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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

PVS Patients: The New Human Guinea Pigs



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First, utilitarian bioethicists wanted to redefine people with PVS as dead so they could be treated as so many organ farms ripe for the harvest. Now, several articles published in the misnamed Journal of Medical Ethics urge that patients diagnosed with PVS be used to as guinea pigs to see whether animal organs can be safely transplanted into humans, a field of study known as xenotransplantation.

I haven't read the whole articles, but plan to as soon as I can get my hands on them. But the abstracts are bad enough. See, here, here, here, and here.

The gist of the argument these writers make seems to be that if people consent ahead of time, once they become profoundly cognitively impaired, doctors should be allowed to take out their kidneys (perhaps transplanting them into someone else?) and replace them with pig or other animal organs to see if xenotransplantation is "safe."

This is deeply and profoundly wrong on so many levels, that I will not expound upon it fully here but will explore the matter fully in a more appropriate venue. For now, let me just state this: When we lose sight of the crucial ethical presumption that all humans have intrinsic value simply and merely because they are human, when we say that the value of a life depends on its presumed quality, we open the door to the worst forms of oppression and exploitation.

Consent ahead of time has nothing to do with it. The Nuremberg Code taught us that such human experiments are an ethical abomination. How soon we forget the lessons of history.

HT: BioEdge


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