Wednesday, August 31, 2005
Nigel Cameron, who also has a bio-ethics blog on the Christianity Today site called Life Matters, cites breakthroughs in stem cell research to create embryonic-like stem cells that would be pluripotent, but could be reproduced from ordinary cells. There is an ethical catch though.
The current fight is about whether to use federal dollars to fund experiments using "spare" embryos from in vitro clinics. There is no federal law preventing researchers from using these embryos with private funding. The president has promised to veto a bill that would overturn his compromise and force taxpayers to fund using human embryos for medical research despite their belief it is a grave wrong. The bill narrowly passed in the House and awaits Senate action. But even if it passes the Senate, the votes to override a presidential veto aren't there.
That's one reason there is so much interest in "alternative" ways of getting embryonic-type or "pluripotent" stem cells (cells that can become any type of tissue in the body) -- ways that don't involve destroying embryos.
The president's Council on Bioethics recently suggested several options. One would use cells from embryos that have died naturally. Another would focus on a procedure fusing an adult cell, such as a skin cell, with an egg cell after reprogramming the genes of one or both cells. The result would be "embryonic-type stem cells" produced without an embryo -- no embryos would be created, and none destroyed. These stem cells could generate new cell lines for research, without raising the emotive moral issue of destroying tiny human embryos.
This method, and others being tested, would give scientists exactly the kind of stem cells they prize the most -- cells whose genetic make-up they can control -- and undermine the claim we "must have" so-called "therapeutic" cloning.
While we don't know these options will work, there are promising indications they will. These methods should be explored -- in the traditional way science works, using animals models first. The Senate is considering a bill to do just that.
Yury Verlinsky of the Reproductive Genetics Institute claims he has already created embryonic-type stem cells by fusing existing stem cells with ordinary cells and has applied for a patent. Similarly, Kevin Eggan of the Harvard Stem Cell Institute has announced his lab fused a human embryonic stem cell to an adult skin cell, causing the skin cell to begin behaving like a youthful, embryonic stem cell. While this method requires using existing stem cells, which could be taken from the already existing "Bush" lines, other promising methods would not.
The ethical dilemma is this: we can undercut the drive for cloning by using this method. But to establish a line it does require sacrificing an single embryo. This reminds me of Dostoevsky's famous question from The Brothers Karamazov. The tortured intellectual Ivan asks if the happiness of the whole world depended on a life time of suffering of an innocent child, would it be justified? Secular ethicists who ascribe to the utilitarian model would say yes. Politically this compromise would be irresistible.
There is also the proposition of stem cells that died a natural death. Is that realistic? It would probably be a fraction of the limited number already available. I doubt long-term this would be enough for practical purposes.
These options are not guilt-free as Nigel Cameron suggests. My view is that they undercut the argument of the value of life. By agreeing to this devil's bargain to give our opponents a temporary setback, I think we yield a lot more of our ethical high ground than we can afford. In fact, we become accomplices to the Culture of Death.
Matthew Miller was born in West Chester, Pennsylvania on June 30th 1979, corresponding to the Jewish date of the 5th of Tamuz 5740. Shortly after his birth, the Miller family moved to Berkeley, CA and eventually settled in White Plains, NY. Growing up, Matisyahu's parents sent him to Hebrew School a couple of times a week, but like many kids, he resisted the additional school hours and was frequently threatened with expulsion for disrupting the lessons.
By the age of 14, Matthew Miller slid comfortably into the laid-back lifestyle of a teenage hippie. Having fallen in with the "Dead-Head" crowd, he grew dreadlocks and wore his Birkenstocks all winter long. He played his bongos in the lunchroom and learned how to beat-box in the back of class. By 11th grade, despite his carefree days, Matisyahu couldn't ignore the void in his life. After nearly burning down his chemistry class, he knew his mission must begin immediately. He decided to set off on a camping trip in Colorado. Away from his suburban life in White Plains, Matisyahu had the opportunity to take an introspective look at himself and contemplate his environment. It was there in the awe-inspiring landscape of the Rocky Mountain's, that Matisyahu had an eye-opening realization: there is a G-d.
I'm a little ambivalent about reggae. I do love the old school stuff like Bob Marley, Toot's and the Maytals Prerssure Drop, Desmond Dekker's The Israelite, and By the Water's of Babylon. But much of reggae, especially the newer stuff gets tiresome. Blame George Lucas, but more than half of the songs they play on the college station I get on my ride home conjure an auditory and visual image of a skankin Jar-Jar Binks.
When I heard "King without a Crown", it was instant gooseflesh. The accent was so authentic, I just though it was odd the singer was referring to "HaShem" and "Moschiach", instead of Jah, but there is so much borrowing from the Old Testament in Rastafarianism that I just shrugged it off. When the announcer mention "That was by the controversial Hasidic reggae artist Matisyahu.." I literally drove right to the record store to buy it. I can't remember the last time I've been so thrilled to discover a new artist.
After Colorado, his spiritual curiosity piqued and Matisyahu took his first trip to Israel. There, for the first time in his life, he felt a connection to the G-d he discovered in Colorado. Israel was a major turning point. Matisyahu relished the time he spent there, praying, exploring, and dancing in Jerusalem. In every nook he encountered, his dormant Jewish identity stirred into consciousness.
Living in a neighborhood with a small Hasidic congregation, I feel a strong affinity with Orthodox Jews. Matisyahu's music brings this to life for me in a completely different way. The sincere devotion to G-d and longing for the Messiah are so moving I find myself weeping uncontrolably during certain songs, which I don't recommend when you have a long commute. I was not at all surprised to discover that the Chabad-Lubavitch shul he attended after moving to New York was the one that Shlomo Carlebach attended.
A person who was once skeptical of authority and rules, Matisyahu began to explore and eventually fully take on the Lubavitch Hasidic lifestyle. He thrived on the discipline and structure of Judaism, making every attempt to abide by Jewish Law. The Chabad-Lubavitch philosophy proved to be a powerful guide for Matisyahu. It surrounded him with the spiritual dialogue and intellectual challenge he had been seeking for the past decade. The turmoil and frustration of his search subsided, and now, 2 years later, Matisyahu lives in Crown Heights, splitting his time between the stage and his yeshiva.
