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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Stop Elephant Poacher Butchery



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Great efforts are made internationally to stop the illegal ivory trade. But it appears to be too little. From the National Geographic story:

Ivory-seeking poachers have killed 100,000 African elephants in just three years, according to a new study that provides the first reliable continent-wide estimates of illegal kills. During 2011 alone, roughly one of every twelve African elephants was killed by a poacher.

In central Africa, the hardest-hit part of the continent, the regional elephant population has declined by 64 percent in a decade, a finding of the new study that supports another recent estimate developed from field surveys.

This is awful. From an animal welfare analysis–which should be the standard, not “animal rights”–there is no real human necessity served by the killing of these magnificent animals, and much suffering caused.

Accordingly, human exceptionalism holds that our duties to these animals to prevent their depredation means more must be done to to stop the butchery!

Professor Death Supports Doctor Death



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I think it is time to start calling Peter Singer ”Professor Death.”

The Princeton moral philosopher–an oxymoron in his case–is the world’s foremost proponent of infanticide. He usually uses examples of disabled babies, but the reason he believes they can be killed is that they are supposedly not “persons.” Thus, Singer has refused to state that killing a baby because she was ugly would be wrong.

Professor Death also supports euthanasia, both voluntary and non voluntary against ill human non-persons, such as Alzheimer’s patients.

He has also stated that cognitively devastated people should have been used in developing the hepatitis vaccines instead of chimpanzees. Not surprisingly, he advocates duty-to-die health care rationing based on quality of life invidious discrimination. 

Professor Death has come to the defense of his colleague in nihilism, Australia’s Doctor Death, Phillip Nitschke, who favors suicide availability for troubled teenagers and the selling of suicide pills in super markets.

Nitschke has had his medical license suspended for “death coaching,” that is, giving active encouragement and how-to instructions to suicidal people. One such person was a suspected murderer, who received suicide encouragement through Nitschke’s organization, learned how to get the drugs, and did the deed. 

Nitschke’s ghoulish suicide proselytizing is completely inconsistent with his role as a licensed medical doctor. But Professor Death thinks Dr. Death’s license should not have been taken because both death colleagues believe in the dangerous concept of ”rational suicide.” From The Age story:

‘‘I think suicide can be rational in the absence of terminal illness and I think I could find you dozens or hundreds of philosophers who would think that …

All bow to the philosophers!

Back to Singer

I think if you know you are going to spend the next 20 years in prison, suicide is a rational option – not for everybody, but for some people,’’ he said, referring to the case of Nigel Brayley, a Perth man who communicated with Dr Nitschke before taking his own life while he was being investigated over his wife’s death.

This is Kevorkianland: K believed that anyone who wanted to die should be able to attend a clinic for that purpose. Apparently, Singer agrees:

In response to concerns about depressed people accessing Exit International information, Professor Singer said: ‘‘I think the solution to that is to legalise voluntary euthanasia and restrict it to medical practitioners, and then Philip won’t have to do this … I think he feels he is a crusader against a law that unnecessarily restricts people’s right to die.”

Who cares what he “feels?”  The question is whether his actions are consistent with possessing a medical license under Australian law.

But note, Singer believes that a man suspected of murder should be able to go to a doctor to be killed to avoid prison.

We don’t know why Nitschke was suspended. But he has sold suicide bags to people he knew to be self-destructive, which was outlawed in response to my advocacy against N in Australia in 2001.

He told people how to access poison for suicide. He lied in the media about a woman who announced she was going to commit suicide under his tutelage, claiming she had terminal cancer, when she didn’t. He has encouraged and furthered the suicides of who knows how many people over the years.

Singer might think that is fine. He may think doctors should be allowed to kill. But at least as things are now, when Nitschke committed his ghoulish suicide promotion, it sure isn’t consistent with the practice of ethical medicine. 

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“Pro-Choice” Mask Increasingly Coming Off



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For years, pro-choicers on abortion have insisted that they are not “pro abortion.” Indeed, many insisted that the decision is “difficult” and that abortion should be “safe, legal, and rare.”

I didn’t believe they meant it.  But the logic of their argument implicitly agreed that what is terminated in an abortion is more meaningful than an inflamed appendix.

As a consequence, the pro-life movement has pushed the country more in its direction. And it also allowed some limitations on the abortion license.

That has some pro-choicers taking off their masks and coming out as pro-abortion. Case in point: A column in today’s Washington Post by Janet Harris. From, “Stop Calling Abortion a Difficult Decision:”

When the pro-choice community frames abortion as a difficult decision, it implies that women need help deciding, which opens the door to paternalistic and demeaning “informed consent” laws. It also stigmatizes abortion and the women who need it…

Pro-choice advocates use the “difficult decision” formulation for a similar reason, so as not to demonize women. It also permits pro-choice candidates to look less dogmatic.

