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Friday, October 10, 2014

Brittany Maynard and the ethics of assisted suicide

Several readers have asked me to discuss the Brittany Maynard story. Your wish is my command.

For those who somehow aren't aware, Brittany Maynard (right) is a young woman, only three years older than me, who has been diagnosed with a very aggressive form of brain cancer. Doctors informed her that she could not be cured, and even if the most advanced treatments available were pursued, death was inevitable in a matter of months. Brittany decided to move to Oregon to take advantage of its assisted suicide law, and plans to take the lethal medication on November 1. In partnership with an advocacy group, she created a video about her decision, which has been covered by media across the nation and the world over the past week. (As just one example, see this Washington Post article.)

Secular Pro-Life does not often write about end-of-life issues. Of course, we recognize that every human life is valuable, including the lives of the disabled, the terminally ill, and people considering suicide. But traditionally, abortion has been our primary focus. So forgive me if this post rambles a bit.

First of all, I would like to express my opinion that Brittany Maynard is brave. This places me in conflict with Christian pro-life commentator Matt Walsh, who writes:
If you are saying that it is dignified and brave for a cancer patient to kill themselves, what are you saying about cancer patients who don’t? What about a woman who fights to the end, survives for as long as she can, and withers away slowly, in agony, until her very last breath escapes her lungs? 
Is that person not brave? Is that person not dignified? I thought we applaud that kind of person. I thought we admire her courage and tenacity. Sorry, you can’t advance two contradictory narratives at once.
But this misses the point. I don't admire Maynard because she plans to end her life. I admire her because she is somehow able to go public about what has to be the most devastating situation she's ever encountered, knowing that she's going to be the topic of internet controversy, knowing that random bloggers she's never met are going to write about her (sorry), and somehow she recorded that video without breaking down into sobs. I definitely would not be able to do that. That takes an incredible amount of self-confidence. If she had instead chosen to fight to the end, and had broadcast that story, I'd be just as impressed.

Assisted suicide raises concerns that are distinct from those of abortion. Abortion always takes the life of someone who cannot consent; that's not true of assisted suicide. I'm willing to entertain the idea that assisted suicide in the terminally ill is not prima facie wrong, which I realize is a highly unorthodox position for a pro-lifer to take. I'm reminded of my recent article about perinatal hospice, in which I wrote that
in situations where the child is bound to die within days, hours, or even minutes of birth, abortion may be viewed not as homicide, but as a mere matter of timing. You can still argue that it's wrong, but at the very least, we must acknowledge that abortion in such cases is ethically murkier than the typical abortion chosen for socioeconomic reasons. 
Maynard makes an analogous point when she states:
I've had the medication for weeks. I am not suicidal. If I were, I would have consumed that medication long ago. I do not want to die. But I am dying. And I want to die on my own terms.
I cannot begin to imagine what she's going through. The only positive I can see here is that she seems to have an incredibly supportive husband, family, and friends.

The problem is, not everyone does.

As I said, abortion and assisted suicide are unique issues, but we certainly can draw upon our experiences with legalized abortion to make some predictions about legalized euthanasia. We know from the abortion context that "choice" (and Maynard uses the language of "choice") can very quickly mutate into coercion.

No man is an island. We are deeply influenced by others, especially family, and especially when we are in a vulnerable state—as when we've been shocked by an unplanned pregnancy or a cancer diagnosis. We've seen women forced into abortions by the fathers of their unborn children. We've seen underage girls coerced by their statutory rapists, and sometimes, sadly, even by their own parents. We've seen mothers of all ages manipulated by abortion "counselors" who refuse to divulge accurate information about what takes place during pregnancy. And above all, we've seen women forced into abortion by economic circumstances. Legal abortion clearly has worsened those problems, not solved them.

How do we prevent similar complications from arising in the context of assisted suicide? How do we make sure that vulnerable people are not unduly influenced by family members, by overly pessimistic doctors, or by the potential financial burden of a longer life? In short: how can we create a law that allows assisted suicide for people like Brittany Maynard, without catching others in its trap?

I'm very skeptical that it's possible. And until someone shows me differently, I have to err on the side of protecting those who want to live every last day.

338 comments:

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secularprolife.org said...

I'm glad that you end up on the side of caution--and for very wise reasons--but I'm not sure about some of the philosophical reasoning that makes this a close call for you. For example:

in situations where the child is bound to die within days, hours, or even minutes of birth, abortion may be viewed not as homicide, but as a mere matter of timing.

Since we're all mortal we're all dying. So how can you draw a distinction between homicide (killing someone who is dying, as far as we know, in a year or more) and "a mere matter of timing" (killing someone who is dying, say, in less than a year from now). There doesn't seem to me to be any more justification for saying that a person's life is more or less valuable based on the time they have left to life rather than based on the time thy have already lived.

