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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Men Who Have Sex With Men as Blood Donors?



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AIDS has been too caught up with politics from the beginning, treated often as more a civil rights issue than one of public health.

Partially as a consequence, we still have a terrible rate of annual new HIV infections–to the point that there are now serious calls for all men who have sex with men to take anti-retroviral drugs as a prophylactic! In other words, the danger of becoming infected remains alarming.

This is why I find my jaw dropping at advocacy in the Journal of the American Medical Association to drop the lifetime ban on blood donation from men who have sex with men. From the article by law professor, I Glenn Cohen, et.al.:

In 2013, the US Supreme Court took a historic step in United States v Windsor by striking down the Defense of Marriage Act on the grounds that it imposed a “disability on the class [of gay Americans] by refusing to acknowledge a status the State finds to be dignified and proper.”

This milestone in gay rights stands in stark contrast to the ongoing lifetime ban imposed in 1983 on blood donation by men who have ever had sex with men (MSMs)
even once.

This is mixing apples with oranges. The marriage issue isn’t a scientific question. In contrast, whether it is safe for MSMs to donate blood should solely be an issue of science. 

Cohen seems to believe that social policy is the primary concern:

Viewed in the aggregate, the current FDA policy may be perpetuating outdated homophobic perceptions. Even though well intentioned and guided by a need to protect the integrity of the national blood supply, a policy that demands permanent deferrals for sexually active MSMs raises the specter of exclusion, stigmatization,and marginalization.

Given the discerning capability of contemporary behavioral assessments and the ever-improving sensitivity of modern diagnostic technology, the disproportionate share of HIV cases among sexually active MSMs can no longer support the current restrictive policy of the FDA.

Cohen even opposes a more moderate deferral from donating for 12 months from last MSM sexual contact:

Accordingly, policy makers should consider…an “assess and test” approach. Specifically, a thoughtfully reformulated risk level–focused assessment of donor eligibility should be coupled with rigorous testing (and retesting) of identifiably high risk groups who may present for donation. 

He also believes the current policy could be unconstitutional discrimination, as if there is a “right” to donate blood.

And he doesn’t mention the value of increasing the blood supply, so caught up is he in issues that should have no relevance to the question at hand.

But here is an issue that is relevant to the question of safety: The infection rate for MSMs is going up. From an AP story about the otherwise reducing infection rate for HIV in the USA:

The only group in which diagnoses increased was gay and bisexual men, the study found.

After 9/11, I tried to donate blood and was turned away because I had been to a rain forest within the previous twelve months. That was a wise policy to keep me from spreading a malady inadvertently.

So is this policy, barring absolute proof that the ban can be lifted safely. With the call going out for all men who have sex with men to take prophylactic anti-retrovirial drugs, I don’t see how that can be done. Keep social issues and politics out of the safety of our blood supply.

And really: How many people would really think worse of men because they can’t donate blood? And why should anyone care what those people think?

Starving Our Way Toward Lethal Injections



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I continue to push back against the starvation killing agenda now being promoted vigorously among assisted suicide advocacy groups and by some bioethics. 

Toward that end, I have a piece just out in the Weekly Standard warning about where this is heading. First, I establish context. From, “The Ethics of Food and Drink:”

Should the law compel nursing homes to starve certain Alzheimer’s patients to death? This is not an alarmist fantasy, but a real question, soon to be forced by advocates of ever-wider application of assisted euthanasia.

The intellectual groundwork is already being laid for legislation or court orders requiring nursing homes, hospitals, and other facilities to withhold spoon feeding from dementia patients who, though they take food and drink willingly, once requested the withholding of life-prolonging measures in an advance medical directive.

I point to, and describe, four killing agendas either being implemented or proposed that individually and collectively seek to push society into a box canyon trap:

1. Removing feeding tubes from the elderly and cognitively disabled.

2. Legalized assisted suicide.

3. Pushing suicide by self-starvation (VSED):

​4. Promoting what I call “VSED-by-proxy,” e.g. withholding spoon feeding.

I describe the sophistry behind the argument for permitting VSED by proxy.

Even today, the courts do not deem spoon-feeding to be medical treatment. It is basic, humane care—no different ethically from turning a patient to prevent bed sores or providing hygiene. Just as an advance directive instructing that a patient not be kept clean should be disregarded, so should an order to starve a patient.

Second, VSED is suicide. Legally requiring nursing homes to commit VSED-by-proxy would be forcing them to kill—and to kill cruelly. A legal regimen that did this would drive many doctors and nurses out of medicine.

Third, even in the states where assisted suicide is legal, the person being helped by a doctor to die has to be capable of making decisions. Demented patients are incompetent.

Finally, in cases such as Bentley’s [subject of VSED-by proxy-lawsuit], the patient is not being force-fed. She is taking nourishment willingly.

