Google+

Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Don’t Make Human Three-Parent Children



Text  



I had a run in last year with Science 2.0’s, Hank Campbell, over my opposition to the manufacture of three-parent embryos, for which opinion, Campbell tried to saddle me with the dreaded ”anti-science” epithet. (I think the new version of that pejorative for opposing what “the scientists” supposedly think is “science denier.”) He even argued that NRO should throw me off the site.

My opposition to three-parent embryos is based in ethics, but also on safety–in eminently reasonable concern given that IVF children generally have poorer health outcomes than those conceived naturally, and more particularly, the technique in question creates embryos using two broken eggs and one sperm. Animal studies seem to show reason for concern.

I thought of that tempest in a teapot the other day when a reader sent me a story reporting that a major NIH science adviser has warned against trying the technique in humans for safety concerns.  From the Daily Mail story:

Professor Evan Snyder, the top scientific adviser on the issue to US authorities, yesterday warned there were unresolved safety concerns…

‘The gap I’m talking about is about how much pre-clinical scientific work needs to be done before scientists or someone on the FDA would feel comfortable that we’re assured of safety.’ Asked whether it would be justifiable to permit the procedure to go ahead on compassionate grounds, Professor Snyder said it should not be allowed until all the extra research is completed.

Of course, Snyder is talking about animal research. The horror!

Snyder’s opinion is important because the we-never-say-no UK Embryo Authority seems on the verge of approving using the technique in humans. But that would be human experimentation in which the human involved could not give consent. By definition.

I understand that mothers don’t want to pass mitochondrial disease on to their progeny. I know there is a strong maternal drive to bear one’s own child. I get that it can be a heartbreaking situation for the want-to-be parents.

But our empathy for women who have to choose between being a biological mother and bearing a healthy child, as the professor said, should not mean we put potential children into peril.

Moreover, we live in an anything goes culture in which “I want!” subsumes all–which is why the technique would eventually spread to polyamorous relationships in order to allow all members to have a biological connection to the child. That would be a radical alteration in our understanding of parenthood and needs much consideration before being permitted.

I would say, “Adopt,” as I have previously, but some people get very angry with me when I do. I still don’t understand why that is cruel. A mother gets to become a mother and a child gets a loving home. Everybody wins.

Danger of “Presumed Consent” Organ Donation



Text  



I am not prejudging this case, but I bring it up here because I think it illustrates the loss of trust that a “presumed consent” organ donation scheme would engender in people. (Current law requires us to “opt-in” to be an organ donor–as I have. Presumed consent would require us to each “opt-out.” Otherwise, we would automatically be organ donors, no consent required.)

I worry that a presumed consent regimen would lead catastrophically injured patients to be looked upon more as organ farms than patients. Take a look at the story I quote below–particularly the parts I italicized–and you will see what I mean:

According to family members of 26-year-old Martha Perez, her organs were removed on Friday against their wishes. Fox 4 spoke to the family before the removal and they said the third woman confirmed dead of injuries sustained in an Arlington wreck involving a suspected drunk driver was technically still alive.

The Tarrant County medical examiner says Perez died Wednesday and doctors have declared Perez brain-dead, although the hospital declined to confirm that citing patient privacy. “But she still has heart and lung functions,” said family member Juan Martinez. “They took her off the life support and she was still breathing.”

First, “brain dead” is dead and the organ removal protocols would not require the removal of life support. More, if Perez was indeed breathing on her own, by definition, she wasn’t dead.

Now, see how a presumed consent would breed distrust and anger:

Perez was a registered organ donor and doctors told the family they were prepared to harvest the organs for donations. Perez did not have a will or an advance directive that would have instructed doctors exactly what to do in regards to taking her off of life support.

According to Martinez, the family felt it was too soon. “We don’t want to be pressured. My family feels pressured and it’s just hard for someone to make that kind of decision when this just happened,” Martinez said Friday before her organs were removed.

Legal expert Jessice Dunne said the family has the legal right to keep Perez on life support if her organs are still functioning. If they stop, then it’s up to the hospital what to do. “We know we have to come to a decision but we aren’t going to let no hospital or no state make that decision for us,” Martinez said. That wasn’t the case as the hospital decided to move forward in the process.

Under presumed consent, anytime a hospital stopped life support and removed organs, loved ones could become similarly suspicious, feeling that a rushed decision was made because the organs mattered more than the patient.

(That seems to be the concern here because Perez had opted-in. Even so, permission is requested prior to procurement. This is the first case I have heard of where organs were taken under these circumstances without family permission. That could also sow distrust, but I don’t want to get into that now.)

The distrust would be especially acute in a medical system increasingly obsessed with cost control and in a milieu in which bioethics “experts” increasingly reject the sanctity/equality of human life in fabor of a utilitarian “quality of life” ethic.

I have no idea what happened in this case. But if we adopt an opt-out organ donation system, I will remove myself as an organ donor. I wouldn’t have enough trust to “leave it to the doctors” whether the time had come to harvest my organs.

ADVERTISEMENT

Transhumanism’s Utopian Fantasy Land



Text  



I wouldn’t mind transhumanism’s fantasies–eternal  life, uploading minds into computers, changing our bodies so we can fly. Whatever. Whatever gets people through the night.

I don’t think it will ever happen. But: The movement is driven by a neurotic fear of suffering–terror of death–and a loathing of the normal vicissitudes of human living.

In short, transhumanists are on a quasi-religious quest to gain hyper-control over every aspect of living. Add it all up, and you have a distinctly Utopian movement.

