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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Should Doctors Aid Self-Starvation?



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A disturbing sign of the times: The focus on hastening death grows ever more intense. Euthanasia groups, for example, increasingly push VSED–”voluntary stop eating and drinking”–to become dead.

But the rigors and pain associated with self-starvation require a doctor’s help to accomplish. The question is whether helping patients starve/dehydrate themselves to death is a proper medical intervention.

The utilitarian bioethicist Julian Savulescu says yes. From the HealthCanal story:

People with terminal illness have the right to refuse to eat and drink and receive palliative care if they wish to die, argues world renowned ethicist Oxford University Professor Julian Savulescu.

Professor Savulescu will speak about the place of refusal of food and hydration as a legal and ethical form of assisted dying at QUT School of Law’s 2014 Health Law Research Centre annual public lecture on March 31.”People have the right to refuse to eat and drink and the right to palliative care to relieve their symptoms,” Professor Savulescu said. “It is one way terminally ill people can control when and how they die.”

But why should such “control” be limited to the terminally ill? Indeed, if we have the right to choose time, manner, place, and reason for our deaths, why can’t anyone who wants to be dead simply stop eating and expect a doctor to make the suffering bearable?

I have a different opinion about a doctor’s duties. As I have written here:

This [a doctor facilitating VSED] seems akin to a doctor helping a patient self-harm by providing a sanitized blade for use in cutting. In other words, it contravenes everything medicine should stand for. 

Besides, VSED is really about opening the door to lethal injection. I mean, if a doctor can help patients starve themselves to death, why not be more humane and just put them? 

It seems to me that once the lethal premise that doctor’s job can be to hasten death is accepted, the logic becomes inescapable. 

World Highlights The War on Humans



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The War on Humans received a nice write up in World magazine. From the story:

Bioethicist Wesley J. Smith describes the growing influence of “anti-humanism” in a new digital book and documentary released on YouTube last month. The book and film ask what it means to be human and examines the implications of radical environmentalists’ claims that humans are no more special than animals or even plants.

This is a serious problem. A pro-human environmentalism promotes human thriving and prosperity–as it also exercises our responsibility to employ responsible environmental practices.

In contrast, an anti-human environmentalism denigrates our species and pursues human-harming policies:

Denying human exceptionalism devalues humanity and leads to a breakdown of morality. The 2004 “Holocaust on Your Plate” campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals displayed photos of animals in slaughterhouses next to photos of inmates in Auschwitz. “Any movement that can’t distinguish between the worst evils ever done to humankind and animal husbandry [has] lost the ability to talk about morality to anyone,” Smith said.

Radical environmentalists think that if humans “see ourselves as just part of nature, then we will be more gentle on the land and we will treat animals more humanely and so forth,” Smith observed in the film. “If we see ourselves as just another animal in the forest, that’s precisely how we’ll act.”

In my view the very future of the environmental movement itself is at stake in this discussion. I mean, who is going to follow a Green flag with an advocacy slogan, “You are all a cancer on the earth.”?

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GMO Opponents’ War on Humans



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I am a “trust but verify” kind of guy about GMOs. I believe that genetically altering wheat, rice, and other foods could alleviate tremendous human suffering. But, I also agree it needs to be done with care because of potential safety concerns.

Golden Rice should be non controversial by now. It would add Vitamin A to rice using a gene from carrots–not artificial genes, not insecticide, etc.–that would allow destitute children to eat a cheap foodstuff and receive a necessary vitamin that they would not otherwise consume. But GMO anti-humans irrationally oppose all such modifications. From the Scientific American story:

By 2002, Golden Rice was technically ready to go. Animal testing had found no health risks. Syngenta, which had figured out how to insert the Vitamin A–producing gene from carrots into rice, had handed all financial interests over to a non-profit organization, so there would be no resistance to the life-saving technology from GMO opponents who resist genetic modification because big biotech companies profit from it.

Except for the regulatory approval process, Golden Rice was ready to start saving millions of lives and preventing tens of millions of cases of blindness in people around the world who suffer from Vitamin A deficiency.

But GMO opponents elevate unaltered “nature” over the welfare of people and have kept it successfully from the market, I suspect because a success could open the door to more GMO foods. This has extracted a terrible toll:

Their study, published in the journal Environment and Development Economics, estimates that the delayed application of Golden Rice in India alone has cost 1,424,000 life years since 2002. That odd sounding metric – not just lives but ‘life years’ – accounts not only for those who died, but also for the blindness and other health disabilities that Vitamin A deficiency causes.