There is a pointed goal in pushing death by starvation:

If the law ever allows patients to order caregivers to starve them to death, the next step will surely be to legalize lethal injections for such patients.

After all, why force anyone to undergo a slow and potentially agonizing death by VSED or VSED-by-proxy when he or she can be dispatched quickly?

Euthanasia pursuant to advance directive is already practiced in the Netherlands and Belgium. It is possible that this has been the stealth goal from the time advocacy for removing feeding tubes from incompetent patients began decades ago—and that now, with the open advocacy of VSED and VSED-by-proxy, the camouflage is coming off.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death? 

The good news, if there is any: It is still not too late to reject the unethical and immoral killing agenda.

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Andrew Lloyd Weber Changes Mind on Suicide



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Andrew Lloyd Weber might not still be here if assisted suicide had been legal. He wanted to die and almost was set to go to Switzerland. Now, he’s glad he didn’t. From the Telegraph story:

Lord Lloyd-Webber, the West End impresario, was so convinced he wanted to die last year that he took steps to join Dignitas, the Swiss assisted suicide clinic, he has disclosed. The composer said he now believes that taking such a step would have been “stupid and ridiculous” but that it was all he could think of amid a bout of deep depression triggered by the pain from a series of operations.

He is among members of the Lords likely to oppose the bill tabled by Lord Falconer, the former Lord Chancellor, to legalise “assisted dying”, which will have its first parliamentary airing today. It came as Dominic Grieve, who until this week’s reshuffle was the Government’s chief law officer, said the proposals could open the door to a form of “legalised execution”. “It is not something that a civilised society should do,” he told The Daily Telegraph.

Indeed.

And don’t tell me he didn’t die so what’s the big deal. If it had been legal he might have. Indeed, I have no doubt Dignitas would have helped poison him and happily garnered the publicity. 

And don’t tell me he isn’t terminally ill, so he couldn’t have obtained assisted suicide. That limitation is just a way station on the way to death on demand.

Moreover, many of the Swiss assisted suicides by Brits have been by people who were not terminally ill. Dying isn’t driving this agenda, despair and fear are.

Way to go ALW! That’s beautiful music to my ears.

The Collatoral Damage From Suicide Advocacy



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We are quickly becoming a pro-suicide culture–indeed to the point now that organizations like the Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices, bioethicists, and the mainstream media promote suicide by self-starvation as the new big thing in making oneself dead.

Philip Nitschke is one of the international rock stars of euthanasia advocacy. He is also its most candid. He believes that everyone owns their own body absolutely and thus have a right to suicide whenever they want and for whatever reason. Indeed, he told NRO’s Kathryn Lopez that suicide pills should even be made available to “troubled teens.”

I clashed with Nitschke in Australia when I traveled the country on an anti-euthanasia tour in 2001. First, I busted him for the above assertion. It created a media fire storm.

While there, I also made front page news by revealing that he was importing and distributing suicide bags. I am proud to say, my effort led to the passage of a law that forced Nitschke to move his suicide industry offshore. It was one of my most successful public advocacy campaigns. 

Now, Aussie medical authorities want him struck off as a doctor because of the suicide of a healthy but depressed man which he facilitated. What. Took. Them. So. Long?

As for troubled teens and other young people, a study showed that many used his favorite method of suicide–and Nitschke doesn’t care. From a column by anti-euthanasia campaigner Paul Russell:

It is this supposed right-to-die that is the false over-arching philosophy by which the death of a young person can be somehow ‘rationalised’ by Nitschke and Exit. In 2010, in response to a Victorian Institute of Forensic Medicine Report showing that two thirds of deaths in the preceding decade using the Exit drug-of-choice, Nembutal, were for people under the age of 50 with nearly one-third being younger than 40 and six being in their 20s,

Nitschke said: ”There will be some casualties … but this has to be balanced with the growing pool of older people who feel immense wellbeing from having access to this information.” Tell that to the families of the two men featured in the 7:30 Report! Suicide prevention should never accept the notion of acceptable casualties!

Nitschke just oozes compassion,doesn’t he?

But it isn’t just Nitschke. All suicide promoters know–or should know–that their work will lead to the suicides of some people who are not the prime targets of their advocacy. And they don’t care.

For example, Derek Humphry’s New York Times best selling how-to-commit-suicide book Final Exit–what does that tell you about our degrading culture!–has been found next to the dead bodies of troubled teens, and he could not care much less.

Compassion and Choices pushes self-starvation for people tired of life, not just the sick.

In Belgium elderly couples receive joint euthanasia and a psychiatric patient sexually exploited by her psychiatrist was killed by another psychiatrist. And the world shrugs its shoulders.

