Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Genetic Cleansing and the Corruption of Science Through Political Redefinition


Slate's Will Saletan--a favorite of mine even though we often disagree because he is a very good writer and unfailingly honest in his reportage--is onto the story of the baby girl born in the UK who was selected in--as her siblings were destroyed--because she did not have a gene that can cause adult onset breast cancer. From his column "Eugenics Euphemisms:"
It's happy news. But let's take a closer look at the announcement, starting with the test "before conception." This baby was tested as an embryo in a dish. She was one of 11 such embryos made by injecting drugs in the mother to stimulate production of excess eggs, which were then fertilized with the father's sperm. Six of the embryos had the gene for breast cancer. Three more had "other abnormalities." All nine were "discarded." The other two were implanted, and one became this baby. In sum, at least six human embryos were made and then thrown away because they failed a test.
Saletan then illustrates how science is being corrupted (my word) via redefining terms to make us feel okay with the way we now instrumentalize nascent human life because, well, we want what we want:
We now call such tests "preconception." This is the next step in our gradual devaluation of embryos. First, we said IVF embryos weren't pregnancies. That's technically correct: Pregnancy begins when the embryo implants in the womb. Then we called early embryos "pre-embryos" so we could dismantle them to get stem cells. That was technically incorrect, but we did it because it made us feel better. Now we're adjusting the word conception. Henceforth, testing of IVF embryos to decide which will live or die is preconception. Don't fret about the six eggs we fertilized, rejected, and flushed in selecting this baby. They were never really conceived. In fact, they weren't embryos. According to Serhal, each was just "an affected cluster of cells."
And the slavering media--Saletan being a rare exception--go right along because all of this is part of the coup de culture. (This particular episode mixes utilitarianism and hedonism, by which I mean believing we have the right to fulfill every desire, including both having children and the children we want.)

Saletan also catches the enormity of it all:
"The lasting legacy is the eradication of the transmission of this form of cancer that has blighted these families for generations." Lasting. Legacy. Eradication. Families. Generations. We're no longer talking about protecting an individual. We're talking about cleansing families forever. "We are eliminating the gene from our line," says the happy mother. Serhal agrees: "We are eradicating it from the whole family tree." From the standpoint of efficiency, this is wonderful. But efficiency and collective cleansing are the core principles of eugenics.
And what if science discovers other genes that lead eventually to disease--opt them out too? And what of the unintended consequences? Genes we seek to eradicate might play other beneficial roles. Besides, if anyone thinks this human manipulation will be restricted to preventing disease, I have a beautiful orange bridge that spans the Golden Gate that I'd be happy to sell you. Think of all the tolls you will be able to collect.

SHS Funnies


Pig and I have much in common:

Yes, it's true:


Whining Scientists Always Get Their Way in Brave New Britain


I posted yesterday about how "the scientists" in the UK are whining because their human/cow embryo cloning scheme has not been funded by the government. I said that once their whining hit the papers, things would change quickly, because in the UK--what the scientists want, the scientists get. That process of, ironically, imposing politics onto science funding is now well under way. From the story:
The two research councils that have turned down requests to fund stem-cell studies using human-animal "hybrid" embryos are to be questioned by MPs on both sides of the House of Commons to explain why they have refused to issue the grants.

As revealed by The Independent yesterday, the Medical Research Council (MRC) and the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) have declined to fund two separate teams of scientists who have been given licences by the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Authority to carry out the work. Evan Harris, the Liberal Democrat spokesman on science, said that he had written to the research councils to make sure that the funding decisions were made on scientific grounds alone, rather than being influenced by the personal moral position of anyone sitting on the expert funding panels.
Good grief! Mengele's infamous twin experiments could be justified on "the science grounds alone." They were moral atrocities. That means ethics, which means very little in this utilitarian age that will countenance anything but policy based on moral judgments about the intrinsic importance of human life.

Meanwhile, the BBC points out that just human/animal hybrid cloning is legal, doesn't mean it will be funded. (We'll see about that!) Moreover, it seems that the great IPSC breakthrough may be inhibiting coughing up the pounds to pay for nascent Isle of Dr. Moreau experiments, which could make the funding dearth a "science" rather than a moral decision after all. From the story:
Science has also continued to move on since last year's heated debate. Induced pluripotent stem cells (IPS) are adult stem cells which are made to act like embryonic ones with the ability to become any cell in the human body.

