Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Ron Cranford has Died

Ronald Cranford, the neurologist and bioethicist who made something of a career testifying on behalf of dehydrating the cognitively disabled, has died. He had kidney cancer, and I assume that this was the cause of his death.

I disagreed vehemently with Dr. Cranford. I saw him testify in the Robert Wendland case and his cool recounting of the process of dehydration chilled me to my bones, as did his ready admission that he had removed sustenance from people who were clearly conscious. I actually think that testimony was the primary reason the court refused to allow Wendland's tube sustenance to be stopped. And his examination of Terri Schiavo seemed conducted in such a hurried way that she would be unlikely to respond.

We met only once at a debate about Terri Schiavo in Florida. We were pleasant and civil to each other. Nothing more.

What is the proper response to the death of someone who has been an implacable adversary? I think it is the response we should have to the death of every human being. We should set those old disputes aside and hope that in the Great Beyond, he finds forgiveness and peace.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

A Jealous God, by Pamela Winnick, is a Book Worth Reading

I have a book review of A Jealous God in the current edition of First Things. AJG askes whether science is at war with religion. Actually, I report, the author makes a compelling case that the ideology of scientism is at war with orthodox religion because the latter supports and defends the intrinsic value of human life.

After more than a decade working these issues, it takes a lot to stun me. But Winnick succeeded when she wrote about the live fetal experiments that occurred in this country in the late 60s and early 70s--justified by proponents who claimed that fetuses are only "potential" life. When the country found out, there was an outcry. But given the increasing utilitarianism and the concerted advocacy in bioethics, philosophical Darwinism, and other places to dismount man off of the pedestal of exceptionalism, if we began, say, cloned fetal farming for organs or drug testing, would there be an outcry today?

Price of Human Eggs: Going Up!

The Arizona Republic has a story that puts the price of eggs for use in fertility treatments as high as $24,000. Imagine the potential price if cloning becomes ubiquitous. Indeed, it would drive the trade in eggs to the destitute countries and the establishment of a bio colonialism that would exploit poor women for their eggs.

Adult Cells Treat Incontinence

The use of cellular treatments for human ailments is growing. In this treatment, muscle tissue from the arm was used as an effective treatment for incontinence. And, since the tissues are biocompatable with the patient--being the patient's own cells--no problems with rejection that could occur with embryonic stem cell treatments and no need to clone. Also, no tumors. Keep those successes coming in!

Monday, May 29, 2006

My Congressional Testimony About Animal Rights

While I was testifying in person before a Senate subcommmittee last week about assisted suicide, I was also asked to submit written testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, which is considering a bill to toughen the law against animal rights terrorism. The testimony deals primarily with the ideology of animal rights. If you are interested in reading it, you can do so by activating this link.

Animal Rights Terrorism Backfiring in UK

I think this story is less important than it might seem. The Telegraph is reporting that terrorism by animal rights extremists has backfired politically, creating sympathy and support for the proper use of animals in medical testing. That is well and good. But the terrorists won't care. They don't see themselves as battling for popular support, but rather, in preventing "by any means necessary" activities they deem akin to the cruelest torture. If this is their mindset, what do opinion polls have to do with it?

Moreover, I believe that for many extremists, the animal issue is something of a pretext. These misanthropes vehemently want to "tear down." Thus, if it wasn't the animals, it would be the environment, or global warming, or some other such cause. In this sense, they seem similar to the anarchists of the early 20th Century. Thus, it isn't surprising that our contemporary anarchists--such as those that tore up Seattle a few years ago in a WTO protest--are allies of animal liberationist terrorists.

It is good that the use of animals in medical research has widespread support, of course. This will be helpful in giving governments the backbones to pass anti-terrorist legislation and increase efforts at enforcement. But as I wrote last week in the Daily Standard, I believe that the people who are best situated to talk the crazies back from the cliff are their more peaceable co-believers.

Unfortunately, the non terrorists seem to be less than engaged in this effort. Perhaps this story will convince them that they had better try. Because if someone is killed in the name of animal rights, whatever support the movement now has for "protecting the animals" will sink like a crowbar thrown from a bridge.

Human Trials Continue with Adult Stem Cells

This story describes a medical research protocol that will determine whether patients with heart attacks and congestive heart failure can be helped with their own bone marrow stem cells. The difference between stem cell treatments and existing therapies is profound: "The potential new benefit from stem cell therapy is the ability to prevent [heart] muscle loss, whereas other options compensate for muscle loss." In other words, if the stem cell therapy works, the patient will literally be better biologically, whereas the heart drugs for the condition currently in use seek to circumvent and overcome the dysfunction caused by underlying disease.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

My Letter in the Current Weekly Standard

A recent story in the Weekly Standard by Fred Barnes about Governor Matt Blunt stated that he (Blunt) supported the pending Missouri initiative to legalize "stem cell" research. Of course, that isn't accurate. I wrote a letter to the editor about it, which Barnes graciously approved for publication. Here it is:

"Not Always So Blunt

Fred Barnes's profile of Missouri governor Matt Blunt was intriguing, but Barnes makes a common error when he claims that Blunt supports a planned initiative to "allow stem cell research in Missouri" ("Taking a Blunt Approach," May 22). Actually, the initiative Blunt supports would create a right in Missouri's constitution to engage in human cloning for biomedical research (i.e., somatic cell nuclear transfer). SCNT is not a synonym for stem cell research, although proponents of human research cloning like Blunt pretend that it is, for political purposes. To state the matter accurately, Blunt supports creating human embryos asexually for destruction and use in stem cell research, which is why he has gotten in trouble with Missouri's pro-life community."

