Human Exceptionalism

Life and dignity with Wesley J. Smith.

Casey Kasem a New Terri Schiavo?


I have been on vacation in Europe for the last two weeks, doing my best to forget the culture of death. But it hasn’t been easy. I have been barraged by readers and media about questions of how and why Casey Kasem can be denied tube feeding.

This can be a delicate and highly nuanced matter, dependent on the fact circumstances of each situation. Moreover, I don’t want to comment on his particular case because I don’t know all the facts. Pay attention to the italicized part of the CNN story I quote below:

He’s suffering from dementia and bedsores, and his body is shutting down at a hospital in Washington state, court documents say. On Wednesday, a Los Angeles County judge gave daughter Kerri Kasem the authority to have doctors end his infusions of water, food and medicine.

The ruling reinstates the 82-year-old’s end-of-life health directive. Kasem doctor concluded that continuing the artificial nutrition and hydration would only “at best prolong the dying process for him and will certainly add suffering to an already terribly uncomfortable dying process,” said Kerri Kasem’s lawyer, Troy Martin.

The key factual and ethical question here is whether his body is shutting down as part of the natural dying process. In that situation, people often stop eating and drinking spontaneously. In such cases, it can be medically inappropriate to force sustenance into a body that can’t process it. Not knowing about Kasem’s individual circumstance, I will not opine about his particular case.

Second, if Kasem’s advance directive said he did not want tube-supplied food and water under these circumstances–whatever we each might think of the morality of that–he had the legal right to so instruct because tube-feeding is considered a medical treatment.

But let’s look at the broader issue. There has been increasing advocacy of late to deny tube supplied–or, as I have recently noted, even spoon feeding–to Alzheimer’s patients who can process sustenance. What about them?

Many bioethicists, and some doctors who treat Alzheimer’s patients, increasingly argue that these patients should be denied sustenance as a matter of supporting their best interests.  I am not referring to decisions made in accordance with an advance directive, but to the increasing assertion that the standard of care should be to deny feeding tubes. From the position paper of the American Geriatric Society:

Percutaneous feeding tubes are not recommended for older adults with advanced dementia. Careful hand-feeding should be offered for persons with advanced dementia, hand feeding is at least as good as tube-feeding for the outcomes of death, aspiration pneumonia, functional status and patient comfort. Tube feeding is associated with agitation, increased use of physical and chemical restraints, and worsening pressure ulcers.

Rationale: The current scientific evidence suggests that the potential benefits of tube feeding do not outweigh substantial associated treatment burdens in person with advanced dementia.

Recommendations are one thing. Labeling feeding tubes in late-stage Alzheimer’s patients as “inappropriate care” to allow bioethics committees to impose the death decision under a “futile care” protocol is another. And that is where I think we are headed–just as we are in patients with long-term diagnosed persistent unconsciousness.

So, I can’t say whether Kasem is a new Terri Schiavo–because her tube feeding was clearly medically appropriate as she was not otherwise dying. Thus the question in her case involved “quality of life” and egregious conflicts of interest on the part of Terri’s husband.

In contrast, I can say that Alzheimer’s patients generally are being looked upon increasingly as people who should not be sustained nutritionally after a certain point, even if that is what the patient or family wantsAlso, under Obamacare’s eventual cost/benefit protocols, I believe a time will come in which sustaining such patients will not be a covered procedure. Ditto, people with long-term profound cognitive disability.

Bottom line: Alzheimer’s patients in all fifty states who can process food and water are denied medically supplied food and water. Such decisions are legal and deemed “ethical” by many, an opinion with which I dissent.

Post Script: Kasem died shortly after the court ruling described above. It would thus appear that he did not dehydrate to death.

Asking Awake ICU Patients To Harvest Organs


Pick your cliche: Give them an inch and they will take a mile; in for a penny in for a pound, etc. In bioethics, there is never a permanent boundary beyond which the utilitarian impulse will not take them.

Now, advocacy is beginning to ask conscious patients who want to stop life-sustaining treatment for their organs. So far, this “non-heartbeating cadaver donor” process has only been done with the profoundly cognitively disabled.  But now, that line is under assault. From an article by Dutch ethicists–euthanasialand!_in Clinical Ethics (201 3 Volume 8 Number I​):

In a medical community in which withdrawal of lifesustaining measures in unconscious and in conscious ICU patients is accepted, where organ donation after death is common practice, and in which there is a shortage of organs for transplantation, there can be no moral objection to ask certain conscious ICU patients to donate their organs after death.