Most assisted suicide promoters know that there will be deadly consequences from their advocacy–I mean beyond the suicides they support, and it doesn’t matter. They want what they want and don’t care who gets hurt.

The rest of us should care, but increasingly, we don’t. Why? As I wrote above, we are quickly becoming a pro-suicide culture.

See This Movie Before Donating Eggs



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Ounce for ounce, human eggs are the most valuable commodity in the world. Think about it: A beautiful and brilliant woman can get $50,000 for supplying 30 eggs that can only be seen under a microscope. And now that human cloning has succeeded and is accelerating, the demand for eggs may grow exponentially. 

But, there is a potentially terrible price these sellers and donors pay. Supplying eggs can cause terrible side effects, ranging from infection, to infertility, to in rare cases, death.  Adding insult to potential injury, the egg suppliers are sometimes treated with indifference by the fertility clinics, as a means to an end rather than as patients. Their goal is harvesting the eggs from which so much of their profit flows.

No group has done more than the Center for Bioethics and Culture to bring the potential danger of egg donation–as well as other serious IVF controversies–to light. (I am a paid consultant for the CBC.) It’s award-winning documentary Eggsploitation has just been updated and released in a digital format. 

If you are someone you love–a daughter, sister, cousin, aunt, best friend–is seriously considering selling or donating eggs, see this movie first.  The health you save may be your own or that of your loved one.

Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

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Obamacare Opens Door to Death Panel App



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Obamacare’s emphasis on cost-benefit has apparently granted permission for the medical technocrats to conjure all kinds of healthcare rationing schemes.

And the Medical Establishment is apparently playing along. From, “The Cancer Death-Panel App,” by Robert Goldberg in the NY Post:

The latest innovation in cancer care isn’t a medical breakthrough but an app to ration new drugs. It’ll measure care in terms of what it costs health plans, instead of what it means for patients’ lives. That it’s being developed under the auspices of the American Society for Clinical Oncology, or ASCO, the world’s leading oncology association, is a grim warning about the state of organized medicine.

The app will use an algorithm like those many health plans apply to limit access to innovative treatments. Wellpoint Inc., for one, measures cost-effectiveness by comparing the benefits, side effects and costs of various treatments for specific types of cancer. The ASCO app uses the same benchmarks.

So, it is the end of treating patients as individuals, as we expand healthcare into areas that don’t treat illness but expensively enable desired lifestyles.

We are all just cattle now. Mooo. 

Read the entire column. It is very sobering.

ACLU to Force Doctors to Take Human Life



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The wailing and gnashing of teeth over the very modest Hobby Lobby case shows that it was a precursor for the real game that is afoot; forcing those with religious beliefs against abortion and assisted suicide (among other “interventions) to participate or get out of medicine. No conscience allowed!

That means they are not civil libertarians. By definition, a civil libertarian stands up for the freedom of others when one’s own skin is not in the game.

Proof of the pending attack on religious liberty comes with an email I received (by accident, I am sure) from the ACLU of Washington trolling for clients to become litigants in lawsuits aimed at breaking the backs of people who withhold “medical” services based on their religion. I wrote about it generally at The Corner.

I have now looked more closely at the types of ”medical” services that the ACLU intends to force religious objectors to participate in, and they include being complicit in the taking of human life. From the ACLU’s list of interventions:

Abortions;

Information about Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;

Referral to support organizations or cooperating providers to assist a patient in using Washington’s Death with Dignity Act;

Allow medical providers to participate in Washington’s Death with Dignity Act…

Palliative care/nursing support for patients who choose to stop eating and drinking to allow natural death[e.g., participation in suicide by starvation, not a natural death].

Pharmacy dispensary [e.g, forced dispensing of drugs used in assisted suicide, RU 486 abortions, etc.]

In a Religious Freedom Restoraction Act (RFRA) context–the law that afforded HL relief–each of these would have to be looked at individually to determine the sincerity of the religious belief, the compelling state interest, if any, in compelling the individual to participate, and whether a method could be found to gain the government purpose in a less intrusive manner than the law or regulation under consideration.

But the RFRA does not apply to state law! The ACLU troll for clients shows that we are about to see a concerted attack on religious freedom at the state level–with the intent to drive certain religious, pro life, and/or Hippocratic medical professionals out of medicine altogether, and break the spine of religious liberty in the name of reigning secular moral agendas imposed through the medical context.

No, they won’t leave you alone.

Planet of the Apes’ Not “War on Humans”



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It’s part of my job as a human exceptionalism apologist to see movies that try to tear down the unique value of human life. I have some good news to report: Unlike Noah and the remake of The Day the Earth Stood Still, the Dawn of the Planet of the Apes doesn’t fit snugly into that misanthropic category. 

