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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

What if Jahi McMath is Alive?



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A news story reports that Jahi McMath, declared dead by the State of California, is being maintained at a Catholic hospital in New Jersey. More, that she may be becoming responsive. From the San Jose Mercury News story:

KPIX reported that she is receiving round-the-clock care and has responded to commands, moving specific parts of her body when asked. Attorney Christopher Dolan, who represents Jahi’s family, would not comment on her location.

In a statement to Bay Area News Group, he said that “Jahi’s physical condition is much better than when she was at Children’s Hospital,” adding that predictions that her organs would shut down and her heart would cease pumping had not come to pass. “I have seen Jahi and none of what Children’s (Hospital) said would happen to her as inevitable physical death has occurred. I have seen much more movement in Jahi, response to her mother’s touch and voice and what appears to be movement in response to voice command.”

We should be cautious here. But if​ these changes are indeed occurring–which will need to be demonstrated by objective medical testing–she isn’t dead.

What might that mean?

First, that she would become entitled to receive benefits for her care. To prevail, in my opinion, Jahi’s mother would have to prove evidentially that her daughter is alive by demonstrating, for example, that she has reflexes that originate in the brain.

Second, it would challenge the concept of brain death in the minds of many, forcing the medical community on the defensive. At the very least, I think it would lead to universal and rigorous mandatory criteria for its determination, something now sorely lacking. It might also require application of the more sophisticated brain scanning techniques now coming on line, which have shown that many people thought to be in a persistent unconscious condition, are actually aware.

Third, it would create a nightmare firestorm for Children’s Hospital of Oakland, not only legally but with regard to the trust in which it is held by the local community.

Fourth, it would validate Judge Evilio Grillo’s wisdom–achieved via a settlement–that sometimes it is better not to coerce dissenting families in medical controversies to give up their quest for the “miracle.” In this regard, it would also validate the work of Bobby Schindler and the Terri Schiavo Life and Hope Network, who and which, stuck their necks out pretty far in this case to help Jahi’s family.

Fifth, and ironically, it would empower those bioethicists who want to expand organ harvesting from the dead to the profoundly cognitively disabled. Dead isn’t what matters, these advocates say, but the loss of “personhood.” They would make Jahi’s case as a battle flag to pressure society to stop worrying about brain death and start harvesting unquestionably living people like Terri Schiavo.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The bodies of young people who are brain dead sometimes last far longer than those of adults. The key question is whether she has demonstrable brain function. If so, there will be hell to pay.

Surrogate Asked to Abort and Sex Select



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I am not a fan of surrogate mothering. I am particularly opposed to commercial surrogacy, as it reduces gestation to a matter of breeding and can, in particular, lead to the profound exploitation of the surrogate mothers–known in the dehumanizing industry parlance, as ”gestational carriers.”

The Daily Mail has a story about a surrogate who had two feel-good experiences, but then got out of the trade because she came to see its dehumanizing aspects. From the story:

In more recent times, she entered into a third arrangement, this time with a ‘well known’ and ‘mega rich’ couple from the entertainment industry, who she can’t name for legal reasons – and who were due to pay her a ’significantly higher’ fee than she had been offered previously. ‘It was like hearing the neighbor’s kid crying. I think it would have been harder for me if I hadn’t bonded with the dads’

Unlike with the first two couples, she found it impossible to ‘bond’ with these people, who treated the process like ‘a business transaction’; so much so that Ms Szalacinski started referring to herself as a ‘commodity.’

Actually, no matter how nice the biological parents might be, as they said in The Godfather, “It’s not personal, it’s business.”

Back to the story:

Not only were the couple initially insistent on having a boy – testing the embryos five days after fertilization for gender – but when they eventually settled on two female embryos, they asked Ms Szalacinski to ‘reduce’, or terminate, one of them if they both ‘took,’ because they didn’t want to raise twins.

“Reduction” is the industry euphemism for targeted abortion. In other words, if one of the twin fetuses had been killed, the other child would still be a twin, but with a dead sibling. Imagine knowing that there but for where the forceps went would be thou!

Then came the eugenics that is rife within the industry:

Additionally, the picky couple were eager to choose a ‘particularly attractive’ egg donor, despite the fact that her eggs were ’sub-par’, because, according to Ms Szalacinski, they were ‘obsessed with looks.’ ‘I couldn’t believe that this kind of misogyny exists. My moral compass kept flicking off and I had to walk away,’ she says.

Good for her. But women who really need the money may not have that strength and might find themselves participating in actions they consider wrong and immoral–with potentially devastating emotional consequences.