Although withdrawal of mechanical ventilation on request of the patient on the ICU is rare and therefore the number of organs that come available is limited, it is still well worth considering. We argue that there are no valid moral and legal objections against it; it is ethically feasible and practically possible to ask the patients for organ donation after death.

Well, here’s one: I can think of few things more dangerous to the weak and vulnerable than to allow people having trouble going on believe that their deaths have greater value than their lives.

How about another? Letting society think that same thing.

Next stop: Asking suicidal people for their organs. It already happens in Belgium euthanasia.



Why Can’t Deacons Mercy Kill Like MDs?


A Catholic deacon has been arrested for killing hospital patients in Belgium. I am puzzled why: His motive was mercy! From the Bioedge story:

News reports are sketchy, but it appears that Poppe was reported to the police. When they investigated, he admitted his responsibility. According to one report, he smothered the patients, some of whom were relatives, or gave them an overdose of insulin. The police believe that his statements are credible. He apparently recorded the deaths in a notebook.

“My client acted out of compassion for people who were in a hopeless situation,” his lawyer has told the media. It has been reported that Poppe told police that he was motivated by a desire to end patients’ unbearable suffering — but it does not appear that the “euthanasia” was voluntary.

Wait a second! Belgian doctors kill patient without request or consent all of the timeand for the same purported reason–with nothing done about it. Why should having an MD after your name make murder okay, but not being an ordained deacon?

I mean to paraphrase a famous American politician, at this point–death–what difference does it make?

Don’t get me wrong: If he did it, put him in jail. Just do the same to doctors!

Human Exceptionalism Shown by Babies


I haven’t read Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes, but a comment in Forbes about its content caught my interest.

Apparently, human babies quickly develop an interest, not only in surrounding objects, but also in what others think about them. From, “Neanderthal Man and the Science of Human Uniqueness,” by John Farrell:

One study, for example, reveals that, until about ten months of age, there are hardly any detectable cognitive differences between young humans and young ages: “However, at around one year of age, humans start doing something that the ape youngsters don’t: they start to draw others’ attention to objects of interest by pointing at them…It is the very act of directing the attention of another person that is fascinating to them…It seems that by about one year of age, they have begun both to discover that other people have a worldview and interests not so dissimilar from their own and to take steps toward being able to direct the attention of others. (p. 205)”

This compulsion to direct the attention of others, Pääbo goes on to suggest, is one of the first cognitive traits that emerge during childhood development that is truly unique to humans. Even more interesting is the fact that it’s not directly related to intelligence, so much as it is to a theory of mind, an appreciation that other individuals have different perceptions than one’s own.

This is relevant to the weave of human exceptionalism.

Only we make moral distinctions. Only we develop world views and come to differing opinions. Only we have the ability care about what others think about the same subjects.

This dramatically distinctive aspect of–yes, human nature–clearly develops early because it is hard-wired somehow into us. We all possess it, and it will express unless remaining latent due to immaturity or is disabled somehow by catastrophic illness or disease. 

From this important element of our being flows the streams of unique value and moral accountability–which rank high among the exceptional hallmarks of man.

Scientists Don’t Tell Truth About Weight


I have called obesity “the new global warming,” an issue that is often as much about politics as it is about the science of weight.

A new study supports my hypothesis. Apparently, long-term weight loss is very rare, that most of the pounds lost in diets soon return. Moreover, there isn’t much that can be done about it.

But here’s an intriguing angle to the story: The scientists don’t tell that apparently well-known truth to the public. From the CBC News story:

So if most scientists know that we can’t eat ourselves thin, that the lost weight will ultimately bounce back, why don’t they say so? Tim Caulfield says his fellow obesity academics tend to tiptoe around the truth. “You go to these meetings and you talk to researchers, you get a sense there is almost a political correctness around it, that we don’t want this message to get out there,” he said. “You’ll be in a room with very knowledgeable individuals, and everyone in the room will know what the data says and still the message doesn’t seem to get out.”

In part, that’s because it’s such a harsh message. “You have to be careful about the stigmatizing nature of that kind of image,” Caulfield says. “That’s one of the reasons why this myth of weight loss lives on.”

