Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

SHS Funnies


Sometimes the truth really hurts:

Piraro's views are whacky but his daily cartoon is one of the best out there. This one really hit my funny bone.

Human Exceptionalism Requires That We Do Our Duty to Promote Animal Welfare


When the rulers of To the Source saw my piece "Homo Sapiens, Get Lost" in NRO about the the growing anti-humanism that is infecting the environmental movement, it gave them an idea. They asked me to write a piece for TTS, using the same Brave New World analogy as a launching pad that I used in NRO, but to take the thrust of the piece in a different direction. Using the principles of human exceptionalism, they asked me to distinguish the instrumental use of nascent human life in biotechnology and contrast it to an upcoming animal welfare event known as "Be Kind to Animals Week." That seemed like a nice challenge and so I hit the old keyboard, resulting in "Keep the Human in Humane."

First, I describe the ongoing threat of brave new world biotechnology. From the piece:

Looking around, can there be any doubt of Huxley's prescience across the board? Look at what is happening in the field of biotechnology as just one example. Despite breakthroughs in ethical stem cell research—such as the induced pluripotent stem cell that is made from normal skin or other cells—scientists continue to insist that they need to clone human beings for use in experiments and to develop medical treatments...

Meanwhile, some bioethicists promote creating fetuses through cloning and gestating them in artificial wombs from which to harvest body parts--a proposal that would be explicitly legal under New Jersey law. Fertility doctors have already announced that they are striving to bring cloned babies to birth (although at this time it is almost certainly not technically feasible).

The brave new world agenda marks a Rubicon in human morality. Not only does it--as in the bad old days of slavery--redefine some human beings as mere natural resources, but for the first time in history human beings are being created with the explicit purpose of destroying and harvesting them like a corn crop.

I listed some examples of the ongoing coup de culture that this is part of and then segued into the animal issue:

But human exceptionalism isn't just about our rights. Equally important, the principle also promotes human duties--to each other, to our posterity, and to the natural world. Indeed, in the known universe we are the only species that can be held morally accountable if we fail to do the right thing.

Which brings us to a seemingly unconnected event: American Humane's annual "Be Kind to Animals Week," sponsored by the group every year since 1915 to "commemorate the role animals play in our lives, promote ways to treat them humanely, and encourage others, especially children, to do the same."...
How does "Be Kind to Animals Week" differ from the Great Ape Project and other animal rights advocacy? It supports human exceptionalism by encouraging us to fulfill our human duties to animals, without undermining our unique moral status by according "rights" to animals. And that is a distinction with a huge difference. After all, if being human--in and of itself--is not what gives us the sacred obligation to treat animals properly, what does?

Those who seek to knock us off the pedestal of exceptionalism believe that once we see ourselves merely as one of infinite parts of nature, we will improve our care for flora and fauna. But the truth is the mirror opposite. If we ever come to see ourselves as merely another animal in the forest, that is precisely how we will act--both to nature and toward each other. The ongoing objectification of vulnerable human life--also justified by its proponents by denying human exceptionalism--is a warning of this truth that we dare not ignore.

Human exceptionalism is a magnificent two-edged sword if we will only grasp it: It protects universal human rights by embracing intrinsic human dignity and moral worth, while at the same time, it requires us to treat the environment and animals properly and humanely as a sacred human duty. I just don't get why the concept upsets so many people.

Mr. VIce President, Please Get a Grip About Swine Flu Pandemic


Overall, I have been impressed by the Obama Administration's handling of the swine flu pandemic, which as these things go, does not appear to be Armageddon. (I am sure the Deep Ecologists are disappointed.) Part of the reason the government was so prepared, according to President Obama, is that the Bush Administration, working with the Congress, put in place a good plan several years ago on just what to do in the event of such a threat. The Administration has been following that contingency plan to good result, which Obama graciously acknowledged in his press conference yesterday. From the transcript:

I do want to compliment Democrats and Republicans who worked diligently back in 2005 when the bird flu came up. I was part of a group of legislators who worked with the Bush administration to make sure that we had beefed up our infrastructure and our stockpiles of antiviral drugs, like Tamiflu.