The majority of those who went blind or died because they did not have access to Golden Rice were children. These are real deaths, real disability, real suffering, not the phantom fears about the human health effects of Golden Rice thrown around by opponents, none of which have held up to objective scientific scrutiny.

I am wary of the accuracy of such studies, but I do believe they tell a true underlying story.

So, why not help these needy people? Why not prevent untold human suffering? Feelings–as in “what I feels,” instead of “what I think”–a bane of our time!

The whole GMO issue is really just one example of a far more profound threat to your health and mine. The perception of risk is inescapably subjective, a matter of not just the facts, but how we feel about those facts.

This reminds me of the anti-GMO activists who destroyed a crop of experimental wheat altered to resist fungus. Think of the potential human benefit if wheat could be stored for longer periods. But the anti-human, neo-earth worshippers don’t care. 

And that’s why I call misanthropic environmentalism the war on humans.

Thaddeus Pope: “Death Panels Save Lives”



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Yes, you read the headline correctly: Thaddeus Mason Pope–with whom I had the pleasure of publicly discussing these issues at the World Affairs Counsel of Philadelphia last week–has taken to the AJOB blog to claim that “death panels save lives.”

To illustrate why this is wrong, I have to show the intellectual sleight-of-hand Pope deploys to supposedly prove his point. He does not use the term as popularly conceived, e.g. rationing under Obamacare. Rather, he refers to triage boards in organ transplant medicine. From, “Death Panels: Can We Handle the Truth?”

In December, I defended the term “death panel” on this blog. Specifically, I demonstrated that we already have, and for over 50 years have had, quite a number of tribunals that act as death panels. For example, at least daily, UNOS denies potentially life-saving organ transplant requests. While the term “death panel” has a pejorative connotation, the essential concept and function is necessary. Particularly in situations of strict scarcity, life and death decisions must be made. They are made. And they will continue to be made.

But that isn’t what people are concerned about in the Obamacare death panel debate, particularly since organ triage is generally based on the individual circumstances of each patient, not pre-determined invidiously via bureaucratically decreed category.

Still, Pope seems to support death panels beyond organ transplant triage, as conceived by Bill Gates–whose opinion I criticized here last week. This, even though we don’t have “strict scarcity” regarding interventions such as end-of-life care

Bill Gates rightly observed that we must deny even effective and life-saving medical technology to some people…

Death panels, while tragic, save lives. And their existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to many, saves lives. We don’t want the truth, because deep down in places we don’t talk about at parties, we want death panels.

No, death panels aren’t necessary in the this context, and will not “save lives”–particularly when we are expanding coverage for non essentials and life-style enhancers.

Let’s see, life extending cancer chemo or Viagra? Not a tough choice.

But I agree with Pope. Get this debate out in the open. It is the only way to stop true technocracy-controlled death panels from ever being formed.

Suicide Push Not “Liberty on the March”



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The Hemlock Society Compassion and Choices spends millions a year–much from the culturally subversive George Soros–pushing the legalization of doctor-prescribed death. It is an ideological quest that divides the American people pretty much down the middle.

Regardless of polling numbers–which can vary based on how the questions are asked–legalizing assisted suicide is definitely not a high agenda item on the American public’s “things to do” in public policy list.  Most people just aren’t that into it, even if they might abstractly support legalization in a poll.

That’s why I got a chuckle out of the organization’s most recent annual report depicting their constant agitating for legalizing assisted suicide as “liberty on the march”– illustrated by a cartoon of a huge Statute of Liberty followed by thousands of people. But I don’t know of any demonstration in favor of assisted suicide that attracted more than a hundred or so.

Rather, than being grass roots, the assisted suicide movement is primarily driven by well-tailored and well paid elites.

Contrast that with social and cultural issues that have truly engaged large segments of the population–civil rights, same sex marriage, or an end to abortion–all have seen huge demonstrations of adherents demanding change. 

C & C is also distinctly anti-Catholic Church, seeing it as the greatest roadblock to legalized assisted suicide. From the report:

Government has no place dictating religious doctrine, just as religious leaders have no place dictating the decisions of dying Americans.

No, religious leaders are not “dictating,” any more than I am in my public work opposing assisted suicide.

In a free country, everyone has the right to weigh in on matters of public import, including supporters of C & C, me, disability rights activists, families of the dying, medical professional organizations, and “religious leaders.” That’s truly “liberty on the march.”  

