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Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

More Cloning Lies: Ian Wilmut Did Not Clone Dolly



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This is unbelievable: Ian Wilmut has admitted that he did not clone Dolly the sheep. The more we learn about the cloning agenda, the less honesty there appears to have been in the field from the very start.

Wilmut has acknowledged in a court case that he did not develop the technology that led to Dolly's birth and claims he appeared as the lead author on the paper only because of a prior agreement with his colleague, Dr Keith Campbell. (This is similar to Gerald Schatten appearing on Woo-suk Hwang's fraudulent paper as a senior author despite not having done the actual work, for which he was criticized by his university.) Wilmut has been rewarded for this deception by becoming the head of the Institute for Regenerative Medicine at the University of Edinburgh

Science, as an objective field and dispassionate purveyor of facts, is in deep trouble. The science community had better wake up or they will find that their field has come to be viewed by a cynical public as just another special interest group.

The International Task Force on the California Assisted Suicide Bill



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The International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide is an invaluable resource for anyone interested in the ongoing debates around the world to legalize mercy killing. I am honored to be an attorney and consultant for the organization. Indeed, Rita Marker and Kathy Hamlon of the Task Force are responsible for my getting involved in these issues.

The Task Force has analyzed California's bill. Here is the result.
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Continuing Reactions to Deconstructing the Hippocratic Oath



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The e-mail has been pouring in on my article in today's NRO on the deconstruction of the Hippocratic Oath. They are so interesting and varied, I thought I'd share some of them with the readers of Secondhand Smoke. I intend to keep posting some of the newer communications as I receive them.

A medical school professor writes that idealistic med. students embrace the Oath!

"Thank you! I have felt like a lone voice in the wilderness. For six years, I taught medical ethics at the University of Kentucky, the only practicing MD in the course. The first day of each year, I would hand my students a copy of the original Hippocratic Oath, and tell them that all they needed to know about medical ethics was contained therein; everything else was fluff and details. The students actually loved it. They loved the noble vision of the virtuous professional that the oath projects. No student every complained about my teaching of bright lines that must not be crossed, and respect for human life. Young physicians will embrace the good, if someone will only present it to them."

One wag suggests outsourcing executions to the Netherlands:

"Your article gave me a great idea. Wasn't there some problem with a state which insisted that capital punishment be carried out in the presence of a qualified anesthesiologist, versus the Hippocratic pretensions of anesthesiologists that they weren't going into the execution business? [That would be California.] Hey, let's outsource. There should be plenty of Dutch anesthesiologists we can hire."

Here's one correspondent that believes the LLU "steward resources" clause is about triage. I disagree:

"The decline of civilization can always be intriguing subject matter. We need to hold high individual dignity, as the Pope has recently said. My struggle with your article is the lack of resource measurement you allowed LLU in their triage. Shall a doctor stay with the first soldier he sees? Shall he risk the life or the mission of other soldiers as he focuses on the first soldier he touches?

LLU knows more than any other institution the excesses that can be expensed in the search for the best care. They gained world renown using a chimp's heart to further the life of an infant. Noble effort but recognized as not worthy of future development.

A few years ago, I adopted that exact clause in my practice mission statement. Otherwise, we would be denying affordable treatment to the masses, while waiting for a few wealthy patrons to garnish enough resources for the best treatments. Two extreme examples, the intense battle scene and the dull dental office both must utilize the triage principal. Acting as a good steward of the resources of society and of the talents granted me."

This writer laments the loss of traditional Hippocrtic values at a famous Catholic medical school:

"My school, "Catholic" Georgetown, changed our oath within 15 months of Roe. No other profession has (had ) such an innate trust by the public that allows them to share their most private behavoirs and allows such intimate exams on their first meeting with a physician with perfect confidence and trust. Mothers turn their children's care over to them. Patients allow themselves to be rendered unconscious and helpless knowing that a surgeon is going to cut them. Until HMOs, they knew doctors would do what was best for them and not their pocketbooks. Our profession went downhill when we became killers for hire. Then patients knew we would use our skills for violence for monetary gain."