And I think the Bush administration did a good job of creating the infrastructure so that we can respond. For example, we've got 50 million courses of antiviral drugs in the event that they're needed.
The President has taken a proper and measured approach to all of this. Alas, Vice President Biden didn't get the message of calm. Indeed, if we all followed his advice, all commerce would cease as none of us would fly, go on trains, take buses, or go to school, work, church, and sporting events. From the story:

Vice President Joe Biden said Thursday that he would not recommend taking any commercial flight or riding in a subway car "at this point" because swine flu virus can spread "in confined places." A little more than one hour later, Biden rushed out a statement backing off. "I would tell members of my family--and I have--I wouldn't go anywhere in confined places now," Biden said on NBC's Today show.. "It's not that it's going to Mexico. It's [that] you're in a confined aircraft. When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft. That's me...So, from my perspective, what it relates to is mitigation. If you're out in the middle of a field when someone sneezes, that's one thing. If you're in a closed aircraft or closed container or closed car or closed classroom, it's a different thing.”
And they worried about Sara Palin being the proverbial heartbeat away.

Keeping Our Senses Of Humor in the Face of Swine Flu: A Matter of Human Exceptionalism


One of the great things about people is that we can find ways to find humor in almost all situations. Check out these photos of Mexicans wearing surgical masks due to the swine flu. I love the "in your face" quality to this. Also, how humans always find reasons to "do" art. Good for them!

Other photos available here, as published in the Telegraph.

Now It is the Eight Reasons to Unilaterally Withhold Care


Yesterday, I wrote about futilitarian law professor and blogger Thaddeus Pope's "Seven Reasons That Might Justify Unilateral Refusal" of Medical Treatment, with my brief responses to each of the seven. Pope has apparently thought about it some more, and revised the post to now list the "eight" reasons. Accordingly, I respond here to the revised version.

In the original, Pope claimed that futile care impositions would protect patient autonomy--never mind that the point of futile care is to override patient autonomy made in an advance directive or overturn family decision making--the people who know the patient best. To go from seven to eight, he has divided the idea of protecting patient autonomy into two "reasons." From the revised post:
2. Protect patient autonomy (re treatment): In many cases, the aggressive treatment demanded by a surrogate is treatment not wanted by the patient. And where patient preferences are unknown, continued treatment is not in the patient's best interests.
This was in the original seven, to which I responded yesterday:
But futile care theory is a frontal assault on patient autonomy, with some proposals even permitting patient advance directives to be overturned. If the patient truly did not want the treatment, that would not be futile care theory. Deciding in "the patient's best interests," would often really mean imposing the prevailing bioethical "quality of life" views onto patients. If the patient's views are not known, the strong overriding presumption should be to continue the life of the patient as the surrogate requests.
Pope's new "reason" is third (in order of importance) on his revised list:

3. Protect patient autonomy (re other things): Providing unwanted treatment not only violates the patient's bodily integrity but also the patient's autonomy concerning the location and manner of her death (ICU vs. home). It also causes the utilization of estate resources to pay medical bills that the patient wanted to go to other uses (e.g. grandchildren education).
Non medical issues, such as grand children's college tuition or estate resources are none of the medical team's business. If the patient wanted the treatment, or the duly authorized surrogate wants it, these matters should not be considered--and indeed cannot truly be known by bioethics committee members, doctors, or nurses. Besides, the choice in these cases isn't going to be ICU or home, since by cutting off treatment the patient will probably die sooner rather than later in the ICU.

Futile Care Theory destroys patient autonomy, undermines the confidence of patients and families in the medical system, and superimposes the "quality of life" values of the bioethics elite on very sick people and their families.

Or to put it succinctly: education yes, coercion, no.

Media Play Ginger Rodgers to Big Biotech Fred Astaire: Employ Yet Another Euphemism for Human Cloning Research


I can't remember an issue in which there was so much intellectual dishonesty or malpractice in media reporting than the embryonic stem cell/cloning debates--and that's saying a lot! For example, when the Stowers Crowd began using the junk biological term "early stem cells," the Kansas City Star jumped right on that bandwagon.

When Big Biotech began using the term "therapeutic cloning" to distinguish using embryos created through somatic cell nuclear transfer (SCNT) from the same technology undertaken to bring a cloned baby to birth--called "reproductive cloning"--the media jumped right on board, creating the false impression that these were different types of cloning. Because these terms misled rather than edified, the President's Council on Bioethics urged scientists and media to use more accurate terminology--"cloning to produce children" and "cloning for biomedical research," so that a rational ethical debate based on critical thinking could be engaged. But that was precisely what Big Biotech and the media did not want, so those terms were never used--as far as I know--in media reports about the cloning debate.

When the "therapeutic" part of the advocacy phrase therapeutic cloning didn't bring public support, but the "cloning" part brought public disfavor, Big Biotech decided to just call it somatic cell nuclear transfer--which is at least accurate--with the intent of confusing the public as to the point of that process, e.g., making a human embryo asexually, aka cloning. And once again, the media went right along. Adding insult to that injury, the media also often reported the nonsense that SCNT makes "stem cells," rather than embryos.

