Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Are All Abortions “Medically Necessary?”


Two California Catholic universities–Santa Clara and Loyola–want not to cover “elective” abortion in their health insurance policies.

That won’t do! After first giving its OK, California may now try to force them. From the San Francisco Chronicle story.

The state Department of Managed Health Care is conducting “an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding coverage for abortion services under California law,” said Marta Green, the department’s chief deputy director.

What the department is reconsidering, as first reported by California Lawyer magazine, is whether the universities are violating a 1975 state law that requires managed health plans to cover all “medically necessary” procedures. Until the current controversy arose, insurers in California had treated all abortions sought by women in their health plans as medically necessary.

The term “medically necessary” is one used in insurance to determine whether a procedure is covered. It is not the same as elective vs. non-elective procedures.

Still, it is hard to see how abortions are truly medically necessary. Here is the definition:

A. Appropriate for the symptoms and diagnosis or treatment of a condition, illness or injury.

B. Provides for the diagnosis or direct care and treatment of the condition, illness or injury.

C. In accordance with the standards of good medical practice in the service area.

D. Not primarily for the convenience of a plan member or a plan provider.

E. The most appropriate level or type of service or supply that can safely be provided to the plan member.

Most abortions actually fall under D–for convenience.

Insurance companies can treat abortion as medically necessary if they so choose–no doubt because it is cheaper for them than paying for a pregnancy and beyond.

But that isn’t the issue. The question is whether the state should force all abortions to be deemed medically necessary, and hence, mandate all insurance plans to cover every abortion.

For the universities, this is a religious issue:

Leaders of both universities said they were driven by religious principles. “Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion in the university’s health plans, Engh’s office said in a statement.

So what? Conscience on issues such as abortion cannot be allowed.

Do you see how abortion–like slavery did in the 19th century–corrupts everything it touches?

Monkeys Aren’t “Intellectual,” Can’t Copyright


Several HE readers have sent me the story of the intellectual property dispute between Wikimedia and a photographer with whose camera a monkey took a “selfie.”

The photographer claims a copyright, but the Wiki world says no since he didn’t actually take the photo. From the Washington Post story:

In an interview, Wikimedia Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Katherine Maher said the organization is confident that the legal basis for denying Slater’s request is sound, because the person that takes the photo should own the copyright. But a person didn’t take this one.

“Monkeys don’t own copyrights,” Maher said. “What we found is that U.S. copyright law says that works that originate from a non-human source can’t claim copyright.”

My sympathies are with the photographer. Even though he didn’t snap the photo or intentionally set up the shot, he created the general circumstances under which it was taken.

But Wikimedia is absolutely correct that an animal can’t own a copyright (unless, I suppose, a human grants it in the same way dogs sometimes inherit for their support.) This is really a dispute about money, and I think, an anti-intellectual property value system among some within the Wiki crowd.

But let’s leave that aside and get to the bottom line: Animals can’t protect intellectual property because they can’t create it. 

Animals are not intellectual. That isn’t the same thing as saying they aren’t intelligent. It means they are incapable of intentionally “creating.” A spider’s web is a remarkable design, but it wasn’t “designed.”  Creativity is one of the exceptional capacities of humans.

The monkey who took the photo wasn’t “taking” a photo. It didn’t know what a camera is.

In this sense, the disputed photo isn’t really a “selfie.” That is something only humans can accomplish. Whether we should, is another story.


Iran’s Out of Control Kidney Bazaar


Iran is the only country in the world that legally permits the purchase of human organs. (Yes, I know it happens elsewhere.)

I don’t see Iran as a country to emulate, but some have argued that it is leading the way toward a compassionate change in policy, which I opined about here.

Now, unsurprisingly, news has come out that the organ bazaar is apparently rife with corruption. From the Payvand Iran News story:

On Sunday July 20, CASKP chief Mostafa Qasemi told the Fars News Agency: “These patients enter the country with false documents; doctors do not examine their documents and are paid millions to carry out a kidney transplant for them.”

In Iran, kidney donation to foreign nationals is illegal, but according to Qasemi, in recent years intermediaries have been producing fake National ID Cards and Birth Certificates and procuring Iranian kidneys for non-Iranians…Qasemi referred to two “Saudi patients” who travelled to Iran recently for kidney transplants, noting that one of the patients died during treatment. According to Qasemi, the Saudi Embassy pursued the matter, a number of the people on the medical team were arrested and the investigations even involved the Ministry of Intelligence.

Let the finger-pointing begin:

The Ministry of Health supervisory board says any report of misconduct in kidney transplants has been dealt with severely by the ministry and the only violations reported have involved private hospitals. The ministry has blamed physicians for failing to adequately scrutinize patient documents.

According to the Ministry of Health: “Physicians have been sloppy in the examination of patient documents, even though it is very easy to recognize if they are treating an Arab or Afghan foreign national. Physicians are not complying with the law and are readily accepting fake documents.

Why is anyone surprised? Organ buying will always lead to official and purveyor corruption because it involves desperate people on both sides of the transaction. And it is worse for the destitute who put their health at risk for the relative pittance they receive.

The current international public policy against organ buying and selling is correct. Organ markets should not be permitted. 

Or, we can yield to a libertarian Nirvana, what I call Blade Runner World, where the powerful and connected do splendidly, but everyone else, not so much.

Dying of Thirst is Excruciating Agony


Health writer Larry Bernstein of the Washington Post has written an excruciating column about how awful and painful it is to die by thirst. The article laments–as any civilized person would–the potential mass deaths by dehydration of the Yazidi at the hand of the butchers of ISIS in Iraq.