This story reflects the ultimately crass nature that lurks at the bottom of the baby-making industry. Not only do many buyers believe they have a right to a child by any means necessary, but to the child they want.

Sometimes, surrogate mothers are collateral damage, and few care. See the Center for Bioethics and Culture’s (for which I am a paid consultant) excellent documentary, Breeders. It’s not all peaches and cream!

Adopt. Adopt. Adopt.

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Push for Child Assisted Suicide in Scotland



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Fresh off of Belgium’s legalizing euthanasia for children, child “advocates” in Scotland seeks to enable dying kids to commit assisted suicide. From the London Times story (subscription pay wall):

In a submission to MSPs, the group called Together (Scottish Alliance for Children’s Rights) states: “In the consideration of the age threshold of 16 proposed in the bill, the health and sports committee should note that terminal illnesses do not discriminate based on the age of a person and accordingly, neither should health care.

“The UN committee on the rights of the child is clear that a child who is capable of forming his or her own views should be assured the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child. “The views of a child must be given due weight in accordance with their age and maturity.”

In essence, the argument here is that assisted suicide is a human right. (Some death advocates call it the “ultimate civil right.”) If so–as I have noted frequently over more than 20 years–there really is no way to limit access to suicide facilitation. Human rights apply to all, not just some.

Note. Assisted suicide for adults isn’t yet legal in Scotland, and they are already pushing it for children. What does that tell you? (The legalization proposal is so radical it would allow for the creation of a new profession of non medical euthanasia/suicide facilitators.) 

Assisted suicide advocates used to promise that it was going to be restricted to the adult, terminally ill for whom nothing else could be done to alleviate suffering (a false premise).

Mendacity!

We Should Have Right to Consent to “No CPR”



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This is pretty bad when it is considered a  landmark victory! 

A court in the UK has ruled that competent patients have the right to be “told” when they are going to be denied CPR. From the Cambridge News story:

The Court of Appeal has ruled the human rights of a terminally-ill patient were violated when a “do not resuscitate” notice was placed on her records at a Cambridge hospital without her being consulted.

Care home manager Janet Tracey was 63 when she died following a transfer to Addenbrooke’s after breaking her neck in a car crash in 2011 – two weeks after being diagnosed with terminal lung cancer.

Lawyers acting for her family have described it as a “landmark judgment” clarifying that NHS trusts have a legal duty to tell patients with mental capacity that a Do Not Attempt Cardiac Pulmonary Resuscitation (DNACPR) order has been placed on their medical records – and to involve them in the decision-making process.

Hello! “Told” is only half the job. Patients should normally have the right to consent to no resuscitation before it is put on a chart. 

Studies have shown that many doctors have different values when it comes to such matters than their patients. But so what? Their views should not trump the patient’s except in very extreme cases where CPR would be physiologically ineffective and/or so onerous as to be torture with no prospect of life-extension.

And don’t think if current trends continue that the decision to save money won’t be factored into the equation under a ”doctor decides” system, as physicians are increasingly being told their true master is “society.” 

And before CPR can be denied in a “futile care” imposition, the patient should have rights to object, with the strong legal presumption that the patient’s view prevails.

Doctors have greater power in the UK to make the final call than here in the USA. But bioethicists and medical technocrats are striving mightily to push us in that direction.

There is such a thing as putting oneself under a doctor’s care. But that should not make him or her the determiner of your life or death.

Euthanasia Booster’s Game of Let’s Play Pretend



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None are so blind as those who refuse to see.

A bioethicist named Tony Hope supports Belgium’s new child euthanasia law as if we have no history of how loosely doctor-administered death has actually been applied in that morally collapsing country. While claiming the mantle of empirical analysis, Hope actually engages in a game of “let’s play pretend.”

 First, he sets forth his moral principles to justify euthanasia. I disagree, but let’s skip that for now. 

I want to focus here on how the list of Hope’s supposedly “empirical assumptions”​ about the desirability of child euthanasia aren’t really emperical. From, “Morality, Science, and Belgium’s Child Euthanasia Law,” at the Practical Ethics blog

Empirical assumptions

1.There are some situations in which children with a terminal illness suffer so much that it is in their interests to be dead.

2. There are some situations in which the child’s suffering cannot be sufficiently alleviated short of keeping the child permanently unconscious.

3. A law can be formulated with sufficient safeguards to prevent euthanasia from being carried out in situations when it is not justified.

The first assumption isn’t “empirical,” which means, “relying on experience or observation alone often without due regard for system and theory.” What might or might not be in a sick child’s “interests” is not a matter of objective observation. Rather, it is entirely subjective and ideologically premised. Hence, it is not an empirical assumption. 