They too have the potential to be used to treat a range of degenerative conditions and also circumvent the need to use human eggs or destroy embryos - although scientists involved admit therapies could still be many years away.

"There has been a lot of movement on this front and this probably has caused the scientific community to reflect a bit - technologies move on very rapidly," says Chris Mason, professor of Regenerative Medicine Bioprocessing at University College London and a member of the UK National Stem Cell Network. "But none of this is mutually exclusive and there is still definitely a role for hybrid research. I simply do not believe that moral reservations are at play - the right proposal will always find the money."
Meanwhile the NHS is in full meltdown as "the scientists" huff and puff about wanting to clone. Prioritize Gentlemen and women. Prioritize.

Defending Human Exceptionism: The Medical Safeguards Project


Some people talk--and some people act. In the latter category are the good people in Massachusetts who operate The Medical Safeguards Project. Understanding that people with developmental disabilities are at particular risk in our increasingly utilitarian health care system, the Medical Safeguards Project literally puts people into hospitals to protect the vulnerable. From the MSP Website:
The Medical Safeguards Project has two major components: health care enhancement, and safeguarding and advocacy...

The health enhancement component is oriented to complementing and assisting, as necessary, primary health care providers in delivering optimal care for clients of the Department of Mental Retardation living in Southeastern Massachusetts. Assisting primary care physicians and other health care providers means...preparing accurate, complete, and up-to-date medical information for a consultation...

The safeguarding and advocacy component focuses on assuring that clients of the Department of Mental Retardation living in Southeastern Massachusetts have family, friends and advocates in their lives, as well as an active and competent guardian who will defend their right to treatment. Our objective is for people to receive the same level of excellent care and support as the most socially valued persons in their community.
I have been privileged to speak to and interact with these valiant and dedicated people. I have heard the harrowing tales of the fights they have waged to ensure that their clients receive proper and humane care. The term, "They walk the walk," definitely applies.

The Problem of “Biological Colonialism”


To The Source asked me to write an essay for its newsletter on what I call biological colonialism. I was pleased to comply. From the article:
Commentators who reflect on this moral crisis [the weakening of the sanctity/equality of life ethic] usually focus on "culture of death" issues such as assisted suicide, abortion, and Terri Schiavo-type cases. But there is another profound threat posed by this ongoing rejection of human exceptionalism; the commoditization and exploitation of the body parts and functions of the poor, effectively treating human beings as mere natural resources to be exploited and/or harvested.
I discuss, at some length, problems such as the rich buying the organs of the poor, womb renting, embryo purchasing, the potential for exploiting destitute women for their eggs for use in human cloning research, and unethical human experimentation. I conclude:
One definition of evil is treating human beings as objects rather than subjects. That is precisely the implication of biological colonialism. While the poor may always be with us, that does not justify our exploiting our destitute sisters and brothers or putting them at risk to improve our own health or fulfill our familial desires. Rather, the proper and humane response to deep poverty is loving and selfless outreach, assistance, and devotion.
A more succinct way to describe my final point is that we should all follow the Golden Rule. And as I wrote the last sentence, it struck me that I haven't heard that term mentioned in a long time. Alas.

Ethics Warning to CIRM Poobah


The ethical and management disaster that is the California Institute of Regenerative Medicine continues to disappoint. Now, a member of the board has received a warning letter from the California Fair Political Practices Commission. From the story:
The California Fair Political Practices Commission warned Dr. John Reed in an official letter that his effort to appeal the denial of a Burnham Institute grant application raised "ethical concerns."

But the commission found Reed did not violate conflict-of-interest laws because the decision denying the grant could not be appealed. The letter was made public Monday by Consumer Watchdog, a public interest group that brought the conflict-of-interest accusation against Reed in late 2007.
So, the man tried to do the wrong thing, but because it was structurally impossible to accomplish the misdeed, he got off with a letter slap-on -the-wrist.

Fine. The law is the law. But bad appearances are bad appearances. Why is Dr. Reed still on the board?

Apology but No Accountability in Starvation Death of Martin Ryan


The hospital that allowed Marin Ryan to starve to death has issued a statement telling Martin's parents and the country that all concerned are very, very sorry that they allowed him to starve to death over 26 days and "die in agony."From the story:

Chief executive Kate Grimes said the trust had apologised personally to Mr Ryan's parents, and that the staff involved 'very much regret' his death.