Eugenic United Kingdom

The bioethics news out of the UK keeps getting worse. Now, according to The Sunday Times, doctors are performing late term abortions because of minor anomalies that could be surgically corrected, such as having club feet. Last year a baby was aborted at the 28th week because imaging showed it had a cleft palate! Apparently doctors are pushing this eugenic agenda. Those who pooh-pooh slippery slopes, take heed. Meanwhile, as noted earlier here, the UK now permits eugenic embryo selection based on a genetic propensity to adult onset cancer.

We will never know who we are selecting out either because of our desire not to be "burdened" by a disabled child or because we somehow don't want the child to suffer. But choosing death over a propensity to suffer would have deprived us of some of the greatest people who ever lived, not to mention some of the most wonderful who never made the history books. Indeed, by such judgments, if the current technology were available at the time, Abraham Lincoln might never have been born because he would have been tall and homely, with a depressive disorder, while Mother Theresa might have been rejected because she would be diminutive.

This striving for hyper control over our progeny is leading toward some very dark places.

Feds Funding Stem Cell Research in the Hundreds of Millions in 2005

I just checked the NIH site to see the funding levels for stem cell research. Here are the actual numbers for fiscal year 2005: Human embryonic, $40 million; non human embryonic, $97 million; Human, non embryonic, $199 million; and, non human, non embryonic, $273 million.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Transhumanism Conference

I just got home from a transhumanism conference ("Human Enhancement Technologies and Human Rights")being held at Stanford through tomorrow (Sunday). Among the items I learned today are: Feminist bioethics supports genetic engineering so that men can be altered to have babies and women can be freed from the tyranny of menstruation; animals should be enhanced to permit them to become equivalent to humans, including the ability to use the Internet--before, that is, all animal life is transformed into non biological states of existence, which apparently the living planet Gaia requires in order to survive; funding anti-aging research is more important than funding treatment for fighting disease in Africa; we probably should permit people who want to be amputees to achieve their desires; and, freedom requires a maximum morphological license to enhance our biological units.

I covered the conference for the Weekly Standard and will be writing about what it all means in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, Will Saletan from Slate is also in attendance, and I have no doubt he will be weighing in with his impressions soon. When he does, I will link it here.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Peter Singer: Grant Right to Life for Animals but not Babies

The world's foremost proponent of infanticide, Peter Singer, argues in the Guardian in favor of granting legal rights to great apes and perhaps other animals. Among the rights these animals should possess, he claims, is the right to life. Yet, the same Peter Singer has written that killing a baby is no more problematic morally than killing a fish since neither are, in his view, "persons." I wonder if Singer would support ape infanticide? He does support ape euthanasia, of course. Just as he does people with Alzheimer's.

Singer also wants to grant a right not to be "tortured." Of course, such a right would only apply against humans. If a pack of chimpanzees attacked another pack, torturing and killing, as sometimes happens--no one would suggest that they be "punished" for the "crime," since no crime would have occurred. If humans did that, it would be immoral and criminal, not only because of the pain caused to the animals but because the act amounts to lower than human action. Similarly, if a lion tore a chimp apart, Singer would not suggest that the lion face trial and imprisonment. This is because neither chimps nor lions are moral beings. (Singer's suggestion that apes resent not having favors returned, and so have a sense of justice, is hardly equivalent.)

Of course, we should punish any human who tortures an animal. That is because we are the only beings in the known universe who can--and should--be held accountable for our actions. But the issue Singer is interested in isn't really preventing torture, properly understood, but rather at interfering with necessary medical research.

Singer claims that great apes are not used in research any more. But chimps were unquestionably needed to create the Hepatitis vaccine. It appears increasingly likely that HIV came from chimpanzees who harbor a very similar virus (SIV) and yet, don't get sick from it. This means there is undoubtedly much to learn from performing humane experiments on these wonderful animals to help us find effective treatments or a vaccine for HIV, as two examples.

I don't believe we should use chimps in research lightly. But in an appropriate case to prevent substantial human harm or promote substantial human benefit, and when there is no other reasonable choice, we need to be free to experiment on these wonderful animals--subject always to proper standards of care.

Time for Animal Rights Leaders To Control the Crazies

I have a piece today in the Daily Standard on the need for "mainstream" animal rights activists to work actively to convince the crazies in their movement to stop the violence and intimidation before somebody gets killed. If that happens, I worry that what little restrain remains among the terrorists would disintegrate, leading to bloodshed. This, in turn would bring about a harsh crackdown by law enforcement, and an utter discrediting of the entire animal rights movement.

Assisted Suicide Advocates Factually Challenged About Senate Hearing

It was brought to my attention that the euphemistically named Compassion and Choices (formerly, the Hemlock Society), has a notice on its WEB site about yesterday's committee hearing that is pure baloney. The note states, "Witnesses called by the majority talked about the Netherlands and did not attempt to denigrate the Oregon experience. Compassion & Choices' witnesses performed like ROCK STARS. Julie McMurchie, Ann Jackson and Kathryn Tucker all presented strong, fact-filled testimony that was not challenged."

Whether they performed like rock stars, one could say, is in the ear of the listener. But the assertion that none of us tried to "denigrate the Oregon experience" or failed to challenge Tucker's, assertions, is plainly not true. Rita Marker's testimony was all about Oregon. And I weighed in also during the question and answer portion of the hearing. I pointed out that the law permits suicidal patients to go "doctor shopping" when their personal physicians refuse to assist their suicides. These patients often end up with a doctor referred by assisted suicide advocates and that some knew their death doctors two weeks or less before dying by lethal overdose. I called this rank "Kevorkianism." I also emphasized that the statistics reported by Oregon are unreliable because the state depends on death doctor self-reporting--without engaging in any independent oversight--a point picked up in this AP story about the hearing.

The moral of the story? When assisted suicide advocates make supposed factual assertions, take it with a grain of salt the size of a granite boulder.