One final point: If “legalizing assisted suicide is truly a fundamental liberty issue, how can it be limited to a small cohort?  If suffering = a right to be made dead, than all suffering people have a right to the remedy. That is the real debate we should be having.

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To Love--or Kill--Disabled Children?



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Sometimes life gives me emotional whiplash. On one hand, a little Canadian girl named Emma narrates a sweet short film, embedded above, about her younger brother Teddy, disabled by cerebral palsy.

Teddy is valued and loved. From the New York Times op/ed introduction to the film by Teddy’s mother, Kelly Obrien:

My daughter Emma was just 3 when Teddy was born, with a viral infection he contracted in utero that caused extensive brain damage. This short film captures her love for Teddy, one not weighted down by disappointment, sadness or a full understanding of all the ways in which he wasn’t “normal…

While I spent those first few years longing for what Teddy wasn’t, my husband, Terence, was able to appreciate him for who he was. As both mother and filmmaker, I felt it was important to find ways to represent Teddy not simply as a tragedy or a constellation of delays and disabilities, but as the sweet, happy and complicated kid that he is. Emma’s connection with Teddy reveals this perfectly.

Hooray!

On the other, when Canadian farmer Robert Latimer murdered his daughter Tracy because she had cerebral palsy, he was hailed by a majority of Canadians as a heroic loving father and his imprisonment decried as unjust.

So why the difference? Why is Teddy valued and Tracy’s murder justified or excused even though they have (had) similar conditions? 

Relativism. Teddy’s life is depicted by his family as clearly worth living and loving. Tracy was defined by her father and his supporters as having a useless life of meaningless suffering–despite her big smile for her daddy/murderer in the picture below.

But the sanctity of the lives of our ill or disabled brothers and sisters should not depend on how they are defined by family members. Rather, the Teddys and Tracys among us need to unequivocally be seen as flesh of our flesh and blood of our blood, each deserving of equal protection, acceptance, and love.

Bill Gates Supports Death Panels



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It is funny–in both the ha-ha and ironical senses–that those who often scream most loudly against the “death panel” meme often follow, sotto voce, ”But we need death panels.” The fact is that most of those in the technocratic classes want to medically discriminate against those who are seen as health care “takers” or perceived to have a lower quality of life.

They’re just not sure how to get from “here” to “there,” and retain popular support. (Hint: They can’t.)

Now in a Rolling Stone interview, Bill Gates joins the chorus. He says–like bioethicist Daniel Callahan–that we have to be careful about making technological improvements in medicine because we won’t want to make them available to all. From the interview:

G:…If you accelerate certain things but aren’t careful about whether you want to make those innovations available to everyone, then you’re intensifying the cost in such a way that you’ll overwhelm all the resources.

RS: Like million-dollar chemotherapy treatments.

G: Yeah, or organ transplants for people in their seventies from new artificial organs being grown. There is a lot of medical technology for which, unless you can make judgments about who should buy it, you will have to invade other government functions to find the money. Joint replacement is another example. There are four or five of these innovations down the pipe that are huge, huge things.

RS: Yeah, but when people start talking about these issues, we start hearing loaded phrases like “death panels” and suggestions that government bureaucrats are going to decide when it’s time to pull the plug on Grandma.

G: The idea that there aren’t trade-offs is an outrageous thing. Most countries know that there are trade-offs, but here, we manage to have the notion that there aren’t any. So that’s unfortunate, to not have people think, “Hey, there are finite resources here.”

But they do want to have the government (or bioethics committees delegated the task by government) decide “when to pull the plug on grandma.” Moreover, ”trade offs” is a code term in this context for death panels.

A few points I made about these matters at the World Affairs Council symposium on Obamacare earlier this week:

  1. Patients should be treated based on their individual circumstances, not as members of a “class” or group.
  2. Refusing wanted efficacious non-elective treatment is coercion–in essence, a duty to die.
  3. Death panels will destroy what shaky trust remains in our health care system, particularly, I think, among minority communities. 
  4. Death panels undermine Hippocratic values and deprofessionalize medicine.
  5. Education is already promoting better, less expensive care decisions. Very few terminally ill people insist on ICU treatment at the end.  Hospice participation now exceeds 40%.
  6. How can we justify refusing non-elective treatment based on invidious classifications when we keep expanding what we call “basic health care” to elective, life-style enhancing procedures and interventions? For example, in California today, gay and lesbian persons are legally entitled to expensive fertility treatments if they are covered by group health insurance–whether they are actually infertile or not. I only see this trend growing.
  7. If we have to cut back through regulatory changes, how about starting on elective interventions that don’t impact physical health? Medicare has paid countless millions on penile pumps and Viagra to allow 75-year-old men pretend they are 18 in the sack. I mean, c’mon!