She said the communications breakdown was 'inexcusable and our staff have learned very serious lessons'. She added: 'Personally, I would also like to say we feel for Mr Ryan's parents over the loss of their much-loved son. We know we cannot make things better for them but we have made major changes to ensure another similar tragedy does not occur.
That's all well and good, and I have no doubt the apology is sincere. But it is inadequate to the profound wrong that occurred in this case. Where is the accountability? Where are the resignations? Why haven't--apparently--any of the derelict caregivers been fired or disciplined by the hospital and their professional organizations? Indeed, why nearly four years after Martin's death is the matter still at the inquiry stage?

I have no doubt that if Martin did not have Down syndrome, heads would have figuratively rolled. Indeed, it isn't vindictiveness but simple justice that demands that this case not be allowed to rest with a simple apology, no matter how sincere or abject.

Denying Funding for Human/Hybrid Cloning in Brave New Britain


"The scientists" in the UK are throwing a tantrum because their funding for the creation of human/cow hybrid embryos has apparently slowed. From the story:
Britain's effort to lead the world in stem cell research with the creation of human-animal "hybrid" clones has ground to a halt through lack of funding less than a year after the controversial technique was legalised.

Funding bodies are refusing to finance the research and existing projects have been run down to the point at which they may end completely within weeks. One of the researchers involved in the work said last night that the grant applications may have been blocked by scientists on the funding committees who are morally opposed to the creation of cloned hybrid embryos derived from mixing human cells with the eggs of cows, pigs or rabbits.
In other words, they don't really know why. It could be there is a lack of money. The UK is in a deep recession--not that "the scientists" think it should affect them. Or, it could be that the research proposals weren't considered of sufficient scientific merit to justify spending the public's money. But I hope they are right and the refusal to fund has been about ethics and morality. To claim that such matters have no place in science policy decisions--particularly when spending the public money--is not only dangerous, it is folly.

Then came the usual fear mongering:
The decision threatens Britain's leading position in the world in terms of creating of stem cells from animal-human hybrid embryos, research which in the US is banned from receiving federal government funding.
Well, I suppose that is technically true. But that's a pretty narrow parameter. It doesn't mean that UK biotechnology itself is falling behind.

I am sure this shot across the bow from the scientists in a left wing paper (The Independent) will prime the pump and get the money flowing. To date, "the scientists" in the UK have gotten just about whatever they want. I doubt this bump in the road will be any different.

But we can always hope.

Crisis in Health Care Funding: Better to Slow Down Research Than Open the Door to a Culture of Death


Articles that worry about the rising costs of health care and hand wring about what we are to do about it are a dime a dozen. Still, Washington Post Science and Medical Reporter David Brown has written a lengthy article that presents a good summary of the problem. From the story:
This difficult truth, which has emerged over the past half-century, is leading the United States and the rest of the industrialized world into a new era of humankind. We are on a collision course between our wish to live longer, healthier lives and our capacity to pay for that wish. Whether we can somehow avoid the collision is perhaps the most important domestic issue of this century. From now on, health care costs will be up there with globalization, terrorism and climate change as a force shaping our world.
So tell me something I don't know--although I think the problem with climate change is more hysteria than reality. Still, the billion dollar question, obviously, is what do we do about the problem of rising health care costs?

One part of the solution might be to reign in the billions of public dollars we pour into medical and scientific research at the federal level and use it to fund current needs. Don't get me wrong: Most research money is well spent. But we are heading into a time in which we will have to triage government. If and when we hit that point--and given the growth in public debt, we may well already be there--it strikes me that we may have to choose between pushing the medically vulnerable out of the lifeboat or dramatically slowing the pace of medical research and scientific advancement.

If that point is reached, we should choose the latter option. I am all for research, but not at the expense of people. Better to do less research than impose a utilitarian medical ethic that denies care to--our countenances the killing of--the elderly, dying, or people with disabilities. Moreover, once the financial crisis ended, we could up the funding for science. But once we went down Utilitarian Road, it would be nigh on impossible to ever get back to a truly moral health care system.

Hopefully, we will find an ethical way to have decent health care system and bounteously fund scientific research too: Never underestimate scientific ingenuity. But if we ever do have to choose, I know which way I will want society to go.

UC Davis Animal Researchers Threatened with Death


Bomb threats should be called what they are: Death threats. Animal researchers at UC Davis are being threatened. From the story:
Police at UC Davis are on high alert while they are investigating a threat made on a controversial Web site targeting two of the university's researchers.

