Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Louisiana’s Unconstitutional Surrogacy Bill


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


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?



Erase Painful Memories, Don’t Worry Be Happy


We are becoming a neurotic suffering-phobic society. We want–nay, increasingly demand, NO SUFFERING!–as distinguished from mitigating or lightening others’ load by “suffering with,” which is the root meaning of “compassion.”  

As I have written elsewhere at more length, our flight from pain is driving us to increasingly extreme behaviors and distorted policies.

Now, scientists may have found a way to erase painful memories. From the Daily Mail story:

It sounds like the stuff of Hollywood fiction. But a pill that wipes out bad memories could eventually become reality, scientists believe.

Experiments on mice found those given fingolimod, a drug used to treat multiple sclerosis, completely forgot about previous experiences that had brought them physical pain. The US study, at Virginia Commonwealth University, offers hope of a drug that could eradicate memories of traumatic events from years ago and help patients overcome phobias, eating disorders and even sexual hang-ups.

Color me doubtful. Our minds are not so simple as that. Just because we lost conscious memory of trauma, doesn’t mean it would still not have impact. 

But let’s assume it would work: Even if it could be done, and even if we could keep the “good” while jettisoning memories of the bad–another issue–would that really be wise? 

But there are ethical concerns that it could eradicate the very essence of what makes us human as well as have damaging psychological consequences, preventing those who take it from learning from their mistakes.

Ah, who cares? Wisdom is so overrated.  

I think many would embrace such a self-erasure, and not just for truly traumatic experiences that destroy lives. We are a society that increasingly senses itself entitled to never experience painful or emotionally difficult experiences.

No regret. No guilt. No remorse. Even, no grief. Notice that at the onset of even the worst trauma, the immediate talk is of getting to the “healing” rather than actually experiencing the mourning.

Oh well, Don’t worry, be happy.

Execution and Euthanasia = Same Act


The medical and bioethics establishments increasingly assert that doctors should not participate in executions.

Yet, many of these same advocates support euthanasia and assisted suicide.

The quote below from a recent JAMA opinion column is about executions. But I have replaced the words and terms used about that procedure with “euthanasia” to illustrate my point:

Regardless of whether EUTHANASIA is justified—and there are those who contend that in some circumstances EUTHANASIA may be—it must never be perceived as a medical procedure.

By playing on the imagery of a scene that is almost indistinguishable from the everyday practice of anesthesiologists when they “put a patient to sleep,” there is an attempt to cover the procedure with a patina of respectability and compassion that is associated with the practice of medicine.

And that’s precisely why death idologues promote the “medical model” of mercy killing.

Doctors became involved in executions in large part because DP opponents pushed the punishment toward more sterile approaches, e.g., from brutal-looking but clearly killing methods of firing squad or hanging, to lethal injection. Doctors are not needed for those things, except perhaps, to declare death.

In contrast, euthanasia came to the fore after dying in agony became preventable through legitimate medical means. What an odd irony. 

Bottom line: Neither euthanasia nor executing are medical actions. Both are killing. And that ain’t medical in the truest meaning of the term regardless of our modern disease of redefinitionism.

Increase Health Costs to Ease Irresponsible Sex?


We often hear outrage over the health care costs associated with smoking tobacco and obesity. But irresponsible sexual expression also extracts a fortune in health care costs, and we never see the same kind of unequivocal condemnation.

Now, a column in the New York Times seems to advocate surrender to sexual irresponsibility in the AIDS fight: Rather than promote responsible sexuality, Donald G. McNeill, Jr. argues that society instead surrender to irresponsibility by providing the promiscuous with expensive anti-viral drugs as a prophylactic making them less likely to pass on the disease. From, “Are We Ready for HIV’s Sexual Revolution?”:

There are still 50,000 new infections a year in the United States, and 2.3 million worldwide. Widespread use of the drugs could fight that — but two imposing obstacles loom.

The first is psychological. Doctors and policy makers need to admit that 30 years of the ABC mantra — abstain, be faithful, use condoms — has failed. Men generally hate condoms, their lovers usually give in, almost no one abstains, precious few stay faithful.

Damon L. Jacobs, a family therapist and gay activist, remembered standing on a San Francisco street corner in 1992 handing out buttons saying “100%.” “It meant that, if everyone used condoms 100 percent of the time, we would end the epidemic by the year 2000,” he said. “Guess what? It didn’t work. People didn’t want to. To a young health worker, that was an eye-opener.”

