Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Waddya Know: A Blastocyst IS an Embryo!


How often have I heard scientists and political hacks lie by claiming that an embryo isn’t an embryo until it is implanted in a uterus. Before that, they have often said, it is just a “ball of cells,” a “pre-embryo,” or just a “blastocyst.”

By lying about the nature of the embryo, pro embryonic stem cell research advocates hoped to manipulate society into supporting their research agendas.

These arguments were always–and remain–false. When you get down to it, we are all just big balls of cells,  so that’s a meaningless term. An embryo, unlike say a tumor, is an organism, in other words, a human embryo is a nascent, developing human being.

Nor is there such a thing biologically as a pre-embryo–as Princeton biologist Lee Silver admitted. That is a political term invented to skew ethical debates and decisions to permit the manipulation of human life.

As for the blastocyst, the term describes an embryo’s stage of development, not a different thing than an embryo. Thus, the, “It’s not an embryo, it’s a blastocyst,” is also junk biology.

In this regard, consider the following scientific finding that identified a gene that may cause the first cell differentiation. From the PhysOrg story:

The blastocyst is an embryonic structure present at early stages of the development of mammals, before implantation in the lining of the mother’s uterus. It is composed of between 64 and 100 cells that surround a central cavity. Before the embryo reaches this stage all its cells are equivalent and totipotent, meaning that each cell is capable of giving rise to all embryonic and extraembryonic cell types.

But the formation of the blastocyst implies the first distinction between cell types.

Did you get that? “Before THE EMBRYO reaches this stage of development…”

I write this here so that the next time a researcher or activist claims that embryonic destructive research doesn’t destroy an embryo, you will know you are witnessing blatant mendacity that disrespects moral deliberation and democratic engagement.

This is biology: At no point in a human life are we not a human life–that started from the time you were a one-cell embryo and has continued uninterrupted until the moment you read these words. And that is true whether your genesis occurred in your mother’s fallopian tube or a Petri dish. 

Taking Pride in V-Word “Unrepentant Bigotry”


I am on a rather lonely campaign to make the V-word–”vegetable”–as unacceptable as the N-word in describing human beings. I call it an “unrepentant bigotry.”

Why? Like the N-word, the V-word dehumanizes the human beings against whom it is wielded toward the end of lowering their perceived moral value, thereby allowing them to be treated as somehow less than human.  

Just like the N-word justified Jim Crow and slavery, the V-word makes respectable actions that would otherwise be deemed profound wrongs, as I have repeatedly reported. Examples: 

- We take away the food and water from such people causing them to die slowly over 10-14 days. Do that to an ISIS leader and it would be correctly deemed a human rights atrocity.

- Bioethicists and organ transplant professionals advocate killing profoundly disabled people for their organs.

- Some even urge that our unconscious or minimally conscious brothers and sisters be used in medical experimentation, perhaps in place of animals.

I bring this up again because of a rather astonishing reaction in the Huffington Post to my blog entry here, “Joan Rivers Will Never be a Carrot.” James Peron claims that my arguing in favor of respectful language to describe those with profound cognitive disabilities–coupled with my Discovery Institute affiliation–means that I don’t really care about such people, but rather, that I am engaged in some kind of “creationist” plot to impose religion on society. (The DI is not a religious or creationist think tank, but never mind.)

I don’t want to get too deep into the weeds, but a few points must be made. First, Peron writes as if I take marching orders from my DI overlords. From, “Controlling Language Controls the Euthanasia Debate:”

Discovery Institute even goes as far as calling it “the v word.” I presume they think people in vegetative states find the term offensive.

I want to make it clear: “The Discovery Institute” did not write this: I did, for this blog. It was later reposted at a DI site as some of my work is with my permission, with a note stating where it first appeared.

I am a senior fellow at the DI. That is a no strings attached affiliation. My work is supported by the wonderful folk in Seattle, but not controlled by them. In other words, I am not an employee.

Next, Peron states the obvious:

Discovery Institute may not realize “persistent vegetative state” and “permanent vegetative state” are terms used by physicians, not insults thrown around carelessly.

Duh, really? In fact, I believe that PVS is the only diagnosis that contains a pejorative. 

But even if one disagrees with that point, to say, “Charlie is IN a PVS,” is not the same thing as saying,”Charlie IS a vegetable.”

The former describes a medical condition. The latter denigrates the human being in the same way and for the same purposes as the N-word.  

Thus, we say someone has cancer. We don’t say he is a tumor! 

Moreover, the V-word is not exclusively used to describe people who are persistently unconscious. (Peron may be ignorant of the fact that about half of PVS diagnoses prove to be incorrect.)​ It is also used to denigrate those who are aware, sometimes less commonly, those with developmental disabilities, occasionally even, those with serious physical disabilities.

Then, as so commonly happens among two-dimensional thinkers who attack my work from the Left, Peron proceeds to prove my point:

The term “vegetative state” has to go, because the Religious Right fears it will cause people to consider whether people in that condition, who have lost cognitive abilities, are still human in any meaningful sense of the word…

They don’t think any of us should have the right to end our life, or have it ended for us, when we reach the stage where meaningful life is impossible.

