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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Fewer Auto Deaths: How About Some Credit Where it is Due for Ralph Nader?



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Where is the institutional memory of the media? A truly good news story has come out about how last year we had fewer automobile accident deaths since the 1960s. There are many reasons for this, with the story focusing on high gas prices last year for reducing the miles driven. Increased seat belt use is also mentioned, amazingly without crediting my pal Ralph Nader who has spent most of his adult life promoting auto safety. From the story:
Several states have pushed tougher seat belt laws that allow law enforcement officers to stop motorists whose sole offense was failing to buckle up...

Seat belt use in 2008 climbed to 83 percent, a record. Fourteen states and the nation's capital had rates of 90 percent or better. Michigan had the highest seat belt use rate with 97.2 percent, followed by Hawaii with 97 percent and Washington state at 96.5 percent. Massachusetts had the lowest rate, 66.8 percent, while it was under 70 percent in New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Many states have tried to improve their enforcement of driving laws and public outreach. In South Dakota, for example, state troopers are required to devote several hours a year to give presentations discouraging drunken driving or promoting seat belt use.
The report should also mention air bags, which are now taken for granted, but for which Ralph fought years to require as an auto safety feature.

None of this would likely have happened, at least not when it did--but for a young attorney taking on General Motors in the early 1960s with the book Unsafe at Any Speed, and in the acrimonious afterwards in which GM tried to pound this piqsqueak upstart into the dirt--only to be the one to receive the big black eye.

Ralph Nader is one of the great humanitarians of the 20th Century who has been disdained and forgotten in the media due to their pique over the 2000 election. But to see why RN was known as "St. Ralph," the person of last resort for many suffering profound injustice, see the documentary An Unreasonable Man, which vividly depicts why he was my hero during my teenage years long before I ever met him.

There should be editorials in our remaining newspapers tomorrow thanking Ralph for the part he played in all of this. But don't hold your breath. So I'll say it: Thanks so much, Ralph, for helping save so many lives and preventing so many devastating injuries.

“Calling Dr. Death! Calling Dr. Death:” Advertising for Kevorkians in Montana



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Compassion and Choices (formerly Hemlock Society) has been mighty peeved lately that so many ethical doctors are refusing to supply assisted suicide prescriptions to their patients. As I noted yesterday, Montana's doctors are apparently refusing to cooperate with the suicide agenda, and so C and C has issued a pitch for willing death doctors to jump to the fore in Montana with their prescription pads in hand.

It's ethical. Really! And polls show that many doctors support "aid in dying," don't you know? (Unmentioned is that virtually every professional medical organization in the world opposes euthanasia/assisted suicide.) And, why, did you know that assisted suicide is consistent with the Hippocratic Oath? From its blog:

"The Hippocratic Oath demands this foremost from physicians: Do No Harm. Prolonging the suffering of a dying person is doing harm. Offering a choice to end the suffering, if that is what the person desires, is the way to do no harm."--Dr. Richard Ikeda, M.D., Director, Health for All Community Clinics, Sacramento.
Such redefining of the Oath is a typical obfuscating tactic for this movement. But here is what the Oath actually states:
I will prescribe regimens for the good of my patients according to my ability and my judgment and never do harm to anyone. I will not give a lethal drug to anyone if I am asked, nor will I advise such a plan; and similarly I will not give a woman a pessary to cause an abortion. But I will preserve the purity of my life and my arts.
This was at a time--unlike today--when people did literally die in agony with nothing physicians could do to help. And still, assisting the suicides of patients was considered unequivocally wrong.

The blog ends with a plaintive call for Death Doctors to come forward:
The majority of physicians, who support legal aid in dying, are now able to practice medicine according to their own deeply held values and beliefs, without fear of government interference. The court has removed government restrictions on physicians who support aid in dying but have had to tell their patients "no" in the past.
In Oregon, C and C facilitates the great majority of assisted suicides, with many lethal prescriptions written by doctors who never treated the patient but were only consulted by patients (generally, at the referral of C and C) to access assisted suicide--not receive actual medical care. Several years ago, I wrote about the shocking internal memo from a (now former) administrator of Kaiser Permanente Northwest (HMO), asking plan doctors to assist the suicides of plan members who were not their own patients. The same will probably happen in Washington, and now, the group is advertising for death doctors to come forward in Montana.

Assisted suicide is Kevorkianism. Calling Dr. Death!
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Terry Pratchett Writes About the Marginalization of People with Alzheimer’s



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The prolific British author Terry Pratchett has a moving and frank article about what it is like to be diagnosed with Alzheimer's. There is much to digest, including how the medical system in the UK seems inadequate to address serious conditions such as this requiring specialized care. But I think this is the heart of the piece. From Pratchett's column:

It occurred to me that at one point it was like I had two diseases--one was Alzheimer's and the other was knowing I had Alzheimer's. There were times when I thought I'd have been much happier not knowing, just accepting that I'd lost brain cells and one day they'd probably grow back or whatever...

