Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Eluana Englaro Case: Media Bias and Non Cooperation With the Culture of Death.


Readers of SHS have heard of the tragic case in Italy of Eluana Englaro, diagnosed for 17 years to be in a persistent vegetative state. Her father won the right in Italian court to remove her feeding tube, but has been unable, so far, to find a medical facility willing to dehydrate Eluana to death. That my have changed. Note the language in the following report, headlined "Clinic May Help Eluana End Her Life":
A clinic in Udine on Thursday said it may be ready to help a woman trapped in a vegetative state for 17 years end her life in accordance with a landmark right-to-die ruling. Beppino Englaro, who has fought for more than a decade for a dignified end to his daughter's life, has yet to find a clinic prepared to carry out November's court ruling. The Quiete Clinic, which receives partial public funding, said it would make a final decision by the end of next week on whether it can accommodate 38-year-old Eluana Englaro. ''I think it's right for Udine to offer a just and civil solution to this matter,'' Udine Mayor Furio Honsell told ANSA. Eluana's lawyer, Franca Alessio, said the family had been in touch with the clinic, but added that they were also investigating other possibilities.
Media just can't use accurate language on these issues, it seems. Eluana isn't trying to end her own life. If she is PVS, she is unaware of what is happening. Moreover, before the media call dehydration a "dignified death," they should talk to Terri Schiavo's brother Bobby Schindler--who, as his sister's death was imminent, told the world that Terri's tissues had become so dry blood was pooling in her eyes.

If the culture of death cannot be defeated legally, it must be resisted with total non cooperation. We see that happening in Washington State, for example, with medical facilities there beginning to declare "assisted suicide free zones."

That issue was also well discussed in the Italian situation--with promoters of the culture of death threatening a truly draconian action (which I put in italics):
[Italian Health Minister Maurizio] Sacconi on Thursday warned national health service clinics that they have a duty to keep patients fed and hydrated, adding that it was the State's responsibility to guarantee basic levels of assistance as laid out in the Italian Constitution. This will remain the case until parliament passes a general law on end-of-life issues, he added. Sacconi stressed that while the court ruling permitted the removal of Eluana's tube, it did not ''place any specific obligation on national health service clinics'' to do so. However, the Cassation Court's deputy prosecutor general, Marcello Matera, has argued in the past that it would be ''theoretically possible'' to ask the police to see that the court sentence is carried out in the event that a clinic does not come forward.
We will have that same fight here over conscience clauses, and it is going to be gargantuan. Remember this: Once it is in the driver's seat, the culture of death brooks no dissent. And those of us who oppose the COD have to be just as determined--within the confines of law and/or principles of peaceable resistance--to refuse any and all cooperation.

A New “Haleigh Poutre” in Texas?


SHS's good friend, attorney Jerri Ward, is gearing up to fight a case in Texas that is eerily reminiscent of the Haleigh Poutre case. An attorney ad litem for a terribly abused baby named David Coronado Jr., wanted to stop all treatment because the baby is expected to remain profoundly cognitively disabled. From the story:
The fate of a brain-damaged 6-month-old Dallas boy is uncertain after his court-appointed attorney on Tuesday withdrew a motion to let doctors take the baby off life support...The baby's attorney ad litem, Holly Schreier, told a juvenile district court judge that doctors at Children's Medical Center Dallas had assessed a change in the baby's condition. She did not say what the change was, and she did not return a call for comment.

A doctor reported in December that he expected David to suffer severe disabilities if he survived. It is unclear if doctors now expect the baby to remain in a vegetative or minimally conscious state. Meanwhile, word of the possible hearing on withdrawing the child's life support had spread over the weekend among right-to-life and disabilities-rights groups, at least one of which readied attorneys to intervene Tuesday morning. "Brains are very resilient, and in a 6-month-old baby, to conclude that he's neurologically devastated and is going to stay permanently that way I think is irresponsible," said Jerri Lynn Ward, an attorney representing Not Dead Yet, a disabilities-rights group.
A few points: First, the child was only injured last month. What's the rush? Second: It is wrong for a guardian to want her ward dead "in his best interests" because he is expected to be seriously disabled if he survives. The message of that decision is stark: his death is better than living with serious disabilities--which I don't think a guardian should be allowed by law to assume.