The movie has a rather trite plot about how a man-made plague–caused by attempting to find a cure for Alzheimer’s–decimated humankind. But some genetically altered chimps escaped and now they are proliferating (aptly) in Marin County.

But the humans still living in the now-mostly destroyed San Francisco–homelessness remains a problem–need to access a hydroelectric dam in ape territory to save themselves. War ensues, despite the efforts of a good ape (Caesar) and a good human to prevent it. Sequel alert!

Still, there is some fun to be had in this formulaic bit of popular entertainment.

​Here are Five Reasons Why Liberals will Hate Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

1. Female apes are consigned to traditional female roles, looking pretty, giving birth, being supportive of the male-ape folk, and being kept away from the fighting.

2. Apes hunt deer and eat meat.

3. Some apes really like guns and killing!

4. Apes live in a hierarchical society.

5. Apes clearly don’t practice family planning!

And now, Five Reasons Why Liberals will Love Dawn of the Planet of the Apes:

1. Apes are anti-human;

2. Apes don’t emit greenhouse gasses;

3. Apes oppose animal research;

4. Apes live like indigenous tribes;

5. Apes believe in ape diversity;

In the end, it’s all our fault. We caused the villain ape to go bad by experimenting on him. We caused the plague. But the movie doesn’t argue that the world would be better off if all the humans were dead. In these days of growing anti-humanism, that’s a victory.

Self Restraint, Not Drugs for All, to Stop HIV



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Are we so politically correct now that we can’t discuss what can really stop HIV?

According to the World Health Organization, the HIV epidemic is exploding again “among men who have sex with men.” And the answer being proposed? All sexually active gay men take anti-retroviral drugs. From the Agence France Presse story:

In its new recommendations for combatting the HIV/AIDS pandemic, published Friday, the UN health agency therefore for the first time “strongly recommends men who have sex with men consider taking antiretroviral medicines as an additional method of preventing HIV infection”.

US authorities made the same recommendation in May. Taking pre-exposure prophylaxis medication, for instance as a single daily pill combining two antiretrovirals, in addition to using condoms, has been estimated to cut HIV incidence among such men by 20-25 percent, WHO said, stressing that this could avert “up to one million new infections among this group over 10 years”.

The new guidelines also focus on other high-risk groups, pointing out that men who have sex with men, transgender people, prisoners, people who inject drugs and sex workers together account for about half of all new HIV infections worldwide – Putting overall progress at risk -

Clearly, personal irresponsibility is putting progress at risk.

Where is the “war” against that? Do we have such a low opinion of people that we don’t think we are capable of self-restraint? Or–I have to ask–do we just not want people to be sexually responsible?

We should treat promiscuity just as we do smoking, it should be a legal but publicly disfavored activity, with public campaigns to convince people to stop. Good grief, we even go after fake cigarettes and don’t want smoking favorably portrayed in movies. Hello!

But promoting self control apparently, isn’t high on the WHO program:

Promoting condom use, wide-spread voluntary HIV testing, treating at-risk individuals with antiretrovirals, voluntary male circumcision and needle exchange programmes figure among the other WHO recommendations for battling the disease.

And how is this prophylactic drug treatment–which is very expensive–to be paid for? Are we supposed to further strain our health care system by paying for universal access to these drugs–to enable unsafe lifestyles–while cutting treatment for people with late stage cancers, etc? And it isn’t as if the drugs don’t have side effects! Besides, if people won’t stop having irresponsible sex, what makes us think they will reliably take their drugs?

HIV is preventable. It will stop spreading once people stop doing what causes it.

If we only have sex with a monogamous uninfected partner, and don’t share needles, we will not get HIV. Anything else is just putting a Scotch tape over the cracks in a crumbling dam. 

Shame on Pro-Assisted Suicide Desmond Tutu!



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How would legalizing assisted suicide help the downtrodden, poor, and discriminated against?

It wouldn’t, which is one reason why legalizing doctor-prescribed death is mostly a cause of the well off, for whom access to quality health care is not a problem. To be blunt, these folks know what they want for themselves and don’t care who else gets hurt.

But for the destitute, the elderly, people with disabilities–the multitude who can’t access quality care–it is a tar pit. That is why advocates for the poor, disability rights activists, and civil rights groups like LULAC oppose legalizing assisted suicide. It is why the philosophy of hospice–which is about caring, not killing–rejects giving patients overdoses of poison to make them dead.

Now, South African anti-Apartheid icon Desmond Tutu has come out for assisted suicide. From The Guardian story:

Writing in the Observer, the 82-year-old retired Anglican archbishop, revered as the “moral conscience” of South Africa, says that laws that prevent people being helped to end their lives are an affront to those affected and their families.

He also condemns as “disgraceful” the treatment of his old friend Nelson Mandela, who was kept alive through numerous painful hospitalisations and forced to endure a photo stunt with politicians shortly before his death at 95.

