Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Final Exit Network: Search Warrants Issued in Phoenix Case


I wrote earlier today about the arrest of Final Exit Network operatives. I mentioned in that post about the Phoenix case in which a mentally ill woman--it was contended--was assisted in suicide by a group representative. I had reported that matter previously here at SHS, and now search warrants have apparently been issued in the case. From the Phoenix News Times that, unlike the MSM, covered the story previously:
This just in: Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas is about to announce the issuance of search warrants in the 2006 assisted suicide of a mentally ill Phoenix woman.

The case, which involved volunteers coming to town to help 58-year-old Jana Van Voorhis kill herself, was first reported by New Times staff writer Paul Rubin in this cover story. The volunteers were part of the nonprofit Final Exit Network, an offshoot of the now-defunct Hemlock Society--one of them was a senior citizen who'd traveled all the way from Colorado to "help" with the suicide.

The case was particularly troubling to the experts interviewed by Rubin because Van Voorhis suffered from chronic mental illness--and the volunteers apparently tried to stage the suicide as if Van Voorhis had killed herself without their assistance. It was only thanks to detective work from the Phoenix Police Department that the Final Exit Network's involvement came to light.
Again, this isn't compassion or the facilitation of liberty. Participating in serial assisted suicides is crass abandonment of the vulnerable to fulfill one's own obsessions.

The Power of Love is the Power of Life


Day after day we are assaulted with the idea, fundamental to the assisted suicide movement, that some lives are not worth living and hence, not worth protecting from suicide. This advocacy, I believe, does not really promote liberty and freedom, but rather, endangers lives--of the elderly, people with disabilities and mental illnesses, and those with terminal or chronic diseases--by confirming their worst fears about their futures and their human worth.

Contrary messages are sometimes made, as I strive to report here at SHS and elsewhere, but do not seem to penetrate as deeply as the "death with dignity" meme, perhaps because they require a deeper empathy and lack the power of repetition. Along this line, I think it is important to acknowledge the death of Christopher Nolan, a man profoundly disabled by cerebral palsy who wrote about the power of love in his life. From Raymond Arroyo's blog:

He published his first book at 15, a collection of poems appropriately titled Dam-burst of Dreams. His second book won Britain's prestigious "Whitbread Book of the Year:" in 1988. It was called Under the Eye of the Clock, a biographical work in which he refers to himself as Joseph Meehan. At one point in the book Nolan writes of crying upon the realization that he is not like other children: "Looking through his tears he saw [his mother] bent low in order to look into his eyes. '... Listen here Joseph, you can see, you can hear, you can think, you can understand everything you hear. You like your food, you like nice clothes, you are loved by me and Dad. We love you just as you are.'

Pussing still, sniveling still, he was listening to his mother's voice. She spoke sort of matter-of-factly but he blubbered moaning sounds. His mother said her say and that was that. She got on with her work while he got on with his crying. The decision arrived at that day, was burnt forever in his mind. He was only three years in age but he was now fanning the only spark he saw, his being alive and more immediate, his being wanted just as he was....

It important to note that Nolan gained the insight of the sheer equal worth of his life before the the assisted suicide movement and medical utilitarianism, with which we are now badly infected, had metastasized to the point that many people approve people like Christopher going to Kevorkian or being flown to Switzerland for a dose of suicide tourism.

During the Q and A session after my recent speech at the Parliament Building in London, a representative from Not Dead Yet UK dramatically described the increasing fear and anguish he feels as a man with serious disabilities at being viewed by many in society as having a life not worth living. "The despair is hard to combat," he said.

We must all strive against the devaluing message he reported and with all of the energy we possess. One way is to point to Christopher Nolan's vivid life and its clear illustration that the true answer to the difficulties of human suffering isn't killing, it is love.

Final Exit Network “Ring” of Suicide Assisters Arrested


The Final Exit Network is dedicated to assisted suicide. More honestly than some in the euthanasia movement, its members openly acknowledge that the "ultimate civil liberty" should not be limited to the terminally ill.

It has long been suspected that some members of the FEN are not willing to wait until the law changes to assist in suicides. Some old time SHSers may recall the case in Phoenix in which it seemed pretty clear that a FEN member helped assist the suicide of a woman with a mental illness.

Nothing came of that case in terms of criminal culpability, but now some arrests have been made in a series of assisted suicides in several states. From the story:
Four members of an alleged assisted suicide ring were charged Wednesday with helping a 58-year-old Georgia man end his life, and investigators in eight other states were looking into whether the group was involved in more deaths.