We saw this same rush to remove treatment and "death is better than profoundly disabled" kind of thinking in Haleigh's case. But for the time it took to get the Supreme Court's approval for the dehydration, Haleigh would be dead today instead of in rehabilitation and going to school. Good grief! Do we never learn?

Hopefully, this will be the end of the matter and the baby will receive proper care. If not, I will comment about it here.

A Tale of Two Cadaver Cell Trials


In the UK, an adult stem cell trial using cadaver cells will begin seeking to cure blindness. From the story:[

[A] two-year trial involving 20 patients with corneal blindness will begin this month at the Princess Alexandra Eye Pavilion in Edinburgh and the Gartnavel General Hospital in Glasgow. The treatment being used involves using the stem cells of dead adult donors, rather than the more controversial research involving embryonic stem cells, and if successful could help millions of people around the world who suffer from corneal blindness, around 80 percent of whom are elderly.

As part of the process, adult stem cells are cultivated and then transplanted onto the cornea's surface. "This study is the first of its kind anywhere in the world and it is exciting to be involved in such groundbreaking work," said Professor Bal Dhillon, who is heading the trial.

More controversially, scientists expect to use fetal tissue in an attempt to treat stroke injuries:

Doctors are hoping to launch the world's first trial for a treatment that aims to improve the quality of life for thousands of stroke victims on patients in Glasgow in June, although the procedure must still be approved by an ethics committee.

The treatment, which uses cells taken from an aborted foetus that are to be injected into the brains of stroke victims to see if they can effectively regenerate damaged areas, was developed by Britain-based company ReNeuron. "That single cell was expanded by means of technology so we can have something to treat many, many thousands of patients," said ReNeuron founder John Sindon, who is working with consultant doctor Keith Muir on the planned trial at Southern General Hospital in Glasgow. "You could make the argument that it would have otherwise gone to waste. The reality is that we're trying to turn that into something with a lasting effect."
Interesting that Dr. Muir seems so defensive.

Many SHSers may disagree with me, but I do think there is an ethical distinction to be made between an embryonic stem cell experiment in which a nascent human life is destroyed for the purpose of research, and the fetal experiment which will use tissue taken from a fetal cadaver who wasn't killed in order to obtain the cells.

Think of this analogy using the eye stem cell experiment mentioned above: ESCR would be akin to a murderer executed for his eye stem cells, while the fetal tissue experiment would be analogous to adult stem cells taken from a prisoner executed without thought of how his body parts might be used after death. If one opposes capital punishment (and lets not argue that issue here), both executions would be wrong, and no subsequent instrumental use of tissues would justify the death. But using the body parts of the second prisoner after his death wouldn't in and of itself be unethical. Or am I wrong in this comparison?

On a different note, using fetal tissue to treat neural insults has been tried in the early 1990s in an attempt to ameliorate the effects of Parkinson's--with devastating results: Many of the patients experiences such severe side effects that the trials were halted. So, I hope the ethics committee--such as they are these days--treads very carefully.

A Reader Reacts to the Abandonment to Agonizing Suicide of Kerrie Wooltorton


SHSers may recall the awful death of Kerrie Wooltorton in the UK, who drank anti freeze as a suicide method and was let die because she had a note pinned to her clothes saying she didn't want to be saved (even though she called the ambulance).

A reader who has asked to remain anonymous sent me a poignant letter off stage, and has kindly permitted me to reproduce it here. I think the comments are important:

I was wondering if you have heard any update on the Kerrie Wooltorton story and whether the inquest has made a decision regarding a duty of care owed to people like Kerrie.