It is a strange life when you "come out". People get embarrassed, lower their voices, get lost for words. Part of the report I'm helping to launch today reveals that 50 per cent of Britons think there is a stigma surrounding dementia. Only 25 per cent think there is still a stigma associated with cancer.

The stories in the report--of people being told they were too young or intelligent to have dementia; of neighbours crossing the street and friends abandoning them--are like something from a horror novel. It seems that when you have cancer you are a brave battler against the disease, but when you have Alzheimer's you are an old fart. That's how people see you. It makes you feel quite alone.

The isolation and marginalization of people with Alzheimer's and other serious illnesses is a terrible problem in our society--caused in part by fear, certainly--but also because we have devolved into a society so steeped in hedonism that when one can't climb rocks or have sex four times a week, many think, "What's the point of that bloke even continuing on?" (Yes, that's hyperbole, but the point is valid.)

I recall my last hospice patient's rueful statement to me about why he had wanted to commit assisted suicide with Kevorkian for 2 1/2 years after his diagnosis with ALS (until "coming out of the fog" and being glad to be alive). Bob told me that it wasn't his progressive disability that made him want to die: As difficult as that was, he adjusted with each new "mini death," (as he put it). Rather, he told me:
First my friends stopped visiting me. Then, my friends stopped calling me. Then they stopped calling my wife and I felt like a token presence in the world.
If it is our human duty to love each other--and I think that is the quintessential human obligation--then nobody should be abandoned or isolated or marginalized because they are ill or disabled. Too often, the excuse of "I don't want to upset him," or "I wouldn't know what to say to her," is actually (as understandable as this is), "I don't want to be upset," or "I don't want to be reminded of my own mortality and vulnerability to loss of health and vitality." And this easily morphs into applauding the "choice" of a person in fear of such isolation or perceived burdensome existence, to take the poison pill of assisted suicide.

Non Cooperation in Assisted Suicide Spreads to Montana



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When I have time, I intend to list the hospitals and institutions that have said no to assisted suicide in Washington. Now, apparently the same spirit of non cooperation with being complicit in assisted suicide that sprang to life in that state in the wake of the passage of I-1000 has spread to Montana, where a judge imposed assisted suicide as a constitutional right. From the story:

Four months after a District Court judge ruled that physician-assisted suicide is a right protected under the state's constitution, terminally ill patients say they're having trouble finding physicians willing to prescribe drugs that would hasten their deaths.

Denver-based advocacy group Compassion & Choices held a conference call Friday to read a statement from a 67-year-old Missoula woman who is dying of ovarian cancer. "I feel as though my doctors do not feel able to respect my decision to choose aid in dying," Janet Murdock said. "Access to physician aid in dying would restore my hope for a peaceful, dignified death in keeping with my values and beliefs."
I am sorry, nobody has the right to force doctors to have a patient's blood on their hands. The woman has the right to medical care, palliation, and support of her community--and I hope she receives it. With proper care, she can be almost assured a peaceful passing. But while it is certainly true that she may have the right to ask for a lethal prescription--she doesn't have the right to receive it--at least not yet. Meanwhile, not a word about suicide prevention in the story from the "compassionate" representatives of Compassion and Choices.

This case aside, apparently the Montana Medical Association, of which I have been very critical, has changed course. Where the leader of the group once said the MMA had "bigger fish to fry" than worry about assisted suicide--now with a different president--it seems to understand that assisted suicide is a lunker when it comes to the destruction of medical ethics:

After District Judge Dorothy McCarter's December ruling, the Montana Medical Association adopted a policy that states the group: "does not condone the deliberate act of precipitating the death of a patient."

The policy states that the organization acknowledges that some treatments to eliminate pain and suffering could hasten a patient's death, but "does not accept the proposition that death with dignity may be achieved only through physician-assisted suicide." Dr. Kirk Stoner of Plentywood, president of the MMA, says assisted suicide goes against the group's ethics. "Our reason for being is to care for our patients," he said.
This is excellent. Because something is legal--in this matter due to judicial activism in the extreme--that doesn't make it right. I hope every doctor in Montana puts a plaque in his or her office declaring, "This is an assisted suicide free zone."

PETA Admits It Kills Adoptable Cats and Dogs



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The more I observe PETA, the more bizarre it seems to me. It claims to love animals, and yet it euthanizes more than 90% of the animals it takes in. Why does PETA have to do this? Animal shelters are able to euthanize animals too sick, injured, or aggressive to be found good homes. Moreover, it does not have a formal adoption program, it has admitted to the Telegraph, and it kills adoptable animals. From the story:
Peta insists that homes could not be found for the dogs and cats, usually because they were in such poor health or because they were "unsocialised" and aggressive, usually because of bad treatment by their owners.

