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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

SHS is Closed for the New Year Holiday



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My best to all.

Village Voice Lays Off Nat Hentoff



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Ever wonder why print media is sinking beneath the waves? Here's an example. The Village Voice has laid off my pal Nat Hentoff, who has churned out thoughtful and even prescient columns there for 50 years. From the story:
The troubled Village Voice laid off three employees Tuesday, including Nat Hentoff, the prominent columnist who has worked for the paper since 1958, contributing opinionated columns about jazz, civil liberties and politics..."Nat Hentoff wrote liner notes for every great musician that I've ever loved, from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan and Aretha Franklin, and that's not even what he's been writing about for the last 30 years," said Tom Robbins, a Voice staff writer.
Not surprisingly, the Times failed to note that Hentoff is one of the country's most prominent pro life columnists, who has fought abortion (leading some VV colleagues to shun him), written against assisted suicide/euthanasia, unethical medical experiments on babies with disabilities, infanticide, the dehydration of Terri Schiavo, the "duty to die," in favor of mandatory testing of newborns for HIV, etc., for decades. Indeed, I would say that standing up for human exceptionalism and the sanctity/equality of human life as a prominent atheist, is as worthy of mention in this story as his splendid work in jazz and his absolutist belief in civil liberties. Along this line, Nat Hentoff was named a Great Defender of Life by the Human Life Foundation a few years ago. Perhaps the Times found that aspect of his career too embarrassing to mention.
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Man with Disabilities “Not Worth Saving”



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The next time you are tempted to scoff at folk with disabilities who worry that they many people think their lives are not worth living, remember this story. Two medical technicians from the UK have been arrested for allegedly deciding that the life of a man with disabilities wasn't "worth saving" from a heart attack. From the story:
It is alleged that staff in the control centre heard the two medics making disparaging comments about the state of the house.

A police source, who asked not to be named, said that the ambulancemen were then heard discussing Mr Baker and saying "words to the effect that he was not worth saving". The source said that the two men were allegedly first heard commenting on the untidy state of the house and then saying that it was not worth bothering to resuscitate Mr Baker. They are said to have discussed what to tell ambulance control and decided to say that Mr Baker was already dead when they got there.
Friends and colleagues who have disabilities report similar stories of disdain occurring here when seeking medical care, for example, of people on ventilators being pressured to sign DNRs by hospital personnel even though they were not undergoing usually life-threatening procedures. A friend who is legally blind had her white cane thrown down a METRO escalator in Washington D.C., as her assailant told her she belonged in a concentration camp. She also reports not being picked up by cabs. Then there is the general public applause for Jack Kevorkian and suicide tour guides for helping people with disabilities kill themselves.

Human exceptionalism demands that each of us be deemed to be of equal objective moral worth. It is an ideal we have never achieved, admittedly. But unless bigotry against people with disabilities is especially shocking when it impacts care in the medical context.

End the Bias: We Need Newspapers



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It is no secret that the newspaper business is in severe trouble. A big part of the problem is technological: The Internet has destroyed the classified sections, for example, and many younger people no longer read newspapers, causing circulation to decline.

But in my view, another huge issue is liberal bias, particularly about socially controversial issues involving stories that are part of what is known as the "culture war." I have been deeply involved in stories of that sort for many years and have seen the bias first hand over and over again--sometimes in the sneering attitude exhibited by the stories, but more often in the important facts not printed and the issues not pursued--as well as a decided scorn toward people of a certain moral persuasion. It has gotten so bad that many reporters are blinded by their own--or the notorious group-think narratives--and report it rather than the actual story at hand. This obvious and unremitting bias and disdain has permanently alienated about 1/3 of potential newspaper readers, which is suicidal in the current business atmosphere!