Even that was too accurate, so pretty soon human cloning research and ESCR were both merely called "stem cell research," which had the benefit of confusing it with adult stem cell research from which most notable human benefits were being derived. It got to be a game with me: If the media announced a "stem cell research" advance, I knew it was adult stem cells. If it was an ESCR advance, they generally called it "embryonic stem cell research."

And now, a new term for cloning; "stem cell research using aborted human eggs." South Korea is going to again allow human cloning research--SCNT--after banning it in the wake of the big Hwang Woo-suk scandal. From the story, and this is a medical media site:

The national committee on bioethics said it agreed to approve a new research project provided its scientists met certain conditions. A team from Seoul's Cha General Hospital had sought approval for its stem cell project using aborted human eggs to develop cures for grave human diseases.
This version made other stories, such as Focus News. And in a truncated version in The Age:

South Korea has conditionally lifted a three-year ban on stem cell research using human eggs.
From which the NYT reported:

South Korea has lifted a ban on stem cell research using human eggs, but the national committee on bioethics is doing so conditionally, and only for scientists who agree to certain restrictions.
But, credit where it is due, the AP got it partially right (the wrong part is the first sentence, the accurate part, the second):
South Korea will lift a three-year ban on human stem cell research, a presidential advisory committee announced Wednesday. The government outlawed research in 2006 following a scandal involving disgraced cloning expert Hwang Woo-suk, who claimed to have created stem cells from cloned human embryos. Hwang scandalized the international scientific community when it emerged that scientific papers outlining his claim relied on faked data.
Somebody speak to that AP reporter!

Countering “The Seven Reasons that Might Justify Unilateral Refusal ” of Medical Treatment (Futile Care Theory)


Law professor Thaddeus Pope runs the Medical Futility Blog, the best such site dedicated to medical futility of which I am aware. He swings from the futilitarian side of the plate, but is always fair and even handed.

Today he has posted "Seven Reasons For Supporting the Unilateral Refusal" of life sustaining treatment, or as I would call it, the "Seven Reasons to Justify Imposition of Futile Care Terminations." I republish that post here in full with my brief comments. From Pope's blog:
It might be useful to collect and list--in very rough order of importance--the arguments for refusing medically inappropriate treatment requested by a surrogate.

1. Prevent patient suffering: Aggressive treatment can cause significant pain and suffering. This is unacceptable if there is no countervailing benefit to be achieved by the treatment.
If the countervailing benefit is continued existence--and that is what the patient/family wants--then this justification is nonsensical. Too often today, we hear futilitarians speak about "return to full functioning," or "this is merely extending the dying," turning on its head the fact that the treatment is actually extending the living. Such interventions can only be deemed "nonbeneficial" if the life of the patient is denigrated by others as not worth living.
2. Protect patient autonomy: In many cases, the aggressive treatment demanded by a surrogate is treatment not wanted by the patient. And where patient preferences are unknown, continued treatment is not in the patient's best interests.
But futile care theory is a frontal assault on patient autonomy, with some proposals even permitting patient advance directives to be overturned. If the patient truly did not want the treatment, that would not be futile care theory. Deciding in "the patient's best interests," would often really mean imposing the prevailing bioethical "quality of life" views onto patients. If the patient's views are not known, the strong overriding presumption should be to continue the life of the patient as the surrogate requests.
3. Prevent family distress: Often the surrogate wants the burden of decision lifted from herself. And even if not the surrogate, other family members are often relieved to see the patient’s preferences or best interests protected.
That is not the job of doctors or bioethics committees. To assume that strangers should substitute their values to supposedly relieve relatives of the "burden" of deciding for their loved one is the epitome of paternalism, perhaps crossing into arrogance.
4. Preserve the integrity of the medical profession: Those in the health profession surely must have some role in defining the ends and goals of medicine.
The integrity of medicine is preserved by supporting the goals of medicine that have existed for millenia; saving life and palliating suffering. Medical professionals are fiduciaries of the patient. That is what makes them "professional." They serve the patient, not the other way around.
5. Reduce nurse distress: Numerous measures show high levels of moral distress. This can both drive people from the profession and thus reduce access. It can also reduce staffing levels and make people operate less well, adversely impacting other patients' quality of care.
Surely, this is not a proper reason to cut someone off from wanted life support! Indeed, it borders on blackmail--either you take away life support or I walk away from medicine! Bogus.
6. Responsibly steward scarce hard resources (e.g. ICU beds) to maximize health care access: In an under-bedded region like NM, the ICU bed used by a patient with PVS and multi-organ failure is the very same bed that could be used to achieve recovery for an accident victim.
We have triage for such matters. We don't need futile care theory.
7. Responsibly steward scarce soft resources (e.g. dollars) to maximize health care access: the billions spent treating PVS patients could be used to cover more people who now have no coverage. As costs rise, premiums rise, and access drops.
This creates an explicit caste of disposable patients based on invidiously discriminatory "quality of life" assessments. It is, in effect, establishing a "duty to die."
Of course, there are also arguments against unilateral refusals. Those will vary according to the specific circumstances of a case. Whether unilateral refusal is ethically justified, on balance, will require some sort of weighing.
If "weighing" truly is required, it should not take place behind closed doors, conducted by a bioethics committee that will express an institutional culture, reacting to the desires of doctors whom the committee members all know--as opposed to the family/surrogates who are strangers and may not be well educated or articulate. Such disputes belong in open court, with a record, the right to a lawyer paid by the hospital, due process, and the right to appeal. If cutting off care is so urgent, make the hospital do it in front of the klieg lights.
Update: Pope revised his list to "eight" reasons, to which I responded here.

