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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Protecting Doctors Who Still Believe in the Hippocratic Oath



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Few doctors take the Hippocratic Oath anymore. But many still believe in its maxims, including not to perform abortions, assist in suicides, or otherwise harm patients or other human life. Conscience clauses are controversial. President Obama said at Notre Dame that he believes in them--but his Administration is currently seeking to revoke the Bush conscience clause. Meanwhile, many medical groups support the deprofessionalization of medicine by arguing that doctors must do what their patients request, particularly in the area of reproductive health. I opine again about this important issue in the Center for Bioethics and Culture newsletter. From my piece:
Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who refuse to participate in life-terminating procedures send a clarion message to society that killing in the medical context is morally wrong. By protecting the conscience rights of these courageous professionals, we also protect the weak and vulnerable who are increasingly threatened by the growing influence of utilitarian bioethics. Or, to put it more bluntly: The life you save by supporting conscience clauses could be your own.
This issue will be a huge fight in coming years involving not only abortion and assisted suicide, but potentially embryonic stem cell research and the creation of "savior siblings," particularly if the sibling is going to become an organ donor or be aborted for tissues. We are entering into uncharted territory and maintaining the right of dissenting medical professionals to maintain to Hippocratic values by refusing legal procedures--and in the process, sending a powerful moral message--will be crucial to the future of ethical medicine.

Want More People to Choose Hospice? Don’t Foreclose Disease Treatment for Hospice Patients



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An unsurprising report finds that terminally ill people often procrastinate in entering hospice, and as a result, don't receive the full benefit of this beneficent form of care. From the story:
Americans tend to procrastinate when it comes to matters involving death and dying, but a Harvard Medical School study published yesterday finds that even many terminally ill patients and their doctors put off conversations about end-of-life choices. The study, one of the largest to date on the issue, found that only about half of the 1,517 patients with metastasized lung cancer who were surveyed had discussed hospice care with their physician or healthcare provider within four to seven months of their diagnosis. The vast majority of such patients do not survive two years. Hospice care--which can be delivered in a home, hospital, or other facility - focuses on managing a patient's pain and emotional and spiritual needs, rather than trying to cure the terminal illness...The longer a terminally ill patient expected to live, researchers discovered, the less likely the subject was to come up. "Patients who had unrealistic expectations about how long they had to live were much less likely to talk about hospice with their doctor," said Haiden Huskamp, a Harvard Medical School associate professor of healthcare policy and the study's lead author.
There is a good remedy for this very real problem: Stop forcing patients to make a choice between hospice and the possibility of life-extending treatments. When I interviewed the great founder of hospice, Dame Cecily Saunders, she told me that forcing patients to make such choices is like saying to them, "Abandon hope, all ye who enter here." In the UK, she said, patients can choose hospice understanding that if a new treatment comes along or they want that last life-extending dose of chemotherapy, they can have it. She suggested that the result was a much higher participation in UK hospice than that in America. She is right. It would be both humane and cost effective, since once in hospice, she reported, most patients were so pleased they didn't opt for treatments that would cause difficult symptoms. But knowing they could made people more likely to choose hospice--and doctors more likely to bring the matter up.
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Al Pacino to Play Jack Kevorkian



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The culture of death is being pushed from many quarters, perhaps most harmfully by the purveyors of popular culture. Jack Kevorkian assisted the suicides of at least 130 people--most of whom were not terminally ill and five of whom were not sick according to autopsies--and murdered one. He ripped out the kidneys of one of his victims after death, that of a former cop who had become quadriplegic from a gunshot wound. His ultimate goal was what he called "obitiatry," that is, experimenting on living human beings before they were euthanized. But none of that mattered or matters. And now, he is going to be celebrated in a puff movie based on the book by his fawning acolyte Neal Nicol--A-list mega star Al Pacino starring as Kevorkian. From the story:
Al Pacino is in negotiations to star in "You Don't Know Jack," an HBO Films biopic about Dr. Jack Kevorkian that Barry Levinson will direct. Kevorkian, also known as Dr. Death, assisted in more than 150 cases of suicide and had beaten the state court system in Michigan numerous times, but was finally convicted after he willingly sent a videotape of himself euthanizing a terminally ill man to "60 Minutes." He was convicted of second-degree murder in 1999 and is serving his sentence in a maximum-security prison in Michigan. The film will trace his rise as he builds his infamous "Mercy Machine," conducts his first assisted suicide, and starts a media frenzy with his epic legal battles defending a patient's right to die.
You could not get a more ghoulish, solipsist public figure than Kevorkian. Yet, he is to be beatified, Hollywood style. Color me absolutely disgusted. Culture of death? Wesley, what culture of death?