This is astonishing. So, sex is more important than health–even life–to some people, and the answer is to increase the incentive or likelihood that people will engage in these behaviors? 

How expensive? Zounds!

In the United States, Truvada can cost $13,000 a year — and insurers pay [when the person is infected]. But gay black and Hispanic men — the highest-risk groups — are the least likely to have health insurance

So, should this be paid for by health insurance when it’s a prophylactic instead of a treatment? 

Meanwhile, the medical technocrats keep telling us that the elderly, the dying, and people with cancer and other serious diseases are going to have to do with less.

People have the power to control their urges. We still haven’t made that a societal expectation. 

Perhaps the time for “shaming” people who act sexually irresponsibly should be tried in the same way that we do those who smoke. It might save their lives and us a lot of money. 


“Let Unborn Vote” to Stack Ideological Deck


No, the proposal isn’t to let the unborn vote against abortion as a means of increasing the odds they actually get into the world.

Rather, a Dutch global warming hysteric named Thomas Wells wants the unborn to be able to vote by proxy for policies and politicians that warming alarmists favor. From the Tom Friedman column loving the idea:

“Even if we can’t know what future citizens will actually value and believe in, we can still consider their interests, on the reasonable assumption that they will somewhat resemble our own (everybody needs breathable air, for example),” wrote Wells in Aeon Magazine. Since “our ethical values point one way, towards intergenerational responsibility, but our political system points another, towards the short-term horizon of the next election,” we “should consider introducing agents who can vote in a far-seeing and impartial way.”

Wells suggests creating a public “trusteeship” of nongovernmental civic and charitable foundations, environmental groups and nonpartisan think tanks “and give them each equal shares of a block of votes adding up to, say, 10 percent of the electorate,” so they can represent issues like “de-carbonizing the economy” and “guaranteeing pension entitlements” for the unborn generation that will be deeply impacted but has no vote.

In other words, add 10% to the electorate to vote the way Wells and Friedman favor.

This is no different than animal rightists saying animals should be able to sue or nature rights advocates wanting to be able to represent fungi–it is just a scheme to let ideologues increase their power over the rest of us.

I think the “unborn” would want to enter the world in a society with a robust economy where they would have a fair chance at getting good work and society would enjoy sufficient prosperity to pursue responsible environmental practices. But under this scheme, the fix would be in and that view–held by at least as many people as those who want to depress our economies “to save the planet”–wouldn’t be allowed a single vote.

Oregon Will Never Ration Assisted Suicide


Oregon explicitly rations health care to its Medicaid recipients. This means that some patients with terminal conditions have been denied life-extending treatments because the state proclaimed that their lives were not worth the cost of the care needed for them to continue.

Assisted suicide has also been on the rationing list, albeit in a spot (palliative care) that guaranteed that it would never be withheld.

But even that wasn’t good enough for the Death State. The Oregon Health Department has now taken it off the rationing list altogether and issued an explicit declaration that, come what may, doctor-prescribed death will always be available to the poor: From the new Prioritized List of Health Services, page 102:

STATEMENT OF INTENT 2: DEATH WITH DIGNITY ACT  It is the intent of the Commission that services under ORS 127.800-127.897 (Oregon Death with Dignity Act) be covered for those that wish to avail themselves to those services. Such services include but are not limited to attending physician visits, consulting physician confirmation, mental health evaluation and counseling, and prescription medications. 

The shift will make no practical difference, but I think it is a very important one symbolically. It’s message is unequivocal: You sick and poor, we will always pay for you to die–come what may! But to live? Not necessarily.

Perhaps that’s because assisted suicide might cost about $1,000, while costing $100,000 to make it so the patient doesn’t want to take poison.

I think it might also reflect the view I am detecting among the technocratic class that assisted suicide/euthanasia eventually become not just an option, but the preferred “choice.” That is certainly the flow of the current now in Oregon where assisted suicide has been favored by being taken off the rationing list. 

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

HT: K. Lundquist




Junk Science Attack on When Human Life Begins


Utter drivel. The left is trying to prove the GOP to be “anti-science.” As part of that effort, Amanda Marcotte, writing in Salon, makes another in the ongoing attempts among liberal media types to disprove the truth of Mark Rubio’s assertion that human life begins at fertilization—-which is what Rubio meant when using the popular term, “conception.”

And just as the others, she actually undermines the very meaning of “science” that she purports to defend.

