SHS Has Moved
Labels: SHS New Address
This Blog considers assisted suicide/euthanasia, bioethics, human cloning, biotechnology, radical environmentalism, and the dangers of animal rights/liberation. My views expressed here, as in my books and other writings, reflect my understanding that the philosophy of human exceptionalism is the bedrock of universal human rights. Or, to put it another way: human life matters. (The opinions expressed here are my own and not necessarily those of any organization with which I am affiliated.)
Labels: SHS New Address
The transition of SHS to the First Things family of blogs will soon be upon us. To see what it will look like, you can go to FT's new home page--still only partially constructed--and then hit the blogs link. Secondhand Smoke will appear. Hit that link, and you will find me, or actually SHS as it looked a week or so ago. (They have not yet transferred the latest posts to the FT site). Or go there directly from here.
I will not be using Blogger once the transition is completed, but you should be able to access SHS the same old way--you won't have to go through FT. I still intend to permit comments. My hope is that the added viewership will make things even more interesting around here than they already are.
Thanks to all for your viewership and participation.
Calling global warming, "our era's cholera," a UK greenie named Muir Gray is urging doctors to get involved in stopping climate change (as if they don't already have enough to do). From the column:
Yes, well that was because of a lack of air conditioners, which global warming ubber alles types like Gray want to do away with. Also, during the heat wave, most of France was on vacation and too few people were checking on the old people to see how they were doing as the vaunted safety net of France failed miserably. (If Bush had presided over such a debacle, the screaming would never have stopped.)
Climate change will hit the poorest nations hardest, but it will affect us too. In the summer of 2003,...an unexpected heatwave, killed 14,000 elderly people in France.
Smoking, Aids, swine flu? They all pale into insignificance compared to climate change's threat to health. That proposition will instantly provoke a hostile reaction from the diminishing band [me: actually, I think skepticism is growing] of climate-change sceptics. But as a doctor of 40 years' standing who has been involved in running public health services for 30 years, I know that the evidence is good enough to make action, not inaction, the sensible choice. An empirical view of the data shows that delay will not just increase the amount of preventable harm, it may take us past a point of no return.
But the medical profession needs to put its own house in order too. I was in a hospital last month that is doubling its electricity supply "to meet demand", with no thought about the future...The NHS is gigantic and has a carbon footprint that is nearly one twentieth of the whole UK's footprint--1.3 million staff each with their own footprint, the drugs bought, the buildings, the transport, the water and the food, too much of it thrown away. Now is the time for the profession to mobilise and show the passion that took them into medical school but is then so often extinguished
Well this is ironic: People with Down syndrome--against whom a concerted pogrom is being waged to wipe off the face of the earth via genetic testing and eugenic abortion or infanticide--may hold the key to an effective treatment for cancer. From the story:
Scientists may have solved the mystery of why people with Down's syndrome seem to have a lower risk of some cancers.At least some catch an important ancillary point to this story:
The extra copy of chromosome 21 which causes Down's appears to contain a gene that protects from solid cancerous tumours, tests on mice suggest. The gene seems to interfere with signals a tumour relies on to grow. The finding raises hope of new ways to prevent and treat cancer.
Writing in the journal, the researchers, led by Dr Sandra Ryeom, said: "It is, perhaps, inspiring that the Down's syndrome population provides us with new insight into mechanisms that regulate cancer growth and, by so doing, identifies potential targets for tumour prevention and therapy."Will that slow down our drive to identify and destroy these precious human beings before they can be born? Not a chance. We talk a good game of "diversity," but we don't really mean it.
Secondhand Smokette and I went to a Barnes and Noble this morning and I stumbled upon a new book: Larry's Kidney: Being the True Story of How I Found Myself in China with My Black Sheep Cousin and His Mail-Order Bride, Skirting the Law to Get Him a Transplant--and Save His Life, by Daniel Asa Rose. Great: A comedic tale of biological colonialism and exploitation, I thought. Just what the world needs.