I have absolutely no vocabulary for musical criticism. Fortunately Matisyahu's record company has posted the entire video of "King without a Crown" on their website. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Tuesday, August 30, 2005
Profit has got to be one of the least concerns when advocating embryonic stem cell research. The fact remains that embryonic stem cells may develop into virtually every type of cell in the human body. That remains to be proven for adult stem cells. The primary motivation behind the push for embryonic stem cell research is that it holds the most potential for a multitude of research avenues.
As far as there being no profit motive, the bio-tech industry would disagree. As this letter from the Biotechnology Industry Organization states, their members are actively lobbying to avoid a therapeutic cloning ban so they can pursue these patentable cures. They are also lobbying to augment their venture capital with government grants. By double dipping they seek to offset the risk of funding their own research and maximizing their return. The bottom line is...well, their bottom line.
Toni does bring up one issue that those opposed to ESCR seldom address. What excites researchers with no ethical qualms about embryonic stem cells is their pluripotency, or ability to change into any type of cell. Adult stem cells are typically multipotent, they can change into several types of related cells. The constantly ignored fact is that despite this potential, ESCR has never been effectively used in a treatment and even in animal research has show several undesirable side effects. Adult stem cells on the other hand have been used in 65 treatment and there is every reason to think that a multipotent stem cell will be found for every therapeutic need. Such discoveries seem to be announced on an almost weekly basis. Also according to Wikipedia, researchers at New York University School of Medicine have found pluripotent stem cells in the bone marrow of mice so the discovery of pluripotent adult human cells is very likely.
Toni also highlights the ethical divide in the debate:
I still don't understand how and/or why people prioritize a blastocyst (read dot) over living, breathing human beings, children and adults, who suffer daily and pray for cures. I'm still looking for someone to explain it convincingly.
For most who opposed ESCR, belief in a Creator and an absolute moral imperative not to mess with His creation are the motivation. Proponents of ESRC simple reject the imperative if not the whole foundation of this belief. But perhaps there is another way to address this. No one can dispute that each embryo is unique and would have a hard time denying the intrinsic value of that uniqueness. Toni herself is no less unique now than when she was an embryo and we can assume that those who love her would object strongly to destroying her when she was "just a dot" if they had known then what they know now about that uniqueness they cherish. Certainly some embryos are destroyed by circumstances that don't involve direct human choice. Whether the agency was random chance, God's will, or cause and effect doesn't justify intentional destruction. Taking away the uniqueness of any being, by destruction or copying is inherently wrong.
I think it's ironic that the "pluripotency" or latent potential that proponents of ESCR find so alluring in stem cells doesn't extend to the human potential of the embryos themselves. In the utilitarian ethical model that justifies abortion, ESCR, euthanasia, etc, the less "developed" or "conscious" the being, the less valuable. Yet in fact, the actual potential of a human life is almost limitless in it's younger stages and can even be described as pluripotent in the sense that the possibilities for that person are myriad. Then as we get older and more "specialized" our potential also becomes more limited. But apparently the proponents of ESCR feel that an embryo is the only one that has no right to it's own potential.
Crossposted at ProLifeBlogs
Monday, August 29, 2005
Bill C-407 would take the ground-breaking and ground-digging legislation of the Netherlands and move it many steps further.
It would allow euthanasia and assisted suicide for people suffering chronic physical and mental pain, regardless of whether they’ve tried any treatment whatsoever.
It would allow the euthanizing of anyone as long as they wish to die and are “assisted by a medical practitioner.”
Alex Schadenberg of the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition calls Bill C-407 one of the worst bills he has ever seen, especially since it provides no protection for vulnerable people. “The whole idea is wrong from the beginning. Assisted suicide is a direct threat to those with chronic disabilities and the elderly.”
Although most of the guidelines in the Dutch and Oregon PAS/Euthanasia legislation have been completely ineffective, this bill dispenses with guidelines altogether and pretty much allows anyone to kill anyone else, provided that someone licensed to practice medicine in Canada is somehow involved. In fact there is nothing in the bill to prevent medical practices devoted solely to euthanasia from springing up. LifeSite has a detailed analysis of the bill and its implications.
If this bill passes, as it most likely will in liberal Canada, it will be open season on the disabled and the elderly. And I guarantee that child euthanasia won't be far behind. This will be a boon to anyone with relatives they consider a burden. All this legislation needs to make it complete is a line item pardoning Robert Latimer, and putting him on the government payroll as a poster boy for C-407.
I'll repeat the words of Judith Snow, a Canadian disability rights activist:
The very worst thing about being a Canadian with disabilities is the death sentence in our culture's eyes, the death sentence that stops every person without the courage from looking past the surface or thinking past the hype. People easily decide that I want to be, soon will be, should be, already am dead. Robert Latimer and his wife were handed an excuse by society that has already decided--helped in large part by the media that feed on the sensational and sentimental. The same media and society write the lines for Svend Robinson and Sue Rodriguez to faithfully parrot on the way to her grave--and beyond into prime time TV.
Save me from one thing and one thing alone. Save me from all those who would have me dead for my own good!
Friday, August 26, 2005
The is more than a bit of spin on this story. It leads off stating the global population will grow for a few more decades, but the real significance is that it confirms previous reports that population growth is rapidly approaching the apex of its trajectory and will soon be declining overall.
Global population growth is ensured for many decades, with most of it in developing countries, a private group said Tuesday.
The rapid growth in developing countries, combined with declining birth rates in some industrialized nations could affect the ability of the wealthy to aid the poor, said a demographer who prepared the group's report.
"The countries of today's developing world are growing almost three times faster than the developed countries," said Carl Haub, a demographer for the Population Reference Bureau, a private research group. "The global population growth today has concentrated in the poorest countries and the poorest areas of those countries.
The reasons for the UN's campaign against the poor of our world start to come into sharper focus.
"Almost 99 percent of population growth today and for the foreseeable future will be in those developing countries," he said. "There has been a complete shift in population growth."
The bureau's study found that in many industrialized countries and in some developing countries such as China and Thailand, average fertility is below the two-child average.
"Because these low fertility levels lead to population decline sooner or later, some reports have sounded alarm about the possibility of a worldwide 'birth dearth,'" the report said.