Isn’t that exactly what I was saying? The point of the V-word is to dehumanize. But one can advocate legalizing euthanasia without throwing around pejoratives at those deemed killable. 

Peron repeatedly tries to reduce this discussion to religion. But disability rights groups like Not Dead Yet–decidedly on the secular Left–also strongly object to using the V-word to describe those who are profoundly cognitively disabled. And disability rights activists were on the front lines trying to save Terri Schiavo from a long, cruel dehydration death. So much for the theocracy.

In conclusion, consider this: We use far more respectful language about dead people than we do those with severe cognitive disabilities. Those who have died are called the “late John Smith” as a way of continuing the decedent’s (another respectful term) connection to us and respecting the human lives they once led.  

Sure, there are disrespectful slang terms for the dead, like “stiff.” But you would never see a news report refer to the dead person as “the stiff,” nor would an expert use the term in media quotes.

Peron also claims that those who are unconscious aren’t offended by the V-word. (How would he know?) But I can tell you, I hear from family members of such people all the time, and they are offended to hear their loved one called a V-wordAnd hurt.

The point of the V-word is to exclude. My purpose is to help improve our language toward the end that we understand that such people are not “them.” They are still “us.”


Joan Rivers Will Never be a Carrot


Whatever the future holds for Joan Rivers, who may have experienced brain damage during surgery, she will always be an exceptional human being deserving of equal rights and perceived moral value.

To put it another way, contrary to some stories describing her potential health outcome, she will never be a carrot. Carrots are vegetables, human beings never are.

We need to stop using the V-word to describe our brothers and sisters with profound cognitive disabilities. That word is just as bigoted as the N-word for people of sub Saharan African descent, the K word for Jews, or the C-word for women. From my piece, “That Unrepentant Bigotry:”

Many of our brothers and sisters remain the victims of a pervasive but nearly invisible bigotry—and indeed subjected continually to profoundly demeaning and hateful characterizations—mostly without social protest, cultural opprobrium, or even notice by the usual enforcers of cultural comity.  Indeed, the “hate speakers” may even be applauded or their denigration either not noticed or ignored, perhaps because the denigrators are often themselves unaware that they have engaged in hurtful rhetoric.

Ironically, this still-discriminated-against group is also our most diverse. Its membership comes in all races, ages, nationalities, genders, sexual orientations, and any other human identifier one can conjure.  In fact, if not already within this scorned cadre, any one of us could become a member at any time, and all of us have—or had—loved ones who could be so identified.

So, who are these despised unfortunates?  People with profound cognitive disabilities and catastrophically debilitating diseases, against whom it remains respectable to employ profoundly demeaning descriptives both in public discourse, public policy advocacy, and private conversation.

I am often amazed that in a time when a football team is pressured from the highest levels of political leadership and ubiquitously in the media to change its name because it is offensive to Native Americans, that so many have no compunction whatsoever using the hurtful and inaccurate V-word epithet to characterize the most defenseless among us.

Yet, it is just as demeaning to the intrinsic human dignity as racial and sexist slurs. We need some serious consciousness raising. 


Insuring End-of-Life Talk Not Death Panels


Sarah Palin started the idea that paying doctors to discuss end-of-life care with patients were death panels. She soon corrected herself to properly note that health care rationing boards under Obamacare would be the death panels. Ever since, even those who support rationing call them death panels. 

But to the subject at hand: I have never understood why paying doctors to hold these conversations was a big deal–either way. It seems to me that such discussions are a basic part of the physician’s job, whether they get paid separately for it or not. 

In any event, Obamacare doesn’t cover such conversations, and currently neither does Medicare. But insurance companies are beginning to. From the NYT story:

We are seeing more insurers who are reimbursing for these important conversations,” said Susan Pisano, a spokeswoman for America’s Health Insurance Plans, a trade association. The industry, which usually uses Medicare billing codes, had created its own code under a system that allows that if Medicare does not have one, and more insurance companies are using it or covering the discussions in other ways.

This year, for example, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan began paying an average of $35 per conversation, face to face or by phone, conducted by doctors, nurses, social workers and others. And Cambia Health Solutions, which covers 2.2 million patients in Idaho, Oregon, Utah and Washington, started a program including end-of-life conversations and training in conducting them.

What? Evil insurance companies did something of which the New York Times approves? Snow in August!

Snark aside: Let’s think about this. Will $35 really make the difference between a doctor doing and not doing her duty to the patient? I don’t think so.

Moreover, it isn’t as if these talks are one-offs: Rather, such matters should be the subject of a continuing dialog: A patient is diagnosed with a serious illness. Doctor and patient discuss what should or should not be done. Patient’s condition improves or worsens. Often, that will spark another conversation–and then another.

Now, if insurers want to pay for this, fine with me. If Medicare pays for it, fine too--depending on the details.