But the organisation, which does not run its own animal adoption programme and does not accept animals into its care elsewhere, admitted to The Sunday Telegraph that some treatable and adoptable animals were also among those killed by lethal injection.

"We are doing the dirty work that others won't," said Daphna Nachminovitch, vice-president for cruelty investigations. "We are proud to be a shelter of last resort that takes in old broken animals and gives them a humane end. "America is facing an epidemic of overpopulation. Six to eight million unwanted pets are turned in to shelters each year and half of them have to be euthanised. Our euthanasia programme is no secret."It's a societal problem. We're not going to turn our backs on these animals just so that our figures look good. We're not saying that all the animals we euthanise are suffering from incurable conditions. But overpopulation is a crisis. It's a matter of actually finding a good home."
Doing the dirty work of finding homes for adoptable animals?

Let me translate: Animal rights ideology wishes to see all domesticated animals cease to exist. This includes pets. I believe PETA wants every dog, cat, cow, sheep, sterilized, and out of existence as the current animals die off. (This is Gary Francione's position.) PETA also believes that domesticated animals are slaves, and that this is by definition suffering, and so even adoptable animals are better off dead. Further, I suspect, they euthanize adoptable animals because only vegans are deemed acceptable to the group as people entitled to receive an animal. If I am right about this, that would preclude placing cats in homes because without meat products, cats go blind.

I can't prove the above suspicions, but they are utterly consistent with PETA's ideology. Whatever the case, PETA should be investigated to determine how hard they try to find adoptable homes for those animals, how long they keep adoptable animals, and whether a 90%-plus kill rate is justifiable. Besides, I'll bet local humane societies--not to be confused with HSUS--could give them a hand in finding these animals homes. In the meantime, maybe somebody should infiltrate PETA, as its members are fond of doing animal industries, and take secret videos to prove the cruelty.
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Terminal Nonjudgmentalism Alert: Forbes Asks Peter Singer to Name His “Five Favorite Animals”



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This makes me gnash my teeth: Would any respectable magazine ask the racist David Duke to be part of a benign feature story, say, "What are Your Five Favorite Animals?"

Of course not. But Forbes--a money magazine--decided to to give Peter Singer that very forum. Peter Singer believes it is acceptable to murder babies if they don't suit the interests of the family. (As far as I know, the odious Duke never advocated that anybody be killed.) Singer usually uses babies with Down syndrome or other disabilities as examples of the killable--although it is the purported non personhood of the baby that makes him or her disposable without moral qualm. Thus, in this view, a girl who gives birth and stuffs the baby in the toilet did nothing wrong so long as she painlessly killed the child beforehand, and a mother who can't stand the idea of raising a child with developmental disabilities can snuff him instead.

But this is how the Forbes writer, Courtney Boyd Myers, sanitized Singer's views:
He has drawn critical attention for his secular, utilitarian views on bioethics, such as his belief that in some cases, malformed infants should receive euthanasia. But he is also known for his tolerance toward ideas that differ greatly from his own.
Unlike those nasty absolutists who think baby killing is wrong. They are so intolerant!

This fluff nonsense illustrates so much of what has gone so desperately wrong with us: We celebrate the very people that are pushing us off the moral cliff. But hey, he likes human beings as among his five favorite animals. From the story:
Humans have done, and are still doing, immense damage to other animals, including other humans. We may yet destroy our planet and every other animal living on it. Yet I cannot leave them out of a list of my favorite animals. Nature itself is by no means benign. A world without humans would still involve a lot of pointless suffering, and it would continue indefinitely. The evolution of mammals intelligent enough to think ethically and develop a scientific understanding of our universe offers the only hope that one day things may be better.
But this is insipid, for it strongly implies that someday human beings might be able to interfere with the tooth and claw of nature and make it more benign. The only people I have ever heard of who think that way are some transhumanists who believe that uploading animal consciousnesses into computers could end predation.

Steve Forbes stopped giving money to Princeton when that university besmirched itself by giving Singer a prestigious chair. (Here's a portion of a talk I gave at Princeton unloading on the university for that decision.) And now his magazine (I think he is still publisher) provides him with a pulpit to appear cuddly, burnishing Singer's claim to respectability. No wonder Peter Singer's values are triumphing. Unbelievable.

Serious Complications from Living Kidney Donation Should Rule Out Live Donor Organ Selling



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Following up on my SHS post from earlier today that disagreed with Sally Satel's push to legalize a market in live kidney donation to ease the organ shortage, I did a little digging on the risks. Although the surgery is generally considered quite safe, and donors appear to live as long as non donors after the surgery is over, it still carries very grave risks. For example, there is arterial bleeding, which as one study laid out pretty starkly, sometimes leads to death, morbidity, or serious complications. From the study:
In 213 surveys returned (24%), 66 and 39 episodes of arterial and venous hemorrhage were reported, respectively. Among arterial control problems, 2 resulted in donor death and 2 resulted in renal failure; 19 episodes required transfusion. Open conversions in laparoscopic nephrectomy or late reoperations for hemorrhage were reported for 29 cases. Locking and standard clips applied to the renal artery were associated with the greatest risks.