The FBI is also probing the Final Exit Network, an organization whose Web site said it is "dedicated to serving people who are suffering from an intolerable condition." It wasn't immediately clear how many deaths were being investigated. On Wednesday, investigators raided the homes of the group's volunteers in seven of the states, a group office in Georgia and a company in Montana that authorities said supplied items used in suicides, according to a news release from authorities in Arizona, where another death was being investigated...The four were charged with assisted suicide, tampering with evidence and a violation of Georgia's anti-racketeering act.
The victim's mother says her son was depressed but if he had the "courage" to kill himself with help, she doesn't want to see any arrests.

Well, it isn't up to her. I know other cases apparently involving the FEN in which bereaved family members were horrified at what happened and yearned to see justice done.

When we ponder this matter, I think it is important to understand that people who are this deeply involved in helping make other people dead are what I call "death fundamentalists," that is, they are not just selfless altruists, but act on a deep ideological belief and an odd form of twisted desire. Lest you think that judgment harsh, allow me to quote from A Chosen Death, written by Lonny Shavelson, who is pro assisted suicide and observed "Sarah" from the Hemlock Society as she plied her trade. On page 75, she tells Shavelson that after assisting her first suicide of a good friend, she came to relish--one is tempted to say "get off"--on the experience:
I firmly believe now that the most intimate moment you can share with a person is their death. More than sex. More than birth. More than anything. I was at the deliveries of my four grandchildren, and my experience with Naomi's death was above that.
Later in the book, Sarah murders "Gene," who tries to back out of his assisted suicide after swallowing the poisonous concoction Sarah prepared, but is prevented by Sarah who brutally holds a plastic bag around his head as she croons, "The light Gene, go toward the light." As I noted in Forced Exit, Shavelson writes of witnessing this involuntary killing, but did nothing to stop it and never called police.

So, let's see where this case leads. If they did the deed or deeds, I hope the judge throws the book at them. But don't count on serious punishment. The idea of suicide as a "necessity" for people in difficult circumstances is gaining traction, putting the most vulnerable among us at a terrible risk.

Memories of Ireland and London


I am back in California sinking with my fellow citizens beneath the waves of red ink, jetlagged and scratchy from a persistent chest cold, but gratified that the speaking trip to Ireland and London was (I think), quite successful. Here are a few photos I took for your (hoped for) enjoyment. Thanks to all SHSers for your continuing support. We are growing, but more about that another time.

Here is a light pole in Dublin. I like the color matching with the (rare) blue sky:

I play with my face and the dome at the Dublin City Hall.

Not your typical staid statue in Dublin.

A foggy morning in Maynooth.

Pub food!

Isle of Wight

There is only one London.

“Scientific Studies” Whiplash: Wine Causes Cancer! Wine Prevents Cancer!


I have concluded that too much money is being spent to pay for "scientific studies," which after all, have to find something to report to earn their keep. This often leads to much confusion. Take for example a new study that looked into the life-course of women, reports that drinking even one glass of wine a day can increase cancer, to the tune of 15 extra cases per 1000. From the story:

Consuming just one drink a day causes an extra 7,000 cancer cases--mostly breast cancer--in UK women each year, Cancer Research UK scientists say. The risk goes up the more you drink, whether spirits, wine or beer, the data on over a million women suggests. Overall, alcohol is to blame for about 13% of breast, liver, rectum, mouth and throat cancers, the researchers say.

But wait! A similar study published a few years ago showed that drinking moderately has no impact on cancer. Moreover, according to studies relied upon by the National Cancer Institute, drinking red wine can reduce cancer. Except a different study said even one large glass of wine increases cancer risk. I'm getting whiplash.

The moral of the story is that we have too many studies.

We are all going to die, and if we live moderately, the time of that great passing will be postponed. Or maybe not. I think we should give some academic a $5 million grant to conduct a study on the question.