Along with reports of abortions exceeding births in Russia, as well as their population declining by at least three quarters of a million a year, it soon becomes apparent why the developing countries as represented by the UN are using every means fair and foul to depopulate the Third World.
Oddly enough, these efforts may be unnecessary. Many have pointed out the danger to the West of the high birthrates of the Muslim world compared to their own declining ones. Spengler has been torturing his faithful readers with this recent fascination with demographics, but he has gleaned some interesting insights. He says in his latest column that although Muslim birthrates are the second highest (after sub-Saharan Africa), they are rapidly declining. He attributes this to rising literacy rates (particularly among women) and the influence of the West. He does warn that before this peak, the imbalance between Islam and the West could have disastrous consequences for Europe.
This inverse relationship of literacy to birthrates raises an important question. The UN must be aware of this phenomenon. So why don't they focus their resources on literacy programs instead of abortion and sterilization?
Thursday, August 25, 2005
I've been trying to understand why, despite the overwhelming evidence that adult stem cells are a better practical and ethical solution, ESCR is receiving such heavy support from the media, researchers and politicians. I've considered the affinity to the pro-abortion movement, and the foot-in-the-door to cloning, but this article points to an addition motivation:
Yet another reason has emerged why there is incessant pressure for embryonic stem cell research, despite mounting evidence of its inferiority to adult stem cell research, in testimony before a Senate Committee on July 14, 2004. After discussing the cases of the two paralyzed young women who were now walking after adult stem cell treatment in Portugal, Dr.Jean Peduzzi-Nelson pointed out that an embryonic stem cell product could become patentable and potentially yield enormous profits. But an adult stem cell therapy, in which the patient’s own cells were used, could not produce a patentable procedure or product according to current laws.
Funding for stem cell research is a zero-sum game. What ever goes to ESCR is taken away from adult stem cell research. That the promise of vastly more effective adult stem cell research is being elbowed aside by ESCR so some company can make a profit in the distant future seems criminal to me. And our tax dollars are contributing to this. Let's stop funding this boondoggle and put the money to work on cures that will be available sooner.
Wednesday, August 24, 2005
[T]o sense what separates the administration from the institution, all you need do is read a speech delivered this summer by a relatively unknown US diplomat to a relatively unknown UN meeting, called the Executive Board of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA).
The Executive Board, a collection of interested donor nations, was meeting to assess the Population Fund's sixth multi-year plan to provide reproductive services to the women of China, a land where all such services fall under the provisions of the 2001 National Population and Family Planning Law, the legal descendant of the 1979 One Child Policy.
Kelly Ryan, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the State Department's Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration, knew that she was delivering a decidedly un-UN speech, and felt the need to reassure her audience that the US did not hate the UN, or China, or family planning. She even apologized for the length of her speech.
Then she proceeded to shame China, UNFPA, and UNFPA's donors: "We believe it would be best to let the facts speak for themselves regarding the situation in China. My delegation has reviewed the provincial regulations implementing the birth limitation program in counties where UNFPA is operating." And then she began to read them, one-by-one.
In Anhui Province, "Couples who become pregnant in contravention of the conditions of this regulation must terminate the pregnancy in a timely manner." In Hunan Province, "Pregnancies that do not comply with the legal requirements for childbirth shall be terminated in a timely manner. For pregnancies that are not so terminated, the township People's Government or neighborhood committee shall order terminations within a limited period."
After forced abortion, Ryan moved on to the eugenic aspects of the regulations. In Fujian Province, "Couples who have conditions which would cause serious genetic illnesses in their offspring may not have children. Either the husband or wife must submit to birth control surgery or adopt a method of birth control with long-term effectiveness. In cases where the wife is already pregnant, the couple must terminate the pregnancy in a timely manner." In Hunan Province, "For a pregnant woman whose pre-natal examination shows the fetus to be severely deformed, the pregnancy shall be terminated in a timely manner."
The violation of the marital bond is complete. In Anhui Province, "couples of childbearing age must consciously implement contraceptive measures and accept the guidance of family planning technical service personnel." In almost all of the provinces, couples must receive permission from such personnel before they can give birth – "authorized births" – and are fined many years of family income if they somehow evade the technical service personnel and manage an "unauthorized birth."
Then Ryan asked a number of questions. To the UNFPA officials, Ryan asked, "Why doesn't UNFPA insist that it will not work in a county where couples are not free to determine the timing of childbirth?" "And finally, it is our understanding that abortions are mandatory in most of China for pregnant unwed mothers; how does the UNFPA adolescent reproductive health program deal with this issue?"
And, then, to the nations that fund UNFPA: "We believe that it is entirely appropriate to discuss China's coercive birth limitation program at a UNFPA Board meeting. This is not 'politicizing' the Board. This Board sets policies for UNFPA. This Board directs how UNFPA spends its money . . . If this Board does not stand up for human rights in UNFPA's reproductive health programming, who will?"
But it is not clear that shame works at the United Nations. At this moment, all of the nations on the Board are proudly participating in the creation of a legally binding international document to protect the rights of people with disabilities, even as they wink at the fact that, for the largest population on earth, disabled adults are routinely sterilized, and disabled unborn children are routinely aborted, as a matter of law.
It would appear these kinds of dicussions that concern the fate of millions go on out of the public view on a routine basis. Shame on the UN for collaborating in this insane policy.
Tuesday, August 23, 2005
I've done three posts on the UN's war against the poor (Parts One, Two and Three). I'll still be posting at ProLifeBlogs and crossposting them here, and will continue do the occasional guest post at Discarded Lies as long as my Dutch subjects behave.
Monday, August 22, 2005
A reported breakthrough in stem cell research may lend new weight to the campaign against the use of human embryos in research, one of the most pressing ethical controversies facing governments in the U.S. and elsewhere.
American and British researchers say that they have found, in umbilical cord blood, a new type of cell -- neither embryonic nor "adult" -- which is more versatile than the latter while avoiding the ethical dilemmas surrounding the former.
And in a further development, the scientists have found a way to mass-produce the new cells, sidestepping the problem of limited supply of embryonic cells.
Adult stem cells are already being use to treat 65 ailments, so the discovery of these even more versatile cells further brightens an already promising outlook. So why the continued hype over embryonic stem cells?