For example, I opposed legislation to have Medicare cover such conversations, not because I oppose the talks, but because the authors larded the bill with tons red tape–complete with a Care Planning Advisory Board.  Good grief.

And, of course, we wouldn’t want the conversation to become a push toward no treatment to save money. Well, most of us wouldn’t.

For some reason, the Times made this relatively minor matter a front page story. It doesn’t warrant that kind of coverage. It isn’t really that big a deal.   

Evil Humans Infect Monkeys with Ebola!


Animal researchers love to sadistically torture animals, liberationists tell us. Animal research is useless. It does no good.

Use computer programs or cell lines–or people. Anything else is pointless cruelty.

This animal rights argument is strong on emotion and devoid of rationality. Case in point: The desperate attempt to find a treatment for Ebola, devastating Africa and threatening the world. From the Star Phoenix story:

Canadian scientists have rescued from death monkeys that were infected with a lethal dose of Ebola, in the latest study of an experimental drug that has been used on a handful of Ebola victims in West Africa. The antibody based compound known as ZMapp rescued 100 per cent of 18 Ebola-infected rhesus macaques, even when the drug was administered up to five days after infection with the virus.

All treated monkeys recovered fully and show no side-effects, said Dr. Gary Kobinger, chief of special pathogens at Canada’s National Microbiology Laboratory in Winnipeg. Three Ebola-infected macaques that didn’t receive ZMapp died.

Did you get that? They intentionally infected the monkeys and watched them die!

Cruel? No, a grim good.

This technique is how research must be done–if it is to be effective and not descend to Mengele-style immorality by risking humans in basic research.

If it doesn’t work, it won’t be tried on people. If it is dangerous, it won’t be tried on people. That is why the Nuremberg Code states that animal research is a necessary protection of human rights.

We don’t know whether this particular experiment will work. But note: Scientists were able to identify the SARS virus using this precise method, the crucial first step toward diagnosis and cures.

So, which should be infected first in the search for a cure or vaccine? People or monkeys? Monkeys or people? 

It shouldn’t be a tough question to answer. Those who choose people are part of the war on humans.


What is the Best Word for Transhumanism?


Apparently members of the materialist religious denomination of futurists, often known as transhumanists, are having a bit of a tussle. No, it isn’t an argument over how many non souls can fit into a computer server array, but about nomenclature. From the Slate story:

These are all terms thrown around trying to describe a future in which mind uploading, indefinite lifespans, artificial intelligence, and bionic augmentation may (and I think will) help us to become far more than just human. They are words you hear in a MIT robotics laboratory, or on a launch site of SpaceX, or on Reddit’s Futurology channel.

This word war is a clash of intellectual ideals. It goes something like this: The singularity people (many at Singularity University) don’t like the term transhumanism. Transhumanists don’t like posthumanism. Posthumanists don’t like cyborgism. And cyborgism advocates don’t like the life extension tag. If you arrange the groups in any order, the same enmity occurs. All sides are wary of others, fearing they might lose ground in bringing the future closer in precisely their way.

I’ll settle this. I know the perfect word to describe the goals and aspirations of this rather sad and desperate movement: Fiction.

Embryonic Stem Cell Hype Encore


I predicted in 2013 that the company which bought Geron would restart its embryonic stem cell product human trial. Indeed, it is.

I could also have predicted the media would hype it to the moon. And so the San Francisco Chronicle has in big headlines on the front page. From, “Stem Cell Industry’s ‘Huge Development’ in Bay Area:”

Almost three years after a Bay Area company shut down the world’s first clinical trial of a therapy using embryonic stem cells, another local company is reviving the therapy.The treatment drew international attention in 2010, when Geron in Menlo Park began testing it in patients with severe spinal cord injuries. But it scrapped the project a year later because of a lack of funds – a move seen as a major blow to the nascent field. The therapy was then sold to Asterias Biotherapeutics, also in Menlo Park. On Wednesday, Asterias said it had gained regulatory permission to test whether the treatment, which is derived from human embryonic stem cells, helps heal patients with a different kind of spinal cord injury…

“It’s a huge development for the field,” said Kevin Whittlesey, science officer at the agency. “We’re starting to realize the potential touted so highly when embryonic stem cell research was in its infancy.”

Let’s deconstruct this. First, the prominence of the story seeks to help California’s boondoggle stem cell agency keep its door open

The trial was also described as a victory by the state’s taxpayer-funded stem cell agency. Created by voters a decade ago, the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine is authorized to spend $3 billion on stem cell research, and its future rests on the results, including any potential therapies, that those scientists and companies develop. A $14.3 million grant will cover half the costs of Asterias’ trial, the company said.

Secondly, the original Geron study may not have worked all that well:

With some tweaks, Asterias is picking up where Geron left off. Geron treated severe injuries in the thoracic region of the spinal cord, which runs along the back. Asterias is targeting injuries that originate in the neck, citing an outside study that suggests injuries in this area are easier to treat. It will also amp up the doses used to inject patients.