Austin "Futile Care" Hospital Now Doing Right Thing in Vo Case

I just received this note from Jerri Ward, the indefatigable lawyer standing in the breach for potential futile care theory victims and their families: "I have good news concerning Yolang Vo. The hospital [St. David's North Austin Medical Center]has extended the deadline until July 17 in order to stabilize Mrs. Vo for home care. The hospital is actively helping with that process. The pieces are starting to fall into place for home care."

Good for St. David's. I believe that most people in these situations want to do the right thing, but have a profound difference about what that "thing" is. I also believe that casting the light of the sun into these cases helps tremendously in convincing hospital administration not to impose medical futility. Nonetheless, credit should be given when credit is due. As Ward also told me, "When hospitals do something good, I think it should be noted."

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Written Testimony From Today's Committee Hearing

The Senate hearing went well today. Senator Sam Brownback is a true gentleman, who treated both sides of the debate with dignity, courtesy, and respect. For those who are interested, here is my written testimony, primarily about the Netherlands and how it is relevant to the debate here in the USA. I deviated from this approach in my oral presentation in reaction to the pro assisted suicide testimony. Also very worth reading are the presentations by Rita Marker and Diane Coleman. You can also read the pro-assisted suicide advocates at this URL.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Testifying in DC

I will be testifying before a United States Senate subcommittee on Thursday about the federal role in the assisted suicide debate. My focus will be on the vertical cliff off of which the Netherlands has fallen since it began permitting euthansia. Also testifying will be Rita Marker, head of the International Task Force on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide, and Diane Coleman, founder of Not Dead Yet. Kathryn Tucker, the lawyer for the Hemlock Society, now named "Compassion and Choices," will testify for assisted suicide. No doubt, she will stress state's rights, ignoring the profound irony that she once tried unsuccessfully to obliterate the right of any state to prevent assisted suicide by having the Supreme Court declare an assisted suicide Roe v Wade.

When the Committee puts the testimony on-line, I will add a link. Wish me luck!

Futile Care Cases Sprouting in Texas

I am now convinced that the opening salvo for pushing medical futility to the forefront, which I have been predicting for several years was on its way, has begun. This note was sent to me from Elizabeth Graham of Texas Right to Life, which I reprint here with her permission. Remember, this is just her take, and we don't yet know all of the facts. But I know Elizabeth and she is not given to exaggeration. I have asked Elizabeth why the doctor thinks treatment for the patient is inappropriate and I will post her answer when I receive it.

"We have two new cases this week: one is a pediatric case in Dallas, and the other is in Houston. The Houston family is not ready to go public yet, or I would be shouting for assistance from the rooftops...I was invited to participate in the futility review process at the Houston facility, and it was disgusting and appalling. The attending physician stated that the patient was definitely NOT brain dead, simply brain damaged from a stroke. The patient is NOT experiencing organ failure, meaning her lungs, heart, kidneys, liver,...everything is working. The patient has a trach collar, but she breathes on her own, and she processes food and hydration appropriately. She is free from infection. During the meeting, I pointed out that the withdrawal of food and water would effectively starve the patient to death, and the doctors dismissed me as if I did not understand medical science. I am not sure what exactly is scientific about starvation, but the patient's mother agreed and was bewildered at the discussion of withdrawal of treatment including food and water. Oh yes, did I mention that the patient has NO insurance? The medical folks involved in these cases adamantly avow that financial considerations never enter into the futility decisions; however, I have yet to hear from the family of any patients with good, adequate health insurance.

Our Dallas attorney is working on the pediatric case, and the family was granted some additional days because the facility did not follow proper statutory procedure. This patient has only Medicaid."

One correction: The patient would dehydrate to death, not starve, if tube sustenance were stopped. Talk about a distinction with no meaningful difference! And yes. In the end, futile care theory is about money.

Potential PVS Treatment? It's Ambien

The drug that may have awakened patients diagnosed with PVS is the sleep aid Ambien. The American Journal of Bioethics Blog gives more details, although I must say, they don't seem too pleased at the potential.

Holy Cow! Patients in PVS Awakened by Sleeping Pill

If actually true, this story, published by the usually reliable Guardian, is amazing: Three patients who were unconscious for years in diagnosed persistent vegetative states (PVS), awakened after being given a certain sleeping medication. They interacted with their environment. And then, after four hours, became unconscious again. The story says permanently unconscious, but I doubt that word applies any more.

This definitely needs to be researched and after proper vetting, put into appropriate clinical trials. It also illustrates that we really don't know what is going on inside the minds of people diagnosed as permanently unconscious. Moreover, if this is real--and it sure appears that it is--it should give us great pause before pulling the tube feeding of people diagnosed as PVS. The doctors involved also claimed that the drug could have wider application, hoping that "the drug could have uses in all kinds of brain damage, including Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's."

Monday, May 22, 2006

Doctors Emotionally Scarred by Participating in PAS

A few studies have looked into the emotional toll on doctors who participate in euthanasia and assisted suicide. This peer reviewed article makes it clear that mercy killing not only hurts the killed, but often the doctors who participate in the killing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Kansas Boy Was Dead

The controversy surrounding the declaration of the death of 14-year-old Michael J. Todd by neuorological criteria is over. The family obtained a second opinion and learned, to their sorrow, that their boy was indeed dead. The allegations of insensitive remarks made by a doctor have been denied by the hospital. In any event, these can be very difficult issues and the obtaining of the second opinion was the right way to go.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Animal Liberationists to Hold Terrorist Training Camp

This is getting so huge: The Telegraph is reporting that animal rights extremists are going to hold a terrorist training camp to export their terror campaign throughout Europe. Included will be lethal means of fighting for "self defense."