Conclusions:

Significant hemorrhagic complications occur with living kidney donation in both open and laparoscopic approaches. Loss of arterial control jeopardizes donor life and health, especially when it occurs in the postoperative period.
It may be one thing for someone to choose to risk these complications in order to give someone a kidney because they are a relative or simply out of the pure goodness of their hearts. But it is quite another to seduce sellers into such a market--who would mostly be the poor or the desperate--and persuade them into risking life and health for money, or a mortgage down payment, or health insurance--some of Satel's suggested enticements. There is a word for that, and I am afraid it is exploitation.

Pushing an Organ Commodities Market



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Psychiatrist Sally Satel, of the American Enterprise Institute, has written about being diagnosed with eventual renal failure and her efforts to jump ahead of the organ waiting list (before going on dialysis) by finding someone to give her a kidney. (Her efforts failed until the author Virgina Postrel heard of Satel's illness and gave her one of hers--an act of utter selflessness since the two women did not know each other at the time.) Ever since her illness, Satel has been pushing for the creation of an organ market in which people would be able to sell a kidney, a slice of liver, etc. From her latest piece pushing the idea in the Wall Street Journal:
My colleagues and I suggest a system in which a donor can accept a reward for saving the life of a stranger. A third party (the government, a charity or insurer) would provide the benefit and newly available organs would be distributed to the next in line--not just to the wealthy. Donors would be carefully screened for physical and emotional impediments to safe donation, as is currently done for all volunteer living kidney donors. Moreover, they would be guaranteed follow-up medical care for any complications.

Many people are uneasy about offering lump-sum cash payments. A solution is to provide in-kind rewards, such as a down payment on a house, a contribution to a retirement fund or lifetime health insurance, so the program would not be attractive to people who might otherwise rush to donate on the promise of a large sum of instant cash.

Not only will more lives be saved through legal means of donor rewards, but fewer people will haunt the black-market organ bazaars of places like China, Pakistan, Egypt, Colombia and Eastern Europe. The World Health Organization estimates that 5% to 10% of all transplants performed annually -- perhaps 63,000 in all -- take place in these clinical netherworlds.
These rationalizations do not change the fact that it would be the poor who would be selling--not well off people like Satel. Also, note that she uses the term "safe donations," and potential "health complications" as if the two were not partially mutually canceling.

It is true that most living donors recover fully. But not all. I know one living donor who had a very hard time for awhile post surgically. On the other hand, a good friend's son donated a kidney without any problems. But some people have died giving their kidneys or had other serious complications. Finally, people willing to go to the black market for organs do so because they don't want to wait in line--and may not care if people are being killed to save them, as has happened in China. So opening up an organ market would not stop the biological colonialism that is a scourge in the developing world.

Organ buying would transform vital body parts into a commodity and add to the growing threat of human instrumentalization. Utilitarianism can be appealing. People who need organs are understandably desperate to increase the organ supply, which is a very worthy goal. But the lives and well being of the healthy matter as much as those of the sick. Organ markets are a bad idea that would open the door to a terrible potential for exploitation.

Logical Outcome of Assisted Suicide Advocacy: Swiss Suicide Clinic to Aid Healty Woman Kill Herself



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I don't know why anyone would be surprised by this story. Assisted suicide advocacy rests on two fundamental ideological premises: First, that we own our bodies and it is the "ultimate civil liberty" to decide on the time, manner, and place of our own demise. Second, that killing is an acceptable answer to the problem of human suffering. Once these values are accepted, preventing death on demand becomes logically unsustainable.

The death on demand agenda is now being openly voiced in Switzerland, by the head of one of that country's suicide clinics. Apparently, the healthy wife of a terminally ill, suicidal husband, wants to die alongside him via assisted suicide. From the story:
The founder of the Swiss assisted-suicide clinic Dignitas revealed plans today to help a healthy wife die alongside her terminally ill husband. Ludwig Minelli described suicide as a "marvellous opportunity" that should not be restricted to the terminally ill or people with severe disabilities...Mr Minelli said that anyone who has "mental capacity" should be allowed to have an assisted suicide, claiming that it would save money for the National Health Service.
Clarification time out: When Minelli says "capacity," he means the ability to make a decision and communicate it, not absence of depression or mental illness. His group already won a ruling from the Swiss Supreme Court granting a constitutional right to assisted suicide for the mentally ill. Also, the capacity premise is embodied into the laws in Washington and Oregon that merely require that the suicidal person be "capable," not that they be free from depression.