Yes, we have to find ways to control medical costs. But not through death panels! Not through invidious discrimination depriving people of non-elective or necessary care, while payment for coverage of life-style enhancers continues to increase.

That approach is both morally wrong and politically unsustainable.

 

STAP Stem Cell Study Boo Boo



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A bit ago, a stem cell researcher made international headlines claiming to have turned skin cells into pluripotent stem cells (STAP) using an acid bath–a seeming advance beyond induced pluripotent stem cells.

But other researchers have been unable to duplicate the result. And now, the author has called for her own paper’s retraction. From the New York Times story:

Dr. [Teruhiko] Wakayama said that the numerous questions raised left the authors with little choice but to retract the paper. Verification by independent researchers might also shed light on what went wrong in the study, he said.

“To investigate the study’s validity, we must first retract it, collect the right data and photos, and try to prove again that the study was right,” Dr. Wakayama said. “I think an outside investigation would also be important.”

This is how science is supposed to work.

Psychiatrist Opens Door to “Rational Suicide”



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I have been warning for many years about the “rational suicide” movement within the mental health professions.

The latest thrust to have psychiatrists sanction some suicidal patients’ self-destruction was just published in the Canadian Journal of Psychiatry–alarming considering the euthanasia movement’s current energetic attempts to legalize doctor-facilitated death there.

Psychiatrist Angela Ho argues that helping keep mentally anguished patients alive can be more harmful than their suicides. From the National Post story:

Most guidelines for managing people with suicidal thoughts are based on the premise that depression, substance abuse or other forms of mental illness drive suicide.

Little is said about the concept of rational suicide — managing cases of suicidal thinking in people without mental illness and with mental capacity, and who therefore should be able to make rational decisions, Ho writes.

“People may have difficulties coping with life,” Ho said in an interview. “Maybe they don’t have a lot of support or healthy ways of dealing with their emotions. Sometimes people feel overwhelmed and feel like suicide is the only answer.” “The person says they want to end their life, but their thought process isn’t necessarily disordered because of depression or psychosis,” Ho said.

This is abandonment, pure and simple. 

Ho seems to seek to deflect “blame” for suicide from the treating psychiatrist. It is one thing to say that the patient just couldn’t be helped, and another to say that in some cases, preventing suicide interferes with rational decision making.

Psychiatrists are sometimes the last bastion of protection for despairing self-destructive people. To succeed, the life-saving mission must be unequivocal. But rational suicide proponents believe that when the doctor agrees that the desire to die is “rational,” it should be “permitted.” Imagine being told by your doctor that self-killing makes sense.

Indeed, how many people are alive today–perhaps some HE readers–who would be dead at their own hands but for a committed psychiatrist or other dedicated mental health professional who saw the value in the person’s life even when the suicidal patient couldn’t. 

The Dutch and Belgians show us where this culture of death meme leads: In both countries psychiatrists kill patients. In Belgium, some dead mentally ill patients become organ donors. Imagine a psychiatrist essentially validating that his or her patient’s death would be of greater value than their continued existence. 

Psychiatrists agreeing with suicidal patients that their deaths would be “rational” should be anathema.

 

UC Professor Goes “Berserk” Over Pro-Lifers



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Ah, college: The free interplay of ideas. Tolerance for differences. Respect for subversive-of-the-status-quo opinions. Professors who want their students to think for themselves.

Not! A UC Santa Barbara “feminist” professor has been accused by pro-life demonstrators of attempting to shut down a graphic anti-abortion demonstration, stealing a sign, and allegedly assaulting a kid who sought to retrieve it. From The College Fix story:

A department of feminist studies professor has been accused of going berserk after coming across a campus prolife demonstration that used extremely graphic displays, leading a small mob of students to chant “tear down the sign” before grabbing one of the signs, storming off with it, then allegedly engaging in an altercation with a 16-year-old prolife protestor who had followed the educator to retrieve it…

The confrontation took place at the coastal, public university’s “free speech” area, a heavily traversed part of the quad.