The time has long since past for those in the movement who disagree with violence to speak loudly and clearly. This means PETA, which has influence, Gary Francione, who does not support violence, Peter Singer, who seems to have been somewhat ambivalent in the past, and others. Speak now. Speak unequivocally. The crazies might listen to you. They sure won't listen to anybody else.

The Disability Rights Movement Is Fighting Futile Care Theory

As readers of Secondhand Smoke and my other writing know, I am trying to raise public awareness of futile care theory (medical futility), which I see as a profound threat to patient autonomy and the concept of equal moral worth among all human beings. The disability right movement "gets it" and perceives, accurately in my view, that their members are prime targets for unilateral refusal of wanted life-sustaining treatment. Here is an article against futility from a disability rights perspective.

Saletan on Brave New Britain

As I blogged a few days ago, the Brits are increasingly permitting embryo selection based on explicitly eugenic criteria. The deep-thinking journalist Will Saletan is on the case in Slate.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Mike Wallace Doesn't Connect the Dots, Either

Mike Wallace is a big euthanasia supporter and a fan of Jack Kevorkian. Yet, he admits in an upcoming interview upon his retirement from 60 Minutes, that he suffers depression and once attempted suicide. According to the advance PR blurb published in the Drudge Report, Wallace says that the years since that time 20 years ago "have been the best in my life."

Of course, I am glad that Wallace didn't succeed in killing himself. But given his brush with death that he is glad to have survived, Wallace's support for assisted suicide is puzzling. After all, studies show that very ill people who receive suicide prevention often change their minds about suicide, including dying patients. Moreover, some who undergo hospice care state that their time of dying is the best of their lives. Why would Wallace be glad he didn't kill himself but still support suicide faciliation for others? Another case of not connecting the dots.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Kansas Boy Declared "Brain Dead:" Be Cautious Before Reaching Conclusions

The tragic case of a teenage boy catastrophically injured in a shooting accident is all over the WEB. Apparently the boy was wounded in the neck and later declared dead by "neurological criteria," with the University of Kansas Hospital insisting on removing life support and taking the "body" out of the ICU. The family believes their son is still alive and has obtained a restraining order to continue treatment.

The common term for death by neurological criteria is "brain dead," an unfortunate phrase because it implies that every cell in the brain must be dead when it actually means that the entire brain and every constituent part has permanently and irreversibly ceased to function as a brain.

Let us not get into whether such people are really and truly dead for now. If the hospital in this case accurately determined death by neurological criteria, the life support should be removed after giving the family a decent time to say goodbye. However, if the diagnosis was improperly made, we have a completely different issue.

I have some behind the scenes information on this that I won't publicize. Part of the problem may be the way the family was treated by one particular person on the medical team. If anything, situations like this require sensitivity, compassion, and empathy. Curt conduct, denigration of faith, etc., lead to the very kind of controversy you see here because it destroys trust.

I will be following this case closely. My betting is that the judge will order an independent examination that follows all of the necessary protocols for declaring death by neurological criteria. I hope so. It will bring clarity and if the poor boy is dead, the family has a right to know from what they consider a trustworthy source. Once that necessary first step in resolving this terribly tragic episode is completed, then we can make informed decisions about where things should go from there.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Clueless Oregon Should Connect the Dots

This is so ironic I would laugh out loud, were it not so tragic. Oregon is upset that it has a high rate of elder suicide. Yet, amid the wringing hands, no one seems to get that the state itself, by legalizing physician-assisted suicide--sends an insidious message that suicide is fine and dandy in some cases. Despairing people, particularly with health issues, get that point and may think, if it's okay for the cancer patient, why not also for me?

The first step in reducing suicide is prevention efforts in all cases. But don't expect Oregon to get that simple point.

Psychologist Takes Suicidal Person to Switzerland for Assisted Suicide

A Canadian psychologist has been reported for unprofessional conduct for taking a friend to Switzerland for an assisted suicide. The friend was not a patient. Full disclosure: I know about this case because the complaining party asked me to write an opinion letter about the goals of the assisted suicide movement and the participation by a mental health professional--either as a doctor or a "friend"--in someone's suicide.

I will post the contents of some of that letter once this matter has been heard. But for now, let me say that a shrink taking a suicidal person, whether or not a patient, to a Kevorkian-like setting is the epitome of abandonment and unprofessionalism.

Note that the suicidal person was not dying and that the reporter calls the trip a "mission of mercy," demonstrating the typical bias of most journalists on this issue.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mice in Research Could Lead to Alzheimer's Treatment

I post stories like this from time to time in order to remind readers that, contrary to the hysterical, repeated assertions of animal liberationists, using animals is an essential part of medical research. This story demonstrates why. In order to do the research on genes that affect aminio acids and the potential of gene modification to treat Alzheimer's detailed in this story, scientists need to work with living organisms that have a brain. Using stem cell or other cell lines would not do the trick. Nor would computer models. At this basic research stage, to use human subjects would be dangerous and an abuse of human rights. That leaves animals.

Those who are seeking to prevent such uses of animals have to be willing to admit that humans will be adverely impacted. Some have the integrity to do so. But many do not and even go so far as to pretend that using animals in medical research hurts humankind. In any event, remember this story the next time you read of animal liberationists decrying the proper and humane use of animals in scientific and medical research.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Brits Consider Ways to Combat Animal Rights Extremism

One way might be to permit animal using companies to hide the names of shareholders. This is seen as potentially necessary because of tertiary targeting and threats, assaults, vandalism, and lawlessness aimed at people merely for being part owners of companies that use animals and companies that do business with companies that use animals.