Dying of dehydration is an awful death. From the piece:

I’m not about to start ranking the horrors visited on the human body this summer, from Ebola in West Africa to bombs and bullets in Gaza and Israel. But thousands of particularly excruciating deaths may soon be added to the list by the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group that is sweeping through parts of Iraq and establishing its own state.As this barbarism continues.

Bernstein did some research:

I asked Jeffrey Berns, president-elect of the National Kidney Foundation and a nephrologist at the University of Pennsylvania, what these children may be going through. “Thirst, as you probably know, is one of the most potent drives for behavior we have. It may be the most potent we have, more than even hunger,” he said. “People are going to be miserable.”

The body is about 60 percent water, and under normal conditions, he said…If it’s not replaced over time and dehydration becomes severe, cells throughout the body will begin to shrink as water moves out of them and into the blood stream, part of the body’s efforts to keep the organs in fluid. “All the cells will shrink,” he said, “but the ones that count are the brain cells. They don’t operate normally when they’re’ shrinking.”

Changes in mental status will follow, including confusion and ultimately coma, he said. As the brain becomes smaller, it takes up less room in the skull and blood vessels connecting it to the inside of the cranium can pull away and rupture. Without water, blood volume will decline and all the organs will start to fail, he said. Kidney failure will soon lead to disastrous consequences and ultimately death as blood volume continues to fall and waste products that should be eliminated from the body remain.

Yes, an awful, horrific death.

Except when inflicted on people like Terri Schiavo? That can’t be right.

This is a biological process–yet conscious and unconscious disabled and elderly alike are made to die of thirst throughout the country and much of the Western world through removal of tube-supplied sustenance.

How many times have we seen advocates for removing feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled sooooothingly assure us it is a peaceful, painless way to die? From a 2005 Chicago Tribune story about the pending death of Schiavo:

One of the main rationales of religious advocates and lawmakers seeking to keep Terri Schiavo alive through a feeding tube has been that removing her only source of nutrition and liquid would be cruel, leading to a “horrible and painful death,” in the words of one activist. 

But many of the doctors and nurses who witness the consequences of removing such treatment from patients say withholding nourishment is a common—and largely painless—way of letting nature take its course for ill patients. They say many people near death actually choose to have their feeding tubes removed, which typically leads to a calm, peaceful death.

Yes, IF PEOPLE ARE ON THE VERGE OF DEATH BY CANCER or some other disease. In those cases, the death is not from thirst!

But the people we are discussing here are not dying other than having their water and food taken away. That’s a huge difference. The same process described in Bernstein’s piece happens to them. 

Oh, and notice what Berns said about the size of the brain after dehydration: Terri’s shrunken brain was touted as proof she could feel nothing. Remember?

People in cognitively disabled conditions may not be able to cry out and beg for food–although I know of at least one case where that happened–because they don’t have the ability. But that doesn’t mean on the inside, unless given powerful drugs–Terri Schiavo wasn’t given that courtesy–they aren’t feeling the same pain as those poor people on the Iraq mountain. 

And now Compassion and Choices and other assisted suicide organizations push suicide by thirst and starvation (VSED). From the C & C book, “Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking:

Some call us because they feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of chronic and progressive illnesses that fill their days with misery and suffering. There are also those who may not be seriously ill but are simply “done.” After eight or nine decades of life, they want information about ways to gently slip away in a peaceful and dignified manner.


Add to that advocacy now for VSED-by-proxy that would force nursing homes to withhold oral sustenance to Alzheimer’s patients who asked to be starved and dehydrated to death in an advance directive–even if they willingly drink water and juices and eat food.

The elderly, the profoundly disabled, babies born with Down syndrome that have intestinal blockage, etc. are not a different species. They are people. Making them die of thirst is agonizing too. Those who push these kinds of deaths as merely “medical ethics:” Own it!

Kathryn Tucker Out at Compassion and Choices?


It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the death pushers at The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices. Apparently, there has been a big change without formal announcement. Kathryn Tucker, the legal director who brought the case in 1997 unsuccessfully (9-0) seeking an assisted suicide Roe. V. Wade, has poof disappeared from any mention on the C & C Website.

A new legal director, formerly of the ACLU (of course) has been named. 

Most curious. One would think that someone who has given nearly 20 years to the assisted suicide cause would rate a tribute as she made her exit. Or, if something awful had befallen her–I hope not–that some mention would be made.

But from what I can tell, C & C has kept radio silence on Tucker’’s leaving and why. Oh well. I hope they gave her a gold watch. 


Abortion Right Equal to Second Amendment?


I have come to believe that if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned–a big if–it will be from the other side. That is, I think it is more likely that a future Supreme Court will find Roe and its progeny to be too restrictive and overturn the case in the cause of forging an all-encompassing right to abortion, instead of returning abortion to state regulation. From a piece I wrote about that in First Things, “A Pro-Abortion Reversal of Roe v Wade?”:

[Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg believes adamantly that women are denied “equal citizen stature” by boundaries placed around access to abortion. Not only that, but in an angry dissent to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal ban on partial birth abortion, she (joined by Justice Breyer among the current justices) railed against the majority allowing “moral concerns” to “override fundamental rights.”

That sounded to me as advocacy for an unfettered right to abortion at any time and for any reason. So, I asked expert anti-abortion attorney Clarke D. Forsyth, the senior counsel for Americans United for Life. whether Ginsburg’s view would abolish all abortion regulation. Yes, he told me: If the right to an abortion were based on “equal protection of the law,” as opposed to other constitutional standards, it would “permit no regulations at any time,” perhaps even, “requiring [government] abortion funding.”