Tutu, who calls for a “mind shift” in the right to die debate, writes: “I have been fortunate to spend my life working for dignity for the living. Now I wish to apply my mind to the issue of dignity for the dying. I revere the sanctity of life – but not at any cost.”

Shame! If Mandela was treated that badly, it wasn’t because assisted suicide is illegal. It is because he was used for political purposes. No one forces people to accept extreme measures to remain alive. The Catholic Church does not require it, for example, as illustrated by the death of Pope John Paul II.

More to the point, South Africa is riddled with destitution. About one in five people are HIV positivea staggering 5.6 million were living with HIV at the end of 2001, including 460,000 children! Until recently, the official government policy thwarted HIV prevention and the bulk still can’t get quality care.

Multitudes don’t even have potable water. Good palliative care in that country is not accessible for most. How can Tutu even begin to talk about assisted suicide in such a catastrophe for his people? It is a betrayal of the poor and destitute of his own country.

The people are not in the streets demanding the right to be killed by a doctor. They want ready access to a doctor! They want decent medical care.

How much research has he put into the subject? Does he know the horrors such a law would open to society’s devalued and despairing? Has he seen what is happening in the Netherlands, Belgium, and Switzerland? Does he know–or care–that in Oregon poor people have been refused life-extending chemotherapy under health care rationing–but offered payment for assisted suicide by the state?

Tutu’s call serves the desires of the elite at a terrible cost to the downtrodden he supposedly champions. He is using his considerable moral authority in a way that, by definition, devalues human life.

I Miss Our Missing Down Syndrome Friends



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When I was young, people with Down syndrome were common and visible members of the community. I remember in particular one Down friend I made while working my way through college selling televisions at JC Penney. Her mother would take her to the mall every couple of weeks, she’d see me, her face would light up with a huge smile, and she’d come running over for a big hug. She brought joy wherever she went.

We rarely encounter people with Down any more. Not because science found an ethical way to prevent or cure the condition, but because ninety percent of our brothers and sisters with Down are killed in the womb. Ditto fetuses that test positive for dwarfism.

Worse, parents who give birth to Down babies may face anger or castigation by their loved ones or community. Indeed, one of the reasons for the seething hatred of Sarah Palin, I think, was her family’s decision to welcome Trig into life. The Palins are pro-life and walked the walk, and for some reason, despite the paeans to “choice,” that blistered some like acid.

We call ourselves enlightened, but the search and destroy mission against fetuses with genetic anomalies is anything but.

Perhaps we could learn something from our ancestors of the “Dark Ages.” The 1500 year old grave of a child with Down has been found, and from all indications was a fully accepted part of the community. From the Abstract:

The pathological skull of a 5–7 year old child from Saint-Jean-des-Vignes (Saône-et-Loire, north-eastern France) dated to the 5–6th century AD is described. Morphological and radiographic features, metrical data and Computed Tomography (CT) scans are used to study the osteological abnormalities in comparison with normal skulls of individuals of similar age and geographic origin. The combination of features is consistent with the diagnosis of Down syndrome…

Cases of Down syndrome in past populations are rare, frequently poorly described or discovered out of context. This case represents the earliest and youngest example of the condition in the archaeological record. The context and funerary treatment of this child suggests that he/she was not stigmatized by other members of the community, who afforded a normal mode of burial.

I’m glad for the child. I just wish we could welcome our brothers and sisters with Down as fully in our own time. Not only are we depriving them of life–with mothers often pressured to abort by societal prejudice–but ourselves of their joyous presence.

Compassion and Choices Pushes Suicide by Starvation



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The people at Compassion and Choices are blatantly mendacious. And the media do not care.

In the wake of the Diane Rehm story, in which she describes her husband committing suicide by self-starvation (“voluntary stop eating and drinking,” or VSED) and pushes legalizing doctor-prescribed death, the suicide-boosting NBC claims that Compassion and Choices wants to prevent these kinds of deaths. From the story:

It’s just the type of death the advocacy group Compassion & Choices, among others, has been fighting to prevent. Instead, John Rehm should have had the option of an assisted death, the group says. They call for “aid in dying” — allowing mentally competent, terminally ill adults to request life-ending medication from a doctor for a peaceful and painless death. It’s legal in several states, but not Maryland….

BULL! Compassion and Choices promotes VSED on its website. It has even published a booklet about suicide by starvation for those who are not terminally ill. From the introduction to Voluntary Stop Eating and Drinking (my emphasis):

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.

Regardless of their clinical circumstances, these individuals share a common desire to maintain autonomy over their own end-of-life decisions. They want to die as they have lived, making the important decisions that affect their lives with collaboration and support from trusted healthcare providers, family members and other caregivers.

