Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Lead Into Gold: No Thanks to Obama, Another IPSC Breakthrough


Meanwhile back on the ranch, scientists continue to progress with the development of induced pluripotent stem cells, an ethical "alternative" to ESCR--because no human life is destroyed in the derivation of the cells. Now, using human tissues, IPSCs were created without potentially dangerous viruses and genes by none other than James Thomson, the first scientist to derive human embryonic stem cells. From the story:

By reprogramming skin cells to an embryonic state using a plasmid rather than a virus to ferry reprogramming genes into adult cells, the Wisconsin group's work removes a key safety concern about the potential use of iPS cells in therapeutic settings.

The new method, which is reported in today's (March 26) online issue of the journal Science, also removes the exotic reprogramming genes from the iPS equation, as the plasmid and the genes it carries do not integrate into an induced cell's genome and can be screened out of subsequent generations of cells. Thus, cells made using the new method are completely free of any genetic artifacts that could compromise therapeutic safety or skew research results, according to the Science report...

The resulting cells, says Thomson, are remarkably similar to embryonic stem cells and show the same capacity to proliferate indefinitely in culture and diversify into all the cell types of the human body.

Under President Bush's 2007 executive order, this type of research was required to be federally funded as a way to surmount the bitter cultural divides over biotechnology and its impact on the intrinsic importance of human life. In other words it was pro ethics and pro science. This is the very kind of policy President Obama promised that he would pursue as president--but instead, he stealthily broke that promise by revoking the Bush order.

Human IPSCs were only announced in November 2007. The advances made since then have been breathtaking, with some of the most notable scientists in biotechnology--Thomson, Ian Wilmut (of Dolly the sheep fame), Yamanaka--in the field. Let's hope they and/or other alternatives someday render ESCR scientifically superfluous.

Here's a link to the Abstract of the paper.

Scottish Assisted “Narrow” Assisted Suicide Bill Again Demonstrates That the Movement is Not About Terminal Illness


There is a bill pending in the Scottish Parliament to legalize assisted suicide. It's author recently "narrowed" the bill to protect the vulnerable. But the narrowed bill would explicitly legalize assisted suicide for people with disabilities, once again clearly demonstrating that the "death with dignity" movement is not about a "choice" for the dying. From the story:
Ms MacDonald has narrowed her proposals to cover only three specific categories of people who believe their lives have become intolerable. It includes those with a progressive, degenerative conditions; those who have suffered a trauma such as crashes or sports injuries, leaving them entirely dependent on others; and those with terminal illness.
No wonder the disability rights community is up in arms about assisted suicide

Also note that the story contains not one quote from anyone opposed to assisted suicide. Opponents are merely mentioned as having somehow skewed a constituent canvas that the bill's author took.


Poverty is the Answer: Radical Environmentalism Leading Us to a New Form of Human Sacrifice


I have written how radical environmentalism is becoming distinctly anti-human. With the fervent ideology of Deep Ecology, it is explicitly stated. But some of what we are witnessing among the neo Greens is a drive to sacrifice human flourishing and prosperity--without the explicitly stated misanthropic dogmas.

This willingness to sacrifice human welfare is reaching a fever pitch among those who believe that global warming is a crisis of unimagined proportions--a belief that can border on quasi-religion or pure ideology. An article by David Owen--pushing the importance of economic decline to saving the planet--in the New Yorker illustrates the point. From his column:
[T]he world's principal source of man-made greenhouse gases has always been prosperity. The recession makes that relationship easy to see: shuttered factories don’t spew carbon dioxide; the unemployed drive fewer miles and turn down their furnaces, air-conditioners, and swimming-pool heaters; struggling corporations and families cut back on air travel; even affluent people buy less throwaway junk.
Most of us view our current economic crisis with alarm. Apparently, Owen sees it is a positive:

The environmental benefits of economic decline, though real, are fragile, because they are vulnerable to intervention by governments, which, understandably, want to put people back to work and get them buying non-necessities again--through programs intended to revive ordinary consumer spending (which has a big carbon footprint), and through public-investment projects to build new roads and airports (ditto).

And the answer, apparently, is more of the same decline we are now experiencing:
The ultimate success or failure of Obama's [anti-global warming] program, and of the measures that will be introduced in Copenhagen this year, will depend on our willingness, once the global economy is no longer teetering, to accept policies that will seem to be nudging us back toward the abyss.
So, people need to be poorer, with all the concomitant increase in human suffering and shorter lives that would result from lower levels of prosperity. And remember, he only writes here about the well off areas of the world. But you can bet that he and his co-believers would strive mightily to stifle development in now destitute areas of the world--dooming perhaps billions of people to lives of continued squalor, disease, and lower life expectancies.