Heartening Photos From "Not Dead Yet, UK" Demonstration

The Joffe Bill to legalize assisted suicide in the UK is dead, at least for now. Many people in the UK worked long and hard for this day--which not too many months ago seemed as if it might not come. In no small measure, the victory comes because disability rights activists there have, as here, decided to vigorously engage the issue in opposition.

Jane Campbell, one of the UK's leading disability rights proponents and founder of Not Dead Yet,UK, sent me these wonderful photographs of the launch of NDY,UK. With her permission, I share them with readers of Secondhand Smoke. (A simple registration may be required.)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Updated FORCED EXIT Now Available

The third version of Forced Exit: Euthanasia, Assisted Suicide, and the New Duty To Die is now out and available. In addition to changing the subtitle, I have 11 pages on the Terri Schiavo case, discuss the pro euthanasia movie Million Dollar Baby, and update the field through last Spring. (The release date was delayed almost 6 months by the publisher moving from San Francisco to New York City.) The book is also now somewhat more concise.

I look forward to the day when Forced Exit can be retired because the issue of euthanasia ceases to be a concern. But that time is not even close. Thus, I am very pleased that Forced Exit continues to be available. My appreciation and thanks to Encounter Books.

Joffe Assisted Suicide Bill Blocked

Great news from the UK: The House of Lords has decided by a 48 vote margin to delay considering the Joffe assisted suicide legalization bill for at least 6 months. In essence, this kills the bill, at least for now.

Now, if we can stop the California legalization bill (AB 651), it will be a clean sweep for the year. Of course, the euthanasia advocates will be back next year and the political dance will begin again.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Animal Rights Grave Robbers Jailed

The four, who have been convicted of terrorizing the owners of a guinea pig raising farm and stealing the body of a beloved family relative to coerce the farm to shut down, are getting 12 years. Good. That's the least they deserve for putting the farm family and their neighbors through years of living hell.

But what really got me was their ages. I assumed these vegan thugs would be in their late teens or early twenties. But they are all in their mid to late thirties. One would hope by that age critical thinking would set in, rejecting the idea the ability to feel pain is what confers moral value, or at the very least, the wisdom of age would reject the idea that fervently held utopian beliefs entitled them to engage in vigilantism.

I am growing convinced that many of the more violent adherents to animal rights just want an excuse to tear things down--and the use of animals by humans provides the pretext. In this sense, they are akin to the anarchists of the early 20th Century. It isn't that they really care about "the animals." They are just filled with rage and loathing.

Hwang Indicted in South Korea

It's about time.

Opposition Continues to Mount to UK Assisted Suicide

Now hospices are beginning to weigh in. Good for them. We need this kind of spirited advocacy against medicalized killing in this country from hospice professionals.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Brave New Britain

The UK is going to permit embryos to be screened for a genetic propensity to cancer in adulthood. This is to be highly condemned as discriminatory and an attack on universal human equality. First it was the disabled who bore the brunt of such Brave New Worldism. Now, those who might not live a full lifespan are to be denied the chance to live at all. The utilitarian direction of the UK is of extreme concern and unworthy of a great nation.

ESCR Gift to UCSF is Just What The President Had in Mind

A private benefactor has donated $16 million to UCSF to conduct embryonic stem cell research free of the ethical restrictions attached to federal funding. Some will say that this is in defiance of President Bush. In fact, the opposite is true. At the time Bush announced his policy, the controversy over federal funding concerned whether the public should fund the destruction of leftover IVF embryos for use in research. Pre-existing federal law prohibited such funding, and Bush merely issued an order consistent with this policy--while permitting ESCR on pre-existing cell lines.

Of course, the former assertion by biotechnologists that all they wanted were leftover IVF embryos that were due to be thrown out anyway is no longer operable. The National Academy of Sciences has okayed the making of embryos--both through cloning and fertilization--for use and destruction in research. If that is where the money donated to UCSF is going to be used, shame on them. In any event, there isn't going to be any federal money available for such unethical research for a very long time.

Women as So Many Egg Farms

One of the reasons that many pro-choice feminists oppose all human cloning is the potential for women to be exploited for their eggs. This seems to already be transpiring: "an international market in human eggs exists which treats women like battery hens" is being highlighted by the splendid news clearing house Bioedge.

According to the report, destitute Eastern European women are selling their eggs for $300 per procurement, risking terrible side effects that can include death or sterility. And this is only for IVF uses. Imagine the egg market if cloning takes off, which would require millions of eggs.

No wonder pro-life and pro-choice feminists are opposing the use of human eggs in biotechnological research. Check out this new coalition group that intends to prevent women from being dehumanized as so many egg farms: Hands Off Our Ovaries.

Here's the original story in the Observer (UK).

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Animal Liberationists Threaten Shareholders

In the latest example of tertiary targeting, animal liberationist radicals are threatening the shareholders of a company that does business with Huntingdon Life Sciences. The threat here is to sell the shares of the "offending" company or else the terrorists will publish the names of existing shareholders for targeting by extremists. The intent is to drive the shares of the company down in order to induce it to quit doing business with Huntingdon. Such is the state of the animal liberation movement that you will here nary a word by fellow travelers condemning this strongly implied threat of harm.

"1st May 2006

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are a group set up to hold Huntingdon Life Sciences (HLS) accountable for it's acts of animal cruelty.

Holding HLS accountable means holding GlaxoSmithKline to it's promise not to use HLS ever again following the TV documentary 'Countryside Undercover' showing workers punching beagle puppies.

The only way to hold GlaxoSmithKline to it's PROMISE is to target it's financial vulnerability. We are therefore giving you this opportunity to sell your shares in GlaxoSmithKline.

Over the next two weeks every shareholder of GlaxoSmithKline will be receiving this letter. If you have any doubts over the effectiveness of this action then keep a close eye on the GSK share price and watch it plummet.