But there’s a more pernicious result when pro-choice advocates use such language: It is a tacit acknowledgment that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue requiring an ethical debate. To say that deciding to have an abortion is a “hard choice” implies a debate about whether the fetus should live, thereby endowing it with a status of being. It puts the focus on the fetus rather than the woman.

As a result, the question “What kind of future would the woman have as a result of an unwanted pregnancy?” gets sacrificed. By implying that terminating a pregnancy is a moral issue, pro-choice advocates forfeit control of the discussion to anti-choice conservatives.

In other words, the humanity of the dead fetus matters not a whit. That’s known as truth in advertising.

With this kind of advocacy increasing, it is clear now that pro-abortionists also want Roe v. Wade overturned. Why? Roe permitted limits. 

In contrast–as I have written–a ruling that protects abortion as necessary to protect sexual equality would permit abortion through the ninth month–if not beyond–with the only regulations permitted being those required for basic sanitation. 

After that, the next step would be to require free abortion, either paid by the state or required as coverage under Obamacare. Pro-abortionists believe that women won’t really be free until they are guaranteed the right to a dead fetus.

Slaves Forced to Detect Cancer!



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Animal rights activists oppose any and all instrumental use of animals. Indeed, they equate our ownership of animals to slavery-again, and again, and again. Some don’t even want dogs to exist.

So, what about this story? From the Telegraph:

Women at high risk of breast cancer could be screened for the disease by simply breathing into a tube which is then sniffed by a specially trained dog, in a new clinical trial after UK scientists found the animals are highly accurate at detecting other cancers.

A charity is now embarking on a landmark trial to establish if the dogs can accurately detect breast cancer from samples of breath which if proven would ‘revoluntionise’ how doctors think about the diagnosis of all cancers, the researchers said. The animals working for Medical Detection Dogs in Buckinghamshire have already been shown to be more reliable at detecting prostate cancer than current blood tests, with 93 per cent accuracy when sniffing urine samples.

Evil! And no rights given to collective bargaining. Liberate the canines from human oppression!

Child Custody Fights to Get Very Complicated



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I believe we are in a time of growing social anarchy, in part driven by the new reproductive technologies and marital instability. People want what they want, and regardless of potential consequences, by golly, they are going to make it happen! The fact that this could cause great confusion or distress in children is too often beside the point.

Of course, many see it differently. They couch their corrosive assault on family norms in terms of liberating people from stultifying conformity, catching up to modernity, or changing laws to match what children supposedly see. 

California already legally recognizes that a child can have three parents. Now, Australia may go even further. From the ever-valuable BioEdge’s report:

Australian law could be revised to allow more than one [sic, actually two?] parent, if recommendations in a major report are accepted by the government. A “Report On Parentage And The Family Law Act”, was released this week.

Adoption and new reproduction technologies are placing new strains on what “parent” means in contemporary society. Because of “the evidence of family diversity and children’s views about who is a parent”, the Council has recommended that the word “parent” be replaced by “other significant adults” or “other people of significance to the child” and that references to “both” (which implies only two) parents should be omitted.

There are many kinds of parents, the Council points out: legal, adoptive, genetic, intending, psychological, social and surrogate, amongst others.

I don’t see how this is going to turn out well for children. It can be tough enough for them with two legal parents and other adults going in and out of their lives.

But then, at 65, perhaps I am just set in my ways. Get off my lawn!

This I do know: Child custody fights and support petitions are going to get very complicated.

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Transhumanism’s Eugenics Authoritarianism



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Transhumanism is selfish, all about me-me, I-I. It’s goal is immortality for those currently alive, and the right to radically remake themselves and their progeny in their own image. 

Zoltan Istvan, an up-and-comer transhumanist, is very good at promoting himself and his ideas. (I met him at a transhumanist and religion conference, about which I will be opining elsewhere, and we got along fine.) Istvan’s newest missive, in Wired, argues that transhumanism means we will have to limit what he crassly calls “human breeding.” From his piece:

The transhumanist age — where radical science and technology will revolutionise the human being and experience — will eventually bring us indefinite lifespans, cyborgization, cloning, and even ectogenesis, where people use artificial wombs outside of their bodies to raise foetuses.

Breeding controls and measures make more sense when you consider that some leading life extensionist scientists believe we will conquer human mortality in the next 20 years. Already, in 2010, scientists had some success with stopping and reversing ageing in mice. The obvious question is: In this transhumanist future, should everyone still be allowed to have unlimited children whenever they want?

Yea, well good luck with that. Sorry Z, but we are both going to die at some point, and within the scope of a normal human lifespan.

But let’s get to his blatant eugenics:

In an attempt to solve this problem and give hundreds of millions of future kids a better life, I cautiously endorse the idea of licensing parents, a process that would be little different than getting a driver’s licence. Parents who pass a series of basic tests qualify and get the green light to get pregnant and raise children. 

