Wednesday, July 18, 2007
Since then, Mosher has become president of the Population Research Institute, a pro-life educational organization "dedicated to protecting and defending human life, ending human rights abuses committed in the name of family planning, and dispelling the myth of overpopulation." PRI has documented the thousands of forced late-term abortions and millions of coerced sterilizations in China, with important implications for targeted population control measures in other developing countries.
According to Mosher, "Population control encourages domestic tyranny of a very personal and deadly sort." This is what happens when alarmist views of overpopulation are somehow translated into public policies that view people as pestilence. Rather than focus on the root issues of poverty through education and economic development, coercive population control measures seek to cure the "disease" by killing the patient.
Human Life Review Article
Thursday, July 05, 2007
At this stage of my medical education, I have begun to look at some practical ethics case studies. There are a few beacons, or waypoints, that I use to help guide me in making decisions. Consider the following.
1. Faith - As a Christian, my faith plays a vital role in moral living. This worldview based on Biblical principles and mandates serves as an anchor or foundation upon which to make ethical determinations. At the heart of Scripture is the concept of loving God and loving others. Thus, the Bible establishes immutable, transcendent, and absolute principles that serve as the ultimate authority in my moral and ethical dealings.
2. Reason - Reason is at the heart of all philosophical thought. However, reason alone (i.e. not tempered by a foundation based on principles - see point 1) is a slippery slope leading to consequences that we may not perceive or be willing to accept. But in my moral deliberations, I should not only be able to provide supporting arguments from faith, but should also be able to communicate arguments from reason that can be accepted more universally.
3. Precedent – A good argument can often be made from analogy, and history can help to clarify ethical dilemmas. Finding correlations with other related situations may shed light on the current problem.
4. Instinct - At least in the negative sense, this is sometimes called the "yuk factor," - another way of describing our gut reaction. Though decisions cannot be made solely on feeling, our gut reaction can give insight as we look other well-founded arguments.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
I enjoyed the movie, but it also bothered me a bit. At the very end, I found myself wondering, "Is that it?" Is money the secret of 'happyness?' The film seemed to be saying that material wealth is the goal we should all strive for.
Aristotle taught that moral virtue was the real secret of happiness, and the most important thing to aim for in life. It is also an unlimited good - in other words, you can never have it in excess. Contrast this with Aristotle's view of wealth, as a means to a more noble end, but never an end in itself.
For more, see Mortimer Adler: Aristotle for Everybody
Tuesday, June 19, 2007
Constrained by conditions of his parole, he can speak publicly about laws to allow doctors to assist in suicide, but he cannot counsel individuals. “You see, I’m still in prison,” he said. “I’m on a tether. I’m on a virtual tether. If you don’t behave, you go back to prison.”
It is interesting to note that the former pathologist has received some sympathy for his views. As a tribute to the public ambiguity about assisted suicide, the original Michigan jury that convicted him could not agree on a capital murder charge.
Think of it -- this was not a case of suicide, for it was Kevorkian who actually injected the lethal medicine that took the life of this particular patient, with the video cameras rolling. And what could be more premeditated than such an act, planned many days in advance, with calls to the press and TV stations?
Yet the jury could not agree on capital murder (murder in the first degree), which could have resulted in a life sentence. Instead, in defiance of logic, they convicted him of second-degree murder, as though this was a spontaneous act of passion.
So Dr. Death is free on parole, with his time shortened for "good" behavior.
New York Times Article
Monday, May 14, 2007
Now there is a simple blood test, recommended for all pregnancies, that reduces the risk for moms, but may dramatically increase the number of genetic disorders diagnosed prenatally. If past history is any guide, this means that 90% of women whio are told their baby has Down Syndrome will choose to have an abortion (reference).
What will be the results of such selection? Well, for one thing, fewer babies with diabilities - and this has many parents who advocate for them rather worried:
A dwindling Down Syndrome population, which now stands at about 350,000, could mean less institutional support and reduced funds for medical research. It could also mean a lonelier world for those who remain (NY Times).Parent advocates are worried that doctors don't know how to handle the genetic information they now so easily obtain with two blood tests and a sonogram. Many physicians agree -- the best way to share a genetic diagnosis is not: "Your baby is going to be mentally retarded, you should have a pregnancy termination."