This announcement prompted an insight that there seem to be numerous beneficial discoveries like that that would have been overlooked if embryonic stem cell research became the vanguard of this kind of therapeutic research. In fact it argues strongly in favor of why ES research should NOT be funded by our government when more exciting, ethical and absolutely viable alternatives exist that will attract their own funding. A brief but thorough overview can be found here.
Embryonic stem cell research is pursued by those who have rejected the ethical considerations and there is a self-filtering aspect to this. Also by promoting their line of inquiry as being superior to that of the adult and other forms of stem cells, they have effectively painted themselves into a corner and must continue in that line. So why would a researcher stake their career on this all or nothing prospect?
I certainly can't say for sure, but my theory is that there are two explanations. One is the same line of reasoning that drove the Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb, which is "If we don't do it, they will". This motivated the scientists and researchers to override the ethical qualms they had. No doubt if we don't pursue this, researchers in places like South Korean will. But again to what end? Here, as I have mentioned before, is where I think the issue of cloning raises it's ugly head. ES research makes no sense at all unless you have a way to mass produce embryos, and until the announcement above, that was the only way to produce enough stem cell lines to effect a real cure. I think ES research represents not only a utilitarian end run around a number of practical problems at the expense of ethics, but also it is a way of desensitizing us to the specter of cloning research. Even for those of us who don't view this as a spiritual abomination, there are sufficient practical reasons based on the law of unintended consequences for avoiding this disastrous step.
So to return to an earlier point, we see two camps developing in the stem cell debate that may someday extend to the research community at large. One seems open at least to the possibility that near miraculous cures are embedded in a matrix of Creation awaiting discovery by those wise and clever enough to look for them. The other camp believes the only treasures they will find are those of their own creation. I think that scientific history so far has made a good case that the former group will find it's search more fruitful. But it is also likely that the unintended consequences of the research of the latter may bring all history to a foreseeable end.
Friday, August 19, 2005
“The degree of disconnect between the description of the Terri Schiavo case in the media, and the reality of the case is pretty profound,” laments Robert Destro, the lawyer who performed vital pro bono legal work for the family of Terri Schiavo in their final bid to save Terri’s life from the hands of her husband and the courts.
In an interview with Anita Crane of the American Life League Destro reveals many of the disturbing legal anomalies, often stepping into the realm of the patently illegal, that sadly distinguished the Schiavo case.
In particular Destro remains deeply critical of the actions of judge Greer, whose failure to act and whose often illegal handling of the case resulted in Terri’s eventual murder by starvation and dehydration. “You can’t really make up facts of this case—I felt like I was caught in Wonderland or Neverland. Terri never got a fair hearing,” attests Destro. “Florida law expressly requires probate judges to see the incompetent patients whose cases are pending before them, but Greer never went to see Terri.”
Destro paints a portrait of how the full weight of the judiciary was applied to circumventing the law to achieve Terri's execution. A full report from LifeSite is available here. Destro also warns against the underground practice of euthanasia in America.
Destro warns pro-life advocates not to underestimate the extent of the cultural force that they are facing. “The visibility of Terri’s case is the exception, not the rule. Euthanasia is already happening every day. We need to understand that families like the Schindlers exist all over this country and the system isn’t designed to help them to care for their loved ones at home.”
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Single-adult households have displaced two-parent families with children as the most common kind of U.S. household, the Census Bureau reported yesterday.
The change demonstrates "the growing complexity" of American households, researchers said in a new report, "Examining American Household Composition: 1990 and 2000."
"It's breathtaking how many people still think that the 'mom, pop and two kids' is the majority of households," said Peter Francese, the founder of American Demographics magazine.
Nuclear-family households -- two married parents and a child -- were the most common as recently as 1990, when there were 25 million such households.
But by 2000, nuclear-family households fell to second place, both because there were almost a half-million fewer of these type of homes and because the number of single-adult households surged past 27 million.
Married households without children remained the third most common, with 20 million in 1990 and 22 million in 2000.
Mr. Francese, who has studied U.S. demographic trends for 35 years, said single-adult households are continuing to grow and might even hit 34 million by the 2010 census.
I don't think there is really any good way to spin this. Raising kids is just too hard for one parent. I know single parents who have done a terrific job under circumstances they couldn't control. But I think they would agree that two parents are optimal. This is a disheartening report. Our kids deserve better.
Aaron P. Stewart and his 13-year-old son were standing in front of their mosque in Roxbury Sunday afternoon when Stewart saw a man with a gun chase down a young man in the street, shoot him several times, and return minutes later and fire more bullets into his head.
''It was an assassination," Stewart said yesterday in an interview on Shawmut Avenue near the intersection with Williams street, the same place he was standing about 2 p.m. Sunday when Boston's 44th homicide of the year occurred. ''People were stunned."
The shooting took place as a youth instruction program at the Society of Islamic Brotherhood mosque was ending; about 30 men, women, and children were leaving the building. At the sound of gunfire, some of the children ran, crying, into Dayib Cafe, two doors from the mosque, witnesses said.
Police did not release the identity of the victim yesterday and are still hunting for a suspect.
Witnesses described the scene as disturbing.
A worker at Dayib Cafe, who asked that his name not be published because he feared retribution, said he was leaning against his car taking a cigarette break when he first saw the victim, bleeding from the right side of his head, walking down the street. Suddenly, the worker said, the shooter, who was wearing a red T-shirt, came up behind the wounded man and started firing.
He fired several shots into the wounded man, who fell to the ground. The shooter was standing within 2 feet of his victim and calmly started walking away, but suddenly returned to attack his victim again, the witness said.
''He came back and put two more [bullets] in his head," the worker said yesterday. ''I saw the guy walk in front of my face and [the shooter] kill him in front of my face. . . . It was unbelievable. I did not sleep last night."
The worker said one of the leaders of the mosque, Imam Abdullah, was sitting in a car on Williams Street with a member of the mosque who is an off-duty police officer from another state. After the gunfire, he heard the off-duty officer shouting: ''Where's my gun? Where's my gun?"
The worker said the imam and the officer then drove the wrong way on Shawmut Avenue chasing the shooter, who ran across Melnea Cass Boulevard and into a housing development.