Stating that a new human life begins at fertilization is basic embryology. But Marcotte sniffs that this biological fact is “anti science.From her piece:

The claim that “human life” begins at conception is not one asserted by science, but by religion, as many religions believe that’s when God injects a soul into a human body. But science is pretty clear that, by the scientific and not religious definition of “life,” life does not begin with conception. In order for life to begin, it has to be non-life turning into life. Since both the sperm and egg are alive, by the measure of science, it’s not life beginning. It’s really just life continuing.

Good grief. Souls have nothing to do with the biological question. She’s the one bringing in religion, not Rubio.

A sperm is a cell, it is alive but it isn’t a living organism. Ditto an egg. When they join, they cease and a new, distinct human organism–complete with its own genetic makeup different from his or her parents– has come into being, e.g. a new human life.

But apparently because life evolved from the primordial soup there never is a new life:

As biologist P.Z. Myers explains, “We can trace that life all the way back to early progenotes with limited autonomy drifting in Archean seas, to self-perpetuating chemical reactions occurring in porous rocks in the deep ocean rifts. It’s all been alive, so this is a distinction without meaning.”

Whether there is or is not “meaning” to the distinction between previous life and new life, isn’t a scientific assertion. It is a philosophical belief.

Moreover, the argument is harmful to science: Because a bacterium once floated in a sea as the first life on the planet, only it can be considered new life and nothing since? Talk about Deridda-style deconstruction–not of literature, but science–sapping it of all objectivity and enervating its use in ethical deliberations

Embryology is the science of when life begins and its early development. Embryology textbooks are clear about when life begins:

Human development is a continuous process that begins when an oocyte (ovum) from a female is fertilized by a sperm (or spermatozoon) from a male. (p. 2); … but the embryo begins to develop as soon as the oocyte is fertilized. (p. 2); … Human development begins at fertilization, the process during which a male gamete or sperm … unites with a female gamete or oocyte … to form a single cell. This highly specialized, totipotent cell marks the beginning of each of us as a unique individual. (p. 18)

Keith Moore and T.V.N. Persaud, The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology (6th ed.)

Here’s another useful quote from another embryology textbook:

Although life is a continuous process, fertilization … is a critical landmark because, under ordinary circumstances, a new, genetically distinct human organism is formed when the chromosomes of the male and female pronuclei blend in the oocyte.

Ronan O’Rahilly and Fabiola Muller, Human Embryology & Teratology, 3rd ed.

Continuous from a beginning point–of the individual–not from the start of life on earth!

What the heck, one more:

“Zygote. This cell results from the union of an oocyte and a sperm during fertilization. A zygote is the beginning of a new human being (i.e., an embryo).”

Moore, Keith L. and Persaud, T.V.N. The Developing Human: Clinically Oriented Embryology. 7th edition.

The moral value of the new human life is not a scientific question, which can only tell us when a new organism has begun and how it develops, not whether it is worth more than chopped liver.

Bottom line: Deconstructing actual science as a strategy to win a moral and ethical debate is the actual “anti-science.” Marcotte, not Rubio, is the one pushing gibberish biology. 

HT: Dr. Dianne Irving for her valuable collection of quotes from embryology textbooks. Also, to Dr. David Prentice.


Oregon Runs Out of Death Drugs


It appears that Oregon has run dry on death drugs. You see death penalty opponents have made the supply of a prime death-causing drug used in assisted suicide scarce. Of course, the media misses the irony. From the Willamette Week story:

Death-with-dignity [assisted suicide] patients are victims of a global political battle over capital punishment in the U.S., according to the federal Food and Drug Administration, which regulates pharmaceuticals, and the Oregon Health Authority, which oversees application of the state’s Death With Dignity Act.

Access to pentobarbital, also known as Nembutal, has all but ended in the United States because U.S. prison officials use it in lethal injections for executions.

Like I always say, “cruel and unusual death with dignity. 

Now, it seems to me that if the drugs are wrong to use in lawful executions, they are also wrong to prescribe to people who want to kill themselves. Death-causing is death-causing, and that ain’t medicine.

But not to worry, the Hemlock Society C & C wants to go in the death-drug distribution trade:

On May 8, Miner says, Compassion and Choices’ former and current medical directors, Drs. Nancy Crumpacker and Peter Reagan, met with the Oregon Board of Pharmacy.

Crumpacker and Reagan proposed that a compounding pharmacy in Oregon be allowed to obtain the raw materials needed to make pentobarbital and manufacture a generic form of the drug. “The compounding pharmacy would buy the raw material, and Compassion and Choices would just facilitate distribution,” Miner says.