More to the point of what we discuss here at SHS, human beings are a logical species: We take our ideas where they lead! (Thus, once Americans accepted the verity of Jefferson's "We hold these truths to be self evident, that all men are created equal..."it doomed slavery, because servitude and equality are incompatible.) For the same reason, once we accept the fundamental premise of the piece--that we must sacrifice human prosperity to "save the planet"--the misanthropic ideology of Deep Ecology--humans as a viral infection afflicting Gaia--with radical depopulation as the cure--consider the genocidal implications--become a logical next step

And thus we see how the healthy environmentalism that cleaned up filthy rivers and reduced Los Angeles air pollution is quickly mutating into an implicit and explicit anti-humanism that is in danger of leading to becoming so degraded in our self perception, that we could reach the point of being urged (forced?) to become human sacrifices on Gaia's altar.

Unlimited Appetite: More Pressure from “The Scientists” for Feds to Fund Embryo Creation and Destruction for Use in Research


The appetite from some sectors of the biotechnology community for funding and ethical license, is never satiated. Only days after President Obama euthanized President Bush's ESCR policy--and in the wake of the New York Times calling for revocation of the Dickey Amendment that prohibits the Feds from paying for the creation and destruction of embryos in research--the prestigious science journal Nature has added to the political pressure. From its editorial:

When US President Barack Obama lifted the funding ban for research on human embryonic stem cells earlier this month, he did not mention the Dickey-Wicker amendment--legislation that forbids the use of federal funds for research that destroys or creates embryos. It was a missed opportunity to begin a necessary conversation.
There was no ban, but never mind. The point is that Nature wants to destroy Dickey:

In force since 1996, the Dickey-Wicker amendment badly needs updating to fit the current research reality, if not outright repeal...Both the Dickey–Wicker amendment and the new guidelines on human embryonic stem-cell research being drawn up by the National Institutes of Health merit an intense national conversation. In particular, that dialogue should thoroughly explore attitudes towards studying different types of embryos--not just those left over from fertility procedures, but also those that might be specially created for research.
See, the assurances--oft stated--that all "the scientists" want are "leftover" embryos that were "going to be destroyed anyway" was always hogwash, part of a sophisticated propaganda campaign intended to unfetter biotech from any meaningful limitations on the instrumental use of nascent human life. Yet, despite these editorials, the "leftovers" meme will continue to drive most media reports.

Nature also wants to continue the word engineering project we have discussed here over the last several years:
A key requirement for productive dialogue is a common frame of reference. Here, the [me: scientifically accurate] word 'embryo' is a stumbling block. This term refers to everything from a newly fertilized single-celled egg to millions of cells organized into eyelids, ears, genitals and limbs. Yet the latter form, which is present some eight weeks after fertilization, is not only ethically unacceptable for research but also far too old to yield embryonic stem cells.
Why is it ethically unacceptable? Nature doesn't say. And why should anyone believe that embryonic stem cells are "all" that "the scientists" are interested in? I mean, why would anyone believe this platitudinous assurance, when the "leftovers only" promise proved so patently false?
Indeed, some studies indicate that germ stem cells, that develop at about 6 weeks, might be better than embryonic stem cells. We have already seen calls for using fetuses as sources of organs and fetal farming, which would be even more pronounced if cloning were added to the mix to do away with the immune rejection issue. Beyond that, imagine the potential for testing drugs in fetuses,particularly fetuses genetically engineered to have certain medical maladies. Anyone who thinks that embryonic stem cells are the ultimate goal of all of this just hasn't been paying attention.

Here's the bottom line: Now that Big Biotech and its supporters in Big Science and the MSM believe they are in the driver's seat with regard to ESCR, they are intent on pushing the boundaries to the next of many stages--federal funding for the creation and destruction of custom made embryos, including via cloning. But of course, that was the plan all along.

PETA Kills More Animals Than Ever


As we have discussed here at SHS, PETA has killed tens of thousands of dogs and cats at its Norfolk, VA headquarters in the last ten years--apparently including adoptable animals. But based on public records studied by the non profit, food industry-financed Center for Consumer Freedom, the animal rights organization has increasingly resorted to killing and decreasingly to adoption, as the years have gone by.

the CCF is PETA's worst nightmare. Its workers are as edgy and creative as are PETA's activists--giving back to the animal liberationists some of the same grief they give to others. And it has a budget, permitting it to monitor what animal rights group do and say very closely. Understanding that the organization has a bias, over the years I have found its information to be accurate and reliable--the same about which can definitely not be said for PETA. (The PETA employees mentioned in the article linked above, were were eventually convicted of littering when they dumped the animals they killed in containers, which was later overturned on appeal.)

In the past, PETA has been exposed for killing animals transferred from shelters to its headquarters in Norfolk. Some, perhaps many, of these euthanasia deaths may well have been necessary due to the poor condition of the animals. But the number of kills versus adoptions may indicate something else is at work, particularly since its kill to adopt ratio is widening. From the CCF press release:

PETA's "Animal Record" report for 2008, filed with the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, shows that the animal rights group killed 95 percent of the dogs and cats in its care last year. During all of 2008, PETA found adoptive homes for just seven pets. Just seven animals -- out of the 2,216 it took in. PETA just broke its own record.
This adoption rate is the mirror opposite of the local SPCA, according to the press release.