I take a back seat to no one in my desire to see reform in the journalism business, including concerted efforts to make it fairer and less condescending toward those with whom liberal reporters and editors disagree. But we need our newspapers (and I don't just say this because Secondhand Smokette is employed as a political columnist by the San Francisco Chronicle). Thus, I agree with Paul Mulshine of the Newark Star Ledger, when he writes in "All I Want for Christmas is a Newspaper," that bloggers "are no replacement for real journalists." Alas, and all too typically, he misses the bigger picture. From the column:
The common thread here, whether the subject is foreign, national or local, is that the writer in question is performing a valuable task for the reader--one that no sane man would perform for free. He is assembling what in the business world is termed the "executive summary." Anyone can duplicate a long and tedious report. And anyone can highlight one passage from that report and either praise or denounce it. But it takes both talent and willpower to analyze the report in its entirety and put it in a context comprehensible to the casual reader.

This highlights the real flaw in the thinking of those who herald the era of citizen journalism. They assume newspapers are going out of business because we aren't doing what we in fact do amazingly well, which is to quickly analyze and report on complex public issues. The real reason they're under pressure is much more mundane. The Internet can carry ads more cheaply, particularly help-wanted and automotive ads.
Talk about myopic. If more reporters acted like real journalists instead of obvious ideological advocates, the problem with newspapers caused by technology would be far less acute because there would be tens of millions more people willing to shell out $1 for the local fish wrap.

Please, newspaper professionals, get a clue. Stop the bias and convince those you have alienated to give you another try. We need our newspapers!

More Stem Cell Excuses from ESCR Advocates



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It is a given that President Obama will dismantle the funding limitations on ESCR imposed by President Bush. Even though Bush's plan still resulted in about $160 million in human embryonic stem cell NIH funding, "the scientists" complain that it is his fault the field has not proved as fruitful as expected. From the story:
Though optimistic about the effects of a new federal policy, research institutes caution that the fruits of this research will take time and that cures are not around the corner. "There's still a lot of basic science to be done....The [Bush] policy has set research back five to six to seven years in this country," Devitt said.
Oh please. First, thanks to Bush probably more money was thrown at ESCR than ever would have otherwise been the case--think Proposition 71 among other state agendas. Second, according to the Rockefeller Institute, the field has received a whopping $2 billion in research funds in the USA alone! Third, as the story acknowledges, there will probably not be any more money provided by the NIH under the new policy. Thus, while it will be more convenient for researchers not having to segregate federally funded research from that which didn't use approved lines, and while newer lines will be able to be used in federally funded projects--it is hard to believe that these inconveniences have held back the field five or six years. Otherwise, why would countries that have not operated under the Bush restrictions, gotten no further along than have USA scientists?

The most pressing problems for ESCR have been the technical difficulties associated with the field and patent disputes. But that isn't good for the politics of the thing. So expect Bush to continue to be a convenient excuse for the failure of field--so far--to fulfill the hype. In this sense, he might be worth his weight in political gold.
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UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown Refuses to be Bullied Into Support for Assisted Suicide



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Just as during the Kevorkian saga, some have claimed that the "cure" for "suicide tourism"--in which dying and disabled people fly to Switzerland to be made dead--has been legalization of assisted suicide. And just as in Kevorkian's day, family members and others have gone public, using their pain as a political weapon to demand that suicide killings of the ill and disabled be made easier so that family and friends can attend the demise in the suicidal person's home, rather than forcing the soon-t0-be dead patient to travel elsewhere to find someone willing to give them the poison cup. But PM Gordon Brown is unbowed. From the story:
Gordon Brown has made clear the government has no intention of legalising assisted suicide. The prime minister said he was "totally against laws on that [issue]" in an interview with the leader of the Catholic church in England and Wales, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, for the Today programme.

"It's not really for us to create any legislation that would put pressure on people to feel they had to offer themselves because they were causing trouble to a relative or anything else," he said on the Today programme.