History tells us clearly that Utopianism is one of humankind’s most dangerous propensities. 

An article–at NPR, no less–predicting that the “singularity” will bring an end to the human race as we know it, illustrates my reason for concern. From, “Should  Science End Humankind?” by Adam Frank:

But if you’re an optimist, then you think something wonderful is going to happen. With the help of our super-intelligent machines we become more. “More what?” you ask. Well, more than human. We become the next step in evolution — and that will mean humanity, as we know it, will come to an end. What comes next will be a new post-human era

That would be intelligent design, not ”evolution.” But I quibble.

Realize that part of this supposed Nirvana includes genetic manipulation of progeny, remaking them in the parents’ image. In other words, they would not be free, but pre-programmed to serve the desires of their manufacturers.

Even more disturbing is the transhumanist belief that “science” can end human death, as well as bring about an end to “suffering:”

Given the likely completeness of the post-human transformation, how ready are we to be so completely replaced? It’s a question that has to be on the table because we are, as a culture, rapidly pushing the enabling technologies forward right now.

So even in the most optimistic scenario, does the end of human suffering have to mean the end of human kind (at least this version)?

Now, there’s the nub.

Utopians believe that ends justify means. For example, up-and-comer transhumanist, Zoltan Istvan, has said that impeding transhumanism would be just cause for war.

And what could be a more Utopian end than no more suffering?

Very dangerous stuff. Fantasies. But if enough people ride the transhumanism Fantasy Land roller coaster, people could get hurt.

Will “Gay Gene” Impact Abortion Views?



Text  



Lately, “pro-choice” has been “evolving” into “pro-abortion”–including support for sex selection abortion.

But what if we find there is a gay gene that could identify fetuses who would have a propensity to be homosexual?  That may be on the horizon. From the New Scientist story:

A genetic analysis of 409 pairs of gay twins has provided the strongest evidence yet that gay people are born gay. The study clearly links sexual orientation in men with two regions of the human genome that have been implicated before, one on the X chromosome and one on chromosome 8.

The finding is an important contribution to mounting evidence that being gay is biologically determined rather than a lifestyle choice.

The story notes that the gene factor would not be determinative, but one factor in sexual orientation as a biologically-caused phenomenon.

So, if a test became available to determine such a propensity–as is currently available for sex or Down syndrome–should we permit abortion to eliminate babies likely to be gay from being born, e.g.,–or for that matter, straight–e.g., eugenic abortion?

Or, will we allow likely orientation to be used as a factor in determining whether to implant an embryo after IVF?

I hope not. But I do sense the potential for a real cultural clash.

Gay Marriage, Assisted Suicide Different Issues



Text  



Assisted suicide advocates continually try to link that agenda with other causes they deem to have greater public appeal.

For example, doctor-prescribed/administered death has been called the “ultimate civil right,” in an obvious attempt to co-opt our high regard for the Civil Rights Movement. But many civil rights organizations such as LULAC and the disability rights community oppose the death agenda.

Assisted suicide and euthanasia have been linked to abortion, in the belief that more people support that agenda than oppose it. But pro-choice people oppose assisted suicide as do pro-life people–for example the American Medical Association that is decidedly in favor of the right to an abortion.

Suicide advocates never stop pushing the anti-Catholic button. Yes, the CC opposes euthanasia. But in the public square, its representatives do so using rational and secular arguments. They don’t say, “It is a sin, and so it should be against the law.” 

Making a larger point, many of the most noted opponents of assisted suicide are distinctly secular. Here’s a short list:

- Atheist civil libertarian, Nat Hentoff;

-Leftist, secular writers, Kevin Yuill and Robert P. Jones;

- The country’s best palliative care physicians, such as Ira Byock, Kathleen Foley, and Diane Meier;

- Suicide experts, such as the psychiatrist Herbert Hendin;

- The great Ralph Nader.

The list could go on and on.

Now, it is same sex marriage. From a column in the Huffington Post by Ronald A. Lindsay:

Legalization of same-sex marriage and PAD is properly regarded as a continuation of the process of granting greater scope to personal freedom. People should be free to marry whomever they love, whether of the opposite sex or the same sex, and they should be allowed a measure of control over the most intimate decision a person can make, namely whether to hasten their death.

Please note that I never saw SSM and assisted suicide prominently connected when SSM was strongly disfavored in the pollsBut here is a truth worth hearing: Supporters of SSM and opponents of SSM oppose assisted suicide. 

Moreover, beyond a few surface similarities invoked by Lindsay–whose treatment of assisted suicide opposition is about as deep as an evaporating puddle after a light rain–the arguments against the respective agendas come from distinctly different places. For example, the Hippocratic Oath has proscribed doctor participation in assisted suicide for 2500 years.

Elections demonstrate that the more people learn about the reality of assisted suicide, the more they tend to oppose it–at least five refusals by voters to legalize, versus two in favor since 1991. That is why supporters work overtime to create false equivalencies.

This is just the same old bootstrapping.

ADVERTISEMENT

More Time for Maynard-Type Cancer Patients



Text  



We have been hearing so much that suicide is “dignity” in the wake of Brittany Maynard’s death by lethal prescription, I thought this story should receive more play.

An experimental device, with no serious side effects, appears to be extending the lives of people with the kind of brain cancer with which Maynard struggled. From the NYT story:

An electrical device glued to the scalp can slow cancer growth and prolong survival in people with the deadliest type of brain tumor, researchers reported on Saturday.