Now, the New York Times’ legal reporter Linda Greenhouse–who makes little pretense about objectivity in her journalism–provides more fuel for my fire. Lamenting the successful restrictions on abortion in states such as Texas, she lauds a recent Federal Court of Appeals ruling that the right to abortion is equivalent to the right to keep and bear arms. From her piece:

Guns and abortion? That’s a pairing no previous judicial opinion has made. “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual,” the judge explained. “However, neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else. The right to abortion cannot be exercised without a medical professional, and the right to keep and bear arms means little if there is no one from whom to acquire the handgun or ammunition.”

Do I have to point out how delicious this analogy is? Of course, it’s unthinkable that Alabama would regulate firearms dealers to the point of extinction. But recall the June day 22 years ago when the Supreme Court, to the surprise of nearly everyone, reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It was unthinkable then that nearly a generation later, states would flagrantly be regulating the practice of abortion (in the name of women’s health and safety, no less) out of business — a goal that Texas, enabled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is close to achieving.

Except that gun ownership is an express right, protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. In contrast, the right to an abortion was invented by Justices based on implied so-called “penumbras and emanations”–but never mind.

No right is absolute, or course. We aren’t allowed to own machine guns, for example.

But I think that advocates like Greenhouse–and certainly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg–want abortion to be. Indeed, check out Greenhouse’s last paragraph:

Still, judges’ willingness to step outside the abortion frame and to weigh, from that broad perspective, whether the abortion right has become unduly burdened is something new and potentially of great value in the struggle to preserve women’s reproductive freedom. Even in the face of cynical and unrelenting political attack, the right to abortion can become stronger the more tightly it is stitched into the constitutional fabric, the more that smart and gutsy judges are willing to treat it as what it is, a right like any other.

As I said in my First Things piece, I believe the successes of the pro life movement has liberals ready to replace the cracked wall of Roe by transforming abortion into an absolute right through the ninth month. Comparing access to abortion to the right to own a gun is a step down that path.

Media Share Blame for Stem Cell Research Fraud


Writing in Slate, Jane C. Hu uses the high profile stem cell research lies we have seen in recent years to launch into an interesting article entitled, “Why Do Scientists Commit Fraud?” She discusses the recent bogus claim that skin cells could be turned into stem cells with chemicals (not the same thing as the actual breakthrough of induced pluripotent stem cells.)

She gets into cases I have also written about, such as the Hwang Woo-suk cloning fraud of several years ago and other stem cell bogus studies. She then gets into some of the usual reasons given for science fraud:

In reality, the world of science can be cutthroat and isolating, with little oversight. Stem cell research is certainly not the only research field with a fraud problem, but it has all the right elements to motivate dishonesty: It’s a cutting-edge field with the potential to discover treatments for human diseases; it attracts highly competitive people who are all scrambling to make the next big discovery; and that discovery must be made, written, and published before any competitors can catch up.

Add to that an academic culture that places ever-rising pressure on researchers to churn out publications in order to land jobs or tenure—especially publications in high-impact journals like Nature and Science—and you begin to see why researchers resort to cutting corners or massaging their data.

That is all true, but in the stem cell field, I also blame the media.

Why? Think about the many stem cell stories written and broadcast over the last ten years. Media has repeatedly and wildly hyped the field to the moon as bringing immediate CURES! CURES! CURES!

With few caveats or doubts, many of the world’s most notable publications and broadcasters all but promised that children in wheelchairs would walk and Parkinson’t patients would be healed–or they amplified these irresponsible claims from politicized scientists without a grain of salt or a shadow of doubt.

Media did repeated puff profiles of researchers supposedly–but, it turned out not–on the verge of huge breakthroughs.

Media’s obsession with destroying President George W. Bush also caused many science reporters to wrongly describe the Bush policy and blame him for cures not yet found.

So, while media certainly isn’t the only reason for science fraud in the stem cell field, I do think their irresponsible reporting and boosting is a big factor. All of that hype and potential adulation can push those with weak characters or ruthless ambition over the line.

Babies are Children, not “Carbon Legacies!”


I guess it takes global warming hysteria to get the bioethics movement to criticize what is known in the trade as “artificial reproductive technologies” or ART.

But now, in the ever more radical Journal of Medical Ethics, Cristina Richie, of Boston College’s Department of Theology, argues that these technologies should be regulated to limit the number of children–called “carbon legacies,” as a means of fighting climate change. From the article:

A carbon footprint is the aggregate of resource use and carbon emissions over a person’s life. A carbon legacy occurs when a person chooses to procreate. All people have carbon footprints; only people with biological children have carbon legacies.

I don’t know if Richie coined the term, but it is ridiculous. Children are children, not bundles of carbon producers.

ART is an almost unregulated industry, a lamentable circumstance with which many bioethicists are content. But Richie says global warming has to change the field’s thinking about ART.

Through the use of ARTs multiple children are born, adding to worldwide carbon emissions. This is a burden on the already over-taxed ecosystem to support new beings who might not have existed without medical intervention. It is therefore the obligation of environmental policymakers, the ethical and medical communities, and even society to carefully weigh the interests of our shared planet with a business that intentionally creates more humans when we must reduce our carbon impact.

All those IVF babies are melting the ice caps!

While population growth and ARTs are not the primary environmental issue that should concern ecologists and bioethicists, the numbers of ART babies are increasing at an exponential rate. If we were to look at these numbers in terms of carbon emissions instead of raw population growth data, the statistics look grim.

No, grim is the exploitation of surrogates in biological colonialism and the eugenic impetus that has sunk its fangs deep into the heart of the industry. In the face of such human objectification, sorry, I can’t get upset about global warming.

It’s time to regulate!