No. C & C is not neutral. The group facilitatesor is in some way involved–in most assisted suicides in Oregon. Its people should be allowed nowhere near the death drug distribution business.

Will Governor Kitzhaber, who has stopped all executions because of his personal opinion against the death penalty, facilitate the distribution of these same death drugs because of his personal opinion in favor assisted suicide?

Hayward says he’d like to see Oregon’s congressional delegation and Gov. John Kitzhaber throw their weight behind finding a solution.​

C & C wanted this kept quiet because of the potential political fallout:​

Death [assisted suicide] with dignity is currently legal in only two other states: Washington and Vermont. Advocates would like to expand the policy across the country, and their concerns about bad publicity hampering that rollout appear to account for their reluctance to discuss Oregon’s shortage.

Irony upon irony: You can’t make this stuff up!

The “Nature Rights” War on Humans


Scream it from the rooftops! Copy the column I will quote below and send it far and wide. Tweet. Facebook. Tell your mother. The Nature Rights Movement wants to destroy human prosperity.

I have been feeling very lonely in my years of warning about nature rights. Most people just roll their eyes. 

Not Suzanne Webel, at least not any longer. She lives in the Boulder area, which, as she points out, has very strong environmental protections already in place. But some environmentalists want a rights of nature law passed, and she was appointed to a task force for to see if the request could be accommodated.

Webel found the experience a real eye-opener. She lists the nature rightists’ demands in her column, “Just Say No to the Rights of Nature,” published in the Daily Camera

1) “Eliminate the authority of a property owner to destroy, or cause substantial harm to, natural communities and ecosystems.”

Me: Nature rights is Marxist in its intentions. This would essentially destroy the rights of private property.

2) Accord “inherent, inalienable, and fundamental rights of Nature to all Natural Beings” including humans and “all living species of plants, animals, and algae”

Me: Humans are just another virus in the forest.

3) Include a Statement of Law that “All Natural beings, Natural Communities and Ecosystems possess the inalienable right to exist, flourish, regenerate, and evolve”

Me: A right to life for nature would stop human enterprise and resource development in its tracks.

4) Declare that “The Precautionary Principle Is Needed To Protect These Rights”

Me: The PP assumes that if something even has the slightest, hypothetical chance of going wrong, it must not be done. Another way to stop humans from engaging in enterprises and resource development.

5) Find that “It shall be unlawful for any person, government entity, corporation (etc) to intentionally or recklessly violate the rights of Natural Beings, Natural Communities or Ecosystems”

Me: This comes close to a law of ecocide that would criminalize development.

6) Enforce “Damages” measured by the cost of restoring the Natural Community or Ecosystem to its [original] state before the injury.

Notice that there need be no pollution. Requiring any user of nature to restore it to its original condition is intended to chill any uses of nature.

Webel nails the war on humans these environmentalists are waging:

The proposed “Rights of Nature Ordinance” would have enormous detrimental implications for all public and private lands, agriculture, medicine, backyard gardens, animal ownership, public land access and trail use, property rights and many other existing rights of Boulder County residents. It would create unimaginable social and legal nightmares for all of us.

In fact, I believe that is exactly what its advocates intend: to deliberately paralyze almost all legitimate and necessary activities routinely undertaken by individuals, governments, and corporations countywide.

Bingo! And with malice aforethought.

The nature rights war on humans won’t succeed–unless no one takes the campaign seriously. Complacently assuming it can’t happen here is the one sure way to assure that it does. In fact, it already has.

David Suzuki’s War on Humans


David Suzuki is a rock star in environmental advocacy and global warming hysteria. Thus, we should not be surprised that he hysterically channeled his inner authoritarian, proposing that climate change skeptic government officials be jailed en masse for a (non-existent) crime he calls “willful blindness:

This is the same David Suzuki who called humans “maggots” who spend their lives “defecating all over the environment.”

In saner times David Suzuki would be laughed out of town. But he has spent decades spouting from the politically correct side of global warming hysteria and Green anti-humanism. So, instead, he is a five star general in the War on Humans.

End of “Abandon All Hope” Hospice Model?


When I was researching my book on bioethics, Culture of Death: The Assault on Medical Ethics in America, the late Dame Cecily Saunders honored me with a 30 minute interview at her St.Christopher’s Hospice. For those who may not know, Dame Cecily–the creator of the modern hospice movement–was one of the most important medical humanitarians of the 20th century. 