According to UC Davis spokesman Andy Fell, the "Revolutionary Cells Animal Liberation Brigade" posted on a Web site that they had sent mail bombs to the UC Davis researchers late Saturday. The researchers work at the California National Primate Research Center, which conducts tests on primates to try and benefit human and animal health. The center does studies on HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, asthma, autism and Alzheimer's disease.
This should be condemned unequivocally by everyone, regardless of their beliefs about the use of animals in research. But the silence from most leaders of the animal rights movement continues to be deafening.

Remember, letter bombs were the murder weapon of choice of the UNABOMBER. Such threats may or may not be empty, but they are terrorism.

SHS Funnies


The Culture of Death reaches into elementary school:
Rat: I feel your pain but quitting is not the answer:

Media Bias: What They Don’t Tell You is Often the Story


The media continue to report narratives (theirs) instead of stories. Here's a headline you didn't see, but should have: "Sea Ice Returns to 1979 Levels: Growth Is Fastest Rate of Change Ever." From the notice at Daily Tech:
Thanks to a rapid rebound in recent months, global sea ice levels now equal those seen 29 years ago, when the year 1979 also drew to a close.

Ice levels had been tracking lower throughout much of 2008, but rapidly recovered in the last quarter. In fact, the rate of increase from September onward is the fastest rate of change on record, either upwards or downwards. The data is being reported by the University of Illinois's Arctic Climate Research Center, and is derived from satellite observations of the Northern and Southern hemisphere polar regions.
Surely, this story was worth with reporting prominently as it is relevant to the debate over the existence and/or causes of global warming. But the media's narrative--as opposed the the reality--holds that there is no debate; it's getting hotter and something must be done!. This story counters the narrative. Hence, we heard the sound of crickets from the major outlets.

Meanwhile Pravda is predicting a catastrophic ice age. Can't we stop it with the terror headlines already? Weather changes and nobody can really do anything about it.

Back to the point: C'mon journalists--stop being advocates and do your jobs! If you will just follow LAPD Sergeant Joe Friday's advice when questioning witnesses (boy, am I aging myself), and give us "the facts, Ma'am. Just the facts," media can rebound. We need our newspapers!

Media Reportage Reads Like Press Release for Geron Corp.--Again


The media is at it again, pushing the stem cell line desired by a Big Biotech company. This story in the Chicago Tribune seems sparked by Geron's publicity department rather than having been garnered through independent reporting. It's about why the field has moved slowly and how Geron is uniquely poised to make big breakthroughs. Anybody want to buy stock?

First, we find that embryonic stem cell research has supposedly been starved for funds. From the story:
The biggest hurdle may have been the lack of government funding for stem cell studies. Because there is no federal money for this kind of research, other than through the National Institutes of Health, there has been little movement in the embryonic stem cell arena outside of Geron's privately funded effort. That means regulators lack the data needed as comparison to Geron's studies, further slowing the clinical-trial approval process.
But the NIH is the major funding arm for most federally funded research, so saying that only the NIH dished out government funds for ESCR is to state very little. Moreover, the NIH gave about $160 million during the Bush years for human ESCR. Add in Proposition 71's California Institute of Regenerative Medicine has put out hundreds of millions as have other states. Indeed, when adding in philanthropic giving, the Rockefeller Institute noted in 2007 that nearly $2 billion has been poured into this research in the USA alone. Starved for funds? Hardly! The implication in the story that only Geron had money for embryonic stem cell research is thus baloney.

Geron is once again claiming it is on the verge of human clinical trials, including a description of the same rat videos that have made "news" for years:
In a video presentation to analysts and investors in New York in November, Geron showed rats with spinal cord injuries that could barely move. Within weeks after they were injected with the stem cell-derived drug known as GRNOPC1, the rodents were seen scurrying around their cages, back legs moving and tails no longer dragging.

Should the clinical trial be approved, a half-dozen spinal cord patients would be administered the drug seven to 14 days after they suffer traumatic injuries and during typical treatments, which include surgery, Okarma said. "It would be a single injection to restore function," he said. "This goes way beyond the reach of pills and scalpels. [This year] human embryonic stem cells will finally reach the point of being tested in FDA-sponsored clinical trials in the U.S. "Hopefully, this will reach thousands of spinal-cord-injury patients."
Geron has been claiming to be on the verge of human trials for at least five years. Perhaps this year it will be true. I just wish the media would stop publishing stories that look more like shilling than journalism.

