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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

A Right to “Personal Recreationism?”



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Forgetting the maxim, “Where fools rush in where angels fear to tread,” over at First Things, I weigh in on the “T” of GLBT, and what creating rights around that issue might portend.

I describe some of the latest developments surrounding transgender rights, and then explore where they might lead.  From, “A Fundamental Right to ‘Personal Recreationism’?”

To be frank, at age sixty-five, I don’t fully understand the cultural dynamics driving these startling social transitions. People want to be fulfilled and lead happy lives as “themselves.” Very well.

But I also worry that once we accept the premise that we have a fundamental right to be physically remade to comport with how we feel about ourselves—and to have society act in accordance—we will have crossed a cultural Rubicon, leading to extreme outcomes.

Take the anguishing condition—often compared to gender dysphoria—known as body integrity identity disorder (BIID). People who suffer from BIID are convinced—they know—that they inhabit wrongly intact bodies, that their real and true identities are as amputees or even as paraplegics or quadriplegics.

Over the last ten years, arguments have increased in medical and bioethical journals for permitting the amputation of healthy limbs as a treatment for BIID—and for many of the same reasons that treatment of gender dysphoria can now include surgical alteration.

And that leads me to transhumanism, which claims a right to recreate humans in any form technology can take us.

I conclude:

The current controversies surrounding gender dysphoria seem to be leading toward the establishment of a fundamental right to (let’s call it) personal recreationism. I understand why many see this as the most humane and liberating course. But nothing happens in a vacuum. Once that principle is accepted, there will be no limits.

Human logic, once set in motion, is an unstoppable force.

Big Step Toward Human Fetal Farming!



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I have warned for some time that we may one day use aborted human fetuses as sources of organs.

Now, scientists have transplanted human kidneys from killed fetuses and grown them in rats. From the LiveScience story:

Researchers say they have developed a new technique that will get more kidneys to people who need transplants, but the method is sure to be controversial: The research shows that it is feasible to remove a kidney from an aborted human fetus, and implant the organ into a rat, where the kidney can grow to a larger size.

It’s possible that further work could find a way to grow kidneys large enough that they could be transplanted into a person, the researchers said, although much more research is needed to determine whether this could be done.

“Our long-term goal is to grow human organs in animals, to end the human donor shortage,” said study co-author Eugene Gu, a medical student at Duke University and the founder and CEO of Ganogen, Inc., a biotech company in Redwood City, California. [The 9 Most Interesting Transplants]

Fetal farming is definitely on its way. Here’s another example: Extract the eggs from ovaries of aborted female fetuses for use in cloning or fertility treatments–now being actively investigated.

But why go through the bother and expense of transplanting fetal organs into animals?  Why not just pay women who want to abort to gestate longer into term so the transplant can be made directly after tissue typing? That has already been proposed. From an essay by bioethicist Jacob M. Appel:

Since far more women have legal abortions each year in the United States than would be required to clear organ wait-lists, if only a small percentage of those women could be persuaded to carry their fetuses to the necessary point of development for transplantation, society might realize significant public health benefits.

The government could even step into the marketplace itself to purchase fetal organs for patients on Medicare and Medicaid, ensuring that low-income individuals had equal access to such organs while keeping the “asking price” elevated…

Someday, if we are fortunate, scientific research may make possible farms of artificial “wombs” breeding fetuses for their organs — or even the “miracle” of men raising fetuses in their abdomens. That day remains far off. However, the prospect of fetal-adult organ transplantation is a much more realistic near-term possibility. A market in such organs might benefit both society and the women who choose to take advantage of it.

And heck, once cloning can be done, why not clone, gestate in a woman or in an artificial womb, and then harvest? That is also on the futuristic table.

All things become possible when we cease believing that human life matters morally simply and merely because it is human.

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Let’s Force Doctors to Starve Alzheimer’s Patients!



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Immoral bioethical policies and practices advance toward implementation through discourse–first in professional journals, and then in elite popular media columns. 

That process is now gearing up regarding what I call “VSED-by-Proxy.”  

VSED stands for “voluntary stopping eating and drinking”–suicide by self-starvationpushed for the elderly and others by those compaaaaa–ssssss–ionate death zealots at the Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices.

But what about mentally incompetent residents of nursing homes who willingly eat, but who years previously stated in an advance medical directive that they wanted to be made dead by starvation under such circumstances?

We see increasing advocacy in bioethics that nursing homes be required to starve such patients to death–even if they are then happy, even if they willingly eat, and even, one supposes, if they ask for food. In other words, the idea is that the demented patient is incompetent to decide to eat if he had earlier directed that he be starved to death!

And now VSED-by-Proxy has been validated by respectful reportage in the New York Times. From, “Complexities of Choosing an End Game for Dementia,” by Paula Span:

Jerome Medalie keeps his advance directive hanging in a plastic sleeve in his front hall closet, as his retirement community recommends. That’s where the paramedics will look if someone calls 911. Like many such documents, it declares that if he is terminally ill, he declines cardiopulmonary resuscitation, a ventilator and a feeding tube.

But Mr. Medalie’s directive also specifies something more unusual: If he develops Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, he refuses “ordinary means of nutrition and hydration.”

