Marlowe's Shade

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Eugenics in the UK

From LifeNews

This is appalling. What next? Will mothers start aborting babies with overbites or because they don't like their eye color?

A British religious official who earlier spoke out on abortions of children with cleft palates is speaking out about new reports showing abortions there on children who have clubbed feet. The condition is operable and not life-threatening and Rev. Joanna Jepson says such abortions should be illegal.
She accused doctors of pressuring women to have abortions when unborn children are diagnosed with any physical or mental disability.

"Women shouldn't be put in the position where they are under pressure to abort from the medical profession," she told the Birmingham Post newspaper.
papijoe 8:44 AM |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Wesley Smith Testifies Before the Senate on Euthanasia

This press release gives us a preview of his testimony.

In his testimony, Smith will "argue that there is a proper public policy role for the federal government against assisted suicide, such as prohibiting federally controlled substances from being used to intentionally end life."

Smith, named by the National Journal as one of the nation's top experts in bioethics, notes that: "In the thirty-plus years since euthanasia was redefined in the Netherlands as a legitimate tool of medical practice instead of a serious crime, ... rather than being rare, statistics show that euthanasia is now almost a matter of medical routine."

"Once we accept the killing of terminally ill patients, as did the Dutch, we will invariably, over time, accept the killing of chronically ill patients, depressed patients, and ultimately perhaps, even children," predicts Smith.

He warns lawmakers that "once killing is redefined as medical treatment, it becomes transformed from 'bad' into 'good.' Thus, the guidelines intended to 'protect against abuse' eventually are viewed not as protections but instead as hurtles separating sick and dying patients from the beneficence of death. In such an intellectual and cultural milieu, it becomes easy to justify ignoring or violating 'guidelines.'"

He promised to post the transcript on his blog when available.
papijoe 3:30 PM |

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

The Adverse Effects of Euthanasia on Doctors

In yesterday's post at Secondhand Smoke Wesley Smith presented this stunning article on a subject to which few of us have given much thought. The survey methods and responses differed between the Dutch doctors and the physicians in Oregon, but it is clear that for a significant number of doctors there is serious emotional fallout from physician assisted suicide and euthanasia.

Results and Discussion: The physician is centrally involved in PAS and euthanasia, and the emotional and psychological effects on the participating physician can be substantial. The shift away from the fundamental values of medicine to heal and promote human wholeness can have significant effects on many participating physicians. Doctors describe being profoundly adversely affected, being shocked by the suddenness of the death, being caught up in the patient's drive for assisted suicide, having a sense of powerlessness, and feeling isolated. There is evidence of pressure on and intimidation of doctors by some patients to assist in suicide. The effect of countertransference in the doctor-patient relationship may influence physician involvement in PAS and euthanasia.

Conclusion: Many doctors who have participated in euthanasia and/or PAS are adversely affected emotionally and psychologically by their experiences.

The report is worth reading beyond the abstract for the chilling glimpses it gives into the experiences of these doctors. Here's one jaw-dropping comment from a Dutch doctor:

Response by Dr. Zylicz: "I was giving consultations in several situations like this, when the GP was calling me about a patient with gastrointestinal obstruction. He said, 'The problem is that the patient is refusing euthanasia.' I said, 'What happened?' He said, 'In the past, all these kinds of situations, when people were intractably vomiting, I solved by offering euthanasia. Now this patient does not want it, and I do not know what to do.' That was really striking. Providing euthanasia as a solution to every difficult problem in palliative care would completely change our knowledge and practice, and also the possibilities that we have . . . . This is my biggest concern in providing euthanasia and setting a norm of euthanasia in medicine: that it will inhibit the development of our learning from patients, because we will solve everything with euthanasia."

In an interview with a doctor in Oregon there is a good example of a recurring theme: doctors being intimidated into participation in assisted suicide despite their qualms.

I had to accept that this really was going to happen. Of course I could choose not to participate. The thought of Helen dying so soon was almost too much to bear, and only slightly less difficult was the knowledge that many very reasonable people would consider aiding in her death a crime. On the other hand, I found even worse the thought of disappointing this family. If I backed out, they'd feel about me the way they had about their previous doctor, that I had strung them along, and in a way, insulted them.