There may be less trauma and pain involved in going on a mass killing spree inside a hospice than inside a kindergarten, but it's still murder either way.

secularprolife.org said...

Abortion always takes the life of someone who cannot consent.

..............
Words have meaning. It you have to distort the meaning of words to make an argument, you have no argument.


Some ONE can get me a cup of coffee. Some ONE can stand behind me in the checkout line. I do not become two people the moment the sperm meets the ovum.


A fetus becomes SOME ONE, a human being and a legal person, when it survives to and through birth. And not until then.

secularprolife.org said...

Be careful about your "timing" comments above. Just yesterday, I was reading comments on a video about parents who had chosen to carry a nonviable fetus to term and had been able to spend a few hours with him. Many, many commenters remarked upon the couple's "selfishness" for not aborting the baby immediately and instead letting him live to suffer. So now aborting for defects goes from being a "choice" to being selfish, just as you (and I) fear will happen if assisted suicide becomes widely accepted.

secularprolife.org said...

Thank you for this. I've been bothered by the number of people who talk about her 'personal choice', failing to recognise the broader implications of legalised euthanasia.

secularprolife.org said...

I think Ms. Maynard should have a right to die, since it doesn't involve killing a different person but her own life herself. She has my support, but I realize my opinion is probably unpopular in prolife movement... Hmm.

secularprolife.org said...

Dr. Ben Carson made a fairly wise comment about this case yesterday. He posited that brain cancer patients are nearly always on high dose steroids whoch, if withdrawn all at once, will nearly inevitably cause death. He further said that sedation could be administered to keep the patient comfortable. That, he said, would be an example of allowing a natural death (via the choice to withhold treatment) in these circumstances instead of overdosing someone in order to cause death. But he also cautioned against judging this woman as it is a hard case and a has they say in law school, hard cases make bad law.

secularprolife.org said...

Suicide is not euthanasia. Words have meaning. When you have to distort meaning to make an argument, you have no argument.

secularprolife.org said...

I share your concerns. How long until the right to die becomes the duty to die?

secularprolife.org said...

There may be less trauma and pain involved in going on a mass killing spree inside a hospice than inside a kindergarten, but it's still murder either way.

...............
What does any of the above have to do with me deciding to die or deciding to abort?

secularprolife.org said...

Why are you so desperate to control the life of other people?

secularprolife.org said...

Prevention of suffering.

secularprolife.org said...

Yeah. They let him live and watched him die slowly and painfully for their own emotional needs. That is selfish.

secularprolife.org said...

Oh please


Are you Sarah Palin? Death panels wooo!

secularprolife.org said...

Pain can't always be managed.

secularprolife.org said...

Your nebulous and unscientific assertion of when life begins is astounding.The fact that the fetus is human, living, growing and has it's own DNA tells me that it's someONE long before birth. Keep telling yourself that it's not so you can rationalize the barbaric dismemberment, burning and poisoning of our own helpless children. Many have done this before you *until* the act is done. Then the bitter reality sets in.

secularprolife.org said...

Did you not read this article? What about parents or boyfriends or statutory rapists who force teens to abort their children? Are they not controlling? What about the rights of the elderly to life till their last natural dying breath? Should they not be protected from "well meaning" family members who don't want to be burdened by them, who, with assisted suicide laws in place, might pressure them to take the death-inducing pill? Yes, I want to have some say (read "control" if you like) over the temptation of others to pressure elderly or sick to commit suicide. Why do you want to look the other way?

secularprolife.org said...

Your debate tactics leave a lot to be desired.

secularprolife.org said...

It should be up to EACH person to decide what happens in their life. No one should be allowed to force their views onto another. Just like no one should force me to gestate against my will no one should force someone to live or die against their will.

secularprolife.org said...

He was making the comparison between people at the hospice who are old and have less time to live than kindergarteners who have their whole life in front of them.

secularprolife.org said...

There are safeguards in place. Death panels with people being coerced into suicide are a crackpot fantasy.

secularprolife.org said...

It is something. It may never become an individual, autonomous someone.

secularprolife.org said...

For example? You may be right. And I should be concerned about that because ... ?

secularprolife.org said...

Dr. Ben Carson strikes me as a psychopath. He says outrageous things with no discernible affect. Creeps me out. I suppose he could register somewhere on the autism spectrum. That would also account for his creepy.

secularprolife.org said...

Works for me.

secularprolife.org said...

How long before the 'right to life' becomes the duty to give birth?

secularprolife.org said...