The device is not a cure and, on average, adds only a few months of life when used along with the standard regimen of surgery, radiation and chemotherapy. Some doctors have questioned its usefulness. But scientists conducting a new study said the device was the first therapy in a decade to extend life in people with glioblastomas, brain tumors in which median survival is 15 months even with the best treatment.

More:

Patients who wore the device fared better than those who did not: Their median survival was 19.6 months, compared with 16.6 months in those on standard treatment alone. Among those with the device, 43 percent survived two years, compared with 29 percent among those receiving only standard therapy.

That’s no small thing for someone facing imminent death. For example, my dad died of cancer and really valued the extra year that a last ditch chemotherapy unexpectedly gave him.

One study participant has had a remission parallel to the time she participated in the study:

She has been wearing the device since August 2011 — more than three years. Her tumor is gone, and the disease has not returned. She has M.R.I. scans every two months. “I get two months at a time, always thinking I might have a recurrence,” she said.

There is no way to tell whether the device has been keeping her alive, or whether she would have done just as well without it. But when she completed the period she had signed up for in the study, and the researchers told her that she could stop wearing the device if she wanted to, she said, “Oh, yeah, I’m keeping it.”

I would too.

I am reminded of the AIDS crisis in San Francisco and the underground assisted suicide networks that ended the lives of people who would have lived had they waited long enough for the new drugs to come on-line–drugs that literally brought HIV patients back from the brink of death.

This is still experimental and could not pan out. But good grief, there is real hope–and true dignity–in raging “against the dying of the light.”

New treatment breakthroughs happen all the time. Suicide pushers should think about that as they work to convince society that self-destruction equals “dignity.”

Swiss Nursing Homes Forced to Facilitate Suicide



Text  



The Culture of Death brooks no dissent!

The invaluable Bioedge reports that a Swiss canton has legally forced all government funded nursing homes to allow suicide clinics to push their killing services to the elderly. From the story:

The legislature of the Swiss canton of Neuchâtel has voted overwhelmingly to force government-funded nursing homes to allow representatives of assisted suicide groups to advertise their services. (Neuchâtel is in the west of Switzerland, bordering on France, and is predominantly French-speaking.)

There are no exemptions for conscientious objection by managers in the homes. The only critierion, according to Swiss.info, is the personal choice of the patients. Personal autonomy must take precedence over the rules of the nursing homes. About 60 institutions will be affected by the decision.

The new regulations specify that nursing home personnel will not be allowed to interfere if a patient chooses to die. In fact, they are required to set aside a room where the staff of the assisted suicide organisation Exit will help the person to die.

Imagine the potential impact on other patients. Imagine knowing that there is a suicide room in your nursing home.

And imagine knowing your caregivers have to cooperate in the suicides of you or your friends. One might think the government hopes you will use the service.

This is the future if we swallow the hemlock! Eventually, no dissent allowed.

Dying: Put Selves Out of Loved Ones’ Misery



Text  



Imagine describing suicide as a “gift” to your family. But, as I wrote today in First Things, that is the bottom line meme driving the assisted suicide movement. Assisted suicide isn’t “death with dignity” but “death with aesthetics.”

A perfectly-timed article in Slate precisely proves my point. John La Grange describes Brittany Maynard’s suicide as a “gift” to her family. From, “Brittany Maynard’s Gift to Her Husband:”

As I see it, Maynard gave her husband a gift. She gave him a gift by preventing painful images from being burned into his brain. He will not have memories of his beloved gradually losing her mind and control over her bodily functions. He will not have memories of watching the person he loves most moaning in pain, and not being able to do anything about it.

He will not have memories like the ones I have—of vomit and bedsores and things so horrible that I cannot bring myself to type them into this keyboard. He will not have memories of reaching the point where he started wishing that his wife, his partner of 38 years whom he loved with all his heart, would die. Those memories don’t go away; they come back in dreams and nightmares.

Anybody experiencing such bed sores and etc. received inadequate care! Focus on that, not killing!

But to the larger point: La Grange is arguing that the dying should put themselves out of their loved ones’ misery!

Imagine the hurt that kind of thinking causes the sick and dying.

If people can’t see the danger in that, they are not awake!

Not “Death with Dignity,” “Death with Aesthetics”



Text  



As the media and assisted suicide advocates continue to exploit the Brittany Maynard tragedy to push for legalization, I have been pondering how very harmful such advocacy is to people struggling with serious and terminal health conditions. 

It also isn’t “dignity.” Rather, many who want assisted suicide are deeply worried about what could be called aesthetics. I ponder this question over at my First Things biweekly column. From, “Death with Aesthetics:”

When we look more deeply at arguments in favor of legalizing assisted suicide, we see that the assisted suicide discussion is really more about what I will call the aesthetics of dying than it is about potential pain. This is no small matter. Nor is it in the least a frivolous concern. Worries about lost looks or, perhaps, how the sick room might smell can be devastating to those approaching the end of life.

Indeed, our self-esteem—and perhaps more important, how we perceive that others view us—can materially impact our mental and emotional states as we approach the end of life. (For example, I used to be a hospice volunteer. One of my patients became so distraught by his changed appearance that he covered all the mirrors in his home.)

I quote Maynard on why she eschewed hospice for assisted suicide. This quote describes exactly the phenomenon I am describing:

[Maynard:] Not only do I want to save myself from that fate [of suffering and decline], but I love my family too much to make them carry the memories of my deterioration for the rest of their lives.

Assisted suicide activists scream PAIN AND AGONY to sell the death agenda. In practice, statistics show few kill themselves over pain. Existential fear and despair often drive those who commit assisted suicide to an early grave.