This from Bradford Short, who takes me to task for not better rebutting Dr. Nuland: Bradford is a pal and he blogs at The Thing Is (www.thefactis.org/thethingis), and has a series of articles on these issues in Issues in Law and Medicine:

"First, Nuland is wrong on the history. The Oath has been an important ethical cannon (and respected for its content) in America and Britain for at least 450 years. Recent historiography on the subject has shown that prominent English physicians translated the Oath, with its strong prohibitions on all euthanasia and nearly all abortion, repeatedly throughout the 16th century and that 17th century English physicians known for being respected ethicists, like the physician/political theorist John Locke, opposed most abortion and condemned suicide and euthanasia just as the Oath told them to."

From a medical student:

"...I am a graduating medical student at the University of Pennsylvania, and am sad to say that here, too, we are encouraged to recite a watery-swill rendition of the classic oath. I have long been of the opinion that this is totally ridiculous and that the current versions of the oath border on lacking any real meaning and are an insult to the profession, to our patients, and to the rich and honorable tradition of Western medicine; as such it has, for some time, been my intention to recite the historic oath (albeit in English, not Ancient Greek). I'm encouraged to see that I am not alone in these sentiments, and I hope that your article receives the wide audience it, and its message, deserves."

From a non fan, although I am not exactly certain what his point is:

"You must have a really big problem with the Confederate flag. Once upon a time, it was a symbol of slavery. Some say its message is different today. I gather you don't."

This anecdote shows what can happen when doctors and patients have sex:

"A few years ago I asked a friend, a prominent spine surgeon in his mid-50s, if he had taken the Hippocratic Oath when he became a physician. He said he had not. (Oh, and he is currently divorcing his wife and just bought a $25K engagement ring for a former patient.)"

I have also heard from readers who believe that giving children vaccines violates the Oath, which I don't agree with at all, and others offering praise or condemnation. I think the reaction demonstrates the continuing importance of the Oath and people's emotional attachment to its "do no harm" precepts.

“Do No Harm” Being Undone



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A while ago, I posted several entries at Secondhand Smoke about the ongoing deconstruction of the Hippocratic Oath. As I promised, I have written a longer article analyzing what it all may mean. It is in today's National Review Online.

I am getting a lot of response already. I will post some of the comments in a later post.

Now China Promoting Euthanasia



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So the country of forced abortions, femaile infanticide, and selling of executed prisoners' organs wants to get into the euthanasia game. How appropriate.
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With NHS in Financial Hole, Legalizing Assisted Suicide Would Be Utter Folly



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This story reveals that Britain's National Health Service, the socialized funder of medical care in the UK, is running deeply in the red. Some hospital wards are closing, surgeries may be delayed, and cost cutting is the order of the day.

I have always worried that money would become a big part of assisted suicide here in the USA if it ever took hold, what with HMO's making profits from cutting costs, which too often means, cutting levels of care. Considering that the drugs for an assisted suicide would cost less than $100, and that those most likely to want to be overdosed would mostly be the most expensive to care for, the economic forces of gravity are obvious.

I have believed, perhaps naively, that the financial pressures pushing toward a system permitting euthanasia in a more nationalized system would be less acute, and certainly less direct. No more. Consider the possibilities of the NHS rationing and delaying care due to deficits, and the fact that assisted suicide, if legalized, would never be rationed. Indeed, it could become the "treatment" of choice for overstressed doctors working in a badly under funded health care system.

Paul McCartney’s Animal Rights Advocacy Would Impede a Cancer Cure



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Sir Paul McCartney is a fantastic musician and composer. As someone who grew up in the era of The Beatles, I can only smile when I watch him perform. But he is dead wrong in his attempts to impeded necessary animal testing in medical research. Here, he writes to Arizona's governor urging her to block the building of an animal testing facility.

First, animal testing of new drugs and medical substances is required by law. Second, if the extremists prevail and we do stop medical testing with animals, medical research will be badly stunted. Third, McCartney works against his own purposes. He supports cancer research, in memory of the cancer death of his beloved Linda, but then supports groups like PETA that would impede cancer research by prohibiting animal testing. It's kind of like giving with one hand and taking it away with the other.