Stop Google Searches to Save the Planet!


The coup de culture is driving some of us out of our minds. This post has to do with the radical environmentalism/earth religion part of the triad of the New Western Order that includes as its other manifestation, utilitarianism and hedonism. A physicist has warned that we are destroying the planet by engaging in Google Web searches. From the story:
Performing two Google searches from a desktop computer can generate about the same amount of carbon dioxide as boiling a kettle for a cup of tea, according to new research. While millions of people tap into Google without considering the environment, a typical search generates about 7g of CO2 Boiling a kettle generates about 15g. "Google operates huge data centres around the world that consume a great deal of power," said Alex Wissner-Gross, a Harvard University physicist whose research on the environmental impact of computing is due out soon. "A Google search has a definite environmental impact."
This may be worse than the dairy herds! Now you know why I call this blog Secondhand Smoke!

Eugenically Child Born in Brave New Britain


Several SHSers have sent me the story of the birth of the baby girl, who was selected "in" as an embryo, as her "defective" siblings were destroyed, and permitted to be implanted and born because she did not carry a gene that gives rise to breast cancer. Yuval Levin has already discussed this matter over at NRO's blog The Corner, and he points out both the ethical implications of this event and an example of post modernism in journalism in which the BBC redefined "conception" to mean implantation in the womb instead of fertilization. From Levin's post:

Better to eradicate the carriers, it seems, than to risk a potentially curable if very serious adult-onset illness. So should cancer patients wish they had never been born? Should the rest of us wish they hadn't been? The BBC itself then [states]:

Pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD) involves taking a cell from an embryo at the eight-cell stage of development, when it is around three-days old, and testing it. This is before conception--defined as when the embryo is implanted in the womb.

By whom, exactly, is "conception" defined as "when the embryo is implanted in the womb"? I suppose if you can't deny that life begins at conception you just insist that conception means whatever you want it to mean. So why not call it "pre-conception genetic diagnosis"?

Curing the disease by killing the patient is hardly a step forward for medicine, and eliminating the unfit before they’re born so they won't pass on their genes to future generations is just eugenics, pure and simple. That little girl is very lucky to be alive.

I believe that these procedures, while well-meaning, are the early steps that will ultimately lead to a utilitarian dystopia of the kind warned against by Aldous Huxley. As I wrote in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World:

Huxley's novel [Brave New World] never described the events that led to the end of history. Had he written a prequel, what might he have imagined induced the ancestors of the characters in his novel to unleash a biotechnology that became so powerful that it resulted in a "Brave New dehumanized that he doesn't even realize what has been lost" [in the words of Leon Kass]. Perhaps it would have been a fervent desire to exercise hyper-control over our health and mortality, a trend building to gale force in our own time.
I was referencing embryonic stem cells. But I think pre-implantation genetic diagnosis qualifies too. In our understandable desire to alleviate potential future suffering, we presume to decide who is worthy of being born and who should not be allowed to live. Once that principle is accepted, it will go from stopping embryos and fetuses with a propensity to cancer, Down syndrome, dwarfism, and other disabling conditions or illnesses from being born (or killing them as newborns if a mistake is made and they are born), to wiping out people with conditions that may be socially disdained, such as a propensity to obesity or homosexuality (if a genetic cause is ever identified).

I submit we have not the wisdom for such hyper-control. I submit that all of us must be welcomed equally in life, or at some point we will all reach the point where most of us will be in pronounced danger of being hustled out of it.

“Death by Indifference:” Medically Neglectiing People with Developmental Disabilities to Death in the UK


Regular SHSers will recall the horrific case of Martin Ryan, an adult with Down syndrome who, after a stroke left him unable to talk, was allowed to starve to death over 26 days in a UK hospital. I have done some Googling, and found some more on the story. Martin's and other deaths came to light because of a campaign by MENCAP, an NGO, to bring to light abuses in the medical context against people with developmental disabilities.

There is apparently something of a pattern in this and other appalling deaths of people with developmental disabilities. From the Telegraph coverage:
The six cases were raised by Mencap in a report entitled Death By Indifference. A spokesman for the charity said last night: "These people were completely and unacceptably failed by the treatment they received. " It was a catalogue of disasters and poor treatment of very vulnerable people who deserved so much more.
Still, the coverage, based on what I can see from the USA, seems very muted, particularly given the horrendous nature of Martin's death and the other problems reported. When I Goggled it, there were only nine stories listed. Perhaps it is because these deaths didn't just happen--Martin died in 2005. But think of that! It has been nearly 4 years and nothing has been done about his plight. That is why I suspect there is more at work here.