There may indeed be rare times in which a child’s suffering can only be alleviated by palliative sedation. But that isn’t a matter of conscious or unconscious. Done correctly, the level of awareness can be titrated up and down to the benefit of the patient. Moreover, the implication in the second empirical assumption is that killing is preferable to unconsciousness. But that is a subjective assumption, not an objective observation. 

But the third supposedly empirical assumption is the real howler. Belgium’s law for adults has not prevented euthanasia from being carried out in situations where it is “not justified” under the letter of the law (ignoring that what constitutes ”justified” can often be in the non-emperical eye of the beholder).  

Indeed, the letter of the law has been repeatedly shattered in Belgium, and without legal consequence, including, but certainly not limited to:

- Joint euthanasia killings of elderly couples;

- Joint euthanasia killings of identical twins who were losing their eyesight.

- The euthanasia killing of a transsexual disappointed with her sex change surgery;

- The euthanasia killing of a psychiatric patient in despair because she was sexually predated upon by her psychiatrist. 

That isn’t “slippery slope” argumentation, as Hope would state. It is a verifiable recitation of facts on the ground!  

More to the point, Hope shovels the usual false euthanasia advocacy trope that child euthanasia will be limited to cases in which nothing can be done other than induced coma or euthanasia to alleviate suffering. In fact, the terms of the Belgian child euthanasia law does not limit doctor-administered death to such few cases! Thus, that’s mere selling puffery, the opposite of reaching an objective empirical conclusion.

But more to the point, whatever the law may state about a child having to be terminally ill to be euthanized, there is no “empirical” reason to believe that the guideline for children will be obeyed any more than have adult euthanasia guidelines. Indeed, the very first legal euthanasia in Belgium broke the legal guidelines, and it has gone steadily downhill from there.

The same steady expansion of killable categories will take place with children–an assertion based on empirical observation of what has actually transpired in the country over the last 14 years!

Indeed, how could it not? The Belgian culture–as well as the law–has accepted the poisonous premise that killing is an acceptable answer to human suffering. With that as the true moral foundation, the implacable force of logic will lead Beligum to ever-expanding categories of accepted, if not legal, child “mercy” killings. That’s what’s known as an “empirical assumption” with a compelling evidentiary basis. 

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Melinda Gates Right About Abortion



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Melinda Gates, who with her husband gives millions to pay for women’s health care, says that the Gates Foundation will not fund abortion internationally because it isn’t “health care.”  From the World story:

Abortion should not be confused with women’s healthcare, philanthropist Melinda Gates wrote on June 2 in a blog post applauded by pro-lifers around the world. Gates, a long-time supporter of international women’s health, wrote the comments following a two week trip to Geneva, London, Berlin, and Toronto. Gates and her husband, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, have declined to fund abortion through their philanthropic organization, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Instead, the organization focuses on making contraceptives available to 120 million poor women.

“We should provide all women the information and tools to time and space their pregnancies in a safe and healthy way that works for them,” Gates wrote. “This approach is simple, it works, and it saves lives. The question of abortion should be dealt with separately.”

Gates is absolutely right. A normal pregnancy is not a disease. A fetus is not a tumor.

Abortion that ends a healthy pregnancy is not health care, nor is fetus killing in such circumstances a medical act. It is what I call a “consumerist” procedure that uses medical means for a non-medical purpose.

If the “international community” would go along with Gates’ wisdom, many policy conflicts over family planning–which need not involve contraception, allowing devout Catholic couples to participate–would go away. Such a separation would substantially benefit the poor women of the world because it would allow those with implacably different views on the matter of abortion to row in the same direction.

Casey Kasem a New Terri Schiavo?



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I have been on vacation in Europe for the last two weeks, doing my best to forget the culture of death. But it hasn’t been easy. I have been barraged by readers and media about questions of how and why Casey Kasem can be denied tube feeding.

This can be a delicate and highly nuanced matter, dependent on the fact circumstances of each situation. Moreover, I don’t want to comment on his particular case because I don’t know all the facts. Pay attention to the italicized part of the CNN story I quote below:

He’s suffering from dementia and bedsores, and his body is shutting down at a hospital in Washington state, court documents say. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County judge gave daughter Kerri Kasem the authority to have doctors end his infusions of water, food and medicine.

The ruling reinstates the 82-year-old’s end-of-life health directive. Kasem doctor concluded that continuing the artificial nutrition and hydration would only “at best prolong the dying process for him and will certainly add suffering to an already terribly uncomfortable dying process,” said Kerri Kasem’s lawyer, Troy Martin.