Euthanasia Advocates Continue to Obfuscate



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Sigh. The UK is in the midst of a renewed effort to legalize assisted suicide. Toward this end, one of the pro assisted suicide groups has published a poll showing that 2/3 of UK doctors have provided strong pain control knowing it could hasten death.

Well good for them. That is like saying that 3/4 of doctors had performed surgery on patients knowing that the surgery could hasten their deaths. This is because any medical procedure may cause death as an unintended side effect.

The euthanasia ideologues claim that their poll shows that there is no difference between euthanasia and pain control treatment. Bunk. Euthanasia kills. Pain control palliates. Euthanasia results in death almost every time, and it is considered shocking if the poisoned patient does not die. Pain control usually does not result in death, and indeed, may even lengthen life because a dying patient does not have to expend energy experiencing severe pain.

But count on the media to swallow this bilge whole. Unfortunately, it seems that critical thinking is not a strong suit of most contemporary journalists.

UK Continues To Slide Into Anti-Hippocratic Medicine



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What is happening to the UK? Here is another in a series of recent medical futility cases that takes Futile Care Theory another step closer to a "duty to die."

A baby known publicly only as MB, has a degenerative disease called spinal muscular atrophy. The illness, which does not affect cognition, leads to total paralysis and eventually, death.

MB's doctors want to take the baby off his respirator so he will die now. His parents want to love and care for him at home. The doctors insist MB should die now because his life is unbearable. But how do they know? True, none of us would want to become totally paralyzed. But who are doctors to say that MB does not and cannot have a life worth living?

Their arrogance brings to mind a good friend of mine, the late Mark O'Brien, and how angry he would be about this case. Mark was totally paralyzed from polio. He lived his life in an iron lung from the age of 6 to his death at nearly 50. Yes, his life was often very difficult. But it was definitely worth living, and he would blister anyone who said it wasn't. He became a poet, a published author, and a wonderful biographical documentary was made about him called Breathing Lessons.

Mark knew what it was like to be written off by doctors. But he knew that the lives of disabled people are not the doctors' or the bioethicists' to denigrate.

What kind of hubris does it take for doctors to presume they have the right to decide that a baby should die rather than the parents be allowed to care for their child until he dies? If the Lords rule against life in this case, the people of the UK will be less free.

An Age of Arrogance



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Editorialist Paul Greenberg has written a compelling critique of a society that prefers dehydrating the profoundly cognitively impaired rather than nurse and care for them. Key quote: "What arrogance to decree that, because we deem another's life not worth living, it must be ended. But that is the spirit, or spiritlessness, of the age."

This is definitely worth reading, which you can do by pressing your left mouse button here.

Kansas City Star Biased Cloning Reporting Continues



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The KC Star is one of the most biased newspapers in the country when it comes to the cloning debate. I was given the courtesy of writing an op/ed piece on the issue last week, it is true, for which I am grateful. But the news reportage continues to misstate the science of what is sometimes called therapeutic cloning.

Here is the usual depiction in a story, byline, Kevin Murphy:

"That procedure takes the nucleus from an ordinary cell, such as a skin cell, and inserts it into an unfertilized egg that has had its nucleus removed. The cell is stimulated and begins to divide. The process produces early stem cells, which have the potential to grow into all the tissues of the body. Scientists hope to learn how to coax those cells into becoming heart muscle to treat heart attack victims, insulin-producing cells to treat diabetes, and nerve cells to treat spinal injuries."

1. The "cell does not begin to divide." It transforms into an embryo, which divides along the same manner as an embryo made via fertilization.
2. The process does not produce "early stem cells." This is a wholly unscientific term that is being used for political purposes, with the full cooperation of the Star.
3. The embryo is not just stem cells. It is an organism. To get the embryonic stem cells, the embryo is destroyed.
4. This has yet to be accomplished in the laboratory, as far as we know.

That's a lot of inaccuracy in just a few sentences. Pulitzer is turning over in his grave.

