Monday, October 5, 2009

Wesley J. Smith Is Here to Protect Your Endangered Organs.

Is the government killing you, Granny? Death panels rushing you into that good night? Government-enforced euthanasia in your near future?

And lest you think death is their only objective, hide your guts. They want your organs too!

While it sounds like a plot hatched in New Jersey, the ubiquitous Wesley J. Smith has a new mystery article up at CNSNews (that no link will link to) telling us of new organ-harvesting plans - for the living! He summarizes and quotes at his blog, Secondhand Smoke:

Here they come. For years, organ transplant ethicists and some in the bioethics community have agitated to increase the supply of donated organs. There is nothing wrong with that in the abstract, of course. Increasing the supply would alleviate much human suffering and is devoutly to be wished. But therein lurks a great danger. Increasing supply is a worthy goal only so long as the organs are obtained ethically. But there is a growing chorus among the medical and bioethical intelligentsia to obtain more organs by harvesting living patients. Yes, some of our most influential voices now seek a license to kill for organs.They don’t put it that bluntly, of course. Rather—reflecting the spirit of our times—advocates argue that our definition of death should be changed to allow a great pretense that living patients are actually dead, thus permitting organ procurement.

Abstract organ harvesting? And what exactly is the spirit of our times? Sounds like fear-mongering to me. What leads Smith to think that taking organs from the disabled and infirm is nigh?

We are not—yet—at the point that society will permit open harvesting and experimentation on cognitively devastated people, but that doesn’t mean we won’t get there. The slippery slope undermining human exceptionalism—the intrinsic value of human life simply and merely because it is human—is already slip-sliding away. Popular majorities support using nascent human life as corn crops in embryonic stem cell research, if the embryos were “leftovers” and going to be thrown out anyway.

But scientists have already moved beyond that early limitation. Many are now actively researching human cloning toward the end of manufacturing embryos for use and destruction in research. And it won’t stop there if current trends continue. We already see early advocacy for “fetal farming,” that is, gestating fetuses for use in organ transplantation and medical experimentation.

So, Smith is saying, because we legalized aborting fetuses and because we use embryos for experimentation we are very, very close to extracting organs from living human beings because, you know, "current trends continue."

In other words, abortion and stem cell research are like the "gateway drug" marijuana. One good toke and we're on to sucking kidneys out of quadriplegics. That's basically the "slippery slope" argument in an analogy.

To be serious, Smith's got little logic going on here - at least as far as I can tell from the bit of the article still accessible. The "slippery slope" argument - that we erode the "sanctity of human life" by allowing women or the elderly or the disabled choice in their medical care - is not based in fact or law but fear.

When Christiaan Barnard successfully completed the first heart transplant in 1967, giving Louis Washkansky of Cape Town a healthy heart, taken from Denise Darvall who was rendered brain dead in a car accident, he was roundly accused of "playing God." The advancement of medical technology has always caused fear and dire predictions of our lost moral compass.

I expect Smith is either working to drum up some fear for his own "pro-life" purposes. In his spurious logic, heart transplants and other medical developments did lead to abortion (1973) and predicted the rise of the "euthanasia" movement. And yet we know - and as a society approve of - such medical advancements as heart transplants, stem cell research and abortion because they improve our quality of life, preserve personal choice and rights, increase our longevity, and contribute to our success as a society.

I think what Smith is concerned about is a society moving away from traditional and religious valuations of quality of life - and suffering - that he feels should be legally mandated. Striking fear in the disabled and infirm for the safety of their organs is really not the best way to approach an argument for medical ethics. Facts, rational argument, and application of law would work better. But it is the way of cultural conservatives bent on imposing their values on the rest of society.

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UN Human Rights Council Passes Compromise Resolution on Freedom of Expression.

I quote the article from Religion Clause in full:

CNS News reports that on Friday the United Nations Human Rights Council unanimously adopted a compromise resolution on freedom of opinion and expression that had been proposed by the United States and Egypt. (Full text of draft as of Sept. 25.) The resolution omits the controversial term "defamation of religion," which the Organization of the Islamic Conference had pushed through in resolutions adopted in previous years. (See prior posting.) Instead it included a paragraph that each side has chosen to interpret differently. In the relevant language in the resolution, the Council:

Reaffirms ... the right of everyone to hold opinions without interference, as well as the right to freedom of expression, including ... the intrinsically linked rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion....

Also expresses its concern that incidents of racial and religious intolerance, discrimination and related violence, as well as of negative stereotyping of religions and racial groups continue to rise around the world, and condemns, in this context, any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urges States to take effective measures, consistent with their international human rights obligations, to address and combat such incidents;
CNS News reports on the varying interpretations of and reactions to the compromise language:
Speaking on behalf of the European Union, French representative Jean-Baptiste Mattei said the language about stereotyping referred to the stereotyping of individuals, not religions, ideologies or abstract values. Human rights laws do not and should not protect belief systems, he said, stressing that the E.U. continued to reject the concept of defamation of religion.

But Pakistan’s Zamir Akram, speaking for the OIC, used the terms "negative stereotyping" and "defamation of religions" interchangeably, and said the phenomenon affected not only individuals but also religions and belief systems.