“Politics in the Guise of Pure Science “


I have been warning for some time that ideological advocacy often masks as objective scientific reporting--both in the media and the journals--allowing political activists to promote various agendas by bootstrapping their views to the widespread respect society has for the scientific process. Now a much bigger fish than SHS has expressed the same concern. John Tierney, science columnist for the New York Times (of all places, since some of its stories are classics in conflating politics/ideology and science) ponders the problem, riffing off of a book by Roger Pielke Jr. called The Honest Broker. From Tierney's column:

Most researchers, Dr. Pielke writes, like to think of themselves in one of two roles: as a pure researcher who remains aloof from messy politics, or an impartial arbiter offering expert answers to politicians' questions. Either way, they believe their research can point the way to correct public policies, and sometimes it does--when the science is clear and people's values aren't in conflict... But too often, Dr. Pielke says, they pose as impartial experts pointing politicians to the only option that makes scientific sense. To bolster their case, they're prone to exaggerate their expertise (like enumerating the catastrophes that would occur if their policies aren't adopted), while denigrating their political opponents as "unqualified" or "unscientific."

I am afraid this phenomenon reflects the toxic cultural times in which we live. Science, like everything else in society is going show business--by which I mean it is driven to a fairly large degree by the desire for money, hope for fame, and ideological stridency. The field increasingly reminds me of the cruel social pecking order we often see develop among high school kids, in which the cool or hep students--to use the terminology of my time--have all the fun while the nerds find themselves socially rejected, or even, targeted for bullying. Indeed, scientists who dare to challenge the "in" view about publicly provocative issues are often viciously attacked and even driven from their careers--as I have certainly witnessed happen to more than one friend because they took the anti-cloning/ESCR view in the stem cell debates.

Tierney mentions a different example of trying to shoot the messenger of unpopular views from Pielke's book. Several years ago, the John P. Holdren, now President Obama's science adviser, pulled a Torquemada when Bjorn Lomborg became an apostate to the Science Establishment's ideological view about the environment:

Dr. Holdren called it his “scientific duty” to expose the “complete incompetence” of the book’s author, Bjorn Lomborg, a Danish political scientist. Dr. Holdren was one of the authors of an extraordinary 11-page attack on the book that ran in Scientific American under the headline, “Science defends itself against 'The Skeptical Environmentalist'"--as if "science" spoke with one voice. After reviewing the criticisms, Dr. Pielke concludes that a more accurate headline would have been, "Our political perspective defends itself against the political agenda of 'The Skeptical Environmentalist.'"
I think Tierney completely understates McCarthyite atmosphere that stifles free thinking and intellectual freedom within the scientific community. But good on him and Dr. Pielke for noticing that science is being corrupted by politics and ideology. It is one thing for an outsider to sound the alarm. But when a respected voices from the choir loft speak up, perhaps "the scientists" will find the courage and humility to change.

What’s It All About Alfie? Coup de Culture Hitting UK Hard


It has been a very dispiriting experience to see how things are in the UK. The country's leadership seems lost in a fog of relativism and intent to destroy many of the cultural attributes of society that made the country great.

There is the Brave New Britain, oft written of here, of course. But the subject of this post, I think, is a very good example of how the "hedonism" aspect of the coup de culture causes terrible problems--and the leadership that should be striving to reverse things instead keep pushing the very devolution of standards that led to the moaned about problem in the first place.

The country is all atwitter because a 13-year-old boy named Alfie Patten (pictured left) became a father. The lad and his 15-year-old girl friend have had their pictures all over the place with their baby. People are demanding to know how things have come to this pass that children are giving birth, etc.. (There is speculation that Alfie might not be the actual sperm provider since the girl was apparently sleeping with several boys and money is exchanging hands about the story, illustrating another aspect of the problem. But that is no matter to the point of this post.)

With the widespread upset about Alfie in mind, consider the story in the Sunday Times of London yesterday, in which a front page story reported about how the government is urging parents not to teach their kids right from wrong when it comes to sex. From the story:
Parents should avoid trying to convince their teenage children of the difference between right and wrong when talking to them about sex, a new government leaflet is to advise. Instead, any discussion of values should be kept "light" to encourage teenagers to form their own views, according to the brochure, which one critic has called "amoral"...

It advises: "Discussing your values with your teenagers will help them to form their own. Remember, though, that trying to convince them of what's right and wrong may discourage them from being open.
How do they think that is going to help reduce the phenomenon of 13-year-old fathers and 15- year-old girls with several boy friends at once all enjoying "privileges"? If they wanted to produce a society that scratches every itch, indulges every desire, and casts responsibility to the wind, like we increasingly have today, I can't think of a better way to make it so than for parents to stand back indifferently and let children in heat from the hormonal explosion of puberty decide on their own what is right and wrong in sexual ethics. They sure don't do that about smoking tobacco!