Haleigh Poutre Purportedly Eating Eggs



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If doctors and bioethicists had gotten their way, little Haleigh Poutre would have been dehydrated to death via removal of feeding tube. But now, according to this story, she may be eating eggs. How unsurprising that the national media has generally ignored the case: It would demonstrate vividly the danger of writing off the cognitively devastated and "honoring" their "right to die" via intentional dehydration.

Another point made by Haleigh's natural mother in the story is worth pondering. (I have seen the same tactic applied in the Martin, Wendland, and Schiavo cases.) The patient is hidden behind closed doors to "protect privacy." But this seems a tactic to hide their humanity. For example, in the Wendland case the hospital kept insisting that he was as good as unconscious. Then, a local television station was able to obtain a video of him taking out and removing pegs upon request. The response of Lodi Memorial Hospital to this clear busting of their disingenuous PR campaign: Seek a gag order.

Selling Infanticide (Again)



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The essence of euthanasia consciousness has never been about "choice," but about deciding that certain lives are not worth living. And, it leads inevitably to justifying infanticide since killing to end suffering has been redefined from bad to good. If that is your basic view, then in the end, what does "choice" have to do with it?

A lot of us have warned that assisted suicide puts us on the road that leads to eugenic infanticide, which has been practiced for at least 15 years rather openly in the Netherlands. Such arguments used to be dismissed as alarmist and paranoid. Now that the Netherlands is on the fast track to formally legalizing infanticide and our worries can no longer be derided as mere paranoia, we see a new approach: Infanticide itself is being sold as a right and proper policy.

Articles that promote infanticide as compassionate and proper have appeared here in the USA in the New England Journal of Medicine, the Los Angeles Times, and the New York Times. This is the latest example of news stories as infanticide propaganda in the London Times, where, not coincidentally, a big fight is brewing to legalize assisted suicide. (I will be traveling to the UK next week to speak to and rally the anti-euthanasia forces.)

Note that the article doesn't even bother to see what could have been done to alleviate the suffering of infants given as examples of proper infanticides. Opponents of infanticide are not given a chance to seriously rebut assertions or perhaps, to show examples of Dutch infanticides that were clearly based on bias against the disabled. Note also that the number of infanticides each year was misstated to be 15, which is actually the published figure for one hospital. According to the Lancet, the annual number is closer to 100, about 8% of all infants who die each year in the Netherlands.

The unattributed quote from American "conservatives" taken from the Weekly Standard in opposition to infant euthanasia, comparing it to the Nazis is mine--and unsurprisingly, it does not come close to fairly representing my argument against infanticide in general, or describe the points I was making in that article in particular. Also note that there is only one quote given from a Dutch opponent and it is merely a general condemnation.

Make no mistake: Infanticide is part of the euthanasia agenda. Toward this end, much effort is being made internationally to normalize the killing of very sick, dying, and disabled babies. Should that succeed, the categories of killable babies would expand just as Dutch adult euthanasia has spread to the point that even depressed people can be assisted in suicide.

As I have indeed written, if this effort succeeds, we will owe the German doctors hanged at Nuremberg for murdering disabled babies an apology. But that is just one small point made in a far larger argument against infanticide. Too bad the media reporters who seem so star struck by the killing agenda almost never bother to really explore the other side.

Shac Terrorists Convicted



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This is a good start.

Kansas City Star Allows Me To Argue: SCNT IS Human Cloning



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Regular readers of Secondhand Smoke know that I am absolutely fuming about the propaganda effort by cloning boosters to redefine terms and obfuscate basic science. I will be writing much about this in coming months.

Whether SCNT is human cloning is one of the threshold issues in the upcoming Missouri initiative to create a constitutional right to engage in research cloning in that state. I have been especially frustrated by the media's seeming kowtowing to whatever term or definition the pro cloning side wants used.

One of the big offenders, in my view, has been the Kansas City Star. The editorial board of the Star courteously agreed to meet me about this matter while I was recently in Kansas to give a speech. We had a productive exchange and the editorial board editor agreed to publish an op/ed piece on the issue of whether SCNT is human cloning. It appeared today. Thank you, KC Star.