This does not mean that the future will be easy for parents who decide to carry their diabled child. But parents of the disabled see the new form of testing as one more step towards a society that doesn't welcome any imperfections. Commentator George F. Will called it a "search and destroy mission" for the handicapped (Will has a grown son, Jon, with Down Syndrome). In complaining about the new recommendations, he adds:
What did Jon Will and the more than 350,000 American citizens like him do to tick off the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists? It seems to want to help eliminate from America almost all of a category of citizens, a category that includes Jon (Newsweek).Imagine a society where every one of us is genetically perfect, where none of us must strive for the small, daily steps of success that mark our physical, emotiojnal, and mental growth. I, for one, would not want to live there.
New York Times Article
Tuesday, April 24, 2007
On April 19th, the U.S. Supreme Court reached a landmark decision. In a 5-4 decision, the Court upheld the 2003 Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as constitutional. There is much to rejoice about, yet much remains to be done.
The Court has struck a balance between a woman's right to choose to terminate her pregnancy and the "legitimate and substantial" federal interest to preserve fetal life. This balance was at the heart of the Planned Parenthood v. Casey decision of 1992.
Last week's decision is narrowly crafted to line up with Casey, and in no way signals an overturning of Roe v. Wade (1973). On the other hand, it signals a willingness on the part of the Court to consider federal restrictions on abortion for purely moral reasons. The fact that one option for terminating a pregnancy is no longer available does not significantly interfere with women's rights.
Both sides of the issue agree that this recent ruling will encourage states to craft more restrictions on abortion.
For more analysis, read the commentary by Wesley J. Smith.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Partial-birth abortion (as we have discussed in an earlier post), has been called by one author "constitutionally sanctioned homicide." Praise the Lord it is no longer sanctioned by law, nor by our courts!
This exciting news is an answer to prayer.
Boston Globe Article
Sunday, April 15, 2007
Though I won't repeat Imus' remarks here, it is clear why they generated so much reaction. Anytime a person is negatively labeled because of gender or race, this affronts our shared human dignity. And we should be especially careful here, for this has not always been such an obvious evil. It took the civil rights and women's rights movements to raise our awareness, and the work is not yet finished.
Do we as a culture have other blind spots? I think we do. There is another assault on human dignity at work in our midst, only this one based on geography. A whole class of persons has only provisional rights, all because of where they live. Furthermore, the cost of this affrontery is far greater than the indignities suffered by the Rutgers women. For this group, being second-class citizens threatens their very lives.
I am, of course, referring to the unborn. Why are we so quick to recognize prejudice when we hear it in the voice of a cynical sportscaster, but ignore the taking of life through abortion? In fact, we don't even notice, let alone become outraged.
CNN News Story
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
But here's a sober bit of perspective. "Biotech" has become such a holy grail, attracting a lot of speculative investment money, without much possibility of a tangible return. Consider all of the excitement over human embryonic stem cell research, much of it driven by wishful thinking, and not necessarily a lot of good science (other blog articles on stem cell research).
Finally there comes a voice of reason. Joe Cortright is an economist and corporate VP who calls biotechnology an "idea virus." Cortright questions the mentality of going after investment money based on ideas alone, and rightly points out that biotech won't necessarily generate a lot of new jobs or create new products.
I'm reminded of the hype for "genetic engineering" in the 1990s. There were many start-up companies, and a wave of enthusiasm for these ideas. How many products resulted from the billions of dollars invested, that are actually helping people or treating disease today? Almost none. Oh, and by the way, hardly any of those companies exist anymore. The investors made a slight profit on hype alone, and got out.
The modern enthusiasm for stem cell research is leading to distortions of scientific accuracy in the public media, with the public blindly approving the use of state monies for some very questionable future gains. It's a sophisticated form of snake-oil hucksterism, where the real losers will be you and me, along with any rational understanding of human dignity.
(Article on Joe Cortright)
Sunday, March 25, 2007
I promise to return to my usual commentary next week!
Pearls Before Swine Web Site
Monday, March 19, 2007
I think you're strong, smart, thoughtful, and caring. I believe in you and your ability to make the best decision. I think you did the right thing.Another version:
There are no words to express my sympathy for your loss. As you grieve, remember that you are loved. I am thinking of you.Which version should you send? I guess it depends on however the woman undergoing the abortion regards her actions. It does seem paradoxical to affirm abortion in one card, and yet see it as a great loss in another.