So, I have perused a few reviews. Here's a sample:
This book is a side-splitting tour de force that whisks readers off to China on a quest to get a transplant for the author's cousin Larry. Second-time memoirist Rose recounts their exploits with an insuperable wit that will appeal to readers who crave unrelenting humor. In a more serious vein, Larry's challenging journey to China will resonate with readers who are rightfully concerned about the plight of American patients who may be relegated for years to an organ transplant waiting list. -- Library Journal, May 1, 2009Yes, all that matters is what happens to Americans and our organ shortage. But here's the thing: Some poor Chinese prisoner was almost surely tissue typed to match Larry and then killed for his kidney. That's how it tends to work when Americans with plenty of cash in their pockets go to China to buy organs. In this vein, please read Smokette's powerful "American Vampire," about this same topic, in which she wrote:
But just as it is wrong for Americans to die waiting for organs, it also is wrong for prisoners to die because an American needs a liver, or for a child to die because his mother sold her kidney. And it is beyond reason that in a country that passes numerous regulations on the feeding and care of livestock, people don't want to judge those who, like vampires, troll for organs in the Third World.
But Larry is such a character and Rose is such a good writer--and no doubt, he opposes water boarding--so who cares? I am sure the "donor" literally had a "side-splitting" good time. Hilarious.
There is nothing these days that can ever be safely considered to be permanently beyond the pale, unthinkable, flat-out undoable--and that apparently includes cutting off healthy limbs of patients with BIID.
When I first heard of body integrity identity disorder--BIID--in which sufferers have a powerful compulsion to become amputees (hence the nickname for the term, "amputee wannabe"), the idea that cutting off healthy limbs would ever be considered a legitimate treatment option seemed ridiculous. No longer. An influential psychiatrist is using the power of analogy to push us toward that very end. From the story:
"It actually sounds a lot like another condition which we already do recognize called gender identity disorder--where, for example, people are born as a male, but feel they're really a woman trapped in a man's body," said Dr. Michael First, a professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University in New York City, who has been studying this rare condition since 1999. "Typically it's more common legs than arms, there are people who want bilateral amputations, and I actually know of someone who has achieved that," he added.Achieved multiple amputations! Can you imagine describing a maiming in that positive way?
Mark my words, even though today virtually all of these unfortunate people get through life without chopping off their own limbs, we will eventually see BIID sufferers receive amputations. And once amputation is deemed to be a legitimate treatment for BIID, it will be harder for sufferers to fight against actually doing the deed. Oh, and surgeons who don't want to participate in removing healthy body parts had better hope that conscience clauses are put into effect, since there are already proposals on the table to require their participation or referral.
BIID is not recognized in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders (DSM-IV-TR), a book published by the American Psychiatric Association and regarded by most of the mental health community as the bible of identified mental illnesses. But First, as editor of the last two editions of the DSM, is working to change that, in an effort to create a reference for mental health professionals to use in identifying and treating the condition.
"Number one--for the people who have it--there's a whole issue of labeling something as a disorder, and there are pros and cons labeling," he said. "The disadvantage of labeling is stigma. We're basically saying this is a mental illness--this is a sickness. But the advantage of having it in the book is twofold. It might encourage more work on treatment by getting it on the map and getting therapists and people aware of it."
The first Washington State legal assisted suicide has happened. C and C, of course, promptly issued a press release. From the story:
The woman, Linda Fleming, 66, of Sequim, Wash., on the Olympic Peninsula, died Thursday evening after taking lethal medication prescribed by a doctor under the law, according to a news release by the group, Compassion and Choices of Washington. The release said the woman received a diagnosis of Stage 4 pancreatic cancer a month ago, and “she was told she was actively dying.”Often early pain control can cause these symptoms, but as the body acclimates, often more cogency returns.
Ms. Fleming was quoted in the release as saying: "I am a very spiritual person, and it was very important to me to be conscious, clear-minded and alert at the time of my death. The powerful pain medications were making it difficult to maintain the state of mind I wanted to have at my death."
In Louisiana, a nurse who was demoted for refusing to participate in dispensing the morning after pill due to religious objections, has won the right from the state supreme court to sue her former employer for religious discrimination. From the story:
The Louisiana Supreme Court has declined to hear a hospital's appeal in a case brought by a nurse who claims she was demoted after she refused to dispense the "morning-after" pill. A state judge refused in 2007 to throw out Toni Lemly's lawsuit against St. Tammany Parish Hospital. The hospital appealed, but the Supreme Court declined Friday to review the judge's ruling.I think the key to this case is that the hospital changed Lemly's job description from working in wellness--which is consistent with a pro life religious belief--to forcing her into a position for which she had never signed on, thereby requiring her to choose between her beliefs and her work.
The hospital hired Lemly in 2003 to work in its Community Wellness Center. Several months later, the hospital contracted with the state to provide counseling to patients about emergency contraception. The hospital offered Lemly a part-time position after she objected to distributing the morning-after pill, but she turned down the offer and sued, alleging religious discrimination. A lawyer for Lemly says the Supreme Court's decision clears the way for a trial.