The CCF also created a chart showing the number of animals PETA has received, killed, transferred, and adopted since 1998. For example, in 2000, PETA received 2,681 animal, of which 2,029 were euthanized, 28 transferred, and 624 adopted, for a 75.7/23.27% rate of kill to adoptions. In 2004, the ratio was 85.9% killed and 13.60% adopted. In 2008, only 0.32% were adopted. That's hard to imagine if the animals' welfare was truly the purpose of PETA's work.

Why might PETA be increasingly resorting to the poison injection? In the past, PETA has said that "many" of the animals are not adoptable. That isn't the same thing as all as saying none were.

Having watched PETA closely now for several years, I suspect that at least part of this seemingly inexcusable kill rate has to do with PETA's ideology that perceives human ownership of domesticated animals as, per se, causing suffering--as a consequence of which, PETA may believe the animals are better off dead than adopted into non animal rights households. The CCF hypothesizes it may be a reluctance by PETA to spend money advertising to the wider community--despite a $32 million budget--that there are animals available for adoption.

Whatever the cause, these kill to adoption numbers may be an indication that there is something very twisted about PETA, and that whatever that something is, it is getting worse.

“Single Embryo” IVF May Work Better


Among the downsides of IVF has been the overproduction of embryos, that were then put into the deep freeze. Because most of these nascent humans will never be gestated to birth, they are now looked upon as mere things to be used in research.

The reason we have about 400,000 embryos in cold storage is that docturs used to believe that creating many and implanting multiple embryos were necessary to maximize the potential of a successful birth. Moreover, creating many embryos could make it less likely that to the woman being treated would have to be repeatedly super ovulated--which carries distinct risks.

But now, studies show this may be wrong. From the story:

The research contradicts the widely-held view that implanting multiple embryos during in-vitro fertilisation (IVF) is more cost-effective, and improves a woman's chances of becoming pregnant. "At a time when there is an intense debate in many countries about how to reduce multiple pregnancy rates and provide affordable fertility treatment, policy makers should be made aware of our results," said the study's lead researcher Hannu Martikainen of the University of Oulu in Finland. "These data should also encourage clinics to evaluate their embryo transfer policy and adopt elective single embryo transfer as their everyday practice for women younger than 40," she said in a statement....

The study, published by the reproductive medicine journal Human Reproduction, found that the live birth rate was five percent higher for women who had only one embryo implanted at a time. The single embryo procedure was also cheaper, especially when health complications due to multiple births were taken into account. "We found that a baby born alive at term using single embryo transfer was, on average, 19,899 euros (26,825 dollars) less expensive than babies born as a result of double embryo transfer," Martikainen said.

Some countries limit the number of embryos that can be created and implanted, and the time has come for the USA to begin to regulate the field.

But don't expect it to be easy. As we have discussed previously, some wish to make embryos for use in research. Some want multiple births. Some fertile people want to use IVF--coupled with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis--to prevent babies from being born with health diseases, for purely cosmetic culling, or sex selection.

But if we moved to a more limited license for creating and implanting IVF embryos, there would be fewer women afflicted with serious side effects, no need for "selective reduction," e.g. aborting one or more of multiple fetuses, no storing of "unneeded" embryos in the deep freeze bringing with it the temptation of objectification, and less likelihood of eugenic selection of which babies should be born.

Still, we have become a society in which very powerful forces think that the right to have a child through any manner desired--or abort a child at almost any time and for any reason--are connected and should be absolute. They will fight tooth and tong to ensure that the current dysfunctional and unethical "anything goes" US approach doesn't change.

Obama Press Conference: Once Again the President is Disengenuous on Embryonic Stem Cell Research Policy


I was just watching President Obama's press conference and noticed that he once again dissembled on his answer regarding embryonic stem cell research. From the transcript:
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. In your remarks on stem-cell research earlier this month, you talked about a majority consensus in determining whether or not this is the right thing to do, to federally fund embryonic stem-cell research. I'm just wondering, though, how much you personally wrestled with the morality or ethics of federally funding this kind of research, especially given the fact that science so far has shown a lot of progress with adult stem cells but not a lot with embryonic?

PRESIDENT OBAMA: Okay. No, I -- I think it's a -- I think it's a legitimate question. I -- I wrestle with these issues every day. As I mentioned to -- I think in an interview a couple of days ago, by the time an issue reaches my desk, it's a hard issue. If it was an easy issue, somebody else would have solved it and it wouldn't have reached me.