These are more than important issues:

This is how the assisted-suicide movement hurts the very people it claims to champion. During my years working with hospice, I was struck by how my patients would focus intently my face when we first met. I soon realized they were seeking assurance of acceptance.

Thus, pitching suicide as a remedy for such people is not just harmful to society, it can be cruel to people struggling each day to keep on keeping on:

For sick, disabled, disfigured, and dying people, our faces can be like mirrors: If they sense that we think they are less than “we” are, it can crush the spirit. Yet, isn’t this the very message conveyed when we validate suicide as the “dignified” way to die?

I quote my hospice patient, Robert Salamanca, who died of ALS and was furious that people like him were used as euthanasia’s bloody battle flag. He despised the assisted suicide movement because they made his life more difficult to bear. And argued vehemently that we should care and love the dying, not support their hastened deaths. 

I conclude:

There is no question that Maynard’s perspective is integral to the assisted-suicide debate. But Salamanca’s should be, too. Ultimately, his view accords more with the true meaning of human dignity and the intrinsic value of all our lives.

The death pushers are causing more harm than they will ever know.

Caplan & Smith on Improving Hospice



Text  



The noted bioethicist Arthur Caplan and I tend to disagree about issues. For example, he reluctantly supports the Oregon assisted suicide law and I adamantly oppose it.

That issue tends to suck all oxygen from the room. But there are other things that need to be discussed about end-of-life care.

Toward that end, we came together and co-authored a column in USAToday urging a reform that could drastically increase hospice participation.

As things now stand, a patient who chooses hospice has to forego curative and life-extending treatment. For some, that is akin to saying, “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.”

We urge ending that “awful choice” to increase hope. From, “Give Terminally Ill Patients Both Hope and Hospice:” 

For many, that is akin to giving up all hope, and thus they delay entering hospice until it is too late to benefit from it. But hospice is all about realistic hope: hope of not being in pain; hope of being able to enjoy family until the very end; hope of maintaining a good quality of life throughout the dying process; hope of dying at home surrounded by those you love.

We quote the splendid hospice physician, Ira Byock, in support of our proposal:

Hospice expert Ira Byock, author of The Best Care Possible, concurs with the change we suggest. He told us: “A third of all U.S. hospice patients die within a week of being admitted. Thus, because of the ‘terrible choice’ Medicare rules impose, hospice is not doing end-of-life care as much as brink-of-death care.”

We conclude:

Whatever happens with the assisted suicide debate, the more attractive we make hospice to those in need, the more they and their families will benefit from this truly beneficent approach to caring for the dying.

This is not a “compromise” about assisted suicide. It is about improving care. It is about basic decency and respect for the dying.  

Hell Yes to Animal/Human Organ Transplants!



Text  



Imagine you need a new heart. A doctor takes some skin cells and then transforms them into pluripotent stem cells.

The cells are injected into a pig embryo. The piglet is raised for six months, euthanized, and the heart transplanted into your chest with little concern of tissue rejection because your own DNA would be in the organ. 

If such a procedure could be perfected–and scientists are working on it–it would end the organ shortage. 

Other than potential safety issues–some serious, for example, a porcine virus crossing the species barrier –what are the concerns?  

Some say: “We would be killing the animals!” From an article exploring the ethical concerns in the Journal of Medical Ethics (abstract only):

One possible response to this argument is that it seems strange to object to using pigs to save people’s lives when it is generally regarded as acceptable to eat them.

Eating meat is not necessary for survival, while working organs are: as such, it actually seems more reasonable for pigs to be used to grow life-saving organs than to provide the luxury of meat.

However, any such argument is predicated on the assumption that it is ethical to eat animals in the first place.

Most people won’t care about that argument. The key would be to not allow animal rights terrorist-types to impede the necessary research.

But the pigs might not have piggy lives!

Another potential objection is that pigs can be farmed in an ethical way, enjoying relatively happy lives before being used to produce meat, while chimaera animals would have relatively short lives in order to meet the supply for organs and would also have to be kept in very sterile conditions, with potential adverse effects on their well-being.​

So what? They would never know another kind of life.

And here’s a final animal welfare objection mentioned by the authors:

Finally, it should also be remembered that hundreds or perhaps thousands of animals will also need to be sacrificed as part of ongoing research into chimaera organs. While this is not very many in comparison with the number that will be sacrificed if the technique becomes widely used in humans, it should still be asked whether it is legitimate to use animals for this type of research.​

Animal research is essential to improving human wellbeing. Given the many millions of animals are sacrificed in the “grim good” of animal research every year, I can’t see why this potential objection should slow us down in the least. 

The authors argue for pursuing all forms of increasing organ availability, including animal chimera organs. Some proposals involve unethical (to me) proposals involving humans, but we need not get into that here.

If the significant safety issues involving the use of animal organs can be overcome, I say: “Full speed ahead!” 

The War on Humans Now in Paperback



Text  



The War On Humans Book Cover

I wrote The War on Humans–my critique of the increasingly radical environmental movement–as an ebook. But it has now been published as a paperback. I am most pleased.

For those of you who prefer the joy of actually turning pages, check it out.

Here are a few blurbs (as we say in the author game). The great civil libertarian, Nat Hentoff:

If there were an international award for continuing to focus on and document cultural and political threats to basic human life and potential–I emphasize human—the winner would be Wesley J. Smith… [In The War on Humans] Smith has now written a riveting expose of this multi-dimensional assault on human beings that for life saving reasons—I kid you not—must be read by human beings beyond their political, religious, and all other affiliations.