"I think we've got to make it absolutely clear the importance of human life is recognised in this."
Good for Gordon Brown. He's not only right morally, but it is the right policy. If society doesn't value everyone's life equally, the result will be discrimination and oppression--as in the Netherlands where doctors kill hundreds of patients every year who have never asked to be legalized. Moreover, legalizing assisted suicide for the terminally ill--the first stop on that particular train--would not stop suicide tourism. Many of those who go to Switzerland to die are not terminally ill. Hence, once it became legal for one category of patients to receive assisted suicide, once society deemed suicide to be a necessity in some cases, the same whipsawing would take place to force society to expand the law to permit others to be killed.

The best way to stop suicide tourism is for family members and society to refuse to accommodate the desire by compassionately and lovingly help the patient search for another way of dealing with their pain and disapproving of actions that cooperate with the death circus. Acceding to the culture of death merely whets its appetite.

Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council Hears Human Exceptionalism Call



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The Rhode Island Developmental Disabilities Council has picked up on my call to defend human exceptionalism. Here's the link. I am most pleased.

Coup de Culture: Promoting Incest Between First Cousins



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I have opined that there are three cultural paradigms that threaten to supplant traditional Judeo-Christian/humanistic values as the foundational value system of society; utilitarianism (which we have addressed often here at SHS), hedonism (which we have rarely addressed here), and radical environmentalism (which we are beginning to get into more often). Put this story in the hedonism file. Scientists are saying that the legal prohibition against marriage between first cousins should be lifted. From the story:
Babies born as a result of marriage between first cousins have the same risk of having genetic defects as babies born from women over 40 years old.

Two scientists, who call for the lifting of the taboo on first-cousin families, say that cousins who want to get married should not feel ashamed about it. Women in their forties, who decide to get pregnant, are not made to feel guilty about their decision and the same should be applied to first-cousin families, consider Professor Diane Paul of the University of Massachusetts in Boston and Professor Hamish Spencer of the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand.
Well, then why not let siblings marry if they agree to be sterilized?

I don't see the issue of genetic difficulties in offspring as the primary problem here. Introducing sexuality within families would be disastrous, it seems to me. But in the modern age, hedonism--by which I mean indulging in every sensual or emotional desire of the moment, whether sex between cousins or stampeding and killing an employee of Walmart to make sure you get that sale item, etc.--is becoming all the rage. We are told there should be few limits and no moralizing. This advocacy "study" is just one more example of the struggle we are in.

Wellsphere Adds SHS as a “Top Health Blogger”



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I was contacted recently by Wellsphere and asked permission to have SHS linked to its site as "a top health blogger." I was very pleased to agree. Wellsphere seems to be a cross between My Space and Beliefnet: There are many blogs on bioethics, medicine, and other matters that might be of interest to SHSers, as well as the ability to comment, ask questions, etc.. Registration is necessary, but if you have a hankering, you might want to check it out.

“Suicide Counsellors” Show Futility of Legalization



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Jack Kevorkian was the ground breaker in modern times: A man made world famous helping people with disabilities, the terminally ill, and the existentially suffering kill themselves. For that, he now makes $50,000 a speech. In Australia, Philip Nitschke has counseled the suicides of people who were not close to being terminally ill, and even argued it should be available to "troubled teens." Ditto the suicide clinics in Switzerland, where the Supreme Court recently granted a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill.

In Germany, another one of these death fanatics has apparently set up shop. The government has obtain an injunction. From the story:
German police have issued a temporary restraining order against controversial euthanasia advocate Roger Kusch, prohibiting him from aiding any more people who want to end their own lives. The former Hamburg justice minister has helped at least five people to take their lives since June. Only one of those five was very seriously ill.
One answer suggested as a response to this morbid business is to legalize assisted suicide for the terminally ill. That would be folly, since it would accede to the premise that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering. Once that door is opened, the rest will eventually enter the way water flows through the breach in a dam.

Moreover, legalization would not put these vultures out of business. They would merely say they have to help the people that the "unduly restrictive" law doesn't permit to end their suffering. And it would be harder to stop them then because we will have said that at least in some circumstances, it is right to help kill.