Finally, if this is such a big deal, why do the media constantly ignore far more advanced human trials for spinal cord injury using ethical stem cells? For example this very exciting peer reviewed study of paralyzed subjects treated with olfactory stem cells:

Of the 13 patients assessed by functional studies, 1 paraplegic patient (patient 9) can ambulate with 2 crutches and knee braces with no physical assistance and 10 other patients can ambulate with walkers with or without braces with physical assistance.

One tetraplegic patient (patient 13) ambulates with a walker, without knee braces or physical assistance.

Did you get that? Tetraplegia means paralyzed from the neck down! In this study, one totally paralyzed subject now uses a walker without assistance. Why isn’t that worth a front page story?

Let me answer my own question: Because when it comes to cultural deconstruction, it isn’t the treatment that matters so much as the source of the treatment. Adult stem cells just don’t shatter any moral boundaries.

Canadian Cowardly Head Doc’s Hand-Wringing OK for Assisted Suicide


This is how the culture of death advances. A clueless, or cowardly–or both–authority figure says he or she is against assisted suicide except as a very last resort when everything else has been tried.

Never mind that medicalized killing has never been so limited anywhere assisted suicide/euthanasia is legal. Never. Ever. Nowhere.

Not Oregon. Not Washington. Not the Netherlands. Not Belgium. Not anywhere on planet earth.

But saying that it is OK, if limited to a very last resort when everything that can be conjured by the minds of medical science has failed allows a surrender with seeming principle.

That’s the kind of abjection now pushed by the head of the Canadian Medical Association, Dr. Chris Simpson. From the story:

Doctor-hastened death would only be appropriate after all other reasonable choices have been exhausted, says the head of the country’s largest doctors’ group. Dr. Chris Simpson, newly installed president of the Canadian Medical Association, made the comments in advance of a landmark Supreme Court of Canada hearing expected to add fuel to the emotional end-of-life debate gaining urgency across Canada.

Simpson said there are enough doctors in Canada willing to perform doctor-hastened death, if the federal ban outlawing euthanasia were lifted.

But doctors first need safeguards to protect the vulnerable and a strategy to urgently shore up palliative care “so that this is not seen as a first, or second or even third choice, but a choice that’s appropriate for people after all other reasonable options are exhausted,” he said.

I have zero respect for this argument. Zero. Better to advocate for outright legalization than engage in this cowardly charade.

The “last resort” justification is a hiding place for those without sufficient guts or principle–either to admit they are for assisted suicide or who don’t have the bone marrow–I am tempted to use a cruder image–to stand against it and be accused of lacking compassion.

Reading the balance of the article, it seems that Simpson comes in the former category.

More proof of my thesis:

Simpson, who will be appearing before the Supreme Court, said that the CMA will be neither “pro nor con” and that as long as euthanasia and doctor-assisted death remain illegal “we’ll be advising our members not to participate in it.”

Should the legal landscape change, “Our new policy will be to allow physicians to follow their conscience” within the confines of the law.

How can a medical association be NEUTRAL about legalizing doctor prescribed death?

Moeover, that statement completely belies the “last resort” pretense. No principles!

Dutch Euthanasia for Nursing Home Living


Dutch euthanasia gets ever more extreme. 

How extreme is it, Wesley? I’m glad you asked. It is so extreme that a euthanasia clinic has opened to kill people whose own doctors refuse.

And now the euthanasia Life Clinic (!!!) killed a woman because she didn’t want to live in a nursing home. From the de Verdieping Trouw story (Google translation):

For the second time in four months the-Life Clinic reprimanded. Euthanasia on an elderly woman simply because they did not want to live in a nursing home euthanasia is assessed as negligent by the review committee. That’s embarrassing for-Life Clinic, which was founded to help people who find anywhere audience with their death wish. People over two years ago.

Meanwhile, doctors at the Clinic-Life have about 250 times euthanasia performed. In April, the clinic was even reprimanded. When the commission ruled that a doctor at the clinic had with an elderly psychiatric patient before she got euthanasia. Too few interviews.

It was even reprimanded! Too few interviews! That and 2 Euros will buy you a glass of good Dutch beer. 

These people are death zealots who call their killing center a “Life Clinic.” They live in a country where the bureaucratic processes of killing matters more than the actual snuffing of human life. I doubt they will be deterred.

Animals Can Be “Victims” But Are Not Persons


Some animal rights activists are engaging in pronounced wishful thinking about an Oregon Supreme Court ruling. The case found that individual animals can be ”victims” under the animal neglect statutes. Some animal rights types have construed the case as somehow ”landmark” and advancing the animals-are-people-too cause.

So, I read the case. Nope. Nyet. Nein. Didn’t happen. 

Context: The defendant was convicted of 20 counts of animal neglect. He tried to weasel out (get it?) of the charge by claiming only humans as “persons” can be “victims.” The Supreme Court disagreed. From Oregon v. Nix:

The ordinary meaning of the word “victim” reflected in a dictionary of common usage is: “1 : a living being sacrificed to some deity or in the performance of a religious rite…

In that light, it can be seen that defendant’s contention that the “plain meaning” of the word “victim” refers only to persons, and not to animals, is predicated on a selective reading of the dictionary definitions. The first sense listed in the definition, for example, refers broadly to “a living being,” not solely to human beings.