Life began eons ago. A life may begin with conception. A fetus is human, it is alive like my arm is alive, it may be unwanted. So sad, too bad.
You have a rich full fantasy life. I give you Buddha's advice - 'Think about other things." You will feel a lot better. And folks will stop running when they see you coming.
And last, but not least, I wish you what you wish me.

secularprolife.org said...

I think you are right. But I still do not get what it has to do with me deciding to die or have an abortion. The connection escapes me.
I am old. I could resent that. And yet, I would die to save the life of a toddler. Any toddler. Life is mysterious and then you die. I am good with that.

secularprolife.org said...

I try to stay far away from folks who say they want to do things for me.

secularprolife.org said...

like pull the plug when you are on life support, for example

secularprolife.org said...

You have no idea if the baby was in pain, much less an amount of pain that would cause him to prefer death, if he were capable of understanding that choice. He may have a condition which is not painful or only somewhat painful, but nonetheless fatal, he may have been on pain medications, he may have been in perinatal hospice where he was well cared for, etc. And he was no doubt held and comforted and loved.

secularprolife.org said...

I get the feeling the OP would gladly pull the plug on me.

secularprolife.org said...

"I do not become two people the moment the sperm meets the ovum."


No one is arguing that. However, a new individual, whole, living human organism does come into existence at conception. A new human life begins at conception; that is the biological reality.


Not being self-sufficient is not the same thing as not being an individual.

secularprolife.org said...

She already does have a "right to die." Since when do we need legal permission and a doctor present to kill ourselves? Teenagers manage to kill themselves without permission from authority. If you're found they save you and evaluate your mental health, but if you have your full faculties and don't prattle on about how you're going to stab yourself as soon as you leave the hospital, they won't keep you against your will. There's plenty of painkillers and prescriptions that one can easily OD on or mix to cause fatal reactions, and the terminally ill tend to have pretty good access to some of them. The problem with assisted suicide is that you're placing the killing into the hands of a third party, and for those who are incapable of making their own medical decisions (small children, the demented, the comatose etc.) you're potentially placing the decision to be killed into the hands of a third party as well.

secularprolife.org said...

Or perhaps that new "individual", Betty, splits into Betty and Barbara, then rejoins again to form Barbara. Did Betty die? Are chimeras two people?

secularprolife.org said...

Language again.
Quote: "... a new individual, whole, living human organism does come into existence at conception.'
A fetus is not individual. It is not an organism by definition.
Pure delusion. I find delusional people scary. Delusional people set fires, bomb buildings, assassinate doctors, stalk and harass folks ... oh wait ... that describes forced birth cultists. If the shoe fits ...

secularprolife.org said...

I'm really glad you posted this article because I have basically the exact same position. I don't think killing someone with their consent is prima facie wrong, nor remotely comparable to killing a human being without their consent. But its implementation so far seems to be hurting more than it helps.

I'd add few more points:

There is a difference between someone who has objectively chosen "I do not wish to live out the rest of my life" and someone who is mentally ill and suicidal. How do we tell the difference and enforce this? I've already seen stories of assisted suicide being "offered" as an option for the depressed.

Ableism, and in particular the idea that those who are farthest from being able to live (so-called) "independently" are worth the least, is a pre-existing enormous problem. I hope everyone involved in the abortion debate is familiar with this fact. It's really important to consider assisted suicide in light of this fact. Does a person who accepts assisted suicide do so because they believe the remainder of their life is not worth living, or because of the overwhelming societal messages that a severely disabled life is not worth living? One of the many good points that Not Dead Yet makes is that the "death with dignity" rhetoric is particularly problematic: In a society that prizes physical ability and stigmatizes impairments, it’s no surprise that previously able-bodied people may tend to equate disability with loss of dignity. This reflects the prevalent but insulting societal judgment that people who deal with incontinence and other losses in bodily function are lacking dignity.

secularprolife.org said...

What if it was painful? Is it ethical to let your baby slowly die? What if it takes a few years, and the baby is in constsnt pain? Keep the kid doped up that entire time? How about when hospitals choose to let terminally ill babies starve to death? Is that ethical?

secularprolife.org said...

it is alive like my arm is alive

This is just bad biology. There's a difference between an organism, even a very young and dependent one, and a body part.


If your argument is that the developing fetus isn't developed enough to matter according to your philosophy, then say that. But biologically, a fetus and an arm are in two completely different categories.

secularprolife.org said...

Wow, the ableism and adultism in the comments here are particularly disgusting today.

secularprolife.org said...

Saying someone might be on the spectrum because you find them creepy and psychopathic is bigoted against people on the spectrum. Please don't.

secularprolife.org said...