This was a tactic used against HLS shareholders which saw its share price nose dive from the LSE and NYSE. To this day they are still unable to trade on the stock market. [See here, for the story on the intimidation of the New York Stock Exchange.]

The second time this tactic was used was against Montpellier PLC, a building contractor employed to build an animal testing laboratory for Oxford University. Their share price plummeted, a leading director resigned and within weeks they had withdrawn their services, leaving the site of the proposed laboratory for 18 months with no building work being carried out on it.

Should you choose not to sell your shares with in the next 14 days your details will be publicised and within weeks a website will be hosted with all remaining shareholders listed.

To avoid this please email confirming you have sold, within the next 14 days. We will be checking that you have done this.

The choice is yours"

Disability Rights Opposition to Assisted Suicide Now International

The growing opposition to legalizing assisted suicide among disability rights groups has gone international. This opinion piece by Jane Campbell, Ph.D. is important. Campbell is a very politically connected disabled woman in the UK, who served her country as a disability rights commissioner from 2000-2006. She is forming NOT DEAD YET, UK to resist euthanasia and other policies that threaten the lives of disabled people. Here is the WEB site for "Living With Dignity" that includes the NDY,UK information.

I couldn't be more pleased. As I have repeatedly noted, the most important element preventing assisted suicide from spreading beyond Oregon has been the disability rights community. United Kingdom activists have been slower off the mark, partly because they tend to be on the political Left and have perceived--erroneously in my view--opposition to assisted suicide to be particularly religious-based and conservative. That viewpoint has evolved to the point where I believe the robust alliance that has developed here across usually divisive political and social issue spectrums may be repeated on the other side of the Pond.

Now, on to Australia and other nations threatened by the death agenda.

Monday, May 08, 2006

My Sense is Joffe Bill in Trouble

I have traveled to the UK several times at the request of anti-euthanasia campaigners to help in their battle to oppose legalizing assisted suicide. The Joffe Bill may or may not get out of the House of Lords, and I could be wrong, but my sense is that the legislation is in deep trouble. There appears to be good resistance to the bill, with the disability rights leaders coming forward more strongly to oppose than in the past. More than 70,000 petition signatures have been turned in, and many in the medical community seem to have concluded, correctly, that their participation in causing patients' deaths would be bad medicine and even worse public policy. This is the latest news in that regard.

Cancer Patient Glad He Didn't Commit Assisted Suicide

Stories like this receive way too little attention. A cancer patient in the UK seriously considered assisted suicide, but is now very glad he didn't do the deed and opposes the Joffe Bill that would legalize Oregon-style assisted suicide. I know of several stories like this, including my last hospice patient Bob (I was a volunteer), who died of ALS and who wanted to go to Kevorkian but ended up so grateful that he didn't. (With his permission, I have told Bob's story in several articles and in my books.)

Good for the BBC in publicizing this man's opinion.

Andrea Clark has Died: Family Issues Statement

The family of Andrea Clark has announced that she died peacefully, surrounded by her loved ones:

"Andrea passed away peacefully a little before 3pm today, with her family and her friends at her bedside. We love her so very much and we are going to miss her terribly. We hope that the battle that we fought for our sister will bring to light and bear witness to the horrible acts committed in the name of ethics in hospitals across the state of Texas.

The fact that we had to fight this battle is both frightening and a sad commentary on the so-called 'ethics' now being practiced in medical facilities in this state. The battle for life is a difficult one, in the best of situations, but when a family is put through what we had to go through at such a time, it is especially agonizing.

We wish so much that we could have spent more time at our sister's side, when she was living and fighting for her life, rather than having to visit our attorney's office, give interviews to radio and television stations to let the public know of the atrocity about to befall Andrea, and literally stand outside the hospital and beg them not to kill our sister. In attempting to deprive Andrea of the most basic of her human rights--life--St. Luke's Hospital managed to deprive her family and her of that which is most dear to us all, when we are faced with the death of a loved one: a proper goodbye.

How, in the name of God, anyone can call putting someone to death when they are at their most helpless and begging for their lives 'ethical,' we cannot imagine."

Some people might say that since Clark died, the initial decision to unilaterally refuse wanted life sustaining treatment by St. Luke's made sense. But the opposite is true. The family's statement is bitter. But imagine the depth of bitterness, anguish, and uncertainty that would have been generated had Clark died because of being forced off life support.

My sympathies to the family and gratitude for fighting for the intrinsic equal moral worth of Andrea Clark's life.

Animals to be Litigants in Texas Court?

I have been warning for years now that the animal rights movement is seeking to create moral and legal equality between humans and animals. One tactic is to have courts permit animals to become litigants in court, with animal liberationists as their guardians ad litem. In other words, the animal would be treated the same as an incompetent person or a child for purposes of the legal proceeding.

I mention this in my speeches and people laugh. I understand why: It seems ludicrous. People just do not get how serious and committed liberationists are to the cause of human/animal equality. And they underestimate the willingness of the intellectual class to dismantle venerable principles and moral values.

The audience laughter is way of saying: "Oh, that is just too dumb. It will never happen." But people should not be so sanguine. A chimp was permitted to get an injunction in his own name in Brazil. Spain is pondering giving primates the rights of persons. New Zealand already has signed on to much of the Great Ape Project, which advocates that great apes be granted what are today called human rights.

People need to be aware that the old rules and moral standards that they take for granted--which are all based in the principle of human exceptionalism--are under intense and sustained ideological assault on several fronts, one of which is animal rights/liberation. The time has come for the laughter to stop and the defense of the unique importance of merely being human to begin.

Potential case in point: This story out of Texas seems to be reporting that animal liberationists are attempting to have primates named as litigants in a lawsuit over the suitability of a primate sanctuary. If so, it must not be permitted. Animals are not persons and should not be allowed to bring lawsuits in their own names. If the sanctuary is not up to par, that is for humans to hash out as a manner of protecting animal welfare.