Look, I believe that it is very important for us to have strong moral guidelines, ethical guidelines, when it comes to stem-cell research or anything that touches on, you know, the issues of possible cloning or issues related to, you know, the human life sciences. I think those issues are all critical, and I've said so before. I wrestle with it on stem cells; I wrestle with it on issues like abortion.
Except that Obama stated during the campaign that he supports the Freedom of Choice Act that would apparently end any and all regulation on abortion through the ninth month, whether at the federal or local levels. He also refused to support the Illinois version of the Infant Born Alive Protection Act when he was a state senator. He is actively seeking to dismantle the Bush "conscience clause" regulation that protected health care workers with moral qualms about procedures like abortion. If he really wrestled with abortion, he lost the bout!

Back to the president:
I think that the guidelines that we provided meet that ethical test. What we have said is that for embryos that are typically about to be discarded, for us to be able to use those in order to find cures for Parkinson's or for Alzheimer's or for, you know, all sorts of other debilitating diseases, juvenile diabetes, that -- that it is the right thing to do. And that's not just my opinion. That is the opinion of a number of people who are also against abortion.
It seems to me his ESCR policies are almost as wide open as his abortion policies. For example, there was no requirement in the recent EO that the Feds only fund stem cell lines that came from "leftover" embryos. This means the NIH could, theoretically, fund stem cell lines taken from embryos created explicitly for the purpose of being destroyed--an approach the ethics opinion of the National Academy of Sciences supports as perfectly fine and proper.

And by the way, Alzheimer's is not the kind of a disease likely to be cured by embryonic stem cell infusions because it is caused by plaques that attack the whole brain. Why do some believe it is? Because, despite it not being true, as one ESCR-hyping scientist put it several years ago, "People need a fairy tale."

Cue the POTUS:

Now, I am glad to see progress is being made in adult stem cells. And if the science determines that we can completely avoid a set of ethical questions or political disputes, then that's great. I have -- I have no investment in causing controversy. I’m happy to avoid it if that's where the science leads us.
Then why rescind the 2007 Bush order requiring that the Feds fund research into non controversial "alternative" methods, the very kind of policy geared toward bridging our bitter cultural and political divides, a matter he has now twice kept quite mum about--here and in his stem cell speech.

Obama continued:

But what I don't want to do is predetermine this based on a very rigid ideological approach. And that's what I think is reflected in the executive order that I signed.
But that is what he did, base his order on a very rigid ideological approach that views nascent human life is so much chopped liver. Indeed, as far as I can tell, he took federal funding just as far as the law allows, and only expressed an ethical qualm about the only limit he seems to have placed on anything only an ethical qualm about reproductive cloning, a matter with which he is unlikely he to have to deal directly in his term of office due to profound technological challenges that stand between here and the hypothetical birth of the first baby gestated from a cloned embryo.

Sigh. Definitely not the straight talk express.

Deep Ecology Misanthropy Moving Into Mainstream Environmentalism


Deep Ecology is a neo earth religion, the ideology of which holds that nature should be given equal consideration with people--a concept sometimes called ecological egalitarianism. The explicit rejection of human exceptionalism led adherents into a profound nihilism and anti-humanism in which deep ecologists yearn for a radical human depopulation to under 1 billion.

It is one thing when the fringe speaks in this manner. But as we have noted here at SHS before, such thinking is moving into the popular culture with movies such as The Day the Earth Stood Still, and also, closer to the environmental mainstream with its growing obsessions over climate change and limiting human prosperity. Now, a major UK environmental adviser wants to see his country cut its population in half. From the story:
JONATHON PORRITT, one of Gordon Brown's leading green advisers, is to warn that Britain must drastically reduce its population if it is to build a sustainable society.

Porritt's call will come at this week's annual conference of the Optimum Population Trust (OPT), of which he is patron. The trust will release research suggesting UK population must be cut to 30m if the country wants to feed itself sustainably. Porritt said: "Population growth, plus economic growth, is putting the world under terrible pressure"...

Porritt is winning scientific backing. Professor Chris Rapley, director of the Science Museum, will use the OPT conference, to be held at the Royal Statistical Society, to warn that population growth could help derail attempts to cut greenhouse gas emissions. Rapley, who formerly ran the British Antarctic Survey, said humanity was emitting the equivalent of 50 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere each year. "We have to cut this by 80%, and population growth is going to make that much harder," he said.
There are decidedly genocidal and tyrannically eugenic implications in such advocacy. Porritt, for example, has called for the UK to adopt a 2 child policy. But that would, at most, keep the population roughly static--assuming immigration was limited. It would not cut the population by half--the UK currently has about 61 million people--meaning much harsher measures would have to be taken than exerting social pressure or enacting legal requirements to restrict family size.

It is of great concern that a key adviser to the government seems to have swallowed the deep ecology poison and still be considered a respectable spokesperson for environmentalism.