They returned a few minutes later without finding the gunman, and the imam tried to help the victim, witnesses said. The imam could not be reached for comment.
Stewart said that at the sound of gunfire, he pushed his son into the doorway of the mosque. ''He was frightened," Stewart said.
The worker said children from the mosque who heard the shots, many of them crying, poured into the cafe and asked to call their parents.
According to two law enforcement sources with knowledge of the investigation, the victim has been tentatively identified as a 27-year-old man with a criminal history who has previously lived in Dorchester, Roxbury, and Cambridge.
Spokesmen for the Police Department and Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said the name of the victim was being withheld pending confirmation and notification of next of kin.
''The evidence suggests that the victim was targeted," said David Procopio, Conley's spokesman
I'm familiar with that area from my days driving a delivery truck. Apparently it is still a very bad section of town. Thank God no one, particularly the children, was hurt.
The reason I'm posting this however has to do with the fact that I had to read the article 3 times to convince myself that there was no actual significance to the fact it occurred outside the ISB other than coincidence. The Globe has had a history of writing PR for the mosque. Did my personal views color the intitial readings, or was there something about the article that gave the impression there was some intentional threat against the mosque? It could have been poor wording on the journalists part, but I'd like to hear what the rest of you thought.
Tuesday, August 16, 2005
PETA founder and Peter Singer devotee Ingrid Newkirk responded thusly to an African-American person who objected to PETA's equating slavery in America with the mistreatment of animals:
"How dare you compare my ancestors' subjugation to the subjugation of cows prodded down the slaughter line to their deaths?!" I can, because it is right to do so and wrong to reject the concept. Please open your heart and your mind and do not take such offense.
The post was entitled, "We Are All Animals, So Get Over It!" This is a notion that she adopted from Singer who finds nothing morally wrong in sex with animals or the euthanizing of young children.
However Ingrid treats us with some of her own philosophical stylings:
Generally speaking, mustn't rhinos think that rhino suffering is more important than vervet monkey suffering and vervet monkeys think that their suffering is more important than songbird suffering? I'd imagine so, for a monkey mother who must choose between rescuing her own baby or a squirrel baby from drowning would surely pluck the monkey baby from the water? Just so, humans who define themselves by religion or culture or nationality or skin color think that their suffering can never be compared, no matter how factually, with any other human or animal's suffering. To do so makes them feel belittled, reduced. But perhaps that's just our primitive biology crying out to protect and save our own kind, the more narrowly defined the better, and the rest be damned. I reject that.
Let's be clear, Ms Newkirk is suggesting that an African American person's belief that they are more important than an animal is "primitive".
The more we get to know PETA, the more they reveal how deeply demeaning their philosophy is.
Monday, August 15, 2005
A 28-year-old terminally ill woman who went on hunger strike as an act of voluntary euthanasia has ended her protest after 19 days because of intense pain.
Kelly Taylor had waited nearly 10 years for a heart and lung transplant, but was taken off the list two years ago after doctors told her the risks were too high.
She began her protest because she believed starvation was the only method of death that would not leave her husband, Richard, liable to prosecution for assisted suicide.
Well actually she is not terminal as the piece later admits.
Mrs Kelly [sic] was born with a congenital heart condition known as Eisenmenger Syndrome. Although not technically a terminal illness, the condition can progressively get worse with age and affect the patient's mobility.
She needs pure oxygen and cannot walk more than a few steps without collapsing.
Such high standards of journalism these days. Ms Taylor sheds some light on her own condition and motivations.
When she announced her intention to starve herself to death, Mrs Kelly[sic], of Stapleton, Bristol, said her life had become so restricted that she felt she could no longer make any contribution to society.
"It just felt like the right time to do something about my life and because there was no law to help me to die, I thought I would have to help myself."
I've come to consider this "burden on society/my family, etc" argument to be a smokescreen for depression. I would bet the farm that Ms Taylor is clincally depressed and is not getting proper treatment. To a large degree, I think euthanasia is a symptom of the failure of modern psychology/psychiatry. My heart goes out to Ms Taylor.
Mrs Kelly ended her protest on Thursday night by eating a small amount of apple-puree baby food.
She told the Bristol Evening Post: "It has become too uncomfortable and I would not wish what I have been going through on my worst enemy.
"I feel disappointed in myself. I really wanted to die and that seemed to be my only option. I regret that I have to stop what I am doing because I still want to die. But starvation, as it turns out, is very undignified."
In admitting this Ms. Taylor may have made a great contribution than she realizes. I wish it were possible to confront everyone who maintained that the means of Terri Schiavo's execution was humane and dignified with this account.
I've said before that suicide is a grave and difficult act and the right-to-die movement would have us believe otherwise. This also represents a point of division in their movement over how suicides should be assisted. To some degree the Life in us resists all such attempts and much deception is required by the right-to-die movement to conceal this fact. And lies of course always leave a trail.
Cross-posted on ProLifeBlogs
Thursday, August 11, 2005
EU Commissioner calls on Europeans to have More Children
A European Commissioner warned that the continent’s low birthrate is one of three most pressing issues facing the European Union.
“The collapse of social policies in support of working women and families has increased the burden on women, and contributed to the depression of fertility rates,” a press release from the office of the EU Commissioner for Employment, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities stated.
Global Abortion Rights Being Pushed for in United Nations Treaty on Rights of Disabled
The United Nations General Assembly Committee is currently drafting the first-ever treaty on the rights of persons with disabilities. The latest discussions center around an article of the convention which pro-life UN lobbyists suggest is amazingly yet another instance of the extreme push for abortion 'rights' worldwide.
Article 21 calls on nations to provide for the right to "health and rehabilitation" for disabled persons. However, article 21 includes a subsection defining such a right as including "reproductive health services" which according to admitted UN understanding includes abortion. Article 21, subsection 'a' states nations shall: "provide persons with disabilities with the same range and standard of health and rehabilitation services as provided other citizens, including sexual and reproductive health services."
Amnesty International to Consider Pushing for Global Right to Abortion
Amnesty International (AI) is to consider pushing abortion as a human right at its biennial International Council Meeting (ICM) beginning next week. The August 14-20 ICM with representatives from the fifty AI branches worldwide will consider altering the organization's neutral stance on abortion.