Cutting Off Healthy Limbs to Treat BIID Coming Closer to Reality



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There is nothing these days that can ever be safely considered to be permanently beyond the pale, unthinkable, flat-out undoable--and that apparently includes cutting off healthy limbs of patients with BIID. When I first heard of body integrity identity disorder--BIID--in which sufferers have a powerful compulsion to become amputees (hence the nickname for the term, "amputee wannabe"), the idea that cutting off healthy limbs would ever be considered a legitimate treatment option seemed ridiculous. No longer. An influential psychiatrist is using the power of analogy to push us toward that very end. From the story:

"It actually sounds a lot like another condition which we already do recognize called gender identity disorder--where, for example, people are born as a male, but feel they're really a woman trapped in a man's body," said Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, who has been studying this rare condition since 1999. "Typically it's more common legs than arms, there are people who want bilateral amputations, and I actually know of someone who has achieved that," he added.

Achieved multiple amputations! Can you imagine describing a maiming in that positive way? First says in the story that he coined the term body integrity identity disorder with the explicit purpose of linking the condition to gender disorders--the treatment for which includes surgeries to amputate healthy breasts and genitalia. Indeed, once we opened the door to surgically removing or altering healthy body parts based on mental compulsions or desires, what made anyone think that there would ever be a stopping point?

BIID is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), a book published by the American Psychiatric Association and regarded by most of the mental health community as the bible of identified mental illnesses. But First, as editor of the last two editions of the DSM, is working to change that, in an effort to create a reference for mental health professionals to use in identifying and treating the condition.

"Number one--for the people who have it--there's a whole issue of labeling something as a disorder, and there are pros and cons labeling," he said. "The disadvantage of labeling is stigma. We're basically saying this is a mental illness--this is a sickness. But the advantage of having it in the book is twofold. It might encourage more work on treatment by getting it on the map and getting therapists and people aware of it."

Mark my words, even though today virtually all of these unfortunate people get through life without chopping off their own limbs, we will eventually see BIID sufferers receive amputations. And once amputation is deemed to be a legitimate treatment for BIID, it will be harder for sufferers to fight against actually doing the deed. Oh, and surgeons who don't want to participate in removing healthy body parts had better hope that conscience clauses are put into effect, since there are already proposals on the table to require their participation or referral.

But here's the thing: Once amputations become as routine as surgical sex reassignments, we will "discover" another, even more extreme condition, that will also have to be accommodated. You see, there is no limit to how far into the macabre and harmful that terminal nonjudgmentalism has the power to take us. We are falling into a bottomless pit.

(Note: This post originally appeared at the old SHS, and has not yet been transferred here. The conversation then was very hot and heavy, and so I thought it best to import the post immediately.)

Please Be Patient With Bugs



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We continue to struggle with the bugs, but things are improving. Spacing, obviously, is a problem. But repairs continue to be made. Commenting is still inconvenient. To comment, just open the permalink by left clicking on the title, and that will permit comments. Eventually, that problem will also be worked out. Those visiting the old SHS site notice a several second delay in being forwarded to the FT site. That will soon be remedied so that by going to www.wesleyjsmith.com, you will end up right here without hesitation. For old SHSers, thanks for your continued loyalty and patience with these difficulties. For new readers, welcome. I hope you will jump right in and discuss the important cultural and societal issues we address at Secondhand Smoke
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Pro Suicide Culture? What Pro Suicide Culture