Those applicants who are deemed unworthy — perhaps because they are homeless, or have drug problems, or are violent criminals, or have no resources to raise a child properly and keep it from going hungry — would not be allowed until they could demonstrate they were suitable parents.

How would you stop them? Forced abortion? Forced sterilization? Like all modern Malthusians, Istvan punts to avoid the brutal logic of his advocacy, basically saying let the World Health Organization figure it out. 

Istvan’s advocacy is steeped in the ultimate hopelessness of materialistic atheism–a cause that he also ably champions. When one believes that all we have and ultimately are comes down to mere molecules, you grasp at quasi-religious straws, and if necessary, authoritarian control.

Rather than focus on immortality and controlling the “breeders,” I suggest as an antidote, Leon Kass, on accepting with grace the natural flow and ebb of human life. From Kass’s fount of wisdom:

In perpetuation, we send forth not just the seed of our bodies, but also the bearer of our hopes, our truths, and those of our tradition. If our children are to flower, we need to sow them well and nurture them, cultivate them in rich and wholesome soil, clothe them in fine and decent opinions and mores, and direct them toward the highest light, to grow straight and tall that they may take our place as we took that of those who planted us and made way for us, so that in time they, too, may make way and plant.

But if they are truly to flower, we must go to seed; we must wither and give ground.

This is simple realism, an acceptance of the way things are and will always be.

But more profoundly, it is an expression of love. Kass understands that life shouldn’t be about me-me, I-I. Others will follow in our wake as we flowed out of our ancestors. Human exceptionalism similarly holds that we owe duties to our posterity and not just ourselves. One of those is ultimately to pass on the baton.

This isn’t saying that disease should not be struggled against and medical science improved. But it does recognize that at some point, it is best that we shuffle off this mortal coil, as–for all of transhumanism’s desperate yearnings–we all must.

Istvan can pretend his call to eugenic authoritarianism seeks to protect suffering children. But it primarily aimed at preserving his place in perpetuity.  Me-me, I-I. 

As I often say, I am not worried about transhumanism ever really panning out. But the underlying solipsistic and anti-human values of the movement need to be rejected whenever and wherever advocated.

Doctors Forced to Refer for Starvation Suicides?



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It is very interesting that as some bioethicists complain about doctors being prohibited from discussing guns with their patients in Florida, they are apparently silent about a California proposal to force them to give information on non-medical legal end of life options, by which I mean, suicide by self-starvation (VSED).

The bill is California’s AB 2139, which states in pertinent part:

When a health care provider makes a diagnosis that patient has a terminal illness, the health care provider shall do both of the following:

(1) Notify the patient of his or her right to, or when applicable, the agent of the patient’s right to, comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life options and, upon the patient or agent’s request, provide the patient or agent…comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life options…

(2) Upon the request of the patient…provide the patient or other authorized person with comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life care options pursuant to this section. When a terminally ill patient is in a health facility…the health care provider, or medical director of the health facility if the patient’s health care provider is not available, may refer the patient…to a hospice provider or private or public agencies and community-based organizations that specialize in end-of-life care case management and consultation to receive comprehensive information and counseling regarding legal end-of-life care options.

The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices has been striving to redefine itself as an expert private organization on end of life choices. One of the “choices” it pushes is suicide by self-starvation and thirst (VSED, voluntary stopping eating and drinking), an instructional booklet for which C & C posts on its Website.

Thus, this section is also worrying:

(c) The information described…may, but is not required to, be in writing. Health care providers may utilize information from organizations specializing in end-of-life care that provide information on factsheets and Internet Web sites to convey the information described in subdivision (b).

As written, this bill could leasily be interpreted as legally requiring doctors to offer their patients information on committing suicide–which, after all, is a “legal” option–and/or about how to commit VSED with a doctor’s help, and/or require them to refer to organizations that push such acts.

If assisted suicide or euthanasia were legalized and this legislation was in effect, it would require doctors to refer to a kill or give information on how to be made dead through lethal means.

I am not a fan of mandating speech in the clinical setting. Regardless of that point, this proposal needs to be amended to ensure that only legal medical and non-lethal options are required to be provided.

Academy’s R. Williams Tweet Not Pro Suicide



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I have often worried about the near-invisibility of suicide prevention in the public discourse. But this is one time in which I think those on the side virtue and true compassion got it wrong.

In the wake of Robin Williams’ suicide, the Academy of Motion Pictures sent out a Tweet. From the Variety story:

The tweet, sent out Monday at 5:56 p.m., shows the genie from the 1992 “Aladdin” with the message, “Genie, you’re free,” which is a line from the film. The item was retweeted more than 320,000 times and received a staggering 69 million impressions. The Internet and Twitter have been filled with tributes to Williams, who voiced the genie in the film.

That didn’t set well with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

However, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention worries about the subliminal message. Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the AFSP, expressed concern about the tweet, telling the Washington Post Tuesday, “Suicide should never be presented as an option,” before adding, “(it) presents suicide in too celebratory a light.”