Ignorant Independent Science Reporter Accuses Others of Ignorance


A science reporter named Steve Connor in the UK, has written a diatribe against opponents of ESCR in the Independent. Part of his critique is an unoriginal cheap shot at the Catholic Church and the issue of ensoulment--which is way beyond our jurisdiction here, and moreover, as far as I know, has not been a major part of the debate anywhere. But then Connor goes on to defend the so-called "14-day rule," which permits embryos to be maintained for 14 days for purposes of experiments. From his column:
The reason why it was decided to allow research on human embryos less than 14 days old was because the ball of cells within the developing embryo that actually becomes the baby--as opposed to the placenta and amniotic sac--does not itself develop until after the 14th day.

Embryologists call this tissue the "primitive streak" and its non-existence in IVF embryos younger than 14 days old was why the 14-day limit on researching and growing human embryos is enshrined in British law. We can thank the Warnock Committee, which sat more than 20 years ago, for this insight. It has proved a remarkably robust argument against those who hold the view that a human being with a soul begins at conception.
Again, most of the people who want to argue about ensoulment are advocates who come from Connor's side of the street. It is the instrumental use of human organisms, nascent human beings, that is morally objectionable. And as we have reported here, embryology text books clearly state that human life begins with the completion of fertilization, not after two weeks when the embryo implants or when the primitive streak emerges.

More to the point, Connor gets his science wrong. Some of the cells in the blastocyst--the embryo at about 1 week--do indeed develop into placenta--which is a vital embryonic and fetal organ necessary for its nourishment and development. But some of the cells--remember these are the pluripotent stem cells that are so coveted by scientists because in theory they can become any cell in the body--become the developing baby's liver, skin, blood, etc. They might not have known that 20 years ago when the Warnock Commission sat, but they sure do now.

Moreover, the primitive streak, which is the beginning of the nervous system, is merely the first visible sign of differentiation, that is, the transformation of the preexisting pluripotent stem cells into specific tissue types. But the streak itself is not what becomes the other tissues.

Beyond that, why would the presence of some differentiated cells increase the moral worth of the embryo? It wouldn't, of course. This is just a false line to be used for now to give the masses the illusion of ethical control. But remember, at least for now, human embryos can't be maintained past 10-14 days in the Petri dish. Thus, as we see so often, the 14-day rule is just another example of "the scientists" being willing to prevent only that which cannot yet be accomplished technologically. Besides, we already see advocacy for fetal farming among some bioethicists, as we have pointed out here at SHS.

Finally, the Warnock Commission was led by Baroness Warnock, a crass utilitarian eugenicist, who has made many outrageous claims on the bioethical front, including supporting a duty to die.

Before Connor calls others ignorant, perhaps he should make sure he is not the pot calling the kettle black.

Biological Colonialism Alert: Cash for Organs Plan in Singapore


If organs can be purchased, it seems obvious to me that the rich will buy and the poor will sell. Singapore's plan to open the door to this form of biological colonialism has raised this very concern. From the story:
Plans by Singapore to allow payments to living organ donors have run into opposition from some lawmakers who fear they may draw indebted foreign workers, according to press reports Tuesday.

One deputy, Halimah Yacob, said the large pool of unskilled foreign workers affected by the financial crisis may turn to donating organs to pay off debts they incurred to get jobs in this affluent city-state...

The issue was debated Monday in parliament where Halimah, a ruling party lawmaker, said some foreign workers "will become a ready, vulnerable pool of organ donors to be exploited and abused."

"To a desperate foreign worker, even a reimbursement of 10,000 (Singapore) dollars (6,600 US) would be attractive compared to going home empty-handed with a huge debt waiting for him," she was quoted as saying by The Straits Times.

Of course that would happen. The problem is, too many of the people who could benefit--and have the power--don't care.

I have always worried that we are heading toward what I call a Blade Runner world: the masses living in quasi anarchy, as the rich and powerful live lives of luxury behind high walls , marked by eugenics and the ability to exploit the weak. Setting up a commodities market in organs is a step down that path.

Leon Kass Awarded National Endowment for Humanites Most Prestigious Honor


Good for Leon Kass and well deserved! The country's most eloquent and articulate defender of intrinsic human dignity will be giving the NEH Jefferson Lecture, the Endowment's most prestigious honor. From the press release:
Dr. Leon R. Kass, a widely published author, award-winning humanities teacher, and one of America's leading moral philosophers and experts on medical ethics, will deliver the 2009 Jefferson Lecture in the Humanities, the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced today. The annual NEH-sponsored Jefferson Lecture is the most prestigious honor the federal government bestows for distinguished intellectual achievement in the humanities.

"Leon Kass is an outstanding scholar, a gifted teacher, and one of our nation's leading humanists," said NEH Acting Chairman Carole M. Watson. "He has brought the wisdom of the humanities to bear on many topics, from bioethics to courtship, and his dedication to undergraduate teaching in the humanities has benefited a generation of students."
Kass was vilified by utilitarian bioethicists during his tenure as head of the President's Council because he opposes human cloning and stands up for human exceptionalism. In an age when the social outlaws and radicals get most of the attention, it is gratifying to see one of the true greats receive the credit he deserves.