A retired lawyer with a proclivity for precision, he has listed 10 triggering conditions, including “I cannot recognize my loved ones” and “I cannot articulate coherent thoughts and sentences.” If any three such disabilities persist for several weeks, he wants his health care proxy — his wife, Beth Lowd — to ensure that nobody tries to keep him alive by spoon­feeding or offering him liquids

This is an extremely dangerous culture of death aggression because it would erase the boundary between medical treatment that can be refused–and basic humane care, no different ethically from turning a patient to prevent bed sores or providing hygiene–which all patients are required to receive regardless of their condition.

Just as an advance directive instructing that a patient not be kept clean should be disregarded, so too should an order to starve the patient who willingly eats.

This too is important: VSED is suicide. Legally requiring nursing homes to commit VSED-by-proxy would be forcing them to kill—and to kill cruelly. A legal regimen that forced medical personnel to assist a patient’s suicide by starvation would drive many doctors and nurses out of medicine.

After all, most doctors and nurses want to be healers, not killers.  And how safe would we be in other areas of medicine if the professions were filled with people who would willingly starve patients to death when they happily eat.

But let’s not kid ourselves. VSED-by-proxy is a stalking horse for opening the door to lethally injecting Alzheimer’s patients, and probably doing so en masse. After all, why force anyone to undergo a slow and potentially agonizing death by VSED or VSED-by-proxy when he or she can be dispatched quickly?

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

Dutch Eutanasia for Tinnitus!



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Euthanasia is a voracious beast, its hunger never assuaged.

Now, in the Netherlands, a woman was lethally injected because of severe tinnitus. From the DutchNews.nl story:

A special clinic in The Hague, set up to help people whose doctors do not support euthanasia, has been reprimanded for helping a 47-year-old woman with chronic tinnitus to die, broadcaster Nos says on Monday. The independent commission charged with monitoring how Dutch euthanasia rules are applied recognises that extreme tinnitus could be a reason for mercy killing but said Gaby Olthuis should have undergone further psychiatric research.

The story mentions a potential prosecution. That threat has no teeth. I recall one case in which a doctor killed a disabled baby–murder under Netherlander law–and received a 3 week suspended sentence. Ditto a doctor who euthanized an anorexia patient–and the medical association was up in arms

I have moderate tinnitus. It ain’t fun. And I am sure louder ringing than I currently experience would be very disturbing. But killed for it?

Euthanasia is a voracious beast, its hunger never assuaged.

Again with “Anti-Born Kids” Anti-Pro-Life Slur



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Before I got into anti-assisted suicide work in 1993, I never hung out with pro-lifers. I only knew a few and didn’t engage the issues in which they were interested.

That changed fast once I joined the euthanasia fray, as the pro-life movement is one of the essential constituencies in the diverse coalition keeping the culture of death at bay. 

Once I got to know the Movement, it quickly became clear to me that most pro-lifers are selfless and loving people, dedicated not only to stopping abortion but helping women caught up with unintended pregnancies, and/or who regret their abortions–and these are legion.  

Many also put their lives where their mouths are–often adopting children who are disabled or “at risk,” as well as foster parenting, etc.

The oft-told lie that pro-lifers don’t care about children once they are born–so trite–was again slung by a Planned Parenthood chieftain in Indiana, as discussed by Tim Swarens in the Indianapolis Star. From, “Pro-Lifers Don’t Care About Kids and Other Stereotypes:”

A few minutes into our conversation, Betty Cockrum lobs a bomb — the kind that often shatters any chance of talking constructively about deeply sensitive issues or in finding common ground with ideological opposites.“Anti-choice advocates,” the head of Planned Parenthood in Indiana and Kentucky declared, don’t really care about children once they’re born.

Such smug claptrap. Swarens, with more patience than I, responds:

Deep breath. Gentle answer. It’s a common slander, of course. Hurled against tens of millions of women and men who describe themselves as pro-life.

It’s also an inaccurate, unfair stereotype.

In reality, many of those “zealots” — another common slur — pour their lives into serving as adoptive and foster parents, as mentors for struggling teens, as coaches and scout leaders and teachers. And they do it precisely because they care, passionately, about helping children in need.

Practicing what he preaches, Swarens tries to build a bridge across the yawning cultural chasm:

So as much as I might disagree with Cockrum’s means to various ends, I have no desire to attack her motivations. We all want women and children to live healthier, happier, more prosperous lives. It’s just that, for many of us, those lives begin before a child crosses the finish/start line of birth…

Yet, despite such differences, there are important things that we all should be able to celebrate. For example, the abortion rate is now at the lowest level since the U.S. Supreme Court handed down Roe v. Wade 42 years ago. In Indiana, the number of abortions has declined about 25 percent since 2008. Teen pregnancies have dropped rapidly as well.

All of that means that we’ve made significant progress in heading off the tragedy of abortion, and in helping young women avoid the anguish of unintended pregnancies. It’s OK for both sides to cheer that news.

Except: I’m not so sure both sides are pleased about that, at least, not unequivocally.