I asked for her impression of hospice in the USA. She said not enough people accessed the services here. 

I asked her why she thought that was so: Medicare had made a huge mistake, she said, by requiring patients to forego all life-extending treatment as a condition of receiving hospice care. “It’s like saying, ‘Abandon hope all ye who enter here,” she told me, shaking her head.

Now, Medicare might finally be seeing the light. A new pilot program willl allow patients to receive both treatment and hospice. From the Reuters story:

A new program from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services may remove a barrier that makes patients hesitate to opt for hospice care near the end of life. Until now, to receive hospice care, patients had to agree to forego any further attempts at curative treatments. The new Medicare Care Choices Model will soon offer an option for Medicare beneficiaries to receive palliative care services from certain hospices while still receiving treatment from curative care providers…

Don Schumacher, president of the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization (NHPCO), said this model may change the future of end-of-life care. “One of the biggest sadnesses and regrets in hospice is that patients are admitted and die within a very short time,” he said, underscoring that too many are not enrolled long enough to realize benefits.

According to the NHPCO, the median length of hospice service in 2011 was 19 days. One benefit of receiving hospice care sooner might be that symptoms could be addressed before they become difficult to control, said Szmuilowicz. “It’s a lot easier to stay on top of somebody’s pain than catch up to it.”

As a former hospice volunteer, I can attest that the problem usually isn’t going into hospice too soon, but too late.

I have been very critical of this administration’s health care policies. But they sure hit a home run with this one. Bravo.

(For my obituary tribute to Dame Cecily, hit this link.)

Free Jailhouse Assisted Suicider!


It’s time to stop the suppression of autonomy and allow cruel and unusual death with dignity

The “ultimate civil liberty” says that we have the absolute right to choose the time, manner, reason, and method of our death. So why is this man being charged with a crime? From the Fox Carolina story:

A Charleston County Detention Center inmate has been charged with one count of assisted suicide. South Carolina Law Enforcement Division agents on Wednesday arrested 30-year-old Michael Robert Bixby of Hobart, Indiana, almost two weeks after his cellmate was found dead in the jail.

Bixby told investigators he helped Matthew Glidden, of North Charleston, commit suicide by strangling him until he was dead. The Charleston County Sheriff’s Office asked SLED to investigate after Glidden was found unresponsive in his bed on March 24. The information provided by SLED did not indicate how agents knew Glidden wanted to commit suicide.

Barbaric of a Red State to charge such a compassionate supporter of autonomy with a crime. Stop forcing your religion on the rest of us! The assister should be given a medal.

The dead man was charged with a sex crime against a minor. Who wouldn’t want to die? Choking can be ”aid in dying” too! Why should “deliverance” be limited to the ill and disabled?

The New York Times’ War on Humans


When the New York Times Magazine did a huge profile of the animal rights fanatic and lawyer, Steven Wise–extolling his campaign for chimp personhood–I thought, “Enough with the anti-humanism, already!”

I decided to do a larger article than I can here pointing out how reliably subversive to human exceptionalism–the philosophical core of Western Civilization–the New York Times has become. From my Weekly Standard piece, “The Paper of the Apes:”

Particularly in politically progressive circles, assignment of special status to people—as opposed to flora and fauna—is increasingly seen as hubristic and arrogant. If we just demote ourselves to merely another animal in the forest, we are told, we will live more gently on the land and save the planet.

While the Times frequently hosts this latter view, it rarely—outside the occasional Ross Douthat column—publishes an unequivocal defense of the unique importance of human life.

I get into the puff profile of Wise and the equally ridiculous Magazine piece the week before extolling the Dark Mountain Project’s ecological push for “uncivilization.” I also note that the Times’ Sunday op/ed published an article promoting “pea personhood,” and one of its science writers calling plants “ethical.”

What’s it all mean?

Some might maintain that the frequent criticism of human exceptionalism appearing in the Times (these examples are nowhere near exhaustive) simply reflects the increasing prominence of these ideas, which “the paper of record” has a duty to acknowledge. The claim would be more persuasive if the paper also regularly hosted defenses of the ancien moral régime.

But that’s not how the New York Times rolls. The paper is substantially agenda-driven. Progressives have long denied that any superior dignity attaches to human life, deeming the idea irrational, unscientific, and religiously based. So, naturally, the Times lends its space to views corrosive of any “outdated” belief in the sanctity of human life.

The next time the Times promotes the idea that human beings are not special, just consider the source: It is the “paper of record” for The War on Humans.