I will keep an eye on this and try to find out the exact nature of the proposed litigation.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Bush: Science Should Serve Humanity and Not the Other Way Around

This seems an interesting speech by President Bush on the promises and perils of science. Among the President's thoughts:

"Science offers the prospect of eventual cures for terrible diseases--and temptations to manipulate life and violate human dignity."

"With the Internet, you can communicate instantly with someone halfway across the world--and isolate yourself from your family and your neighbors."

"My advice: Harness the promise of technology without becoming slaves to technology. My advice is that science serves the cause of humanity and not the other way around."

I have always thought that the rap on Bush as "anti Science" was bum, particularly since most of the issues which have caused his critics to level that charge are not really science controversies, but rather, moral and ethical arguments. (I know, I know: global warming. But whatever the merits or demerits of the criticism about his stance on Kyoto, that issue is not part of what we discuss here at Secondhand Smoke.) In any event, it looks to me as if Bush has put more thought into some of these issues than many of his critics.

UCSF to Try Human Cloning

A few years ago UCSF tried to clone human life and failed. This story indicates that they are going to give it another try.

One of the reasons I posted the link is that the misleading headline aside (eggs are not cloned, cloning creates embryos), the reportage by Chronicle science writer Carl Hall actually gets the science right, e.g., human SCNT creates cloned human embryos.

This is now admitted in CA, since a constitutional right to clone has become part of the state constitution. But during the campaign over Proposition 71, proponents sued the opposition when it claimed that the measure would create a constitutional right to do human cloning and fund the experiments. That lawsuit was thrown out of court.

Similarly, today in Missouri, proponents of that state's cloning legalization initiative claim that SCNT isn't cloning and that no embryo is created. (What is it, chopped liver?) Such disingenuous advocacy is parroted by the biased media, which also uses the term "early stem cells" in place of "embryonic stem cells" as propounded by the pro-cloning forces.

But this story admits that cloning creates a human embryo. Now, if we can only get the Kansas City Star to read it and report accurately from now on. As if!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Ode to Representative Mary Pilcher Cook

Mary Pilcher Cook is a Kansas State Representative who is about as indomitable and dedicated a legislator as I have ever met. She is honest, committed, and moral. One of her primary causes is to outlaw all human cloning in the great state of Kansas, an issue that has made her a lot of political enemies.

This commentary about her is, it seems to me, grudgingly complimentary. In part it slams Cook, as anti-choice, anti-science, and the usual rubbish aimed at opponents of cloning. But it is actually an homage to her character and integrity.

Still, the author, Loren Stanton, somehow omits telling her readers exactly what it is that Cook seeks to outlaw. Readers are told: "Last year she sponsored legislation that would have made it illegal to conduct certain kinds of stem cell research in the state." Why not be specific? Perhaps because if Stanton told the whole story, most of her readers would agree with Cook.

Consider the whole picture: Cook merely wants Kansas to follow the recommended public policy from the UN General Assembly, and that adopted in recent years by such progressive countries as Canada, Norway, France, and Germany.

I have worked with Mary for several years on issues of mutual concern. I have never ceased to be impressed by her energy and can-do attitude. She is the kind of legislator about whom all Americans can be proud. You read it here first: Mary Pilcher Cook is an up and comer about whom much will be heard in the years to come.

People wanting to contribute to Pilcher Cook's tough political campaign for re-election should hit this link.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Senators Specter and Santorum Move to Fund "Alternative Methods" Stem Cell Research

Now this is interesting: Two senators, both from Pennsylvania and on opposite sides of the therapeutic cloning debate, have co-sponsored legislation to fund research into ways to obtain pluripotent stem cells without creating and destroying embryos. Research pursuing my friend Bill Hurlbut's idea of altered nuclear transfer (ANT) would undoubtedly be one of the methods that would be funded. There are other ideas, too, all worthy of a good look to see if we can heal the ethical rift that divides us about human biotechnology.

Hopefully, a trend has started in this regard. First, unanimous agreement was achieved to fund a federal umbilical cord blood stem cell bank. And now, perhaps, the Feds will pay for research into "alternative methods," as they are sometimes called. I wish the PA Senators success in their new joint venture.

National Civil Rights Group Opposes Assisted Suicide

The National League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)has voted to opposes assisted suicide and California's AB 651 that would legalize Oregon-style medicalized killing.

Here is the gist of the press release from LULAC announcing its position:

"According to Angel G. Luévano, state director of California LULAC, the reasons for opposing doctor-assisted suicide go beyond moral and religious objections. 'Latinos are the least likely to have medical insurance,' says Luévano. 'Many will say, 'I don't have the money and don't want to be a financial burden to my family.' Latinos will be the most likely to be steered into this option.'...

'The Latino community doesn't want assisted suicide. The disability community does not want assisted suicide. The poor and uninsured do not want assisted suicide. The majority of us are Democrats and we want our representatives to focus on issues like health care, education, and immigration rights - not assisted suicide,' says Luévano."

LULAC's position reflects the beliefs of California's Latinos, according to a recent poll. A recent survey of California Latinos, conducted in February, 2006 by the Democratic polling firm, Fairbanks, Maslin & Associate, found that 64 percent of Latinos oppose doctor-assisted suicide.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Right to "Self Preservation"

A Court of Appeals has ruled that terminally ill people have the right to access experimental drug treatments that might save their lives. Ruling that dying patients have a basic "right of self-preservation," the court held that experimental drugs that have passed the first phase of FDA review -- which determines whether a product is safe -- should be made available to a dying patient if the drug might save their life.