Every time a woman doesn’t abort at PP, it costs the organization money. In fact, the group is apparently so financially reliant on terminations, that when a new Texas law forced clinics to stop performing abortions, some PP facilities closed down. So much for being about birth control and cancer screening.

Facts, not demonization.

Moreover, some notable pro-choicers are coming out as positively pro-abortion. Indeed, the argument is now being made in some quarters that fewer abortions is nothing to celebrate because it implies there is a moral problem in the first place.

Swarens did well acknowledging the common humanity and good intentions of political opponents and those with differing moral views. That is always worth remembering.

But, that won’t stop activists like Cockrum from happily peddling the trite pro-choice canard that pro-lifers don’t care about kids after they are born.

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PBS’s Nonjudgmentalism on Belgian Euthanasia



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Well, at least they reported accurately that Belgium doctors euthanize mentally ill people.

But the utterly non-judgmental tone of this PBS story is truly chilling. From, “The Right to Die in Beligium:”

MEGAN THOMPSON: As she opens the door to her home…this 34-year old Belgian woman known as “Eva” seems at ease. But actually she’s chronically depressed. More than once she’s tried to commit suicide. And now she’s asking doctors to help her. Help her die by euthanasia…all of it captured in a Belgian documentary.

EVA(voiceover): It may seem strange but I am looking forward to the rest. The choice has been made. The decision has been made. I am looking forward to the rest I have longed for, for so long.

MEGAN THOMPSON: It may sound shocking, but in Belgium euthanasia is quite accepted. And it’s not just for the terminally ill. Chronically depressed patients like Eva can request it, too. And so on a day and time she’s chosen… Eva says goodbye to her family.

MARC VAN HOEY: Eva, are you ready?

EVA: Yes, I am ready, doctor.

MEGAN THOMPSON: And then she lays down on her couch.

MARC VAN HOEY (voiced over): Would you like to say something to your brother and sister-in-law?’

EVA(voiced over): Bye.

BROTHER: Sleep Well.

EVA (English): Thank you.

MEGAN THOMPSON: The man kneeling by her side, about to give her the lethal injection, is her doctor for the past two years. Dr. Marc Van Hoey.

Eva’s family just says, “Sleep well”!? If that doesn’t demonstrate the insidious and subverting nature of euthanasia, nothing does.

The entire report is so blase`. True, Thompson interviews Tom Mortier, who has brought a human rights lawsuit after his depressed mother was euthanized–and his attorney, being sure to note that he is with the “Christian” Life Defending Freedom–a matter utterly irrelevant to the legal questions at hand.

Still, the heft of the report is at best, terminally nonjudgmental. Thus, she reports, “the system works well:”

MEGAN THOMPSON: The 16-person euthanasia commission – half doctors, half lawyers, meets every month in Brussels. By law, after performing euthanasia, doctors must file a report with the Commission detailing what they did and why. The Commission reviews the reports to be sure conditions set by the law were met. If not, Genicot says in the worst case, a doctor could face homicide charges…

MEGAN THOMPSON: And he says the system works well. Giving doctors a practical and humane way to help suffering patients die peacefully. Genicot says some doctors choose to describe that in an optional section of the report.

Why didn’t Thompson challenge that view? There are so fecund areas of inquiry for an enterprising journalist:

- Why didn’t she bring up the psychiatric patient euthanized because she was sexually exploited by her psychiatrist

- Or the transsexual distraught by her sex change surgery?

- Or the killing of psychiatric patients conjoined with organ harvesting? So many areas for an enterprising journalist to explore in response to the assertion of how “well” Belgian euthanasia works.

Now assume that PBS was doing a program on how Ireland doesn’t permit abortion. And you had a doctor saying how satisfying it is that babies who would have been aborted are, instead, born. Can any of us imagine such a calm, nonjudgmental presentation?

Of course not. Thompson concludes with the core message of the report, that killing the depressed is “death with dignity:”

MEGAN THOMPSON: Which brings us back to Eva, the young woman convinced the only way to end her mental suffering was to end her life. Eva agreed to be filmed because she believed that people with chronic, incurable psychiatric illness can be helped to die with dignity.

This approach to reporting about the suicides of depressed people violates the World Health Association journalism guidelines about covering suicide. 

That’s not surprising to me: The media is increasingly becoming pro-suicide. This mild pretense of “objectivity” is but one example of the many ways media push that meme.

Sperm Donor as Human Stud Bull



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Isn’t it amazing how often “progressive” human fertility industry practices mimic methods of animal husbandry?

Latest example: The Hollywood Reporter cheerily reports about “23 Hollywood moms” who had children by the same sperm donor.

When Violet was a toddler, Fain took her to a music class, where “two women walked in with two boys about Violet’s age,” she says. One of the boys looked familiar.

Fain went home and checked her Facebook group comprising 15 families who had conceived with her same open donor. (Open donation, in which the donor’s info can be released on the child’s 18th birthday, is a growing trend.) She recalls: “There they were,” just a mile and a half away.

Now they all have dinner every Sunday. “They’re my family,” says Fain. In September, the Facebook group rented a vacation house. “Talk about crazy — there were 12 2-year-olds,” says Fain, who adds: “It’s one of those things that feels incredibly bizarre for half an hour. Then it feels totally normal.”