Health experts are also afraid people will abandon all efforts to exercise and eat a nutritious diet — behaviour that is important for health and longevity — even if it doesn’t result in much weight loss.

At best. this is paternalism. But I think Caulfield hit on the larger truth in the quote I italicized: At least some scientists are afraid that if they tell the politically incorrect truth, their grant money will dry up, they will be called “deniers” or some such  pejorative, accused of being Luddites who thwart progressive public policy. In short, they will be treated as badly as global warming scientists who question the reigning alarmist orthodoxy.

The bigger point here, I think, is that people know that “science” has become substantially politicized: Too often, “studies” are generated to “prove” precisely what the authors or sponsors wanted.

In other words, science is sometimes science. But sometimes it is actually political or cultural advocacy pretending to be “science.”

And isn’t it interesting that those who call most loudly castigate those who disagree with them on policy or ethical issues as somehow “anti-science,” are often the most hyper-political players in the public square?


Active Euthanasia Comes to North America


The poison has jumped across the Atlantic from Netherlands and Belgium: Quebec has legalized active euthanasia.

I have discussed the contents of new law at length previously and I don’t want to repeat myself.  However, the bill did undergo some changes since I wrote about it, and there are certain sections of the new law that need to be emphasized, so here goes:

The euphemism for homicide in the law is “aid in dying,” which in turn, is defined as part of “end of life care.

Receiving “end of life care”–including euthanasia–is now a positive right. From the law (my emphasis):

RIGHTS WITH RESPECT TO END-OF-LIFE CARE: 4. Every person whose condition requires it has the right to receive end-of-life care subject to the specific requirements established by this Act.

Such care is provided to the person in a facility maintained by an institution, in a palliative care hospice or at home.

This isn’t just the right to ask and receive suicide assistance from a willing doctor, with no guarantee you will get it–as in Oregon. It is the positive right to be subjected to lethal-injection euthanasia or terminal sedation at the hand of the doctor you asked or someone his supervisor finds to kill you. 

This means every institution that cares for the seriously ill, elderly, and injured must offer euthanasia:

7. Every institution must offer end-of-life care and ensure that it is provided to the persons requiring it in continuity and complementarity with any other care that is or has been provided to them.

Those eligible for euthanasia must:

(2) be of full age and capable of giving consent to care;
(3) be at the end of life;
(4) suffer from a serious and incurable illness;
(5) be in an advanced state of irreversible decline in capability; and (6) experience constant and unbearable physical or psychological suffering which cannot be relieved in a manner the patient deems tolerable.

Loose terms that will easily be subject to interpretation. I don’t believe for a second that these “limitations” mean anything much at all, except perhaps at first. So, within a few years, expect Quebec horrors similar to those I have repeatedly discussed from the Netherlands and Belgium.

Doctors and nurses must be complicit. That is they must inform their supervisors if they refuse to provide aid in dying. That supervisor or executive must then find a doctor willing to kill. I suspect many Hippocratic believing doctors will soon hear the words, “You’re fired!” or have some other limitations imposed on his or her practice.

And get this! Doctors, nurses, and pharmacist organizations are required to establish how-to-kill-your patients classes!

33. The council of physicians, dentists and pharmacists established for an institution must, in collaboration with the council of nurses of the institution, adopt clinical protocols for continuous palliative sedation and medical aid in dying. The protocols must comply with the clinical standards developed by the professional orders concerned.

Imagine you are a doctor, nurse, dentist (?!), pharmacist–even a hospice or nursing home administrator: You went into medicine to be a healer. You are now told that also have to be part of a bureaucratic killing system. And if you object? Prepare for professional ostracism, possible loss of position and/or license, and you can kiss any promotion goodbye.

Quebec’s reverse two-and-a-half somersaults, tuck dive into the doctor-administered death abyss is a glaring symptom of a deadly parasitic social affliction that is sucking the true meaning of compassion, professionalism, and righteousness clean out of our culture.


More Than 100 Washington Assisted Suicides


Assisted suicide is on the rise in Washington.  From the Seattle Times story:

More than 100 people died in Washington last year after requesting and taking a lethal prescription through Washington’s Death with Dignity law, the state’s Department of Health reported Wednesday.

Officials said that 173 people requested and received lethal doses of medication in 2013, a 43 percent increase from the year before.

And in every one of these deaths, the doctors were legally required to lie on the death certificates that the deaths were from natural causes. That’s downright corrupting of the medical system.

