Marlowe's Shade

Friday, April 28, 2006

Rates of Euthanasia Increase Again in Holland

From Seattle PI

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands -- The number of reported cases of legal euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide in the Netherlands increased in 2005 for the third year in a row, a Dutch agency said Thursday.

The figures released by the Regional Oversight Boards for Euthanasia showed doctors reported 1,933 cases in 2005, up from 1,886 in 2004 and 1,815 in 2003. Studies have estimated that reported cases represent slightly more than half of all euthanasias.

The Netherlands became the first country to legalize euthanasia in 2001. Belgium legalized it under strict conditions in 2002, and Switzerland allows passive assistance to terminally ill people who have expressed a wish to die. In the United States, only Oregon has an law allowing doctor-assisted suicides.

The Dutch law allows euthanasia for adults of sound mind who ask to die and are deemed to be suffering great pain from illness with no hope of recovery. Two doctors must agree with the decision, and patients are killed with a mix of sedatives and a lethal dose of muscle relaxant.

Let's keep in mind that most cases of euthanasia are not reported, so these numbers are a fraction of the actual cases.

The agency said that in three of the reported cases, the guidelines were not followed correctly and the doctors were referred to judicial authorities for possible prosecution.

In two cases, the doctor who performed the euthanasia did not consult sufficiently with an independent doctor. In the third, the doctor was an acquaintance of the cancer patient and the board found he did not have a strong enough doctor-patient relationship to properly authorize and carry out euthanasia.

Don't hold your breath waiting for a verdict...
papijoe 8:55 AM |

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Scientists Gleefully Vaulting the Species Barrier

Hat Tip: Zaideh

From National Geographic

Scientists have begun blurring the line between human and animal by producing chimeras—a hybrid creature that's part human, part animal.

Chinese scientists at the Shanghai Second Medical University in 2003 successfully fused human cells with rabbit eggs. The embryos were reportedly the first human-animal chimeras successfully created. They were allowed to develop for several days in a laboratory dish before the scientists destroyed the embryos to harvest their stem cells.

In Minnesota last year researchers at the Mayo Clinic created pigs with human blood flowing through their bodies.

And at Stanford University in California an experiment might be done later this year to create mice with human brains.

Scientists feel that, the more humanlike the animal, the better research model it makes for testing drugs or possibly growing "spare parts," such as livers, to transplant into humans.

Watching how human cells mature and interact in a living creature may also lead to the discoveries of new medical treatments.

But creating human-animal chimeras—named after a monster in Greek mythology that had a lion's head, goat's body, and serpent's tail—has raised troubling questions: What new subhuman combination should be produced and for what purpose? At what point would it be considered human? And what rights, if any, should it have?

There are currently no U.S. federal laws that address these issues.

The article is over a year old but no less shocking a year later. Zaideh's commentary was spot on:

Welcome to the Island of Dr Moreau

Is there any discipline more plagued by hubris than science?
If something can be done, it will be done and damn the ethics or morality!
No one can convince me that, somewhere in the world, in a hidden lab, some miserable, semi-human, hybrid creature is being created or, even, being observed.

Just when you think modern science can't devalue human life any more...
papijoe 2:20 PM |

Monday, April 17, 2006

New Direction

In the year since Terri Schiavo was sentenced to death, what have we learned? Are we any more effective in confronting the Culture of Death? Are we fighting a rear-guard action against an inevitable Brave New World, or is there hope to turn back the tide in this country?

The more practical question to ask perhaps is do we understand what we are up against and are our tactics appropriate?

I've taken a little unplanned sabbatical from blogging, partly due to a heavy work schedule. I've also struggled with the events of the past year. The death of Terri Schiavo and my subsequent investigation into the the Culture of Death that caused it has been difficult to process. It's taken this long to formulate a response that wasn't merely personal. This doesn't exclude personal and emotional factors, in fact the only commentators who were able to understand what was happening in the struggle surrounding Terri Schiavo were those who were able to connect emotionally and empathetically with her. But my own efforts need a more positive proactive direction before I can air my emotions in this matter.

What I have tried to do is understand the nature of the Culture of Death, its origins, its goals, and hopefully its weaknesses as well.

Among the inhabitants of this netherworld I encountered medical serial killers, philosophers who muse about killing infants and bestiality, and acclaimed scientists turned conman. I sent a fair amount of time identifying some who I considered real villains, but perhaps even more dangerous is a larger group of activists among the right-to-die movement. I think I can fairly use the description of Comrade Lenin, who accurately if unkindly characterized them as "useful idiots". For a variety of reasons, these are people who genuinely believe their cause is the best for everyone involved without spending any time reflecting of the possible unintended consequences of their policies. Then there is an much larger group that are not activists, but find the cleverly crafted messages of the right-to-die movement difficult to resist in their utilitarian appeal to "reason". In their passive support of the movement they are in one sense the most dangerous of all, but also the most likely to be swayed by a better alternative.

At this point in time, I think I've spent enough (and possibly too much) time analyzing what is wrong with our culture and its attitude toward life. One chronic problem I've found with the pro-life movements is that we don't consistently present a positive vision of how things should and more importantly could be. This is always the difficult part. I'll like to hear from others as I try to articulate some of the possibilities, and see if there is a common interest to present a new vision of a United States of America that values life from its leadership to its grassroots.
papijoe 7:43 AM |