Then, this story of the death of a stud bull reached my desk.

Atop a wooded hill here in the heart of America’s Dairyland, an industry legend was recently laid to rest.

It wasn’t some milk magnate or a famed innovator, but an ornery, 2,700-pound bull named Toystory—a titan of artificial insemination who sired an estimated 500,000 offspring in more than 50 countries.

Like I said: Isn’t it amazing how often “progressive” human fertility industry practices mimic methods and standards of animal husbandry?

Humanists Support Robin Williams’ Suicide?



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The Humanist has an article out promoting assisted suicide as a “choice.” issue that should be available for anyone with more than a transitory desire to die. 

The issue of death-on-demand–which lies at the heart of the euthanasia movement–is mostly avoided by the media and in policy discussions. But once killing is deemed an acceptable answer to human suffering, sheer logic leads eventually to reaching that destination–as Tone Stockenström’s article, “Is Dying a Pro-Choice Issue?” demonstrates.

Really, Wesley? Death on demand? What about tragic cases like Robin Williams? Surely, no one would want cases like his included in an assisted suicide license!

Oh no? Some think we should be relieved that Williams is no longer suffering.  From the article (my emphasis):

The thrust of the public’s anguish was that Williams was successful in ending his life. Rather than express feelings of relief that he had ended his suffering, people questioned how his death could have been prevented.

“Mental suffering is invisible to the human eye,” says thirty-four-year-old Kristy Martin, who attended the World Federation of Right-to-Die Societies conference in Chicago. Martin had a strict Catholic…struggled with the contradictions of her religious education and her desire to be free of her own body.

According to her religious parents, the idea of suicide was a sin and yet Martin’s mental suffering has been so potent that she likened the anguish she feels to “being a slave to your own body, much like a prison.” Martin attended the conference looking for options on aid in dying because she’s made the firm decision to decide how and when she will die, having her death on her own terms.

Can we say, “Pro suicide?” That certainly is how the spokesman for the Humanist Movement sounds:

SO WHERE do humanists stand on the issue of aid in dying? According to Ed Gogol, “There are those who favor physicians as the gatekeepers to a hastened death like the Oregon-style law, which states that two physicians must concur that you can reasonably be expected to die within six months.”

Ultimately, Gogol doesn’t think this law goes far enough. “A mentally competent adult, incurably ill and suffering intolerably should have the right to choose to hasten their death. It is ethically the highest form of compassion to help a person with intolerable suffering to exit this life.”

Helping people die is more compassionate than helping them overcome the magnetic pull of death?  That’s the clear message. At the very least, it is “debatable:”

But what about when it concerns children? What about the mentally ill? What about the people directly affected by another’s death?

These and other questions present a complex set of ethical issues on which humanists will have a range of opinions. At the very least, I would guess that a majority of humanists are open to discussing them, a challenge society still struggles with.

Oh well, at least it doesn’t pretend that the question is about terminal illness. So, some half-hearted cheers for honesty. This is what the euthanasia issue really is all about.

Media Fails to Connect PVS Dehydration Dots



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Count on the media to miss the obvious angle when it comes to the culture of death.

The story of Martin Pistorius–believed falsely to have been unconscious for 12 years–is all over the mainstream media. NPR is typical:

His parents, Rodney and Joan Pistorius, were told that he was as good as not there, a vegetable. The hospital told them to take him home and keep him comfortable until he died.

But he didn’t die. “Martin just kept going, just kept going,” his mother says. His father would get up at 5 o’clock in the morning, get him dressed, load him in the car, take him to the special care center where he’d leave him.

“Eight hours later, I’d pick him up, bathe him, feed him, put him in bed, set my alarm for two hours so that I’d wake up to turn him so that he didn’t get bedsores,” Rodney says. That was their lives, for 12 years.

Unknown to the doctors, he could hear everything going on around him:

Over time, Martin began re-engaging with his thoughts.

And slowly, as his mind felt better, something else happened — his body began to get better, too. It involved inexplicable neurological developments and a painstaking battle to prove that he existed.

That he existed?

DO THEY EVEN MENTION that, but for loving parents, he could have had his feeding tube removed to the applause of these same outlets, most bioethicists, and many among the public? No!

At least this story didn’t say, “Terri Schiavo was different.” That’s a refreshing change.

She wasn’t. He could have been dried to death just like she was, his skin cracking, his organs slowly shutting down.  Had that happened, no one would ever have known that he knew what was happening as he died. Nor would anyone have known that years hence, he would fully recover.

P.S. The NPR story casually uses the V-word, an odious epithet the dehumanizes and degrades, just like the N-word and the C-word for women. Shame. On. Them. This is why the cognitively disabled face lethal discrimination.

Hobby Lobby Protects Another Company



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Last year’s very limited Hobby Lobby ruling–the hysteria by those disagreeing was a wonder to behold–has protected the Catholic owners of a closely-held company from being forced to pay for contraceptive and sterilization coverage against their faith. From the LifeNews.com story:

John Kennedy, CEO of the Michigan-based company, along with other family member owners of Autocam, have always held that the government has no right to require that Autocam purchase group insurance coverage, providing its employees with morally objectionable contraceptives, including abortifacients and sterilization.