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I have warned repeatedly here at SHS and elsewhere of the growing acceptance within the mental health professions--and within the media--of suicide as a legitimate exercise in personal autonomy for those patients whose suffering is deemed non transitory or irremediable. suffering patients. Known as "rational suicide," the idea is that a psychiatrist, psychologist, social worker, or other mental health worker's job when presented with a suicidal patient to non judgmentally determine whether the desire to die is "rational." If so, their job is not to prevent suicide but ensure that the patient has made an rational and reasoned decision, perhaps even assist. I bring this up again in the context of the suicide pact that took the life of Jennifer Malone with the help of Philip Nitschke's how-to-commit-suicide book, about which I posted earlier today. Catch the attitudes of some psychologists quoted in a similar story from Canada's conservative newspaper the National Post, entitled--and catch this--"The Promise and Peril of Potential and Peril of Online Suicide Sites." After discussing the content of some suicide sites, the report quotes mental health professionals: From the story:
While mental health experts say these sites are highly worrisome, others say they are simply offering information that is in high demand -- and also protected by the right to freedom of expression. The grandfather of this so-called movement is Derek Humphry, who claims that his Web site and book, Final Exit, have directly led to "thousands and thousands" of people around the world committing suicide. Published in 1991, Final Exit was a North American bestseller and has since been translated into 12 languages. It provides detailed methods, down to exact dosages of medicine that will induce sleep permanently. Mr. Humphry maintains that his work is for the terminally ill, mostly elderly patients living in immense pain, but admits that young, mentally disturbed people can use the methods he so clearly lays out. "It doesn't please me and it doesn't suit me. But that is the reality of life in this world," he said. "Some people cannot cope with life and commit suicide. I didn't invent suicide."
Even opponents refuse to do anything meaningful about it:
"I think it's terrible," said Dr. Marshall Korenblum, chief psychiatrist at the Hincks-Dellcrest Centre for Children in Toronto. "I understand freedom of speech so I'm not saying we need to censor the Internet ... but the effect on vulnerable, mentally ill young people is significant and profound." Dr. Korenblum, who is an associate professor at the University of Toronto and specializes on suicide and depression in young people, said that instead of censoring Web sites, government and schools should promote Internet literacy by teaching young people with depression."If [young people] think that somebody else is going to do it or that somebody else is going to support them in doing it, it's more likely going to encourage them to go over that edge more than an adult," Dr. Korenblum said.
That is naive, at best. Only unequivocal opposition to suicide, and repeated and unequivocal condemnation of those who promote it, has any hope of stemming this flowing tide.

More



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I was first drawn into fighting assisted suicide when a depressed elderly friend committed suicide under the influence of Hemlock Society literature. Not only had the group's suicide-porn given Frances moral permission to kill herself, but they had taught her precisely how to do it. These kinds of needless deaths continue to occur. The decade of Jack Kevorkian; teenagers found dead next to Derek Humphry's book Final Exit; the Final Exit Network, and its mobile assisted suicide clinics, accused of facilitating the suicide of a mentally ill woman in Phoenix, etc. Well, here's another one. A young woman is dead, part of a suicide pact in which Philip Nitschke's book played a deadly part. From the story:
Jeff George Ostfeld and Jennifer Malone were drawn together in search of death. According to court testimony, Ostfeld was a 33-year-old unemployed, friendless loner living with his mother in Las Vegas, who had considered suicide himself. Malone was an attractive 29-year-old real estate broker from Oregon who loved the outdoors and had recently moved to Florida. Court testimony says her bubbly, outgoing personality masked manic depression.Ostfeld told authorities he had been assisting Malone and did not seem to think he had done anything immoral. On Sunday evening, Malone took an anti-nausea drug. She mixed the pentobarbital with yogurt to hide the bitter taste. Authorities say Ostfeld consulted the Peaceful Pill Handbook about ending one's life and suggested a rendezvous. Malone responded to that e-mail with a "wink wink," indicating she was game, Ostfeld told federal investigators. They met in an online forum for discussing tranquilizers earlier this month. A week ago they flew separately to South Texas. By Monday, Malone was dead in a motel room in Nuevo Progreso, Mexico, and Ostfeld was in U.S. federal custody after trying to smuggle potent animal tranquilizers into the country.
Why is anyone surprised by this? It is a natural result of assisted suicide advocacy and a culture that is growing increasingly suicide friendly. "Oh Wesley," some will say, "assisted suicide is only for the terminally ill." It isn't, as we've repeatedly shown here, but beyond that, suffering people don't put these matters into neat little boxes. Not only do media often celebrate the suicide outlaws--think Jack Kevorkian--but Oregon and Washington's voters have declared suicide a proper response to difficulty. Law doesn't just govern behavior, when something is legalized, society sends a subliminal message that the behavior is right. So, we see that assisted suicide advocacy, and its desensitizing power are rightly accused of being a core constituency in the culture of death. Unfortunates like my friend Frances and Jennifer Malone are predictable casualties.