The roughly 3-feet by 5-feet displays included images of aborted fetuses, as well as diagrams detailing the abortion process and other “educational” information, according to Kristina Garza, a spokeswoman for 16-year-old Thrin. Garza heads up campus outreach for the nonprofit, Riverside-based Survivors of the Abortion Holocaust – a group that had trained the Short sisters and other students on how to conduct campus antiabortion events.

I am not a fan of graphic displays of dismembered fetuses. But PETA and other such groups present gory images in support of animal rights on campuses all the time, so why not pro-lifers?

I once spoke to pro-life students at an Ivy League campus who told me about one of their own being cold-cocked when passing out a pamphlet–and the administration did nothing. It takes real courage to be openly pro-life on secular campuses these days.

Alas, the tenured denizens of the modern academy–on so many issues–tolerate only one POV on campus. When it comes to intellectual freedom, they are the real “deniers.”

No, We Are Not Part Chimp!



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Anti-humanists love to point to the seeming genetic closeness of the expressing genomes between us and chimpanzees. It is all a vain attempt to reduce us to their level–or sometimes, try to raise them to ours.

It’s all nonsense, of course. As I have written before, the seeming closeness masks the millions of biological differences contained in this seemingly small divergence.

Now, my Discovery Institute colleague Ann Gauger further deconstructs the “humans are chimps, too” meme. From, “The Mismeasure of Man:”

To be specific, in addition to the 1% distinction already noted, entire genes are either duplicated or deleted between the two species, sometimes in long stretches called segmental duplications. Such duplications represent a 6.4% difference between chimps and humans.

There are also insertions and deletions within genes, which affect the structure and function of the proteins they encode. That contributes another 3%, according to some estimates. And there are entirely new genes, specific to humans. There are also changes that affect the timing and amount of gene expression. These changes include the insertion of new regulatory sequences upstream of genes.

For example, some 6% of our genome is unique Alu insertions, as they are called. And Alu sequences are known to affect gene expression. In addition, there are human-specific increases in DNA methylation that affect gene expression in the brain, and increased RNA modifications in the brain. These changes would not be detected by simply comparing DNA sequences. Yet they affect gene expression and interaction. Indeed, by one measure, 17.4% of gene regulatory networks in the brain are unique to humans.

Then there are DNA rearrangements. How genes are organized along chromosomes, and even the chromosomes structures themselves can be different. Our Y-chromosomes are strikingly different from those of chimps, for example. This was a surprise to researchers, given the relatively short time our species supposedly diverged from one another. Rearrangements are also not included in the 1% number, and are difficult to quantify.

Gauger notes that these distinctions make a huge difference:

You can have two houses built of the same materials — two by fours, pipes, wall board, nails, wires, plumbing, tile, bricks, and shingles — but end up with very different floor plans and appearances, depending on how they are assembled. So it is with us. We may have almost the same genes as chimps, but the timing and distribution of their expression are different, and matter in significant ways.

Of course, these biological difference are not as important as the moral distinctions between us and our closest genetic relatives:

Going beyond the physical, we have language and culture. We are capable of sonnets and symphonies. We engage in scientific study and paint portraits. No chimp or dolphin or elephant does these things. Humans are a quantum leap beyond even the highest of animals. Some evolutionary biologists acknowledge this, though they differ in their explanations for how it happened.

Gauger makes another point I frequently emphasize:

In truth, though, we are a unique, valuable, and surprising species with the power to influence our own futures by the choices we make. If we imagine ourselves to be nothing more than animals, then we will descend to the level of animalism. It is by exercising our intellects, and our capacity for generosity, foresight, and innovation, all faculties that animals lack, that we can face the challenges of modern life.

Yes, we are exceptional. Own it!

 

Pushing Experimentation Without Consent



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The New England Journal of Medicine–ever more radically utilitarian, in my view–has an article by prominent bioethicists urging that some less dangerous (comparative effectiveness research) medical experimentation be conducted on patients without our consent.

The call arises in the context of Obamacare and medical technocrats seeking to transform our hospitals, clinics, and medical offices into ”learning health care systems,” in which doctors not only treat us but are part of a burgeoning nation-wide information-gathering quality control project. From a description in the Hastings Center:

The Institute of Medicine has called on health care leaders to transform their health systems into “learning health care systems,” capable of studying and continuously improving their practices. Learning health care systems commit to carrying out numerous kinds of investigations, ranging from clinical effectiveness studies to quality improvement research and implementation science. 

The NEJM bioethicist-authors assert that we all have a “moral obligation” to participate in this revamped system of massive information gathering. From, “Informed Consent, Comparative Effectiveness, and Learning Health Care” (NEJM 370;8, February 20, 2014)

We also have put forward an ethics framework…to serve as the moral foundation for a learning health care system.