The Web site claims to be "non-judgmental." Links are provided to Planned Parenthood and the National Abortion Federation. I found no direct links to religious or pro-life resources.
Exhale Web site
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Except that sometimes the doctors are wrong.
In a teaching hospital in Florence, Italy, a woman had an abortion 22 weeks into her pregnancy. She chose this course after two separate ultrasound exams failed to detect the stomach, which the physicians interpreted as evidence for esophageal atresia. After the abortion, the baby was born alive, and doctors realized that he was perfectly normal. Weighting just 500 grams, the baby is now fighting for life in a pediatric intensive care unit. Due to a brain hemorrhage from the attempted abortion, the child is not expected to survive.
Dr. Joe DeCook, a pro-life colleague of mine, put it this way:
Doctors should be really careful when they assume God-like wisdom, and intrude into the realm of suggesting preemptive death as a treatment.
Granted, the hospital claims that their doctors advised the woman to seek further diagnostic tests, and she chose additional input from a private clinic. Yet the physicians should have told her two things:
- An ultrasound test can sometimes be misleading (as it was in this case)
- Even if present, a malformed esophgus can be surgically repaired, with a high likelihood of a normal life afterward.
Given the circumstances, the Vatican newspaper said that the child's life had been "thrown away."
Daily Telegraph article
Sunday, March 04, 2007
Admittedly, there were some subtle errors in Dr. Verfaillie's study that caused her to be more modest in her conclusions. Yet her basic premise, that adult stem cells (ASCs) can generate all three of the basic germ layers (from which all other body cells are derived), is still completely supported by other studies. Michael Fumento, writing in the American Spectator, put it this way:
Pointing to flaws in Verfaillie's work to say that ASCs cannot develop into all three germ layers is like declaring that new revelations on the Wright Brothers' methodology call into question whether planes actually fly or that flaws in Thomas Edison's work indicate light bulbs may not light.Dr. Verfaillie's research led to many other studies that duplicated and extended her work. Here's the actual score:
Adult Stem cells: 1300 clinical trials (over 70 approved treatments)In recent weeks, we also have seen the underreported story that human amniotic fluid may produce "embryonic-like" stem cells that can become all of the tissues of adult organs (see my commentary on this). It seems that the hype and hysteria to destroy embryos for purely speculative gains is overriding common sense.
Embryonic Stem Cells: 0 (that's right, zero: still being tested in animals)
American Spectator article
Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Tuesday, February 06, 2007
[W]hen I take a stance on something, all I can talk to you about is how I feel about it and why. And I don't have to justify it . . . And you want to go and get lots of facts and not go from your heart. I go from my heart.There you have it - a candid admission from the political Left: "My position is based on a feeling." Facts are unimportant, and we can determine our own reality. This subtle denial of any absolute standard of truth is at the heart of the way some people in our society justify their ethical ideas. There's no right or wrong - just opinions.
Story from "The O'Reilly Factor"
Tuesday, January 23, 2007
In 1783 the slave trade dominated the world’s economy and was deeply entrenched in a morally oblivious society. No one suspected that one of the most influential lobbying powers in Britain was about to be overthrown by a twenty-five-year-old divinity student. As part of an academic literary competition, Thomas Clarkson wrote an essay on the slave trade. As he studied slavery, he became consumed with the horror of it: "In the night I had little rest. I sometimes never closed my eye-lids for grief." On his way to London, this struggle reached a climax: "I sat down disconsolate on the turf by the roadside and held my horse. Here a thought came into my mind, that if the contents of the Essay were true it was time some person should see these calamities to their end."
With that resolution, Clarkson and a small group of friends started a movement that changed the world. By distributing pamphlets, signing petitions, and lobbying Parliament, they awoke a nation’s conscience. In 1807 the slave trade was abolished.
Today we live in a society where 1 out of 4 pregnancies (excluding miscarriages) end in abortion, resulting in more American deaths each year than in all past military conflicts combined. Cedarville Students for Life is an organization committed to "seeing these calamities to their end." Join us on Thursday, February 1st @ 7:00 in ENS 245 to hear Mrs. Paula Westwood, director of Right to Life of Greater Cincinnati. She will be speaking on student activism.