Sarah Palin is a liar and I won't defend her nonsense. But you don't have to posit anything like "death panels" to see how social and financial pressures could lead someone to consider assisted suicide when they otherwise might not.

secularprolife.org said...

Yes, I won't discount that. However, where it is legal, there are significant safeguards in place.

Also, social and financial pressures can lead people who are not in any way disabled to take their own lives.

secularprolife.org said...

Which is why he said we shouldn't judge...

secularprolife.org said...

I haven't really seen any outrageous statements out of him but to each his own.

secularprolife.org said...

He said that the ACA was the worst thing since slavery
http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/10/11/ben-carson-obamacare-worst-thing-since-slavery/

secularprolife.org said...

People who do not exhibit affect or exhibit inappropriate affect creep others not so afflicted out. That is a fact of life. Deal with it or not, it is no skin off my nose.


There are a number of reasons that a person might be without affect or exhibit inappropriate affect. Among them are - psychopathy, autism, brain damage, facial paralysis or muscle damage and more conditions with which I may not be familiar.

secularprolife.org said...

This is just bad biology. There's a difference between an organism, even a very young and dependent one, and a body part.

...........................
In every way that is important, not until birth. Not true by definition.
Look it up. And then convince me are not delusional.
That difference is the miracle of birth, and you want to cheapen it to get your political way. Not on my watch.

secularprolife.org said...

I've read that the safeguards really aren't as good as they should be, but I admittedly don't have any references at hand at the moment. They would need to be very strong.

secularprolife.org said...

I understand what you do mean. I was talked about /her/ decision, but it seems most people are so disappointed with her because she doesn't want to suffer the brain cancer within 6 months. I just don't understand why they believe she shouldn't be allowed to reduce her suffering or something...

secularprolife.org said...

Oh, in every way that's important! I do a lot of running, but I'm not sure I can keep up with these goalposts you keep moving.

And what definition? Where are you getting this definition? Could you kindly link to the developmental biology text that explains that the embryo or fetus is a body part equivalent to an arm, rather than a developing organism? I think you're building this "definition" out of nothing but your own personal opinion about what's "important."

secularprolife.org said...

I have been paying attention to Carson. Because he seems to be a rightwing darling and he creeps me out.

secularprolife.org said...

Is a fetus part of my body until it is born or not? Simple question. We will find out how delusional you are. That is always the fun part.

secularprolife.org said...

Nah, I'm waiting for that link I asked for before I engage with you anymore.

secularprolife.org said...

Fear of death.
http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terror_management_theory

secularprolife.org said...

You are asking a forced birth zealot to think. Rarely happens.

secularprolife.org said...

You will be waiting a long time. Hold your breath, Schifosa.

secularprolife.org said...

To use the above article, the child cannot consent one way or another. He or she may desire life at all costs. Abortion advocates often compare pre-born and sometimes born babies to non-human animals. The only directly suicidal animal I can think of are bees. Mammals instinct is life at all costs. It is arguable that taking away the option to fight for one's own life, even inevitably (lets face it, your death and mine are also inevitable. Our deaths will probably be painful in some way.Do you want to die? I don't) is unethical.

secularprolife.org said...

What if someone does not want to be pregnant, is forced to be, and sees suicide as the only way to end the suffering.

Are they mentally Ill? Should they be imprisoned for the duration of the pregnancy? Force fed? Tied to a bed?

secularprolife.org said...

And abortion is painful! Can't believe I let that slide! A child old enough to be diagnosed with a terminal birth defect is cut to pieces before being sucked out of her mother's uterus. A younger baby is just desicated with saline solution. Yeah, cozy. Much better than dying in loving arms.

secularprolife.org said...

You're surprised?

secularprolife.org said...

Incorrect.


Saline abortions are no longer performed, and in the majority of late term abortions the fetus heart is stopped first, and then labour is induced. In situations where labour cannot be induced, and it is removed in pieces, the woman is anaesthetized, and the fetus will be too.



Furthemore, fetuses prior to 25 weeks are incapable of sentience, and they are sedated and anaesthetized naturally whilst in utero.

secularprolife.org said...

This is just bad biology. There's a difference between an organism, even a very young and dependent one, and a body part.

............
Explain the difference.

secularprolife.org said...

If the death of the embryo or fetus is virtually inevitable, and the continuation of the pregnancy poses a direct threat to the life of the mother, I believe it is ethical to end the pregnancy in the most humane way possible-preferably without causing direct harm to the baby, which if I recall correctly is where double effect comes in-the death of the baby is a foreseen but unintended and undesired consequence of the necessary care given to the mother. (Although I would consider outright abortion ethical if the baby were going to die anyway and there was no other way to preserve the mother's health and safely end a pregnancy which would likely result in the her death, and if it were done in such a way as to minimize or eliminate the child's suffering. I'm not sure how such a medical scenario would actually arise though.)

