Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

The Disability Rights Movement Is Fighting Futile Care Theory


As readers of Secondhand Smoke and my other writing know, I am trying to raise public awareness of futile care theory (medical futility), which I see as a profound threat to patient autonomy and the concept of equal moral worth among all human beings. The disability right movement "gets it" and perceives, accurately in my view, that their members are prime targets for unilateral refusal of wanted life-sustaining treatment. Here is an article against futility from a disability rights perspective.

Saletan on Brave New Britain


As I blogged a few days ago, the Brits are increasingly permitting embryo selection based on explicitly eugenic criteria. The deep-thinking journalist Will Saletan is on the case in Slate.

Mike Wallace Doesn’t Connect the Dots, Either


Mike Wallace is a big euthanasia supporter and a fan of Jack Kevorkian. Yet, he admits in an upcoming interview upon his retirement from 60 Minutes, that he suffers depression and once attempted suicide. According to the advance PR blurb published in the Drudge Report, Wallace says that the years since that time 20 years ago "have been the best in my life."

Of course, I am glad that Wallace didn't succeed in killing himself. But given his brush with death that he is glad to have survived, Wallace's support for assisted suicide is puzzling. After all, studies show that very ill people who receive suicide prevention often change their minds about suicide, including dying patients. Moreover, some who undergo hospice care state that their time of dying is the best of their lives. Why would Wallace be glad he didn't kill himself but still support suicide faciliation for others? Another case of not connecting the dots.

Kansas Boy Declared “Brain Dead:” Be Cautious Before Reaching Conclusions


The tragic case of a teenage boy catastrophically injured in a shooting accident is all over the WEB. Apparently the boy was wounded in the neck and later declared dead by "neurological criteria," with the University of Kansas Hospital insisting on removing life support and taking the "body" out of the ICU. The family believes their son is still alive and has obtained a restraining order to continue treatment.

The common term for death by neurological criteria is "brain dead," an unfortunate phrase because it implies that every cell in the brain must be dead when it actually means that the entire brain and every constituent part has permanently and irreversibly ceased to function as a brain.

Let us not get into whether such people are really and truly dead for now. If the hospital in this case accurately determined death by neurological criteria, the life support should be removed after giving the family a decent time to say goodbye. However, if the diagnosis was improperly made, we have a completely different issue.

I have some behind the scenes information on this that I won't publicize. Part of the problem may be the way the family was treated by one particular person on the medical team. If anything, situations like this require sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Curt conduct, denigration of faith, etc., lead to the very kind of controversy you see here because it destroys trust.

I will be following this case closely. My betting is that the judge will order an independent examination that follows all of the necessary protocols for declaring death by neurological criteria. I hope so. It will bring clarity and if the poor boy is dead, the family has a right to know from what they consider a trustworthy source. Once that necessary first step in resolving this terribly tragic episode is completed, then we can make informed decisions about where things should go from there.

Clueless Oregon Should Connect the Dots


This is so ironic I would laugh out loud, were it not so tragic. Oregon is upset that it has a high rate of elder suicide. Yet, amid the wringing hands, no one seems to get that the state itself, by legalizing physician-assisted suicide--sends an insidious message that suicide is fine and dandy in some cases. Despairing people, particularly with health issues, get that point and may think, if it's okay for the cancer patient, why not also for me?

The first step in reducing suicide is prevention efforts in all cases. But don't expect Oregon to get that simple point.

Psychologist Takes Suicidal Person to Switzerland for Assisted Suicide


A Canadian psychologist has been reported for unprofessional conduct for taking a friend to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. The friend was not a patient. Full disclosure: I know about this case because the complaining party asked me to write an opinion letter about the goals of the assisted suicide movement and the participation by a mental health professional--either as a doctor or a "friend"--in someone's suicide.

I will post the contents of some of that letter once this matter has been heard. But for now, let me say that a shrink taking a suicidal person, whether or not a patient, to a Kevorkian-like setting is the epitome of abandonment and unprofessionalism.

Note that the suicidal person was not dying and that the reporter calls the trip a "mission of mercy," demonstrating the typical bias of most journalists on this issue.

Mice in Research Could Lead to Alzheimer’s Treatment


I post stories like this from time to time in order to remind readers that, contrary to the hysterical, repeated assertions of animal liberationists, using animals is an essential part of medical research. This story demonstrates why. In order to do the research on genes that affect aminio acids and the potential of gene modification to treat Alzheimer's detailed in this story, scientists need to work with living organisms that have a brain. Using stem cell or other cell lines would not do the trick. Nor would computer models. At this basic research stage, to use human subjects would be dangerous and an abuse of human rights. That leaves animals.

