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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Hawaii Shows Backbone Against Assisted Suicide



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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”



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



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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



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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



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



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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



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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”



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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!



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

Eluano Englara’s “Gentle Death”



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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



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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



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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.

Eluana Englaro Died of Cardiac Arrest--The Young Support her Dehydration



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The autopsy of Eluana Englaro shows she died of cardiac arrest. From the story:
An autopsy performed on the controversial 'right to die' woman, Eluana Englaro, who died in Italy on Monday has shown she died of cardiac arrest, provoked by dehydration after her feeding tubes were removed last week. The fate of 38-year-old Englaro, who had been in a vegetative state since 1992, provoked a euthanasia debate that has divided Italy and caused a constitutional crisis.
The life of Eluana is over, but the controversy has just begun in Italy:

"It is wrong to insult others and it is equally wrong to accuse Catholics of fundamentalism when they fight for life," said Fisichella in an interview with Italian daily, La Repubblica. "There is a great reversal of values. Freedom is good, but there should also be freedom to decide against death and not in favour of death. "Analysing the latest polls, we can see that the 18-25 age bracket asked for the death of Eluana, while the older the age, the more people were in favour of allowing her to live. This should ring some alarm bells."

Recent opinion polls showed Italians were clearly divided over the issue with 47 percent of those surveyed in favour of Englaro's right to die and 47 percent opposed to it. Six percent were undecided.

People who are my age (nearly 60) and above should be very afraid. The majority of the young seem to have rejected the sanctity/equality of human life. That bodes ill for us when we become dependent upon others for care and support.

Why Isn’t This Just “Aid in Dying” Too?



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A Canadian man is under arrest for assisted suicide in the death of his wife. She had no apparent illness. The couple were apparently suffering from very hard economic times, but precise details are not yet known. From the story:
A 46-year-old Waterloo, Ont., man is scheduled to appear in provincial court Tuesday to face an assisted suicide charge after police found the body of his wife in a Thunder Bay motel Friday.

Peter Bernard Fonteece has also been charged with criminal negligence causing death after his wife Yanisa Fonteece, 38, was found dead in a room at the motel shortly after 6 a.m. Peter Fonteece called 911, police said. Thunder Bay police released the name of the couple after it failed to locate Yanisa Fonteece's next of kin. The couple was unemployed and travelling west, possibly to B.C., when their car broke down in Thunder Bay, police said in a statement.
Let's assume for the moment--to illustrate what is happening in our culture, not to prejudge this case--that Yanisa was just sick of living because of hard times and asked her husband to help her die: If it would be okay for him to do the deed if, say, she had ALS, why not in this hypothetical situation, too? After all, isn't the "right to die" about a purported sacrosanct liberty to determine the time, manner, and place of one's own death? Once that principle is accepted, the details become minutia, because one person's bearable difficulty is another's unbearable suffering.

The blah-blah-blah non statement about the situation by a Canadian assisted suicide affectionado would sure seem to point in that direction:
Martin Frith, a spokesman for Dying with Dignity, a group lobbying for law reform, said it is difficult to gage the number of assisted suicides in Canada each year since they happen "below the radar" because of fear of criminal proceedings. "It's really problematic that in the absence of a law that would actually allow for assisted dying we have situations where well intentioned family members who are supporting a mature, competent adult runs the risk of being charged with assisted suicide," he said, noting he was not referring to one particular case.
Alex Schadenberg has his head on straight:
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition said the law is there to protect vulnerable people. "Nobody should ever be allowed to directly and intentionally be involved in taking another persons life," Schadenberg said. "That is a line we should never cross."
I don't understand why that simple point is so hard to grasp by so many today. Perhaps it is just that we live in profoundly nihilistic times in which the importance of human life itself has become lost in the gray. As Canadian journalist Andrew Coyne put it once so succinctly:
A society that believes in nothing can offer no argument even against death. A culture that has lost its faith in life cannot comprehend why it must be endured.

