Human Exceptionalism

Time to Defend Human Exceptionalism in the Professional Journals!

Many of the chances we see in society today, were gestated decades ago in professional journals and law review articles, which from what I have seen, tend to be pretty uniformly pushing society in one direction. Example: Today pulling feeding tubes from cognitively disabled patients is routine. I doubt this would have happened–because it was once unthinkable, but for the many professional journal articles written in the 1980s that promoted the policy.

Case in point, a 2007 article in the Tulsa Law Review (no link, have copy) promoting Futile Care Theory: As readers of SHS know, I believe that medical futility is part of an overarching attempt to shift society’s fundamental value away from being focused primarily on individual worth, to a more collectivist approach of the kind warned against so vividly in the old sci-fi flick, Logan’s Run. Be that as it may, I think it is very dangerous because it turns over determining when a life is worth living from patients and families to doctors and bioethicists.

The author makes this point chillingly explicit:

Physicians, because of their expertise and thorough education, are best able to determine when a patient is no longer benefiting from life-sustaining measures. A survey shows that ninety percent of patients feel that doctors are accurate decision-makers as to end-of-life care. n332 After a physician makes a judgment, an ethics committee further examines the futility determination. Because a concrete, and agreed upon definition for the term “futile” appears to be unattainable, physicians should be the primary, if not sole, judges, and decide when continued treatment is unnecessary, unethical, and no longer serves any purpose. Their judgments and decisions should be recognized and respected as legitimate, thoughtful, and final.

Nothing new here, of course. I bring it up because a judge might one day rely on this article (among others) in determining that medical futility is constitutional. Indeed, that is why it was written.

Articles published in intellectual and professional journals that receive little or no public discussion, are very important as they become the intellectual ammunition (if you will) for the guns that seek to destroy human exceptionalism, particularly in the courts. Thus, as I have occasionally remarked about here, we see journal articles pushing assisted suicide, a radical constitutional right to conduct scientific research, for animal moral and legal equality, etc. etc., all of which are written in the hope that they will one day influence courts or policy makers to go along. And if there is a dearth of material on the other side–which seems to be the case–that influence can be greatly magnified.

And I worry that those with the expertise and ability to counter these arguments in the intellectual spheres tend not to man the ramparts defending the sanctity and equality of human life. Perhaps this is based on the blithe assumption that “It can’t happen here.” But anyone who thinks that today is just not paying attention. Indeed, given that a Swiss ethics panel has promoted what could be called plant rights, things are becoming so extreme that you can’t even engage in parody because they catch up to you.

Law students, doctors, lawyers, Ph.D.s and others who wish to maintain a society based on human exceptionalism need to be just as active in the “learned journals” as are those who support policies that would destroy it. And believe me, they are active. Are we?