Is This Really The Most Dangerous Century in the History of Earth?



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Oh brother: The Guardian has really slipped its moorings with this sub headline for a rather mundane futurist's peak into what awaits us by the year 2050:

As the planet faces the most dangerous century in its 4.5bn-year history, astronomer royal Martin Rees looks into his crystal ball.

Really? The most dangerous ever? Worse than when the primordial planet was bombarded by the countless comets scientists believe brought water to the planet? More dire than the time of the great extinctions? More dangerous than the ice ages? This green frenzy is driving people of a certain political persuasion nuts. And I think the hysteria that passes for reportage about the issue in many MSM outlets is one reason why fewer people believe in catastrophic climate change this year than last.

So what does astronomer Martin Rees predict is bearing down on us? The usual worries about over population and climate change, and hopeful predictions about space exploration and high tech advances. And then there is this:

Our sun formed 4.5bn years ago, but it's got 6bn more before the fuel runs out...

Any creatures who witness the sun's demise, here on Earth or far beyond, won't be human. They will be entities as different from us as we are from a bug. But even in this "concertinaed" timeline--extending millions of centuries into the future, as well as into the past--this century is special. It's the first in our planet's history where one species--ours--has Earth's future in its hands, and could jeopardise not only itself, but life's immense potential.

He's right, you know: But not about the manageable problems he is wringing his hands about. The real threat to the planet--and this isn't hyperbole--is nuclear war. N. Korea just tested a bomb the size of the blast that destroyed Hiroshima. Nuclear Pakistan is in danger of collapse. Iran is hot on their heels in the development of nukes, and many think it will use them. I just wish the media and the liberal West were as concerned about this truly dire threat as they are about the simulated computer projections that are the prime bases of global warming worries.

How to Subscribe



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I don't know if subscribers will have to subscribe again because of the move to FT. But just in case: For anyone wishing to subscribe to SHS, simply put the cursor over the "blogrss" link on the right side of the page, and left click.

To paraphrase Lauren Bacall to Bogey, "You do know how to left click, don't you Steve? You just put your hand on the mouse and...push."

Comments Now Possible



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The kinks continue to be worked out of the system. Commenting is now possible, but not yet from the home page. To comment, put your mouse on the title and go to the permalink. You will be able to comment from there. Sorry for the inconvenience. The site is continuing to be constructed. We will get links up soon and other matters, such as my e-mail, bio, and photo. Thanks to Joe Carter for all of his good work!

For Big Biotech/Govt Complex, It is Never Enough



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For years, Big Biotech and its enablers worked to destroy the modest Bush embryonic stem cell funding limitations. Then, with the election of President Obama, they got their way. But are they happy? No. The new proposed NIH rules for funding ESCR would not permit researchers to create embryos solely for purposes of research on the government's dime, and that has them grousing in the Washington Post. From the story:

When President Obama lifted restrictions on federal funding of human embryonic stem cell research in March, many scientists hailed the move as a long-awaited boost for one of the most promising fields of medical research.

Since then, however, many proponents have concluded that the plan could have the opposite effect, putting off-limits for federal support much of the research underway, including work that the Bush administration endorsed. "We're very concerned," said Amy Comstock Rick, chief executive of the Coalition for the Advancement of Medical Research, which has been leading the effort to free up more federal funding for stem cell research. "If they don't change this, very little current research would be eligible. It's a huge issue."...

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research criticized the proposal for allowing any expansion of federal funding for the work, arguing that adult stem cells and other types of cells offer more promising and more morally acceptable alternatives. But they were relieved that the NIH proposal did not go further by, for example, allowing the funding for stem cells obtained from embryos created specifically for research or by using cloning techniques.

Some proponents of stem cell research, meanwhile, were disappointed that the guidelines limited funding to lines created from unused embryos that otherwise would be discarded by infertility clinics. Initially, however, proponents were pleased that the proposal would allow funding of studies on the hundreds of new lines already in existence.

After studying the guidelines further, however, they concluded that, in their current form, the guidelines would severely restrict funding for the existing lines. "They take 2009 standards and attempt to apply them retroactively, which isn't really a standard that would allow most of the preexisting lines to be acceptable for NIH funding," said George Q. Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "This is essentially moving the goal post."