If you wish to join Students for Life, or would like more information, the E-mail address is: firstname.lastname@example.org
Wednesday, January 17, 2007
Stem cells are the "starter" cells that may become various mature cells of the body. Such cells from early embryos are often called "pluripotent" cells, because each one can grow into a variety of adult tissues. Perhaps some day such cells could be used to cure a variety of human illnesses, but harvesting the cells is a real problem, since it requires the destruction of embryos, a violation of the sanctity of human life.
Now comes news that stem cells nearly as powerful as embryonic ones can be found in amniotic fluid. This is the liquid cushion that surrounds babies in the womb. Dr. Atala and his colleagues have used them to make muscle, bone, fat, blood vessels, nerves, and liver cells in the laboratory. Claims Dr. Atala: "I feel these cells are pluripotent like human embryonic stem cells."
If this research works out, and Dr. Atala cautions that any clinical applications lie several years in the future, it will make the destruction of human embryos unnecessary. Imagine, men and women of good faith, both liberals and conservatives, could agree to work together on this one, since this type of stem cell research is ethically completely acceptable.
Will this news make a difference in the divisive debate in Congress? Don’t hold your breath. Already, the House of Representatives has voted to overturn President Bush’s ban on public funding of destructive embryo research, with the Senate due to take up the measure soon.
Reuters News Report
Saturday, January 06, 2007
Dr. Collins is the head of the National Human Genome Research Institute, and directs the Human Genome Project, the $3 billion project to define the DNA sequence of human beings. The first 'rough draft' was completed in June, 2000, with the essentially complete sequence revealed in April, 2003.
A geneticist and physician, but also an evangelical Christian, Dr. Collins uses these various perspectives to harmonize science and faith in his best-selling book, The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief (Free Press). He refers to the genetic code as "God's Instruction Book," and attests to the creativity and beauty inherent in this most basic blueprint of our biological nature.
After sharing his personal journey into faith, Collins makes a compelling case for his committment to theistic evolution. He criticizes Young-Earth Creationism (YEC) for "ignoring" clear scientific evidence for evolution, and takes Intelligent Design to task for not being "scientific enough."
Now I do not agree with Francis Collins here. I think he is much too hard on YEC, and too dismissive of Intelligent Design. It seems reasonable that our Creator would allow us to see the evidence of His handiwork in the creation around us.
Yet I appreciate Collins' love of God, and his willingness to see that human beings are more than their genes:
[The] DNA sequence alone . . . will never explain certain special human attributes, such as the knowledge of the Moral Law and the universal search for God (p. 140).This common knowledge of God's Moral Law is why we have such broad agreement on ethical basics across many cultures and worldviews. And the yearning after God can never be ascribed to natural selection and the survival of the fittest.
So read The Language of God with thoughtful care. Despite my disagreements with his evolutionary viewpoint, Francis Collins demonstrates that science and faith are not incompatible. I would be glad to have coffee with him and talk about the things of the Lord. Maybe sometime he'll even give me a ride on his motorcycle.
Tuesday, January 02, 2007
The beginning of 2006 saw the public discrediting of Hwang Woo-suk, the stem-cell researcher and media darling. In 2005 he became famous as the first to clone a human embryo to produce stem cells, with their supposed promise of curing a variety of human ailments. When it turned out that Hwang had largely fabricated his results, he was fired, and he now faces a variety of criminal charges.
Yet according to Fortune Magazine, "far from discrediting the field of stem-cell research, the scandal has juiced up the race for cloning patents . . ." In California, and most recently in Missouri, stem cell research has received legal protections and large infusions of public money. Much of the excitement about embryo-destructive research is based on hype and misinformation.
In other news from 2006, the recent approval of over-the-counter sales of Plan B, the so-called "morning-after pill," ignores the real possibility that this so-called pregnancy preventative may sometimes cause an early abortion. See my earlier post on this. I have also discussed both of the above stories in recent editions of the CedarEthics Podcast.
Finally, November 8th saw oral arguments before the U.S. Supreme Court in two cases involving the federal ban on partial-birth abortion. Three lower courts have decided that the law does not pass constitutional muster. Partial-birth abortion, morally indistinguishable from outright infanticide, will be the most important issue of the new year, with a court decision due next summer (news article).
In the past year, a vague notion of human dignity was often trumped by utilitarian considerations, making it easy to sacrifice less visible human lives for the "greater good." May God help us in 2007 to reverse this trend.