This experience was found in Holland as well:

Response by Professor Jochemsen: "I know from physicians who are opposed to performing euthanasia that they are afraid of saying so when applying for jobs and trying to find a post as a physician. In certain circumstances, that will make it much more difficult for them to get a job."

The findings of this report support the notion that euthanasia is a juggernaut that cannot be restrained by guidelines and "bio-ethical standards". Once set into motion the process is too powerful for either doctors, patients or policymakers to control. I'm reminded of the medieval momento mori painting that portray Death as a skeletal rider on a white horse, trampling humanity under it's feet, beggar and king alike...
papijoe 11:17 AM |

Monday, May 22, 2006

Oregon Has a High Elderly Suicide Rate...Go Figure...

I missed this on Wesley Smith's blog last Tuesday, but LifeSite caught it.

Oregon’s confusion over the state’s alarming rate of suicide among the elderly would be laughable, if it were not so tragic, said Wesley J. Smith, an expert in the field of bioethics and euthanasia and the author of a critical examination of the assisted suicide/euthanasia movement, Forced Exit: The Slippery Slope from Assisted Suicide to Legalized Murder.

Oregon legalized physician-assisted suicide in November of 1997. Over the ensuing decade, rates of non-physician assisted suicide in the state have outstripped the national elder suicide rate, with about 100 Oregonians aged 65 or older taking their own lives annually.

In a commentary on Oregon’s investigation into the disproportionately high rate of suicide among the state’s elderly, Smith points out that a state that has legalized physician-assisted suicide should not be surprised at an overall increase in suicide rates.

“Oregon is upset that it has a high rate of elder suicide,” Smith wrote on his blogsite Tuesday. “Yet, amid the wringing hands, no one seems to get the point that suicide is fine and dandy in some cases. Despairing people, particularly with health issues, get that point and may think, if it’s okay for the cancer patient, why not also for me?”

I would go so far as to say not only does the PAS law in Oregon suggest to the elderly that they can end their life but to them it hints that maybe they should...
papijoe 9:22 AM |

Monday, May 15, 2006

Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill Defeated in House of Lords

From FoxNews

I suppose it is already old news, but it's good news...

Britain's House of Lords on Friday rejected proposed laws to allow physicians to assist terminally ill people to die, a measure that faces broad public opposition and is not backed by Prime Minister Tony Blair's government.

Seven hours of debate on the issue ranged from spiritual to practical concerns, including Christian theology and the high cost of health care as about 90 peers addressed British parliament's upper chamber, including a phalanx of bishops, led by Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams.

Peers later voted 148 to 100 against proposals to take forward discussions about instituting new laws -- meaning current attempts to pass right-to-die laws have failed
papijoe 9:08 AM |

Friday, May 12, 2006

Intimations of Spirit

In the first essay in this spontaneous series, I discussed how materialism informs and (mis)guides the Culture of Death. Now I'd like to question some of its fundamental assumptions in regard to a tradition of acceptance of the spiritual as part of the human experience.

In a recent news story a group of girls in Laos began acting strangely and were deem to be possessed by evil spirits. Buddhist monks were called in to bless them and drive the demons out. This was reported in the Western press as a humorous curiosity piece. It is possible, even likely that there is a natural explanation for this incident. There are similarities to the infamous events in Salem MA, which now appear to have been caused by ergot poisoning. But the story illustrates the kind of magical thinking that persists in much of the world. Like our ancestors, their world is very different from the bleak Cartesian one in which we post-moderns dwell.

Here in the West the same types of supernatural beings recur in our folklore with remarkable consistency. Ghosts, witches, fairies and vampires haunt our myths and sagas from the past. Taking as a hypothesis that this cultural testimony was describing some objective reality, it would seem that our ancestors had a familiarity and perhaps a faculty of perception of a non-material dimension. I discussed in my last essay how materialism acts as a filter on our apprehension of reality. I'm not proposing that this ancient worldview was clearer or more complete than the current one. In fact I think it can easily be demonstrated that it lent itself to superstition and suggestibility. But I do think it is unlikely that so much time, effort and attention would be spent on imaginary subjects by those whose daily survival depended on rigorous practicality.