And they teach people what to do and how to do it.

The media either don’t care about the truth or are too lazy to find it. I think it is the former.

That’s why they rarely call anti assisted suicide sources when writing these stories: They know what they don’t want to know.

#lyingliarswholie

California Stem Cell Crony Capitalism



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Color me wondering why it took so long: The former head of the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine–once in charge of giving away billions of dollars of borrowed taxpayers’ money–has joined a company to which the CIRM gave a big grant. From the (surprising they published it–good for them!) San Francisco Chronicle story:

StemCells Inc.’s board of directors now includes the former president of the California stem cell agency that gave the company $19 million in research funding…

Trounson had led the agency since 2007. In April 2013, the agency awarded StemCells Inc. a $19 million forgivable loan to study potential stem cell therapies for Alzheimer’s disease.

StemCells’ founders include Dr. Irving Weissman of Stanford University, which is also the biggest recipient of funding money from the stem cell agency: about $280 million to date. As a board member, Trounson will receive cash and stock in StemCells, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Trounson once lied to misled the Australian Parliament about supposed advances in embryonic stem cell research. But so what? Connections!

CIRM has been rife with conflicts of interest from the start:

Created by voters in 2004, the stem cell agency has been criticized in the past for apparent conflicts of interest. In 2012, the Sacramento Bee noted that roughly 90 percent of its grants have gone to institutions that have been linked to members of its board.

And now, crony capitalism. Kill this money sucker!

IVF Surrogate Baby Unwanted and Returned



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This celebrity gossip illustrates a profound wrong of our times. 

When a baby is created as a purchased product, we should not be surprised when the merchandise is returned. Well, you can’t actually return a baby. But you can reject it.  From the Daily Mail story:

She had been excitedly anticipating the arrival of a baby carried by a surrogate – due in just a few weeks.

But following the acrimonious breakdown of her marriage to Lamar Sally, reports have emerged that Sherri Shepherd no longer wants anything to do with the unborn child. And according to TMZ, the 47 year-old has no genetic connection to the infant who was conceived through IVF with an egg donor and her estranged husband’s sperm.

And the website reports she allegedly wants a judge to rule she has no parental rights for the baby due at the end of the month.

This is the culture we are allowing to emerge. If she wanted the baby, it’s hers by right of contract.

She doesn’t want the baby? Well, it’s only a purchased product anyway.

Animals Equivalent to Humans in NYT--Again



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The New York Times is crusading against human exceptionalism. Indeed, articles that advocate human animal moral equivalency are so ubiquitous in the Gray Anti-Human Lady that I wrote a piece in the Weekly Standard a bit ago pointing out several examples of the continuing theme. 

The Magazine went there again on Sunday–without substantive rebuttal–in an article about purported psychological problems of zoo animals. From, “Zoo Animals and Their Discontents:”

The notion of animals as unthinking automatons has enjoyed curious staying power; one form it has taken is a tendency to study animal behavior to the exclusion of thoughts and feelings. The Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour, a longstanding reference, cautions behaviorists that “one is well advised to study the behaviour, rather than attempting to get at any underlying emotion.”

For Philip Low, the Cambridge Declaration was aimed directly at the Cartesian prejudice against nonhumans. “The term ‘animal’ is simply an excuse not to look at something,” Low argues, citing eugenics, phrenology and “scientific” racism as byproducts of the tendency to elevate humans — especially certain humans — over other beings. Some scientists have criticized Low for not consulting with more colleagues before issuing the declaration. “Whom did Descartes consult before making his declaration?” Low asked me.

Understanding that there is a legitimate moral distinction distinguishing us from animals is not the same thing at all as humans invidiously discriminating against each other! The former accurately describes unequal things, while the latter inaccurately distinguishes among equals.

Similarly, the term ‘animal’ as distinguished from “human” properly reinforces the moral distinction between us and them. Indeed, I believe the term “nonhuman animal,” at least in part, seeks to erase that crucial distinction.

The NYT is intent on boosting those who, like Low, are intent on destroying human exceptionalism. It is up to those of us who understand the catastrophe that such a deconstruction would cause to point out the tactic every time it rears its anti-human head.

When Liberal Politics Get in Way of Scientific Facts



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Here we go again. The New York Times publishes an op/ed piece claiming that beliefs get in the way of accepting science–naming the usual suspects, e.g., human-caused global warming and evolution.

Boring! We’ve seen the same article written so many times. 

But there is some truth to be found in the article. From, “When Beliefs and Facts Collide,” by Brendan Nyhan:

Mr. Kahan’s study suggests that more people know what scientists think about high-profile scientific controversies than polls suggest; they just aren’t willing to endorse the consensus when it contradicts their political or religious views.