The key factual and ethical question here is whether his body is shutting down as part of the natural dying process. In that situation, people often stop eating and drinking spontaneously. In such cases, it can be medically inappropriate to force sustenance into a body that can’t process it. Not knowing about Kasem’s individual circumstance, I will not opine about his particular case.

Second, if Kasem’s advance directive said he did not want tube-supplied food and water under these circumstances–whatever we each might think of the morality of that–he had the legal right to so instruct because tube-feeding is considered a medical treatment.

But let’s look at the broader issue. There has been increasing advocacy of late to deny tube supplied–or, as I have recently noted, even spoon feeding–to Alzheimer’s patients who can process sustenance. What about them?

Many bioethicists, and some doctors who treat Alzheimer’s patients, increasingly argue that these patients should be denied sustenance as a matter of supporting their best interests.  I am not referring to decisions made in accordance with an advance directive, but to the increasing assertion that the standard of care should be to deny feeding tubes. From the position paper of the American Geriatric Society:

Percutaneous feeding tubes are not recommended for older adults with advanced dementia. Careful hand-feeding should be offered for persons with advanced dementia, hand feeding is at least as good as tube-feeding for the outcomes of death, aspiration pneumonia, functional status and patient comfort. Tube feeding is associated with agitation, increased use of physical and chemical restraints, and worsening pressure ulcers.

Rationale: The current scientific evidence suggests that the potential benefits of tube feeding do not outweigh substantial associated treatment burdens in person with advanced dementia.

Recommendations are one thing. Labeling feeding tubes in late-stage Alzheimer’s patients as “inappropriate care” to allow bioethics committees to impose the death decision under a “futile care” protocol is another. And that is where I think we are headed–just as we are in patients with long-term diagnosed persistent unconsciousness.

So, I can’t say whether Kasem is a new Terri Schiavo–because her tube feeding was clearly medically appropriate as she was not otherwise dying. Thus the question in her case involved “quality of life” and egregious conflicts of interest on the part of Terri’s husband.

In contrast, I can say that Alzheimer’s patients generally are being looked upon increasingly as people who should not be sustained nutritionally after a certain point, even if that is what the patient or family wantsAlso, under Obamacare’s eventual cost/benefit protocols, I believe a time will come in which sustaining such patients will not be a covered procedure. Ditto, people with long-term profound cognitive disability.

Bottom line: Alzheimer’s patients in all fifty states who can process food and water are denied medically supplied food and water. Such decisions are legal and deemed “ethical” by many, an opinion with which I dissent.

Post Script: Kasem died shortly after the court ruling described above. It would thus appear that he did not dehydrate to death.

Asking Awake ICU Patients To Harvest Organs



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Pick your cliche: Give them an inch and they will take a mile; in for a penny in for a pound, etc. In bioethics, there is never a permanent boundary beyond which the utilitarian impulse will not take them.

Now, advocacy is beginning to ask conscious patients who want to stop life-sustaining treatment for their organs. So far, this “non-heartbeating cadaver donor” process has only been done with the profoundly cognitively disabled.  But now, that line is under assault. From an article by Dutch ethicists–euthanasialand!_in Clinical Ethics (201 3 Volume 8 Number I​):

In a medical community in which withdrawal of lifesustaining measures in unconscious and in conscious ICU patients is accepted, where organ donation after death is common practice, and in which there is a shortage of organs for transplantation, there can be no moral objection to ask certain conscious ICU patients to donate their organs after death.

Although withdrawal of mechanical ventilation on request of the patient on the ICU is rare and therefore the number of organs that come available is limited, it is still well worth considering. We argue that there are no valid moral and legal objections against it; it is ethically feasible and practically possible to ask the patients for organ donation after death.

Well, here’s one: I can think of few things more dangerous to the weak and vulnerable than to allow people having trouble going on believe that their deaths have greater value than their lives.

How about another? Letting society think that same thing.

Next stop: Asking suicidal people for their organs. It already happens in Belgium euthanasia.

 

Why Can’t Deacons Mercy Kill Like MDs?



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A Catholic deacon has been arrested for killing hospital patients in Belgium. I am puzzled why: His motive was mercy! From the Bioedge story:

News reports are sketchy, but it appears that Poppe was reported to the police. When they investigated, he admitted his responsibility. According to one report, he smothered the patients, some of whom were relatives, or gave them an overdose of insulin. The police believe that his statements are credible. He apparently recorded the deaths in a notebook.