It is strange to see our modern worldview based on such an obvious absurdity as pure materialism. It is especially curious considering we arrived at that conclusion by such great immaterial effort. Clearly our most vivid experience of life comes not from our perception of the physical world, but through the non-physical agency of though and emotion. And because we do not experience the material world directly, even it's perception, coming through light and sound primarily, have a quality that seems to be in-between the material and non-material. This abstraction from reality has been described in detail in Plato's analogy of the cave, and the Apostle Paul refers to it when he states, "...we see through a glass, darkly..". Our interior life or consciousness can't be described as bound by any laws of the material world, but only those imposed on it by thought itself.

My friend evariste did me a great service when he introduced to me to Julian Jayne's The origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind. It is a dense, challenging book that not only seeks to clarify a scientific definition of what consciousness is and how it relates to our current knowledge, but also in proposing an explanation of how our current mode of awareness developed, gives us a fascinating portrait of how differently man viewed his world in antiquity. The core premise is that ancient man did not operate based on personal decisions and free will, but received signals from the mysterious part of the right side of the brain that corresponds to the speech centers on the left. This was perceived as hearing the speech of a particular god, and Jaynes cites numerous examples from the epic literature of this period, such as Iliad to illustrate how fundamental a feature of human experience this relationship to the gods was at the time. As a scientist and agnostic while he describes this phenomenon as a man-god relationship, it becomes clear that he feels that his "gods" represent a higher brain function that atrophied when civilization and culture became a stronger influence that allowed our more modern mental functioning and moral sense. He also makes some fascinating observations on what he sees as vestigial survives of this older modality such as hypnotism, and schizophrenia that strengthen his argument. I've argued myself that the mesmerizing influence of television might rightfully be added to this list.

I applaud Professor Jaynes achievement in reclaiming an accurate view of the pre-classical world. But I would challenge him on two points. His knowledge outside his field in the areas of classics, history and linguistics is impressive, but shows itself to be thin when he addresses the Old Testament and its historical setting.He breezily refers to the Pentateuch as forgeries of the post-exilic period then reassures us in a footnote that this is based on several sources of modern Biblical scholarship, including the Encyclopedia Britannica. The entirety of his argument shoehorning the story of the covenant of the Jews with their God into his theory of bicameral consciousness could have been based on a few humanities courses taught by an acolyte of the post-modern reductionist school of Biblical criticism. Despite the prevalence of these views,even a mediocre Torah scholar would make short work of these theories, pointing out Egyptian loanwords in Genesis and Exodus, and descriptions of the establishment of temple worship in Deuteronomy and the Nazirite order in Numbers, without which later texts could not have been written. He does in places acknowledge that the prophets, priest and kings of Israel are different in nature than his robotic epic heroes, but as soon as he ignores the story of The Fall (His only other mentions of Genesis is the baffling statement that "...the first and second chapters tell different creation stories..."), he misses the plot of the whole narrative, and with it, the way in which free will distinguishes the Bible personalities from the other actors of his bicameral tragedies.

Also, in general he portrays the "god" function of the right brain as a kind of gestalt of all sensory information about the environment. But it seems illogical that a higher order of understanding could be synthesized from the same sense data available to most creatures without some higher signal or organizing principle. From what did we synthesized our model of a god in the first place? He does outline a somewhat plausible progression from a king who becomes an object of veneration in death, in line with traditions of ancestor worship. But that only postpones addressing the problem, for the concept of an afterlife itself suggests a higher order.

As all our other sense organs are receptors, why wouldn't Jaynes entertain the idea that the "god" area of the right brain might also be receiving signals from a non-material source? Jaynes' work is the closest I've seen the scientific approach comes to acknowledging a spiritual reality that was experientially a daily fact of life for our ancestors. But his work lacked the boldness to see it as anything more than a ghost in the machine of our neural networks. The question remains open whether Jaynes' line of thinking should be pursued further or abandon altogether in favor a different approach.
papijoe 8:39 AM |

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Disabled in the UK: "Stop trying to kill us off!"

This eloquent and poignant letter appeared in The Guardian. The whole thing is so well stated that I hope Ms. Campbell won't mind if I post it in it's entirety.

Jane Campbell
Tuesday May 9, 2006
The Guardian

Assisted dying is not a simple question of increasing choice for those of us who live our lives close to death. It raises deep concerns about how we are viewed by society and by ourselves. I have a severe form of spinal muscular atrophy, and require 24-hour assistance. Many people who do not know me believe I would be "better off dead". Even more argue: "I couldn't live like that." And some suggest that advances in genetic screening should be used to enable parents to choose whether to have a child with disabilities.