Novelist, Dean Koontz:

The War on Humans is terrific…

In The War on Humans, Wesley Smith succinctly exposes the “philosophy” and the aims of this movement, cites its deep unreason, and brilliantly extrapolates the horrors inevitable should it triumph. Sincere conservationists should be concerned if only because anti-humanist thinking has the power, in the social and economic destruction it would create, to discredit even those with humane and reasonable goals of conservation, preservation, clean water, and clean air.

Political scientist, Steven Hayward:

It used to be said of certain kinds of scientific utopians that they loved humanity, but didn’t like any actual humans. Now many scientific utopians don’t even like humanity. Wesley Smith grasps the dangerous paradox of thinkers whose first step in exalting nature is to attack human nature. In order for nature to have ‘rights,’ it has become necessary for humans to have none.

This is always the first step toward tyrannical dehumanization of real human beings. We owe much to Wesley Smith for keeping vigil against this deeply anti-human strain of modern thought, for issuing another timely warning before it is too late to avoid another self-inflicted humanitarian catastrophe.

I didn’t write The War on Humans because I oppose environmentalism, but because I support it.

We must take the movement back from the anti-humanists that are subverting a noble tradition.

Obamacarian Says American Voters are Stupid



Text  



They think they are so smart. But they are really just fast-talking boobs.

And listen to how the words tumble out of Obamacarian Jonathan Gruber’s mouth as he admits Obamacare was designed to be a jumbled mess, or in his words,“intentionally written in a tortured way” to game the system and fool the American people to just get the bill passed!

And then he has the temerity to “blame the stupidity of the American voter” for forcing the Obamacare duplicity.

But we weren’t fooled, which is why the Democrats in Congress stuffed it down our unwilling throats.

Because of hubristic technocrats like Gruber–and undemocratic Democrats–we are now stuck with a dishonest law that no one really understands, and which is a disastrous mess.

But Karma’s a bitch. Because he would “rather have the law than not,” Gruber’s masters, the Democrats, have lost almost half of their U.S. Senate seats and may be out of power in the House until the 2020s. President Obama’s approval on Gallop today is 39%. It’s all connected.

The Grubers of America are so proud of themselves–I mean look at the man’s expression. But his ilk’s bad faith got us into this mess.

Lacking the essential common sense of their supposed lessers, the American people, “THE EXPERTS” are the architects of American decline.

UK to Create “Suicide Courts?”



Text  



Talk about a death panel!

The House of Lords–pushed again to legalize assisted suicide–struggles with the nonsense of fashioning ”strict guidelines” to protect against abuse. (As I have repeatedly shown, guidelines don’t protect, they just give the illusion of control.)

The latest scheme is to create what could be called “suicide courts,” where suicidal people will ask a judge to approve their doctor-prescribed death. From the Independent story:

Judges could routinely be given the power of life or death over patients who are determined to die to end their suffering.

Proposals to use judges as the final arbiters of who can be helped to die go some way to satisfying opponents to Lord Falconer’s Assisted Dying Bill. Lord Pannick QC proposed judicial oversight in amendments to the Bill which went before the House of Lords yesterday. The Lords, in the first Parliamentary vote on the Bill, gave it their approval.

This is nuts! This would be worse than Oregon, in some ways, more destructive than Belgium and the Netherlands!

Assisted suicide should be illegal because it amounts to a joint enterprise to end a human life.

With legalization, you have private transactions between doctors and suicidal patients. It’s wrong, but the government isn’t officially or directly involved in the death.

But a suicide court would make the government a direct participant in suicide.  The State would be ruling that some lives are not worth living. It would give an explicit imprimatur to suicide. 

That’s a huge and dangerous step that should never be taken. 

And here’s the irony: The UK opposes the death penalty. Trying to accommodate the Culture of Death is driving us out of our minds.

Suicide is not “Dignity,” it is “Suicide”



Text  



Beware movements that word engineer and deploy gooey euphemisms to further their agenda. It generally means there is something very wrong with the agenda.

In the wake of Brittany Maynard’s death, suicide promoters are now using the word “dignity” as a synonym for suicide, more than implying that dying naturally is not dignity.

That is not only cruel, it is wrong.

Dignity is intrinsic. Sick and dying people seeking to be assured they still have it look at us–our faces–like mirrors. If they see us thinking they are less than they once were, it can be devastating.

In the Guardian, Brian Smith–obviously no relation–says his father should have been able to commit dignity rather than die of old age and the effects of post-polio syndrome. From, “What Do You Tell Your Father When He’s Ready to Die?”

But over time, his body began to break down, and breathing became labored. The polio had come back, this time in the form of post-polio syndrome, which weakens muscles that were affected the first time around. Dad’s ailment would slowly strip him of his independence, his ability to move and, eventually, his ability to breathe. If this was death’s door, he was rapping it with what knuckles he could. His decline would last nearly a decade before his doctors gave up on treatments and assigned visits from hospice nurses.

For my father’s disease, there is no cure.

But there is always care–and love–which Smith family apparently gave dad in bounteous quantities. Good.

But Mr. Smith continued to decline:

As his days devolved into a drudgery of pills, bad daytime TV, and constant reliance on a breathing machine, Dad told us he was ready to die. “I’m done,” my father said. But choosing to die, or even assisting someone who wants to die, is a felony in California. Our options to humanely end the suffering were limited.

Self-starvation and dehydration remain the only legal ways to help someone choose when they die in the state. But few of us can muster the strength to starve to death, and caretakers – including Medicare-supported hospice nurses – are not in the business of starving people.