Assisted suicide is sold with vivid tales of unbearable pain that can’t be controlled. But, as in Oregon, that is proved a typical assisted suicide lie:

Most of the people who asked their doctors for a lethal prescription told them they were concerned about losing autonomy, dignity or the ability to participate in activities that made life enjoyable. 

They key here is for doctors to declare their offices “assisted suicide free zones.” I think plaques to that effect should be made to be hung on office walls.

I would also like to see physicians attend demonstrations and publicly take the Hippocratic Oath. Just because something is legal, doesn’t make it right.

3-Parent Children as Human Experiments


If the “we never say no” Human Embryo Authority in the UK approves the creation of 3-parent embryos, it would be permitting blatant human experimentation on children.

Indeed, I don’t see any other way to look at it. Note the quote below. From the Associated Press story:

Britain’s fertility regulator says controversial techniques to create embryos from the DNA of three people “do not appear to be unsafe” even though no one has ever received the treatment, according to a new report released Tuesday.

The report based its conclusion largely on lab tests and some animal experiments and called for further experiments before patients are treated. “Until a healthy baby is born, we cannot say 100 percent that these techniques are safe,” said Dr. Andy Greenfield, who chaired the expert panel behind the report.

So, to prevent a child being born with a genetic condition we will endanger that child for a potential lifetime of consequences. Or to put it another way, these children will be life-long experiments, even if they are born safely–a big if.

This is not going to be a matter of a once off and then all is okay. You are using, in essence, a twice broken egg.  Moreover, there have been health issues with animal models made in this way, not to mention cloned animals which similarly require the use of broken eggs–and this after many years of refining the cloning technique.

But let’s get to the heart of this controversy. In the end, the drive to manufacture three parent children isn’t really about allowing women with particular heritable genetic conditions to have biologically related children who won’t pass on the disease. That’s the pretext.

I believe that all of this effort is about continuing to pry open the door to anything goes in the reproductive sphere–for various cultural and political purposes, including making it easier to obtain future license for human genetic engineering.

Quebec Regains That Killing Feeling


Quebec is on the verge–again–of legalizing a radical euthanasia bill. From the National Post story:

One of the first acts of Premier Philippe Couillard’s new Liberal government was to revive Bill 52, which was nearing a final vote in March when the previous Parti Québécois government called an election. All parties agreed to bring the legislation back at the stage it had been before the election. With final debate set to begin next week, the government said it fully expects it will become law before the session ends June 13.

Parties have agreed to allow a free vote, but a clear majority of the legislature’s 125 members have expressed support for the law that would make Quebec the first jurisdiction in North America to allow physicians to deliberately end patients’ lives.

In its last iteration, before failing because elections were called, assisted suicide was explicitly outlawed by the bill–meaning that doctors have to do the killing.

You see, Quebec is trying to pull a fast one. The national government controls criminal law, and assisted suicide is banned by Canadian law. But the provinces regulate the practice of medicine. So, Quebec legislators redefine homicide when committed by a doctor at the request of an ill patient as a “medical treatment,” to be called “aid in dying.”

Also, who qualified was very loosely defined–not that restrictive guidelines tend to be followed anyway.

Moreover, the taxpayers will pay for euthanasia since Quebec has a single payer system. It also means that killing will be required to be allowed in every provincial hospital, nursing home, and other such care public facilities.

Also, no conscientious objection allowed! Every doctor in Quebec would have to be complicit in medicalized homicide–either by doing the dirty work him or herself, or referring to a doctor the objecting physician knew had no moral qualms about putting patients down.

Quebec is a pretty left wing place.  Instead of protecting the weak and vulnerable–as the left wing did in my day–many of today’s lefties have a bad case of the death culture virus. 

When the new bill is tabled, I’ll bring you the all depressing details.


Jindal Vetoes Unconstitutional Surrogacy Bill


A few days ago, I warned that Louisiana’s passed surrogacy bill was unconstitutional because it limited the procedure to infertile heterosexual married couples.

Governor Bobby Jindal has vetoed. From the Times Picayune story:

Surrogacy births — in which a couple’s embryo is implanted in another woman — are not illegal in Louisiana.

The contracts between the surrogate and the parents just aren’t enforceable in the state’s courts, leading to many couples going out of state rather than risk a legal battle in uncharted waters.