Assisted Dying for the Terminally Ill, Lord Joffe's private member's bill, which will be debated in the House of Lords this Friday, feeds into that lack of knowledge (some might call it ignorance, others prejudice) by endorsing such views and legalising the killing of terminally ill and disabled people. The bill has the backing of the Voluntary Euthanasia Society (recently renamed Dignity in Dying) and, according to their polls, the support of the British public.

Yet it has failed to get the endorsement of a single organisation of disabled people. Three major national charities have condemned it, and leading campaigners have united under the banner of Not Dead Yet UK to make the voice of disabled people heard. The very people the bill is intended to help, the terminally ill and disabled, are frightened by what it seeks to achieve.

Proponents of the bill claim that such criticisms are nonsense: the bill is only intended to help that small minority who, in a similar situation to me, do not think as I do but want to die. While conceding my right to choose life, Lord Joffe deliberately ignores the factors that contribute to my choice. I benefit from excellent medical care. I live in an adapted bungalow, and my local authority provides proper care support that enables me to choose my own personal assistants. I am not dependent on family and loved ones. I love my good life. Lord Joffe, it appears, does not. In 1999, as a member of the royal commission on long-term care for the elderly, he issued a minority report with one other member, saying that social care support should not be free at the point of delivery.

When I think about this, I shudder. To get an image of what it might be like, one has only to think of Diane Pretty. Her life was very different from mine and I would have liked to know the reasons for that. Did she choose to live confined in a downstairs room rather than have adaptations to her home or be rehoused? Did she want her husband to be her full-time carer rather than accept more support from social services? Why was she not fully confident about how her medical team would take care of her as her illness progressed?

This is the third time that Lord Joffe has tried to get doctors to turn their backs on the Hippocratic oath that requires them to "do no harm". Following each rejection, he has returned with a more restrictive bill. This time, we are told, the bill contains two important safeguards. First, it will apply only to the "terminally ill" - the "disabled" are excluded, so have nothing to fear. Second, the doctor will only be permitted to prescribe the lethal dose. The patient must self-administer, so protecting anyone who requests assistance to die but then has a change of heart.

A moment's thought will show that these are not safeguards but devices to silence objectors. The more restrictive the bill, the easier it is to argue for its scope to be expanded once it has passed into law. None of us will be safe. Consider two patients lying side by side in hospital: both ask their doctor to prescribe lethal medication. Although their symptoms and prognosis are similar, one has a terminal illness whereas the other is classed as disabled. One gets the drugs; the other does not. Or will the second patient be reclassified? Consider the two patients again: one has the strength to swallow the poison; the other does not, so it remains by the bed. The message: "die now - before it's too late."

Legalising premature death as a treatment option will place pressures on people near the end of their lives. It will be the cheapest, quickest and simplest option - all more attractive to health and social care services than developing and providing expensive, and potentially long-term, services. The relationship between care givers and receivers will be irrevocably damaged.

Fortunately, disabled and terminally ill people aren't going to let that happen without a fight. Lord Ashley, the life-long campaigner for disabled people, is introducing a bill on the right to independent living later this year to guarantee the services that people like me need to participate fully in society. If Lord Joffe really wants to help, he should start listening and stop trying to kill us off.

· Jane Campbell MBE, chair of the Social Care Institute for Excellence from 2000 to 2006, is a Disability Rights commissioner and Not Dead Yet UK convener
papijoe 7:35 AM |

Monday, May 08, 2006

Amnesty International Considering Making Abortion a "Human Right"

From LifeNews

AI seems ready to jump on the UN abortion bandwagon:

Amnesty International is coming under fire from pro-life groups for asking its membership if it should add promoting abortion to the list of human rights topics it covers. The group is defending itself and saying it's only polling its members and hasn't taken a pro-abortion stance yet.
Last month, AI leaders sent documents to its membership proposing three areas in the abortion debate where the group could be involved.

Pro-life groups have been very vocal in saying AI should not adopt a pro-abortion position, including Catholic 'Aid to the Church in Need' (ACN), which participates in humanitarian assistance campaigns.

Father Joaquin Alliende, ACN’s international ecclesiastical assistant, told Catholic World News that his group regretted learning AI was looking into promoting abortion.