Prior to the government’s implementation of the controversial mandate, Autocam had specifically designed a health insurance plan with Blue Cross/Blue Shield of Michigan to exclude contraception, sterilization, abortion, and abortion-inducing drugs, in keeping with its owners’ deeply held religious beliefs.

The Kennedys faithfully embrace the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church that contraception, abortion, and sterilization are serious wrongs. The Obamacare HHS mandate tried to force Autocam’s owners to flout their deeply held religious convictions and to operate their company in a manner that they sincerely held to be gravely wrong.

As I wrote at the time, the Hobby Lobby decision was a limited ruling involving statutory interpretation–that will not impact large, publicly-held corporations–and only protect the religious liberty of a relatively few business owners.

So why the angry reaction to the ruling among the usual suspects?

Obamacare isn’t only about guaranteeing access to insurance. Obamacarians want to use the centralized regulatory control imposed by Obamacare as a cudgel to impose their cultural values.

And here’s something to ponder: I doubt Congress would pass the Religious Freedom Restoration Act–the basis of the HL decision–today. If it did, I have no doubt that President Obama–unlike Bill Clinton–would veto it.

Many, particularly secularists and political liberals, want to reduce “freedom of religion” to “freedom of worship.”  Those are not the same things. You cant call yourself a civil libertarian if you don’t stand for freedoms about which you have no skin in the game.

Canadian Proposal to Euthanize Incompetent



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In the 1990s by the Canadian Supreme Court ruled that assisted suicide is not a constitutional right. But the Court has again taken up the issue–and hence, I suspect the handwriting is on the wall.  

That seems so clear that culture of death advocates are already making serious proposals to determine the look of the beast that seems to be a-aborning. University of Victoria bioethicist Eike-Henner W. Kluge has made news with a “Legislative Proposal” that would:

1. Establish euthanasia death courts–also being proposed in the UK–in a country that doesn’t permit capital punishment;

2. Allow a broad license to be euthanized based on almost wholly subjective criteria;

3. Allow the courts to order the incompetent to be euthanized.

Here are a few specifics. First, the right to be killed would be totally subjective, based on “values” of the person wanting to die:

If a person suffers from an incurable and irremediable disease or medical condition, and if that person experiences the disease or condition as violating the fundamental values of that person.

Good grief, that could mean anything beyond the transitory.

There would be Death Courts: 

that person may make application to a superior court for permission to request the assistance of a physician in terminating his life as quickly and as painlessly as possible in keeping with the fundamental values of that person; 

Can you imagine who would teach the judges about how to decide these issues? It wouldn’t be professors or “experts” who believe in the sanctity/equality of human life or the Hippocratic Oath!

At least the suicidal patient has to be “competent.” But wait! The incompetent could be killed too:

Any person who suffers from an incurable and irremediable disease or medical condition, and who, by reason of incompetence, is unable to make application to a court as allowed under sec. yyy.1, may have such application made for him by a duly empowered proxy decision-maker using appropriate standards of proxy decision-making.

People who were never competent could be killed, by the way. What could go wrong?

Maybe I missed it, but there are no conscience exemptions provided for doctors–or for that matter, judges.

Also note: The killing would be paid for by the government as Canada as a single payer health care system.

Please don’t say that Canada would never adopt a killing regime so unconstrained as Kluge’s proposal. Quebec’s new law is almost as radical

At the very least can we finally acknowledge that this issue is not about terminal illness?

Of course we can’t. We live in culture that shelters from reality through the intentional embrace of pretense. 

Emanuel: Don’t Get Annual Obamacare Physical!



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You cannot make this stuff up.

First, Obamacare’s chief bioethicist, Ezekiel Emanuel, wrote that he wanted to die at 75–strongly implying we should too.  

Now, he is telling you to be as good as he is by refusing your annual Obamacare checkup. From his NYT piece,“Skip Your Annual Physical:”

Not having my annual physical is one small way I can help reduce health care costs — and save myself time, worry and a worthless exam. Around 45 million Americans are likely to have a routine physical this year — just as they have for many years running.

A poke here, a listen there, a few tubes of blood, maybe an X-ray, a few reassuring words about diet, exercise and not smoking from the doctor, all just to be sure everything is in good working order. Most think of it as the human equivalent of a 15,000-mile checkup and fluid change, which can uncover hidden problems and ensure longer engine life.

There is only one problem: From a health perspective, the annual physical exam is basically worthless.

If it is so worthless, then why in the hell did Obamacarians fight so damn hard to require insurance companies pay for a yearly ”wellness” exam? Because they wanted us to think we are getting something valuable without charge? Even though that “something” is worthless? Now, that is cynical.  

Or maybe, to hurt us?

Some are actually hurt by physicals, because healthy patients who undergo an exam sometimes end up with complications and pain from further screening or confirmatory tests.

Funny, I didn’t hear Emanuel shouting this warning during the Obamacare Congressional debate. When he was in the bowels of the beast, why didn’t he work to keep the free annual checkup out of Obamacare’s required coverage? 

