Recently in Bio-ethics Category

Unfit for Life

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I was pregnant last year and came under severe pressure from every medical professional I saw about my decision to have no tests. Even when I pointed out that they were talking to a disabled person about the possibility of eliminating her child if it was disabled, they could not see how offensive it was.

The summer issue of The New Atlantis is online. As always, very good stuff.

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Never forget Terri Schiavo

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The CDF weighs in, confirming - as common sense also tells us - that starving even the very sick and dying is immoral.

It is stated, first of all, that the provision of water and food, even by artificial means, is in principle an ordinary and proportionate means of preserving life for patients in a "vegetative state": "It is therefore obligatory, to the extent to which, and for as long as, it is shown to accomplish its proper finality, which is the hydration and nourishment of the patient."

It is made clear, secondly, that this ordinary means of sustaining life is to be provided also to those in a "permanent vegetative state," since these are persons with their fundamental human dignity.

When stating that the administration of food and water is morally obligatory in principle, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith does not exclude the possibility that, in very remote places or in situations of extreme poverty, the artificial provision of food and water may be physically impossible, and then "ad impossibilia nemo tenetur."

However, the obligation to offer the minimal treatments that are available remains in place, as well as that of obtaining, if possible, the means necessary for an adequate support of life. Nor is the possibility excluded that, due to emerging complications, a patient may be unable to assimilate food and liquids, so that their provision becomes altogether useless. Finally, the possibility is not absolutely excluded that, in some rare cases, artificial nourishment and hydration may be excessively burdensome for the patient or may cause significant physical discomfort, for example resulting from complications in the use of the means employed.

These exceptional cases, however, take nothing away from the general ethical criterion, according to which the provision of water and food, even by artificial means, always represents a natural means for preserving life, and is not a therapeutic treatment. Its use should therefore be considered ordinary and proportionate, even when the "vegetative state" is prolonged.

As of this posting, Bishop Lynch's apology has not yet been posted on the diocesan website.

P.S. Anybody else creeped out by the faceless people in the banner image on that St. Petersburg diocese webpage?

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2 on bio-ethics

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  1. Will Saletan, Slate's tortured conscience on life issues, has an interesting column on the current state of liberal/progressive bio-ethics.
  2. Bobby Shindler, brother of the late Terri, had an op-ed in an upstate New York paper on recent cases of PVS patients regaining consciousness and questions the media's handling of the ins and outs.

Hat-tip for both links to Wesley Smith.

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Eugenics Today

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Logos, a journal I'm not familiar with, came under my radar recently with two articles on modern day eugeics.

  • Kurt Jacobsen looks at the history of eugenics in America and exposes it in its modern guise. One of his themes is that scientists and physicians tend to favor eugenic policies much more than layfolk. That comes as no surprise, but did you know that as recently as 1982 a survey found that half of physicians questioned approved of "sterilization for the feeble minded and for criminals"?
  • Beth Burrows reviews two books related to eugenics' most common modern form - killing the "unfit" in the womb. The first gives us the perspective of the mothers - it's a collection of stories written by women who carried their babies to term despite pressure to abort:
    These are women who opted to keep their babies and to welcome them, no matter how potentially strange, unfamiliar, or short-lived. In some accounts, the dire predictions of others turned out to be true; in others, they did not. Whatever the political axe one might suspect was being ground by the selector of the stories, each mother clearly finds joy and meaning in her newborn's life. These are not people seeking approval or wallowing in victimhood. As Teresa Streckfuss insists in the third chapter, “...(D)on’t pity us for carrying a child we know will die...Grieve for the fact that our baby will die. We wouldn’t wish away the time we had with Benedict,. . .just to save us the pain of losing (him). . . Someone asked us after Benedict died, ‘Was it worth it?’ Oh yes! For the chance to hold him, and see him, and love him before letting him go. For the chance for our children to see that we would never stop loving them, regardless of their imperfections? For the chance to give him everything we could? Oh yes!”

    The second book reviewed gives us the perspective of those whom the eugenicists would eliminate - a lawyer severely disabled since birth reflects on the joys she's experienced because she was allowed to live.