It isn't just the sex. It is the symbolic importance of this story, which I think illustrates vividly the collapse of moral and critical thinking in which we are being engulfed. Insanity.

SHS in the Telegraph:”Right to Die Can Become Duty to Die”


After three rousing speeches and media appearances with David Prentice in Ireland on cloning and ESCR, I am off today over the Irish Sea to London, where I will speak Monday night in the Parliament Building about assisted suicide. Ahead of the event, I was asked by my sponsors to write a piece for placement in the UK Media. I was delighted that it made today's Telegraph. From my column:

Imagine that you have lung cancer. It has been in remission, but tests show the cancer has returned and is likely to be terminal. Still, there is some hope. Chemotherapy could extend your life, if not save it. You ask to begin treatment. But you soon receive more devastating news. A letter from the government informs you that the cost of chemotherapy is deemed an unjustified expense for the limited extra time it would provide. However, the government is not without compassion. You are informed that whenever you are ready, it will gladly pay for your assisted suicide.

Think that's an alarmist scenario to scare you away from supporting "death with dignity"? Wrong. That is exactly what happened last year to two cancer patients in Oregon, where assisted suicide is legal.
I opened with that story--oft discussed here at SHS--because of the rationing that is taking place in the NHS: It's use in the UK as a form of resource preservation is a threat that I hope will be considered in the latest round of emotionalized assisted suicide agitation that appears almost daily in the media.

For example, MS patient Debbie Purdy sued to ensure that her husband could take her to Switzerland for assisted suicide without legal consequence. She lost--technically--but the court all but said that the authorities would not pursue the matter should that event take place. Her campaign is being used by advocates--among other "suicide tourism" deaths--as reasons to legalize in the UK on the premise that people who want to die should be able to kill themselves with the help of a doctor at home, rather than be "forced" to fly overseas. (Rarely mentioned, is that Purdy not terminally ill.)

But that could place sick and vulnerable people at considerable risk of feeling duty-bound to put themselves out of their families or society's misery. I point out that Oregon studies show that most patients receive poison prescriptions in Oregon for existential reasons rather than pain:
Much as I sympathise with her [Purdy's] plight, such a guarantee would lure us on to the slippery slope where the old and the sick come under pressure to end their lives. A study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine last year, for example, found that doctors in Oregon write lethal prescriptions for patients who are not experiencing significant symptoms and that assisted suicide practice has had little do with any inability to alleviate pain--the fear of which is a chief selling point for legalisation...

When a scared and depressed patient asks for poison pills and their doctor's response is to pull out the lethal prescription pad, it confirms the patient's worst fears--that they are a burden, that they are less worth loving. Hospices are geared to address such concerns. But effective hospice care is undermined when a badly needed mental health intervention is easily avoided via a state-sanctioned, physician-prescribed overdose of lethal pills.
I conclude:
Oregon has become the model for how assisted suicide is supposed to work. But for those who dig beneath the sloganeering and feel-good propaganda, it becomes clear that legalising assisted suicide leads to abandonment, bad medical practice and a disregard for the importance of patients' lives.
I am convinced that assisted suicide can be stopped in the UK, as opponents have there before. I hope this column contributes to that continuing struggle.

Hawaii Shows Backbone Against Assisted Suicide


The passage of assisted suicide in Washington is not yet causing a major revamping of the political field. Hawaii's assisted suicide legislation looks like it isn't going to make it this year. From the story:
The Hawaii Legislature will not take up a proposal to allow assisted suicides in the state. House Judiciary chairman Jon Riki Karamatsu said Wednesday he will not hear a bill that would allow terminally ill adults to get a lethal dose of medication to end their lives. Karamatsu says advocates of the measure haven't pushed strongly for the bill to be heard this year. He says he's open to considering it in the future.
The apparent lack of energy by advocates is a surprise. Perhaps, they had counted the votes and realized it wasn't in the cards. In any event, Rep. Karamatsu deserves congratulations and thanks.

Another IVF Tragedy Illustrates How “Assisted Reproduction” Increasingly Epitomizes an “Entitlement Culture”


In Japan, a woman underwent IVF and was implanted, seemingly a happy pregnancy. Then, things proved to be terribly wrong. From the story:

A Japanese woman was likely impregnated with the fertilized egg of another woman by accident during an in vitro procedure last year, hospital officials said Thursday. The woman, who is in her 20s, aborted the pregnancy when she was told of the potential mix-up at the government-run hospital in Kagawa prefecture, about 330 miles (530 kilometers) southwest of Tokyo. She is now suing the local government for 20 million yen ($222,000), according to news reports.