The question, then, is simply one of legislative intent:

In concluding that animals are “victims” for the purposes of ORS 167.325 (2), we emphasize that our decision is not one of policy about whether animals are deserving of such treatment under the law. That is a matter for the legislature…

ORS 167.325, protects individual animals from suffering from neglect. In adopting that statute, the legislature regarded those animals as the “victims” of the offense.

So, contrary to activists’ spin, this was not a “landmark” advance for ”animal rights.” Rather, it was a simple case of statutory interpretation that assumes animals are not persons.

We owe a duty to animals not to abuse or neglect them. Hence, this decision is absolutely and fully consistent with human exceptionalism. I approve.

Another Surrogate-Produced Product Returned


Really? What’s love got to do with it?

In the wake of the Australian couple–and other cases–of biological parents who abandoned disabled children born of a surrogate, comes another story. From the Daily Mail story:

A British surrogate mother says she will raise a disabled girl as her own after the baby’s intended mother said she didn’t want a ‘dribbling cabbage’ as her child. The child, born with Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy, was one of twins the surrogate mother was paid £12,000 in expenses to give birth to.

I repeat: Why should we be surprised? Surrogacy and IVF are increasingly not about having a baby to love unconditionally, but having a baby the parents think worthy of love

I hope the surrogate loves the child for life. But the biological parents should pay support!

And why should biological parents be treated by law any differently just because a surrogate was employed then if the woman gave birth herself?  

In any event, shame on them.

The Contraception Stalking Horse


It was disorienting when contraception suddenly became a political issue at the behest of Democrats during the Republican presidential primaries of 2012.

Now, it is clear why that happened (in addition to phonying up a political issue): The secular Left wishes to use the mostly uncontroversial issue of birth control as the stalking horse for using health care to remake society in its own image.

Latest evidence: An article in USC’s Religion Dispatches by Patricia Miller. The writer objects to the latest attempt by the Obamacarians to force religious non profits to to insure contraception even if that violates their faith. (Now, instead of advising their insurers about the objection, apparently such organizations will have to notify HHS, which will contact the insurance carrier.) From, “Obama Caves on (Another) Contraception Exemption:”

It’s likely that the number of employers who seek to duck the contraceptive mandate will be small. But imagine a scenario where a larger number of employers seeks to escape a costly mandate, such as equal access to in vitro fertilization procedures for straight and gay couples, for supposedly religious reasons and hundreds flood HHS with generic opt-out letters that don’t identify a specific insurer.

Or a future administration that is less dedicated to contraceptive access. It’s not hard to see how the lack of bureaucratic regularity could undermine access to contraception for women.

See the agenda? Break the back of religious freedom with the contraception mandate–to which few other than orthodox Catholics object–and then use the precedents thereby established to force religious objectors to cover abortion, assisted suicide (if legal), sex change surgery (already happening), etc..

And here’s the broader strategy: Redefine life-style enhancing “consumerist” elective procedures as “medically necessary” for insurance purposes--as California just did to force Catholic colleges to insure all abortions–and stuff it down religious traditionalists’ throats by making them pay for it.

Then when religious pro-lifers push back politically or sue, pundits like Miller squawk about bossy theocrats denying their fellow citizens’ “rights” to an abortion or a sex change (or pick your elective procedure).

Where’s the comity? Where’s the tolerance? Ah, those virtues are fast becoming one-way streets.

And that’s how you turn freedom of religion into a vestige “freedom of worship” and use health care as an authoritarian cultural bludgeon.

Push to Make Suicide Easier Will Never Stop


Here’s the advocacy con advanced by suicide promoters in the UK to bludgeon Parliament into legalizing doctor-prescribed death.

First, get the media to publish pro-suicide stories of Brits flying to Switzerland for death at a clinic. The point: Make the one-way death trip socially acceptable and increase the numbers who so die.

That tactic seems to be working. From the Guardian story:

One in five people who travel to Switzerland to end their lives are from the UK, according to research that shows that the number of foreign nationals visiting the country has doubled in four years. A University of Zurich study found that the number of non-residents taking their own lives – so-called “suicide tourists” –at Swiss assisted-dying clinics increased from 86 in 2009 to 172 in 2012.

Out of 611 people who travelled to the country for that purpose between 2008 and 2012, all but four of whom went to the Dignitas clinic, 126 were from the UK, second only to Germany, according to the research published in the Journal of Medical Ethics on Wednesday.

Second, assume that these suicides were necessary–nothing can or should be done to prevent them.

Third, then argue that people shouldn’t have to travel away from home to be made dead:

Sarah Wootton, the chief executive of Dignity in Dying, said: “It’s clearly unethical to force dying Britons to travel abroad to die through a lack of safeguarded choice in this country. But there is also a patient safety issue. We have no control over the law in Switzerland, but we can and should regulate and safeguard assisted dying in this country.” She said the figures were a sign that UK law is not working.