Back to the story:

He said that he expected to go to the Swiss courts to seek a ruling in the controversial case of a Canadian couple who have asked to die together. "The husband is ill, his partner is not ill but she told us here in my living room that, 'If my husband goes, I would go at the same time with him'," he said.

Mr Minelli, a human rights lawyer, tells The Report on BBC Radio 4 tonight that the British had an "obsession" with the requirement to be terminally ill. "It is not a condition to have a terminal illness," he said. "Terminal illness is a British obsession.
Actually, it is a political tactic, also followed here in the USA to get people used to the idea of suicide as a human right.

Cue Minelli:

As a human rights lawyer I am opposed to the idea of paternalism. We do not make decisions for other people. "We should have a nicer attitude to suicide, saying suicide is a very good possibility to escape"
Minelli is not a fringe player, he is just more honest then some of his other brethren and sistren in the euthanasia movement. For example, Rita Marker discloses in her book Deadly Compassion, that Derek Humphry and Anne Wickett assisted a joint suicide of Wickett's parents because the father wanted to die and her mother was emotionally incapable of refusing to go too.

Death on demand for anyone with a non transitory desire to die is either the goal of the movement--or, given its ideological premises--is the inevitable ultimate outcome of assisted suicide advocacy. So let's--finally--have an honest debate about this issue: As Lincoln said about America not being able to remain half slave and half free because it would eventually become all one or the other; so too, assisted suicide.

Shades of Sarah Palin: Earliest Humans Cared for Special Needs Children--Scientists Surprised



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Fossil evidence has been found that the earliest humans cared for--rather than abandoned or killed--their disabled young. From the story:
The discovery of the oldest known infant born with a skull deformity hints that, contrary to popular belief, early humans might not have immediately abandoned or killed their abnormal offspring, a new study says. Many mammals are known to reject newborns with severe deformities. Scientists had therefore assumed that ancient humans behaved likewise...

But this child would likely have required "special need care" to have lived as long as it did, she said. Deliberately killing unwanted offspring "is not an uncommon practice among mammals, including great apes," our closest genetic relatives, Gracia noted...But the new discovery shows that the fossil youngster's condition "was not an impediment to [receiving] the same attention as any other Middle Pleistocene Homo child," the study authors write (prehistoric time line).

The surprise comes because many scientists see us as just animals. But there is something--dare I say it, exceptional--about the human species, and apparently this distinction that makes such a huge difference has been part of us from the time we first began to emerge/evolve/were created (take your pick).

Yes, yes, I know: Human societies have killed or exposed disabled children. Heck, the Dutch do today in their neonatal units--indicating to me that Dutch society has experienced a serious ethical regression from the most ancient of times. But this story vividly illustrates that being human is something different in kind from any other known life form that has ever existed in the universe.

No, human exceptionalism is not arrogant. It is indisputable.

Today is “Terri’s Day:” The Fourth Anniversary of the Death of Terri Schiavo



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Today is "Terri's Day." It is the fourth anniversary of the end of Terri Schiavo's ordeal of death by dehydration. This cruel end was not a necessary death. It was forced upon her by judicial fiat even though she was not terminally ill, did not require a respirator or kidney dialysis, and had a loving family eager to care for her for the rest of her natural life.

Terri's family believed and believes that she knew when they visited and reacted with joy. But even if she was unaware, she remained a beloved daughter and sister, fully worthy of life and care.

The Schindler family has marked this sad day with the following statement:
Four Years Ago Today, Terri Schiavo Dies After Almost Two Weeks Without Food or Water.
Four years ago today Terri Schiavo died. By the order of Judge George W. Greer, Terri died a slow barbaric death by starvation and dehydration over a period of almost two weeks. We have been posting stories of the events that occurred on each of those days not only in respect for Terri's memory, but a reminder that in this moment countless people are suffering slow, agonizing deaths in hospice, nursing homes, and hospitals in America and around the world.
I wish that Terri's death had convinced people that dehydration is wrong--at least when it has not been explicitly and knowingly requested in writing by the patient ahead of time. Alas, it does not appear to be so. But we can say this: Nobody can ever say again about the dehydration deaths that are happening in all fifty states and around the world as you read these words, "I didn't know." I believe we are all morally accountable for the positions we take on this important ethical issue.

“The Last Great Act of Living,” or How My Dad Taught Me How to Live by Showing Me How to Die



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The always wonderful Canadian bioethicist Margarette Somerville has a terrific and thoughtful article about dying, disability, and the great meaning that can be found in these times of difficulty. It's a long piece and I can't do justice to it--for that you will have to read it for yourselves. But we can present the gist as an appetizer.