Spinal Cord Patient Slowly Regaining Feeling After Adult Stem Cell Treatment



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An Iowa television station is following the story of Amy Foels, who was paralyzed in an auto accident. Last year, she went to Portugal and received an adult stem cell treatment from Dr. Carlos Lima, who pioneered a regenerative therapy that uses the patient's own olfactory stem cells.

Amy has had slow but real progress. She can feel when someone touches her knees and can move some muscles formerly paralyzed.

This remains annecdotal. But it is my understanding that Dr. Lima's work will appear this year in a peer reviewed journal and that other places will be offering the therapy as human trials advance.

Let us all wish Amy and all of Dr. Lima's patients well. A lot of hope is riding on their progress.

Canadian Health System Meltdown



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I recall being in Canada a few years ago and the newspaper front page headline warned that 900,000 Ontarians had no primary care physician, despite having the right to one under the Canadian system. In other words, it was almost as if they were uninsured, meaning they had to get urgent care from hospital ERs.

Now, we find in this New York Times article that the meltdown continues and increasing numbers look to private care for the medical needs--even though such care has been illegal.

I recall mentioning in a speech I gave in Canada the day that story came out, that Americans want the Canadian system and many Canadians were beginning to want the American approach. This seems to be continuing.

This isn't my area of expertise. But perhaps the best approach would be a national blend of private/public health care financing: Have the government pick up catastrophic costs beyond a certain point, which would reduce insurance premiums. Permit national private insurance coverage rather than state by state, to expand the coverage pool. Have a Medicare type coverage for all legal residents and citizens, but keep the package limited to necessary care that would offer partial coverage. Allow private insurance or private pay to fill the gap. Stop cherry picking by requiring insurance companies to subsidize coverage for people with significant pre-existing conditions. Permit high deductibles supplemented by medical savings accounts to avoid over utilization. Permit certified physician's assistants to do the routine work.

This much seems sure to me: Our current system is breaking. National health coverage, Canada or UK style doesn't work. We need to be imaginative if we are to avoid health care rationing, which is discrimination by a polite name.

Michael Fumento on the Politicization of Science Journals



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I had the opportunity to meet Michael Fumento on a recent trip to Washington DC. I found him as knowledgeable in person as on paper. Here is an example, in which Fumento describes how science journals are being politicized.

This seems a real problem to me. At least on the issues in which I am involved, "science" is becoming merely another special interest that uses the same spin and jive techniques as other political movements. If this continues, it will corrode science at its core.

Fumento is right to be concerned. I will be writing increasingly on this issues in the coming months.

Stem Cells Aren’t the Only Game in Biotechnology Town



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Piglet islet cells transplanted into pancreases have effectively treated diabetes in monkeys. The technique is now ready for early trials in humans. Add this study to the successful cure of juvenile diabetes in mice using spleen cells, and we may see that there are many hopeful approaches to regenerative medicine beyond embryonic stem cells or cloning.

Once again, the importance of animals in medical research is also illustrated by this story. Not only because piglet tissues are used, but also the testing in mice and monkeys. This could not happen with mere cell lines or computer programs.

Scientists Create Prostate Gland With ES Cells



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This is pretty remarkable: Apparently researchers were able to morph human ES cells into prostate gland cells, implant them in mice, and they grew into a complete gland. The researchers claim that this technique will help them gain better understanding of prostate diseases such as cancer.

I don't know if the mice were kept alive long enough to see if the cells would create a teratoma or whether they needed drugs to prevent rejection.

I have also learned that the work was accomplished with cell lines that would qualify for federal funding under the Bush guidelines.

This experiment demonstrates why some scientists, like Bill Hurlbut, want to create moral alternatives to ESCR, which is why his ANT proposal(one among many) has gotten so much attention.

The story also demonstrates again the importance of using animals in medical research.

One final point: Such experiments point out the benefit of using animals to grow human tissues. However, this would not be an animal/human hybrid as the cells did not alter the genomic makeup of the mouse.

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