The unregulated ART business can no longer be endorsed and the medical industry ought not operate in an environmental vacuum. Retrenchment in all areas of life is the key to slowing down or halting carbon emissions that lead to climate change. For each child made through medical intervention a carbon legacy results. ARTs should be allocated with due concern for the environment and sober consideration for the implications of climate change.

Carbon caps on the fertility business and eliminating funded ARTs for those who are not biologically infertile are the beginning of an environmentally sustainable ART business.​

“And Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little carbon legacies to come onto me’…” Good grief.

Right to Kill Monkeys to Find Ebola Vaccine


Monkey experiments have determined that a proposed Ebola vaccine may be safe, leading to early human trials. From the NYT story:

The government plans to fast-track development of a vaccine shown to protect macaque monkeys, aiming to test it in humans as early as next month.

Generally, here’s how the experiment was conducted:

- Groups of monkeys were vaccinated, while others were not;

- The monkeys were then infected.

- The unvaccinated monkeys died from Ebola.

- The vaccinated monkeys didn’t. And the vaccine did not harm the monkeys.

Animal rights activists would prevent us from making this grim good use of monkeys. But that is anti-human. Unless scientists conduct such monkey experiments, human studies could not go forward. In short, a vaccine would never be found.

It comes down to this: Sacrifice monkeys in the hope of saving people?  Or spare the monkeys regardless of the consequences to people? The latter choice is part of the war on humans.

Baby Buyers Refuse Disabled Twin


This is the cruel logic of biological colonialism.

An Australian couple rented a Thai woman’s womb, and in due course, she delivered twins. But one of the babies has Down syndrome, and that just wouldn’t do.

So, they simply left the disabled baby behind with no means of support except the love of the surrogate mother, who apparently, was just a breeder to them. From the Washington Post story:

A Thai surrogate mother said Sunday that she was not angry with the Australian biological parents who left behind a baby boy born with Down syndrome, and hoped that the family would take care of the boy’s twin sister they took with them. Pattaramon Chanbua, a 21-year-old food vendor in Thailand’s seaside town of Sri Racha, has had to take a break from her job to take care of her 7-month-old surrogate baby, named “Gammy,” who also has a congenital heart condition. The boy, with blond hair and dark brown eyes, is now being treated in a hospital for infection in his lungs.

Pattaramon said she met the Australian couple once when the babies were born and knew only that they lived in Western Australia state.

Pattaramon is too kind. Surrogacy is baby manufacturing and buying. Get a “defective product,” and just return it to the “manufacturer.” 

I guess the biological parents would do anything to have a baby–except love their own child who didn’t meet their desired specifications. And splitting up twins, to boot.

The Thai government is moving to ban surrogacy from non-relatives. The sooner, the better.

Haleigh’s New Life After State Wanted Her Dead


It’s been awhile since I have written of Haleigh Poutre. Some may recall that she was an abused child beaten into a sustained unconsciousness by her step father. 

Adding near-killing to her injury, within days of being diagnosed, doctors decided she would never get better and the state sought court permission to make sure she died “with dignity” by having her respirator and feeding tube removed.

Happily, just before the deed was to be done, she awakened. From my 2006 NRO article, “Danger Zone:”

Within a week or so of the beating, her doctors had written her off. They apparently told Haleigh’s court-appointed guardian, Harry Spence, that she was “virtually brain dead.” Even though he had never visited her, Spence quickly went to court seeking permission to remove her respirator and feeding tube.

The court agreed, a decision affirmed recently by the supreme court of Massachusetts. And so, no doubt with the best of intentions, a little girl who had already suffered so much was stripped by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of even the chance to fight to stay alive. If she didn’t stop breathing when the respirator was removed, which doctors expected, she would slowly dehydrate to death.

Then came the unexpected: Before “pulling the plug” on Haleigh, Spence finally decided to visit her. He was stunned. Rather than finding a little girl with “not a chance” of recovery, as doctors had described Haleigh’s condition to him (as reported by the Boston Globe), Haleigh was conscious. She was able to give Spence a yellow block when asked to by a social worker and respond to other simple requests

Not only did Haleigh awaken, but she learned to eat on her own and began rehab and school.

Now, she has a real, loving family. From the Boston Globe story:

The minister winds up his welcome to some 400 people, and soon lyrics flash karaoke-like on a large screen. A spirited Christian pop song, “Blessed be Your Name,” fills the Westfield Evangelical Free Church. In the back row, a young woman, sitting in a wheelchair next to her adoptive parents, lights up.
Though she can’t read all the words, she sways to the music and claps her hands, the nails painted pink with white polka dots. She loves cheerful tunes and a crowd, and on this Sunday, she has both. Keith and Becky Arnett could have predicted that Haleigh, 20, would brighten at this part of the service. She entered their lives as a 14-year-old foster child, then known as Haleigh Poutre, who had been at the center of a passionate end-of-life court battle. Her singular story of abuse, compounded by government lapses, drew national media attention. It remains one of the darkest chapters in the state’s child-protection system.

The case caused MA to reform its laws. But have the bioethical values that led to this almost killing changed? From what I observe, no. Indeed, they have gotten even worse.

Think about this. Think about it hard: The “quality of life ethic” pushed vociferously in mainstream bioethics–and almost implemented by state bureaucrats–came very close to killing Haleigh by dehydration. It would have happened had it not taken the procedure months to get MA Supreme Court permission.

And now think about this: If euthanasia had been legal, she could have been lethally injected with not enough time to recover. And don’t think that will never happen if society swallows the hemlock. Child euthanasia and medicalized killing of children already happens in the Netherlands and Belgium. 

It is a very dangerous thing to create a invidious categories of people denigrated by medical technocrats as having lives not worth living–or paying for.