She first identifies one of the driving forces behind the euthanasia movement. From her column:
Euthanasia allows people to feel that although they can't avoid death, they can control its manner, time and place. It's a terror reduction or terror control mechanism that operates at both the individual and societal level. So if we believe legalizing euthanasia would be a very bad idea, we need to develop and communicate other ways to deal with our fear of death.
An answer to terror is unleashing "the human spirit:"
It's a term I use in a religiously neutral sense, in that it can be accepted by people who are not religious and those who are, and, if religious, no matter what their religion. By it I mean the intangible, immeasurable, numinous reality that all of us need access to in order to find meaning in life and to make life worth living; that deeply intuitive sense of relatedness or connectedness to all life, especially other people, to the world, and to the universe in which we live; the metaphysical--but not necessarily supernatural--reality which we need to experience to live fully human lives...
The key is finding hope:
Hope is the oxygen of the human spirit; without it our spirit dies, with it we can overcome even seemingly insurmountable obstacles...Even terminally ill people can have hope--what we can call "mini-hopes"--for instance, to stay alive long enough to see a grandchild born, to attend a daughter's wedding, to see an old friend the next day or to see the sun rise and hear the birds' dawn chorus.
But ensuring hope requires action from us:
We must accept old or dying people's gifts, especially those gifts that are of the essence of themselves, recognizing that they and the person who gives them are unique and precious, as are their lives or last days on earth. In confirming the worth of these gifts we confirm the worth of the giver, and the old or dying person needs that confirmation.
Somerville concludes:
The challenge is to maintain death as the last great act of human life, a final human act through which we can still find meaning and, I suggest most importantly, pass meaning on to others. In other words, in our dying, we need to be given the opportunity to leave a legacy of meaning. .
I saw Somerville's vision vividly brought to life when my father fell badly ill, declined, and then died from colon cancer. I watched an already wonderful man-- grow. Through the crucible of failing health, Dad strived boldly to develop a secure sense of himself that had escaped him during his difficult youth, the horrors of war, and even the success of having become a mechanical engineer despite never having gone to high school.

As he struggled with cancer, he sat day after day overlooking his beloved cactus garden contemplating the meaning of it all. He had no formal religion, and kept his thoughts in this regard to himself. Once, when I asked him what he believed, he would only say, "I have my beliefs." And he never lost touch with life. For example, this was the time when I was transitioning out of active law practice--foregoing a very good living for a time of great financial insecurity--and Dad was not amused. I was called to account and we had a profound conversation over a lingering lunch at a Pasadena restaurant about life and its purpose.

Dad had his bad moments, of course. And I am sure there were tears and fears he expressed in private to my mother. But mostly what I saw was fortitude. It didn't come easily: He worked to achieve it, aided immensely by the gratitude he felt at being loved by family and friends. I saw him rally and experience a year of health his doctors said he wouldn't have. And, when that time passed, I saw him decide to stop fighting and let nature take its course. Dad died in a Veteran's hospital hospice on Lincoln's birthday in 1984, a better man than he had ever been on the day that was his last.

The idea of assisted suicide and euthanasia wasn't even considered by our family. At that time, it wasn't even an issue in the public's consciousness. But, there is no way Dad would have gone that route. He found his dignity, his transcendence, by finding hope and purpose in his dying, just as Somerville describes.

I only hope that when my time comes, I have it within me to emulate my father. This much I know: The way Dad died was the last of his many great gifts to me. I still love him so much and miss him every day.

(The photo is of my parents in 1945 upon Dad's return from World War II)

Idaho SB 1114 Futile Care Theory Authorization Bill Is Apparently Dead for This Year



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Great news from a behind the scenes source: I have just been told that SB 1114, the bill that would have explicitly legalized futile care theory in Idaho, has died for the year. It almost snuck by, but when opponents learned about it, they mounted an 11th hour campaign to prevent passage. That campaign seems to have succeeded.

More details when I know more, but I have this on very good and trustworthy authority. It's a shame that some good things got delayed, but we cannot permit "optional" bioethics committees to force people off of wanted life-sustaining treatment--indeed, overturn explicit written instructions by the patient in an advance directive--based on the institutional culture or the committee's or physician's values.

I am told conversations will continue to make the bill acceptable. That's fine with me. But in the meantime: Huzzah!

Upside Down Medicine in Oregon: Paying to Kill, but Not to Extend Life



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Oregon's Health Services Commission has published the list of covered treatments under the state's rationed Medicaid law. Comfort care is high on the list, and includes assisted suicide. But the overseers of rationed care explicitly state that treatment to extend life if the prognosis for living five years is poor, will not be covered. From the Prioritized List, page SI-1:

COMFORT/PALLIATIVE CARE It is the intent of the Commission that comfort/palliative care treatments for patients with an illness with <5%> expected five year survival be a covered service. Comfort/palliative care includesthe provision of services or items that give comfort to and/or relieve symptoms for such patients. There is no intent to limit comfort/palliative care services according to the expectedlength of life (e.g., six months) for such patients, except as specified by Oregon AdministrativeRules.

It is the intent of the Commission to not cover diagnostic or curative care for the primary illness or care focused on active treatment of the primary illness which are intended to prolong life or alter disease progression for patients with <5%> five year survival.