I think that’s a stretch..Cheap sentimentality in 140 or less characters, perhaps: That’s the bane of our times. But I don’t think the Tweet celebrates or glamorizes suicide.

If the American Foundation wants to do something valuable, how about a high-profile campaign against assisted suicide? That really pushes self destruction.

Alas, I have never seen the group oppose such blatant suicide promotion. Not only that, its web site is silent. Either that, or anti-euthanasia information is well hidden.  

So, in the face of real suicide celebration, all we get from the American Foundation is the sound of crickets. That’s known as dereliction of duty.

Suicide Cult Pushes Home Made Suicide Kits



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Suicide advocacy never stops. Even as the world mourns a celebrity self-destruction, Derek Humpry’s group ERGO–Euthanasia Research Guidance Organization–continues the death proselytizing–this time pushing a booklet, How to Make Your Own Helium Hood Kit.

Humphry lives in Oregon, by the way. Legalization of assisted suicide does not stop suicide advocacy outside of a law’s legal parameters. It never will.

But Wesley, Humphry is a social outlaw! He’s not part of the mainstream of assisted suicide advocacy.

Baloney! He’s a respected patriarch, and indeed, will be a speaking at the convention of all the international suicide pushers in Chicago later this year. 

The movement shows the world and the media different faces, but at heart, they’re all part of a hydra-headed suicide cult.

#thesepeoplemakemesick!

Murder in the First Villain Demonstrates Peril of Anti-Human Exceptionalism



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My wife Debra and I have been enjoying the new TNT television crime drama, Murder in the First. Last night, the villain spoke his value system–and it is pure anti-human exceptionalism.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT for those who haven’t seen the program or final episode yet.

The villain admits to a friend that he killed his pregnant girl friend. ( I will not name the characters.) From the script:

Friend: She was carrying your child!

Villain: She was carrying a fetus. I told her to get rid of it but she refused…

Friend: So, you just killed her.

Villain: Look at it like this, Bill. Two-thirds of all human conceptions are spontaneously aborted by nature. Ten million women die every year in childbirth. I just nudged Cindy toward those probable outcomes, right? It was sloppy, but effective.

Now, the way that I killed my father, that was a work of art…

Friend: You killed your lover, you killed your child, you paid your grandfather to kill your father, and then he turned the gun you gave him on himself. So, you killed them all.  

Villain: I didn’t kill my grandfather. That’s not on me. That was his choice. He was dying of cancer, Bill. He wanted to go out on his own terms, one more final act of defiance. If I was in his position, doomed to a slow and meaningless death, I’d do the same thing.

Friend: Boy, you are insane!

Villain: No, I’m just evolved. Human life isn’t as valuable as you think it is, Wilkie. You know that there are 7 billion people walking around on this planet and we’re growing exponentially year by year. Humanity is on the vertical part of the S-curve.  It is completely unsustainable…We’re going to have to cull the herd, pick the winners. People are going to have to die for the rest of us to survive.  I’m just getting a head start.

Insane? How often do we see these very ideas–not the acts of murder, but the values embraced by the villain–espoused in bioethics discourse, assisted suicide/euthanasia advocacy, radical environmentalism, animal rights, and other public policy controversies?

Of course, people who deny human exceptionalism aren’t going to go out and murder their enemies. But the logic of the scene is impeccable. When societies accept these premises–and they have in history and some do now–evil soon follows.

Think about it: Eugenics, social Darwinism, the Holocaust, China’s One Child policy, the ISIS pogrom against Shia Muslims, Christians, and the Yezidi–the list could go on and on.

All of these evils are only possible by denying human exceptionalism. Or to put it the other way around, decency, morality, and universal human rights depend on adherence to human exceptionalism, both our unique value and our obligations to each other as humans. 

So, good for the writers of Murder in the First: In the scene quoted above, they sure captured an important truth.

“Surrogacy” Couple Wanted Abortion, Refund



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Surrogacy and IVF has objectified procreation. Now, it can be about not just having a baby to unconditionally love, but about ordering a baby that meets specifications.

Case in point: The notorious Australian biological colonialists who paid a Thai agency to hire a surrogate to carry their child, but then abandoned their son when it was discovered he has Down syndrome.

Now, the couple is saying they didn’t really abandon the child. But also, that they wanted their money back. From the CTV News story:

The couple was angry that the surrogacy agency had not conducted tests earlier that could have detected the condition, because by the time they found out, it was too late in the pregnancy to abort the fetus. Had they known earlier, they probably would have terminated the pregnancy, David Farnell said…

“I don’t think any parent wants a son with a disability,” he said. “Parents want their children to be healthy and happy.”

So, can surrogates–dehumanized as “gestational carriers” in industry parlance–be forced to abort? So much for “choice.”