Let's play a mind game about the same death, but a different patient. Imagine, if you will, that Martin was gay, or a Muslim, or a person of color, and that his starvation seemed part of a pattern of indifference and neglect that had been inflicted on other similarly situated patients: Wouldn't the media have been in a full-fledged feeding frenzy from the moment the news came out demanding that heads roll and cases be prosecuted criminally? Why have we not seen that same kind of intensity with regard to these deaths? Yes, there is going to be a government report, but I am talking about the intensity of the thing.

I suspect it is that people like Martin aren't valued equally by many in society and among journalists. And indeed, given the indifference to the high eugenic abortion rate, the respect in the media for people like Peter Singer who asserts it is okay for parents to kill babies born with Down (can you imagine the reaction if he said the same thing about murdering a baby based on race?), there is a (perhaps unconscious) mindset afoot that people like Martin should never be born.

Here's another horror story from the MENCAP report:
Emma was admitted to hospital for tests – she was upset and in pain. The hospital found her behaviour difficult to manage and sent her home without any help to control her pain. When Emma and her mum went back to the hospital for the results they were told Emma had cancer.

There was a 50:50 chance that she would survive if she was treated, but the doctors decided not to treat her. They said she couldn't consent to treatment. Again Emma was sent home with no way to help with her pain.

A week later Emma wasn't eating or drinking, so her mum took her back to the hospital and tried to make the doctors treat her daughter. Still having to watch her daughter suffer from the cancer, Emma's mum went to the High court to force the doctors to treat her daughter, but by the time the order came through, the cancer had progressed too far. Emma was admitted to a palliative care hospice where she died a month later.
Awful. Just awful. There's another way to spell indifference: B.I.G.O.T.R.Y.

Not being in the UK, perhaps I am missing the outrage that is being expressed there. But based on what I can tell from this side of the Pond, I am not seeing it. I would be interested to hear from UK SHSers about their perceptions of the matter.

“Nature” Has No Rights Against the Powerful


I wrote previously about how President Correa of Ecuador, who gave rights to nature in his new constitution, was pushing a new mining law. The indigenous people objected, and relied on the constitutioanl rights of nature to protect their region from exploitation. Well, now riots have broken out and been forcibly dealt with. From the blog Upside Down World:
A number of leaders have been arrested and other protesters were beaten and shot at by police. Campesino and indigenous protesters, who depend on clean water to farm and for drinking water, are demanding that the government shelve President Rafael Correa's proposed Mining Law, saying that it would be a social and environmental disaster. The rural blockades follow months of regular protests in Quito and other parts of the country.

Protesters also argue that the law contradicts important provisions of the new constitution protecting water, the environment and indigenous peoples' rights. The document drew international attention for awarding legal rights to nature. The new constitution, approved by popular referendum in September, is the centerpiece of Correa's first term.
Idealistic Leftists--ya gotta love them. This is the lesson: Nature rights, if literally applied, would put a complete end to human flourishing. That may be what the loony environmentalists want, but that isn't the way of the world. Nature will have rights when the powerful and the elites say it will have rights because it meets their ends, whether political, financial, or ideological. There will be times when it will be used as a powerful club to prevent human activity. But that will be because it serves a purpose for those on high. It was never meant to be a ready tool to protect the poor and indigenous people.

PETA Urges Children to Fight Against the “Hunting” of “Sea Kittens”


Remember, PETA is always after your children to get them to buy into animal rights ideology. The latest is the renaming of fish "sea kittens," in an online interactive aimed at children. From the "Save the Sea Kittens!" Web Page:
Ask the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to Stop Promoting the Hunting of Sea Kittens

Given the drastic situation for this country's sea kittens—who are often the victims of many major threats to their welfare and ways of life--it's high time that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) stop allowing our little sea kitten friends to be tortured and killed. Who'd want to hurt a sea kitten anyway?!