Amnesty International's current policy on abortion states: "AI takes no position on whether or not women have a right to choose to terminate unwanted pregnancies; there is no generally accepted right to abortion in international human rights law."
I'm tempted to file this under "They just don't get it", but I have a gut feeling there is more to this. I think global abortion is actually seen as a solution to diminishing European populations. In other words, we're killing our children, now you unenlightened underdeveloped peoples have to start killing yours. And since most non-Western societies (excepting China) actually value their children, the international pro-abortion cabal are tying this agenda to more popular ones like disability and human rights. The cynicism of this is beyond Machiavellian.
Wednesday, August 10, 2005
AP Correspondent Tara Burghart provided the following as background information to readers:
"A study released Monday sheds new light on euthanasia in the Netherlands, the first country to legalize it for terminally ill people"
"The study comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of euthanasia -- especially in the Netherlands, where officials acknowledged last year that they had carried out mercy killings of terminally ill newborns."
What's wrong with this picture? Plenty.
For starters, "eligibility" for euthanasia in the Netherlands has never been limited to "terminally ill people." Don't take our word for it. Go check out the website of the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs the page devoted to info on their euthanasia policies is available in English at: http://www.minbuza.nl/default.asp?CMS_ITEM=MBZ257609&x=135&y=26
And here was another falsehood that I missed:
Then there's that gross misinformation about the "mercy killings of terminally ill newborns." Here, Burghart no doubt picked up the misinformation published by her AP colleague Linda Johnson (you can still find a copy of Johnson's article at: http://www.ajc.com/health/content/health/0305/10euthanasia.html)
In fact, the report about the euthanizing of newborns, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, emphasized that the 22 infants whose killings were reported all has spina bifida. Spina bifida is NOT a terminal illness, it's a condition associated with several disabilities. You don't even have to take our word about the spina bifida -- that info is buried in the middle of Johnson's article.
I can't seem to point out often enough that euthanasia and physician assisted suicide programs are from their inception cloaked in deception. Or to put it another way, the truth is the first to be euthanized.
I encourage anyone with an interest in these matters to spend more time on Not Dead Yet. Their standard of reporting is excellent, they take no prisoners, and considering the subject matter, they manage to be edgy and even seem to be enjoying themselves. They are an invaluable resource and my admiration grows with every visit.
Crossposted on ProLifeBlogs
Tuesday, August 09, 2005
Although some very positive spin is being applied, the internal inconsistencies and omissions of this latest report on Dutch euthanasia raise more questions.
A study released Monday sheds new light on euthanasia in the Netherlands, the first country to legalize it for terminally ill people, finding that nearly one in eight adult patients who requested mercy killings decided not to go through with it. Nearly half of the euthanasia requests were carried out.
The study comes at a time of heightened scrutiny of euthanasia especially in the Netherlands, where officials acknowledged last year that they had carried out mercy killings of terminally ill newborns.
Belgium has since enacted a euthanasia law similar to the Netherlands. In the United States, Oregon is alone in allowing physician-assisted suicide, but its law is expected to be argued before the U.S. Supreme Court this fall.
The study, appearing in Monday's Archives of Internal Medicine, consists of a survey completed by 3,614 Dutch general practitioners who were asked to describe the most recent request for euthanasia they received during the previous year.
According to another story on the report which was sponsored by the Royal Dutch Medical Association there was this brief mention of guidelines:
In the Netherlands, euthanasia is restricted to terminally ill patients suffering unbearable pain with no hope of improvement, and who request to die when they are of sound mind.
These guidelines were established by the RDMA. Yet the results show that euthanasia in practice does not follow the guidelines:
Project leader Bregje Onwuteaka-Philipsen said she was surprised that "the most important reasons for doing the request are not strictly medical." The survey asked physicians the reasons that patients sought help in ending their own lives, with the most frequent being pointless suffering, loss of dignity and weakness.
The report does mention that some requests were denied for similar reason, but the medical guidelines are being ignored by a large percentage of the reporting physicians. I've mentioned in previous posts that there are serious problems with reporting in Dutch euthanasia cases:
Before 1991 it was difficult to obtain facts about the incidence of euthanasia in Holland, because the KNMG had chosen a very narrow definition of the word. The Dutch officially define euthanasia as the ending of the life of one person by another at the first person's request. If life is ended without request, as it often is, it is not considered to be euthanasia and therefore official statistics have always been lower than actual numbers. For example, Dutch doctors, for obvious reasons, prefer not to use the term "involuntary euthanasia" but call it the more sanitized "termination of the patient without explicit request". Dr. John Keown, an English legal scholar, has commented on this redefinition, "By narrowly defining euthanasia as referring only to "active voluntary euthanasia" rather than to all cases in which death is brought about on purpose as part of the medical care given to the patient, the Dutch minimize the frequency with which death is "intentionally accelerated by a doctor."
The Remmelink Report found that almost 40% of deaths in Holland are due to "medical decision at end of life", but only a fraction of these are reported. This latest study which is basically the RDMA's report card on it's own guidelines ignores all of these issues. Obviously a more objective study is needed. The sad fact is that most euthanasia legislation is being craft along the lines of the Dutch experiment which has been misrepresenting the results for decades.
Monday, August 08, 2005
Wesley J. Smiths's piece on PETA last week in NRO applies his considerable intellect to the weird ethical gymnastics of the "animal rights" movement:
I have long perceived the animal-liberation movement to be deeply misanthropic, and Bottum’s theory explains why. If indeed “we are all animals,” then there is no hierarchy of moral worth. Since human contact with animals is seen, by definition, as causing animals to suffer, and since all suffering is evil — yet, only humans can act in an evil way — then the belief that cattle ranching equals Auschwitz becomes a logical conclusion.
PETA would like you to think that they are "humanizing" animals as if that somehow makes those who ascribe to their views in some way superhuman. But since this is simply not possible, as animals are equally or more "savage" towards each other (and sometimes us), the best they can do animalized humans. I can't claim to understand this mentality, let alone explain it. But my experience is that faulty ethical thinking not only leads to bizarre ideologies like those held by both PETA and "ethics experts" like Peter Singer, but also a deep sense of self-loathing which ensures this beliefs are expressed in the darkest ways possible.