This is just common sense. Look at the Netherlands where some doctors with suicidal patients who might not qualify for euthanasia under the law refer patients to an online site that teaches them how to commit "autoeuthanasia," e.g., the latest euphemism for suicide.

Assisted suicide is a radical change in ethics that will prove, over the long run, impossible to meaningfully restrain once the basic premise becomes popularly accepted. And that is the argument we should be having. The very narrow debate in which we are now engaged to limiting assisted suicide to the terminally ill not only doesn't comport with the evidence of the consequences of assisted suicide consciousness, it is willful self delusion.

Montana Medical Association Cop Out on Physician-Assisted Suicide



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The coalition against assisted suicide is made up of many branches that constitute a rare alliance among people on all sides of the ideological and religious/secular divides that are literally tearing this country and much of Western Civilization apart. Thus, disability rights activists--generally secular, politically liberal, and pro choice on abortion--work energetically with pro life activists on the issue, while agreeing to leave the abortion issue alone. Medical professional organizations and doctors--generally pro choice on abortion--work with Catholic Church on this issue, despite bitterly disagreeing on issues such as contraception. You get the drift.

But I have been worrying in recent years that some physicians groups and doctors don't take this issue with sufficient seriousness--and indeed as I have noted, one of the tactics of the pro assisted suicide forces is to get medical leaders to assume an attitude of "studied neutrality" to legalization. My concern in this regard was heightened by the quotes from the head of the Montana Medical Association published in the American Medical News about the Montana judge imposing a constitutional right to assisted suicide. From the story:
American Medical Association policy opposes physician-assisted suicide because the practice is "fundamentally inconsistent with the physician's role as healer." Officials with the Montana Medical Assn. said the organization has no policy on doctor-aided dying and will not file an amicus brief when the case is appealed.

The AMA usually does not join state litigation unless the state medical society asks for help. MMA officials said they had no plans to request the AMA to file a brief. MMA President Kirk L. Stoner, MD, said the society would get involved only if its members or the Supreme Court asks it to weigh in.

Physician-assisted suicide "is not something we've discussed recently," Dr. Stoner said. "We don't have a real reason to get involved right now. There are bigger fish to fry."
What bigger fish could there possibly be to "fry" than whether doctors should be relieved from homicide laws in order to help kill their patients? Unless, I guess, one believes that venerable medical ethics don't matter all that much.

If the MMA hasn't discussed the issue lately, it sure should now! With a signature of one judge's pen, it is literally off of the doorstep and in the parlor. What could be more important for the MMA to discuss? Such terminal nonjudgmentalism is an abdication of professional responsibility. Disgraceful.

Credibility PETA Style



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In my observation, PETA has very little regard for facts, and one might even say, less for truth. I think this is exemplified in a minor contretemps with the office of Governor Sarah Palin--who its leaders hate for obvious reasons. PETA claimed that Palin's office threatened to sue over a parody on line video game. Palin's office denied any such threat and in a series of frustrating exchanges found out how surrealistic in can be to deal with PETA ideologues. From the story:
Here's the full exchange as it happened, according to the folks at PETA: From: McAllister, William D (GOV) Sent: Tuesday, December 23, 2008 11:26 AM...Subject: The PETA Files--Your website claims we have threatened to sue you. What do you base this on? Be specific. Bill McAllister, Director of Communications/Press Secretary Office of Governor Sarah Palin From: Ingrid Newkirk ...Dear Mr. McAllister, We base this on a phone call. Why don't you ask in your office and be specific as to on what grounds you can sue us? We know that we can use the game as it's pure parody. I thought people in Alaska had a sense of humor? Ingrid Newkirk From: McAllister, William D (GOV)...That's not very specific. Who called? Name and title given? Did you even attempt to verify it was genuine? Or are facts just cumbersome? From: Ingrid Newkirk [mailto:[email protected]]... Do they train you to be rude? [Me: PETA should talk!] From: McAllister, William D (GOV) [Subject: RE: To answer your enquiry: OK, so the bottom line is, you have attitude, but no facts. Sounds about right. From: Ingrid Newkirkm Subject: So, are you backing down up there? No, YOU have attitude, and it's a bad one, and so did your legal emissary who must have gone to the same charm school. From: McAllister, William D (GOV): Our still unnamed legal emissary, huh? Whether or not I'm charming in your eyes, at least I'm accountable. From: Ingrid Newkirk...You will be when you die, don't you think? Did someone put Red Bull in your water cooler? Are you now saying that no one called from your office, that's my question, or did the person who called overplay his hand, or what, not that I really care any more? From: McAllister, William D (GOV)... To answer the question in your subject line, yes, you are sorry. I wouldn't know if the person who (allegedly) called overplayed his (a man, then?--still waiting for more details) hand. No one here knows what you're talking about.
And of course, PETA provided no facts and promptly sent the e-mails to the press, accompanied by a press release calling Palin names. But note, it made an allegation it couldn't back up and then used the dust up that followed to get publicity for itself. Ingrid Newkirk and her minions may not be truth tellers but they sure are attention hogs.