By Ignoring the Rational Arguments Made Against Assisted Suicide, Yale Medical Professor Argues That Opposing PAS is “Not Necessarily Rational”


Some of our most formerly venerable medical journals are becoming increasingly radical. Critical Care Medicine, the journal for intensive care doctors, is a case in point. In the past, the Ethics Committee of the Society of Critical Care Medicine supported futile care theory, and quite notably, the Journal published an article arguing that "neurologically devastated" patients should be able to be killed for their organs assuming consent.

Now, Yale School of Medicine (of course) professor Constantine A. Manthous, MD, has published in CCM advocating for the permissibility of physician-assisted suicide. (No link, from the abstract):

Our collective repudiation of physician-assisted death, in all its forms, has complex origins that are not necessarily rational. If great care is taken to ensure that a request for physician-assisted death is persistent despite exhaustion of all available therapeutic modalities, then an argument can be made that our rejection constrains unnecessarily the liberty of a small number of patients.
Of course, "great care" is either not legally required under the assisted suicide laws--e.g, Oregon, Washington, and Switzerland--or not done, as in the Netherlands and Belgium. Montana? Why would "great care" be required when assisted suicide has been made a "fundamental right" under the state's constitution via judicial fiat?

Manthous's pretense is that there are no "rational" arguments being made against assisted suicide. From the article:

[T]here is room in this formulation for both nature and nurture to determine our moral selves. Our inherited neurologic circuitry is a template that is "finished" by institutional indoctrination which fires that circuitry repetitively throughout our development (e.g., "thou shalt not kill, thou shalt not kill," ad infinitum). It both feels right and, when fully indoctrinated, is programmed into the fully moral individual. There is a very large literature suggesting that during "critical periods" of brain development, environmental triggers (language for example) act on the neural template to potentiate development of particular skills or behaviors. Although evidence remains circumstantial (e.g., in primate studies) developing morality may follow a similar paradigm. Accordingly, my thesis here is that our repudiation of PAS and euthanasia is a moral intuition, without rational foundations.

Ironically, hiding behind all that neuro-theory, Manthous is the one failing to grapple with the many rational arguments made against legalization. Indeed, books, after articles, after speeches , have been given for two decades by opponents of assisted suicide making the rational case for continued prohibition. Yet these arguments are not mentioned once in the article. There are no citations, for example, from the voluminous rational arguments made by Rita Marker. No citations from the psychiatrist, Dr. Herbert Hendin, who is probably the world's foremost expert on euthanasia in the Netherlands.. No citations from Dr. Kathleen Foley, the country's most notable palliative care doctor and an opponent of legalizing assisted suicide. No citations from yours truly, who has written one book solely dedicated to the rational arguments against assisted suicide--Forced Exit--and another--Culture of Death--that deals substantially with the rational reasons for opposing assisted suicide, and, not coincidentally, was named Best Health Book of the Year for 2001 by the Independent Publishers.

I guess the theory is that if you ignore rational arguments, they just don't exist. It's just a matter of "repulsion" or "aversion."

But what happened to peer review? How does a professional medical journal of any quality allow an author to argue that there are no rational arguments against assisted suicide when there clearly are a boatload with which the author disingenuously refuses to grapple? More evidence that our institutions are losing both excellence and integrity.

It's hard to do justice to an article in a single blog. Here's another analysis of the article that gets into some areas I didn't.

Pushing for Federal Funding of Human Cloning


"The scientists" used to tell us that all they want is leftover embryos for ESCR. That was never all they wanted, but the lie was a useful political tool to try and destroy the Bush federal funding policy. Once President Obama put that policy in the grave, I predicted the push would soon begin to fund human cloning research.