It is never enough. And mark my words, just as the scientists' promise that "all we want are embryos that are going to be discarded anyway" is now inoperable, so too will be their current assurances that all they want are early embryos for research and experimentation. The real game that is afoot here is fetal farming, which is already being supported in a few bioethical circles

Of course
"the scientists" will get the changes they want from the NIH.

Embryonic Stem Cell Research Complex Never Satisfied



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Does the grousing never end? Here the Big Biotech/Government Complex worked years to get the minor Bush funding restrictions removed, and still they are not happy. From the story:

Critics charged that the existing lines had many limitations and that the funding restrictions severely hindered the field. So, in the ensuing eight years, scientists created hundreds of new lines using money from private sources or state governments. When Obama dropped Bush's restrictions, he asked NIH to work out the details. On April 17, NIH proposed guidelines for what research would be eligible.

Opponents of embryonic stem cell research criticized the proposal for allowing any expansion of federal funding for the work, arguing that adult stem cells and other types of cells offer more promising and more morally acceptable alternatives. But they were relieved that the NIH proposal did not go further by, for example, allowing the funding for stem cells obtained from embryos created specifically for research or by using cloning techniques.

Some proponents of stem cell research, meanwhile, were disappointed that the guidelines limited funding to lines created from unused embryos that otherwise would be discarded by infertility clinics. Initially, however, proponents were pleased that the proposal would allow funding of studies on the hundreds of new lines already in existence.

After studying the guidelines further, however, they concluded that, in their current form, the guidelines would severely restrict funding for the existing lines.

"They take 2009 standards and attempt to apply them retroactively, which isn't really a standard that would allow most of the preexisting lines to be acceptable for NIH funding," said George Q. Daley of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute. "This is essentially moving the goal post."

Note that "the scientists" want funding for use of embryos created solely for research or made via human cloning, demonstrating that the "we only want leftover embryos" was always a ruse. And, by the way, so is the claim that all they want to use in research are early embryos. Put this in the "We are never satisfied" file.

The Bugs in the System



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Well, the bugs we knew would appear have infested the basement. Commenting right now doesn't work. I had trouble uploading a photo to go with the last post. And so far, the comments from the Blogger version of SHS have not transported here. But these things will all work themselves out.

The blogging system here at FT is very sophisticated, with many more options than Blogger had. So, once I get the hang of it--and once the system is humming on all cylinders--I hope to make the look of SHS more interesting than ever.

Thanks for your patience everyone!

SHS Has Moved To First Things



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Well, the moving van has come and SHS is now ensconced in our new home at First Things. We still have a little unpacking to do. There will be a few bugs for a few days before everything is back to normal. But I am looking forward to an engaging experience.

For new readers: Welcome. The first question I am often asked about this blog is why the name? Secondhand Smoke is a bit of self deprecatory whimsy. I had always thought that if I had a regular column, I would call it SHS because I am full of hot air and emit particulate matter. So, when I started a blog, the name seemed a natural.

So, what is SHS all about? Briefly stated, this blog considers assisted suicide/euthanasia, bioethics, human cloning, biotechnology, radical environmentalism, and the dangers of animal rights/liberation. My views expressed here, as in my books and other writings, reflect my understanding that the philosophy of human exceptionalism is the bedrock of universal human rights. Or, to put it another way: human life matters.

So, for those thousands of readers coming with me from my old hovel to First Things, let's continue what we have been doing. For those who find SHS through FT, welcome. There's a lot to talk about.

Check Out the New Secondhand Smoke Look



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The transition of SHS to the First Things family of blogs will soon be upon us. To see what it will look like, you can go to FT's new home page--still only partially constructed--and then hit the blogs link. Secondhand Smoke will appear. Hit that link, and you will find me, or actually SHS as it looked a week or so ago. (They have not yet transferred the latest posts to the FT site). Or go there directly from here.

I will not be using Blogger once the transition is completed, but you should be able to access SHS the same old way--you won't have to go through FT. I still intend to permit comments. My hope is that the added viewership will make things even more interesting around here than they already are.

Thanks to all for your viewership and participation.

UK Doctors Should Put NHS in Proper Order Before Enlisting in Fight Against “Global Warming”



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Calling global warming, "our era's cholera," a UK greenie named Muir Gray is urging doctors to get involved in stopping climate change (as if they don't already have enough to do). From the column:

Climate change will hit the poorest nations hardest, but it will affect us too. In the summer of 2003,...an unexpected heatwave, killed 14,000 elderly people in France.