It’s About the $: Libertarians Discover Futile Care Theory


I have crossed pens occasionally with Reason writer Ronald Baily and debated him (and others) at CUNY about transhumanism and other brave new world agendas. Well, Baily just [update, actually in 2006] learned about a Texas futile care case that, he writes, led to scorched earth commentary from the Left. (As regular readers of SHS know, it is legal in the Lone Star State to impose futile care upon unwilling patients.) From his column:
I somehow missed the culture war moment last month when it was reported that Baylor Regional Medical Center in Plano, Texas, disconnected a dying, uninsured cancer patient, Tirhas Habtegiris, from the ventilator that was keeping her alive. The 27-year-old abdominal cancer patient was conscious and did not wish to be disconnected because she hoped that her mother would arrive from Africa for one last visit before she died. The hospital warned the patient and her family that it would keep her on the ventilator for just 10 more days. Ms. Habtegiris died 16 minutes after the ventilator was shut off on December 14, 2005.
I hadn't heard about that one either, but I am not surprised.

Bailey says the Left was up in arms when the story became public because the cutoff seems to been motivated by money. Ya think? And he wonders why the political right didn't also jump all over the case. Perhaps they didn't know about it--as I didn't. However, if Bailey had done a little digging, he would have learned that pro lifers and others on the right have coalesced with disability rights leaders and others on the left to oppose futile care theory wherever it rears its ugly head. Indeed, this strange political bedfellow coalition has stopped the advance of Idaho's S. 1114, a bill that would legalize Texas-style futile care theory.

Meanwhile, Baily exhibits his usual terminal nonjudgmentalism about such moral issues, but notes that the issue of futile care is definitely about money:

Critics of Baylor's decision should also bear in mind that it's not as though Habtegiris did not receive medical care. She was admitted to one of the finest hospitals in America, which did treat her illness. We know that she was in intensive care at the hospital for at least 10 days and probably more. A recent study of intensive care using a ventilator calculated the cost at $2,255 to $3,040 per day, so her stay at Baylor cost the hospital at least $22,550. That's $22,550 that someone else's insurance or taxes will have to cover through increased costs....

Perhaps it was wrong for Baylor to pull the plug in this instance, but it is clear that in the real world of limited medical resources that the "authorities," whether private or governmental, will unavoidably be making similar life and death decisions in the future.

Maybe resistance is futile. But then again, maybe not: If we can alert the public to this danger, we may be able to prevent the agenda from sinking into the bedrock of medical ethics and economics.

Update: I didn't notice that Bailey's article is from 2006. It doesn't change the thrust of the post, but we strive to be accurate. Thanks, and sorry for any inconvenience caused to any SHSer.

Softball Interview With Accused Final Exit Network Accused Felon Ted Goodwin


The media love social outlaws, particularly those involved with assisted suicide, and rarely challenge them in interviews or journalistic profiles--a phenomenon I have discussed here at SHS before. That could explain why Ted Goodwin, the former head of Final Exit Network and vice president of the World Federation of Right to Die Societies, sat down with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for a chat, despite being under indictment: He knew he had nothing to fear.

True to form, Goodwin is not challenged or pressed. I mean catch the first question! From the interview:
Q: Tell me about the first "exit" you participated in. Were you scared?
Compassionate Ted was apprehensive, we learn, but his first suicide thought he was an "angel," and so a life's purpose was found.

Asked if he is religious, Goodwin soothes:
Every day of my upbringing my parents taught me decency and generosity and compassion for others. And so that's my spirituality. I look upon what we do as a ministry.
The tough interlocutor then asks how Goodwin "feels" when someone he has just been talking to expires:
This is a very difficult job to be able to befriend someone, to visit them sometimes four, five and six times--talk with them over the phone--and then to know that someday you're going to be in attendance when they end their own lives. It takes a real mental strength to be able to deal with that and not emotionally dissolve...
But he has what it takes and selflessly carries on. And here's a question that begged a follow up, which unsurprisingly, was never asked:

Q: Why do you accept people who are not terminal?

A: Why should we make that decision for someone, that their suffering is any less than those that have, by the grace of God, a time limit on their suffering?
I wonder why the interviewer didn't ask Goodwin why FEN cleans up after the suicide, removing the helium canister and the bag used to cause death. I wonder why he didn't bring up the Phoenix case in which a mentally ill woman was, it is suspected, "counseled" by FEN representatives. I wonder why he didn't mention that the man he is accused of assisting in suicide had been successfully treated for cancer.

Oh never mind: I am spitting into the wind.

The “Philosophy” of Climate Change?


I have been saying that science is becoming a religion (scientism), but this is ridiculous. A climate change parishioner has been found to have been wrongfully fired in the UK over his "philosophical belief" in global warming. From a column by the Telegraph's ever politically incorrect Christopher Booker:

A London employment tribunal has ruled that Tim Nicholson... was wrongly dismissed as a property firm's "head of sustainability" because of his fervent commitment to "climate change". Mr Nicholson had fallen out with his colleagues over his attempts to reduce the company's "carbon footprint". The tribunal chairman David Neath found the company guilty of discriminating against Mr Nicholson under the 2006 Equality (Religion and Belief) Regulations, because his faith in global warming was a "philosophical belief".