Opposing Conscience Rights: Driving Dissenting Health Care Professionals Out of Medicine



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The voices that yell loudest about "choice" tend to be the very ones that most enthusiastically seek to stifle it when they involve decisions about hot button moral issues with which they disagree. The St. Louis Post Dispatch is one such voice. Its editorial page weighed in today against the new federal rule protecting health care workers against discrimination for refusing to perform medical procedures they deem immoral, such as abortion or assisted suicide, a matter we have already discussed here at SHS.

I have opined that the a primary goal of opposing conscience rights is to drive people of certain moral persuasions completely out of health care. And indeed, the Post Dispatch proves my point. From the editorial:


Michael O. Leavitt, the Bush administration secretary for Health and Human Services, lauded the rule last week. "Doctors and other health care professionals shouldn't be forced to choose between good professional standing and violating their conscience," he said.

No such conflict should exist. Doctors, nurses and pharmacists choose professions that put patients' rights first. If they foresee that priority becoming problematic for them, they should choose another profession.
See what I mean?

"But Wesley," you might say, "What about Futile Care Theory? Surely the editorialists would argue just as hard for the right of patient and family to have their lives maintained?" Trust me, if it ever came up, the Post Dispatch editorialists would write that doctors and bioethicists are the ones who understand these issues best and that the religious beliefs of families or their "guilt" shouldn't get in the way of physician autonomy and their right to determine the best way to practice medicine. We have seen just such statement in the most pro choice medical journals. In fact, I could write the editorial for them it is so obvious what they would say.

Such "turn on a dimes" make no logical sense if we continue to think that all of this is really about "choice." But that isn't the ultimate issue. Always remember that these and other bioethical and cultural struggles are part of an the ongoing coup de culture that seeks to transform society from the roots. As I wrote in my recent Weekly Standard piece about the Montana assisted suicide court ruling:

Cases such as Baxter, Armstrong, and Casey--among many others--are really part of a slow motion coup de culture, a steady drive to topple the social order rooted in Judeo-Christian/humanistic moral philosophy and replace it with a dramatically different value system founded in utilitarianism, hedonism, and radical environmentalism. Once that process is complete, the courts will quickly make it clear that "choice" has limits.
Remember that the next time you see one of the MSM's 180 degree sudden turns that make so little sense you feel as if your head is going to explode from the hypocrisy.

This is the Kind of Criminality That Too Many Animal Rights Extremists Call “Free Speech”



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A victim of ancillary targeting in the UK has testified in a criminal trial about the kind of hell he experienced merely for working for a company that had a relationship with Huntingdon Life Sciences. From the story:
William Denison says what happened to his family at the hands of ALF extremists was like "Chinese water torture". He is managing director of F2 Chemicals, a company which did not deal directly with HLS but is owned by a Japanese glass firm that had links to it. He was picked out as a legitimate target.

Denison and his family were hounded at home. His wife left her job as a result of stress, neighbours in his village were told he was a paedophile and he had to install 24-hour security and CCTV cameras in his home.