So, the next time a bioethicist argues that we must dehydrate a child or other cognitively disabled person to death in “their best interests,” remember Haleigh Poutre. Sometimes doctors are wrong. Sometimes “miracles” do, indeed, happen. If we are to err, it should be on giving life a chance.

NHS to Fund Sperm Bank For Lesbians


The UK’s NHS shows how centralized control mixes with politics to make health care increasingly expansive and expensive.  

Latest example: the socialized plan will now sponsor a sperm bank–with eugenics implications–allowing lesbians and single women to find sperm donors. From the Daily Mail story:

Britain is to get its first NHS-funded national sperm bank to make it easier for lesbian couples and single women to have children. For as little as £300 – less than half the cost of the service at a private clinic – they will be able to search an online database and choose an anonymous donor on the basis of his ethnicity, height, profession and even hobbies.

The bank, which is due to open in October, will then send out that donor’s sperm to a clinic of the client’s choice for use in trying for a baby.

Heterosexual couples will also be able to benefit, but the move – funded by the Department of Health – is largely designed to meet the increasing demand from thousands of women who want to start a family without having a relationship with a man.

How is helping women find the sperm of their dreams a matter of providing health care?

And remember, the NHS rations treatments to the really sick like late stage cancer patients.

California has a new law requiring group health insurance to pay for infertility treatments for gay people in the same way it does those who are straight. But straights can only receive the treatment if they are actually infertile, while theoretically, every gay person in California is deemed infertile for this purpose regardless of their actual medical condition. 

All of this is germane to Obamacare’s cultural hegemony agenda, which is never going to be limited to forcing religious objectors to fund contraception.  That’s just the key that opens the door.

How will we ever control health care costs when we expand the meaning of health and wellness to the breaking points, and then put them on the public or insurance companies’ dimes?

Hero Doctor Dies Treating Ebola


Sometimes we have to pause and recognize the heroes in our midst. 

One such hero was Dr. Sheik Umar Kahn, of Sierra Leone. He was part of the international team trying to contain the Ebola outbreak, unfortunately contracted the disease, and died. From the Independent story:

The top doctor treating patients infected with the Ebola virus in Sierra Leone has died from the disease, officials have confirmed.

Dr Sheik Umar Khan had been hospitalised in quarantine since he contracted the virus last week. The virologist was credited with treating more than 100 patients at the hospital in Kenema – one of the world’s leading Ebola diagnosis facilities.

Dr. Kahn knew the risks and took them anyway:

Before his diagnosis, Dr Khan told reporters: “I am afraid for my life, I must say, because I cherish my life.”

“Health workers are prone to the disease because we are the first port of call for somebody who is sickened by disease. Even with the full protective clothing you put on, you are at risk,” he added.

Dr. Kahn exhibited the best of the human spirit. Memory eternal!

Two heroic American doctors also contracted Ebola while fighting the African epidemic and are being treated in an isolation unit at Emory University. (Ebola does not spread in the air.)  

Let us hope–and for those who believe in it, pray–that they will recover. Their names are: Dr. Kent Brantly and Dr. Nancy Writebol

Anti-Semitism Has No Place in Medicine


Equality is an essential essence of human exceptionalism. A human, is a human, is a human–we are all us.

This is especially important in medicine. Indeed, the Hippocratic Oath requires physicians to practice only for the “good of my patients, keeping myself from all intentional ill-doing.”

That is why I was disturbed to read about a Belgian physician who refused to help a woman with a broken rib because she is Jewish. From the Jerusalem Post story:

The woman, Bertha Klein, had her son, who is American, call the [medical] hotline at 11 p.m. “I’m not coming,” the doctor reportedly told the son and hung up. When the son called again, the doctor said: “Send her to Gaza for a few hours, then she’ll get rid of the pain.”

According to Joods Actueel, the doctor confirmed the exchange, saying he had an “emotional reaction.”

Health ministry officials were looking into the incident, according to the monthly’s online edition. According to Joods Actueel, the doctor knew the patient was Jewish because of Klein’s son’s American accent.

Anti-Semitism has no place in medicine. Physicians should never be invididious in their practices. Doctors can get caught up in the controversies of our day like anyone, but they must leave it at the door when they enter the clinic.

Discipline must be rendered.

Elimate Predators to Eliminate All Suffering!


I have written that our fear of suffering is becoming so neurotic that it threatens not only human exceptionalism, but our rationality. Not only has the desire to eliminate suffering mutated to eliminating the sufferer, but the concept itself has become so elastic it even includes the suffering of nature.

Case in point: One of the world’s most notable transhumanists, George Dvorsky–whom I saw advocate “uploading” animal consciences into computers to end the suffering caused by predation–has found another transhumanist who wants us to spend resources and energy in a ridiculous attempt to end predation in the animal kingdom.  From, “The Radical Plan to End Life’s Predatory Species:”

Should animals be permitted to hunt and kill other animals? Some futurists believe that humans should intervene, and solve the “problem” of predator vs. prey once and for all.

Why prey tell (get it?) should we do such a stupid thing? WE MUST END ALL SUFFERING!

But British philosopher David Pearce can’t imagine a future in which animals continue to be trapped in the never-ending cycle of blind Darwinian processes. It’s up to us, he argues, to put our brains, our technologies, and our sense of compassion to good use, and do something about it. It’s part of his overarching Hedonistic Imperative, a far-sighted “abolitionist project” set with the goal of achieving nothing less than the elimination of all suffering on the planet. And by all suffering, he means all suffering.