What’s really going on? Cost control!

The checkups consume billions, although no one is sure exactly how many billions because of the challenge of measuring the additional screenings and follow-up tests.

If the annual physical is so worthless–indeed harmful--why isn’t Emanuel urging his pals in government to remove the annual wellness exam from required Obamacare coverage? Why didn’t he suggest this course in his article? 

We aren’t individuals anymore, but so many accounts payable. But here’s the thing:

- My neighbor’s blood test portion of his annual checkup discovered a touch of anemia, which led to the search for a cause, uncovering colon cancer. He had no symptoms. That “worthless” physical might have saved his life.

- A good friend learned during his “worthless” annual physical that he had prostate cancer.

- A family member–in excellent shape–was determined to have diabetes during his physical, leading to steps that have kept him off insulin so far.

- My mother was diagnosed with high blood pressure for the first time in her then 96 years. Now 97, her BP is under good control.

Emanuel writes that studies indicate there is no real difference in death rates among patients who receive or don’t receive yearly checkups. Perhaps, but so what? That isn’t the only measure.

There is no question that the lives some individuals are saved–which he acknowledges. But too few to matter, he says. And we owe it to others not to be among those supposed few:

My medical routine won’t include an annual exam. That will free up countless hours of doctors’ time for patients who really do have a medical problem, helping to ensure there is no doctor shortage as more Americans get health insurance.

This is the consequence of Obamacare: We aren’t human beings anymore, just cohorts and statistical categories.

Technocrats: You’d laugh–except they are in charge.

And the ruling class wonders why no one trusts them anymore.

Marcia Angell Enthusiastic for Euthanasia



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Just as an illustration of where too many among the intelligentsia and technocratic classes are concerning euthanasia: I would like to briefly review a book review by former New England Journal of Medicine executive editor–and assisted suicide booster–Marcia Angell.

Angell reviews Being Mortal: Medicine and What Matters in the End, by Atul Gawande. I have read the book and written a review, not yet published, so I can’t expound on that here. But I would like to focus on Angell’s increasing zeal for legalizing assisted suicide–and now, in this review, euthanasia.  

Angell spends about a quarter of her long review discussing just the few pages about assisted suicide in the book. From, “A Better Way Out,” published in the New York Review of Books:

He writes, “For the terminally ill who face suffering that we know will increase, only the stonehearted can be unsympathetic,” but then goes on to say, “I fear what happens when we expand the terrain of medical practice to include actively assisting people with speeding their death. I am less worried about abuse of these powers than I am about dependence on them.”

The implication is that we might begin to substitute assisted dying for palliative care and hospice. He points to the experience in the Netherlands, where he says the fact that “one in thirty-five Dutch people sought assisted suicide at their death is not a measure of success. It is a measure of failure.”

Angell resents the implication:

Why, moreover, does Gawande simply assert that the one in thirty-five assisted deaths in the Netherlands are too many? Given the prevalence of terrible deaths from cancer, as Gawande describes so well in his book, why is it not the right number? In Oregon, the number is one in five hundred deaths. Is that the right number?

To show you where she is coming from, Angell previously said that “too few” people “request” assisted suicide in Oregon.

Moreover, the number of Netherlanders who die at the hands of doctors is far higher than that stated by Gawande–if you include intentional terminal sedation (artificial coma/removal of food and water), non-voluntary euthanasia, and intentional overdose of pain control drugs with the intent of causing death. Indeed, I have calculated that doctors kill in up to 14% of all Dutch deaths–a startling number considering that approaching half of deaths are sudden, such as cardiac arrest or auto accident.

Perhaps Gawande’s point, ignored by Angell, is that Dutch doctors euthanize well beyond the terminally ill, including the elderly “tired of life,” the mentally ill, and the disabled. Once killing becomes blasé, it can become the course of least resistance.

Angell also notes correctly that most Oregonians who commit assisted suicide have been in hospice. But hospice that omits suicide prevention isn’t hospice. It is like saying that the person was in hospice–but not given morphine for pain. In other words, mere enrollment isn’t the same thing as receiving the proper care that hospice was designed to provide.

And then, with assisted suicide unequivocally legal in only 3 states–not the 5 she suggests (it’s complicated)–Angell embraces outright euthanasia–even for those who can’t ask for it themselves:

After my husband’s death, I have come to favor euthanasia as well, for home hospice patients in the final, agonal stage of dying, who can no longer ingest medication orally. These patients are usually no longer mentally clear enough to give contemporaneous consent, but if they have earlier made it known that this is what they would wish, I believe that a duly appointed proxy should be able to have that wish carried out.

What could go wrong?

You see how it works? Accept the premise of killing as an acceptable answer to suffering unleashes forces against which there are no brakes. Angell is a good example of how the slippery slope slip-slides away–even before the monster is completely unchained and out of its cage.

Kevorkian Place in History Up to Culture Victors



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I was recently contacted by a high school student writing a paper about the historical significance of Jack Kevorkian.  I hadn’t considered that particular aspect of his saga before, and so I took some time answering her. I then made that question the topic of my current column in First Things:

It is too soon to answer what, if any, historical significance Kevorkian will have. I hope none.

