or ward without the written permission of at least one parent or legal guardian of the minor patient or ward.

5. No do-not-resuscitate order or similar physician’s order shall be instituted either orally or in writing without the written permission of at least one parent or legal guardian of the minor patient or resident or prospective minor patient or resident.

I honestly don’t see the problem, and indeed, believe it should also apply to adults.

Getting consent it in writing would better ensure that parents made a truly informed decision to stop ICU care or put a DNR on the chart. The doctors might have to work harder to educate the parents, but isn’t that a good thing?

Getting consent in writing would also protect doctors later if parents, in their grief, claimed they had not consented to stopping treatment. Call it a lawsuit stopper.

I suppose it would impede unilateral futile care decisions to take a child off treatment without consent. If that is what makes it controversial–it is very telling. The more we stop futile care impositions, the more trusted and ethical our health care system will be.

Proposed “Animal Charter of Rights” in Canada



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Oh, good grief. Animal rights activists in Canada–not the same as animal welfare–are pushing an “Animal Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”

Typical of most animal rights advocacy, much of it is utterly nonsensical.

From the proposal:

“Animals” means sentient, non-human animals.

Note, sentience means aware or, “sense perception not involving intelligence or mental perception.” A fly escapes the swatter. A cockroach skitters out of the light Thus, the “Charter” applies equally to insects as to Bambi.

The Charter would be an animal rights lawyer full employment act:

Legal Status: 1. Animals have the right to have their interests represented in court. 2. Animals are persons under the law.

The bees as clients to prevent “rape racks” in the honey industry would be clueless. The lawyers would be representing animal rights ideologues.

And get this irrationality:

Fundamental Freedoms: 3. Animals have the right to be free from pain, injury or disease. 4. Animals have the right to be free from abuse and neglect. 5. Animals have the right to be free from fear, and emotional and psychological distress.

Have these people ever been in the wild? Are they going to sue the sow who allows the runt of the litter to starve to death? Prey animals live in fear!

Some of the rest deals with establishing absolute animal welfare standards that would shut down all animal industries and most uses. And this would keep us from ever using wild places:

Animals living in the wild have the right to enjoy a clean and ecologically sound natural habitat, free from human intervention or exploitation.

Sigh.

I think the Vegan Fox, a conversation I secretly recorded a bit ago between an animal rights activist and her bemused friend, is worth taking out of mothballs–which if used against the clothes eaters, come to think of it, would violate the Charter.

Enjoy.

CDC: Circumcision Benefits Outweigh Risks



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After all the nonsense from “intactivists” and their ridiculous war against circumcision, a little sanity from the CDC.  It recommends circumcision’s health benefits as outweighing risks. From the Reuters story:

The benefits of male circumcision outweigh the risks, according a long awaited draft of federal guidelines from U.S. health officials released on Tuesday, which indicate that scientific evidence supports recommending the procedure.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that medically performed male circumcision could help decrease the risk of contracting HIV and several other sexually transmitted infections (STIs) as well as other health problems.

The recommendation, which includes counseling parents of male newborns on the benefits and risks of the procedure, comes at a time when the rate of male circumcision has been decreasing in the United States.

Don’t get me wrong. I couldn’t care less whether parents circumcise their sons. I don’t think either decision is right or wrong.

But good grief, can we stop with the claims of child abuse and “mutilation?” Please?

Or are you who are so obsessed with this issue “science deniers?”

Abortion Leads to Deadly Baby Hatred



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Lila Rose’s Live Action Network has taped abortionists admitting they would not save babies who survive abortion. (After birth, whether wanted or not, the baby is no longer a “fetus.”

Here’s a quote from a tape posted last year in which the abortionist says, while no babies have survived his deadly intervention, if one did, he will do nothing to help a prematurely born baby survive-for example, if the mother delivers from the uterus dilating drugs before getting to “the termination part of the procedure:”

I sever the umbilical cord first. We try and wait [to remove the fetus] until it stops pulsing…

Legally we would be obligated to help it to, you know survive. It probably, you know, wouldn’t. It’s all in how vigorously you do things to help a fetus survive at this point…

If you do everything possible to help it survive, you know, there is a 20-30 percent it would survive. If you don’t do anything, you know chances are much less lax…

There are things you can do [to make sure the baby doesn't survive]. We would not help it. We wouldn’t intubate…We wouldn’t do anything extra. It would be a terminal person in the hospital who has cancer. You wouldn’t do anything extra to help the person survive. We would do the same thing here.

Of course, at 23-25 weeks, the baby wouldn’t be terminally ill but savable with proper medical care.

This is worse than when a desperate teenager throws an unwanted baby in the toilet or the trash. This is a premeditated plan of deadly neglect. Sickening.

Question: How is treating unwanted newborns who survive abortion any different than racially or religiously inspired deadly violence or lethal neglect?

Check out the Live Action Network Website. This does not appear to be an isolated example. 

Time for Commercially-Assisted Suicide?