The Framework comprises seven moral obligations…seventh, contribute to the common purpose of improving the quality and value of clinical care and health care systems…The seventh falls on patients to participate in certain types of learning activities that will be integrated with their clinical care.

In some cases, this means participating in experiments without knowledge or consent–as determined in our ever-growing technocracy by “expert” panels:

The panels will determine whether particular CER (and quality-improvement) activities fall above or below a threshold of negative effect on expected clinical outcomes or other outcomes or values that matter morally to patients.

Research that falls below the threshold will be integrated into clinical care without specific notification to or consent from individual patients; however, public notification will be provided to the community of the system, including patients.

Does the bureaucracy never end?

No. I don’t care whether or not it is a good idea to transform our health care system into one engaged in ”learning.”  I don’t give a fig about the opinions of expert panels: We should not be experimented on without our consent.. 

UK House of Commons Assisted Suicide Vote?



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I have traveled to the UK several times at the invitation of local activists to help them hold back the doctor-prescribed death tide. I have spoken thrice in the House of Commons building at the invitation of Labour MPs. I have spoken at a rally in Trafalgar Square. I have traveled from Manchester to Glasgow and Edinburgh. So far, so good.

But the conservative Prime Minister has apparently decided to allow a free vote on assisted suicide in the House of Commons–a first–if a bill pending in the House of Lords makes it through. From the Telegraph story:

The legislation of assisted suicide has moved a significant step closer after the Government made clear that it would not stand in the way of a change in the law. Conservative and Liberal Democrat MPs and peers – including Coalition ministers – will be given a free vote on a Bill that would enable doctors to help terminally ill patients to die, The Telegraph can disclose. The proposed legislation will come before Parliament in the next few months.

On Saturday night, Norman Lamb, a Liberal Democrat and the minister responsible for care for elderly and disabled people, was among the first to say he would vote in favour.

Talk about a fox in the hen house. I guess he’s never heard of elder abuse, greatly relevant to this issue. 

And as to “strict guidelines:” My (choose your body part)! That’s a sop.

Either vote for a broad right to facilitated self-killing or don’t: But stop the pretense because that is precisely where this leads.

The timing also could not be worse for the vulnerable of the UK where the NHS is financially strained and quality-imploding, along with rationed health care, including those facing late stage cancers.  Pressure to die, Wesley? What pressure to die?  

UK MPs need just look a short distance across the English Channel to see what your “strict guidelines” will get you; doctor-facilitated killing for the mentally ill, the elderly “tired of life,” a depressed transexual unhappy with a botched sex change operation, euthanasia for children, and a psychiatric patient euthanized because she had been sexually predated by her own psychiatrist. And that’s just scratching the surface.

The good news, if there be any here, is that a thorough exposure of assisted suicide consciousness and consequences usually turns back the tide.

#theworldisgoingtohell

 

Pushing Polyamorous Genetic-Related Babies



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The bioethics movement grows ever more radical. In the reproductive field, many activists promote a near-absolute right to have a baby, the kind of baby we want, via any means we desire.

The UK’s John Harris is a major voice in utilitarian bioethics discourse, who believes that killing so-called human non persons is A-OK. He has now written in favor of creating children using a process known as IVG–in vitro gametes–using stem cells to create eggs and sperm, and then fertilizing via IVF. 

Harris extols the possibilities. For example, a single person could “self breed,” making a baby with only their own cells. Another use would be by same sex couples who could both be genetically related to a baby, rather than only one. 

Once “safe,” Harris also would permit IVG for those in polyamorous ”sentimental relationships” (!!!) to create a baby genetically related to all participants. ​From “Multiplex Parenting,” published in the Journal of Medical Ethics:

IVG could permit instead a much more substantive sharing of genetic kinship, through what is in essence a generational shortcut. Imagine that four people in a relationship want to parent a child while being all genetically related to her. IVG would enable the following scenario: first, two embryos would be generated from either couple through IVF with either naturally or in vitro generated gametes. hESC lines would be then established from both embryos and differentiated into IVG to be used in a second round of IVF.

In other words, the couples create two embryos and then destroy them for their embryonic stem cells. These cells would then be used to create egg and sperm, which would be joined in IVF:

The resulting embryo would be genetically related to all four prospective parents, who would technically be the child’s genetic grandparents. In light of the developments we have anticipated above, several variations are possible over this scheme, including trios and same-sex partnerships, though in the case of trios the extent of inbreeding would need to be dealt with on a par with that outlined above for self-reproducers using the process to make a baby solely from your own .