Her story touched me because I am a law student who has had 6 suicide attempts in the last 16 months. 5 of those attempts resulted in ICU admission, ventilated and intubated in an induced coma (at various hospitals). The other in the cardiac ward for 10 days. In one particular hospital, I was discharged from ICU without any follow up care. I was told numerous occasions that my actions were my responsibility because I had a personality disorder.

If I had a legitimate mental illness such as depression which would have resulted in me having impaired judgment and affected my capacity to think rationally they would have had a duty of care towards me, I was told by a psychiatrist. I told the same psychiatrist that I was still suicidal and whether it was my responsibility or not, I was still in deep despair and wanted out of the world. He had to then schedule (section) me as "a mentally disordered" person who was at serious harm to herself. I asked him why he was scheduling me since he thought it was my full responsibility, if not only to save his legal arse. He could not answer.

When I was severely ill, I agreed with the doctors because I had a right to "self-determination". I feel quite sick because I could have easily ended up like Kerrie. Like her, I felt hopeless about the future or that anything would improve. I would be interested to know whether the inquest determines it lawful to let people with personality disorders die by their own hand when this could have been prevented.

By any name, allowing Kerrie to die was abandonment. I am so happy that our correspondent has been able to fight through the darkness and back to the light of day--despite the seeming indifference of her psychiatrist.

Bristol Hospital (Connecticut) Punished for Apparent Futile Care Imposition


I think the punishment is woefully weak, but it is a rare case of a health facility (Bristol Hospital, Bristol, CT) being publicly sanctioned for withdrawing or refusing wanted life sustaining treatment. From the story:
In one case, a woman who suffered a heart attack and congestive heart failure completed an advance directive when she entered the intensive care unit, indicating that she wanted CPR and ventilation, but no tracheotomy.

When the woman's condition deteriorated, a doctor and the woman's health care agent changed her status to "comfort measures only." Bristol Hospital's policy required informed consent from the patient in such a situation, but regulators found that medical records did not indicate that the woman was consulted, even though she was still alert. The doctor told regulators that she spoke with the patient's health care agent, but could not recall whether she consulted the patient. The woman was taken off the ventilator, and she died that night.
This raises another issue, too: Advance directives' naming of surrogate decision makers should only apply if the patient is unable to personally make such decisions. Weakness, illness, and disability are no excuses for taking the patient out of the loop.

The punishment was only $4000 for this and other types of violations! But at least it was a public punishment, and SHS feels duty bound to help in that process in the belief that open chastisement has greater power to deter than puny money fines.

Obama Administration Already Pushing Utilitarian Medical Poison


Uh, oh: Here it comes. Incoming Secretary of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Daschle wants to create a US Agency to control costs based on the UK's Orwellian-named National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE), which substantially controls the ethics and medical availability of care under the NHS. From a column in the Wall Street Journal:
Here in the U.S., President-elect Barack Obama and House Democrats embrace the creation of a similar "comparative effectiveness" entity [as NICE] that will do research on drugs and medical devices. They claim that they don't want this to morph into a British-style agency that restricts access to medical products based on narrow cost criteria, but provisions tucked into the fiscal stimulus bill betray their real intentions.

The centerpiece of their plan is $1.1 billion of the $825 billion stimulus package for studies to compare different drugs and devices to "save money and lives." Report language accompanying the House stimulus bill says that "more expensive" medical products "will no longer be prescribed." The House bill also suggests that the new research should be used to create "guidelines" to direct doctors' treatment of difficult, high-cost medical problems.

The bill gives incoming Health Secretary Tom Daschle wide discretion to set priorities, and he's long advocated a U.S. approach modeled on the British agency, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence (NICE). Mr. Daschle argues that the only way to reduce spending is by allocating medical products based on "cost effectiveness." He's also called for a "federal health board" modeled on the Federal Reserve to rate medical products and create central controls on access.
This sounds like even if we maintain a technically private health care system, it will have to operate under federal care rules. Bring on the futile care theory!