Pearce is so morally confused–because he rejects human exceptionalism–that he apparently believes that our reaction to a lion taking down a zebra should be the same as if we saw a snake eating a toddler:

From the perspective of the victim, the moral status or (lack of) guilty intent of a human or nonhuman predator is irrelevant. Either way, to stand by and watch the snake asphyxiate a child would be almost as morally abhorrent as to kill the child yourself. So why turn this principle on its head with beings of comparable sentience and sentience to human infants and toddlers?

With power comes complicity. For better or worse, power over the lives of all sentient beings on the planet is now within our grasp. Inevitably, critics talk of “hubris”. Humans shouldn’t “play God”. What right have humans to impose our values on members of another race or species?

The charge is seductive but misplaced. There is no anthropomorphism here, no imposition of human values on alien minds. Human and nonhuman animals are alike in an ethically critical respect. The pleasure-pain axis is universal to sentient life.. The wishes of a terrified toddler or a fleeing zebra to flourish unmolested are not open to doubt even in the absence of the verbal capacity to say so.

No. “Wishes” isn’t the issue. The fact that the toddler is a human being with greater importance than the zebra should matter most to us morally. But when you give up human exceptionalism, well, a rat, is a pig, is a dog, is a snake, is a zebra, is a mouse–we’re all the same.

Okay, let’s cut through the blather and get to the chase (get it?): How would Pearce end suffering caused by predators?

First, wipe them out, the way we would the malaria-spreading mosquito. Second, if people don’t want to do that, genetically engineer them:

I’m not personally convinced that we need such predatory species to survive in any shape or form — not even genetically “reprogrammed” to be harmless to their usual victims. But let’s assume otherwise. Can the twin principles of conservation biology and compassionate ecosystem design be reconciled?

In principle, yes. If we really want to preserve free-living crocodiles, snakes and tigers and deliver a cruelty-free biosphere, then the carnivorous members of tomorrow’s wildlife parks will need to be genetically and behaviourally tweaked — with neurochips, GPS tracking and abundance of other high-tech safeguards to prevent accidents.

It’s good to be a philosopher. Even though your ideas have zero chance of success, you get paid to come up with ridiculous theories, use big words to be taken seriously, and receive awed covered by the best magazines (as has Pearce).

Here’s the irony: Transhumanists like Dvorsky and Pearce deny human exceptionalism. But it would take a very exceptional species to eliminate predation in the natural world. Indeed, that these guys want to eliminate all suffering demonstrates the same thing. 

Anti-human exceptionalism is self hatred. It drives people animal crackers. (Get it?)

Biological Colonialism Surrogacy Fraudsters


The well off of the world increasing exploit the body parts and functions of the destitute–and then, call it “choice.”

Gestational surrogacy–to use the industry’s dehumanizing term–is high on the list of abusive practices. I have written of the dire conditions some women in India face who are paid to carry babies. But apparently there is also trouble in Mexico and elsewhere.

A medical tourism company called Planet Hospital is in involuntary bankruptcy and alleged to have defrauded customers. From the New York Times story:

Jonathan C. Dailey, a lawyer in Washington, wired Planet Hospital $37,000 in December 2013, the first installment on a contract for a single mother in Mexico to carry his child. He and his fiancée flew to Cancún to leave a sperm deposit at the clinic that would create the embryo and to visit the downtown house where their surrogate would live while pregnant.

They picked a “premium” egg donor from the agency Planet Hospital sent them to. But nothing happened. “It was just outright fraud,” said Mr. Dailey. “It’s like we paid money to buy a condo, they took the money, and there was no condo. But it’s worse, because it’s about having a baby.”

I don’t think Mr. Dailey gets the irony: Babies are being purchased like lumber at Home Depot!

The problems went beyond paying for products and services not rendered:

She said Planet Hospital also engaged in unauthorized egg-splitting. In at least one case, Mr. Rupak admitted taking eggs harvested for one intended parent, and giving some to another to keep his costs down.

But people want what they want, and so the beat goes on:

Even with Mr. Rupak out of the Cancún surrogacy business, the demand for affordable surrogacy and the potential profits are such that all the former main players in Planet Hospital — its vice president, the head of the egg-donor agency it worked with, the woman in charge of the Cancún surrogate housing, and Ms. Moscarello, the client representative — are starting their own surrogacy businesses in Mexico.

In fact, hundreds of new surrogacy businesses advertise their services on the Internet because anyone can establish an agency, regardless of background or expertise. Agencies are started and disappear, sometimes reappearing under a new name.

I am told repeatedly by grieving infertile people that they will do “anything” to have a child. That often includes exploiting others. But it sometimes means having “anything” done to them.

Adding to the tragedies: There are so many parentless children who need loving families! Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

Tirade Against Me Doesn’t Justify Assisted Suicide


I am not sure why so many “science” bloggers and writers want to opine on ethics. Perhaps having to be objective and purely evidence based gets boring.

In this context, now comes the Evolution Blog by Jason Rosenhouse, which one would presume, would be about the evidence for, and arguments about, evolution.

But Rosenhouse attacks me over my recent First Things article about how the euthanasia movement is pushing suicide by starvation as a means of bludgeoning society into granting permission for lethal injections. (He also went after my Discovery Institute colleague, David Klinghoffer, who can defend himself.)

Rosenhouse badly misleads his audience about my position by basically stating I supported the starvation suicide of Diane Rehm’s husband:

It is hard to imagine anything more devaluing of human life than to force someone to persist in that condition [advanced Parkinson's]. A life is more than just a heartbeat, and death can come well before that heartbeat stops. What kind of person could think that what happened to John Rehm was the morally correct outcome?

Of course I didn’t think that self starvation was the morally correct outcome. But neither would it have been right to have the law allow a doctor have given him a lethal injection or a poison prescription. 