That’s a seductive meme if you believe access to facilitated suicide is a right, a necessity, and/or if you think suicide is the only choice.

But here’s the catch: Even if the UK legalizes assisted suicide for the terminally ill–as currently proposed–that won’t stop the suicide tourism for the non terminally ill or otherwise legally unqualified.

Indeed, many of those who die in Swiss suicide clinics are not terminally ill. Some weren’t even sick:

- Like the elderly Italian woman who paid for assisted suicide because she was upset at losing her looks

- The English woman who wanted to die because she couldn’t keep up with tech and considered it the “green” thing to do.

- And let us not forget that assisted suicide is a constitutional right for the mentally illper the Swiss Supreme Court.

And then we will hear the same refrain–it isn’t fair that the dying can get doctor-prescribed death at home, but not the suffering disabled, chronically ill, elderly “tired of life,” mentally ill, etc..

Then the pressure will start to move the line to accommodate the demand. The end result? A fall off the moral Matterhorn: The most liberal death-culturish countries set the suicide agenda for the rest of the world.

On the other hand, if you want to save some lives who will be glad later to be alive because they didn’t have ready access to assisted suicide, don’t make it easy to be made dead.  Keep assisted suicide illegal. Engage suicide prevention whatever the cause of suicidal ideation. Increase access to quality hospice care and independent living services.

Some say, who cares if people kill themselves. Just acquiesce to suicide culture. Bah: Hell no, we won’t go!

Doctors, Stay Out of Israel v. Hamas


Let me explain myself quickly. Everyone has the right to participate in politics. So, I am not saying doctors should refrain from engaging in civic discourse or political debate.

I am saying that doctors should not try to exert their medical authority about issues that are properly considered outside the medical arena.

Case in point: The Lancet has published letters weighing in on the Israeli/Hamas war that is causing so much heartbreaking misery in Gaza–and the editorial I quote below seemingly blames Israel.

Which side is most at blame for Gaza is beyond The Lancet’s portfolio (and beyond our scope here, too). But the journal’s editors don’t think so. From its editorial:

International Humanitarian Law requires three principles to be upheld during such a defence. The Principle of Distinction states that, “parties to the conflict shall at all times distinguish between the civilian population and combatants”.

The Principle of Precautions in Attack states that, “parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population and civilian objects under their control against the effects of attacks”.

The Principle of Proportionality states that, “Launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited”.

Now return to life in Gaza. A land that no-one can escape from. A crowded land in which children are the largest single group of the population. These are the conditions in which attacks on Gaza combatants are taking place.

This is why I don’t believe there is any such thing as a “just” war, only (sometimes) necessary ones.

But what does all of this have to do with topics relevant in a medical journal?

But here is a war that is having far-reaching effects on the survival, health, and wellbeing of Gaza’s and Israel’s civilian residents. It is surely the duty of doctors to have informed views, even strong views, about these matters; to give a voice to those who have no voice; and to invite society to address the actions and injustices that have led to this conflict.

Our responsibility is to promote an open and diverse discussion about the effects of this war on civilian health.

No. AS DOCTORS–by which I mean wielding the authority of the professional to give extra heft to the opinion–physicians and associations should only opine on strictly health and medically-related matters.

For example, it would be appropriate–as medical professionals–to opine on steps needed to improve access to emergency medical services in Gaza. It is not–as medical professionals–to opine about whether Israel has conducted itself “proportionately” as required by international law.

Otherwise, almost the entire gamut of public policy and international relations–many of which have some impact on public health and welfare–get stretched into medical issues to which we should turn to doctors for guidance.

We already have too much of that, furthering our accelerating slouch toward technocracy.

California Forces Catholic Universities to Cover All Abortion


I told you this was coming. Now, Jerry Brown has decided to force two Catholic universities to cover abortion in their health insurance. From the San Francisco Chronicle story:

Gov. Jerry Brown’s administration has reversed an earlier decision to allow two Catholic universities to eliminate coverage of most abortions for employees, saying state law requires health insurance plans to cover all abortions…

Urged by abortion-rights groups and university employees to reconsider the issue, Brown’s Department of Managed Health Care, in letters to be sent Friday to insurers for both universities, said the exclusions violate a 1975 state law that requires group health plans to cover all basic services – defined, by the law, as those that are “medically necessary.”

“Abortion is a basic health care service,” the department’s director, Michelle Rouillard, said in the letter.

Religious freedom means nothing to those who wish to use health care to impose their secularist world view on everyone.

One more point: Over at First Things, I have a piece about how “pro-choice” is fast becoming “pro-abortion.” Here is the conclusion, which I ask you to ponder in connection with the California authoritarianism:

I expect that in the coming years abortion rights supporters will execute a tactical retreat that admits the humanity of the unborn, conjoined with a strong counter-offensive dismissing the moral relevance of that biological fact. What matters, advocates will increasingly assert, is the state’s guarantee that women’s reproductive desires are fulfilled—with abortion viewed as a positively good way of doing so.

Can I call them, or can I call them?