Yes, well that was because of a lack of air conditioners, which global warming ubber alles types like Gray want to do away with. Also, during the heat wave, most of France was on vacation and too few people were checking on the old people to see how they were doing as the vaunted safety net of France failed miserably. (If Bush had presided over such a debacle, the screaming would never have stopped.)

Ignoring the fact that anti global warming activism may well impede the development of sufficient electrical resources to keep people from dying during a bad heat wave, Gray pushes beyond the boundary of reasonable discussion:

Smoking, Aids, swine flu? They all pale into insignificance compared to climate change's threat to health. That proposition will instantly provoke a hostile reaction from the diminishing band [me: actually, I think skepticism is growing] of climate-change sceptics. But as a doctor of 40 years' standing who has been involved in running public health services for 30 years, I know that the evidence is good enough to make action, not inaction, the sensible choice. An empirical view of the data shows that delay will not just increase the amount of preventable harm, it may take us past a point of no return.
Get a grip: Millions of African children die now--not in some computer program projection's simulated crisis--of measles and malaria, not to mention malnutrition, the effects of unclean water, and improper sanitation. As many as one in four people in some African countries have HIV. These existing crises are more than enough to take up the time and attention of the public health sector and physicians without also jumping into the questionable campaign to stop global warming.

And--oh gosh--more to worry about: The NHS's carbon footprint is too high!
But the medical profession needs to put its own house in order too. I was in a hospital last month that is doubling its electricity supply "to meet demand", with no thought about the future...The NHS is gigantic and has a carbon footprint that is nearly one twentieth of the whole UK's footprint--1.3 million staff each with their own footprint, the drugs bought, the buildings, the transport, the water and the food, too much of it thrown away. Now is the time for the profession to mobilise and show the passion that took them into medical school but is then so often extinguished
By neglecting the needs of current patients whose proper care requires most of that electricity?

Gray is something called the Public Health Director of the Campaign for Greener Healthcare. But I think my idea about all of this is better than his: Before UK doctors pour their energies into practicing and promoting greener health care, they should first focus on providing better health care. Considering the chaotic and incompetent mess that is the NHS, doctors let the environmentalists worry about pushing the green, and instead, put first things, first.

Persona Non Grata People May Hold Key to Cance Cure



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Well this is ironic: People with Down syndrome--against whom a concerted pogrom is being waged to wipe off the face of the earth via genetic testing and eugenic abortion or infanticide--may hold the key to an effective treatment for cancer. From the story:
Scientists may have solved the mystery of why people with Down's syndrome seem to have a lower risk of some cancers.

The extra copy of chromosome 21 which causes Down's appears to contain a gene that protects from solid cancerous tumours, tests on mice suggest. The gene seems to interfere with signals a tumour relies on to grow. The finding raises hope of new ways to prevent and treat cancer.
At least some catch an important ancillary point to this story:
Writing in the journal, the researchers, led by Dr Sandra Ryeom, said: "It is, perhaps, inspiring that the Down's syndrome population provides us with new insight into mechanisms that regulate cancer growth and, by so doing, identifies potential targets for tumour prevention and therapy."
Will that slow down our drive to identify and destroy these precious human beings before they can be born? Not a chance. We talk a good game of "diversity," but we don't really mean it.

Biological Colonialism “Comedic Tour de Force”



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Secondhand Smokette and I went to a Barnes and Noble this morning and I stumbled upon a new book: Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant--and Save His Life, by Daniel Asa Rose. Great: A comedic tale of biological colonialism and exploitation, I thought. Just what the world needs.

So, I have perused a few reviews. Here's a sample:

This book is a side-splitting tour de force that whisks readers off to China on a quest to get a transplant for the author's cousin Larry. Second-time memoirist Rose recounts their exploits with an insuperable wit that will appeal to readers who crave unrelenting humor. In a more serious vein, Larry's challenging journey to China will resonate with readers who are rightfully concerned about the plight of American patients who may be relegated for years to an organ transplant waiting list. -- Library Journal, May 1, 2009
Yes, all that matters is what happens to Americans and our organ shortage. But here's the thing: Some poor Chinese prisoner was almost surely tissue typed to match Larry and then killed for his kidney. That's how it tends to work when Americans with plenty of cash in their pockets go to China to buy organs. In this vein, please read Smokette's powerful "American Vampire," about this same topic, in which she wrote:
But just as it is wrong for Americans to die waiting for organs, it also is wrong for prisoners to die because an American needs a liver, or for a child to die because his mother sold her kidney. And it is beyond reason that in a country that passes numerous regulations on the feeding and care of livestock, people don't want to judge those who, like vampires, troll for organs in the Third World.