This is interesting. Supporters of futile care theory claim that dying patients don't necessarily have the right to non experimental life-sustaining treatment if the bioethicists or doctors determine that their quality of life is not worth living. Much of this is based on money and on an ideologically belief in at least an implied duty to die when a patient reaches a certain level of impairment. Yet the fundamental premise underlying the court's ruling--a right to self preservation--would seem to point the law in the exact opposite direction.

I believe strongly that the time has come to stomp on futile care theory in legislation and the courts. This case (ignoring for the moment the important issue of whether this is an example of judicial overreach) shows where the benefits of the doubt should lie.

Behind the Spin: US NOT Falling Behind in ESCR

I have blogged on this before, but Eric Cohen has published a full article debunking the notion that the USA is falling behind in ES stem cell research due to President Bush's funding restrictions. Cohen notes that "more than 85 percent of all the published embryonic-stem-cell research in the world...used the lines approved for funding under the Bush policy." Not only that, but as I blogged previously, the USA was number 1 in the number of papers published in the world (42%)

Interestingly, Germany was number 2 with 10% of all published papers. Cohen doesn't get into this, but Germany's public policy regarding ESCR is more restrictive--some would say protective--than that of the USA. In Germany, it is against the law to destroy embryos for their stem cells (or other research purposes). German scientists are allowed to import ES cell lines if created before January 1, 2002. This is the Bush approach (no public funding of ESCR for lines derived after 8/9/01) squared, since it actually outlaws private parties from destroying embryos--which is completely legal here.

The bottom line, is that Germany and the USA provide more than half of all ESCR published papers. Falling behind my left, er, nostril.

Cohen notes that the paper supposedly demonstrating that the USA is falling behind--and which Cohen proves shows we actually dominate the field--was promoted by its authors and in the compliant media in a fallacious manner. I am not surprised. The public campaign to promote ESCR and cloning is the most dishonest and disingenuous public policy effort that I have ever witnessed in my nearly 20 years as a public policy activist. And the shameful part is that it is being conducted in the name of protecting science, which is corroded when scientists claim that spin and subjective advocacy is actually objective science.

Good for Cohen for taking the time to break down the numbers to give an accurate picture--not that most media are interested in accurate pictures.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Suicide Senator

Dianne Feinstein has endorsed AB 651, which would legalize physician-assisted suicide. Reading her letter is a case study in spin and ignorance--exactly what we see from Senator Feinstein in the cloning issue--as I describe fully in Consumer's Guide to a Brave New World.

And now, she pushes for California to give its seal of approval to some suicides. Here, in part, is what she wrote:

"When terminally-ill patients are considering their-end-of-life options, they want to discuss them with their family, friends and their physicians--people they trust--and government should not stand in the way."

Government doesn't stand in the way now. People can talk about "options" all they want. But doctors cannot intentionally help kill their patients. That is not the same thing at all. Indeed, if someone is suicidal, they should discuss it with their doctor so interventions can help ease the suicidal desire. Moreover, with assisted suicide, people may go to doctors whom they have never met before in order to get lethal prescriptions when their own doctors say no--as they often do now in Oregon. That is pure Kevorkianism.

"Recently, in Oregon v. Gonzales, the Supreme Court established that State legislatures have the prerogative to enact laws on certain end-of-life issues,"--by which she means assisted suicide. Hogwash, as I have written at length. Indeed, the Court ruled that the Feds could outlaw the use of controlled substances for use in assisted suicide.

Then Feinstein mouths the usual platitudes about death with dignity and safeguards to protect against abuse, the usual propaganda. I keep thinking I like Senator Feinstein. I just can't figure out why.

Andrea Clark: The Bigger Picture

This piece of wisdom was sent to me by Steven Drake, one of the movers and shakers in the disability rights movement. I agree with his point about the Andrea Clark "victory" wholeheartedly:

"This [my previous post] is definitely a cause for celebration, but I think that is much too optimistic. Too many people will walk away from this, thinking somehow this 'proves' that the system "works.

Meanwhile, the law is still in effect, Yenlang Vo's [another futile care case]life is threatened in Austin and we really have no idea how many patients and families are being pressured--families not quite so vocal, knowledgable or determined. The ones that die quietly.

It's the *statute* that needs to die. Until it does, any victory is a fleeting one."

Stephen Drake
Research Analyst
Not Dead Yet

St Luke's To Do the Right Thing

I have just heard from Jerri Ward: St. Luke's has agreed to continue to provide Andrea Clark life sustaining treatment under the auspices of the new doctor. Here is her letter:

"I want to let you know that St. Luke's is doing the right thing in this case now. The physician team met with the new attending and it went well. The team is on board and the medical futility procedure has been stopped. For the time being, Andrea will continue to receive life-sustaining and appropriate treatment at St. Luke's.

St. Luke's, and the involved physicians, are to be commended for reconsidering and deciding to continue Andrea's care."

Hat's off to Jerri and Andrea's family for their indomitable defense of the intrinsic worthiness of the life of Andrea Clark. And to those people who cared enough to let the world know that futile care theory is not going to be swallowed without a fight.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Senator Talent Againt Missouri Cloning Initiative

The Missouri initiative to legalize human cloning (phonily called stem cell research), is being opposed by MO Senator James Talent. He should not only oppose it, but use his megaphone as a senator to educate people as to why it should be opposed. That would also help in his reelection campaign where he alienated many of his core supporters by taking his name off of the Brownback federal human cloning ban.

Suicide Classes

See the truth of the euthanasia movement: Despite talk of "medical models," this is the true face of much of the grass roots euthanasia movement. More how to commit suicide classes. Philip Nitschke, who will be a faculty member, supports suicide for troubled teens. And many a dead teenager has been found to have committed suicide with the aid of Derek Humphry's book Final Exit.