If we are a moral society in one hundred years, he will be remembered—if he is remembered at all—as a crass social outlaw, operating at a time of cultural hesitancy, who preyed upon the despairing in pursuit of his own nihilistic ends. But there’s a chance we will not be a moral society.

So, I did my best to be dispassionate:

I think Jack Kevorkian was a symptom—not a cause—of a society that is losing trust in institutions and principles. His success in defying the law for so long was a vote of “no confidence” in the practice of medicine itself and reflected a culture that increasingly extols the atomized self. In other words, we are a becoming solipsistic society: If I want it, that means it is right—so long as I am not hurting you.

We are also becoming a culture that is terrified of suffering and disdains serious limitations. Avoidance of suffering has become a very high cultural priority, sometimes to the point that it takes precedence over preserving life itself. That people can surmount their suffering and adjust to difficult circumstances—and later be glad they are still alive (and this includes the terminally ill)—too often gets lost in the stampede.

Kevorkian understood and exploited these aspects of our culture.

I recount some of the facts that often get lost in the media reporting of the story or that have disappeared down the memory hole, such as his goal of engaging in human vivisection. I conclude:

Many people disagree with my critical assessment and believe that Kevorkian should go down in history as a courageous, if eccentric, pioneer of the putative human right to suicide. As they say, the victors write the history books. The kind of society we leave for our posterity will ultimately determine which view of Kevorkian becomes the reigning historical understanding.

I really hope K goes down badly in history–or better yet, is forgotten altogether. Because if tomorrow’s history books lionize him as a visionary leader of freedom, the culture of the West will be as dead as Kevorkian’s 130 “patients.”

Court Axes California Foie Gras Ban



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A decade ago, animal rights terrorists went after a Napa restaurateur for serving foie gras–​pouring acid on his car, issuing threats, etc.

Typical of the way things go these days, rather than discredit the anti-foie gras movement, my state’s political hacks validated their tactics by passing a ban–both on producing the delicacy and serving it in restaurants–even though the question of cruelty is controversial

That ban has now been tossed by a federal judgeCalifornia farmers still can’t produce foie gras, but restaurants can buy the fowl liver from out-of-state producers, of which there are only a handful.

 

Refusing Measles Vaccine is Reckless



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The anti-vaccine movement has led to an increase in preventable infectious diseases, such as measles. Now, an infected person at Disneyland apparently caused nine children to get sick–and eight had not been vaccinated. From the CBSLA story:

At least nine people have contracted measles after visiting Disneyland parks in Orange County over the holidays, the state Department of Public Health said Wednesday. The local infected patients, who were from Alameda, Orange, Pasadena, Riverside and San Diego, range in age from 8 months to 21 years old. Just one of the infected individuals had been fully vaccinated.

This is reckless and irresponsible. Fears of autism–which have kept some parents from getting protection for their children–were based primarily on a completely discredited study that was rescinded by the Lancet in 2010. 

It’s not like news travels slowly these days. Some people would rather believe.

That works fine in some areas of human interaction, but not this one. People owe it to their children to protect them from serious disease–as well as to others’ children and adults who may not have been vaccinated. It really is wrong to put people unnecessarily at risk of disease because of baseless fears.

As the Belgian Euthanasia Turns



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What a soap opera.

The planned euthanasia killing of the Belgian murderer and rapist has been put on hold because the death doctor came down with an unexplained case of cold feet. From the De Staandard story (Google translation):

Frank Van Den Bleeken Sunday will still get no euthanasia because of unbearable psychological suffering. Reported that the Cabinet of Minister of Justice Koen Geens. The doctors Van Den Bleeken would assist in the euthanasia procedure have dropped out.

Minister of Justice Koen Geens late Frank Van Den Bleeken transferring Turnhout to the recently launched forensic psychiatric center (FPC) in Ghent. This center is not suitable for long stays, but for people who can be integrated into society. There Bleeken Van Den will be observed.

The idea is an observation with a view to the appropriate treatment or the development of a custom care process. If our country would not prove possible treatment, Van Den Bleeken is probably transferred to the Netherlands.

Why transfer him to the Netherlands? I am told Belgium doesn’t have the capacity to treat vicious sex killers.

I suspect this planned killing came too close to capital punishment, so disdained in Western Europe. Hence, a rare bout of conscience among Belgian death doctors.

It’s all so surreal. Let’s recap the current state of Belgian euthanasia, shall we?

- Euthanasia for a botched sex change surgery? Yes!

- Euthanasia of the mentally ill coupled with organ harvesting? Yes!

- Euthanasia of psychiatric patient sexually exploited by her psychiatrist? Yes!

But so far, no quasi-capital punishment. We’ll see if this shaky death boundary sticks.

Considering the fundamental premises of euthanasia consciousness, I suspect not. Indeed, as I have written here, some bioethicists and euthanasia activists–apparently, including Peter Singer–support (“rational”) euthanasia or assisted suicide for those who find imprisonment unbearable. 