Hospital officials apologized for the mistake at a news conference Thursday. "She was very happy after undergoing such a difficult procedure and becoming pregnant, but unfortunately a mistake had been made," said Yuzo Matsumoto, director of the Kagawa Prefectural Central Hospital.

This is an example of the hedonism I have been warning against in discussing the coup de culture. People believe they have the right to obtain whatever they want, however they want it, and then reject it if they are not fully pleased. In this case, the woman wanted a baby. But she was implanted with a baby she did not want so she had it destroyed in utero. And then she sues.

Another woman may want a baby and use a sister's, or even a stranger's egg in the fertilization process, happy to carry a baby that is not hers biologically, but is in love. But the child's mother is really her aunt, and perhaps even a stranger. We have seen the potential cost of such "novel" arrangements in the desperate yearning of the adopted to find their natural parents.

Another woman has five embryos implanted and three destroyed through "selective reduction," thrilled to have "twins," when she really had two of five quintuplets, and the two living babies will eventually know that they are only in life through the luck of where the abortionist's tools happened to land.

Another want-to-be mother hires a poor woman to be her substitute womb because she has health problems, or doesn't want stretch marks or her career track affected by the pregnancy, and then contractually forces the woman to give up a child she gestated and bonded with for 9 months--potentially impacting the child as well as the birth mother since mother/child bonding begins before birth. Another couple go through IVF, have their embryos tested, and toss out those that might get adult onset cancer, for all we know destroying the person that might have found cancer's cure.

None of us is allowed to comment about any of this because the rules of the modern age tell us we may never moralize about or judge a woman's "reproductive choices." But then another woman upsets that particular applecart by having 8 children, added to 6 she already has, all through IVF. Finally the choice-is-everything crowd gets upset about something (other than the loathed pro lifers.) But by what right? They have profoundly undermined the power of society to expect people to adhere to reasonable norms.

As for me, I think it is all upsetting, and--yes I will say it--the field increasingly epitomizes a society that thinks we are all entitled to everything we want, regardless of the moral costs in the lives harmed or sacrificed in the obtaining. But wisdom tells us that sometimes we have to live within limits and make do as best we can. That hurts individuals, and we should all be there to empathize and help ease the pain. But it also helps build a healthier society. It is a forgotten lesson that is costing us dearly.

Fetal Stem Cells Cause Tumors in Human Patient: Should Geron ESCR Human Trial License be Reconsidered?


This story is disturbing and raises questions about whether the FDA's license to Geron to conduct human embryonic stem cell experiments should be suspended pending further studies. In Israel, a child treated with fetal stem cells developed tumors four years after receiving fetal stem cell treatments. From the story:

The boy, now 17, received the stem cells in 2001 at a Moscow hospital and four years later scans showed brain and spinal tumours, PLoS Medicine reports. Israeli doctors removed the abnormal growth from his spine and tests suggest it sprouted from the stem cells...

The boy in question was treated for a condition called Ataxia Telangiectasia--a genetic disease that attacks the brain region controlling movement and speech. He received three courses of foetal stem cell injections to the brain and the fluid surrounding the spine. Four years after his first injection he was investigated for recurrent headaches and his doctors at the Sheba Medical Centre in Tel Aviv found two tumours--one in the spine and one in the brain at the same sites the injections had been given.

A year later, when the boy was 14, the doctors removed the non-cancerous tumour from his spine and it was found to contain cells that could not have arisen from the patient's own tissue and had in all probability grown from the donated stem cells. Although they were unable to sample the growth in the boy's brain, the scientists believe this probably arose from the injected stem cells too.

It is worth noting that this particular condition impairs the immune system. Nonetheless, a reason embryonic stem cells cause tumors in animal models is their hyper activity,which makes their proliferation hard to control. Adult stem cells don't seem to have this problem. Fetal stem cells are less "youthful"than embryonic, but more than adult, and thus this tumor finding raises renewed questions about using ES cells in humans at the present time--a worry expressed by supporters as well as opponents of ESCR:
They [commenting scientists] say the findings "do not imply that the research in stem cell therapeutics should be abandoned." Nonetheless, they say more work should be done to assess the safety of this therapy.
Which brings us to the Geron license from the FDA. Geron's work with its product has been exclusively with mice, which were not kept alive nearly the four years it took for this patient to develop stem cell-caused tumors. This raises a question of whether, in light of this report, the FDA should revisit its go ahead to Geron to use ES cell-derived cells in human beings,particularly since it might take years to learn whether the product causes tumors.