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Human logic goes where our first principles and fundamental premises take it. 

Assisted suicide’s core premise is that being killed to stop suffering is a fundamental human right. In other words, terminal illness may sometimes be potically expedient entry point to euthanasialand, but it isn’t the point of legalization.

And now, in the journal Bioethics, bioethicist Roland Kipke argues that if assisted suicide is a right of autonomy, we should permit entrepreneurs to go into the business of making people painlessly dead, what he calls “commercially-assisted suicide” (CAS). From, “Why Not Commercial Assistance for Suicide?”

‘CAS’ means that persons who wish to commit suicide are supported in a businesslike fashion, for remuneration. In the majority of cases, the core of this support might consist in providing a lethal dose of a drug to enable the person to kill herself. Furthermore, the assistance can consist of counselling, accompanying the suicidal person during the dying process, and further services connected with the suicide.

‘Businesslike’ means that the suicide assistants intend to provide their service on a continuing basis and to earn (a part of) their livelihood from it. CAS, as it is understood here, is, therefore, not a one-off act and it is
not (only) done as a favour…However, as it is understood here, CAS is only provided by non-physicians.

This isn’t a new idea.

- Jack Kevorkian made this very proposal back in the early 1990s.

- Scotland’s pending assisted suicide legalization legislation would create “licensed suicide facilitators,” who would presumably be paid for helping usher in death and clean up afterwards.

- Switzerland already allows non-profit suicide clinics whose owners still do very well–thank you very much–by making people dead (about $9000 a pop).

Kipke thinks having suicide professionals would weaken the arguments against legalizing assisted suicide, for example, taking the “corruption of medicine” concern out of the equation. And, it would eliminate resistance from doctors opposed to assisted suicide so that the suicidal would not be impeded in their intention to become dead:

Another problem that is specific to PAS would also fall away. According to the prevailing view of the proponents, doctors (on the condition of permission for PAS) would not be obliged to provide assistance to suicide.
Whether the individual physician provides such assistance or not is to be left to his own personal decision.

Although this practice seems to be well justified by the principle of autonomy it could be very problematic for persons who seek assistance for their suicide. Whether their wish is fulfilled or not does not depend on clear,
generally applicable criteria, but on the personal attitude of the physician…Obviously, this problem would not occur with commercial assistants.

But what about the problem of suicide entrepreneurs having a stake in the deaths of customers? Well, doctors might dissuade! (How paternalistic of them!) More:

The role of commercial suicide assistants would be in contrast to this. They might not experience this general credit of trust and most people might be more skeptical about their judgments. Therefore, the risk of unreflected interference would be smaller.

But, what about assisted suicide reserved for only last resorts? As anyone who has read this blog or my other work surely knows, it never is now. Anywhere.

But Kipke doesn’t think such concerns should logically impeded the creation of the new death industry:

However, the argument has another problem: it is based on a concept of the good; more precisely, on a notion of a desirable social condition that is probably not even shared by all people. Such an argument can hardly be put forward from a liberal point of view. 

For, according to the prevailing liberal conviction, the good is significant only for the individual or for a particular community and should not be the basis of generally binding rules. This is certainly the case for concepts of the good that go beyond fundamental assumptions and represent concrete ideas of a common good. In particular, it applies to concepts of the good that do not enjoy general approval. The right has the primacy over the good, and the state has to be neutral with regard to these concepts of the good.

This accurately summarizes the sterile and reductionist Dworkinian view of liberal society, demonstrating how contemporary progressives betray liberalism’s once-fundamental purpose of protecting the vulnerable and defenseless. (For a powerful argument about why liberals must oppose assisted suicide to be true to their calling, see Robert J. Jones’, Liberalism’s Troubled Search for Equality. (Here’s my review.)

Kipke closes with an important point: 

If one has no general objection to assisted suicide, there are many more reasons for CAS than for PAS to occur.To reject CAS while endorsing PAS is, therefore, not ethically justifiable: it is not a coherent ethical position.

Therefore, the position of the liberal advocates of PAS has to be revised. Either they have to expand their advocacy to include CAS and therefore radicalize their position considerably or they have to revise their rejection of some arguments that are generally raised against assisted suicide. In both cases, it would no longer be the same position.

If one does not want a society in which suicide and its support is normal and taken for granted like other services, and if one wants to adhere at the same time to the claim of coherence for their own ethical position, the only possibility is to reject PAS. Those who do not endorse CAS cannot endorse PAS, either.

Indeed. Moreover, Kipke’s article demonstrates why assisted suicide/euthanasia isn’t medicine! Those who pretend otherwise merely seek to harness the authority of the doctor in service to the culture of death.

Will CAS ever be permitted? If we allow assisted suicide, I don’t see why not. Indeed, as noted earlier, it has already been proposed in Scotland. And in Oregon, a psychologist planned to go into the assisted suicide business–before being stripped of his license for unrelated ethical reasons. 