But the Belgian cruel and unusual death with dignity is off for now. Tune in here soon for the next episode of, As the Belgian Euthanasia Turns

Transhumanism Puts Parents’ Wants Over Baby’s Welfare



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I wrote here the other day about how scientists believe they may be able to turn skin cells into usable eggs and sperm. This means, among other things, that two men could become biological parents of a child–with one becoming the mother by having his cell turned into an egg. Then, after IVF created the embryo, the baby would be gestated in an artificial uterus.

Some seem to think this is a good thing. From the Agility Healthy story (Google translation):

Complete male reproductive independence on artificial womb technology, which also made hinge headlines in 2014 ectogenesis-the technical term artificial uterus is in development for the already over 10 years and Future Zoltan Istvan predicted to be available and widely used within of 30 years. In an e-mail to the Daily Beast, Istvan added that “it is very possible that the natural birth begins to disappear in the next 25 to 50 years because of advances in technology.”

A male mother and a male father, with baby gestated in a machine? On Twitter, I asked the Transhumanist Party’s presidential candidate (true!) Istvan why he thought this would be a good thing. He replied:

 

Hi, because more choice is generally better, especially if it eliminates some medical danger.

But mothers are not just gestating machines who supply a warm place to develop and proper nutrients. Babies benefit from the time spent in the womb in ways that would seem impossible to duplicate in a machine.

For example, babies begin to learn language while gestating. From an article in Science:

More recent studies have expanded on the idea of fetal learning, indicating that newborns already familiarized themselves with sounds of their parent’s native language; one showed that American newborns seem to perceive Swedish vowel sounds as unfamiliar, sucking on a high-tech pacifier to hear more of the new sounds. Swedish infants showed the same response to English vowels.

Gestating babies also can hear music. And exercise by the mother can benefit the baby, as well. From the Discovery story:

In another study, presented at last week’s conference, May recruited 60 women at 13 weeks of pregnancy and brought them into the gym three times a week for either aerobic or mixed aerobic and weight training exercise. A control group of women came in to stretch and chat with researchers, keeping their heart rates low.

At 34 weeks—about six weeks before the babies’ due dates—the researchers checked in with the hearts within the wombs. Whether their moms were pumping iron or spinning, the babies in the bellies of exercising moms played along—their heart rates were lower and more variable, another sign of heart health, and pumped more blood with each beat than the tiny hearts inside moms in the control group.

And these two examples don’t even get into the emotional and loving bonds that living mothers give to their babies during the gestational period.

Artificial wombs would certainly have an important place in medicine, for example, saving the life of a child when her mother was incapable of carrying to term.

But they should not become hatcheries (to use the Brave New World term) to gratify lifestyle wants of parents.

And that’s the thing about transhumanism: It is so solipsistic.

Belgian Rapist to be Euthanized



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Apparently, the Belgian rapist who wanted euthanasia rather than spend life in jail will be snuffed by a doctor forthwith, in a country that rejects the death penalty. From the RTE News story:

Belgian newspaper De Morgen is reporting Frank Van Den Bleeken, who has spent the past 30 years in jail for repeated rape convictions and a rape murder, will be euthanised in prison in the north-western city of Bruges. “Euthanasia will indeed be implemented,” a justice ministry spokeswoman told the Flemish-language newspaper, which gave the date as 11 January .

“Now the time has come,” the spokeswoman added. Mr Van Den Bleeken had for years requested that the state help him end his life due to what his lawyer Jos Vander Velpen called “unbearable” psychological suffering. He received the all-clear to be allowed do so last September.

Good grief.

I call cases such as this, “cruel and unusual death with dignity.” The irony is sharp enough to shatter bones.

Here’s the lesson: Once the monster breaks its chain, there are no real limits to euthanasia consciousness.

Transhumanist Reality Check



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Transhumanists are control freaks. They believe religiously that they can achieve indefinite life through anti-aging research, biotech, cybertech, uploading minds into computers, etc.

But life has a way of showing us that there are limits to human manipulation. Many cancers, it seems, aren’t caused by lifestyle choices as once thought, but chance. From the Reuters story:

Plain old bad luck plays a major role in determining who gets cancer and who does not, according to researchers who found that two-thirds of cancer incidence of various types can be blamed on random mutations and not heredity or risky habits like smoking.

The researchers said on Thursday random DNA mutations accumulating in various parts of the body during ordinary cell division are the prime culprits behind many cancer types. They looked at 31 cancer types and found that 22 of them, including leukemia and pancreatic, bone, testicular, ovarian and brain cancer, could be explained largely by these random mutations – essentially biological bad luck.

The best answer–as we have known for years:

Tomasetti said the study indicates that changing one’s lifestyle and habits like smoking to avoid cancer risks may help prevent certain cancers, but may not be as effective for others. ”Thus, we should focus more research and resources on finding ways to detect such cancers at early, curable stages,” Tomasetti added.

I’m all for that. Indeed, that is one reason I have been skeptical of plans to reduce some cancer screenings as standards of preventive care.

So, transhumanists, put your energy, creativity, and focus into living–which the world’s great religions hold is greatly aided by remembering our pending deaths–as opposed to thinking one can prevent dying.  For as Benjamin Franklin said, “In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”

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