“My client acted out of compassion for people who were in a hopeless situation,” his lawyer has told the media. It has been reported that Poppe told police that he was motivated by a desire to end patients’ unbearable suffering — but it does not appear that the “euthanasia” was voluntary.

Wait a second! Belgian doctors kill patient without request or consent all of the timeand for the same purported reason–with nothing done about it. Why should having an MD after your name make murder okay, but not being an ordained deacon?

I mean to paraphrase a famous American politician, at this point–death–what difference does it make?

Don’t get me wrong: If he did it, put him in jail. Just do the same to doctors!

Human Exceptionalism Shown by Babies



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I haven’t read Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, but a comment in Forbes about its content caught my interest.

Apparently, human babies quickly develop an interest, not only in surrounding objects, but also in what others think about them. From, “Neanderthal Man and the Science of Human Uniqueness,” by John Farrell:

One study, for example, reveals that, until about ten months of age, there are hardly any detectable cognitive differences between young humans and young ages: “However, at around one year of age, humans start doing something that the ape youngsters don’t: they start to draw others’ attention to objects of interest by pointing at them…It is the very act of directing the attention of another person that is fascinating to them…It seems that by about one year of age, they have begun both to discover that other people have a worldview and interests not so dissimilar from their own and to take steps toward being able to direct the attention of others. (p. 205)”

This compulsion to direct the attention of others, Pääbo goes on to suggest, is one of the first cognitive traits that emerge during childhood development that is truly unique to humans. Even more interesting is the fact that it’s not directly related to intelligence, so much as it is to a theory of mind, an appreciation that other individuals have different perceptions than one’s own.

This is relevant to the weave of human exceptionalism.

Only we make moral distinctions. Only we develop world views and come to differing opinions. Only we have the ability care about what others think about the same subjects.

This dramatically distinctive aspect of–yes, human nature–clearly develops early because it is hard-wired somehow into us. We all possess it, and it will express unless remaining latent due to immaturity or is disabled somehow by catastrophic illness or disease. 

From this important element of our being flows the streams of unique value and moral accountability–which rank high among the exceptional hallmarks of man.

Scientists Don’t Tell Truth About Weight



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I have called obesity “the new global warming,” an issue that is often as much about politics as it is about the science of weight.

A new study supports my hypothesis. Apparently, long-term weight loss is very rare, that most of the pounds lost in diets soon return. Moreover, there isn’t much that can be done about it.

But here’s an intriguing angle to the story: The scientists don’t tell that apparently well-known truth to the public. From the CBC News story:

So if most scientists know that we can’t eat ourselves thin, that the lost weight will ultimately bounce back, why don’t they say so? Tim Caulfield says his fellow obesity academics tend to tiptoe around the truth. “You go to these meetings and you talk to researchers, you get a sense there is almost a political correctness around it, that we don’t want this message to get out there,” he said. “You’ll be in a room with very knowledgeable individuals, and everyone in the room will know what the data says and still the message doesn’t seem to get out.”

In part, that’s because it’s such a harsh message. “You have to be careful about the stigmatizing nature of that kind of image,” Caulfield says. “That’s one of the reasons why this myth of weight loss lives on.”

Health experts are also afraid people will abandon all efforts to exercise and eat a nutritious diet — behaviour that is important for health and longevity — even if it doesn’t result in much weight loss.

At best. this is paternalism. But I think Caulfield hit on the larger truth in the quote I italicized: At least some scientists are afraid that if they tell the politically incorrect truth, their grant money will dry up, they will be called “deniers” or some such  pejorative, accused of being Luddites who thwart progressive public policy. In short, they will be treated as badly as global warming scientists who question the reigning alarmist orthodoxy.

The bigger point here, I think, is that people know that “science” has become substantially politicized: Too often, “studies” are generated to “prove” precisely what the authors or sponsors wanted.

In other words, science is sometimes science. But sometimes it is actually political or cultural advocacy pretending to be “science.”

And isn’t it interesting that those who call most loudly castigate those who disagree with them on policy or ethical issues as somehow “anti-science,” are often the most hyper-political players in the public square?

Active Euthanasia Comes to North America



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The poison has jumped across the Atlantic from Netherlands and Belgium: Quebec has legalized active euthanasia.

I have discussed the contents of new law at length previously and I don’t want to repeat myself.  However, the bill did undergo some changes since I wrote about it, and there are certain sections of the new law that need to be emphasized, so here goes:

The euphemism for homicide in the law is “aid in dying,” which in turn, is defined as part of “end of life care.