Bingo. First we saw it pushed in the anything goes New York Times and the science journal Nature. And now, it is about to be brought forth as federal legislation. From the story in the Congressional Quarterly:

As the Obama administration prepares to greatly expand the government's investments in embryonic stem cell research, the next big biomedical research debate in Congress is shaping up: whether to allow government funding of experiments using cloned human embryos.

Two House members who were the chief backers of legislation to expand embryonic stem cell research are working on a new bill that would codify President Obama's recent executive order allowing greater federal funding for embryonic stem cell research. Their legislation will also contain language allowing the National Institutes of Health to invest in other kinds of research into human cell biology, perhaps including what is known as "therapeutic cloning."
Obama didn't "allow greater funding," as there was never a cap. It allowed more cell lines to qualify for federal funding, which is not the same thing. But never mind. I get sick of having to correct reporting in this field.

I hate saying, "I told you so," in these matters because most of the time it is just plain bad news.

NBC/MSNBC News: Despicable Character Assassins


NBC News and MSNBC have devolved from journalists into despicable character assassins. Readers of SHS and others will recall the fraudulent story pushed by the Left Web site the Daily Kos. Someone doctored a photo of the Palin family taken in 2006, and claimed it was from early 2008. Because Bristol Palin, the Palins' oldest daughter, had a small tummy, the Kos claimed she was pregnant at the time and hence, the real mother of Trig Palin.

This despicable lie was actually chased by MSM journalists with the tongues hanging out until it became clear that it was bogus. Vanity Fair even insinuated, in the guise of satire, that Todd Palin was not Trigg's father after the Bristol story fell apart. Meanwhile, despite the NYT knocking it down eventually, blogger Andrew Sullivan, as far as I know, never did give up the story.

Well, now NBC/MSNBC have snidely brought the lie up again. From the story:

There's been plenty of speculation that Levi Johnston, the father of Tripp, Sarah Palin's first acknowledged grandchild, has been giving interviews to the likes of Larry King and Tyra Banks so that he can land an endorsement or modeling deal. Vanity Fair did some poking about to see whether a modeling contract could be in Johnston's future, and the prospects look bleak.
Get it? "first acknowledged grandchild:" Wink. Wink.

This isn't journalism, it is character assassination by innuendo. But why do they loathe her so much that they will continue this defamation? My theory: She dared to give birth to a baby with Down syndrome when all the better people know that eugenic abortion is the way to go.

Whatever the cause, NBC/MSNBC illustrate all that has gone wrong with journalism today.

Soylent Green is People: Proposal to Make and Store Embryos for Stem Cells


More proof in that embryonic stem cell research is not--and never has been--about getting some use out of leftover IVF embryos that are due to be destroyed anyway. A serious proposal has been forwarded to make embryos for the purpose of storing them as a source of future medical need. From the story:
Couples could be allowed to store embryos in order to use them to create new body parts or cure diseases.
Government legal and ethical experts are to discuss whether families can 'bank' embryos not just for procreation but also for use by doctors to create personalised treatments for parents and their children.

Now, [under UK law] embryos--the first stage of life after an egg has been successfully fertilised--can be stored for up to five years but only for procreation. But a huge ethical debate is set to erupt as the Government's fertility watchdog, the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority (HFEA), moves closer to endorsing new developments in medical science.It will debate whether embryos could be stored to harvest important stem cells that have the ability to turn into any tissue type in the body.
Given that this is Brave New Britain, it is easy to predict the answer.

This is figurative cannibalism, treating nascent human life as if it were a prize cattle herd or copper mine. But if you don't believe in human exceptionalism and its concomitant principle of the the sanctity/equality of human life, why not use human beings as we do other natural resources?

And it won't stop with embryos. Once the principle is accepted that living human beings can be objectified as a product, there is no way that enterprise will be limited to the earliest humans. Indeed, as I have often described, fetal farming is on the table and the already born weak and vulnerable are being looked upon by some as sources of organs and subjects for medical experimentation.

Ideas have consequences. Once we state that human life does not have intrinsic moral value simply and merely because it is human, there isn't much that we can't justify.

Obama Seduces Science Sector with Promises of Huge Bucks


President Obama must believe in the fabled money tree with all the currency we don't have that he is borrowing and spending. Now, he has told the National Academy of Sciences that he wants 3% of the United States GDP (gross domestic product) to be poured into science. From the story:

President Barack Obama on Monday promised a major investment in research and development for scientific innovation, saying the United States has fallen behind others.
I am really tired of that particular whine. Who precisely, have we fallen behind? In what sectors? I am used to this caterwaul from "the scientists" who will never be satisfied until they have two blank checks; one for ethics and the other for funding (and not just here, the same cry is heard from this sector all over the world.) When it comes from Obama, he is merely pandering to this entitlement mindset for political purposes.