But Larry is such a character and Rose is such a good writer--and no doubt, he opposes water boarding--so who cares? I am sure the "donor" literally had a "side-splitting" good time. Hilarious.

Cutting Off Healthy Limbs to Treat BIID Coming Closer to Reality



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There is nothing these days that can ever be safely considered to be permanently beyond the pale, unthinkable, flat-out undoable--and that apparently includes cutting off healthy limbs of patients with BIID.

When I first heard of body integrity identity disorder--BIID--in which sufferers have a powerful compulsion to become amputees (hence the nickname for the term, "amputee wannabe"), the idea that cutting off healthy limbs would ever be considered a legitimate treatment option seemed ridiculous. No longer. An influential psychiatrist is using the power of analogy to push us toward that very end. From the story:
"It actually sounds a lot like another condition which we already do recognize called gender identity disorder--where, for example, people are born as a male, but feel they're really a woman trapped in a man's body," said Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, who has been studying this rare condition since 1999. "Typically it's more common legs than arms, there are people who want bilateral amputations, and I actually know of someone who has achieved that," he added.
Achieved multiple amputations! Can you imagine describing a maiming in that positive way?

First says in the story that he coined the term body integrity identity disorder with the explicit purpose of linking the condition to gender disorders--the treatment for which includes surgeries to amputate healthy breasts and genitalia. Indeed, once we opened the door to surgically removing or altering healthy body parts based on mental compulsions or desires, what made anyone think that there would ever be a stopping point?

BIID is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), a book published by the American Psychiatric Association and regarded by most of the mental health community as the bible of identified mental illnesses. But First, as editor of the last two editions of the DSM, is working to change that, in an effort to create a reference for mental health professionals to use in identifying and treating the condition.

"Number one--for the people who have it--there's a whole issue of labeling something as a disorder, and there are pros and cons labeling," he said. "The disadvantage of labeling is stigma. We're basically saying this is a mental illness--this is a sickness. But the advantage of having it in the book is twofold. It might encourage more work on treatment by getting it on the map and getting therapists and people aware of it."

Mark my words, even though today virtually all of these unfortunate people get through life without chopping off their own limbs, we will eventually see BIID sufferers receive amputations. And once amputation is deemed to be a legitimate treatment for BIID, it will be harder for sufferers to fight against actually doing the deed. Oh, and surgeons who don't want to participate in removing healthy body parts had better hope that conscience clauses are put into effect, since there are already proposals on the table to require their participation or referral.

But here's the thing: Once amputations become as routine as surgical sex reassignments, we will "discover" another, even more extreme condition, that will also have to be accommodated. You see, there is no limit to how far into the macabre and harmful that terminal nonjudgmentalism has the power to take us. We are falling into a bottomless pit.

First Washington Legal Assisted Suicide: Compassion and Choices Immediately Issues Press Release



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The first Washington State legal assisted suicide has happened. C and C, of course, promptly issued a press release. From the story:
The woman, Linda Fleming, 66, of Sequim, Wash., on the Olympic Peninsula, died Thursday evening after taking lethal medication prescribed by a doctor under the law, according to a news release by the group, Compassion and Choices of Washington. The release said the woman received a diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer a month ago, and “she was told she was actively dying.”

Ms. Fleming was quoted in the release as saying: "I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death. The powerful pain medications were making it difficult to maintain the state of mind I wanted to have at my death."
Often early pain control can cause these symptoms, but as the body acclimates, often more cogency returns.

Be that as it may, once again we see that assisted suicide isn't about suffering that can't otherwise be alleviated. That is just the baloney C and C slices to sell the agenda. If Oregon is the template, once people have swallowed the hemlock, that justification evaporates into the ether as the death group facilitates the overwhelming majority of the hastened life endings regardless of the potential for effective palliation and available interventions that can help with the important issues of emotional distress and mental health.

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