And they wanted a refund:

They expected the surrogacy agency to give them a refund and find a solution. That’s when the still-pregnant Pattaramon offered to keep Gammy, Farnell said. “So we were thinking, oh, maybe — maybe — this might be OK,” he said.

When the babies were born, however, the Farnells said they realized they wanted to keep both. But Pattaramon then insisted she be allowed to keep Gammy, and threatened to keep Pipah as well, David Farnell said. The couple believes Pattaramon wanted to keep Gammy because male children are prized in Asian cultures.

From what I have seen, it is because she really loves him and is far from convinced the baby orderers would.

Tellingly, the couple has made zero attempts to be in contact with their son. But they say that as soon as their daughter’s legal status is settled, they’ll go back to Thailand to get custody.

Right. And O.J. will find the real killer.

Are All Abortions “Medically Necessary?”



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Two California Catholic universities–Santa Clara and Loyola–want not to cover “elective” abortion in their health insurance policies.

That won’t do! After first giving its OK, California may now try to force them. From the San Francisco Chronicle story.

The state Department of Managed Health Care is conducting “an in-depth analysis of the issues surrounding coverage for abortion services under California law,” said Marta Green, the department’s chief deputy director.

What the department is reconsidering, as first reported by California Lawyer magazine, is whether the universities are violating a 1975 state law that requires managed health plans to cover all “medically necessary” procedures. Until the current controversy arose, insurers in California had treated all abortions sought by women in their health plans as medically necessary.

The term “medically necessary” is one used in insurance to determine whether a procedure is covered. It is not the same as elective vs. non-elective procedures.

Still, it is hard to see how abortions are truly medically necessary. Here is the definition:

A. Appropriate for the symptoms and diagnosis or treatment of a condition, illness or injury.

B. Provides for the diagnosis or direct care and treatment of the condition, illness or injury.

C. In accordance with the standards of good medical practice in the service area.

D. Not primarily for the convenience of a plan member or a plan provider.

E. The most appropriate level or type of service or supply that can safely be provided to the plan member.

Most abortions actually fall under D–for convenience.

Insurance companies can treat abortion as medically necessary if they so choose–no doubt because it is cheaper for them than paying for a pregnancy and beyond.

But that isn’t the issue. The question is whether the state should force all abortions to be deemed medically necessary, and hence, mandate all insurance plans to cover every abortion.

For the universities, this is a religious issue:

Leaders of both universities said they were driven by religious principles. “Our core commitments as a Catholic university are incompatible with the inclusion of elective abortion in the university’s health plans, Engh’s office said in a statement.

So what? Conscience on issues such as abortion cannot be allowed.

Do you see how abortion–like slavery did in the 19th century–corrupts everything it touches?

Monkeys Aren’t “Intellectual,” Can’t Copyright



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Several HE readers have sent me the story of the intellectual property dispute between Wikimedia and a photographer with whose camera a monkey took a “selfie.”

The photographer claims a copyright, but the Wiki world says no since he didn’t actually take the photo. From the Washington Post story:

In an interview, Wikimedia Foundation’s Chief Communications Officer Katherine Maher said the organization is confident that the legal basis for denying Slater’s request is sound, because the person that takes the photo should own the copyright. But a person didn’t take this one.

“Monkeys don’t own copyrights,” Maher said. “What we found is that U.S. copyright law says that works that originate from a non-human source can’t claim copyright.”

My sympathies are with the photographer. Even though he didn’t snap the photo or intentionally set up the shot, he created the general circumstances under which it was taken.

But Wikimedia is absolutely correct that an animal can’t own a copyright (unless, I suppose, a human grants it in the same way dogs sometimes inherit for their support.) This is really a dispute about money, and I think, an anti-intellectual property value system among some within the Wiki crowd.

But let’s leave that aside and get to the bottom line: Animals can’t protect intellectual property because they can’t create it. 

Animals are not intellectual. That isn’t the same thing as saying they aren’t intelligent. It means they are incapable of intentionally “creating.” A spider’s web is a remarkable design, but it wasn’t “designed.”  Creativity is one of the exceptional capacities of humans.

The monkey who took the photo wasn’t “taking” a photo. It didn’t know what a camera is.

In this sense, the disputed photo isn’t really a “selfie.” That is something only humans can accomplish. Whether we should, is another story.

Iran’s Out of Control Kidney Bazaar



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Iran is the only country in the world that legally permits the purchase of human organs. (Yes, I know it happens elsewhere.)

I don’t see Iran as a country to emulate, but some have argued that it is leading the way toward a compassionate change in policy, which I opined about here.

Now, unsurprisingly, news has come out that the organ bazaar is apparently rife with corruption. From the Payvand Iran News story:

On Sunday July 20, CASKP chief Mostafa Qasemi told the Fars News Agency: “These patients enter the country with false documents; doctors do not examine their documents and are paid millions to carry out a kidney transplant for them.”