When I was in the UK in the wake of Terri Schiavo, advocating for Leslie Burke's right to have a feeding tube when the time came that he could no longer swallow--Burke has a degenerative neurological disease akin to a slow motion Lou Gehrig's and he sued to make sure he wouldn't be dehydrated--I saw the legal briefs NICE filed against Burke's position. It wanted total control by the doctors over whether he lived or died when he became totally disabled based on quality of life/resource standards. Horrible, just horrible.

In 2005, I wrote about the case for the Weekly Standard in "The English Patient," which included a quick description from official testimony about how the NICE works. From my piece:

"[Under NICE standards, an] assessment is made of the cost of the treatment per additional year of life which it brings, and per quality adjusted life year (QALY) . . . which takes into consideration the quality of life of the patient during any additional time for which their life will be prolonged. The clinical and cost effectiveness of the treatment under review is then used as the basis for a recommendation as to whether or not . . . the treatment should be provided in the NHS..." In other words, medical care is effectively rationed by the National Health Service under guidelines set by bioethicists based on their beliefs about the low quality of life of patients whom they have never met. While the views of patients and families are to be taken into account when deciding whether to provide treatment, they are not determinative.
I don't think the American people will yet accept such a program here--if they know about it. But it seems that this financial fiasco through which we are careening is being used as a pretext to carve out obscure legal nooks and crannies with the potential to hide much perfidy.

Fantastic Voyage-Type Mini Robot in the Bloodstream--For Real


As regular SHSers know, I love non controversial biotechnology. Here's another good example. If it works, it will be a case of life imitating, well not art exactly, but schlock.

Scientists have invented a mini robot that might be injected into a stroke patient's blood stream with which to perform delicate surgeries--sort of a Fantastic Voyage without miniaturizing Raquel Welch to the size of a red blood corpuscle. From the story:
A tiny robot which could be injected into patients' bloodstreams to carry out potentially life-saving operations has been designed by scientists. They hope that the minuscule "submarines", which measure less than the width of two human hairs, could help surgeons treat stroke patients and those with dangerous heart conditions.
Of course, before something like this can be tested in living human beings, it must be first tried in large animals--after non animal work is completed:
The team has tested the device in human blood and artificial arteries and later this year it will begin experiments in pigs, whose arteries and brains are similar to humans, before proceeding to full-scale human trials. A spokesman for the Institute of Physics, which published the report, said that using the miniature robots could "save lives by reaching parts of the body, like a stroke-damaged cranial artery, that (other instruments) have previously been unable to reach."
People who oppose animal research on moral grounds deserve our respect. But the cost of their perspective would be to not move forward with potentially life-saving research such as this, since it would be unethical to try it in humans before determining whether it appears safe and efficacious in living organisms. So, that leaves us with the inevitable hard choice: No research on pigs (in this case) or no chance for humans to benefit from this new technology.

Assisted Suicide Laws Will Never be Liberal Enough


One of the things I have come to understand about the euthanasia movement is that the law will never be loose enough to satiate the appetite of the ideologically committed for death on demand. As one example, when the Dutch formally legalized euthanasia, the very next day the Minister of Health opined that suicide pills should be made available to the elderly who are tired of living but don't qualify to be killed. Similarly, suicide tourism would continue to Switzerland even if the UK legalized assisted suicide for the terminally ill.

Then, there will always be people like Derek Humphry who has spent most of his adult life selling how-to-commit suicide kits and books. Now, he is promoting suicide "helium hoods." From his blog:

Last Rights Publications' in Canada went out of business some time ago, just after the 3rd edition of Final Exit was published. So ignore the information at the bottom of page 140 of my book about where to buy the helium hood kit. Instead, today a person may purchase the helium hood kit (not the tanks) for $60 USD either from: [addresses omitted]

Supplying this equipment is not an ERGO
[his suicide kit organization] project, but we have heard that both are reliable, with a fairly good turn-around time. Overseas price is the same = $60. Check, money order or cash. No internet or telephone orders. Both groups operate discreetly, low-key--quietly serving those in need
The callousness is beyond belief.