I agree. For example, here’s a scientific fact we never see presented accurately in the New York Times: A human embryo is human organism, e.g. a “human life.”

Indeed, we continually see unscientific assertions among the Times’ own writers about this simple matter easily discerned from any embryology text book. Take Gail Collins’ recent column worrying about Hobby Lobby and a political movement to declare embryos “legal persons.” From, “The Eggs and Us:”

Many Americans are repelled by late-term abortion, but they don’t necessarily feel the same emotional affinity for a fertilized egg. The fact that this is actually a debate about theological dogma gets a lot clearer when you’re closer to the start of the gestational saga.

Junk biology alert! A “fertilized egg” is no longer an egg, but an embryo. Indeed, “fertilized egg” in the human context is an oxymoron.  An embryo is a human life.

That’s as far as the science can takes us, because whether that developing and unquestionably “human” life has moral value–and if so, its extent–isn’t a scientific question. 

But surely, ideologues like Collins’ can at least get the science part right! She can continue to be a good liberal and acknowledge the science that an embryo is a nascent human being. All she has to do is say that scientific fact doesn’t matter morally.

It’s hard to have a reasoned debate about that when so many on the political left allow their ideology to interfere with the scientific facts, isn’t it?. For as Nyhan put it:

Unfortunately, knowing what scientists think is ultimately no substitute for actually believing it.

I hope Collins reads the piece in her own paper and looks in the mirror. But I am not holding my breath.

Should Hospitals be “Touch Free Zones?”



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A provocative column in the San Francisco Chronicle argues that hospitals and doctor’s offices should become handshake free zones. From, “I Won’t Shake Your Hand,” by Mark Sklansky, MD:

Removing the handshake from the health care setting ultimately may become recognized as an important way to protect the health of patients and caregivers, rather than as a personal insult to whomever refuses another’s hand.

The bottom line is that we don’t want to lose a humanistic touch with our patients; we just don’t want to make them sicker. Banning the handshake in the health care setting may sound as ridiculous as banning smoking in public places did just a few decades ago. But, then again, how much cigarette smoke do you see these days?

I agree. Handshaking is a social custom that can be replaced by a wave, a fist bump, or a shoulder squeeze in these particular settings.

But how far should we go in trying to prevent infection?  For example, should we also prevent all medically unnecessary touching of patients, meaning, other than during treatment procedures?

I bring this up because our concern with safety can sometimes go too far. Hospital chaplains, for example, often hold patient’s hands or hug family members in their caring ministries.

Nurses similarly comfort the ill and grieving, as do hospice volunteers and professionals. And, of course, family and friends hug and kiss the ill as a natural human gesture of love and familial affection.

So, at what point do we say that the risk of spreading infection supersedes the need for human touch of medicine?

“Handshake free zones,” absolutely. But barring an unusual situation, let’s not allow that hygienic idea to become a “humanity free zone.” Hygiene is very important. But so too is a loving squeeze of the hand and a caring embrace.

No Public Money for “Orgasmatron”



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Back when I respected Woody Allen, I never missed a movie. One of my favorite was Sleeper, a great slapstick delight about a time traveler that made me fall even more deeply in love with Diane Keaton. 

One of Sleeper’s great gags was the “orgasmatron,” by which future people received release since they didn’t with each other.

Now, a scientist has found that a device originally developed to relieve back pain may help women who can’t achieve climax. I have no quibble with that, but I do research into the device being paid for with NIH money. From the The Scientist story:

Meloy has applied for a grant from the National Institutes of Health (NIH) for the next phase of clinical trials. If the NIH isn’t willing to fund trials of the device, he may turn to crowdfunding sources like Kickstarter to get at least some of the money he needs.

Kickstarter, perfect. NIH, no!

Priorities, people! We increasingly hear angry complaints that budgetary problems impeded important medical research grants. If that is true, we need to triage our public money. Saving lives, restoring health, preventing illness must come before treating sexual dysfunction (whether male or female).

Besides, if this device can be developed into an affordable product, the private sector will gobble it up. Let them pay for its development.

Lying by Pretending Hospice Doesn’t Exist



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I once complained to my wife about how frustrated I was that euthanasia activists lie. She replied that if they are willing to kill, they are certainly going to be willing to lie.

I thought of that nugget of wisdom reading a column in The Guardian by Bronnie Ware, a  pro euthanasia palliative nurse who lies by omission (or is inexcusably ignorant of hospice)–another frequent tactic in assisted suicide advocacy. From, “I Regret the Way We Are Dying:”

Many were initially terrified of dying or would spend some time in denial of what was to come. As their suffering increased however, even those in denial came not only to accept their inevitable passing, but to wish for it. I cannot count the amount of times I heard, “I just wish I could die”.