Animal Rights War on Medical Cures


If we want to advance our biological knowledge toward the end of creating new medical treatments and cures, we absolutely must allow animal research. That is incontrovertibly true, blatant lies by the ilk of PETA claiming no human good comes out of animal research, notwithstanding. 

One can argue legitimately that despite the gains we receive from animal research, we foreswear from the enterprise for ethical reasons. I disagree, but it is an argument with integrity, albeit terribly misplaced priorities.

That said, animal researchers should not be vilified. But that is what animal rights activists frequently do, sometimes leading to violence, as happened with disturbing frequency for a time here in California.

But personally vilify they do–all over the world. In Germany, a researcher into the brains of monkeys has been continually attacked. Court cases have been brought and he has been completely cleared of all unethical behavior.  Yet, he is attacked personally in ads, his photo shown as a special method of intimidation. From a Science story:

The text says that “animal experimenters are a special kind of being—you should not lightly call them human.” The ad questions the validity of Kreiter’s study results and denounces his group’s research as “cruel,” “barbaric,” and “scientifically pointless.” It ends with an appeal to citizens to “treat animal experimenters with contempt.”

No, animal rights activists who personally attack researchers should be treated with contempt.

Like a wolf pack, these animal rights bullies always pick one person or company to attack and try to drive them out of their careers. As I documented in my book, A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy, sometimes it works.

I am reminded of the infamous Silver Spring Monkey case in which Dr. Edward Taub was infiltrated by PETA activists and his life and work almost destroyed by false allegations of cruelty to monkeys. Yet, thanks to Taub’s work with monkeys, a wonderful new treatment for stroke infirmities came into being. From my NRO piece, “A Monkey for Your Grandmother:”

More importantly, the animal research that so distressed animal liberationists helped Taub achieve a medical breakthrough in the treatment of stroke victims–called Constraint-Induced Movement (CI Therapy)–by which the brain is induced to “rewire itself” following stroke or other serious brain trauma. CI Therapy is so successful that there is now a long waiting list of stroke patients with upper limb impairments at Taub’s Alabama clinic.

The technique is also in further human trials for other conditions, including as an approach to treating children with cerebral palsy and traumatic brain injury.

Not only has the treatment been approved for Medicare coverage, but Taub is teaching the technique all around the world. The human suffering he has ameliorated can’t be measured.

Here’s the truth: No medical treatment in the last 60 years could have come into being without animal research.  It is a human rights issue of gravest import, first instituted as such by the Nuremberg Code.

Moreover, many dangerous approaches were kept from hurting people because of animal research. Our knowledge of basic science has grown exponentially because of animal research.

As Taub told me, he could either have not used animals in research or he could have not developed the stroke treatment. That’s what I call the “grim good” of animal research. I know which I choose.

Will Bioethicists Support Hunger Strike Death?


Last year, I argued against permitting prisoners from harming their health from hunger strikes–by force feeding if necessary. 

The issue has been primarily discussed here at HE in the context of Guantanamo, but there was also advocacy for doctors both helping ease inmate’s hunger strike symptoms and/or refusing to participate in forced feeding.

For example, here is what.bioethicst George Annas said about doctors’ duties to cooperate with the hunger strike by inmates. From my post quoting Annas:

Guantanamo is not just going to fade away, and neither is the stain on medical ethics it represents. U.S. military physicians require help from their civilian counterparts to meet their ethical obligations and maintain professional ethics.

In April the American Medical Association appropriately wrote the secretary of defense that “forced feeding of [competent] detainees violates core ethical values of the medical profession.” But more should be done. We believe that individual physicians and professional groups should use their political power to stop the force-feeding, primarily for the prisoners’ sake but also for that of their colleagues.

Similarly, bioethicist Art Caplan has argued against force feeding prisoners on a hunger strike as a matter of general principle:

Some would argue that refusing food and water is an act of suicide and prisons do not have to accept suicides on the part of inmates. But a hunger-strike is not a suicide attempt. It is an act of protest. Coleman himself says he does not want to die, but he is willing to in order to draw attention to what he believes is his unjust conviction.

Risking death is a means to an end. The end may be horrific, but even prisoners have the right to refuse medical care to make their point.

Cut to real life: An inmate died recently in Kentucky from what was either a hunger strike or suicide by starvation, and there will be consequences. From the AP story:

Embry, 57, died in January at the Kentucky State Penitentiary in Eddyville after the hunger strike that included a nine-day stretch in which he lost 32 pounds from his six-foot frame, dropping down to just 138 pounds.