Then, Rosenhouse further misleads his readers about what I wrote in First Things:

His abstract musings about hope and meaning amount to nothing in the face of actual terminal illnesses like the one faced by John Rehm. There was no hope in his condition, and there is no meaning to existing in a state where you can do nothing but wait helplessly for your heart to stop, contemplating everything you’ve lost.

But I wasn’t “abstract.” Here is the link to my piece in question. Note, that I cited two true life examples of men suffering as badly as Rehm–Mark Pickup from progressive MS, and Bob Salamanca from ALS:

- Both wanted access to suicide.

- Both–and I could have given many other examples–couldn’t get it because it was illegal.

- Both were later very happy to still be alive.

- Both were alive to be happy precisely because they had not been able to access doctor-prescribed death.

That is beyond concrete–and should be at least equally compelling as the story of Rehm’s death. Moreover, their stories are highly germane to the question of whether Rehm’s resorting to self-starvation justifies legalizing assisted suicide/euthanasia. 

Besides, how in the hell is it more compassionate to support a policy that allows killing as an answer to suffering, than to support a policy that involves caring enough to deny facilitated death to people along with efforts to help them get past the despair? It’s not: It’s just easier. 

To use Rosenberg’s insulting language–which I wouldn’t normally do–what kind of a person would think that what would have happened to Mark and Bob–hastened death–would have been better than the meaning and joy they eventually found in life precisely because assisted suicide was unavailable?

Rosenberg illustrates why assisted suicide would never be limited to the terminally ill:

And here’s the point: Everyone has to decide for themselves when that point [when life is too painful to go on] is reached. People like Smith and Klinghoffer have no business holding forth on the meaning of anyone’s life but their own.

If that is true, it means that assisted suicide must be available to anyone who wants to die for any reason they think sufficient. Who is Rosenhouse to say no to anyone who wants to die for any reason? That is the argument we should be having, because it illustrates the true stakes in the euthanasia controversy.

Unlike the author of Evolution Blog, I know that we need to apply reason to the question of legalization of facilitated killing, not just emotion. An issue that literally will determine whether people live or die deserves nothing less, which is why I have devoted 23 years to fighting the culture of death.

One may not agree with my conclusions. But far more than Rosenhouse, I know what I am talking about. 

Physician Heal Thyself on Guns


The medical technocracy and our rulers want doctors to expand their jurisdictions to include gathering information about guns in the home, including apparently, from children.

This is an example of what I call health hegemony, that is, expanding the borders of the medical sphere to include issues that actually sound in social policy. 

Guns may or may not present a safety hazard in the home. Doctors are not trained experts in their proper storage and use. Practice guidelines that urge physicians to discuss guns seek to harness the physician’s authority to the ongoing campaign to promote certain public and social policies.

Florida fought against the health hegemony by passing a law restricting doctors from asking patients about guns in many situations. Some doctors sued, claiming infringement on their freedom of speech.

Now, a Federal Court of Appeals just confirmed the law’s constitutionality. From the decision in Wollschlaeger v. Florida:

The Act seeks to protect patients’ privacy by restricting irrelevant inquiry and record-keeping by physicians regarding firearms. The Act recognizes that when a patient enters a physician’s examination room, the patient is in a position of relative powerlessness. The patient must place his or her trust in the physician’s guidance, and submit to the physician’s authority. In order to protect patients, physicians have for millennia been subject to codes of conduct that define the practice of good medicine and affirm the responsibility physicians bear.

In keeping with these traditional codes of conduct—which almost universally mandate respect for patient privacy—the Act simply acknowledges that the practice of good medicine does not require interrogation about irrelevant, private matters…

The Act simply codifies that good medical care does not require inquiry or record-keeping regarding firearms when unnecessary to a patient’s care.

The medical technocrats are unhappy. From a Tampa Times column:

“We strongly disagree with the 11th Circuit’s decision. It is an egregious violation of the First Amendment rights of pediatricians and threatens our ability to provide our patients and their families with scientific, unbiased information,” said Dr. Mobeen Rathore, president of the Florida chapter of the AAP, the Florida Pediatric Society.

Except “unbiased sciencitic information” isn’t what the push to get doctors to gather information about guns in the home is all about.

Back to the FPS statement:

“This dangerous decision gives state legislatures free license to restrict physicians from asking important questions about health and safety that are vital to providing the best medical care to patients.” Added Dr. James M. Perrin, president of the national group: “State legislatures should not stop physicians from practicing good medicine. This law has a chilling effect on life-saving conversations that take place in the physician’s office.

Physician heal thyself. The NRA knows better how to keep and use guns safely than do doctors.

This is an example of the law of cause and effect in action. If the medical technocracy would stop trying to harness the practice of medicine to promote liberal social policy, conservative states would not react by passing defensive and (perhaps) constitutionally questionable laws.

Assisted Suicide Death Cult “Death Coaching”


I discovered the assisted suicide death cult when my friend Frances killed herself under the influence of the Hemclock Society, since evolved into Compassion and Choices. This pernicious group taught her how to kill herself, what drugs to take, how to use a plastic bag–and gave her moral permission to do it. It was literally proselytizing for suicide.

Since 1993, I have written hundreds of articles and blog posts about this topic, as well as a book–now in its third iteration–Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty to Die

Perhaps that is why I am always a bit surprised that others are surprised at the tragic consequences that flow from death cult advocacy. Now, in Australia, Philip Nitschke has lost his medical license. Having traveled there to expose this ghoul–I helped end his importation of suicide bags into Australia–my only question is: What took the authorities so damn long?