Having witnessed many different deaths, there is no doubt that the physical suffering of a dying person is cruel and unnecessary. If someone allows their pet to suffer that much, it is called animal cruelty. Yet, we allow our fellow humans, people with the ability to clearly express their desire to die, to continue to suffer.

It is shameful that Ware leaves the impression that nothing can be done in these situations other than let these patient who just “want to die” to suffer on with out intervention or just give morphine and wait. But that is flatly not true.

Hospice experts–again not the same thing as a palliative nurse–know that the “I want to die now” problem is often treatable and can generally be ameliorated. They do it all the time.

They also know that a request for suicide can be a statement that something more needs to be done. Thus an essential aspect of hospice–almost as important as symptom control–can be suicide prevention.

As a hospice volunteer I have seen such interventions in action. I have seen the “I want to die now” wail change to “I wouldn’t have missed this time for anything!” Indeed, that is almost a hospice cliche.

And this paragraph really reveals the core mendacity of her piece!

Dying is not only a physical experience, but also an emotional one. So rather than finding solutions only through intellect, we need to consider the feelings of those who are dying.

With the subject of death so taboo in our society, it is heartbreaking to see the isolation that a patient experiences when having to deal with the emotions associated with their approaching passing. This is why the idea for end-of-life midwives makes so much sense.

But hospice is precisely about ensuring that patients don’t die in isolation. Good grief.

The founder of hospice, the great medical humanitarian Dame Cecily Saunders, was adamantly opposed to assisted suicide and euthanasia. She told me that facilitating killing denies the intrinsic dignity of the dying patient. (It should also be noted that some “dying” patients don’t and get kicked out of hospice. I have seen that too).

The harm that misleading articles such as Ware’s cause–by killing hope–will never be measured. But there is hope. Even in the most dire circumstances as life comes to a close.

More Baloney Over Hobby Lobby in the NEJM



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The New England Journal of Medicine is a cultural wrecking ball. Whenever it turns to ethics, it reliably sides with the culture of death–pro assisted suicide and health care rationing–or against conscience rights of those who dissent from the reigning moral orthodoxy. For example, it disdains the right of medical professionals to refuse participation in abortion.

Now, it has published a shallowly reasoned, follow-the-liberal-advocacy-meme article bemoaning the limited and eminently reasonable Hobby Lobby decision. From, “When Religious Freedom Clashes with Access to Care:”

The Court’s decision allows the beliefs of employers of various sizes and corporate forms to trump the beliefs and needs of their employees, potentially influencing the types of care that will be affordable and accessible to individuals and permitting employers to intrude on clinician–patient relationships.

It did no such thing.

Employers offer salaries for work. Part of the “package,” as it is called, often includes health insurance.

Employers have always made decisions about whether to offer this benefit and the extent of the policies offered. And no one suggested–until now–that they were interfering with doctor-patient relationships in the decisions they made about the kind of insurance to offer as wages.

But once the government seized centralized control over these decisions–and used the cudgel of Obamacare regulations to impose the politically progressive moral view on everyone in the guise of regulating healthcare–it suddenly became a right to have employers pay for certain procedures, even if the person who owns the business believes it would be sinful to so participate in the action.

That’s what happens with centralized control. Government power is used to impose a preferred moral view.

Then comes the NEJM hysteria:

Finally, in the wake of Hobby Lobby, we may anticipate challenges to other medical services that some religions find objectionable, such as vaccinations, infertility treatments, blood transfusions, certain psychiatric treatments, and even hospice care.

Good grief: What religions opposes hospice care? Christian Scientists, I suppose, because they don’t believe in most medical care–for themselves. I don’t think CS theology considers it sinful for an employer to purchase medical insurance. Indeed, I am not sure that faith accepts the concept of sin.

But here’s the larger point. The Hobby Lobby decision (and subsequent actions) restricted its terms to the HHS mandate re birth control–which the editorial acknowledges.

There’s a reason. Under the law, these issues must be looked at on a case-by-case basis because the Religious Freedom Restoration Act allows the government to prevail if it has a compelling interest, not to mention analyzing whether the least restrictive method was used by the government and the bona fide nature of the complainant’s religious objection.

Hence, as I wrote at The Corner, a refusal to cover blood transfusions or inoculations for infectious disease would be looked upon more skeptically than covering medically unnecessary contraception.

Also, publicly traded companies like, say Chevron, will never be deemed to have a “religion” because they have millions of owners, thereby further limiting the potential scope of the ruling. 

Bottom line in my book: The HHS mandate was intended to prepare the way for an eventual order for free abortion, free sex change surgery (already happening), free IVF, and perhaps, assisted suicide. One reason–beyond politics–for the rage is that the case throws a minor impediment in the way of using health care to transform the culture into the secular progressive image.

 

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