Harris’s essay demonstrates that current radical reproduction proposals–we are already close to authorizing 3-parent embryos–would not ultimately be about allowing people with genetic diseases to procreateAmeliorating health issues are as much pretext as purpose. The ultimate goal is enabling an anything goes culture in which extreme biotechnology is put to the use of fulfilling personal desires–especially those that shatter commonly denigrated ”traditional values.”

I have opined against permitting 3-parent IVF for safety and ethical reasons–and was ludicrously branded “anti-science for my trouble. Let me just add to what I have previously written that I don’t see how we can have a true “society” if the only commonality among us is ”anything goes.” 

Yes, I suspect that Harris hopes to shock and pull the chains of supposed dinosaurs like yours truly.  But radicals such as Harris truly are deeply committed to remaking society along the lines that relativism’s creator Joseph Fletcher proposed.

If they succeed, it will lead to a dramatic increase in the social chaos that we are already experiencing.

Greenpeace’s War on Humans



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Greenpeace is part of the “War on Humans.” Earlier this week, Patrick Moore, a putative co-founder of Greenpeace, said he left the organization precisely because it became anti-human. From the Washington Times story:

He said he left because he was alarmed by the shift in the organization’s goals. Greenpeace was originally about saving the environment and ending the threat of nuclear war. Over time, he said, the “green” overtook the “peace.” “By the time I left in ‘86, Greenpeace had drifted into a position of characterizing humans as the enemies of the Earth, a cancer on the planet,” said Mr. Moore.

“One of my main contentions is that to see humans as separate from nature and the ecology and the environment is defying the most important first law of ecology, which is that we are all part of nature.” Teaching children that “the human species is a separate, evil thing from nature is extremely damaging to their orientation of life,” he said.

Yes, it is very troubling and unhealthy to teach children that they are “enemies” and vile parasites afflicting the earth.

One quibble with Moore’s comment: I would not say we are “part of nature” in the same sense as a chimp or a redwood tree. To some degree, we have stepped apart–to the point that we are able to manipulate the world in a way that, at least to a degree, frees us from being continually at the effect of nature’s imperatives.

But we do have the duty–an important aspect of human exceptionalism–to engage in responsible environmental practices in the context of promoting pro-human prosperity and thriving. Indeed, contrary to global warming hysterics’ war on humans, prosperity is a necessary predicate to good environmental practice.

New Hampshire Euthanizes Assisted Suicide



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The media and assisted suicide ideologues continually tell us that assisted suicide is unstoppable–the ultimate civil right.

But America is not leaping off the cliff. True, Vermont became the third state to legalize last year, but Massachusetts voters rejected assisted suicide in 2012. 

Now, the New Hampshire legislature overwhelmingly euthanized “death with dignity.” From the Union Leader story:

The House Thursday soundly rejected legislation that would have allowed a terminally ill patient to seek a lethal prescription from cooperating physicians. Under House Bill 1325, the “Death with Dignity Act,” the patient must have received a prognosis of six months or less to live by two physicians. The vote against the bill was 219-66.

Assisted suicide advocates have been funded in the tens of millions pver the last 20 years by the likes of George Soros and the Tides Foundation. Advocacy groups have the money to poll, focus group, travel the country, hire well-tailored six-figure salaried elites and PR professionals to push the agenda among ruling class types. But Americans are just not rushing to swallow the poison, with the country still about evenly divided on the issue.

Let’s hope that continues. Otherwise we too will become like Belgium, and/or the Netherlands, and/or Switzerland where depressed elderly couples are killed, organ harvesting and euthanasia have been joined as a plum to society, and the mentally ill are euthanized by their psychiatrists.

Judge Says No to Hospital “Pull Plug” Demand



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Futile Care Theory (medical futility) permits strangers–doctors, bioethicists, etc.–to overrule a patient’s advance directive or decisions by family to maintain a patient’s life. Boiled down to its essence, it is a sign over the hospital ICU stating, “We reserve the right to refuse service.”

Texas law explicitly permits futile care. But apparently not Florida’s. A judge recently refused a hospital’s demand to kick an elderly woman out of life support, noting that the proper decision-making authority in this regard should be that of the family. From the Fox4 story:

The woman has been in Cape Coral Hospital since November after being admitted for diarrhea. Last week attorneys with Lee Memorial Health Systems filed papers asking a judge to take her off life support, saying she is brain dead and in a vegetative state. The family argued that she is not, showing a video in court saying she can respond to commands.