Friday, August 05, 2005
Please check out Pundit Review Radio this Sunday evening as we will be speaking to milblogger Michael Yon live from Mosul Iraq.
Sunday evening, 9pm EST
Stream the show live at www.wrko.com
Call us toll free at 877-469-4322
Spengler has been harping on this theme for a while now, and this time he's put some numbers together to back up his assertion that secular populations inevitably dwindle. He sees the predominance of atheism and relativistic values as a primary cause, and I tend to agree. But European culture has taken a turn for the macabre that goes beyond sterile secularism.
Eight years ago it was reported that 8% of infant deaths in Holland were due to lethal injection, long before the Groningen Protocols were suggested. While some in Europe still have the capacity to be shocked by infanticide, the Dutch don't seem to be among them. And there is no rational explanation for this recent horror in a French morgue.
If the reader will recall, there was a different kind of outrage that took place in France's morgues two years ago, when the cadavers of the elderly piled up, victims of a brutal heat wave. The problem was the younger relatives of the deceased that were unwilling to interrupt their lengthy summer vacations to claim the bodies.
Spengler has pointed out that the failure of Europeans to maintain steady population levels is due to a resistance to the self-sacrifice required to give birth to and raise children. I think it's fair to say that secular Europe has become a cult of self in the spiritual vacuum its thought leaders have created. What's difficult to connect is how this culture of malignant narcissism morphs into morbid symptoms such as euthanasia, infanticide, anti-Semitism and self-loathing.
I propose that there is a death-urge in operation in Europe and in the leftist elite of the US. It is somewhat similar to Freud's concept of Thanatos, but I don't agree with his Buddhist-like conception of it balancing the sex drive.
Outside of a Judeo-Christian ethical system, it is certainly difficult to explain the connection of the death-urge to narcissism. These traditional values focused the individual not on oneself but directed one's service to others, and devotion to God. Anything else fell under a rubric that more than ever is an object of the world's ridicule, that of sin. And as outdated as this concept is considered, it does directly address the madness that is gripping the West: "The wages of sin is death..."
Thursday, August 04, 2005
An Oostende doctor has been accused of murdering five elderly patients in a coastal nursing home in the past three years.
The victims — all of whom were suffering from dementia — died after being injected with a lethal dose of morphine.
The doctor, identified only as Boudewijn D.W., has admitted administering the treatment, but has denied murdering his patients.
A Brugge judge ordered the man's arrest on Friday, but he was released on Tuesday morning. Investigations into the deaths continue, newspaper 'Het Nieuwsblad' reported on Wednesday.
The doctor has claimed he only wanted to end his patients' suffering and that he had discussed giving them
injections with their families and nursing staff.
However, the nursing home Sint-Monica in Oostende reported the deaths to authorities and the doctor was arrested on suspicion of five murders.
Belgium law permits euthanasia if strict procedures are followed, but nursing home spokesman Alex Daenekindt has denied the five deaths were a form of euthanasia.
And an Oostende lawyer said euthanasia regulations are very precise, pointing out that the request must come from the patient and that the doctor must be certain the patient is suffering from an incurable illness.
A second medical opinion must be sought and the nursing team should be consulted along with the patient's family. The medical dossier must then report all of these steps and outline the conclusions.
As I've pointed out before, the legalization of euthanasia only makes the already difficult task of detecting medical serial killers harder. Whether this Belgian doctor turns out to be one remains to be seen, but based on the actions of the nursing home, it seems likely. The nursing home is to be applauded for exposing his crimes. However this case also illustrates how ineffective euthanasia "guidelines" are at protecting victims like these 5 patients.
Wednesday, August 03, 2005
This is an unpleasant surprise. It's Colombia.
In Colombia, euthanasia became permissible in 1997 when the highest judicial body, the Constitutional Court, ruled 6-3 that an individual may choose to end his life and that doctors can't be prosecuted for their role in helping. The decision came in response to a case in which an opponent of euthanasia had sought to strengthen its prohibition.
The court urged Congress to codify the practice to prevent abuses. Lawmakers, apparently reluctant to take on such an emotionally charged debate in this predominantly Roman Catholic country, still haven't done so.
This has created an ethical vacuum that gives doctors the God-like power of life and death over their patients with no accountability at all.
"Currently, it's solely up to the patient and his doctor to decide on whether to induce death," said Dr. Juan Mendoza, head of the Right to Die with Dignity, an activist group. "There is no legal obligation even to report it to authorities."
As we've already seen in Holland and Oregon, the truth is soon euthanized after the patient.
Quintana would not identify the patient. On the death certificate, he wrote "cardiac arrest," omitting any reference to the injections that put the man to sleep, paralyzed him and then stopped his heart.
The article cited a poll saying Colombians were almost evenly split on the issue with a slight majority opposed. This is deceptive as any modern polling methods will over-represent wealthier, more educated urban populations and not account for the opinions of those in rural areas.
What a terrible tragedy for a country that has suffered enough in the last two centuries. I hope my mother-in-law will think twice before returning to Colombia for any length of time.
Tuesday, August 02, 2005
Monday, August 01, 2005
There are many reasons to oppose socialism. There are many reasons to oppose euthanasia. But when a society has socialized health care, all the conditions are in place to create a perfect environment for euthanasia.
To become public policy, euthanasia needs two things: an ideology and a mechanism. A radical ideology, however malevolent, is impotent without a mechanism.
Government is the perfect mechanism because government is inherently coercive. It has the brute force to impose its will on the unwilling.
Under a private enterprise system the customer has, at least in principle, the final say. I say “in principle” because the customer still needs to be vigilant. The customer has something the heath care provider needs, which is money. The customer can also sue in case of medical malpractice.
To the extent that a society moves away from this to a national, single-payer system, the patient loses control. For, in socialized medicine, the health care provider is paid no matter what.
In addition, government sets the policy. It decides who will live and who will die. And the patient has no legal remedy because he or she can’t sue the government. The patient or the patient’s family can’t seek relief from the courts because the courts are the government. The courts will side with government policy.
It is no coincidence that the countries where euthanasia is either public policy or on the way to becoming public policy — countries like England, Belgium, Holland, Australia, Switzerland, and Canada — are countries that have a post-Christian ideology empowered by a tradition of socialism.