In Iran, kidney donation to foreign nationals is illegal, but according to Qasemi, in recent years intermediaries have been producing fake National ID Cards and Birth Certificates and procuring Iranian kidneys for non-Iranians…Qasemi referred to two “Saudi patients” who travelled to Iran recently for kidney transplants, noting that one of the patients died during treatment. According to Qasemi, the Saudi Embassy pursued the matter, a number of the people on the medical team were arrested and the investigations even involved the Ministry of Intelligence.

Let the finger-pointing begin:

The Ministry of Health supervisory board says any report of misconduct in kidney transplants has been dealt with severely by the ministry and the only violations reported have involved private hospitals. The ministry has blamed physicians for failing to adequately scrutinize patient documents.

According to the Ministry of Health: “Physicians have been sloppy in the examination of patient documents, even though it is very easy to recognize if they are treating an Arab or Afghan foreign national. Physicians are not complying with the law and are readily accepting fake documents.

Why is anyone surprised? Organ buying will always lead to official and purveyor corruption because it involves desperate people on both sides of the transaction. And it is worse for the destitute who put their health at risk for the relative pittance they receive.

The current international public policy against organ buying and selling is correct. Organ markets should not be permitted. 

Or, we can yield to a libertarian Nirvana, what I call Blade Runner World, where the powerful and connected do splendidly, but everyone else, not so much.

Dying of Thirst is Excruciating Agony



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Health writer Larry Bernstein of the Washington Post has written an excruciating column about how awful and painful it is to die by thirst. The article laments–as any civilized person would–the potential mass deaths by dehydration of the Yazidi at the hand of the butchers of ISIS in Iraq.

Dying of dehydration is an awful death. From the piece:

I’m not about to start ranking the horrors visited on the human body this summer, from Ebola in West Africa to bombs and bullets in Gaza and Israel. But thousands of particularly excruciating deaths may soon be added to the list by the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group that is sweeping through parts of Iraq and establishing its own state.As this barbarism continues.

Bernstein did some research:

I asked Jeffrey Berns, president-elect of the National Kidney Foundation and a nephrologist at the University of Pennsylvania, what these children may be going through. “Thirst, as you probably know, is one of the most potent drives for behavior we have. It may be the most potent we have, more than even hunger,” he said. “People are going to be miserable.”

The body is about 60 percent water, and under normal conditions, he said…If it’s not replaced over time and dehydration becomes severe, cells throughout the body will begin to shrink as water moves out of them and into the blood stream, part of the body’s efforts to keep the organs in fluid. “All the cells will shrink,” he said, “but the ones that count are the brain cells. They don’t operate normally when they’re’ shrinking.”

Changes in mental status will follow, including confusion and ultimately coma, he said. As the brain becomes smaller, it takes up less room in the skull and blood vessels connecting it to the inside of the cranium can pull away and rupture. Without water, blood volume will decline and all the organs will start to fail, he said. Kidney failure will soon lead to disastrous consequences and ultimately death as blood volume continues to fall and waste products that should be eliminated from the body remain.

Yes, an awful, horrific death.

Except when inflicted on people like Terri Schiavo? That can’t be right.

This is a biological process–yet conscious and unconscious disabled and elderly alike are made to die of thirst throughout the country and much of the Western world through removal of tube-supplied sustenance.

How many times have we seen advocates for removing feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled sooooothingly assure us it is a peaceful, painless way to die? From a 2005 Chicago Tribune story about the pending death of Schiavo:

One of the main rationales of religious advocates and lawmakers seeking to keep Terri Schiavo alive through a feeding tube has been that removing her only source of nutrition and liquid would be cruel, leading to a “horrible and painful death,” in the words of one activist. 

But many of the doctors and nurses who witness the consequences of removing such treatment from patients say withholding nourishment is a common—and largely painless—way of letting nature take its course for ill patients. They say many people near death actually choose to have their feeding tubes removed, which typically leads to a calm, peaceful death.

Yes, IF PEOPLE ARE ON THE VERGE OF DEATH BY CANCER or some other disease. In those cases, the death is not from thirst!

But the people we are discussing here are not dying other than having their water and food taken away. That’s a huge difference. The same process described in Bernstein’s piece happens to them. 

Oh, and notice what Berns said about the size of the brain after dehydration: Terri’s shrunken brain was touted as proof she could feel nothing. Remember?

People in cognitively disabled conditions may not be able to cry out and beg for food–although I know of at least one case where that happened–because they don’t have the ability. But that doesn’t mean on the inside, unless given powerful drugs–Terri Schiavo wasn’t given that courtesy–they aren’t feeling the same pain as those poor people on the Iraq mountain. 

And now Compassion and Choices and other assisted suicide organizations push suicide by thirst and starvation (VSED). From the C & C book, “Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking:

Some call us because they feel overwhelmed by the symptoms of chronic and progressive illnesses that fill their days with misery and suffering. There are also those who may not be seriously ill but are simply “done.” After eight or nine decades of life, they want information about ways to gently slip away in a peaceful and dignified manner.