Rita Marker and I with Faith Abbott McFadden and Maria McFadden



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This photo was taken last October on the night the Human Life Foundation honored Rita Marker and me as Great Defenders of Life for our work fighting assisted suicide and euthanasia. Rita (on my right as you look at the photo) mentored me in this work so standing next to her at the podium was a real thrill. We both deeply appreciate the support of the HLR, Faith Abbott McFadden and Maria McFadden, whose husband and father respectively, the late James P. McFadden, created the Human Life Review. He saw it all coming long before I caught even a whisp of the first dark cloud on the horizon.


The old man and three blonds: Nice photo, don't you think?

Eluana Englaro Autopsy Ordered



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There has been a lot of off stage speculation about the actual cause of Eluana Englaro's death--in which I intentionally did not engage--inspired by her death coming within days after the beginning of dehydration, a process that usually takes about two weeks. Now, an autopsy has been ordered and so we'll know soon enough whether these worries have any basis in fact. From the story:

The prosecutor's office here on Tuesday ordered that an autopsy be performed to determine the exact cause of death of a 38-year-old woman who had been at the center of a highly controversial right-to-die case. Eluana Englaro died Monday evening four days after feeding tube, which had kept her alive in a permanent vegetative state for 17 years, was removed in accordance with a high court ruing and the wishes of her family. She is believed to have died from kidney or heart failure...

At the time of her death the Senate was in the middle of a debate on an emergency government bill which would have made it illegal for carers of people "unable to take care of themselves" to suspend artificial feeding. On the news of her death the Senate observed a minute of silence but this was then followed by a near floor row with members of the government People of Freedom (PdL) party saying Eluana had been "murdered", while the opposition Democratic Party accused the PdL of "politically exploiting" a personal tragedy.
The only plus I see in this tragedy is that at least there remains a sufficient residual of belief in the sheer importance of human life that her death--and how it happened--still matters.

In any event, I hope she died of natural causes. If not, hold onto your hats!

The Myth of Canadian Health Care Nirvana



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For years we have been told--and I sure used to believe--that the Canadians had the best approach to health care. Single payer funding, privately employed doctors--seemingly, a good mix. Except it's not. From a column by Nadeem Esmail in yesterday's Wall Street Journal:
Canadians often wait months or even years for necessary care. For some, the status quo has become so dire that they have turned to the courts for recourse. Several cases currently before provincial courts provide studies in what Americans could expect from government-run health insurance.

In Ontario, Lindsay McCreith was suffering from headaches and seizures yet faced a four and a half month wait for an MRI scan in January of 2006. Deciding that the wait was untenable, Mr. McCreith did what a lot of Canadians do: He went south, and paid for an MRI scan across the border in Buffalo. The MRI revealed a malignant brain tumor. Ontario's government system still refused to provide timely treatment, offering instead a months-long wait for surgery. In the end, Mr. McCreith returned to Buffalo and paid for surgery that may have saved his life.

Some Canadians have had enough and are suing the government, claiming these long waits are constitutional violations.

And talk about age-based rationing!
Bill Murray waited in pain for more than a year to see a specialist for his arthritic hip. The specialist recommended a "Birmingham" hip resurfacing surgery (a state-of-the-art procedure that gives better results than basic hip replacement) as the best medical option. But government bureaucrats determined that Mr. Murray, who was 57, was "too old" to enjoy the benefits of this procedure and said no.
In Canada, patients are not allowed to pay for their own health care--egalitarianism run amuck. That's why those who can, come to the USA: Even the Provinces sometimes send women here to give birth!

He concludes:
Canada's system comes at the cost of pain and suffering for patients who find themselves stuck on waiting lists with nowhere to go. Americans can only hope that Barack Obama heeds the lessons that can be learned from Canadian hardships.
We need reform here, no doubt. But centralized control leads into a labyrinth.

Corruption in Legislating: Sneaking National Health Care Into the Stimulus Bill



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This is why people are so jaded and cynical about their own government. The economic stimulus bill that we are told is too important to really debate and must be passed NOW! NOW! NOW! contains sneak provisions opening the door to national health care. From a commentary by Betsy McCaughey:
Tragically, no one from either party is objecting to the health provisions slipped in without discussion. These provisions reflect the handiwork of Tom Daschle, until recently the nominee to head the Health and Human Services Department.