The Bioethics Drive to Kill for Organs Grows


The agitation to increase the pool of potential organ donors by allowing people who are unquestionably not dead, but who have profound cognitive disabilities, to be killed for their organs continues. An article in the American Medical News, primarily concerned with organ procurement after "heart death," is the latest example. From the story:
Other critics said the concept of transplanting a heart after cardiac death isn't logical. "If someone is pronounced dead on the basis of irreversible loss of heart function, after all, it would not be possible for heart function to be restored in another body," wrote Robert M. Veatch, PhD, a Georgetown University medical ethics professor, in an Aug. 14, 2008, NEJM essay. "One cannot say a heart is irreversibly stopped if, in fact, it will be
This is to sow intentional confusion. The heart can beat outside the body because it has its own nerve clusters, and no one would say that the body from which it came was not dead. The issue is whether the heart could spontaneously restart beating, not whether the heart itself is so degraded it can no longer function.

Here's the advocacy part:
Veatch said the dead-donor rule should be changed to allow patients or their families to opt for a standard that takes a loss of functioning consciousness (short of brain death) as another kind of death. Physicians could then procure hearts "in the absence of irreversible heart stoppage."

Robert D. Truog, MD, said the Denver cases illustrate the underlying problem in how death is defined to facilitate organ donation and transplantation. He said it is time to reconsider the dead-donor rule. "The existing paradigm, built around the dead-donor rule, has increasingly pushed us into more and more implausible definitions of death, until eventually we end up with such a tortured definition that nobody's going to believe it," said Dr. Truog, professor of medical ethics and anesthesia at Harvard Medical School in Massachusetts.
This is known in the trade as "redefining death," and if it ever comes to pass--people like Terri Schiavo could be called dead instead of unconscious and harvested to death. Moreover, we are not being "pushed" into this. Some want to choose it. It is our job to make sure it doesn't happen.

Obama Not to Rescind Bush ESCR Funding Policy?


I am not sure what to make of this. According to a Politico writer, President Obama many not rescind President Bush's embryonic stem cell funding executive order. He is going to leave it to the Congress. From the story:

Obama pledged during the campaign to lift the restrictions, and political observers had expected him to move swiftly to reverse President Bush's 2001 executive order--most likely with his own executive order.

But the president-elect suggested Friday that he would wait for Congress to weigh in on the issue. "Well, if we can do something legislative then I usually prefer a legislative process because those are the people's representatives," Obama said in a CNN interview. "And I think that on embryonic stem cell research, the fact that you have a bipartisan support around that issue, the fact that you have Republicans like Orrin Hatch who are fierce opponents of abortion and yet recognize that there is a moral and ethical mechanism to ensure that people with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's can actually find potentially some hope out there, you know, I think that sends a powerful message.
Hmmm. That would be a dramatic reversal of an earlier promise. Moreover, it will take time to accomplish. On the other hand, it would mean that his fingerprints would not be on the deed. Good politics, I think, because he would get credit for signing the bill but not blame for opening the door.

Also, it can lead to a far more radical research license than could be done by the President alone. But legislation is never totally predictable. That uncertainty can also open up opportunities for opponents to educate the President (whose comment about Alzheimer's shows that he needs it) and the public--such as the incredible breakthroughs happening with adult stem cells and the potential of "alternative methods" to heal the breach that this issue has caused to the body politic.

SHS Funnies


After seeing The Day the Earth Stood Still ten times, Rat throws the earth baby out with the human bathwater:

Coup de Culture: Media--One-Sided Panic Mongers


The coup de culture, as I have defined it, is the process by which the reigning cultural value system of human exceptionalism--which is itself founded in the moral philosophy of Judeo-Christianity/humanism-- is being subverted and replaced by a new paradigm steeped in utilitarianism/hedonism/radical environmentalism. The consequence has been an all out attack on the unique importance of human life, pounded constantly into the consciousness of the general population by outlets of popular culture and a biased media.