Saying, “I’m done,” isn’t the same thing as saying, “I want to commit suicide!.” Yet, that is what Smith wished for his father. Indeed, Smith never writes that his father asked to be killed.

I have been there. When my dad was dying of colon cancer, a moment came when he was sitting on his bed and we were talking. He suddenly looked up at me and sighed deeply with an expression that said, “I’m done,” more loudly than if he had uttered the words.

That wasn’t the same thing as saying, “Kill me.” Dad wasn’t saying, “Get me the poison pills.” He was saying, “I am done fighting.”

We moved to hospice mode, and he died a few months later–with true dignity. He did not commit suicide.

As the column notes, people can make themselves dead if they really want to. Do we really want to make suicide easier?

And note the consequences of accepting the destructive meme that suicide is dignity. One commenter takes Smith’s advocacy to its logical place:

The Oregon law is a good beginning, but it should apply also to those facing incurable pain, paralysis or imprisonment that could go on for years.

Exactly right. When it comes to assisted suicide, in for a penny, in for a pound.

The question isn’t terminal illness. Many people suffer more and for longer than the dying

The issue is whether facilitated suicide is a right. If it is, it can’t be limited to the dying. Indeed, perhaps other than to those with only a transitory desire to die, it can’t be limited at all.

So, let’s have an honest debate. A right to facilitated suicide? Yes or no. Just don’t call it “dignity.”

P.S. My good friend, the late poet and disability rights activist, Mark O’Brien, contracted polio at age 6 and lived the rest of his life in an iron lung. Mark was adamantly against assisted suicide. He too died from post-polio syndrome. He died with dignity, not by suicide.

How Assisted Suicide Advocacy Hurts the Sick



Text  



Imagine you have Lou Gehrig’s disease. You know you are dying.

But your struggle is made even more difficult by advocates who claim:

1) You should commit suicide if you want “death with dignity;” and,

2) Your society should help you do it.

That was the circumstance in which my hospice patient–nay, good friend–Robert Salamanca found himself in the late 1990s. As the Supreme Court grappled with whether to create an assisted-suicide Roe v. Wade (it refused 9-0), the media covered the story like they just did Brittany Maynard–with ALS patients used as the bloody flag to create emotional support for doctor-prescribed death.

Bob was devastated by such advocacy. I will never forget coming to his house one day after one of the networks did a high-profile story on an ALS patient who wanted assisted suicide. He was livid: “They are trying to drive me from the well-lit boulevards into the dark alley,” he said angrily. 

Bob also told me that such advocacy made it harder to “keep moving forward,” e.g., to maintain an upbeat outlook and “get every moment that life still has to offer,” while constantly hearing that life with progressing disabilty wasn’t worth living and having to contend with pro-euthanasia fear-mongering that he would die “choking on his own spit” (to quote the lie uttered repeatedly on television by Jack Kevorkian’s odious lawyer, Geoffrey Feiger–including during a debate against me on Good Morning America.)

In fact, Bob had been suicidal. He had wanted to go to Kevorkian, but his family wouldn’t cooperate. And he was so glad! “I came out of the fog,” he told me. “I am so glad to still be alive.”

Bob was so incensed against assisted suicide that he wrote a piece for the San Francisco Chronicle. He told me that he hoped I would make use of his work in the continuing fight against assisted suicide. In that spirit–and as an antidote to all the Brittany Maynard media poison–I reprint his entire piece below:

I DON’T WANT A CHOICE TO DIE

By

Robert Salamanca

have lived with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease) for seven years. On January 8, the Supreme Court heard arguments concerning whether terminally ill people have a constitutional right to physician-assisted suicide. After the two-hour hearing, with its blending of emotion and law, the justices seemed highly skeptical.

I hope so. For as Chicago’s beloved Cardinal Joseph Bernardin wrote to the Supreme Court just before he died: “There can be no such thing as a ‘right to assisted suicide’ because there can be no legal and moral order which tolerates the killing of innocent human life, even if the agent of death is self-administered. Creating a new ‘right’ to assisted suicide will endanger society and send a false signal that a less than ‘perfect’ life is not worth living.”

Euthanasia advocates believe they are doing people like me a favor. They are not. The negative emotions toward the terminally ill and disabled generated by their advocacy is actually at the expense of the “dying” and their families and friends. We often feel disheartened and without self-assurance because of a false picture of what it is like to die created by these enthusiasts who prey on the misinformed.

What we, the terminally ill, need is exactly the opposite — to realize how important our lives are. And our loved ones, friends, and, indeed, society need to help us feel that we are loved and appreciated unconditionally.

Instead, reporting in the media too often makes us feel like token presences, burdens who are better off dead. For example, in a recent ABC “Nightline,” Ted Koppel interviewed a pro-euthanasia supporter with ALS who announced to the world that he was going to take his life on a specific date. He felt he was obligated to do so because of his beliefs and the terminal situation of his disease. I found this act of showboating pretentious and ABC’s presentation of his condition exploitive. Mr. Koppel asked him why he had not yet taken his life and his only answer was… no answer. It was obvious to me that despite what he said, this man really wanted to live. Indeed, the people around him urged him to live. He listened. He did not commit suicide but died a peaceful and natural death with loved ones at his side.

Many pro-euthanasia groups “showcase” people with ALS. They portray us as feeble, unintelligible and dying by slow suffocation. This is absolutely false, and I protest their efforts vehemently. By receiving proper medical care, a terminally ill person can pass away peacefully, pain-free and with dignity. We are not people just waiting for someone to help us end our misery, but to the contrary, we are people reaching out to love… to be loved… wanting to feel life at its best.