I have no idea whether Kipke favors or opposes assisted suicide. But his arguments are logical and flow directly from the legalization premise.

Give Me That New Time Transhumanism!



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I have a piece in this month’s First Things about how transhumanism is a form of materialistic faith. The column describes what I observed at a religion and transhumanism conference back in May. From, “New Time Religion” (subscription required):

The West, we are told, has entered the secular age. Religious faith is irreversibly shriveling, opening space for a society governed by reason.

Traditional religion may well fade, but we will never see an end to something like religious belief.  We’re subjective beings whose need for meaning will never be satisfied merely by what can be “proved.”  Thus, even if Judaism and Christianity are reduced to vestigial influence in America, the will be replaced not by unbelief but by different creeds.

Transhumanism–the belief that through technology we can become immortal and redesign a better “post-human”species–intends to become our primary source of societal values: 

Why consider ourselves made in the likeness and image of God, when we can recreate ourselves in our own, individually designed, “post human” image? 

Why worry about heaven, hell, or the karmic conditions in which we will be reincarnated when we can instead enjoy radical life extension, perhaps even attain immortality by uploading our minds into computers?  

Indeed, transhumanist prophets such as Google’s Ray Kurzweil and Oxford University’s Nick Bostrom, eschatologically assure believers that science will soon wipe way every tear from our eyes, and there will be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying, nor pain, for through technology, the former things will all pass away.

Transhumanism has no liturgy, nor does it hold that belief or behavior impact one’s ultimate destiny. Conference organizer, Hank Pellissier–director of Brighter Brains Institute–angrily chastised the movement generally for lacking generosity and a charitable mindset. Perhaps that what comes from a purely materialistic mindset.

That point aside, the new time religion does perceive itself, in the words of professor emeritus at Pacific Lutheran Theological Seminary in Berkeley, Ted Peters, “as a grand vision in which all broken things get fixed.”

Representatives of several faiths tried to accommodate their creeds with the transhuman techno-Utopianism. Mormonism, Buddhism, Catholicism (just a bit), Islam (me: no way!), Terasem (a new transhuman denomination that seeks to use yoga, music, and conversation to fill the empty space left with the loss of transcendent faith), and the Raelian science cult. Indeed, the Raelian representative–the almost surely pseudonymous Felix Clairvoyant–showed how closely the two belief systems are aligned:

Unlike orthodox transhumanists, Raelians deny evolution, claiming that all life here was intelligently designed by extraterrestrial visitors. That one point aside, the Raelians and transhumanists have much in common.  Both deny theism and embrace scientism as the way to attaining ultimate materialistic truth.

The Raelians also claim that our interstellar “creators” are already transhuman: Through applied biotechnology and other scientific advances, their bodies last for one thousand years, and when they can no longer be maintained, their minds are uploaded into a computers, they are cloned, and then their software is downloaded back into their new brains and they are good to go for another millennium. 

I could almost hear the sighs of longing from the audience. Oh, death, where is thy sting?

I met transhumanism’s up-and comer potential presidential candidate and author of The Transhumanist Wager, Zoltan Istvan, who issued a clarion call that atheism requires transhumanism:

Istvan flatly stated that transhumanism unequivocally “cuts against” Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  “If you don’t have restrictions on morality that religion imposes on life,” he said, “you have more freedom to think.”

As people learn they can “live indefinitely,” it will profoundly erode religion since it will allow people to stop worrying about eternal life as something we experience only in the hereafter.  Istvan also argued that with transhumanism the only hope in a material world,  and therefore interfering with life extension research should be a crime. In fact, substantially thwarting efforts to achieve transhumanism would be a just cause for war. Onward transhumanist soldiers!

I came to some conclusions after a full day of lectures:

It is clear to me that transhumanism aspires to be what monotheism was to polytheism, e.g., to supplant theism as society’s reining source of mores and values.  If it can be said to “worship” anything, it is an intense and distinctly eugenic sense of the pursuit of a perfected humanity.

We will be free from sin, by definition—none of those moral restrictions on life. And we will be delivered from death by technology. Like many faith systems, it also offers itself as a bulwark against suffering  (we can eliminate it) and hope in the face of death (it is optional).

Different strokes for different folk, as they say. But there is real danger here…There was precious little discussion of love for, or duties toward, others, in the 10 hours of the conference…This sadly confirms my own observations of transhumanism over the last ten years…Transhumanists tacitly—sometimes explicitly—reject the principle that each and every human being deserves respect and protection simply by virtue of being human. 

Such a morality impedes the benevolent god known as evolution—thus delaying the perfected human future they envision. To bring about the hoped-for future we must discard the notion of each human’s intrinsic dignity. One need not think transhumanists’ predictions will come true to worry that their values might take hold. 

Transhumanism is a desperate belief system that grasps at technological straws. But the raw desperation in that grasping has the potential–like all Utopian movements–to unleash violently destructive forces. Caveat emptor.

 

 

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