Examples of comfort/palliative care include:..

5) Services under ORS 127.800-127.897 (Oregon Death with Dignity Act), to include but not be limited to the attending physician visits, consulting physician confirmation, mental health evaluation and counseling, and prescription medications.

Such is the compassion of the culture of death--and the future of all health care if the utilitarian health care rationers ever are put in charge.

Vulture: Nitschke to Create Overdose Testing Suicide Kit for Use in UK



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Philip Nitscke is the Australian answer to Jack Kevorkian who has spent years as a media darling opining that "troubled teens" should have access to suicide pills, teaching people how to commit suicide, creating the "peaceful pill," a concoction of everyday products that can kill, and selling plastic Exit Bags for use in suicide--which I helped induce the government bring to an end when I exposed his little marketing scheme in The Australian during a 2001 anti euthanasia national speaking tour in Australia.

Now, he is invading the UK with his ghoulish proselytizing. From the story:
Australian pro-euthanasia campaigner Dr Philip Nitschke plans to launch testing kits for people to check the strength of drugs they have bought to commit suicide in the UK this year, a British newspaper has reported.

Quoting Deliverance, the newsletter of Dr Nitschke's organisation, Exit International, The Observer said the kits, which have chemicals that change colour when mixed with lethal barbiturates, would be released in May. The launch coincided with Dr Nitschke's planned tour of Britain, and the kits would be available for about STG35 ($A72). "We decided to launch in the UK because of its enlightened attitude; many of the things we can do in the UK are banned in Australia," the paper quoted Nitschke as saying.
People like this should be shunned. But media love him. I once debated N long distance on CNN. Before the program, the producers were tripping over themselves in embarrasingly gushing language and excited tones to thank him, thank him, for deigning to be on their program. His ego stoked, he benignly told them they were quite welcome.

In my view, he has buckets of blood on his hands.

SHS Continues to Grow



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I thought I would look at a few of the statistics for SHS this evening. I am pleased. In the last 30 days, we have had more than 45,000 visits by some 36,000 distinct visitors. That's about the size of a good crowd at Dodger Stadium. And the dailies are up a couple of hundred a day over a month or two ago.

Since I put up the flags a little more than three months ago, we have been visited by people from 167 countries out of 192 or so in the world. Our newest addition is Angola. So, we are definitely international. I also receive some very nice private correspondence these days reacting to SHS from all over the world.

Tell your friends and neighbors to jump on in: The water's fine. Thanks to all for supporting and contributing to the success of SHS.

“Man” to Have Twins



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I know it is considered rude to point out in our postmodern times when facts are contrary to the narratives. And we have been through this before with greater fanfare. But having resisted posting the "story," it finally became too much when I saw it reported again today for the umpteenth time in the last week.

Yes, another transsexual"man" is pregnant (don't forget, the first one is pregnant again)--only this time with twins! Call Oprah! Back in the real world, no man is giving birth, much less to twins. A woman is. From the story:
A 25-year-old transsexual man in Barcelona has announced that he is pregnant with twins, prompting debate in Spain about the ethical use of reproductive technology.

Ruben Noe Coronado Jimenez, who is reportedly nine weeks pregnant, interrupted hormone treatments and postponed plans to have a full sex-change operation in order to get pregnant because his 43-year-old girlfriend could no longer have children.
You couldn't make up that last paragraph. But here's the point: He may be legally a man (although in this case I don't think that has happened yet,) but biologically where reproduction does not depend on narratives--only organs, hormones, and gametes--she is a biological woman. Women give birth every day. No story!

Forced Speech: Pushing Against Conscientious Objection by Medical Practioners to Abortion in California



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The following post will be about abortion and conscientious objection thereto by medical professionals. But it could just as easily be about assisted suicide, or using embryonic stem cell therapies, or pulling feeding tubes, because the principles are the same--as are the reasons for the attempted coercion of medical professionals to cooperate with life terminating medical procedures.

I have been reporting that doctors and other medical professionals who wish to hold to an orthodox Hippocratic view of medical professionalism are going to increasingly be forced by law to either be complicit in these actions or become podiatrists. The most blunt method of destroying Hippocratic medicine in this manner is the new Victoria, Australia law requiring doctors to either perform an abortion upon request, or find another doctor for the patient who will. That requires a doctor to have blood on his or her hands (from the conscientious objector's POV) regardless of their moral beliefs regarding abortion.