The coup relies on hyper alarmist rhetoric so that its value presumptions and assertions won't be challenged. Here's a case in point on the radical environmental front. The global warming ideologue James Hansen is once again warning that we are all doomed if we don't immediately destroy (what is left of our) economies so as to stop carbon emissions. We only have four years! From the story:
Soaring carbon emissions are already causing ice-cap melting and threaten to trigger global flooding, widespread species loss and major disruptions of weather patterns in the near future. "We cannot afford to put off change any longer," said Hansen. "We have to get on a new path within this new administration. We have only four years left for Obama to set an example to the rest of the world. America must take the lead."

Hansen said current carbon levels in the atmosphere were already too high to prevent runaway greenhouse warming. Yet the levels are still rising despite all the efforts of politicians and scientists.

Only the US now had the political muscle to lead the world and halt the rise, Hansen said. Having refused to recognise that global warming posed any risk at all over the past eight years, the US now had to take a lead as the world's greatest carbon emitter and the planet's largest economy. Cap-and-trade schemes, in which emission permits are bought and sold, have failed, he said, and must now be replaced by a carbon tax that will imposed on all producers of fossil fuels. At the same time, there must be a moratorium on new power plants that burn coal--the world's worst carbon emitter.

That could lead to brownouts and blackouts. It might well also turn a recession into a depression and cause inflation, to boot. Is such a draconian policy really necessary? What do those who might disagree have to say, and on what do they base their contrary opinions? We don't know. The reporter never bothered to find out.

This kind of media bias is an important issue to which I am going return often because once it is seen clearly, it loses its power to persuade. In subject after subject, whether the culture of death issues, radical environmentalism, or other areas that promote the new cultural order, the media act as conduits for one side. When they report in this way, they cease to be journalists, and play the roll of shill or propagandist.

It seems to me that in a story like the one at hand that seeks to panic us into precipitous action, readers should have been told that China, not the USA, is now the world's largest carbon emitting country. And how could the fact that this is turning out to be one of the coldest winters in a long time be ignored? Or that the computer models upon which so much of this panic is based have not proved reliable? Or that some of the biggest names in climatology don't subscribe to the climate change panic? Or, the fact that sea ice grew at a record rate in the last quarter of 2008? Or, for that matter, that the earth is actually a tad cooler today than when President Bush took office? Such contrary evidence might keep us from acting! The new earth religion demands that we sacrifice our prosperity and flourishing to save the planet, no time for questions or dissent! Otherwise, it will be as the alien says about us in the deep ecology propaganda movie, The Day the Earth Stood Still!

And the funny part is that all of this apocalyptic scare-mongering comes from the side claiming the exclusive mantle of rationalism.

Maryland House Bill 30: De-professionalizing the Care of People With Terminal Illnesses


In addition to pushing assisted suicide, groups like Compassion and Choices yearn for respectability and desire to be seen as legitimate care givers for patients, at least in an informational context. That was part of the point last year when California passed AB 2747, requiring doctors to inform patients with one year or less to live of their terminal care options, such as refusing to eat or hospice. (As originally written, it would have permitted patients to demand to be sedated and dehydrated to death--a back door method of assisted suicide.) If the doctor doesn't wish to so counsel, he or she is required to refer terminally ill patients to another doctor or to organizations that counsel the terminally ill in such matters. Not coincidentally, the bill was co-sponsored by Patty Berg, the good pal of Compassion and Choices (formerly Hemlock Society), that "counsels" the terminally ill, including about assisted suicide. So, while the original euthanasia purpose of the bill failed, assisted suicide groups took a big step forward by becoming approved conduits of information.