Receiving “end of life care”–including euthanasia–is now a positive right. From the law (my emphasis):

RIGHTS WITH RESPECT TO END-OF-LIFE CARE: 4. Every person whose condition requires it has the right to receive end-of-life care subject to the specific requirements established by this Act.

Such care is provided to the person in a facility maintained by an institution, in a palliative care hospice or at home.

This isn’t just the right to ask and receive suicide assistance from a willing doctor, with no guarantee you will get it–as in Oregon. It is the positive right to be subjected to lethal-injection euthanasia or terminal sedation at the hand of the doctor you asked or someone his supervisor finds to kill you. 

This means every institution that cares for the seriously ill, elderly, and injured must offer euthanasia:

7. Every institution must offer end-of-life care and ensure that it is provided to the persons requiring it in continuity and complementarity with any other care that is or has been provided to them.

Those eligible for euthanasia must:

(2) be of full age and capable of giving consent to care;
(3) be at the end of life;
(4) suffer from a serious and incurable illness;
(5) be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and (6) experience constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering which cannot be relieved in a manner the patient deems tolerable.

Loose terms that will easily be subject to interpretation. I don’t believe for a second that these “limitations” mean anything much at all, except perhaps at first. So, within a few years, expect Quebec horrors similar to those I have repeatedly discussed from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Doctors and nurses must be complicit. That is they must inform their supervisors if they refuse to provide aid in dying. That supervisor or executive must then find a doctor willing to kill. I suspect many Hippocratic believing doctors will soon hear the words, “You’re fired!” or have some other limitations imposed on his or her practice.

And get this! Doctors, nurses, and pharmacist organizations are required to establish how-to-kill-your patients classes!

33. The council of physicians, dentists and pharmacists established for an institution must, in collaboration with the council of nurses of the institution, adopt clinical protocols for continuous palliative sedation and medical aid in dying. The protocols must comply with the clinical standards developed by the professional orders concerned.

Imagine you are a doctor, nurse, dentist (?!), pharmacist–even a hospice or nursing home administrator: You went into medicine to be a healer. You are now told that also have to be part of a bureaucratic killing system. And if you object? Prepare for professional ostracism, possible loss of position and/or license, and you can kiss any promotion goodbye.

Quebec’s reverse two-and-a-half somersaults, tuck dive into the doctor-administered death abyss is a glaring symptom of a deadly parasitic social affliction that is sucking the true meaning of compassion, professionalism, and righteousness clean out of our culture.

 

More Than 100 Washington Assisted Suicides



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Assisted suicide is on the rise in Washington.  From the Seattle Times story:

More than 100 people died in Washington last year after requesting and taking a lethal prescription through Washington’s Death with Dignity law, the state’s Department of Health reported Wednesday.

Officials said that 173 people requested and received lethal doses of medication in 2013, a 43 percent increase from the year before.

And in every one of these deaths, the doctors were legally required to lie on the death certificates that the deaths were from natural causes. That’s downright corrupting of the medical system.

Assisted suicide is sold with vivid tales of unbearable pain that can’t be controlled. But, as in Oregon, that is proved a typical assisted suicide lie:

Most of the people who asked their doctors for a lethal prescription told them they were concerned about losing autonomy, dignity or the ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable. 

They key here is for doctors to declare their offices “assisted suicide free zones.” I think plaques to that effect should be made to be hung on office walls.

I would also like to see physicians attend demonstrations and publicly take the Hippocratic Oath. Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

3-Parent Children as Human Experiments



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If the “we never say no” Human Embryo Authority in the UK approves the creation of 3-parent embryos, it would be permitting blatant human experimentation on children.

Indeed, I don’t see any other way to look at it. Note the quote below. From the Associated Press story:

Britain’s fertility regulator says controversial techniques to create embryos from the DNA of three people “do not appear to be unsafe” even though no one has ever received the treatment, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report based its conclusion largely on lab tests and some animal experiments and called for further experiments before patients are treated. “Until a healthy baby is born, we cannot say 100 percent that these techniques are safe,” said Dr. Andy Greenfield, who chaired the expert panel behind the report.

So, to prevent a child being born with a genetic condition we will endanger that child for a potential lifetime of consequences. Or to put it another way, these children will be life-long experiments, even if they are born safely–a big if.

This is not going to be a matter of a once off and then all is okay. You are using, in essence, a twice broken egg.  Moreover, there have been health issues with animal models made in this way, not to mention cloned animals which similarly require the use of broken eggs–and this after many years of refining the cloning technique.