The targeting began at work, but spread quickly. Packages from the ALF arrived at his house several times a week. His car and house were vandalised, causing up to £10,000 of damage. The allegations of paedophilia were particularly damaging and stressful to his wife, who worked with children. "The paedophile allegation was almost devastating in relation to that," he told the court. Some of the many packages that arrived at his house contained shopping which he had not ordered or paid for, including a size 44E bra for his slim wife, in an attempt by the activists to ruin his credit rating.

Fireworks were set off over the family home and airhorns sounded outside in the middle of the night. In July 2003 a hoax bomb was delivered, and in the country roads around his home the words "Bill the murderer" and 13 other sinister messages were daubed in red paint. "It was quite clear I was to become a number one ALF target," he said. "For my wife it was becoming living hell."
Most media stink at exposing the viciousness of animal rights terrorism, generally under reporting the stories and downplaying their importance. The UK's leftwing newspaper The Guardian, is an exception. Its editors and reporters understand that animal rights terrorism is not liberal and treats it for the Brown Shirtism that it is.

Doctors Refuse to Dehydrate Italian Woman: The Fight Over “Conscience” Has Begun



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I believe that the issue of "conscience," that is the right of physicians, nurses, and other health care professionals not to engage in intentional life-terminating actions will be huge in the coming decade in bioethics. It has already begun in Italy after a father won the right in court to have his daughter's feeding tube withdrawn. But even though the EU Court has refused to save Eluana Englaro's life, no doctor in Italy will agree to participate in her intentional dehydration. From the story:
Italian officials say they are taking a hands-off approach after a European court rejected efforts to block a father's efforts to let his comatose daughter die.

Italy's ANSA news agency Tuesday said Beppino Englaro has been unable to find a clinic that will facilitate the death of his daughter, Eluana, who has been in a coma for 17 years. "Personally I hope that the woman continues to live, but I can't interfere with the decisions of her father,'' said Edouard Ballaman, president of the regional council of the Northern League.

The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg Monday rejected an appeal by pro-life organizations trying to block Englaro's efforts on the grounds that only immediate family could be involved in the decision. ANSA said Italy's health minister warned clinics last week not to take part in the removal of the woman's feeding tube.
Judge Greer. Calling Judge Greer! Your courageous assistance is needed again. Calling Judge Greer!

Assisted Suicide for Fun and Profit in Kenya?



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Kenya is a very poor country. But some among the assisted suicide crowd apparently see it as prime pickings for the well off in that country, with suicide tourism for profit being proposed. From the story:
Kenya could become the first country in Africa to legalise doctor-assisted suicide if lobbying by a group of local and foreign investors succeeds in convincing lawmakers to make it legal for terminally ill patients to be assisted to die.

Mr John Hurst, a British investor and the managing director of Dignity International, is the man behind the plans to introduce the Doctor Assisted Suicide (DAS) in Kenya. He says the logic behind assisted-suicide is that since the terminally ill patient will eventually die, it would be better to hasten their death to save the patient from pain and the family from the financial burden that may arise after prolonged treatment.

If allowed in Kenya, terminally ill patients will be required to pay Sh300,000 for the service including burial. The act will not be done in Kenya, rather the patient will be flown to Switzerland for the process to take place. The dead patient will then be flown back for burial.
Of course Switzerland doesn't require people to be terminally ill to participate in suicide tourism. But never mind. Suicide is a necessity. We must be sure people don't suffer.

Culture of Death? What Culture of Death? Wesley, it is all in your paranoid imaginings.

Unconditional Love of a Child With Severe Disabilities



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This is a story about love. It is also a story about community. And, for some, it will be perceived as a story about taking the reverence for life beyond reasonable limits.