Shameful.

Add to that advocacy now for VSED-by-proxy that would force nursing homes to withhold oral sustenance to Alzheimer’s patients who asked to be starved and dehydrated to death in an advance directive–even if they willingly drink water and juices and eat food.

The elderly, the profoundly disabled, babies born with Down syndrome that have intestinal blockage, etc. are not a different species. They are people. Making them die of thirst is agonizing too. Those who push these kinds of deaths as merely “medical ethics:” Own it!

Kathryn Tucker Out at Compassion and Choices?



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It is always a good idea to keep an eye on the death pushers at The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices. Apparently, there has been a big change without formal announcement. Kathryn Tucker, the legal director who brought the case in 1997 unsuccessfully (9-0) seeking an assisted suicide Roe. V. Wade, has poof disappeared from any mention on the C & C Website.

A new legal director, formerly of the ACLU (of course) has been named. 

Most curious. One would think that someone who has given nearly 20 years to the assisted suicide cause would rate a tribute as she made her exit. Or, if something awful had befallen her–I hope not–that some mention would be made.

But from what I can tell, C & C has kept radio silence on Tucker’’s leaving and why. Oh well. I hope they gave her a gold watch. 

Abortion Right Equal to Second Amendment?



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I have come to believe that if Roe v. Wade is ever overturned–a big if–it will be from the other side. That is, I think it is more likely that a future Supreme Court will find Roe and its progeny to be too restrictive and overturn the case in the cause of forging an all-encompassing right to abortion, instead of returning abortion to state regulation. From a piece I wrote about that in First Things, “A Pro-Abortion Reversal of Roe v Wade?”:

[Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader] Ginsburg believes adamantly that women are denied “equal citizen stature” by boundaries placed around access to abortion. Not only that, but in an angry dissent to the 2007 Supreme Court ruling upholding the federal ban on partial birth abortion, she (joined by Justice Breyer among the current justices) railed against the majority allowing “moral concerns” to “override fundamental rights.”

That sounded to me as advocacy for an unfettered right to abortion at any time and for any reason. So, I asked expert anti-abortion attorney Clarke D. Forsyth, the senior counsel for Americans United for Life. whether Ginsburg’s view would abolish all abortion regulation. Yes, he told me: If the right to an abortion were based on “equal protection of the law,” as opposed to other constitutional standards, it would “permit no regulations at any time,” perhaps even, “requiring [government] abortion funding.”

Now, the New York Times’ legal reporter Linda Greenhouse–who makes little pretense about objectivity in her journalism–provides more fuel for my fire. Lamenting the successful restrictions on abortion in states such as Texas, she lauds a recent Federal Court of Appeals ruling that the right to abortion is equivalent to the right to keep and bear arms. From her piece:

Guns and abortion? That’s a pairing no previous judicial opinion has made. “At its core, each protected right is held by the individual,” the judge explained. “However, neither right can be fully exercised without the assistance of someone else. The right to abortion cannot be exercised without a medical professional, and the right to keep and bear arms means little if there is no one from whom to acquire the handgun or ammunition.”

Do I have to point out how delicious this analogy is? Of course, it’s unthinkable that Alabama would regulate firearms dealers to the point of extinction. But recall the June day 22 years ago when the Supreme Court, to the surprise of nearly everyone, reaffirmed the right to abortion in Planned Parenthood v. Casey. It was unthinkable then that nearly a generation later, states would flagrantly be regulating the practice of abortion (in the name of women’s health and safety, no less) out of business — a goal that Texas, enabled by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit is close to achieving.

Except that gun ownership is an express right, protected by the Second Amendment to the Constitution. In contrast, the right to an abortion was invented by Justices based on implied so-called “penumbras and emanations”–but never mind.

No right is absolute, or course. We aren’t allowed to own machine guns, for example.

But I think that advocates like Greenhouse–and certainly Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg–want abortion to be. Indeed, check out Greenhouse’s last paragraph:

Still, judges’ willingness to step outside the abortion frame and to weigh, from that broad perspective, whether the abortion right has become unduly burdened is something new and potentially of great value in the struggle to preserve women’s reproductive freedom. Even in the face of cynical and unrelenting political attack, the right to abortion can become stronger the more tightly it is stitched into the constitutional fabric, the more that smart and gutsy judges are willing to treat it as what it is, a right like any other.

As I said in my First Things piece, I believe the successes of the pro life movement has liberals ready to replace the cracked wall of Roe by transforming abortion into an absolute right through the ninth month. Comparing access to abortion to the right to own a gun is a step down that path.

Media Share Blame for Stem Cell Research Fraud



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Writing in Slate, Jane C. Hu uses the high profile stem cell research lies we have seen in recent years to launch into an interesting article entitled, “Why Do Scientists Commit Fraud?” She discusses the recent bogus claim that skin cells could be turned into stem cells with chemicals (not the same thing as the actual breakthrough of induced pluripotent stem cells.)