And while we are on the subject, it is important that the patient-subject consent forms that will be used in these experiments--which have not yet been made public--be carefully reviewed. The paralyzed patients who will participate in Geron's safety trials are full ambulatory at this moment. But these unknown persons will be seriously injured sometime soon. Within a week or two of their injuries, facing potential paralysis from spinal cord injury, they will be approached by Geron to be test subjects, since the product designed for acute cases, not people with long-term paralysis. This will be a very emotional time in which these patients will be in deep emotional distress at the prospect of never walking again. In such an urgent crisis situation, it will be particularly important that all participants be made unequivocally aware of the potential risks, that these adverse events might take years to develop, and indeed, that being the subjects of such potentially risky experiments, that they might have to be monitored for the rest of their lives. Or to put it more succinctly: the consent, when given, must be fully informed.

More Proof That Assisted Suicide Activists Will Seek to Force Doctors to Participate


The culture of death brooks no dissent, I have repeatedly warned. That means the assisted suicide agenda, if it is widely successful, will one day seek to force all doctors to participate in the mercy killings of their patients--either by doing the deed personally, or referring them to a death doctor they know will write the poison prescription (or eventually, lethally inject the curare).

More proof: Barbara Coombs Lee of Compassion and Choices (formerly Hemlock Society), is in a dither about the Bush conscience clause regulation that prevents employers from discriminating against medical professionals who refuse to participate in assisted suicide (as one example) on moral grounds. From her blog:
That meddlesome regulation encouraging healthcare workers to obstruct needed treatment considered offensive to their personal beliefs, went into effect January 19. It's still in place. I'm determined to continue blogging about this issue until it is repealed.

Congress, the administration, or both must act to restore the needs of patients to their rightful priority over the morality of providers...We're in a clash between ideologues and pragmatists--people who place their own dogmatic beliefs above all, and people inclined to rely on pragmatic solutions in times of need or crisis.

So, doctors who believe in the orthodox view of the Hippocratic Oath, who understand that assisted suicide is not a medical treatment regardless of how it is redefined, are to be told to get with the program or go sell shoes for a living. There are to be no opt outs.

Then Lee goes paranoid:
But the stated purpose of this rule is to urge ideologues into action. It encourages them to go to work where they can impose their beliefs on the maximum number of medical patients.
Yea, like people want conflict. Besides, she has it exactly backwards: The purpose of the rule is to protect doctors and nurses against the those who seek to reduce medicine from a profession governed by rigorous ethical standards and unyielding principles of patient protection, into a technocracy of highly trained service providers--exactly the devolution, it is worth noting, that will be needed to effectuate a regime of socialized health care.

Dennis Turner Adult Stem Cell Success for Parkinson’s now Peer Reviewed


Dennis Turner was treated for Parkinson's disease with his own neural stem cells, taken from his brain, nearly ten years ago. He went into a significant remission that lasted for about four or five years before symptoms returned, that as I wrote in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World, allowed him to go on photo-safaris at a time he expected to have to use a wheelchair.

But whenever those of us who argue that ESCR is not "the only hope" for treatment of Parkinson's and other conditions tried to use his case as an illustration of the potential of adult stem cells, we were pooh-poohed by "the scientists" because his case had not been peer reviewed, and of course, ignored by the prominent media. Well, now the case has been peer reviewed and published. From the story:
The researcher reports that the publication of the article, "Therapeutic Microinjection of Autologous Adult Human Neural Stem Cells and Differentiated Neurons for Parkinson's Disease: Five-Year Post-Operative Outcome" in the Bentham Open Stem Cell Journal heralds an important moment in regenerative and personalized medicine. "Our paper describes how we were able to isolate patient-derived neural stem cells, multiply them in vitro and ultimately differentiate them to produce mature neurons before they are reintroduced into the brain's basal ganglia. This is performed without the patient requiring immunosuppressants. Of particular note are the striking results this study--for the five years following the procedure the patient's motor scales improved by over 80% for at least 36 months. A word of caution must be added however, since this is a single case study, a larger clinical trial is needed to replicate these findings," says Levesque
That last point bears repeating: As I have said repeatedly about Turner and other such cases, one success does not a cure make. But the time has come to recognize this potential treatment of Parkinson's as a bona fide hope. Stage 2 trials are in the works.