But I digress:
"I believe it is not in our character, American character, to follow -- but to lead. And it is time for us to lead once again. I am here today to set this goal: we will devote more than 3 percent of our GDP to research and development," Obama said in a speech at the annual meeting of the National Academy of Sciences. "We will not just meet but we will exceed the level achieved at the height of the space race," he said...

"The commitment I am making today will fuel our success for another 50 years," he said. "This work begins with an historic commitment to basic science and applied research." He set forth a wish list for the future including "learning software as effective as a personal tutor; prosthetics so advanced that you could play the piano again; an expansion of the frontiers of human knowledge about ourselves and world the around us."We can do this," Obama said to applause.
Yadda, yadda, yadda.

I stink at math but we have a $14 trillion dollar GDP, meaning he wants about $420 billion poured into science each year. Obviously, he means both through the public and private sectors:
Obama said his administration would double the budget of key agencies, including the National Science Foundation and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "At such a difficult moment, there are those who say we cannot afford to invest in science. That support for research is somehow a luxury at a moment defined by necessities. I fundamentally disagree," Obama said.
There he goes again with the straw men. I don't know of anybody who has ever called for the public defunding of science. The questions are how much and for what purposes, which are legitimate policy issues. To say otherwise is sheer cow manure. But under Obama, there are apparently no hard decisions that have to be made, no prioritizing that needs to be done. He owns a money tree

Moreover, where is he going to get the money to double public spending on science, now that we are spending trillions on banks and such.? Then there is the new universal health care law that will be jammed down our collective craw without meaningful democratic debate. Then there is the as yet unfunded mandatory spending coming soon to fund the Baby Boomer's Social Security and Medicare. Oh, yes, we have a jihad on our hands, and all that infrastructure the bailout bill is supposed to improve. But Obama doesn't believe in leadership based on reality. His purpose is to buy friends.

As to the private sector, he isn't in control of those investments--yet. This is pure pandering to make everyone think he is oh, so pro science--unlike the rube he replaced. But what he really is doing is cementing the ongoing corruption of science into a mere special interest, so beholden to the powers that be for financial support that it will servilely serve the political needs of the ruling oligarchy. Thomas Edison is rolling over in his grave.

Conscience Clause Poll


The Coming Medical Conscription to Require Doctors to be Complicit in Assisted Suicides


The day may be coming, and it might not be that far away, when doctors who are asked to help kill a patient--that is, to intentionally cause the patient's life to end--will be forced to either do the deed or refer to a doctor her or she knows will do the deed.

We are seeing this conscription approach promoted in Washington State where many hospitals and doctors are refusing to participate in legalized assisted suicide, as is their right under the new law. This has angered assisted suicide advocates, who are now planting articles in newspapers and writing opinion articles trying to guilt doctors into violating their own consciences.

The granddaughter of a man unable to commit assisted suicide has written such an article. She is a college student, and grieving her loss: Thus, I am not especially keen on taking after her publicly. But she raises points that the assisted suicide movement keeps pounding, and they need to be rebutted. From the column:
The Death with Dignity Act was set up and passed for people much like my grandfather. Whether people agree with the act or not is not the issue at hand. This law has passed, and it is the right of any patient who meets the criteria to request it. But there are no avenues offered to obtain this kind of request, making it difficult to fulfill a family member's dying wish.
That is correct, and that was a selling point for the law during the campaign--that no doctor would be forced to participate. That is just as much a part of the law as the right to ask for a lethal prescription.

Then comes the wholly expected advertisement for Compassion and Choices, whose activists, I have no doubt, helped in some fashion with the writing and/or publication of this article:
Compassion and Choices of Washington is one of the only places to turn for a patient who wishes to use the Death with Dignity Act. Compassion and Choices of Washington provides support and volunteers for families and patients looking for a physician who is participating. (Compassion and Choices of Washington can be reached toll free at 877-222-2816 or online at
But having a list of death doctors willing to see people who they have never treated solely for the purpose of a issuing a lethal prescription, as happens a lot in Oregon, isn't enough. The legislature needs to pass a law requiring doctors to help kill patients:
As voters and citizens of a country that has given people the right to choose as well as many other rights, don’t let this be a right that you will be denied the same way my grandfather was. Calling local legislators will let officials know that as Washington residents we want access to all our rights according to the law. If we let this law get swept under the rug, what law is next to be pushed out of reach? At stake is not only the right to die peacefully but the right to our freedom of choice.
No. At stake is the right of medical professionals to retain their ethics and not be forced to be complicit in the taking of a human life.