Recalling how "eco-psychologists" at the University of the West of England are pressing for "climate denial" to be classified as a form of "mental disorder", one doubts whether the same legal protection would be given to those who fail to share Mr Nicholson's "philosophical belief".

Yes indeed. The double standards cut across many areas of social concern beyond what we deal with substantively here at SHS.

Booker also notes that current measurements show that the Arctic ice is thickening, not thinning. But there is a remedy for that heresy: He can always be involuntarily hospitalized for mental health observation for his denial psychosis.

“Suicides R Us” Franchises Soon to be Available: Former UK Health Minister Wants to See Suicide Clinics


I remember seeing the movie Soylent Green in the early 70s. One of the shocks of the film has E.G. Robinson's character leaving a note to Charlton Heston that he was "going home," which turned out to be death via a euthanasia clinic. As I recall, the idea that society would become so crass and abandoning as to permit clinics where people would go to be killed was seen as beyond the pale.

Well, in the 1990s, Kevorkian urged the establishment of suicide/euthanasia clinics. Many laughed that off as advocacy from a fringe kook--even though he had better poll numbers than Barack Obama does today.

Now suicide clinic promotion has entered the mainstream of politics. None other than Patricia Hewitt, the former Health Minister in the Blair Government, wants to see them established in the UK. From the story:
Suicide clinics should be set up in the UK and "assisted suicide" legalised, Patricia Hewitt said yesterday.

The ex-Health Secretary will try to change the law next week so people who take terminally ill loved ones abroad to die cannot be jailed. But she eventually wants to go further and legalise assisted suicide. Ms Hewitt said she had been "quite troubled by the issue for several years". She added: "My own view is that we should have a law for people who are terminally ill but also mentally competent of making that very grave decision."
Forget the nonsense about terminal illness. As we have noted often, the Swiss suicide clinics that receive "suicide tourists" from the UK and elsewhere are not so constrained either in law or in practice.

It has been reported that the Dignitas suicide clinic in Switzerland turns a pretty penny offing people. But at least we can take comfort that when chain suicide clinics are established, the efficiencies of scale should bring the price of dying down to a level everyone can afford. Hey! In the USA, the billions or trillions (whatever) being spent from money borrowed from China to pay for the stimulus bill could provide the financing! You too could start a whole new career in the fast growing industry of suicide facilitation.

Culture of death? What culture of death?

Regulate IVF in an Age of No Boundaries? Not a Chance


Will Saletan of Slate writes an always thought provoking column that is a favorite of SHS's. The gold of Saletan's approach is that he takes a step back and expertly points out problems with, and logical outcomes of, behavior or policies--although he never seems to promote any real solutions. I suspect that he doesn't see that as his job.

Having previously discussed the slippery slope of IVF, in this column Saletan warns of another "slippery slope" on the side of the hill that would regulate IVF and related technologies. His column illustration is a pending Georgia bill that once sought to limit the number of IVF embryos that could be implanted--which, as I predicted, was hammered so hard that it had to be amended. The current bill would ban all human cloning--hooray--and would only permit IVF for the treatment of infertility.

Sounds reasonable to me, but Saletan notes that the bill could be construed to prevent fertile couples from using IVF coupled with pre-implantation genetic diagnosis (PGD)--genetically testing the embryos for eugenic purposes prior to implantation to weed out the unacceptable--in order not just to have a baby, but to have the kind of baby (whether based on health or cosmetic desires) they want. From his column:

I don't know whether the bill will pass the Georgia House. But this is just the beginning. The bill is part of a nationwide project to regulate the emerging industry of embryo production. In one state or another--and then another and another--legislation will be filed to restrict IVF. Based on the Georgia experiment, these bills will probably make exceptions for infertility but not PGD. The battles, then, will be fought over which uses of PGD are acceptable. And these fights will be every bit as ugly as the preceding fights over abortion.

This column is dedicated to making us look at ugly facts and moral problems we don't want to see. For several years, one of these problems has been the slippery slope of PGD. Now we'll have to face, in all its ugliness, the slippery slope of regulating it.
I think Saletan gets a few things wrong in his piece. First, not all pro-lifers oppose IVF per se. The Catholic Church does, but that isn't the same thing.

More to the point of this post, the idea that in this day and age we will ever reach sufficient societal consensus to constrain our growing sense of entitlement to hyper control every and all aspects of our reproductive lives--regardless of the moral costs or the deaths caused thereby--is to miss the ocean in which we currently swim. And even if we did, I doubt the judiciary, which increasingly conflates the policy desires of the Liberal "choice ubber alles" Elite with the requirements of the U.S. and state constitutions, would permit these laws to stand.