She gets into cases I have also written about, such as the Hwang Woo-suk cloning fraud of several years ago and other stem cell bogus studies. She then gets into some of the usual reasons given for science fraud:

In reality, the world of science can be cutthroat and isolating, with little oversight. Stem cell research is certainly not the only research field with a fraud problem, but it has all the right elements to motivate dishonesty: It’s a cutting-edge field with the potential to discover treatments for human diseases; it attracts highly competitive people who are all scrambling to make the next big discovery; and that discovery must be made, written, and published before any competitors can catch up.

Add to that an academic culture that places ever-rising pressure on researchers to churn out publications in order to land jobs or tenure—especially publications in high-impact journals like Nature and Science—and you begin to see why researchers resort to cutting corners or massaging their data.

That is all true, but in the stem cell field, I also blame the media.

Why? Think about the many stem cell stories written and broadcast over the last ten years. Media has repeatedly and wildly hyped the field to the moon as bringing immediate CURES! CURES! CURES!

With few caveats or doubts, many of the world’s most notable publications and broadcasters all but promised that children in wheelchairs would walk and Parkinson’t patients would be healed–or they amplified these irresponsible claims from politicized scientists without a grain of salt or a shadow of doubt.

Media did repeated puff profiles of researchers supposedly–but, it turned out not–on the verge of huge breakthroughs.

Media’s obsession with destroying President George W. Bush also caused many science reporters to wrongly describe the Bush policy and blame him for cures not yet found.

So, while media certainly isn’t the only reason for science fraud in the stem cell field, I do think their irresponsible reporting and boosting is a big factor. All of that hype and potential adulation can push those with weak characters or ruthless ambition over the line.

Babies are Children, not “Carbon Legacies!”



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I guess it takes global warming hysteria to get the bioethics movement to criticize what is known in the trade as “artificial reproductive technologies” or ART.

But now, in the ever more radical Journal of Medical Ethics, Cristina Richie, of Boston College’s Department of Theology, argues that these technologies should be regulated to limit the number of children–called “carbon legacies,” as a means of fighting climate change. From the article:

A carbon footprint is the aggregate of resource use and carbon emissions over a person’s life. A carbon legacy occurs when a person chooses to procreate. All people have carbon footprints; only people with biological children have carbon legacies.

I don’t know if Richie coined the term, but it is ridiculous. Children are children, not bundles of carbon producers.

ART is an almost unregulated industry, a lamentable circumstance with which many bioethicists are content. But Richie says global warming has to change the field’s thinking about ART.

Through the use of ARTs multiple children are born, adding to worldwide carbon emissions. This is a burden on the already over-taxed ecosystem to support new beings who might not have existed without medical intervention. It is therefore the obligation of environmental policymakers, the ethical and medical communities, and even society to carefully weigh the interests of our shared planet with a business that intentionally creates more humans when we must reduce our carbon impact.

All those IVF babies are melting the ice caps!

While population growth and ARTs are not the primary environmental issue that should concern ecologists and bioethicists, the numbers of ART babies are increasing at an exponential rate. If we were to look at these numbers in terms of carbon emissions instead of raw population growth data, the statistics look grim.

No, grim is the exploitation of surrogates in biological colonialism and the eugenic impetus that has sunk its fangs deep into the heart of the industry. In the face of such human objectification, sorry, I can’t get upset about global warming.

It’s time to regulate!

The unregulated ART business can no longer be endorsed and the medical industry ought not operate in an environmental vacuum. Retrenchment in all areas of life is the key to slowing down or halting carbon emissions that lead to climate change. For each child made through medical intervention a carbon legacy results. ARTs should be allocated with due concern for the environment and sober consideration for the implications of climate change.

Carbon caps on the fertility business and eliminating funded ARTs for those who are not biologically infertile are the beginning of an environmentally sustainable ART business.​

“And Jesus said, ‘Suffer the little carbon legacies to come onto me’…” Good grief.

Right to Kill Monkeys to Find Ebola Vaccine



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Monkey experiments have determined that a proposed Ebola vaccine may be safe, leading to early human trials. From the NYT story:

The government plans to fast-track development of a vaccine shown to protect macaque monkeys, aiming to test it in humans as early as next month.

Generally, here’s how the experiment was conducted:

- Groups of monkeys were vaccinated, while others were not;

- The monkeys were then infected.

- The unvaccinated monkeys died from Ebola.

- The vaccinated monkeys didn’t. And the vaccine did not harm the monkeys.

Animal rights activists would prevent us from making this grim good use of monkeys. But that is anti-human. Unless scientists conduct such monkey experiments, human studies could not go forward. In short, a vaccine would never be found.

It comes down to this: Sacrifice monkeys in the hope of saving people?  Or spare the monkeys regardless of the consequences to people? The latter choice is part of the war on humans.

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