A more common form of coercion is to require doctors to provide information to patients about the availability of procedures that intentionally kill a human being. The latest example of such legislation is SB 374 in California, that would make it a crime not to provide patients with information about the legality or availability of abortion, and which could also be grounds for stripping the doctor or nurse practitioner of their license to practice. Worse, if the professional has a conscience objection, he or she must still participate in ensuring that the patient receives detailed information about deciding whether or not to have an abortion. From the legislation:
SEC. 4. Section 123462 of the Health and Safety Code is amended to read:...(e) Each physician and surgeon, nurse practitioner, and physician assistant described in subdivision (d) has an affirmative duty of reasonable disclosure to his or her patient of all available medical choices with respect to the patient's personal reproductive decisions. Failure of a physician and surgeon, nurse practitioner, or physician assistant to fulfill this duty shall constitute unprofessional conduct and grounds for suspension of the licensee's license, unless all of the following circumstances exists: (1) The licensee refuses on moral or religious grounds to provide disclosure pertaining to an available medical choice. (2) The licensee immediately informs the patient, either orally or in writing, that other medical choices may be available.(3) The licensee promptly assists the patient in finding a licensee who will fully fulfill the duty of reasonable disclosure to the patient.
Let's skip the preliminaries and get right to the real point: The purpose of such legislation is not to make sure women know they have the right to an abortion. How can anyone not know? Besides, a woman need only look in the Yellow Pages, go to a Planned Parenthood or high school health clinic, or do a Google search to find more information about abortion than can be absorbed. And don't be surprised if we follow the lead of the UK, where abortion clinics may soon be allowed to advertise on television.

No, this bill isn't about informing patients. Rather, its coercive purposes are (at least) threefold: First, to control thinking. Second, to drive Hippocratic professionals out medicine and sweep aside the penetrating message their non cooperation in killing in the medical context sends. Third, to win an important battle primarily about the symbolism that a victory achieved over dissenters would send to medical professionals and the society alike. And don't be surprised when laws are passed preventing the medical professional from giving an opinion about the moral propriety of such decisions. I mean, if you are going to control speech, control speech.

I've said it before and I'll say it again: The culture of death brooks no dissent.

And Now for the Important Stem Cell Work: Increasing Bra Cup Size



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Well, it was bound to happen. Adult fat stem cells are going to be used to increase breast size. From the story:
A stem cell therapy offering "natural" breast enlargement is to be made available to British women for the first time.

The treatment could boost cup size while reducing stomach fat. It involves extracting stem cells from spare fat on the stomach or thighs and growing them in a woman's breasts. An increase of one cup size is likely, with the potential for larger gains as the technique improves.

A trial has already started in Britain to use stem cells to repair the breasts of women who have had cancerous lumps removed. A separate project is understood to be the first in Britain to use the new technique on healthy women seeking breast enlargement.
It beats silicone, but really. And it sure shows how therapy quickly morphs into "enhancement." There are also potential risks. And ponder this: What if abundant curves go out of style again? Breast reduction surgery?

Another Final Exit Death Reported



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Apologists for assisted suicide, such as the Los Angeles Times editorial board, pretend that the Final Exit Network is a fringe group that does not reflect mainstream assisted suicide advocacy, rather than, as I have clearly demonstrated here, at SHS, within the very heart of the assisted suicide movement. FEN activists have been arrested in one case, and new deaths undertaken with their participation are coming out all the time.

Here's the latest, of a depressed elderly man tired of living. From the story:
Max Lom was depressed. His eyesight had failed. Simple tasks, like reading the newspaper, had become an exercise in futility.The 88-year-old Sarasota man wanted to die, although physically, he was healthy, according to his daughter.

Last May, he swallowed a handful of pills in the hope of never waking. It didn't work, but the suicidal thoughts lingered, his daughter said.Shortly after, Lom began communicating with Final Exit Network, a national organization whose members provide support to those seeking a "peaceful end." Lom was found dead Jan. 4 from breathing helium gas with a plastic bag over his head, a Sarasota County Sheriff's Office report said. Family members are outraged at the group, as Lom wasn't terminally ill or suffering...

Lom's daughter, Helen Lom, believes the group essentially convinced him to take his life. Final Exit Network officials have denied any involvement in Lom's death."They might not have put the hood over his head, but they basically gave him the recipe book," said Helen Lom, who lives in Switzerland.
How is this facilitated suicide any different than what happens in Oregon, Washington, and now Montana? Lom used helium and a bag, in Oregon death doctors prescribe intentional overdoses of drugs. Different medium, same result.

Don't give me that nonsense about Lom not being terminally ill. That limitation is a stage managed pretense to get people to accept the principle that having doctors (or others) assist the suicides of people based on "choice" and killing as an acceptable answer to human suffering. As a logical species, once that principle is swallowed by the population, the pretense of terminal illness is quickly forgotten and you get the Netherlands and Switzerland--in which the depressed and mentally ill people are allowed assisted suicide, and doctors even give out a book teaching patients how to kill themselves when they don't technically qualify for euthanasia.

The real debate we should be having is whether suicide clinics should be legalized help anyone with a non transitory desire to be made dead. Everything else--as so much of our corrupted public discourse these days--is disingenuous and a premeditated act of intentional misdirection.

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