I'm not positive but I believe it's possible to try to transfer tubal embryos to the uterus, which is obviously the better option for the baby, but I'm not sure how successful or common such attempts are.

secularprolife.org said...

That is because there is no such link for you. For us there are plenty to show that the Zygote is in fact an organism.

http://psychology.about.com/od/zindex/g/def_zygote.htm

http://bdfund.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/wi_whitepaper_life_print.pdf

And apparently even Planned Parenthood admits it's a single celled organism:

http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/glossary#z

There are a lot more links than this available.

secularprolife.org said...

Any biology and embryology textbook will say that the embryo is an organism. Even Planned Parenthood classifies zygotes and embryos as organisms. http://www.plannedparenthood.org/health-info/glossary#alpha_e

No scientific source anywhere will say that an arm or a gamete is an organism. They are parts, not wholes.

Organisms function as a whole, with all individual parts acting towards the good of the whole living thing. Your arms doesn't function as a whole, it's not designed to promote it's own continued existence and welfare, it's biologically merely a part of the larger body, you. You are an organism, but your arm is not. The composition and function of a zygote is entirely different than the composition and function of gametes, which cease to exist individually at conception. Furthermore the zygote is set on the continuous path of development through embryo, fetus, newborn, toddler, child, etc. Gametes aren't. You can trace your own existence as a single living entity back to the zygote stage, but no further.

Here is a paper going further into the definition of an organism, and why an embryo (but not sperm or eggs) is one.

http://bdfund.org/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2012/06/wi_whitepaper_life_print.pdf

secularprolife.org said...

Whoops. Didn't see your comment, sorry, posted a couple of the same links. Oh well.

secularprolife.org said...

On the flip side of statutory rapists, what about rapists who rape and disappear, and the people who want to force that child or woman to give birth to that baby?

secularprolife.org said...

Organism
Definition
noun, plural: organisms
(Science: Biology)
An individual living thing that can react to stimuli, reproduce, grow, and maintain homeostasis. It can be a virus, bacterium, protist, fungus, plant or an animal.

..............
Can a fetus do these things? No.
Is a fetus individual? No. A fetus is inside me and a part of my body until it survives to and through birth.
Does the fetus have the potential to become an individual organism that can do these things? Yes.
It is true that a fetus is alive, can react on a primitive level to stimuli, and it can grow.
It cannot, until it survives to and through birth, reproduce and maintain homeostasis. That is a mighty big CANNOT.
Until the genotype is fully expressed in the phenotype, there is no human being and no legal person.
NOW WE CAN CONTINUE TO ARGUE THIS, BUT ULTIMATELY THERE IS NO POINT TO THE ARGUMENT.
Why? Because no individual organism possesses the right to live at my expense without my consent. Born or unborn.

secularprolife.org said...

Scientists disagree on when the fetus becomes a human being, if it ever does. It is still an open question.

J Med Ethics.
The brain-life theory: towards a consistent biological definition of humanness.
Goldenring JM.
Abstract
This paper suggests that medically the term a 'human being' should be defined by the presence of an active human brain. The brain is the only unique and irreplaceable organ in the human body, as the orchestrator of all organ systems and the seat of personality. Thus, the presence or absence of brain life truly defines the presence or absence of human life in the medical sense. When viewed in this way, human life may be seen as a continuous spectrum between the onset of brain life in utero (eight weeks gestation), until the occurrence of brain death. At any point human tissue or organ systems may be present, but without the presence of a functional human brain, these do not constitute a 'human being', at least in a medical sense. The implications of this theory for various ethical concerns such as in vitro fertilisation and abortion are discussed. This theory is the most consistent possible for the definition of a human being with no contradictions inherent. However, having a good theory of definition of a 'human being' does not necessarily solve the ethical problems discussed herein.

secularprolife.org said...

Cases like this are difficult because she has no chance for survival, and preemptively choosing death goes against some pretty major instincts. People get upset about that. No matter what she does or doesn't do, people will say horrible and mean things...this is the internet. The problem is that there's a difference between saying one doesn't want to prolong their life and suffering (through treatment) and saying one wants to cut out early (with suicide). The first instance is a personal choice about end of life care, and a decision for palliative care rather than extra interventions. The second one becomes a major problem when the involvement of a third party becomes legal and expected. Ultimately that's what the debate is about. Most people just can't move past the particulars of one case to the larger overarching ethical implications.
If we go to kill someone and I provide the gun and load it and turn off the safety then hand it to you to pull the trigger, we're both equally responsible for that death. Assisted suicide is the same thing except that the victim and the one pulling the trigger are the same person...my culpability for providing the loaded weapon is not diminished.