Too many people have accepted the presumption that an extermination of some human lives can be just. Are we becoming a society so starved for heroes that we are too quick to embrace the Jack Kevorkians of the world? Where has our sense of community gone? True, terminal illness is frightening, but the majority of us overpower the symptoms and are great contributors to life.

If physician-assisted suicide is legally available, the right to die may become a duty to die. The hopelessly ill may be subtly pressured to get their dying over with — not only by cost-counting providers but by family members concerned about burdensome bills, impatient for an inheritance, exhausted by care-giving or just anxious to spare a loved one further suffering.

In my view, the pro-euthanasia followers’ posture is a great threat to the foundation upon which all life is based, and that is hope. I exhort everyone: Life is worth living, and life is worth receiving. I know. I live it every day.

___________________________________________________________________________

Robert Salamanca, of Pleasanton, CA, is living intensely with ALS. His article originally appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle, 2/19/97, and is reprinted here with the author’s permission.

Bob died peacefully–with dignity–of ALS in his sleep. I was honored to give his eulogy.

Cohen: Until Science Kills Death--Suicide!



Text  



Good grief. Washington Post columnist Richard Cohen has written a ridiculous column about Brittany Maynard, in which he replaces argument with insult and makes naked emotional assertions in place of principled reasoning.

Cohen supports Maynard for her “courage” in killing herself–so harmful!–while swallowing the tranhumanist fantasy eschatology that science will defeat death. From, “The Courage of Brittany Maynard:”

The death of death is fast approaching — fast being a matter of decades or maybe more, but sooner or later science will kill the Grim Reaper and future generations will look back on us and wonder what it was like knowing the end was always coming.

And people make fun of the faithful for having hope for eternal life.

Cohen then makes outright insulting arguments against religious communities and the medical establishment that oppose assisted suicide.

First, he claims religious opponents of assisted suicide selfishly want to retain what is left of their diminishing influence:

Death has always been in the domain of religion — the portal to the afterlife promised, or threatened, to us all. Little by little, science and modernity in general have circumscribed religion’s domain, so religion is making its last stand, so to speak, by telling us when we can make ours. As with Maynard, lots of us are not accepting this.

No, resisting assisted suicide isn’t about power, but love.

The medical community are only trying to assuage their guilt for past sins, Cohen says,–even bringing up the Holocaust!

As for physicians, they not only reaffirm the mantra that they are healers, but they are haunted by the times when they were not. In Germany, many of them cooperated with the Nazis in the administration of death, not just in the Holocaust, but even earlier in the sotto voce euthanasia programs that killed the mentally or physically ill.

In the United States, some health professionals participated in programs to sterilize the so-called mentally feeble and, of course, in Alabama black sharecroppers were tricked into enlisting in a hideous medical experiment in which 28 of them were allowed to die, untreated, of syphilis.

No. Killing isn’t a medical treatment. Assisted suicide corrupts medical ethics. Caring for patients–healing, palliating, educating, supporting–is the job of physicians. Hello? Hippocratic Oath!

The many and varied reasons for opposing assisted suicide go utterly unexplored by Cohen; from the threat doctor-prescribed death poses to the vulnerable, to the reality that assisted suicide could be used to control medical costs, to the inevitability of state-sanctioned suicide metastasizing beyond the terminally ill, as it already has in Belgium, Netherlands, and Switzerland’s systems of near death on demand.

And then he gets to the nub of his thinking: It’s all about him, and he doesn’t who else gets hurt:

When death dies, so too will heaven and hell — and the comforting myth of eternal equality. Before that happens, I will die. This is certain and I don’t like it one bit — and I don’t like, either, that future generations will look back and wonder what it was like to live with death, not lots of it, but the certainty of it.

But as long as it is going to happen, I want my say over it. I want the same control over the end that I have had over what came before it. This is all that Brittany Maynard wanted. I salute her common sense and a courage that, in a fearful time to come, I may well envy.

Such me, me-I,I thinking is destroying Western civilization. Principle and rational discourse is being swept away by solipsism and emotionalism

What an odd column: Science will kill death, but until it does, we need the “courage” to control it through suicide

But if suicide is courage, doesn’t that mean fighting until the end of living in as much comfort as possible until the end is cowardice? 

Cohen isn’t promoting courage. He is pushing surrender and abandonment.

Maynard Advocacy Threatens Vulnerable



Text  



The San Francisco Chronicle columnist, Debra J. Saunders (my wife), has a really good piece out about the Brittany Maynard tragedy. 

The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices wants to exploit her assisted suicide as a crow bar to pry open California and other states to legalizing doctor-prescribed death. That would be profoundly unwise, writes Debra. From, “Maynard’s Storybook Death Shouldn’t Add Support for Assisted Suicide:” 

If Maynard died with dignity, then does that mean that others who do not choose to choreograph their death lack dignity? There’s no getting around the language advocates have chosen — “Death with Dignity” suggests that there is something undignified about holding onto life. You’re Superman and ready to die with a smile — that’s dignity. Or you are a pathetic hanger-on.

That’s certainly the strong implication. Think about it: If Maynard had decided to live, cared for by hospice, nobody would have ever heard her name. Compassion and Choices certainly wouldn’t have been touting her “courage.”