More proof--as if it were really needed--that the assisted suicide movement believes in death on demand for any non transitory physical or mental condition perceived by the suicidal person as causing unbearable suffering. From the bill (C-384):(7)
Despite anything in this section, a medical practitioner does not commit homicide within the meaning of this Act by reason only that he or she aids a person to die with dignity, if (a) the person (i) is at least eighteen years of age, (ii) either
(A) continues, after trying or expressly refusing the appropriate treatments available, to experience severe physical or mental pain without any prospect of relief, or
(B) suffers from a terminal illness.
Sigh. We have repeatedly discussed the sloppy language used by media to discuss crucial moral issues--which is important because of the power of lexicon to materially impact our views. Now, the BBC is the latest media outlet to misuse the term "brain death," to apply to a South Korean patient in a PVS whose life support removal has been authorized by the country's supreme court. From the story:
The title of the piece is, "South Korea Court Grants 'Right to Die." Huh? If someone is already dead--which is what brain dead is--how can she be described as "terminally ill" and granted "a right to die?" (This case is really about the right to remove unwanted life-sustaining treatment.) Also the children say this will relieve their mother's pain (from the AP story linked below). But if she's in pain, she isn't dead. (And if she's truly unconscious, she's not in pain.)
South Korea's Supreme Court has upheld a landmark ruling giving a brain-dead woman the right to die. The court agreed to a request from the family of the 76-year-old woman, who has been comatose for a year, to remove her from life support. It is the first case of its kind in South Korea and follows a series of legal challenges...
South Korea's top court said that the sustained treatment of terminally ill patients such as in this case potentially violated a patient's dignity. "Whether to continue artificial life support and feeding for comatose patients is a matter that should be considered carefully," said the Supreme Court ruling. "If it is obvious that the patient in question will soon die judging from her conditions, we can conclude that she has already entered a phase of death. In this case, continued hospital treatment only serves to hurt her human dignity."
Gallup has issued its annual poll on what Americans think are morally appropriate behaviors, some of which deal directly with the issues about which we grapple here at SHS, and some of which don't. My last post on the poll covered issues dealing with the use of animals. Now, we turn to bioethical and biotechnological issues.
From the poll:
Suicide: Only 15% think that suicide is morally proper, unchanged from last year.This result illustrates why assisted suicide advocates have worked so hard to engineer the language. Gooey euphemisms such as "aid in dying" are intended to mask the real subject at hand.
Cloning human beings, 88% think it is improper and only 9% proper, down from 11% last year.The massive popular opposition to human cloning is also why research cloning advocates--with the willing complicity by a biased media--pretend that cloning isn't cloning and redefine and basic biological terms to give themselves political cover. While I have no doubt that if the poll had asked whether it is morally proper to create human cloned embryos for use in research, the numbers would have moved, I still believe that a majority would oppose--as they have in previous polls. This seems especially true when 64% oppose animal cloning. I think people are just very wary of science moving into areas that have such an explosive potential to dramatically alter the natural world.
Medical research on stem cells taken from human embryos: 57% believe it is proper, down five points from 62% last year, with 36% believing it isWhile this question could technically apply to therapeutic cloning, it probably reflects the "leftover embryo" scenario that proved so politically successful in garnering public support for ESCR. The significant reduction in support--five points in one year--probably reflects the success of IPSC research as well as the growing understanding that adult stem cells are performing much better than expected when the great stem cell debate began.
Abortion: Only 36% believe that abortion is morally proper, down from 40% last year, while 56% think it is morally inappropriate.This is the third major recent poll (Pew and a different Gallup) showing people moving in a generally "pro-life" direction on abortion. The reduced number of abortions each year may actually reflect the ongoing change in people's attitudes.
Human exceptionalism is not only about human rights, but also human duties, including never using human beings as mere objects and the need to treat animals properly and humanely. The new Gallup Poll about what Americans consider morally acceptable behavior is interesting in both regards, and thus worth our pondering. (Part of the poll measured matters beyond our scope here at SHS, and these issues will not be addressed. The poll was also promoted by Gallup as showing Republicans growing increasingly "conservative." We don't do partisan politics here, and moreover, what some call conservative, I think of as liberal--such as opposing assisted suicide. So, let's ignore those matters, too.)