A child became profoundly disabled in a terrible mishap and now, having suffered a catastrophic brain injury, requires full-time high tech medical support and full time care. And despite the urgings of some to "let him go," he remains a loved and cherished member of his family. But trouble is brewing. From the story:
[Val} Decker says, this little boy is loved just the same, despite critics who say there is no child, no life there, worth preserving. "People think this mom is crazy," she says as she sits in the living room of their home near Anne Sullivan Elementary in Sioux Falls. " 'She needs to turn off the ventilator and let him go,' they say. "But Landon is not brain dead; he's brain damaged. There's something still within this person. And it's not within my power to take it away." [snip]

Decker's husband--Landon's father--has left the marriage and the home, giving up many of his rights and decision-making powers concerning his son, Val Decker says. When contacted, he did not want to talk about the situation. Now, Val Decker faces the new year uncertain about the insurance coverage that has helped provide much of the constant nursing care her son needs. She is unsure there will be money to make mortgage payments on their house. A nurse by profession, she is looking for work so she can pay the bills. But it's been a struggle to find a job that will allow her to leave when the ventilator-trained nurses she has hired to care for her son are unavailable, she says.

So friends have started a benefit fund at Wells Fargo Bank branches to raise money to help her keep a roof over her family's heads.
Some consider costs of care to be an issue:
The more pertinent discussion here, the doctor says, involves questions that little boys such as Landon "make all of us ask."

"Questions like, 'What is reality?' " Kidman says. "What really matters?' And 'What is love?' "

The reality of Landon Decker's situation is that the cost of his care, through Medicaid and insurance, is expensive. Paying for a ventilator and monitors and 24-hour-a-day nursing care adds up. In a country with finite resources available for situations such as Landon's, "I can understand that side of the discussion," Kidman says. "So the question then is, 'What type of life is worth pouring resources into?' " he says. "We tend to put more on the humanity side than the financial side of that discussion. "I can tell you that the people who interact with Landon and his family seem to be softer in their hearts. They seem to have gained something from being involved in Landon's life and are better for it."
It's a long piece and worth the read. But what struck me powerfully when reading the story is that very few would judge a parent who made a contrary decision in such a case and decided to remove the respirator and allow nature to take its course. But time and again, we see people who love their children come what may--Terri Schiavo's parents come to mind--criticized and pilloried for refusing to let go.

Such are the times in which we live, I guess. But we should also not forget the witness of people like Val Decker and those who help support her, who by their radical self giving illustrate the power, depth, and strength that comes from unconditional love.

HT: Aaron Levisay

“Euthanasia Comes to Montana Courtesy of Judicial Activism”



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I have an extended piece in the Weekly Standard on the Montana judge declaring it a "fundamental right" do "die with dignity"--e.g. to poison oneself with prescribed drugs--which as I noted in an earlier SHS posting about this, may be the only time that an advocacy propaganda phrase was elevated in a court ruling to the status of a constitutional right.

In the piece I point out that much of the decision is, essentially about metaphysical opinions and concepts. From the piece:
A premise of McCarter's ruling is that people have the right to decide for themselves what constitutes "dignity" according to their personal beliefs.
After quoting the authorities she relied on--which would be too long to reproduce here--I state:

In essence, Judge McCarter ruled that the individual's right to act upon such metaphysical beliefs trumps all but the most compelling state interests. But if that is so, how can assisted suicide possibly be limited to the terminally ill? Many people suffer more profoundly--and for longer--than people who are dying. Thus, once the right to end suffering through "death with dignity" is deemed "fundamental," how can people with debilitating chronic illnesses, the elderly who are profoundly tired of living, those in despair after becoming paralyzed, or indeed anyone in other than transitory existential agony be denied the same constitutional right as the terminally ill to end it all? [snip]

And why should the participation of doctors be limited to writing lethal prescriptions? Once they are relieved of liability under Montana's homicide statutes, shouldn't doctors be permitted to provide lethal injections--particularly since studies from the Netherlands demonstrate that active euthanasia is less likely than assisted suicide to cause disturbing side effects, such as nausea and extended coma? Moreover, why require doctors at all? It's my life, so why shouldn't I choose to be killed by whomever I want?