Embry’s death of dehydration and starvation, first reported by The AP, prompted an internal investigation by corrections officials and a separate investigation by state police. The case exposed lapses in medical treatment and the handling of hunger strikes, and the local prosecutor is considering whether a grand jury should hear the case.

The state fired the prison’s lead doctor and is pursuing dismissals or disciplinary action against several other staff members.

Exactly right.

Prisoners lose a certain amount of autonomy once they are behind bars. That includes the right to harm themselves, either by hunger strikes or otherwise, regardless of the reason for engaging in the self-destructive behavior.

But if Annas, Caplan, and the AMA position quoted above, are correct, the prison doctor and officials should be cheered for honoring the man’s autonomy rather than being under investigation.

What about it bioethicists? Here’s a real death of a prisoner who was allowed to refuse sustenance. What say you?

Not Human: “Just a Ball of Cells”


21 weeks

New technology allows a three-dimensional model to be made of fetal ultra sound images. From the Daily Mail story:

It’s a defining moment in a parent’s life: Seeing their unborn child’s image on an ultrasound for the first time. Now pregnant women could have the chance to hold a life-size model of their unborn baby. The startling new medical technology is the result of a Royal College of Art design student’s PhD.

Brazilian student Jorge Lopes has pioneered the conversion of data from ultrasound and MRI scans into life-size plaster models of living embryos using a method called rapid prototyping. ‘It’s amazing to see the faces of the mothers. They can see the full scale of their baby, really understand the size of it,’ said Dr Lopes. ’

Not human, “just a ball of cells.”

The “Quality of Life” Slouch Toward Infanticide


I have long argued that our neurotic obsession with eliminating suffering–we should, of course alleviate and mitigate it–leads very quickly to eliminating the sufferer.

Many mainstream bioethicists push this meme as part of their attempt to convince society to permit infanticide for the same reasons that we allow late stage abortion. Always, these efforts are couched in eliminating suffering and killing based on quality of life–the approach of pro -euthanasia Canadian bioethicist Udu Schuklenk. From, “What We Should Do About Severely Impaired Nowborns?”

My [debate] opponent also argued that we should ask ourselves whether we would want to live in a society that terminated the lives of such vulnerable newborns. That’s a good question to ask as it forces us to think more carefully about the values that are at stake in such situations.

If we merely go by the newborn’s quality of life and life prospects it seems indeed best to end the unfolding tragedy sooner rather than later, but probably a decision should be arrived at with parental consent as opposed to against the unfortunate parents. It turns out that one can reasonably answer the rhetorical question of whether one would want to live in a society that terminated the lives of certain severely impaired newborns if one held the view – as I do – that the newborn’s current and future quality of life is all that matters here. I could live in such a society where empathy for human suffering trumps religious conviction.

Don’t be fooled by the “parental consent” nonsense. First, parents shouldn’t have the power to have their babies killed. Beyond that, if we owe a duty to the baby to kill him, then parental rights become irrelevant and it’s veto time. Relevantly, back in the late 1990s, The Lancet reported that 27% of infanticides in the Netherlands–all based on a supposedly “unlivable life” occurs without parental consent.

If the parents’ reason for wanting to love their baby as long as he lives can be viewed as religious–strongly hinted by Schuklenk as the only reason anyone could oppose, it’s really veto time!

Add in the issue of medical costs, and if we live in a society based on “quality of life” instead of equality/sanctity of life, and–yes, you guessed it–veto time!

Schuklenk pushes the QoL poison:

This view, in turn, requires us to rethink how we go about doing medicine, at least to some extent. It would require us to give up on what is called the sanctity-of-life doctrine in medicine and replace it with a quality-of-life ethic.

There is no point in maintaining human life for the sake of it if that human life cannot enjoy a moment of its existence and is trapped in a never-ending cycle of immense pain and suffering. A quality-of-life ethics would not merely ask ‘do you exist’, but ‘do you have a life worth living?’, or ‘will you have a life worth living?’ We are not there yet, but significant changes in this direction are occurring in many countries.

But that’s in the eye of the person or bioethics committee granted the power to decide, isn’t it? And it ignores many, ”severely disabled” from birth, who are so happy to be alive. I’ve met them.

What makes this debate so frustrating is that we’ve been there before with catastrophic results: German doctors killing disabled babies as a “healing treatment.”

This wasn’t Nazis, it was doctors imposing the quality of life ethic.