Two Maryland Delegates (Bobo and Manno) are now pushing this same line, with House Bill 30. If it passes, groups like C and C will be able to set up shop as an organization "specializing" in providing information for end-of-life care and receive referrals from doctors for patient counseling. No link yet [Update: Here is link], but here is the relevant language filed last year in preparation for the current legislative session:
E- Terminal Condition Care Counseling may include:...3) Information from organizations specializing in terminal condition care that provide information on fact sheets and Internet Websites to convey the information.
It is worth noting that there are no minimal credentials required for the counselors in the legislation, nor any minimal training for qualified "counselors." Isn't that odd? I mean, if this counseling is so important it must be legally required--then isn't its value diminished by setting such a low bar for qualifying to receive physician referrals? (Another clause of the legislation states that the organization need only be on that "specializes in terminal condition case management and consultation.") Indeed, doesn't this open the door to what are, in essence, advocacy groups pushing their agendas in the guise of "counseling?" As such, doesn't this bill actually de-professionalize the field?

Of course patients and their doctors need to work through these important issues together. But proposals such as this are not only unnecessary and very loosely worded, they certainly seem to have agendas that go far beyond ensuring that patients receive appropriate information about proper end-of-life care.

“Choice” is a One Way Street


As I have often said, the culture of death brooks no dissent. The Bush "conscience clause" regulations protecting health care workers from being discriminated against in their employment for refusing to participate in medical procedures with which they disagree on religious or moral grounds, has been attacked in court by six states. From the story:
In filing the lawsuit, Attorney General Richard Blumenthal is seeking an injunction to stop the Provider Conscience Rule from taking effect. The lawsuit also asks the court to invalidate the regulation.

Blumenthal said the rule would allow health care providers or pharmacists to deny a patient medical care without explanation or offering the patient a referral or information on alternatives, upsetting the balance between health providers' religious freedom and patients' rights.

It would also override a 2007 Connecticut law that guarantees that all hospitals in the state provide emergency contraception, commonly known as Plan B, to rape victims. That law has been endorsed by Catholic leaders, who initially opposed it, and has not produced complaints, Blumenthal said.
This is just the opening of a drive that will seek to make all health care workers potentially complicit in abortion, assisted suicide, and other such activities in the medical context, that seeks to drive doctors, nurses, and others who believe in the literal interpretation of the Hippocratic Oath out of medicine altogether.

And all too typically, the the story doesn't even bother to present the perspectives of advocates for the other side--surely somebody could have been found to defend the regulations. But it was able to get this surreal quote from the ACLU representative:
Andrew Schneider, executive director of the ACLU of Connecticut, drew a distinction between religious rights and the Provider Conscience Rule. "We have long protected religious liberty rights, but not when it curtails basic rights to reproductive freedom," he said.
Fascinating. Religious freedom is explicitly guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution, but reproductive liberty is a "penumbra" that the courts have found to be implied therein. Which should have the first protection under the law and the support of a group claiming to stand up dispassionately for individual civil liberties?

The Death Bureaucracy Begins in Washington State


It is sickening to read the proposed bureaucratic forms that patients and their death doctors will fill out and send to the state when planning assisted suicides. Twenty years ago, people would have called me a total paranoid if I predicted this is what we would become. I wouldn't have believed it myself. Nonetheless, this is where we are as a culture. From the Proposed Rule Making document filed by the now ironically misnamed Department of Health:

I, ______________________________________________________________________, am an adult of sound mind.
First Middle Last
I am suffering from _____________________________________, which my attending physician has determined is an incurable, irreversible terminal disease and which has been medically confirmed by a consulting physician.
I have been fully informed of my diagnosis, prognosis, the nature of medication to be prescribed and potential associated risks, the expected result, and feasible alternatives, including comfort care, hospice care, and pain control.
I request that my attending physician prescribe medication that I may self-administer to end my life in a humane and dignified manner and dispense or to contact a pharmacist to dispense the prescription.

Initial One
I have informed my family of my decision and taken their opinions into consideration.
I have decided not to inform my family of my decision.
I have no family to inform of my decision.

