Human Exceptionalism

The Transformation of Medicine Into a Tool of “Liberation”

I have posted on the Nadya Suleman matter and her having eight children via IVF. I have also done several radio interviews and have made the following points. First, this is an unregulated field and doctors can basically do just about whatever they like legally. Second, why should we be surprised? We have created a culture steeped in terminal nonjudgmentalism where moral judgements about the “choices” of others are deemed out of bounds and literally hateful. This is leading us toward an anything goes culture. Third, to accommodate the fulfilling of all desires and urges–the “hedonism” aspect of the coup de culture I have been warning about–we are literally transforming medicine beyond its roles of healing and palliating, into an industry of “liberation “to fulfill on-demand lifestyle choices.

And to make sure that no one gainsays these decisions, doctors now face potential consequences for saying no–as Secondhand Smokette points out in her excellent piece on this matter in today’s San Francisco Chronicle. From Debra’s column “Dysfunctional Familymaking”:

Doctors’ understandable desire to help infertile couples conceive children has led to medical advances that are not necessarily healthy for children. The new order is great for adults, who now can have children without a partner and in defiance of age limits, but it is not necessarily in the best interests of the children they bear. We have created a society that dictates that all reproductive wishes should be answered. Then we criticize an over-her-head mom–whose own mother fretted that she was “obsessed” with having kids–when the inevitable horrors happen…

You can say her fertility doctors–whoever they are–should have refused to impregnate an overburdened single mother. They should have. However, in August, the California Supreme Court ruled unanimously that a San Diego fertility clinic had no right to refuse to inseminate a lesbian in a partnership on religious grounds. What happens if doctors refuse a single mom, who can sue based on state law banning discrimination based on marital status?

We can either have a society based on reasonably enforceable norms in which we can obtain much of what we desire–but probably none of us can have everything we want. Or, we can focus obsessively, as we do now on radical individualism, in which the most important value is allowing everyone to indulge nearly every personal desire–and no tyranny of the majority to inhibit their personal choices. But that leads to the end of society because eventually there is no commonality. That is one of the fallacies with transhumanism: The idea is for ever individual to recreate themselves into their own designed radical self image–but in all that “me,” where does that leave the “us?”

Moreover, now that we have unquestionably opened that door, we are finding no solid philosophical ground for inhibiting “choices” that many would see as destructive. (For example, we have already seen deaf parents use IVF and genetic testing to ensure that they had a deaf child. Their response to criticism was that a deaf child was the kind they wanted, and who is anyone to assume that it is better to hear than not to hear.In the current milieu, that’s a hard argument to rebut.) In fact, the Oprahfication of culture often celebrates decisions made far outside the mainstream–as with the “man” (really a woman) who gave birth.

Some of the people squawking the loudest about Suleman’s choice to have fourteen children are the most vociferous howlers for unfettered lifestyles. I have one question for them: What do they expect?

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