Article 19, a free speech organization, called the vote on the resolution a breakthrough, given the tensions that have marked discussions on the issue at the U.N.’s human rights bodies. Executive director Agnes Callamard noted in particular the omission of the term "defamation of religion," although she said "religious stereotyping" was a vague concept that suggested that religions and religious ideas and symbols, rather than religious adherents, may be protected by international human rights law.

The Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, a leading opponent of the religious "defamation" push, said the resolution passed Friday was a step in the right direction but still contained problematic language. "This resolution will be seen as a victory if it is the death knell for the concept of 'defamation of religions,'" said advocacy officer L. Bennett Graham. "But if it continues to provide international cover for overbroad anti-blasphemy laws around the world, it will only exacerbate the problem."
Some however had a less sanguine view of the compromise language, such as this article from The Weekly Standard, and this somewhat less strident but still negative reaction from Eugene Volokh.

Labels:'s Public Square Looks at Religion and Education.

Public Square, a new feature launched today at, looks at religion and education from the perspective of 7 faiths. Twice monthly new topics will be introduced and discussed.

From the press release posted at Religion Press Release Services:

"Can religion be taught from a secular perspective? Does college culture kill faith? These are some of the questions we're contemplating this month in the Patheos Public Square."

The Public Square on religion and education includes topics from faith perspectives including:

"It's no coincidence that Patheos has convened this dialogue on religion and education online," Brunnick said. "Translating the religious experience into an increasingly Internet-dominated world is one of the key challenges facing many faiths."

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Schindler Condemns Activist Judges and Killer Courts at Notre Dame.

Bobby Schindler, brother of Terri Schiavo and co-founder with his parents and sibling of the Terri Schindler Schiavo Foundation, spoke at Notre Dame today. Since his sister's death Schindler has become a full-time speaker against "euthanasia." Today's talk was titled, "Schiavo: Activist Courts and Judicial Murder." From North Country Gazette:

Bobby has been a passionate and outspoken pro-life advocate, specifically in opposition to the euthanasia movement, activist judges and pro-death lawyers and doctors. He believes that laws that set the groundwork for his sister’s death were motivated by the expense of caring for the disabled and elderly. Bobby is also a staunch supporter of the pro-life movement’s battle to end abortion.

I'm not certain why the courts would be financially swayed regarding their decisions on assisted suicide. Perhaps I can ask him?

I will be attending the Pennsylvania Pro-Life Federation's event in Scranton on Saturday, October 24th should you wish to join me. It is titled, "Lighting the Way for Life in the Electric City." Schindler, along with Phill Kline, former AG of Kansas, Emily Chase, "abstinence expert," and Dr. David Prentice, a stem cell research expert with the Family Research Council will be speaking. Let me know if you're going and we can carpool.

via the ever-dramatic and fact-stretching LifeSiteNews

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Euthanizing Animals is Humane, Euthanizing Humans is Not?

I have a google alert on the term euthanasia which means that every time something is posted on the internet which mentions euthanasia, I get an email with a link to the story. More often than not, the alert leads me to a story about animal euthanasia, the killing of a pet or of stray animals at shelters because they are unloved, unwanted, or dying.

I've learned over the past half year that if the alert is directing me to an article about human euthanasia, the article is typically either about the international assisted suicide movement or by "pro-life" activists opposed to assisted suicide (called aid in dying or death with dignity by advocates).

Often opponents to death with dignity use the euthanasia term to hark images from the Holocaust or of animal shelters: systematic use of killing to eradicate the innocent. Yet the same argument is frequently used in other countries to decry the inhumane nature of preventing terminal patients from hastening their deaths.

From the Copenhagen Post Online today comes a story about Kaj Goldbech, a 53 year old terminal patient who traveled to Switzerland to end his life and whose death was the subject of a TV show in Denmark. The article credits the show for reopening the assisted suicide debate in Denmark.

Goldbech is quoted in the article as saying, "If I treated my animals like we treat humans and just let them suffer, I’d be found guilty of animal abuse and neglect and wouldn’t able to own animals anymore."

He calls the euthanasia of terminal animals humane, and the continuing illegality of euthanasia for humans (in Denmark) as lacking compassion. The same argument is made in the US for opposition to euthanasia or assisted suicide. We reserve hastening death for animals, humans are not animals and "every day is a gift from God," the argument goes.

One analogy - euthanasia is for animals - indicated by a loaded term - euthanasia - works two ways in the world's grappling with the issue of assisted suicide.

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2009 "Pro-Life" Memorial Day.

Today, the first day of the US Supreme Court's fall session, has been marked by the American Life League as 2009 "Pro-Life" Memorial Day (quotes are mine). Anti-choice activists will stand on the steps of the Supreme Court and outside women's clinics around the country to protest the 1973 Roe v Wade court decision that, according to their numbers, has caused "America's hidden Holocaust," the "death" of 51 million "preborn" children.

Tacked to the end of an announcement on is the statement:

Participants are also praying that healthcare reform does not include funding abortion, or result in euthanasia of the disabled and elderly.

The tacking shows the "pro-life" movement's embrace of euthanasia as a growing concern. Abortion will always be the primary cause of anti-choice activists. Limiting choice for seniors and the terminally ill at the end of life, however, continues to garner the resources of the anti-choice machine. As with abortion, their terms of use (euthanasia harks the Holocaust), and opposition to health care reform's enforcement of personal choice, show an agenda not based in fact but fear.

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