“AI has earned a high reputation for its intensive efforts to gain the release of innocent prisoners on conscience," he explained. "Now by proposing a pro-abortion initiative AI is abandoning its own noble ethical principles, thereby shaking the very foundations on which it is built."

Alliende told CWN that the right to life is the most basic of human rights and "unborn life in a mother’s womb is the very weakest of all threatened and persecuted human beings.”

Here is the address for AI in the US:


Email them to let them know what you think about the rights of the unborn. Here ispart of my response:

Most of the planet sees abortion as morally wrong and your plans to promote it as part of "reproductive rights" aligns AI with the senseless global de-population programs of the UN and it's associated NGOs. Promoting the deaths of the world's most innocent and defenseless population entirely negates any moral authority your organization has earned. Please reconsider your support of these insane policies. Our children are the only hope for all of us.
papijoe 10:26 AM |

Friday, May 05, 2006

UN Suggestion for Dafur Victims of Genocide and Rape: Abortion

From LifeNews

A leader of a United Nations lobbying group says women who have been victimized in the difficult and brutal conflict in Darfur, Sudan should be given abortions, especially if they have been raped. Tamara Fetters, a researcher for Ipas, a population control advocacy group, says all refugee health facilities should be doing abortions.
There is no doubt that sexual violence against the women in refugee camps in Darfur and Chad is worsening.

Louise Arbour, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, told Reuters Thursday that "The situation (in Darfur) is poor, bad and very alarming and what is particularly sad is to see no progress and a deterioration of the situation."

But instead of increased security, increasing humanitarian aid, peace deals to stop the conflict or moving refugees to other areas, Fetters says abortion is the solution.

Someone at the UN was clearly asleep at the switch. There was not one single mention of providing condoms in the entire report.
papijoe 8:25 AM |

Monday, May 01, 2006

Confronting the Culture of Death

The most fundamental common denominator of the powers arrayed against Terri Schiavo and a Culture of Life was and continues to be materialism. In fact for most well articulated arguments in favor of euthanasia, materialism is a prerequisite. This empirical worldview is so all-pervasive in our society that we have forgotten how recently it came to be so widely held. As a result, it's validity is assumed and goes largely unchallenged.

That is not to say that materialism was a new idea of the Enlightenment either. But it had never been the basis of a model of the universe that itself aspired to be the groundwork for a world order of human society. For those that don't see this Brave New World as a welcome development, it is useful in confronting materialism to consider it as a filter on human experience that that is self-validating. One crystal clear example of this was the radically difference response to the videos of Terri interacting with her her family. Like the sententious experts who used to tell us that a baby's first smiles were merely "gas", all kinds of absurd explanations were floated for Terri's smiles and vocalizations when she was surrounded by those she loved and trusted. It was baffling to those of us that had significant exposure to infants and other non-verbal persons that those who clamored for Terri's execution couldn't see the consciousness internal activity that to us was so obvious.

Once we understand the operations of the filter of materialism, we realize that it makes any possibility of an intuitive perception of any aspect of reality impossible. Not only is any higher level of understanding other than that based on pure sense perception ruled out, but even the imperfect lens of the senses is further clouded. Well disciplined thought and emotion are intended to help us properly interpret the raw data from the senses, but when thought and emotion are not governed by a higher order than materialism, they further distort the picture of reality. One interesting point brought out by several commentators was that our society has become so obsessed with superficial notions of beauty, that Terri's appearance in her impaired condition was so emotionally painful to those similarly obsessed, that they projected their own fears of becoming helpless and in their minds, unattractive. So they could only see her death as a mercy.

Despite my anger and frustration at Terri's tragic death, I can see that for many their support for her execution was not conscious malice, but spiritual blindness. The challenge in this ongoing dialog is to demonstrate that the evidence of experience sifted out by the filter of materialism is compelling and worthy of reconsideration. Part of this debate should include pointing out the negative impact materialism has had on our society, but it must also include a positive alternative. This is a huge challenge, because materialism has been extremely successful in framing the debate in it's own terms due no doubt to how deeply entrenched it is in all of our thinking. But it seems to me clear that in the struggle between the Cultures of Life and Death, the battlefield is the mind, and of course, it's material extension that we call the media. If the outcome hasn't already been settled there, it soon will be.
papijoe 7:30 AM |