For ease of reading, in this post I will look at the questions that dealt with the treatment of animals, and in the next, activities exclusively involving human beings. From the poll:
Buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur: 61% to 35% think it is morally acceptable--with the "acceptable" figure up from 54% last yearFur is the most publicly controversial use of animals, what with the seal clubbing and the scent of luxury it implies. I think that animal rights and welfare activists should actually be quite proud that 35% of the people believe that what was once seemed unremarkable is now considered morally unacceptable. But the increase in the "acceptable" category might reflect animal rights exhaustion, that is, people are tired of the preaching:
Medical testing on animals--57% think it is right and 36%Medical testing is probably the use of animals that provides humans the greatest benefit. That 36% of the people think it is wrong, is an alarming indication that the research community has not done a good job of educating the public of the importance of their work and the lengths to which researchers go to treat the animals in their care humanely.
wrong. This figure is basically unchanged from last year.
Cloning animals: Morally wrong 63%, to 34%.I have no problem with animal cloning because it doesn't impact human exceptionalism and potential great good could come from it for us. But I think the 34% figure is another example of a significant minority of the people having great concern for either the proper and humane care of animals, or animal rights. Again, if it is the former, good. If the latter, not good.
The Oklahoma Legislature having voted unanimously to outlaw all human cloning--still no word on what the governor will do with the bill--state bureaucrats are now putting $5.5 million into adult stem cell research over the next five years. From the story:
The Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust board voted Monday to contribute $5.5 million to adult stem cell research. The board committed $500,000 for a yearlong planning phase to decide how the money should be distributed, followed by $1 million in grants each year for five years.That's smart. Not too much money, no debt incurred--as we have here in the California Titanic--and proper ethics. Now, that makes good governance sense.
The action was taken after presentations on adult stem cell research under way in Oklahoma. Adult stem cells could someday be used as "regenerative medicine" to treat or cure many ailments such as cancer, cardiovascular disease and diabetes, said Dr. Stephen Prescott, president of the Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation.
He said Oklahoma Medical Research Foundation scientists are working to "back up" progression of adult cells so they return to a state where they can be reprogrammed for specific uses. Patients could be treated with their own cells to avoid rejection
This blog does not get into the specifics of global warming, but it does discuss how science is being corrupted by politics--mostly from the left--transforming the method into an ideology sometimes called scientism. Thus, in the stem cell debate, clear biological definitions have been altered, not due to new scientific understandings, but to better present a political point, while ethical objections to certain approaches have been demagogued as "anti science."
In the global warming arena, a campaign to stifle legitimate opposition to the mainstream view has been launched to the point that Al Gore imperiously decreed the debate over--when very credible meteorologists and other scientists dissent from the idea of catastrophic, anthropomorphically caused "climate change" (a term Secondhand Smokette hilariously branded "global warming during a blizzard.")
A brouhaha in Louisianna illustrates vividly how the politicized scientism sector seeks to stifle open debate and shut down the democratic process in the global warming arena. From the story:
After a presenter at last week's Public Service Commission meeting asserted that global warming is a hoax, Commissioner Foster Campbell said Tuesday he plans to introduce a motion at the June meeting requiring most people testifying before the commission to do so under oath..."Requiring witnesses to swear an oath to the truth will bring more credibility to their testimony and the Commission's deliberations," said Campbell, of Bossier City. It will "make speakers think twice before injecting political agendas into our meetings."Well, that's the idea. Indeed, when I testified a few years ago against an assisted suicide bill before the California Senate Judiciary Committee, one sponsor (Lloyd Levine) demanded (unsuccessfully) that the chairman end my testimony. Of course, that was when I knew I was drawing blood.
Last week, Campbell invited Louisiana State University professor David Dismukes to make a presentation about how "cap and trade," a system for setting a national cap on carbon dioxide emissions and allowing companies to trade allowances for pollution, works to control global warming and how current proposals in Congress would affect Louisiana. But Dismukes was upstaged by a guest invited by Mandeville Commissioner Eric Skrmetta who asserted that global warming doesn't exist...