What starts in California doesn’t stay in California. Forced abortion coverage will be the next front in the war against religious freedom.

Robots to Kill Humans to “End Suffering?”


Our “neurotic fear of suffering” could cause robots to kill us all out of “kindness,” a tech executive has warned. From the Daily Mail story:

Future generations could be exterminated by Terminator-style robots unless machines are taught the value of human life.

This is the stark warning made by Amsterdam-based engineer Nell Watson, who believes droids could kill humans out of both malice and kindness. Teaching machines to be kind is not enough, she says, as robots could decide that the greatest compassion to humans as a race is to get rid of everyone to end suffering.

’The most important work of our lifetime is to ensure that machines are capable of understanding human value,’ she said at the recent ‘Conference by Media Evolution’ in Sweden. ‘It is those values that will ensure machines don’t end up killing us out of kindness.’

Why would we expect robots to be more enlightened than many of our so-called thought leaders? 

Pay attention to debates around euthanasia, Obamacare, transhumanism, animal rights, radical environmentalism–and other war on humans agenda items. We may not be into total genocide, but the quest to end suffering definitely puts many of us in the proverbial cross hairs.

Before we can teach robots the value of human life, we need to accept it ourselves.

Dawkins Issues Non-Apology Apology


Richard Dawkins stepped in it the other day by stating that women have a moral obligation to abort Down fetuses. In response to being called the bigot that he is, far and wide, Dawkins has published a standard-issue non-apology apology blaming everybody but himself (other than he shouldn’t have tried to discuss the matter within the limitations of Twitter).

He goes through his usual kind of tripe to justify and explain himself, which you can read if you want, but here is the kicker:

To conclude, what I was saying simply follows logically from the ordinary pro-choice stance that most us, I presume, espouse. My phraseology may have been tactlessly vulnerable to misunderstanding, but I can’t help feeling that at least half the problem lies in a wanton eagerness to misunderstand.

No, Dr. Dawkins, the problem is that we understand you all too well. You just didn’t like the ugly image you saw in the mirror.

Richard Dawkins’ Down Syndrome Bigotry


What is it with scientists who become crusading atheists?

First, James Watson came out as an anti-Semite and a eugenicist. Now Richard Dawkins has released his own inner bigot by claiming that women have an ethical duty to abort Down babies. From the Telegraph story:

Richard Dawkins, the atheist writer, has claimed it is “immoral” to allow unborn babies with Down’s syndrome to live. The Oxford professor posted a message on Twitter saying would-be parents who learn their child has the condition have an ethical responsibility to “abort it and try again”…

He claimed that the important question in the abortion debate is not “is it ‘human’?” but “can it suffer?” and insisted that people have no right to object to abortion if they eat meat.

The last feeble defense is a non-sequitur. He wants Down babies aborted because they are disabled, not because they can’t suffer–a questionable premise–while late term fetuses.

Dawkins’ bigotry goes beyond the question of whether women should have a right to decide to abort a Down fetus. It is a claim that they are morally required to do so.

I miss our missing Down brothers and sisters. They are some of the most beautiful people on the planet. “If all you need is love,” they have it in quantities to spare. It is a lamentable tragedy that so many are killed while gestating. We are all the poorer for it.

Atheists insist that they can not believe in God and be moral. I agree. But they do have to believe in human exceptionalism.

Otherwise, we end up dividing humanity between the fit and the unfit–which essentially is why Dawkins pushes eugenic abortion as a moral obligation.

Pamela Anderson’s Hypocrisy for Refusing ALS Support Due to Animal Testing


This shows the moral vapidity of animal rights advocates who would rather that humans die awful deaths than see animals used in medical research.

Enter Pamela Anderson, who has refused to be doused with ice water in the clever ALS Association’s fund raising campaign because the charity supports using animals in research. From Anderson’s Facebook page:

I can’t bring myself to do your Ice bucket challenge. I enjoy a good dare- It’s always good to bring awareness – in fun, creative ways I don’t want to take away from that, but it had me thinking. Digging a bit deeper. I found that we may not be aligned – in our messages. So… – I thought Instead, I’d challenge ALS to stop Animal testing.  

I wonder if Anderson knows that the safety of the–er, enhancements–with which she famously endowed herself were also tested on animals. Here’s a sampling from an NIH-published Safety of Silicone Breast Implants:

Studies in experimental animals have reported modest adjuvant effects of silicone gel and some silicone fluids, but no clinical implications of adjuvant effects have been discovered. Human adjuvant disease is not a defined disease, and the term should be abandoned.

Other animal studies have not elucidated a role for silicone in immune disease. Cytokine assays have not provided conclusive evidence of immune activation. Evidence for silicone as a superantigen is insufficient. Modest decreases in natural killer cell activity have been reported after exposure to silicone, but no clinical roles or biological effects on resistance to infection, tumor surveillance or immune responses have been demonstrated in these studies.

I would say that breast implants are far less important than finding treatments for ALS. In any event, Anderson’s use of implants brands her a hypocrite. 