But let’s get to the heart of this controversy. In the end, the drive to manufacture three parent children isn’t really about allowing women with particular heritable genetic conditions to have biologically related children who won’t pass on the disease. That’s the pretext.

I believe that all of this effort is about continuing to pry open the door to anything goes in the reproductive sphere–for various cultural and political purposes, including making it easier to obtain future license for human genetic engineering.

Quebec Regains That Killing Feeling



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Quebec is on the verge–again–of legalizing a radical euthanasia bill. From the National Post story:

One of the first acts of Premier Philippe Couillard’s new Liberal government was to revive Bill 52, which was nearing a final vote in March when the previous Parti Québécois government called an election. All parties agreed to bring the legislation back at the stage it had been before the election. With final debate set to begin next week, the government said it fully expects it will become law before the session ends June 13.

Parties have agreed to allow a free vote, but a clear majority of the legislature’s 125 members have expressed support for the law that would make Quebec the first jurisdiction in North America to allow physicians to deliberately end patients’ lives.

In its last iteration, before failing because elections were called, assisted suicide was explicitly outlawed by the bill–meaning that doctors have to do the killing.

You see, Quebec is trying to pull a fast one. The national government controls criminal law, and assisted suicide is banned by Canadian law. But the provinces regulate the practice of medicine. So, Quebec legislators redefine homicide when committed by a doctor at the request of an ill patient as a “medical treatment,” to be called “aid in dying.”

Also, who qualified was very loosely defined–not that restrictive guidelines tend to be followed anyway.

Moreover, the taxpayers will pay for euthanasia since Quebec has a single payer system. It also means that killing will be required to be allowed in every provincial hospital, nursing home, and other such care public facilities.

Also, no conscientious objection allowed! Every doctor in Quebec would have to be complicit in medicalized homicide–either by doing the dirty work him or herself, or referring to a doctor the objecting physician knew had no moral qualms about putting patients down.

Quebec is a pretty left wing place.  Instead of protecting the weak and vulnerable–as the left wing did in my day–many of today’s lefties have a bad case of the death culture virus. 

When the new bill is tabled, I’ll bring you the all depressing details.

 

Jindal Vetoes Unconstitutional Surrogacy Bill



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A few days ago, I warned that Louisiana’s passed surrogacy bill was unconstitutional because it limited the procedure to infertile heterosexual married couples.

Governor Bobby Jindal has vetoed. From the Times Picayune story:

Surrogacy births — in which a couple’s embryo is implanted in another woman — are not illegal in Louisiana.

The contracts between the surrogate and the parents just aren’t enforceable in the state’s courts, leading to many couples going out of state rather than risk a legal battle in uncharted waters.

Right call on several levels.

Override possible, but would not be wise.

Will Medicare Pay for Healthy Limb Amputations?



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I have come to the disheartening conclusion that we will never control health care costs because we keep expanding the mission of medicine to include “consumerist” services that are primarily about facilitating life-style choices or fulfilling “identity” desires. For example, California now requires group health insurance to pay for fertility services for their gay customers–even though the insured isn’t physically infertile.

Sex change would seem to fall into this category. Now that Medicare is going to pay for it–meaning private insurance will soon be forced to follow–I wonder how we will prevent requiring society to pay for doctors to amputate healthy limbs of BIID sufferers.

What? Wesley, have you lost your mind?

Hear me out: BIID–body integrity identity disorder–is an anguishing condition in which the sufferer becomes obsessed with the belief that his or her true identity is as someone without a leg, or arm, or even, as a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

Advocacy has already begun to allow amputation of healthy limbs as a “treatment.” If that happens, there will be no way to prevent it from being paid for by insurance or society. From one of my earlier posts on the subject:

I fear the worst. Radical individualism is now the avatar with powerful forces urging that self identity become the be all and end all–no judgment allowed–perhaps even to the point that one day it will mean permission to chop off healthy limbs and other body parts. If we follow this path to its logical conclusion, it will mean using the medical system to surrender to serious mental illnesses.

Advocates for allowing amputation to be a treatment for BIID claim that there is no substantial difference between that condition and transsexualism, and that if surgery and other medical interventions are considered a proper treatment for the one, it should also be for the other.

Now that government insurance pays for sex change surgeries–including for imprisoned felons like Bradley Manning–what argument or principle would stand in the way? In these days of identity-is-all politics, I don’t see any.

 

Pushing Starvation as “Death with Dignity”



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The “death with dignity” and bioethics crowds grow increasingly extreme. Now, they are pushing starvation.

First, it was removing feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled, slow killing excused as removing medical treatment. Do it to a dog and go to jail. Do it to Terri Schiavo and it’s merely “medical ethics.”