Why take his license? From The Australian story that discusses the “death coaching” among a large segment of the movement:

The term “death coaching” is how Judi Taylor describes the tragic suicide of her 26-year-old son Lucas in a deserted park in Germany. “It was death-coaching, not life coaching, that killed him,” says the Melbourne mother of three sons.

Lucas, a talented linguist, ended his life after taking an -euthanasia drug he had bought in Peru. Judi Taylor says her son’s every step and every instruction – and strong encouragement – came from a Peaceful Pill online forum run by Exit International, the pro-euthanasia lobby group run by now-suspended medical practitioner Philip Nitschke.

Take a look into the death cult world of Nitschke, Derek Humphry (founder of the Hemlock Society), the Final Exit Network, and Jack Kevorkian, among others:

It is the case of Lucas Taylor, whose unpublicised suicide -occurred in April 2012, and his mother’s detailed plea to the medical board that may have sealed Dr Nitschke’s fate. Lucas spent many hours chatting online with fellow paid-up members of Exit Inter-national, who are sent an ebook copy of Dr Nitschke’s writing on euthanasia as part of their fee.

It was a secretive world that Judi Taylor discovered only after his death, when she and her -remaining sons hacked into his computer, found his Peaceful Pill forum password and began reading a bizarre and grim litany of -online conversations. “There seemed to be hundreds of people busying talking to each other about the best methods to commit suicide,” she says. “Lucas mentioned in his posts that he’d learned about importing illegal drugs and what airports to use.

One person would say: ‘Oh, Nembutal’s the way to go.’ They’d discuss whether the best place to go was China or Peru. “It seemed to be peer-to-peer communication, and in all the hundreds of messages nobody was saying they had a terminal illness…

Because assisted suicide/euthanasia isn’t about “terminal illness” and never has been.

It is important to note that Nitschke is not a pariah in the international assisted suicide movement. He is a rock star. He has often spoke at big “right to die” events, including past biannual conventions of the The World Federation of Right to Die Societies. (This year, Derek Humphry–who published the newsletters that helped lead Frances to the grave and whose advocacy has led to dead teenagers–will be an honored speaker. It’s what they all are.)

Media love Nitschke too (and Humphry, and Kevorkian, etc.). I recall debating him on CNN, and in the moments before we went live, the producer effusively thanked him for appearing on the show: “Thank you, Dr. Nitschke! Oh, thank you for being with us! Thank you!” I am not exaggerating. It made me sick.

So does the euthanasia movement. Some advocates present a far more sophisticated approach than Nitschke, Humphry, and Kevorkian. But scratch beneath the veneer, they are all part of the same death cult, promoting in different versions, the same death coaching. 

Lying Their Way to Brave New World


Apparently the UK government wants to push 3-parent IVF. But fearing an adverse public reaction to genetically modifying progeny, is trying to hide what they are doing. But some scientists have called foul. From the Independent story:

The move, buried within a Department of Health document published last week, is designed to take the sting out of hostility towards mitochondrial donation – a process that aims to avoid the certain inherited diseases being passed on by using healthy mitochondria (microscopic structures in the cell) taken from a donor egg or embryo. Opponents believe that using the healthy donor mitochondria will result in “three-parent embryos” and could usher in an era of “designer babies” and “genetically modified children”.

The Government admits it has decided to adopt “a working definition [of ‘GM’] for the purpose of taking forward these regulations” but scientists believe that the redefinition of GM is dishonest. They also warn it could undermine public trust in medical experts arguing for its introduction in the UK, the only country where it will be permitted in law if legislation is passed.

To be sure, on these–among too many other issues–our governments cannot be trusted.

Lies by government officials particularly serve as the lubricant that furthers our steady advance toward Brave New World. For example, Senators Feinstein and Hatch have twice filed legislation to “ban” human cloning, but they used a false definition to the effect that had the legislation passed, it would have actually legalized the act of human cloning. From one of my 2007 piece, “Cloning Doubletalk:”

Feinstein and Hatch mendaciously named S. 812 the “Human Cloning Ban and Stem Cell Protection Act of 2007.” How can a bill to legalize human cloning be instead called a ban? Through the time-tested method of disingenuous legislating–the bogus definition.

Here’s a rarely discussed truth: Key words and terms in legislation mean only what a bill’s authors say they mean, rather than their actual definitions. If a dung beetle was defined in legislation as a butterfly, for the purposes of that bill, the dung beetle would be a butterfly. Which is essentially what S. 812 does. It defines the term “human cloning” inaccurately and unscientifically so that Feinstein and Hatch can pretend their bill will outlaw human cloning.

The bill lied by defining cloning as the “implanting” of the “product of SCNT”, e.g., a cloned embryo, when the actual act of cloning is the act of SCNT:

This definition is pure bunk. Implantation is no more human cloning then implanting an embryo created via IVF is human fertilization. Rather, implantation is one potential use of the embryo created through human cloning. The bill’s definition is junk biology. The point being to allow Senators Feinstein and Hatch to pretend that they are banning human cloning when their bill actually legalizes it.

No, when it comes to Brave New World–with the money and ideological implications–our politicians cannot be trusted.

Scientists are the good guys of the UK story, properly pushing for truth in advertising. But that is often not the case. When it comes to human cloning, some scientists lie through their teeth in the popular media, while accurately describing the process in science journals. Science mendaciously is also found in public presentations about human cloning.

Oh, and let’s not let the media off the hook, examples of which could be linked all the day long.

Opening the door to Brave New World will have tremendous public consequences, many adverse, some positive. If we are going to be respectful of democratic governance, we need an honest, open, and candid debate.

But that is precisely what too many politicians, bureaucrats, technocrats, scientists, and members of the media want to deny us.


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