Sea kittens are just as intelligent (not to mention adorable) as dogs and cats, and they feel pain just as all animals do. Please take just a few moments to send an e-mail to H. Dale Hall, the director of the FWS, asking him to stop promoting the hunting of sea kittens (otherwise known as "fishing"). The promotion of sea kitten hunting is a glaring contradiction of FWS' mission to "conserve, protect and enhance fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats."
These people are shameless. PETA well knows that the "littlest lobbyists" (as Secondhand Smokette once called children who were being exploited by their teachers to publicly support a teacher's union political position) will never succeed in outlawing fishing, er sea kitten hunting. Not to mention that real kittens, cats, bears, and other animals love to eat sea kittens, and that sea kittens eat each other without mercy. But actually outlawing fishing isn't the point. Getting kids under PETA's influence is what the group is after. Pretty cynical to take advantage of innocent children in my view.

New Book Pushes Futile Care Theory


I haven't read the book, but I thought the review in the Journal of the American Medical Association by Michael Bevins, MD, Ph.D., brought up some important points for pondering. In Defiance of Death: Exposing the Real Costs of End-of-Life Care illustrates the growing utilitarian emphasis in medicine and apparently pushes futile care theory as a way of supposedly saving big bucks. From the book review (no link):
Who decides when care is inappropriate is an even more difficult question. The crux of this book's argument is its proposal of a system of "appropriate-care committees" made up of experienced physicians who would review each questionable case on an individual basis. These local, state, and national committees would be organized into a hierarchical structure, with local committees answerable to state committees and so on. Committee members would be paid a stipend,thereby avoiding financial conflicts of interest, and they would have the authority to withhold payment for care deemed inappropriate.
Right. I'd sure trust that system (he said sarcastically)! The idea appears to be to empower faceless bureaucrats to second guess care decisions by deciding after the fact whether hospitals should be paid for services rendered. That would put the economic benefit of doubt into refusing wanted care, not to mention making it a federal policy to impose futile care on unwilling families.

The ironic thing is that futile care theory will not save all that much money. When I was researching Culture of Death, end of life care took up about 10% of the nation's entire health care budget. Most people don't want expensive interventions until the bitter end. Thus, even if medical futility were imposed on all dying patients, the savings would be minimal, a point noted in the review:
Fisher admits it remains an open question whether hospice care actually saves money. While he valiantly tries to defend the claim that shifting from more aggressive, "inappropriate" care to more compassionate, palliative care would save oodles of money, this is a hard assertion to prove. Furthermore, saving money is not the most important reason for making some treatment decisions. In some cases, not doing certain things (eg, intubation, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, chemotherapy, surgery,feeding tubes) in favor of doing other things (eg, aggressive symptom control, spiritual support, bereavement support) is the right choice simply because it is the right thing to do, regardless of the cost.
I totally agree. But the method by which that shift should be accomplished is not the bludgeon of coercion, but education, compassionate counseling, and honest discussion. In the end, if people want their lives maintained, that should be permitted because keeping people alive when that is what they want is the quintessential purpose of medicine.

Moreover, going in the opposite direction poses a great risk to the sanctity and equality of human life, adherence to which is essential to a moral medical system. I once asked a futilitarian (as I call them), what would be withheld from patients next once the principle of withholding wanted treatment was established. He told me "marginally beneficial care." When I asked for an example, he said, "An 80-year-old woman who wants a mammogram."And so we see the terrible potential for medical discrimination masking as benign cost control.

We have to be very careful that in our reasonable desire to control costs and do right by suffering patients, that we don't institute a brutal regimen of medical discrimination in which our consciences are assuaged by self deception and euphemisms.

Swiss Assisted Suicide Group Investigated for Profiteering


The Swiss Government is investigating the assisted suicide facilitating/tourist host group Dignitas for making money off of helping people make themselves dead. From the story:
Dignitas, which is meant to be a non-profit organisation, is being forced to open its accounts to prosecutors in Switzerland and disclose how much money it is receiving from its controversial business of assisting suicide.
The founder of the group is reported to have become a millionaire by helping at least 870 terminally ill people--an estimated 100 of whom were British--die. It is said to have taken as much as £61,000 from one woman, 10 times its usual fee.

Swiss law allows Dignitas to provide patients with a dose of barbiturate and a room in which their deaths are filmed, to prove they administered the lethal injection. But it remains illegal to help someone die for personal gain.
The money shouldn't be the issue. The killing should. Besides, if assisted suicide is just a medical treatment--which is belied by a lay group providing the "therapy"--shouldn't profit be part of the medical enterprise? Oh, right: This is Switzerland, where plants have individual dignity based on their similar molecular makeup with people, the mentally ill have a right to assisted suicide, and there is a growth industry in suicide tourism.


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