Senators should read these provisions and vote against them because they are dangerous to your health. (Page numbers refer to H.R. 1 EH, pdf version). The bill's health rules will affect "every individual in the United States" (445, 454, 479). Your medical treatments will be tracked electronically by a federal system. Having electronic medical records at your fingertips, easily transferred to a hospital, is beneficial. It will help avoid duplicate tests and errors.

But the bill goes further. One new bureaucracy, the National Coordinator of Health Information Technology, will monitor treatments to make sure your doctor is doing what the federal government deems appropriate and cost effective. The goal is to reduce costs and "guide" your doctor's decisions (442, 446). These provisions in the stimulus bill are virtually identical to what Daschle prescribed in his 2008 book, "Critical: What We Can Do About the Health-Care Crisis." According to Daschle, doctors have to give up autonomy and "learn to operate less like solo practitioners."
We discussed that proposal here earlier, and how it smells an awful like the utilitarian ethics board NICE that controls the UK's NHS. And this control would apply to private heath care too. Think of HMOs being given a good excuse by government bureaucrats to say no to treatment. Why the Left isn't howling is beyond me.

Apparently research would come under the authority of a "czar" too, with the intent to limit advances in the name of cutting costs:
The stimulus bill does that, and calls it the Federal Coordinating Council for Comparative Effectiveness Research (190-192). The goal, Daschle’s book explained, is to slow the development and use of new medications and technologies because they are driving up costs. He praises Europeans for being more willing to accept "hopeless diagnoses" and "forgo experimental treatments," and he chastises Americans for expecting too much from the health-care system.
Aren't these the same people screaming the loudest about increasing embryonic stem cell research? There's no rhyme nor reason. And doesn't this lead, at least implicitly, to the "duty to die?"

I tried to write in more detail about this yesterday and went nosing through the bill, but it is so long and Byzantine, I gave up. That's the corruption of these omnibus bills. No one knows what is in them--not even the legislators!

The fact that our betters in government want to sneak matters of this import into law without a debate tells us all we need to know about how the people would react to these provisions. And their attempt to use the economic crisis as cover, tells us all we need to know about their integrity and respect for the democratic process. This isn't an issue about whether these government controls should be passed or defeated. For now, the issue is that they should be debated. Otherwise, we are losing the right to call ourselves free.

Good for McCaughey for being the one who broke this into the public eye, and good for Rush Limbaugh and the Drudge Report for turning it into a high profile story.

Eluana Englaro Dies



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Eluana Englaro has died. From the story:
Eluana Englaro, the 38-year-old comatose woman at the center of an Italian right-to-die case, died Monday night despite efforts by Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi to order doctors to feed her, the clinic said.

She had been in a coma since a 1992 car crash. A moment of silence was observed in the Senate, which was debating a law that would have forced the clinic in northern Italy where she was hospitalized to resume feeding her through a tube after nutrition was stopped at the request of the family.
This was too fast to have been caused by dehydration. Perhaps her body just gave out.

I hope the Italian government looks into this issue in depth and with sobriety. Removing sustenance based on a patient's quality of life is too important to be left to rushed legislation pushed forward in a sensationalist media milieu. But I do think that food and fluids needs to be looked at differently than other forms of care--for reasons I laid out in the wake of Terri Schiavo's death. The law should reflect that.

RIP.

Heading to Ireland and UK to Speak Next Week



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For SHSers in Ireland or London, I will be on your side of the pond next week. I don't have a fully detailed itinerary, but David Prentice and I will appear in either speech or debate formats at several Irish universities, including in Cork on the 17th, a university in Maynooth on the 18th, and at University College in Dublin on the 19th. The issues addressed will be stem cells, cloning, and the brave new world.

In London, I have one public event that I know of: I will speak against legalizing assisted suicide at the Parliament Building on Monday the 23rd I think the time is 7:15 PM. This will be the fourth time I have been honored to present in that venerable symbol of democracy.

I would love to meet anyone who wishes to come.

Have laptop, will travel, so I will strive to keep up with SHS as I can during that time.

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