Campbell ... criticized Boissiere for not shutting down Morano's presentation. "The testimony was taken like this guy was a credible witness," Campbell said. "I was waiting for the chairman to say, 'Hey, wait a minute, we need to talk about facts.' "
Boissiere said the commission is an open forum, and since no votes were required on the cap and trade agenda item, he saw no reason to shut down Morano's presentation. As for putting speakers under oath to keep commission business serious, Boissiere said he is concerned that such a move would make people feel like they can't approach the commission without consulting a lawyer. "I want it to be a people's commission," Boissiere said. "If you go under oath in a public forum like that, you'll deter comment rather than encourage it
Cynical me believes that if this rule had come down when Bush was president, the media would have been all over it--although I am sure he wouldn't have been aware of it any more than President Obama is. In a move geared to permit exploitation of the world's most destitute people, the FDA has apparently permitted drug companies to conduct research overseas that would be barred from the USA under pertinent ethical guidelines. From the story:
[T]rials performed outside the United States will no longer have to conform to the Helsinki Declaration even though they will be used to support licensing of drugs in the United States. Instead they will be regulated by the Good Clinical Practice guidelines: not an aspirational ethical code but a manual describing existing procedure for industry sponsored trials. This double standard could give the impression that the FDA "is more interested in facilitating research than respecting the rights of people who are subjects of research".This is rank biological colonialism, permitting human research ethical rules to be ignored if done overseas, but then allowing the company to use the test results to justify its application for a license from the FDA approval for clinical use of the products at home.
The media repeatedly pound home the false meme that assisted suicide is only about people diagnosed with a terminal illness. True, some American activists make that argument. But the "terminal illness limitation" is unquestionably the minority view within the movement.
Case in point: On April 15, 2009, Ruth von Fuchs, a leader in the Canadian Right to Die Society told Canada AM (CTV) that she supports Betty Coumbias--the Canadian woman who is not sick, but who wants to travel to Switzerland with her terminally ill husband to commit assisted suicide. From the transcript (no link):
I am sorry, what kind of husband would support his wife throwing herself, figuratively speaking, on his cremation pyre? That question goes unasked. Instead, Von Fuchs sees assisted suicide as not just about ending actual suffering, but as a proper "prophylactic" against feared future suffering:
RUTH VON FUCHS: Anyhow, the thing with Betty Coumbias I think will be an extension, because it will show there is no duty to live, that life is not an obligation, it's a right but not an obligation. It will also show, I think, that it's rational and sensible to take steps to avoid oncoming suffering or misery. Betty is virtually certain that if she had to live without George she would suffer from intractable depression.
[AM Canada Host Seamus ] O'REGAN: She's anticipating that she will be depressed from loneliness.
RUTH VON FUCHS: Yes...And people say she could be wrong, and I suppose that's true. But she's not a young woman and she's thought about this for a long time. It's possible that she is correct.
It's also possible that the tribunals in Switzerland will rule that some sort of wait-and-see policy is required. But then there would be a promise to her that if indeed she's right and is wretched without George, then at the end of a certain time--a month, for instance [Me: Grief doesn't end in a month!] she could receive assistance then.
O'REGAN: So, what she's trying to do is not only -- I mean, I guess there's a political element here, do you think? I mean, does she want to make a statement? Obviously, does she want to carry this through in a public way?
RUTH VON FUCHS: I think she's ahead of her time, in a way. So, she's trying to lead her society into questioning some of the old assumptions that life is a duty, that we must not anticipate, that we must start to suffer. But we don't take that attitude in other areas of life. We think it's very wise to do things like buckling up your seat belt to prevent being thrown from your car. Prophylactic measures are considered very sensible in many areas of life.
A Pew Poll measuring the "happiness" of the American people is out, and good news for me, people get happier as they age. But that is not why I brought it up. Rather, I was taken by the analysis of the poll presented by science writer Robert Roy Britt, Editorial Director of the on-line science journal LiveScience.com, which, I think, indirectly illuminates the left wing politics that I worry now permeates the science sector to the detriment of both science and society.
Britt mostly focuses on how happiness is aided by material prosperity, which is undoubtedly true, but which I doubt is the primary source of life satisfaction and joy. (According to a 2006 Pew Poll other factors include religious belief, marriage, living in sunny climes, etc.) But this is the paragraph that hit me as decidedly odd. From the column:
Now for the good news: A study in January found that key groups of people in the United States have grown happier over the past few decades, while other have become less so. The result: Happiness inequality has decreased since the 1970s. Americans are becoming more similar to each other on the happiness scale. I'm sorry? We should be pleased that some people have grown unhappier so that we now have less happiness inequality?
Not to make too big a deal out of this, but the zeal for equal outcomes--in contrast to equal opportunity--has become a hallmark of the political left. If I am right about the increasing left wing political tilt of the science sector, we will need to be on guard to ensure that "scientific" findings and recommendations upon which policies are often based aren't skewed to promote desired radical egalitarian ideological outcomes.