But this is the real point behind the point: While I support legislation such as the one in Georgia, in the end, law alone is not the answer. What we really need is self restraint. But how is that promoted when any and all criticisms of anyone's "choices" are hammered as insensitive moralism? Until and unless we can escape the black hole of terminal nonjudgmentalism and reach social norms about these matters to which all are expected to abide, the "edges" will continue to be pushed, and those who do the pushing will continue to be celebrated on toxic shows like Oprah and in the even worse celebrity magazines, as the rest of us wring our hands about the collapse of our culture. Which is too bad: My hands are already pretty badly chaffed.

Governor Palin’s Address To The 2009 Special Olympics Shows the Beauty of Unconditional Love


In light of the President's unthinking slight ot the athletes who participate in the Special Olympics--and keeping in mind the 90% eugenic abortion rate that sadly belies our supposed commitment to "diversity"--I thought it would be worthwhile to post Sarah Palin's address to the Special Olympics given a few weeks ago. Whatever one might think of Palin's politics, her family's joyful acceptance of Trig into the core of their hearts illustrates the power of unconditional love. Her statements in support of the Special Olympics--which I believe the Kennedy Family played a key role in establishing-- shows that some things transcend--or at least, they should transcend--our divisions. What a gracious presentation.

SHS Funnies


I feel Goat's Pain.

Biologically, A New Human Life Begins When Fertilization is Complete


This argument wouldn't have to be made, but for science becoming post modern in some circles so that narrative counts more than facts. This has certainly been true with regard to biotechnology because some want to use human embryos instrumentally. But rather than just admit that and justify it ethically, definitions were changed, for example, claiming that an embryo only comes into being upon implantation, rather than at its beginning at the completion of fertilization. In that way--presto-chango--embryos in petri dishes could be used as so many kernels of corn.

But I looked into this issue when I was researching Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World. Every embryology text book I reviewed retained the non political definition of when human life begins, e.g. at the completion of fertilization. One is The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th Ed.) (Keith Moore and T. V. N. Persaud, W. B. Sanders Company, Philadelphia, PA, 1998), which asserts:
Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte is fertilized by a sperm. (page 2)
More to the point, the authors write:
Human development begins at fertilization [with the joining of egg and sperm, which] form a single cell called a zygote. This highly specialized...cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual.(page 18)
The authors of another embryology textbook (Ronan O'Ramilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology and Teratology, (Third Ed.), (Willey-Liss, New York, NY, 2001), also state on page 8 that upon the completion of fertilization:
a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed.
Since some don't want to call embryos what they are, as I pointed out in an earlier post, some politicized scientists use the word "pre embryo," as if it were something different in kind than an embryo after it implants. But scientifically, biologically, there is no such thing as a pre-embryo. Thus, the authors of Human Embryology and Teratology, in the name of scientific accuracy, place the term "pre-embryo" under the categorization, "Undesirable Term in Human Embryology," further asserting that "embryo" is the accurate and hence, "preferable term." They write further on page 88:
The term "pre-embryo" is not used here [in their book] for the following reasons: (1) it is ill-defined; (2) it is inaccurate...(3) it is unjustified because the accepted meaning of the world embryo includes all of the first 8 weeks; (4) it is equivocal because it may convey the erroneous idea that a new human organism is formed at only some considerable time after fertilization; and (5) it was introduced in 1986 "largely for public policy reasons."
But of course, such objective scientific analysis doesn't serve the polemic needs of some ESCR and cloning advocates.

Terri Schiavo Was Not a Carrot


The use of the "V-word" continues to be used in the most "enlightened" places. Today, it is an interview with health author Jane Brody in the NYT about her new book on planning for death. From the interview:

Q: When is the right time to start planning for death?

A: Start thinking about it when it's unlikely to happen any time soon. It's much easier to do it then. It's less painful. Get it out of the way. Many people are saying, "I'm going to take action now while I still feel good and I'm still healthy." You don't have to be old. If you recall, Terri Schiavo was 26 when she suffered a heart attack that deprived her brain of oxygen and left her a living vegetable for 15 years, at great cost and trauma to her family.
Terri Schiavo was not a carrot or a turnip. She was a human being with a profound cognitive disability. Calling her a "V" demeans her and dehumanizes her moral worth as a human being--just as the odious "N-word" does people with dark skin. It should never be used among enlightened people. Indeed, we need to grow as a culture so that anyone using it is treated with the same disdain by polite society as we do now to anyone who uses the crude "N" epithet.

Second: Terri's family was certainly grief stricken over her injury--the precise cause of which will never be known. But that is not what so badly traumatized them, and it is not what extracted a "great cost." Those inflictions came from the horror they felt--and still feel--because they were not permitted to care for her for the rest of her life in order to, instead, slowly dehydrate her to death by court order to the applause of much of society.

Brody needs to get a clue as to both her facts and her lexicon.


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