President Bush has now challenged President Clinton

Peter Singer and the Danger of the Humanities


I have little regard for the so-called thinking of Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. With rare exceptions, he generally spouts simplistic liberal bromides with little foundation in reason or fact.

That is why he has long extolled Princeton’s Professor Death, Peter Singer, for his animal liberation advocacy. He did so again the other day in a flaccid column about why the humanities still matter. From the column:

Third, Peter Singer of Princeton University has pioneered the public discussion of our moral obligations to animals, including those we raise to eat. Singer wrote a landmark book in 1975, “Animal Liberation,” and cites utilitarian reasoning to argue that it’s wrong to inflict cruelty on cows, hogs or chickens just so that we can enjoy a tasty lunch.

It has long been recognized that we have some ethical obligations that transcend our species; that’s why we’re arrested if we torture kittens or organize dog fights. But Singer focused squarely on industrial agriculture and the thrice-daily question of what we put on our plates, turning that into not just a gastronomical issue but also a moral one.

I’m not a vegetarian, although I’m sometimes tempted, but Singer’s arguments still apply. Do we skip regular eggs or pay more for cage-free? Should I eat goose liver pâté (achieved by torturing geese)? Do we give preference to restaurants that try to source pork or chicken in ways that inflict less pain?

Kristof takes a tiny corner of Singer’s advocacy and acts as if all Professor Death cares about is improving animal welfare, which is a reasonable approach–see Temple Grandin. Is he really that dim? 

Contraray Kristof, Singer demonstrates what has gone so badly wrong in the humanities at today’s elite universities. He is profoundly subversive of human exceptionalism and is distinctly and expressly opposed to the unique value of human life. Indeed, Singer thinks being human per se is morally irrelevant.

The following is just a sampling of some of the pernicious ideas spouted by Singer over the years. Let’s start with Animal Liberation, with which Kristof claims familiarity:

Singer believes that “specieism” is akin to racism: Singer popularized the concept of “specieism,” that is, denying greater value to humans as “discrimination” against animals. He wrote on page 18 of Animal Liberation:

Adult chimpanzees, dogs, pigs, and members of many other species far surpass the brain-damaged infant in their ability to relate to others, act independently, be self-aware, and any other capacity that could reasonably be said to give value to life. … The only thing that distinguishes the infant from the animals, in the eyes who claim it has a right to life, is that it is biologically, a member of the species Homo sapiens. … But to use this difference as the basis for granting a right to life to the infant and not to other animals is, of course pure specieism. It is exactly the kind of arbitrary difference that that the most crude and overt kind of racist uses in attempting to justify racial discrimination. 

- Singer is pro-infanticide: On page 186 of his book “Practical Ethics,” Singer opines that infants are “replaceable” and that a disabled baby can be killed to pave the way for a happier life for a sibling — even if that brother or sister hasn’t yet been born:

When the death of a disabled infant will lead to the birth of another infant with better prospects of a happy life, the total amount of happiness will be greater if the disabled infant is killed.

Singer supports using the disabled in medical experiments: In 2006, Singer enraged animal rights activists for justifying the use of monkeys in researching cures for Parkinson’s disease. But he would have said the same thing about using human “non-persons.” In fact, he often has. For example, when asked by Psychology Today about the benefits that chimps provided in developing the hepatitis vaccine, Singer said disabled humans should be used in such research instead:

Singer is pro-death panel medical discrimination: Singer supports health care rationing, writing in the July 15, 2009, New York Times:

The debate over health care reform in the United States should start from the premise that some form of health care rationing is both inescapable and desirable. Then we can ask: What is the best way to do it?” Singer prefers the “Quality Adjusted Life Year” (QALY) approach that has been used for years by the United Kingdom’s socialized National Health Service. QALYs give greater value to the lives of the able-bodied and young than to people with disabilities and the elderly (which are “adjusted” down based on low “quality”) when determining whether the cost of a treatment is worth the price. 

Singer has defended bestiality: Singer positively reviewed a book celebrating the history of bestiality, and concluded that the proscription against sex with animals was merely a vestigial “taboo” from a more sexually repressed era. Indeed, he extolled a woman who was unconcerned by the prospect of forced sexual intercourse with an orangutan:

As it happened, the orangutan lost interest before penetration took place, but the aspect of the story that struck me most forcefully was that in the eyes of someone who has lived much of her life with orangutans, to be seen by one of them as an object of sexual interest is not a cause for shock or horror. The potential violence of the orangutan’s come-on may have been disturbing, but the fact that it was an orangutan making the advances was not. That may be because Galdikas understands very well that we are animals, indeed more specifically, we are great apes. This does not make sex across the species barrier normal, or natural, whatever those much-misused words may mean, but it does imply that it ceases to be an offence to our status and dignity as human beings.

There is much more that could be written about this, and I often have. It is a sign of our times that Peter Singer is probably the most influential bioethicist working today.

But that doesn’t make him worth extolling as an example of why the humanities still matter. To the contrary, these days, the humanities can be very dangerous. Kristof should get a clue. 



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