Now, euthanasia types push VSED, e.g. voluntary stop eating and drinking. Not only that, they want nursing homes and hospitals to be forced to starve dementia patients to death who willingly eat.

I’m on the case in my biweekly column over at First Things. From, “Starvation as the New Death with Dignity:”

But what about people who can eat and drink by mouth? Assisted suicide advocates argue that it isn’t fair that they can’t die too. So, activists promote a form of “self-deliverance” that they call “voluntary stopping eating and drinking,” (VSED), by which suicidal people declare their wish to starve to death.

As a matter of respecting autonomy, doctors won’t force feed these suicidal people. Some even agree to facilitate the death by helping palliate the potential agony that can be associated with starving and dehydrating.

I believe a doctor who helps someone starve him or herself to death is akin ethically to one who helps a suicidal person find the artery to cut and guides the scalpel.

A lawsuit was filed to force a nursing home in Canada to starve a dementia patient to death. That lost and is on appeal. But the drive to force medical personnel to starve patients to death who eat, if they so instructed in an advance medical directive, was boosted recently in the Hastings Center Report:

Bioethicist Paul T. Menzel and physician M. Colette Chandler-Cramer create a sophistic argument to justify their conclusion: People have the right to commit VSED; people also have the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment in an advance medical directive; hence, people have the right to order themselves starved to death (commit VSED via advance medical directive).

Here’s the thing: They are called an “advance medical directive,” for a reason–to control medical interventions. But spoon feeding isn’t a “medical treatment!”

Spoon-feeding is considered “humane care”—not the same thing at all. Thus, under Menzel and Chandler-Cramer’s theory, a patient should also be empowered to order the non-medical withholding of other forms of humane care to hasten their deaths.

For example, why not permit a directive to order that blankets be removed during a cold snap to increase the chances of contracting pneumonia? Less certain, to be sure: But basically the same idea.

The advocacy point of the starve-them-to-death campaign should be obvious to all:

Finally, once we can starve patients, even though they willingly eat, the obvious question arises: “Why not just give them lethal injections?”

Actually, I believe that has been the goal all along. The starvation agenda is merely the horrid means intended to lead us to that horrible end.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

Louisiana’s Unconstitutional Surrogacy Bill



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Talk about a lawsuit waiting to happen! Louisiana is poised to pass a bill that would permit altruistic surrogacy under strictly limited circumstances. From Jennifer Lahl’s piece on it over at the Center for Bioethics and Culture:

This bill will allow only altruistic surrogacy between married heterosexual couples who need a surrogate for medical reasons (not for social or lifestyle choice). The conservative right wants only married moms and dads with the help of a benevolent “third-party” to have babies.

The bill allows for no gamete donation, meaning the husband’s sperm and the wife’s eggs must be used; only the womb can be borrowed—not paid for—so that the “gift” of life is given.

Don’t legislators pay any attention to what is going on around them? States can’t limit reproductive services–nor tailor domestic relations statutes for the exclusive benefit of–heterosexual married couples anymore.

As soon as the law goes into effect a gay, unmarried couple, and/or single person will sue the hell out of Louisiana–cheered on by the media and powerful legal and political advocacy groups.

I think that suit will win. The only question in my mind is whether that will kill all surrogacy in LA, or whether it would require it to be available to one and all, come what may. I suspect the latter.

If LA legislators want to prevent surrogacy from being available to those beyond married heterosexuals, this bill should not go into law. If they want it widely available–which I suspect given a commercial surrogacy bill was vetoed last year–but don’t want to take political responsibility, this is the right way to do it.

Belgian Doctors Kill 5 per Day



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Belgium has jumped head first into the darkness that is the culture of death. Euthanasia deaths–the ones recorded, more are done sub rosa–have gone up 27% in one year. From the story:

The numbers of euthanasia in Belgium have beaten another record in 2013 with 1,816 cases against 1,432 in 2012, an increase of 26.8%, according to the latest figures released by the newspapers Sudpresse group.

“You could say that currently there euthanasia 150 per month in Belgium or, even more telling, euthanasia 5 per day,” the newspaper said. It is here that declared to the Commission control and evaluation of euthanasia euthanasia.

Realize, that these killings include elderly couples, a despairing transsexual, and psychiatric patients.

Meanwhile, back in 2010, a study by the Canadian Medical Association found that 32% of euthanasia killings in the Flemish areas were done imposed without request or consent.

Oh, and here’s another tidbit: About 25% of patients dehydrated to death in Belgium are so killed without consent.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

 

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