Let us hope that ethical physicians don't allow themselves to be emotionally manipulated into giving up Hippocratic values--because there will be more of articles like this: C and C is on the warpath to overcome the non cooperation drive. Like I always say, the culture of death brooks no dissent.

Extreme Sheep LED Art


This short video says a lot about human exceptionalism--imagine conceiving even doing this performance art much less pulling it off--the wonder of dogs, which we intelligently designed, and the concept of sheer fun that brings so much joy to life.

No, this isn't sheep abuse.

Deep Ecologists Might Get Their Human Depopulation: Possible Swine Flu Pandemic


The Deep Ecology Movement wants to reduce the human population to 500 million. The genocidal implications of this idea are obvious--although DEs usually say they would like to see it done via voluntary birth control (fat chance), or perhaps a pandemic will do the trick. This is not only a rejection of human exceptionalism, but it is to embrace explicit anti-humanism.

Enter a possible swine flu pandemic. From the story:
A new swine flu strain that has killed as many as 68 people and sickened more than 1,000 across Mexico has "pandemic potential," the World Health Organization chief said Saturday, and it may be too late to contain the sudden outbreak.

The disease has already reached Texas and California, and with 24 new suspected cases reported Saturday in Mexico City alone, schools were closed and all public events suspended in the capital until further notice - including more than 500 concerts and other gatherings in the metropolis of 20 million.

A hot line fielded 2,366 calls in its first hours from frightened city residents who suspected they might have the disease. Soldiers and health workers handed out masks at subway stops, and hospitals dealt with crowds of people seeking help.

The World Health Organization's director-general, Margaret Chan, said the outbreak of the never-before-seen virus is a very serious situation and has "pandemic potential." But she said it is still too early to tell if it would become a pandemic.
Of course one pandemic isn't likely to do the trick. But maybe it will just be the first wave: The DEs can always hope.

Derek Humphry Has Another Teenage Suicide to Put as a Notch on His Book Final Exit


This has happened before and it will happen again. A teenager has apparently committed suicide using the death information contained in Derek Humphry's book Final Exit

Who is Derek Humphry? He founded the Hemlock Society--now Compassion and Choices--with his second wife Ann Wickett, after becoming famous for a book he wrote about assisting the suicide of his first wife, called Jean's Way. Humphry abandoned Wickett when she was diagnosed with breast cancer (as did the rest of the "right to die" community), and she was ultimately befriended by Rita Marker, the hated enemy of "the ultimate civil liberty." Wickett eventually committed suicide, telling Marker in a note that Humphry's first wife Jean had actually died "by suffocation," rather than from the drug coctail Humphry said he gave her to drink. Wickett also told Marker that she and Humphry did a double assisted suicide of her parents, in which her mother was coerced into dying by her father. Read all about it in Marker's Deadly Compassion.)

But I digress. From the story:
A book called "Final Exit" is being blamed for deaths in the metro area and across the country.Suzanne Torregrossa said she found the book lying next to her son's body after he committed suicide back in January.

The book, "Final Exit: The Practicalities of Self-Deliverance and Assisted Suicide for the Dying," is a how-to guide on various pain-free ways to kill yourself. Torregrossa said her son even referenced the book in his suicide letter. He explained how he would replace the air in his lungs with helium, using a technique he learned in the book.
Don't worry SHSers: Humphry won't miss a wink of sleep. This has happened before and he never does.

Post Obama Health Care Power Grab America: Fantasy Land Advice About Being a Good Medical Consumer


In "Help for Navigating Health Care," San Francisco Chronicle reporter Victoria Colliver interviews a woman named Adrianna Boden, who had a difficult medical experience, and offers tips on being a good medical consumer. From the story:
The Empowered Healthcare Community, formed by a Google employee and a San Francisco dentist, offers these tips to navigating the health care system:

-- Have a health advocate. Make sure someone helps you through your medical crisis, especially if you are hospitalized.

-- No news is not necessarily good news. Check on your test results if you don't hear from the doctor.

-- A second - or third or fourth - opinion is appropriate at any time during your treatment, not just in the early stages of diagnosis. A doctor who does not appreciate other opinions might not be your best choice for a provider.

-- Be aware that federal law guarantees patients access to their medical records. All patients have a right to copies of their records, and they should make it a practice to ask for a copy of everything.