What concerns me about cases like this is that they are used to turn suicide into just another option rather than a tragedy. Instead of improving palliative care both in its access and application, it creates an expectation that people will just "skip" that final unpleasantness and adds killer to a doctor's job description rather than keeping them as only healers and comforters. Euthanasia has become a treatment for depression in Europe because death is now endorsed when improving one's life feels like too much work or impossible.

Accepting that people do kill themselves (for various reasons) doesn't mean that you don't try to talk them out of it or offer other available options. But accepting the fact of suicide also doesn't mean endorsing it. That this is being endorsed and supported through law and involving others intentionally in a human being's death is I think what actually has most people riled up.

secularprolife.org said...

Do you ever post at The Atlantic? In case you are interested. "The Safer, More Affordable Abortion Only Available in Two States"

http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2014/10/the-safer-more-affordable-abortion-only-available-in-two-states

secularprolife.org said...

How long before the 'right to life' becomes the duty to feed an infant... or an elderly paraplegic man... so he doesn't die?

secularprolife.org said...

IIRC, in this particular condition (anencephaly), the baby cannot feel pain and is not capable of any type of awareness at all. In that case, the "the fetus cannot feel pain and therefore killing it is okay" argument works in reverse -- the infant cannot feel pain and therefore letting him live until he naturally dies is okay.

secularprolife.org said...

I feed infants and the elderly for the same reason I feed myself. Folks need to eat.
There is no 'right to life.' If there were, the State could execute no one.
You did not answer my question.
You did a poor job of shame/blame. Not one of you zealots is sane or even intelligent.

secularprolife.org said...

"...a 1998 study from Georgetown University's Center for Clinical Bioethics found a strong link between cost-cutting pressures on physicians and their willingness to prescribe lethal drugs to patients -- were it legal to do so."

http://abcnews.go.com/Health/story?id=5517492

secularprolife.org said...

I could ask you the same thing. Why are you so desperate to ensure that some human beings die?

secularprolife.org said...

Actually, I think there is a duty not to kill innocent human beings. I'm so sorry you disagree.

secularprolife.org said...

If anyone is interested, David Vellman at NYU has a great paper on this subject: Against the Right to Die. I've copied a piece from his article below.

"Options can be undesirable, then, because they subject one to various kinds of pressure; but they can be undesirable for other reasons, too. Offering someone an alternative to the status quo makes two outcomes possible for him, but neither of them is the outcome that was possible before. He can now choose the status quo or choose the alternative, but he can no longer have the status quo without choosing it."



I took Ethics from Vellman and found his thoughts on this subject in particular to be very interesting, so I try to pass it along to others who might be interested in it. Cheers!

secularprolife.org said...

I am not... I personally don't think any HUMAN BEING should be forced to die or risk their health and life for another. A ZEF is not a human being so I fail to see how my thinking abortion is a woman's right means I want humans to die.

secularprolife.org said...

Yes. Thank you!

secularprolife.org said...

No one disagrees with the fact that killing is wrong. What we disagree with is the forced gestational slavery of the pregnant woman. Her life should come first since she is the one that actually has a life.

secularprolife.org said...

I'm not getting into a pissing contest with you. Insulting people doesn't make your argument any stronger, or change the facts of biology, which you are repeatedly refusing to accept. I'm sorry you seem to be upset. Have a nice day.

secularprolife.org said...

The reproduction of cells it can do and already has the DNA coding to make reproductive organs, therefore it is already completed and will become able to produce for it's species later in life. There is a reason why the infertile, babies, toddler, and other children are still considered an organism despite being unable to propagate the species.

As for Homeostasis if it wasn't maintain it would die (It kind of what helps us be living, every living thing has this otherwise it be dead). There is different features in the cell that maintain it and it increase to tissues, organs, and organ systems as it develops the different types of homeostasis. If the zygote didn't have the right information to do this it would become a miscarriage the entire pregnancy requires signals from the zygote/fetus in order to continue the process.

I brought this up because you did. Now you say 'live at my expense without my consent.'

I say you 'You gave consent by your actions.' It is unable to ask to exist, or even be created. We would live in a very different world if such was possible. What it takes to reproduce is obvious. It's like going for a jog and not wanting to sweat. There are things you can do to limit it down and prevent it but nothing you can do to prevent it every time despite you not giving consent to sweating. Unless you're rape, sex is consenting to the possibility of having a child. If you want sex without children, get the treatment for becoming infertile. If you're paranoid get both you and your partner to do so before having sex.