I understand that I have the right to rescind this request at any time.
I understand the full import of this request and I expect to die when I take the medication to be prescribed. I further understand that although most deaths occur within three hours, my death may take longer and my physician has counseled me about this possibility.
I make this request voluntarily and without reservation; and I accept full moral responsibility for my actions.

Signature: County of Residence: Date:

Even the name of the form is propaganda. The death culture, or a death cult?

My Predictions for 2009 in Bioethics


Each year the Center for Bioethics and Culture asks me to prognosticate about the coming year. This year, that duty is painful. I believe we are entering dark days. But it is my job to call them as I see them without honey coating. (This is an abridged version. For more details read the original article.) I predict:

-- The Bush Embryonic Stem Cell Funding Policy is Toast...
-- The Amount of Federal Funding of Human ESCR Will Remain Roughly the Same...
-- New Federal Law Will Explicitly Legalize Therapeutic Cloning...
-- The Federal Government Will Not Fund Human Cloning in 2000;

Assisted Suicide:
-- Washington Assisted Suicide Will Quickly Seem Routine...Any abuses or problems that come to light in WA, will, as in Oregon, be ignored by state authorities and go mostly unreported by the media.
-- The Montana Supreme Court will Create a Constitutional Right to Assisted Suicide...
-- At Least One State Legislature Will Vote to Legalize Assisted Suicide: Look for Hawaii, California, and/or Vermont to legalize assisted suicide through the legislative process.

-- Abortion: The Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA)--which would erase all state laws limiting abortion--will be fought tooth and tong by the pro life movement. It will not pass in 2009...
-- Conscience Clauses:...The Bush Administration passed a regulation at the end of his term protecting such dissenting health care workers from being discriminated against in employment for hearkening to the call of conscience. Look for this rule to be overturned by the Obama Administration, or overturned by legislation...
-- Human Exceptionalism: Timing is uncertain, but look for the European Court of Human Rights to declare that chimpanzees are legal persons in Europe, perhaps this year, but almost certainly by the end of 2010...
-- Futile Care: Texas will not rescind its law legalizing medical futility in 2009...
-- Biological Colonialism: Alas, despite legal attempts to restrict the exploitation of the world's destitute for their body parts, biological colonialism (such as buying organs), will increase in 2009.
I have been asked privately why I would be so publicly pessimistic, even if realistic, in this prediction. The worry is that people might get discouraged. Perhaps, but I hope it will wake people up! I am so tired of hearing, "It can't happen here," that the time has come for all to understand that not only can it happen here, it is happening now. It is now or never to defend the ramparts!

If you'd also like to listen to my predictions, check out the current edition of my podcast, What It Means to Be Human and you can download it into your MP 3.

Don’t Worry: Refusing to Fund Human/Animal Hybrid Cloning Not About Morals


With The Independent on a tear because moral concerns might have been behind the failure of scientists to garner public funding to conduct human cloning with animal eggs, we get this badly needed assurance. From the story:
Reports in the British media that grant applications to create hybrid human--animal embryos for research were turned down on moral grounds, have been rejected by the funding bodies and scientists involved.

The story broke in the Independent newspaper on Monday, which claimed Stephen Minger, a leading stem cell scientist at King's College London, said that the grant applications may have been blocked by scientists on the funding committees who are morally opposed to the creation of cloned hybrid embryos. But when Nature spoke to Minger he said the Independent misinterpreted his comments, adding he did not have any evidence that moral objections led to his proposal being rejected. "I was not saying that religious or moral opposition to the proposal led to its rejection," he said.
Whew, that's a relief. We sure wouldn't want morality to play any role in government funding of scientific research.

Genetic Cleansing and the Corruption of Science Through Political Redefinition


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

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

SHS Funnies


Pig and I have much in common:

Yes, it's true:

Whining Scientists Always Get Their Way in Brave New Britain


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

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

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

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

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


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