-- Always check your medications for drug interactions. A good tool can be found through the Physicians' Desk Reference at

-- If you need surgery, find out information about your hospital at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services site at

-- If you are having surgery, ask your hospital to use the World Health Organization surgical checklist.
What a fantasy. I am not saying this isn't good advice. (Indeed, I wrote many of the same things back in 1989 in my The Doctor Book: A Nuts and Bolts Guide to Patient Power. But back then, pharmacists had the time to actually ask you questions about medications and act as a fail safe against adverse drug interactions, and people had ready access to specialists as well as second and third opinions without having to maneuver through bureaucratic roadblocks.) I am saying that with the Obama health care power grab we are about to have imposed upon us undemocratically, that wise actions like second and third opinions and telling the hospital to use the World Health Organization Checklist will be near pipe dreams. We are heading into a system where patients have little control--except, of course to "choose" to die--in which utilitarian bioethicists and faceless bureaucrats make all the big decisions for us.

Further proving my theory that the Left is about power and not freedom, the American Journal of Bioethics blog thinks that the Obama power grab via a procedural maneuver around democratic debate is just peachy keen. You see to the Left, democracy doesn't really matter. Getting what they want is almost all that matters. Unprincipled, but totally expected.

Power Grab: Shoving Health Care “Reform” Down Our Throats Without Democratic Debate


President Obama and the Democrats in Congress intend to completely change the health care system of the United States without permitting any meaningful democratic debate. Rather than hold extensive hearings, allow a full airing of one of the most extensive and expensive changes in law in recent times, and risk having to compromise or lose, our overlords have decided they are going to shove what they want down our throats via a budget reconciliation bill. From the story:
Principals in the talks acknowledged that a tentative budget agreement reached Thursday night between Congressional leaders and the White House would provide for the use of an obscure procedure known as a reconciliation on a health care bill, allowing health care legislation that meets budget targets to be approved by a simple Senate majority. "It will be in there in some form," said one top official engaged in the talks who did not want to be named since the final details of the agreement were still being worked out.

But Republicans have strongly condemned the prospect of using the arcane maneuver on an issue as important as health care and have threatened to use their own procedural weapons to bog down the Senate if Democrats plunge ahead. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Republican leader, warned President Obama in a White House meeting on Thursday that the use of the procedural tool was likely to cause trouble in Congress. But Mr. Obama said that he backed the reconciliation approach to move ahead on health care, one of his legislative priorities, and did not want it to fail if 59 senators were on board rather than the 60 needed to break filibusters.
No, he doesn't want the American people to have a say. We are going to have "reform" forced on us--like it or not. I don't even think there have been committee hearings on all of this.

This is an utter corruption of the democratic process. Fundamentally changing our health care system isn't a matter of the budget: It is the most profound and far reaching substantive policy change since Medicare. And we don't even know what is in the bill! And neither will our representatives most of whom will once again be voting for a bill they haven't even read.

This end run around around the legislative process confirms my fears that the Left is no longer about freedom, it is about raw power. All of their caterwauling about Bush's alleged tyranny were actually projections based on their own intentions and attitudes.

Even if the policy is the best that can ever be thought of by human beings, shoving it down our throats without our input is subversive of a free people's right to participate in their own government. And believe me, this will not be the best system that human beings can devise. Look for the beginning of rationing, the enabling of futile care, and the government establishing standards of care that apply to public and privately funded health care--and we will have no idea what is contained in the law.

So much Obama's promise of transparency and building bridges over the troubled waters that divide us. His method is divide, embitter, and conquer. I never thought I would say it, but America is no longer a democratic country. It is a descending into a bureaucratic oligarchy.

Eureka! People Can Finally Die With Dignity as First Lethal Prescriptions Issued in Washington State


The assisted suicide movement is celebrating today as the first two lethal prescriptions have been written by death doctors in Washington State. From the story:
Two prescriptions have been filled for life-ending drugs under Washington's new assisted suicide law, state health officials said Thursday.

Health Department spokesman Tim Church said he could not provide any details about the people considering suicide, but the department has received two forms from pharmacists saying they have dispensed the drugs that people say they want to use to end their lives. The department has not received any forms certifying that a person has committed suicide under the state law that took effect in early March.
Dollars to donuts the doctors are affiliated with Compassion and Choices. Moreover, these doctors will lie on the death certificates--if the patients commit suicide.

Oh, Wesley! Stop attacking the integrity of doctors! I'm not: The law requires that the underlying disease be listed as the course of death--meaning it is impossible to really know what is going on.

But have no fear, the state bureaucrats are on the case:
Church said the Health Department will report annually on the ages, genders and illnesses of the people who filed the forms with the state, but the individual forms people turn in are exempt from state open records laws.
That will only tell us what the assisted suicide participants want us to know who filled out the forms.

This is a very sad day for American ethics and the moral practice of medicine.


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