I agree that doctors who try to make you wait on the procedure are wrong, unless there is a medical reason to stop you, there should allow it.

secularprolife.org said...

What about reproductive coercion? Violent, abusive men who purposely impregnate women so that those women will be tied to them for life?

http://www.acog.org/Resources-And-Publications/Committee-Opinions/Committee-on-Health-Care-for-Underserved-Women/Reproductive-and-Sexual-Coercion

secularprolife.org said...

Again....with all due respect, there are sources upon sources upon sources classify Z/E/Fs as organisms. Planned Parenthod, biologists, embryology textbooks, etc. etc. I'm sorry but you're arguing with established science. Organisms are individual living entities which function as a whole.

Even if chimerism or twinning meant that a zygote was not an organism, the argument wouldn't have any relevance past a very brief period in early development.


That said, if a zygote twins, all that means is that where there was one organism, now there's two. Whether that initial organism died is probably up for interpretation. Asexual reproduction is the closest thing to it; does the parent organism in such situations die? I think it would be more accurate to just say it turned into two organisms. I don't see this a problem. If you cut a worm in half, you get two worms. Does that mean the first worm wasn't an individual organism? Of course not.


With a chimera...I guess it was two organisms, and then it was one. Again, I don't see this as problematic.

secularprolife.org said...

I am not arguing that it is or is not an organism. A partial hydatidiform mole is also a human organism.

Whether that initial organism died is probably up for interpretation


What it means is that there is no individual - just a genetic blueprint, hence the ability to merge, un-merge, and merge again.



If you have two organisms, and then have one, and each is an *individual*, with it's own separate individual life, and it disappears into another 'individual' life, then you do have to ask what happened to it. Did it die? or what? Is a chimera that is made up of two sets of DNA really two people? Is one person the brain, and the other person the kidneys liver etc?

secularprolife.org said...

Why don't you stop putting words and thoughts in my mouth? Speak for yourself, John.

secularprolife.org said...

I used the link to indicate that scientists have not settled on when a fetus becomes a human being. It is not really a medical question - it is a bioethical philosophical question - hence the inability of science - and you - to answer it.


What progenitors are expected/required to do is one thing and what they actually do is another. No one is required to nurture an embryo or an infant by law. One can abort and/or one can abandon an infant at specific places legally. And progenitors in all societies commit infanticide/child abandonment of born children.


Illegal abortion and sepsis and hemorrhage in childbirth are the three leading causes of maternal death worldwide. Public health requires a lot more real thinking than just wallowing in your darling precious feelings and flinging around a lot of 'shoulds'. Abortion and contraception are human rights. The best is often the enemy of the good. You do not occupy the moral high ground.

secularprolife.org said...

I'm not getting into a pissing contest with you.

...........
Too late. Oops.

secularprolife.org said...

I'm sorry, but what then are you arguing? Individual here is being used in the sense that it is an organism: an individual entity functioning together as a living whole. Are you using "individual" differently? Maybe we're having a communication issue. If you're talking about ensoulment, I don't know precisely when or how souls are granted in such situations. (Although many people on this blog don't believe in souls at all, I don't know if you do.)


But still, how does chimerism/twinning prevent it from being an individual? DNA is a genetic blueprint; a Z/E/F is a unique organism. I mean...with twinning I guess you could say the first individual "died," kind of...It was one individual that became two, so maybe it didn't exist anymore. Or maybe it still exists, and another individual/organism just sort of budded off from it. I feel like it's partly a semantics issue.


I chimera is, to my knowledge, a single organism, and thus a single person.


And again, not to minimize your point, I just don't really see why this is an issue, personally. A zygote that twins was one organism, and now there's two. A chimera was two organisms, but now there's just one. Human organisms are living members of the human species, and should be treated with the same ethical regard as all other humans are treated with, without discriminating on the basis of age, abilities, or or level of development.

secularprolife.org said...

Sorry, I thought my first comment didn't show up. Just...disregard one.

secularprolife.org said...

You can become a chimera even now. It can happen through transfusions, guarantee way is receiving bone marrow transfusion. It doesn't require a death for this to happen. It is still one person despite having multiple DNA.