Those who are seeking to prevent such uses of animals have to be willing to admit that humans will be adverely impacted. Some have the integrity to do so. But many do not and even go so far as to pretend that using animals in medical research hurts humankind. In any event, remember this story the next time you read of animal liberationists decrying the proper and humane use of animals in scientific and medical research.

Brits Consider Ways to Combat Animal Rights Extremism


One way might be to permit animal using companies to hide the names of shareholders. This is seen as potentially necessary because of tertiary targeting and threats, assaults, vandalism, and lawlessness aimed at people merely for being part owners of companies that use animals and companies that do business with companies that use animals.

Heartening Photos From “Not Dead Yet, UK” Demonstration


The Joffe Bill to legalize assisted suicide in the UK is dead, at least for now. Many people in the UK worked long and hard for this day--which not too many months ago seemed as if it might not come. In no small measure, the victory comes because disability rights activists there have, as here, decided to vigorously engage the issue in opposition.

Jane Campbell, one of the UK's leading disability rights proponents and founder of Not Dead Yet,UK, sent me these wonderful photographs of the launch of NDY,UK. With her permission, I share them with readers of Secondhand Smoke. (A simple registration may be required.)

Updated FORCED EXIT Now Available


The third version of Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty To Die is now out and available. In addition to changing the subtitle, I have 11 pages on the Terri Schiavo case, discuss the pro euthanasia movie Million Dollar Baby, and update the field through last Spring. (The release date was delayed almost 6 months by the publisher moving from San Francisco to New York City.) The book is also now somewhat more concise.

I look forward to the day when Forced Exit can be retired because the issue of euthanasia ceases to be a concern. But that time is not even close. Thus, I am very pleased that Forced Exit continues to be available. My appreciation and thanks to Encounter Books.

Joffe Assisted Suicide Bill Blocked


Great news from the UK: The House of Lords has decided by a 48 vote margin to delay considering the Joffe assisted suicide legalization bill for at least 6 months. In essence, this kills the bill, at least for now.

Now, if we can stop the California legalization bill (AB 651), it will be a clean sweep for the year. Of course, the euthanasia advocates will be back next year and the political dance will begin again.

Animal Rights Grave Robbers Jailed


The four, who have been convicted of terrorizing the owners of a guinea pig raising farm and stealing the body of a beloved family relative to coerce the farm to shut down, are getting 12 years. Good. That's the least they deserve for putting the farm family and their neighbors through years of living hell.

But what really got me was their ages. I assumed these vegan thugs would be in their late teens or early twenties. But they are all in their mid to late thirties. One would hope by that age critical thinking would set in, rejecting the idea the ability to feel pain is what confers moral value, or at the very least, the wisdom of age would reject the idea that fervently held utopian beliefs entitled them to engage in vigilantism.

I am growing convinced that many of the more violent adherents to animal rights just want an excuse to tear things down--and the use of animals by humans provides the pretext. In this sense, they are akin to the anarchists of the early 20th Century. It isn't that they really care about "the animals." They are just filled with rage and loathing.

Hwang Indicted in South Korea


Opposition Continues to Mount to UK Assisted Suicide


Now hospices are beginning to weigh in. Good for them. We need this kind of spirited advocacy against medicalized killing in this country from hospice professionals.

Brave New Britain


The UK is going to permit embryos to be screened for a genetic propensity to cancer in adulthood. This is to be highly condemned as discriminatory and an attack on universal human equality. First it was the disabled who bore the brunt of such Brave New Worldism. Now, those who might not live a full lifespan are to be denied the chance to live at all. The utilitarian direction of the UK is of extreme concern and unworthy of a great nation.

ESCR Gift to UCSF is Just What The President Had in Mind


A private benefactor has donated $16 million to UCSF to conduct embryonic stem cell research free of the ethical restrictions attached to federal funding. Some will say that this is in defiance of President Bush. In fact, the opposite is true. At the time Bush announced his policy, the controversy over federal funding concerned whether the public should fund the destruction of leftover IVF embryos for use in research. Pre-existing federal law prohibited such funding, and Bush merely issued an order consistent with this policy--while permitting ESCR on pre-existing cell lines.