Debra notes that the issue is bigger and more far-reaching than the death of any individual, no matter how poignant the circumstances:

There are no guarantees with that approach. But it does mean that the medical system isn’t upended so physicians migrate from healers to end-of-life concierges. Most important of all: The focus of medical care in California would remain on treating disease and relieving suffering. The state would not embrace the notion that wanting to live is undignified, or that sick people should prefer to die than endure seizures or loss of motor control.

I certainly know of people struggling with terminal disease who have been devastated by assisted suicide’s advocacy meme that their lives are not worth protecting. More on that in awhile.

Debra concludes:

When families lose a young person, they go crazy with grief; any distraction, even anger, can be welcome. I fully appreciate how a young woman would want to find a cause to give meaning to her end. But if Maynard’s death helps to change California law, be clear that the brave new order will spell abandonment for lonely vulnerable people. These people need friends and family who make them feel wanted, not undignified.

Please read the whole thing. It is an oasis in the desert wind of emotionalism and suicide boosterism to which we have been subjected for the last few weeks.

“Political” Animals Just More Rights Nonsense



Text  



Words lose their meaning. Definitions are blurred. Nothing can really be discussed.

Latest example, university professor (of course!) Justin E.H. Smith’s claim that animals are part of the political community.

First, Smith asserts that animals have their own forms of politics. Well, bucks do cross antlers to decide who gets to enjoy the does–war being politics by other means. And there is no doubt that animals can act in concert. Whether that is “political,” let’s leave to another day.

But Smith’s larger point is that animals are joined with us in a political community. From, “We Are not the Only Political Animals:” 

But there is another way of understanding animals as political that even the most defiant human-exceptionalist cannot dispute: not as separated out into their own discrete political societies, each according to its kind, but rather as part of a single, global political formation that includes, notably but not exclusively, human beings.

“Defiant” human exceptionalist? Belief in HE is rational and common sensical.

But what does Smith mean by this nonsensical assertion? From the best I can tell, that we have duties toward animals–a core principle of the very human exceptionalism Smith apparently rejects!

In their groundbreaking 2011 book, “Zoopolis: A Political Theory of Animal Rights,” Sue Donaldson and Will Kymlicka argue compellingly that animal rights theory has been limited to the extent that it has emphasized only negative rights of animals, a category that is conceived as universal and without any distinctions of moral significance within it. They argue instead that theorists would do well to focus on relational obligations that human beings come to have to animals that figure in different ways in human society. For them, nonhuman animals belong to the polis, too.

And then Smith bizarrely conflates cause and effect:

The emergence of state structures thus seems connected not only to the rise of grain storage, and therefore also of private property and of social inequality and slavery, but also to the systemic domination of certain animals by human beings. It is hard to say what exactly civilization is, but one thing seems certain: there could be no civilization without domestication.

Clearly, animal husbandry was essential to our leaving the caves. But that was because we learned to use animals as means to benefit our ends.

That did not make these animals part of the community. Rather, they were more like money today, not participants in the polis.

The domination of animals went together with their symbolic incorporation into human society. We know that without exception early livestock-holding societies took the animals they dominated to be absolutely central to their own social existence as human beings. 

Sure, as in becoming food and clothing, as measure of wealth–and because they had value, victims to be sacrificed to the gods. That is nothing like part of a political or moral community.

And then the odious habit of comparing what happens with animals to the same thing if done to humans:

Manifestly, however, the ways animals figure in society, and what may be done to or with the animals representing different social categories — vermin, livestock, pets, wildlife, beasts of burden, seeing-eye dogs, and so on — mirrors the different ways in which different human groups are endowed with or deprived of their rights. Endowing and depriving different human groups of rights and resources is, in one understanding of the term, precisely what we mean when we speak of politics.

And the Holocaust!, a comparison Smith rejects before he seemingly accepts:

However, it does not insult the memory of those human beings who have been deprived of their rights and excluded from consideration as political subjects to note that, as a matter of fact, the animals that play a central role in our society are systematically excluded from the polis, from the scope of the political. Their exclusion is what makes possible the perpetuation of the system of mass slaughter as if this were not an expression of our society’s political will.

The solution to a non-problem?

Perhaps it is time to rethink the boundaries of the political.

Like how? Allow animal rights activists to have their proxy vote? Smith doesn’t say.

Gibberish. Utter nonsense. And of course, proudly published in the anti-human exceptionalist, New York Times.

Oregonian: Maynard Dies by Lethal Overdose



Text  



According to the Oregonian, it appears that Brittany Maynard ingested the poison prescribed by a doctor as allowed in Oregon law. Final verification is pending.

I know that I am supposed to keep quiet and simply offer condolences. Frankly, I doubt her family would want them from me–given how her illness and death were politicized in the cause of using our great empathy for her to demolish laws against doctor-prescribed death and my implacable opposition to that dark agenda.

But, of course, I am saddened. Who wouldn’t be? Her cancer and death, if the report is accurate, are a terrible tragedy. I wish her husband, family, and friends nothing but the best.

Expect suicide advocates to now use her death to stoke emotions even higher around the assisted suicide debate. But emotionalism is the last approach that should be taken in pondering such a radical, culturally transforming agenda and the threat legalized assisted suicide poses to the most weak and vulnerable among us.

Assuming the report is true, given who they are, it wouldn’t surprise me if Compassion and Choices holds a press conference announcing they video-taped the death for public airing. That’s the kind of thing assisted suicide/euthanasia promoters have been doing since Jack Kevorkian took his lethal injection of Thomas Youk to 60 Minutes. I hope I am mistaken.

I am sure there will be much talk about this going forward. But for now, I will shut up. 

Pages

Sign up for free NRO e-mails today:

Subscribe to National Review