This means "choice" will eventually rule all, right? Wrong!

Judicial activism is really about imposing upon the rest of us the mores and social values favored by liberal intellectual elites--whose interests the courts tend to serve and whose views they reflect. And while personal autonomy and an end to moralizing are certainly a large part of this agenda, they aren't the crux of it.

Just as the personal behaviors favored by the liberal intelligentsia are being transformed by courts into constitutionally protected activities, the personal behaviors disfavored by these same powerful forces are likely to be held controllable by the state. Thus, courts probably won't protect the conscience rights of medical professionals who do not wish to be complicit in abortion or assisted suicide--even though to be consistent, these choices should be entitled to the same constitutional protection under the "mystery of life" analysis as any other.
[snip]

Cases [such as Baxter] are really part of a slow motion coup de culture, a steady drive to topple the social order rooted in Judeo-Christian/humanistic moral philosophy and replace it with a dramatically different value system founded in utilitarianism, hedonism, and radical environmentalism. Once that process is complete, the courts will quickly make it clear that "choice" has limits.

We see this paradigm on issues that are both relevant to and beyond the scope of SHS. If society wants to go in these directions, courts should led the people decide. Otherwise, we are going to be torn apart.


The Day the Earth Stood Still: Hollywood Goes Deep Ecology



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Secondhand Smokette and I decided to go on a date and, against our better judgment, went to see The Day the Earth Stood Still. We expected some enviro-propaganda, but I must say it was even more extreme than I expected. I wrote about it over at the First Things blog:
Earth pushes the mantra of deepest ecology: Humans are the literal enemy of Earth, which, the script strongly implies, is a living entity. At the very least, the message of the movie is that our moral value is no greater than that of shrimp and squid, and that while we have some virtues--classical music being one--the earth is better off with us either obliterated out of existence or rendered completely untechnological.

Today's Hollywood reflects the cultural views of the left and the left has gone insanely anti-human. This misanthropic nihilism is usually implied between the lines, but it is the unequivocal and explicit massage of The Day the Earth Stood Still.
Oh, and there is a scientist character in the picture, whom we are told, won a Nobel Prize for "Biological Altruism." There isn't a Nobel in that category--yet--but it seems to be a field that would be about sacrificing the well being and prosperity of people in order to save the planet. Of course, like most scientists, the character is so devoid of ego, we are told that his friends had to frame and hang the award on his wall. Well, the film is science fiction.

Doctor Once Accused of Trying to Hasten Death to Obtain Organs Not Guilty of Crime



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I have written several times about Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, who was once accused criminally of trying to hasten a patient's death with drugs after he didn't die when his respirator was removed prior to a planned organ procurement. Dr. Roozrokh had no business even being in the operating suite, since he was not the patient's treating doctor. Under relevant "heart death" ethical protocols, he should have only entered the picture after the patient was formally declared dead.

But being in the wrong place at the wrong time and ordering nurses to provide drugs for someone who was not his patient is not necessarily a crime. That was the view of a San Luis Obispo jury that just acquitted Roozorkh of all charges. From the story:
The surgeon, Dr. Hootan C. Roozrokh, was found not guilty of a single felony charge of abuse of a dependent adult, after two other felony charges--administering harmful substances and unlawful prescription--were dropped last spring. Prosecutors had argued that Dr. Roozrokh, 35, prescribed excessive amount of drugs during a failed harvesting procedure on a brain-damaged donor, Ruben Navarro, in San Luis Obispo, in February 2006.

The doctor's lawyer, M. Gerald Schwartzbach, had said that Dr. Roozrokh, a surgeon based in San Francisco who had flown in to retrieve the organs, had been trying to ease the patient’s suffering after other doctors failed to perform their duties.
If nothing else, this case illustrates the urgent need for better training in organ procurement, and for national standards that apply universally. Until then, with different medical centers handling these issues differently, we can expect confusion and a continuing loss of confidence among the public in transplant medicine.

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