UK Govt. Fights to Keep Eugenic Abortion Information Safely Sealed Away


Pro lifers in the UK are seeking transparency--that's the big new buzz word, isn't it?-- about eugenic abortion in the UK, and apparently the government is trying to squelch the news. From the story:
They have accused officials of using restrictions that are more heavy-handed than those used in terrorist trials, to exclude them from a tribunal which will decide whether statistics on foetuses aborted because of disabilities will be published.

The hearing next month will decide whether figures on the number of babies aborted for disabilities such as cleft palate and club foot should be published.

While abortion is only legal in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy if carried out on social grounds, it is legal to abort a foetus which has a serious risk of physical or mental abnormality, right up to birth. In 2005, after a public outcry over the termination of a foetus with a cleft palate at 28 weeks, the Department of Health (DoH) stopped publishing abortion statistics if fewer than 10 cases were carried out. Details of abortions on foetus with club feet, cleft lips and palates and webbed fingers and toes were no longer published.

The Information Commissioner has ordered the release of the figures, requested by the Pro-Life Alliance campaign group, but the DoH is resisting, claiming that the data could lead to women who have late abortions being identified.

That's always the excuse. But they just don't want the truth out--to the extent that the government doesn't even want them allowed in the hearing:
During discussions about restrictions at the hearings, Government lawyers referred to procedures used in terrorist trials, when lawyers are not allowed to discuss the most sensitive evidence with their clients, before going further, to request that the alliance are entirely banned from proceedings.

Julia Millington, from the alliance, accused the Government of a "serious misuse" of the judicial process to shield the debate from scrutiny.
Well, such acts are best done in secret. It keeps the collective conscience from being disturbed and the national self image from being tarnished.

I’m Off to Ireland and London


I will be debating cloning, stem cells, and lecturing on assisted suicide for the next ten days. I have no doubt the term "human exceptionalism" will come up. In the meantime, I will check in here, too, with posts and reacting to what SHSers have to say. So please stay tuned and keep those comments coming. Onward!

British Medical Journal Study: “Secondhand Smoke Linked to Cognitive Impairment”


Well, you can't say you weren't warned: A scientific study has found that too much exposure to SHS is bad for the brain. From the story:

The research, published today in the British Medical Journal, highlighted a 44% increase in risk of cognitive impairment when exposed to high levels of second-hand smoke.

Not my blog! Tobacco.

Chimpanzee Exceptional Dancing!


As I get ready to fly to Dublin, I learn that chimpanzees are dancers too!

Eluano Englara’s “Gentle Death”


We keep hearing from those who support dehydration that taking food and water away from cognitively disabled patients leads to a "gentle death." I have written debunking this fallacy, but here is a reporter's take on Eluana's death so you can judge for yourself. From the story:
Twenty-four hours later came the first complications. On Saturday afternoon, Eluana had difficulty breathing and her mucous membranes were dry. Nurses sprayed water with a nebuliser. On Sunday, the situation got worse. The nurses turned her over every two hours and sprayed her mucous membranes with more water. Marinella Chirico, a RAI journalist who saw Eluana, reported that she was "unrecognisable, there are abrasions on her ears". Eluana was already under sedation with Delorazepam, injected subcutaneously. On Monday, her condition deteriorated rapidly. The distress log opens at one o'clock in the morning. "Eluana is lying on her left side"; "at 4 a.m. on her right side"; at 8 a.m. she "is again supine". "At 10.15 a.m., the mucous membranes are again dry" and the nurses moistened her lips with water droplets. Sedation continued. That afternoon, Eluana's temperature rose. She was weak, breathing with extreme difficulty and still under sedation. She had no more urine. At 7.35 p.m., Eluana's heart stopped beating. The clinic declared cardiac arrest caused by renal failure.
Gentle. Peaceful. Dignified.