They may not call it “socialism” in some narrow historical sense, but when a society has a national, single-payer health care system, that’s socialized medicine.
And we are very close to having that in the United States. The Terri Schiavo case was a case of involuntary euthanasia by court order. And when the Florida legislature passed “Terri’s Law,” the Florida courts struck it down.
Euthanasia is already legal in Oregon. And there is an underground culture of euthanasia among such health care providers as Kaiser and MUSC.
The bioethics community has been captured by the euthanasia community — represented by the likes of the infamous Peter Singer. (See article at http://www.worldmag.com/subscriber/displayarticle.cfm?id=9987.)
For an excellent information-clearing house on euthanasia and related issues, go to http://www.wesleyjsmith.com.
The 2004 platform for the Democratic party was a road map for socialized medicine. Among other things, it advocated the following:
We will strengthen Medicaid for our families and expand the children’s health program created under President Clinton so no child goes without medical care. … We will expand coverage for low-income adults through existing federal-state health care programs. And we will provide all Americans with access to the same coverage that members of Congress give themselves … We will lift a financial burden on families, businesses, and the self-employed by picking up the tab for the highest-cost medical cases … We will ensure that seniors across the country, particularly in small-town and rural America, no longer suffer from geographic discrimination … We will also work to ensure that people with HIV and AIDS have the care they need … Cultural and language barriers remain a particular problem for immigrant communities … We will push the boundaries of science in search of new medical therapies and cures … Stem cell therapy offers hope to more than 100 million Americans who have serious illnesses — from Alzheimer’s to heart disease to juvenile diabetes to Parkinson’s. We will pursue this research under the strictest ethical guidelines, but …
Remember that Kerry only lost by a few million votes. And, in order to stay politically competitive, Republican politicians often get into a bidding war with the Democrats over which party will dole out more government goodies.
Of course, neither party calls this “socialized” medicine. After the Hillarycare debacle, they prefer to pursue a stealthy incremental strategy, but you can see where this is headed.
Both parties also talk about a patient’s bill of rights and equal access — but this is in direct tension with the economics of socialized medicine. Dumping everyone into the same pool is a form of income redistribution in which, so goes the theory, those who can afford health care subsidize those who cannot.
Mind you, it doesn’t work out that way in practice. The rich can afford to hire tax attorneys who shield their income. Remember Teresa Heinz-Kerry? A multi-billionaire in a low-income tax bracket?
So what you inevitably end up with is the rationing of medical services. You can see this in England and Canada. You can see this in HMOs. The end result is social Darwinism applied to medicine. The fittest edge out the most vulnerable. And euthanasia is dirt-cheap.
I've posted on this scenario before, but I appreciated this article not only as confirmation, but also as a much clearer exposition that I could make.
The New Zealand Medical Association has reaffirmed its position on euthanasia.
At a meeting this weekend the Association's board voted to continue opposing euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicides.
It says they are unethical.
NZMA chairman Ross Boswell says they are continuing to support the views of the World Medical Association.
Dr Boswell says the NZMA has been reviewing its position for some time and had prepared a more definitive statement about euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicides.
He says there is no formal date for a review in the future.
That is encouraging news, particularly as the vultures are descending on New Zealand.
In a previous post I was introduce to Leslie Burke's legal battle in the UK. He suffered a major set back due to a Court of Appeal Ruling:
A man who is terminally ill and fears that doctors may allow him to die of thirst said he was "disappointed" yesterday after the Court of Appeal overturned an earlier judgment in his favour.
Last July, the High Court granted a challenge by Leslie Burke, 45, and declared that key sections of General Medical Council guidance on withdrawal of life-prolonging treatment were unlawful.
But yesterday three appeal judges allowed an appeal by the GMC against the ruling, setting aside six declarations by the trial judge. Permission to appeal was refused.
Mr Burke suffers from cerebellar ataxia, a progressively degenerative brain condition that follows a similar course to multiple sclerosis.
In an unusual move, Lord Phillips, the Master of the Rolls, issued a press release saying that "the fact that the appeal has been allowed does not mean that Mr Burke has lost".
Mr Burke will need artificial nutrition and hydration - known as ANH - when he loses the ability to swallow.
Lord Phillips explained that Mr Burke appeared to fear that ANH would be withdrawn before the final stages of his disease, when it would not be capable of prolonging his life. "If this is Mr Burke's fear, there is no reason for him to have it," Lord Phillips said.
"There are no grounds for thinking that those caring for such a patient would be entitled to or would take a decision to withdraw ANH in such circumstances."
The GMC's guidance did not suggest to the contrary, added Lord Phillips, who was sitting with Lords Justice Waller and Wall.
The judges added that, "where a competent patient indicates his or her wish to be kept alive by the provision of ANH, any doctor who deliberately brings that patient's life to an end by discontinuing the supply of ANH will not merely be in breach of duty but guilty of murder".
But they stressed that "in the last stage of life" ANH - far from prolonging life - may even hasten death.
"It is only in this situation that, assuming the patient remains competent, a patient's expressed wish that ANH be continued might conflict with the doctor's view that this is not clinically indicated."
Mr Justice Munby ruled in the High Court that the patient had the right to insist on ANH but the Court of Appeal disagreed.
"A patient cannot demand that a doctor administer a treatment which the doctor considers is adverse to the patient's clinical needs. That said, we consider the scenario that we have just described is extremely unlikely to arise."
The judges believed Mr Burke might have been persuaded by others to challenge aspects of the GMC guidance that had no relevance to someone in his position.
His solicitor, Paul Conrathe, said the ruling was a "technical victory for the GMC" but a "significant and practical victory for Leslie Burke and those in his situation".
Prof Sir Graeme Catto, the GMC president, said: "We have always said that causing patients to die from starvation and dehydration is absolutely unacceptable practice and unlawful. Today the court has reinforced our position."
Despite these assurances, this is clearly an erosion of the rights of patients and the disabled, and coupled with the recent BMA ruling I would say that Mr Burke's concerns are well founded. The trend has been to replace laws that have criminalized euthanasia with "guidelines" that historically (in Holland and Oregon) have failed in their purpose of protecting the sick and disabled.