Right call on several levels.

Override possible, but would not be wise.

Will Medicare Pay for Healthy Limb Amputations?


I have come to the disheartening conclusion that we will never control health care costs because we keep expanding the mission of medicine to include “consumerist” services that are primarily about facilitating life-style choices or fulfilling “identity” desires. For example, California now requires group health insurance to pay for fertility services for their gay customers–even though the insured isn’t physically infertile.

Sex change would seem to fall into this category. Now that Medicare is going to pay for it–meaning private insurance will soon be forced to follow–I wonder how we will prevent requiring society to pay for doctors to amputate healthy limbs of BIID sufferers.

What? Wesley, have you lost your mind?

Hear me out: BIID–body integrity identity disorder–is an anguishing condition in which the sufferer becomes obsessed with the belief that his or her true identity is as someone without a leg, or arm, or even, as a paraplegic or quadriplegic.

Advocacy has already begun to allow amputation of healthy limbs as a “treatment.” If that happens, there will be no way to prevent it from being paid for by insurance or society. From one of my earlier posts on the subject:

I fear the worst. Radical individualism is now the avatar with powerful forces urging that self identity become the be all and end all–no judgment allowed–perhaps even to the point that one day it will mean permission to chop off healthy limbs and other body parts. If we follow this path to its logical conclusion, it will mean using the medical system to surrender to serious mental illnesses.

Advocates for allowing amputation to be a treatment for BIID claim that there is no substantial difference between that condition and transsexualism, and that if surgery and other medical interventions are considered a proper treatment for the one, it should also be for the other.

Now that government insurance pays for sex change surgeries–including for imprisoned felons like Bradley Manning–what argument or principle would stand in the way? In these days of identity-is-all politics, I don’t see any.


Pushing Starvation as “Death with Dignity”


The “death with dignity” and bioethics crowds grow increasingly extreme. Now, they are pushing starvation.

First, it was removing feeding tubes from the cognitively disabled, slow killing excused as removing medical treatment. Do it to a dog and go to jail. Do it to Terri Schiavo and it’s merely “medical ethics.”

Now, euthanasia types push VSED, e.g. voluntary stop eating and drinking. Not only that, they want nursing homes and hospitals to be forced to starve dementia patients to death who willingly eat.

I’m on the case in my biweekly column over at First Things. From, “Starvation as the New Death with Dignity:”

But what about people who can eat and drink by mouth? Assisted suicide advocates argue that it isn’t fair that they can’t die too. So, activists promote a form of “self-deliverance” that they call “voluntary stopping eating and drinking,” (VSED), by which suicidal people declare their wish to starve to death.

As a matter of respecting autonomy, doctors won’t force feed these suicidal people. Some even agree to facilitate the death by helping palliate the potential agony that can be associated with starving and dehydrating.

I believe a doctor who helps someone starve him or herself to death is akin ethically to one who helps a suicidal person find the artery to cut and guides the scalpel.

A lawsuit was filed to force a nursing home in Canada to starve a dementia patient to death. That lost and is on appeal. But the drive to force medical personnel to starve patients to death who eat, if they so instructed in an advance medical directive, was boosted recently in the Hastings Center Report:

Bioethicist Paul T. Menzel and physician M. Colette Chandler-Cramer create a sophistic argument to justify their conclusion: People have the right to commit VSED; people also have the right to refuse life-sustaining treatment in an advance medical directive; hence, people have the right to order themselves starved to death (commit VSED via advance medical directive).

Here’s the thing: They are called an “advance medical directive,” for a reason–to control medical interventions. But spoon feeding isn’t a “medical treatment!”

Spoon-feeding is considered “humane care”—not the same thing at all. Thus, under Menzel and Chandler-Cramer’s theory, a patient should also be empowered to order the non-medical withholding of other forms of humane care to hasten their deaths.

For example, why not permit a directive to order that blankets be removed during a cold snap to increase the chances of contracting pneumonia? Less certain, to be sure: But basically the same idea.

The advocacy point of the starve-them-to-death campaign should be obvious to all:

Finally, once we can starve patients, even though they willingly eat, the obvious question arises: “Why not just give them lethal injections?”

Actually, I believe that has been the goal all along. The starvation agenda is merely the horrid means intended to lead us to that horrible end.

Culture of death, Wesley? What culture of death?

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.



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