Of course, the former assertion by biotechnologists that all they wanted were leftover IVF embryos that were due to be thrown out anyway is no longer operable. The National Academy of Sciences has okayed the making of embryos--both through cloning and fertilization--for use and destruction in research. If that is where the money donated to UCSF is going to be used, shame on them. In any event, there isn't going to be any federal money available for such unethical research for a very long time.

Women as So Many Egg Farms


One of the reasons that many pro-choice feminists oppose all human cloning is the potential for women to be exploited for their eggs. This seems to already be transpiring: "an international market in human eggs exists which treats women like battery hens" is being highlighted by the splendid news clearing house Bioedge.

According to the report, destitute Eastern European women are selling their eggs for $300 per procurement, risking terrible side effects that can include death or sterility. And this is only for IVF uses. Imagine the egg market if cloning takes off, which would require millions of eggs.

No wonder pro-life and pro-choice feminists are opposing the use of human eggs in biotechnological research. Check out this new coalition group that intends to prevent women from being dehumanized as so many egg farms: Hands Off Our Ovaries.

Here's the original story in the Observer (UK).

Animal Liberationists Threaten Shareholders


In the latest example of tertiary targeting, animal liberationist radicals are threatening the shareholders of a company that does business with Huntingdon Life Sciences. The threat here is to sell the shares of the "offending" company or else the terrorists will publish the names of existing shareholders for targeting by extremists. The intent is to drive the shares of the company down in order to induce it to quit doing business with Huntingdon. Such is the state of the animal liberation movement that you will here nary a word by fellow travelers condemning this strongly implied threat of harm.

"1st May 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are a group set up to hold Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) accountable for it's acts of animal cruelty.

Holding HLS accountable means holding GlaxoSmithKline to it's promise not to use HLS ever again following the TV documentary 'Countryside Undercover' showing workers punching beagle puppies.

The only way to hold GlaxoSmithKline to it's PROMISE is to target it's financial vulnerability. We are therefore giving you this opportunity to sell your shares in GlaxoSmithKline.

Over the next two weeks every shareholder of GlaxoSmithKline will be receiving this letter. If you have any doubts over the effectiveness of this action then keep a close eye on the GSK share price and watch it plummet.

This was a tactic used against HLS shareholders which saw its share price nose dive from the LSE and NYSE. To this day they are still unable to trade on the stock market. [See here, for the story on the intimidation of the New York Stock Exchange.]

The second time this tactic was used was against Montpellier PLC, a building contractor employed to build an animal testing laboratory for Oxford University. Their share price plummeted, a leading director resigned and within weeks they had withdrawn their services, leaving the site of the proposed laboratory for 18 months with no building work being carried out on it.

Should you choose not to sell your shares with in the next 14 days your details will be publicised and within weeks a website will be hosted with all remaining shareholders listed.

To avoid this please email [email protected] confirming you have sold, within the next 14 days. We will be checking that you have done this.

The choice is yours"

Disability Rights Opposition to Assisted Suicide Now International


The growing opposition to legalizing assisted suicide among disability rights groups has gone international. This opinion piece by Jane Campbell, Ph.D. is important. Campbell is a very politically connected disabled woman in the UK, who served her country as a disability rights commissioner from 2000-2006. She is forming NOT DEAD YET, UK to resist euthanasia and other policies that threaten the lives of disabled people. Here is the WEB site for "Living With Dignity" that includes the NDY,UK information.

I couldn't be more pleased. As I have repeatedly noted, the most important element preventing assisted suicide from spreading beyond Oregon has been the disability rights community. United Kingdom activists have been slower off the mark, partly because they tend to be on the political Left and have perceived--erroneously in my view--opposition to assisted suicide to be particularly religious-based and conservative. That viewpoint has evolved to the point where I believe the robust alliance that has developed here across usually divisive political and social issue spectrums may be repeated on the other side of the Pond.

Now, on to Australia and other nations threatened by the death agenda.

My Sense is Joffe Bill in Trouble


I have traveled to the UK several times at the request of anti-euthanasia campaigners to help in their battle to oppose legalizing assisted suicide. The Joffe Bill may or may not get out of the House of Lords, and I could be wrong, but my sense is that the legislation is in deep trouble. There appears to be good resistance to the bill, with the disability rights leaders coming forward more strongly to oppose than in the past. More than 70,000 petition signatures have been turned in, and many in the medical community seem to have concluded, correctly, that their participation in causing patients' deaths would be bad medicine and even worse public policy. This is the latest news in that regard.


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