After the Nuremberg medical trials, Dr. Leo Alexander wrote in the New England Journal of Medicine, explaining how German medicine so easily embraced evil:

Whatever proportions these crimes finally assumed, it became evident to all who investigated them that they had started from small beginnings. The beginnings at first were merely a subtle shift in emphasis in the basic attitude of the physicians. It started with the acceptance of the attitude, basic in the euthanasia movement, that there is such a thing as life not worthy to be lived.

This attitude in its early stages concerned itself merely with the severely and chronically sick. Gradually the sphere of those to be included in this category was enlarged to encompass the socially unproductive, the ideologically unwanted, the racially unwanted and finally all non-Germans. But it is important to realize that the infinitely small wedged-in lever from which this entire trend of mind received its impetus was the attitude toward the nonrehabilitable sick…

What is that wise saying about those who refuse to learn the lessons of history? Unfortunately, showing the flow of the currents, I don’t think the NEJM would publish Alexander today.

But to answer Schuklenk’s title question: What should love them. We should care for them. We should alleviate their suffering. We should value them.  

We definitely should not kill them.


Lethargically Legalizing Human Cloning


The Center for Bioethics and Culture asked me to weigh in on the great underreported story of 2014: Human cloning is here and it is now!

Ten years ago the headlines would have been humongous. Now, a whisper in the night. Why? First, Bush isn’t president. But even more importantly, the scientists have really downplayed the C-word.

Still, if something isn’t done to legally prohibit human cloning, it will keep on coming. I give a litany of reasons why that is a very bad idea, and then come to the following conclusion. From, “If We Do Nothing, They Will Clone:”

Human cloning presents humanity with one of its most profound moral challenges. Yet, even though human cloning is here, the question of what—if anything—to do about it isn’t even being discussed.

But as the old saying goes, time and tide wait for no man. Today, scientists are busily cloning away. Unless the nations of the world do something about that soon, cloning will be legalized by the world’s current lethargy

Hey, did you hear that Sterling dissed Magic!?  Let’s join the lynch mob. 

Canada’s CBC Pushes Suicide Culture


The media are society’s premier suicide pushers. 

Oh sure, they decry suicides of teenagers and veterans. But they push suicide for the elderly, the disabled, the chronically and terminally ill–sometimes even, the mentally ill. 

Canada’s CBC is the latest example. It interviewed an octogenarian about his plans to commit suicide before becoming too old. Then, after he died, they ran the profile.  From the story:

A Toronto man’s decision to end his life, simply because he felt it was time to die, has raised questions and concerns among family, friends and experts, some of whom say it could take the assisted suicide debate down a “slippery slope.”

John Alan Lee, a former professor of sociology at the University of Toronto, died in December. He had carefully planned his own death for months and discussed his decision with a CBC crew.

Do you see how insidious this is? By going out with cameras and wide-eyed reporters to cover his suicide plan, the CBC actually validated Lee’s desire to die. Indeed, I would warrant it would make it harder to walk back.

How often have we seen this? Suicides are given high profile, even laudatory coverage. And the “experts” are quoted as saying we have to have the difficult conversations about permitting assisted suicide.

Then, once we do, the conversation is over forever because a new “right” has been created that can’t be taken away.

The CBC gives great respect to the idea that suicide can be “rational,” a dangerous meme in the mental health professions against which I have been warning for years:

Lee’s position reflects a broader philosophy known as “completed life” or “rational suicide.” The Dutch Parliament recently debated giving seniors over the age of 70 the right to euthanasia, regardless of illness.

The story even says Socrates embraced his own [rational] suicide as a way of avoiding old age–without mentioning that he drank hemlock in the context of a death penalty:

John’s philosophy that you choose the time of your death to avoid physical decline is controversial, but not novel. Centuries the Greek philosopher Socrates famously welcomed an early death, telling his followers he was avoiding the worst part of life.

The media’s favorable stories in support for the assisted suicide movement pushes ”rational suicide.” If suicide is a proper answer to human suffering, there is no way to materially limit what constitutes “suffering” for which suicide should be made available.

Beyond that, when the media promotes suicides, it pushes us–with malice aforethought, in my book–toward a suicide culture. That’s why the WHO Media guidelines urges media not to highlight particular suicides–it validates suicide and gives some readers/viewers ideas.

But media have taken sides on legalizing assisted suicide, big time!  So, WHO go away. Media will only refuse to glorify suicide or laud those who so died when it involves cases with which they disagree.


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