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Ramesh Ponnuru on stem cells

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Fighting a noble fight with the Center for American Progress.

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The Embryo

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Last month, the Pontifical Academy for Life issued a document summarizing the proceedings of the international congress on "The Human Embryo in the Pre-Implantation Phase." For those of you interested on just what the Church teaches about the human embryo, personhood and implantation, the document can be found here, courtesy of Zenit. It is a brief, by no means comprehensive summary of the first stages of the embryo after fertilization and of the ethical consequences.

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Pope Benedict on the Human Embryos

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Zenit has the official Vatican translation of the Holy Father's Address to Pontifical Academy of Life. The Academy's meeting topic was "The Human Embryo in the Preimplantation Phase."

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Healthcare Conscience Protection

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Talk of the Nation hosted a discussion yesterday on the problem of healthcare workers refusing to provide procedures or drugs that violate on moral grounds.

The good guy in the debate, Dr. David Stevens, generally holds his position well against a double-team opposition. His arguments are worth listening to.

One point on which I disagree with him, however, is that I think hospitals and pharmacies have the right to hire people who will carry out the full range of services they wish to provide, just like a Catholic hospital has the right to hire only those who would follow Catholic moral guidelines in delivering health care. When this question came up, he got defensive and took and tried to make it an issue of "choice." Aside from that point, he did a fine job.

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You think it's messy now?

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Things will only get worse. From Mark Steyn:

Take human cloning. It's all but certain that within a decade it will be available and affordable. Not in Trois-Rivières, nor even in Seoul, where the first cloned dog made his debut a few weeks back, but surely in some jurisdiction somewhere or other. Will there be clients anxious to take advantage of it? Undoubtedly. Not just billionaire kooks, but also the likes of Barrie and Tony, a couple from Chelmsford in southern England. They'd been trying for a baby for some time, but nothing seemed to work. Then it occurred to them this might be because they're both men. So in 1999 they bought four eggs from one woman, co-mingled their sperm in a beaker and shipped it to a second woman in the United States who for two-hundred grand managed to find a rare nine-month vacancy in her fallopian timeshare. The resulting twins were born in California and, in a landmark court decision, Barrie and Tony became the first couple to both be named as father on the birth certificate, though neither mother rated a credit. Nor the turkey baster.

That would seem to be in defiance of what we used quaintly to call "the facts of life." But who cares about biology? As Hester Lessard, the eminently eminent law professor at the University of Victoria, has argued, "biological" concepts of parenthood are "an increasingly fictional creation narrative" that "legitimates a heterosexual view of the family." And we wouldn't want that, would we? Which is why earlier this year the Province of Ontario passed Bill 171 abolishing the words "husband," "wife," "widow," "widower," "man" and "woman" from its laws--and not just the words but the very concept of gender.

More:

Meanwhile, the ever more elderly Japanese and Europeans and Canadians will go on--and on and on, like the joke about the gnarled old rustic and the axe he's had for 70 years: he's replaced the blade seven times and the handle four times, but it's still the same old trusty axe. We will have achieved man's victory over death, not in the sense our ancestors meant it--the assurance of eternal life in the unseen world--but in the here and now. Which is what it's all about, isn't it? An eternal present tense.

Think I'm kidding? Compare the suspicion and denigration of genetically modified foods to what's mostly either enthusiasm for or indifference to genetically modified people. Mess with our vegetables, we'll burn down your factory. Mess with us, and we pass you our credit card. And by the time we wonder whether it was all such a smart idea it'll be the clones who have the Platinum Visa cards.


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Recipe for Depression

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Listen to a "bioethics" debate where the morality of genetic engineering is not questioned until 30 minutes into a 35 minute segment.

This reminds me of a story about two priests I know who went to a "bioethics" lecture. The speaker went on and on about how great genetic engineering would be; "Who wouldn't want a 'designer baby?" she asked the audience.

Well, priest #1 (who for anonymity's sake I will call Father Angel Force) half-spoke/half-shouted out loud to his priest-friend seated three seats away, "Why doesn't anybody want to just do it anymore? I'd think that would be fun!"

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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries in the Bio-ethics category.

Abortion is the previous category.

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