Compassion and Choices “Seven Principles” to Death on Demand


Compassion and Choices (formerly Hemlock Society) is the abundantly funded, prime mover and shaker for the assisted suicide movement in the USA. It unquestionably had a good year in 2008 with the passage of I-1000 in Washington and the imposition of a fundamental state constitutional right to "die with dignity" in Montana. It has now issued its "Seven Principles" to "improve end-of-life care and expand patient choices." A clear and literal reading of these "principles," demonstrate that the goal is an essential death on demand. From its press release:

Our Seven Principles can help guide lawmakers and policy experts to remember what’s important, and make sure our health care system and its providers are putting the patient first:
1. Focus. End of life care should focus on the patient’s life and current experience.
2. Self-determination. Individuals vary in their tolerance for pain and suffering.
3. Autonomy. Decisions about end-of-life care begin and end with the autonomous patient.
4. Personal Beliefs. Patients should feel empowered to make decisions based on their own deeply held values and beliefs, without fear of moral condemnation or political interference.
5. Informed Consent. Patients must have comprehensive, candid information in order to make valid decisions and give informed consent.
6. Balance. Patients should feel empowered to make decisions based on their own assessment of the balance between quantity and quality of life.
7. Notice. Patients must have early, forthright and complete notice of health care providers’ institutional or personal policies or beliefs that could impact their treatment wishes at the end of life.

If the Seven Principles prevail, it is the end of medical professionalism as it has always been understood, as the reigning--and only real standard--would be what a patient wants for whatever reason a patient wants it. It is also a prescription for death on demand. Why should anyone have to put up with "political interference" if they believe their suffering is so bad that they want to die? Moreover, since it becomes unprofessional to gainsay the patient's "own assessment of the balance between quantity and quality of life," it is the end of free speech and true communication, since not a negative word can be uttered. (The movement has already destroyed the right of free association in jurisdictions in which it has prevailed, since the law in Oregon and Washington prevent medical organizations from excluding those who assist suicides based on ethical principles. I think these provisions beg a lawsuit--but I digress.)

I also note that the Seven Principles do not require the diagnosis of a terminal illness--even though C and C will continue the charade that end of life is the limitation for assisted suicide for as long as is politically necessary. I mean if you apply the Seven Principles seriously and literally, who could be denied assisted suicide? It is up to the patient to decide between "quantity and quality." Let's just set up the euthanasia clinics and be done with it.

As to # Seven: Physicians and institutions that wish to adhere to Hippocratic orthodoxy will be hard pressed in the new world of non medical professionalism, and will definitely need to publicly proclaim themselves "assisted suicide free zones" and pledge total non cooperation with the culture of death. When that happens, look for efforts to be made by C and C types to coerce complicity in assisted suicide via "duty to refer" requirements--which are already appearing in some legislation--as we have discussed. The answer will be conscience clauses, which will be fought against tooth and tong every step of the way.

Remember, the culture of death brooks no dissent and is not interested in any meaningful limitations. If you do that, the apparent contradictions in death culture advocacy won't drive you crazy.

All You Need is Love


I just happened upon a good opinion piece by New York Times editor Dana Jennings. He is fighting prostate cancer with all of its difficulties and inconveniences--and through it all, his wife Deb has vividly exemplified why, as the Beatles so quaintly put it, all you need is love. From the column:
Right now, I'm not quite what you'd call "a catch."... Even so, Deb has taught me that love is in the details. Humid professions of undying love and tear-stained sonnets are all well and good, but they can't compete with the earthy love of Deb helping me change and drain my catheter pouches each day when I first came home from the hospital.

Yes, in the details. She measured my urine, peered into places I couldn't (literally and figuratively), and strategically and liberally applied baby powder, ice and Aquaphor to my raw and aching body. She battled our intractable insurer, networked, tracked down the right doctors--and took thorough notes all the while.

I was wounded. She protected me. She chose to do these things.
But what about people who don't have their own "Deb?" She can be there for them, too, if enough of us do our jobs. Deb was there in the care my friend Tom gave his great aunt,who he barely knew, as she neared her end. I have seen her in the selflessness of pro life couples who put their own lives where their mouths are by adopting developmentally disabled and at risk children. She is the hospice nurse making that extra house call to make sure her patient isn't in pain. That hospital chaplain who recently lost a night's sleep to hold my friend's hand in the midst of a catastrophe, no doubt looked just like Deb. And weren't those her tears the ICU nurses shed when they couldn't save a life?

I guess what I am saying is that we all should, in ways big and small, be "Deb." In that way when any of us need her, she will always be around.


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