Today Lee County judge Michael McHugh decided not to pull the plug. “He went to the statue and he said, ‘No. He wasn’t abusing his duties as health care surrogate and lacking a living will we don’t know what Jane Doe would want to do so he did the right thing,” added Endrizal.

Note the misuse of the term, “brain dead,” which is dead. The patient here is alive and profoundly cognitively impaired. But I digress.

Good for the judge. Deciding whether to continue efficacious life-sustaining treatment is not a medical decision. It is a value judgment that properly belongs with patient/family/surrogate.

Allowing doctors/bioethicists to decide that a wanted life is not worth living would turn the fundamental purpose of medicine on its head. It would empower a technocracy to decide who lives and who dies. It would destroy the weakening trust of the American people in the health care system.

HT: Thaddeas Mason Pope.

Quebec Euthanasia Euthanized



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Great news! A new election has been called in Quebec, meaning–as I described here–that the nearly-passed radical euthanasia bill has been euthanized. From the NYT story:

Less than 18 months after gaining a tenuous hold on power, Pauline Marois, the separatist premier of Quebec, called a snap election on Tuesday. Ms. Marois said in a brief televised speech that she was dissolving the provincial Legislature and that voters would choose a new one on April 7.

Quebec has gone radical, so I am not under any illusion that euthanasia won’t be back. But it is stopped for now, and that is call for celebration.

Putting Loved Ones Out of Our Misery



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Emotional whipsawing is the lifeblood of euthanasia advocacy (pardon the pun). The movement thrives on often truly heart-wrenching stories to convince society to grant a general license allowing doctors or family members to help kill the disabled, despairing and dying.

The Daily Mail carried such a report recently of a mother named Heather Pratten who smothered her son as he was committing suicide because he was in anguish at having Huntington’s disease. From the story:

Speaking on ITV’s This Morning, she explained how on his 42nd birthday, Nigel had tried to take his life with a massive heroin overdose. Lying next to him and seeing him struggling to breathe as the drug took hold, she took a pillow and suffocated him to relieve his suffering.

She told hosts Holly Willoughby and Philip Schofield: ‘I thought “this has to end”. I couldn’t take it any longer. I put a pillow over his face. When I took it away, he was gone.’ Although she was arrested and charged, an autopsy concluded her actions would not have changed Nigel’s fate.

Nigel had always been very depressed, leaving home, drinking to excess, etc.. From what we can tell in the story, he was not receiving psychiatric help.

Nor was he was not at the end stage of the disease when he took the overdose. Now Heather is campaigning to legalize assisted suicide. (Notice the Mail used a photo of Nigel as a child to hype the emotionalism. He was actually 42 when he died.)

We saw the same kind of thing in Canada some time ago when Robert Latimer was hailed as a hero by many Canadians after he murdered his 12 year-old daughter Traci because she had cerebral palsy.

We can have great empathy for the anguish of Pratten–without condoning killing or opening the door to the abandonment of assisted suicide.

Besides, there is another side to this issue that usually receives media short shrift. Recall the assisted sucide of Myrna Lebov, in which her self-described “compassionate” husband became an instant assisted suicide movment hero after claiming to have helped his wife die because she had progressive MS.

But it turned out that he had actually pushed her into the death and had been planning to write a book about his deed all along. From my piece about the case in the Weekly Standard:

On March 28, 1995, Delury wrote in his diary that he planned to tell his wife: I have work to do, people to see, places to travel. But no one asks about my needs. I have fallen prey to the tyranny of a victim. You are sucking my life out of my [sic] like a vampire and nobody cares. In fact, it would appear that I am about to be cast in the role of villain because I no longer believe in you.

Delury later admitted on the NBC program Dateline that he had shown his wife that very passage. Moreover, not only did he push her into “death with dignity,” but smothered her with a plastic bag to make sure she died.

For many the Pratten and Latimer cases resonate far more strongly than Lebov’s killing.

Ah well.  We live in pro-suicide times. We should take a long, hard look in a societal mirror about that. 

Me Versus Euthanasia at Iowa Capitol Rotunda



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I was honored recently to be invited to speak in the Iowa Capitol Rotunda against assisted suicide to an audience that included the governor, lieutenant governor, and many legislators. It was a very well-attended event. I thought I would share it with anyone interested.

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