Now if they were two distinct than one dies (disappear)then yes she has the DNA of a dead twin. Despite being of the dead twin DNA, it still belongs to the organism it is in, after all these cells are working with other cells of that organism. Also the child can get part of the mother's DNA during pregnancy, which is guessed to be much more common than through a twin.

http://www.babycenter.com/0_strange-but-true-one-person-born-with-two-sets-of-dna-a-chim_10364937.bc

http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/lab-rat/2014/04/13/guest-post-i-am-my-mothers-chimera/

SO do you considered everyone with 2 DNAs from transfusions 2 people? It is according to Dr. Ann Reed 50-70% of healthy humans are chimeras of one type or another.

http://www.nytimes.com/2005/05/10/health/10bloo.html?pagewanted=all

I think the honest truth is we haven't study much into chimeras and we tend to think of the myth of it rather than the actuality. I think in general for a fully develop person the brain is the idea of how many people. One for each brain. So if they have one brain, than it's one person. I think Abigail and Brittany Hensel is a fine example of being 2 people one body vs the average chimera who is one person with multiple DNA which is still controlled by the organisms brain unlike the example conjoined twin.

secularprolife.org said...

I would have to disagree and say that when life begins is a purely biological question. However whether it is justifiable or logical to deny human rights , moral status, or personhood to certain humans on the basis of age, abilities, disability, gender, race, or any other factor...those are moral/philosophical questions. Personhood is a philosophical (and legal) concept.

"And progenitors in all societies commit infanticide/child abandonment of born children."

That doesn't tell us that such things should be legal. Abortion is no more a human right than infanticide or child abandonment. I agree with you that using measures to prevent conception is indeed a person's right.

And while unsafe abortion is certainly a big cause of maternal mortality, and we absolutely need to work to reduce maternal mortality from all causes and ensure that all people can get access to healthcare, evidence strongly indicates that abortion related maternal mortality is related far more to the general status of healthcare /medicinal technology in a region, than it is to abortion's legality. Mary Calderone, the medical director of Planned Parenthood from the mid 50's into the 60's, said that 90% of illegal abortions were being done by physicians and that it was in the main no longer dangerous. Dr. Bernard Nathanson, founder of NARAL and ex-abortionist turned pro-life, stated that they wildly exaggerated the number of abortions and the number of women dying from them in order to get abortion legalized. And if you look at the 2nd page of this publication, there's a chart showing maternal mortality from abortions in the US-it drops drastically far before Roe vs. Wade, at a time when medical care is improving, but legalization appears to have extremely little effect. http://www.mccl-go.org/pdf/mm_brochure_en_2012.pdf

Besides, the goal is not merely to make abortion illegal, but unthinkable by showing that it is wrongful and unjust and that the unborn are individuals with human rights, and unwantable by establishing better support for parents and children, non-discrimination against mothers in the workplace, better ways for mothers to continue education, etc.

secularprolife.org said...

Quote; Besides, the goal is not merely to make abortion illegal, but unthinkable ...
..............
We have already done that experiment in America. It was an EPIC FAIL. And it has been an epic fail in vitro everywhere and every time it has been attempted. The WHO tells us this is the state of things worldwide. And they tell us that abortion and contraception are human rights.


There are many in vitro examples of the failure of your ideas and standards but the one that troubles me the most at this moment is the mass grave of unshriven infants at Tuam. YOU ARE PRO DEATH and thus profoundly immoral IMO. You skeeve me.


Why don't you sick narcissitic perverts pay attention to what women and their children really want and need instead of OBSESSING on only what you want to allow them. Expend some energy on the fact that the USA is 50th in maternal mortality among the nations and it is getting worse.

secularprolife.org said...

So let us see what the Talmud and Jewish law have to say about this 'purely biological' question.

Jewish law not only permits, but in some circumstances requires abortion. Where the mother's life is in jeopardy because of the unborn child, abortion is mandatory.

An unborn child has the status of "potential human life" until the majority of the body has emerged from the mother. Potential human life is valuable, and may not be terminated casually, but it does not have as much value as a life in existence. The Talmud makes no bones about this: it says quite bluntly that if the fetus threatens the life of the mother, you cut it up within her body and remove it limb by limb if necessary, because its life is not as valuable as hers. But once the greater part of the body has emerged, you cannot take its life to save the mother's, because you cannot choose between one human life and another. - Judaism 101

secularprolife.org said...

What do you mean by darling precious feelings? It seems to me I've seen a number of people talking about how miserable pregnancy would make a woman so of course she has to have the right to terminate the pregnancy. I've even read comments from pro choices saying theyd rather die than be pregnant. This seems more like wallowing in precious feelings than a lot of the comments I've read on here today. I realize that pregnancy can be profoundly difficult, but you cannot believe that only prolifers rely on feelings to establish a moral belief about something.

secularprolife.org said...

I am pro life so naturally I am prochoice. I do not care at all how you 'feel' about my sexual/family life.

secularprolife.org said...

Well by that logic, a hydatidiform mole is a person, since you don't need a brain to be a person, just human DNA + organism.

secularprolife.org said...

So if they have one brain, than it's one person.

Yes, so if one fraternal twin merges into the other, did it die? What if the chimera is really just two monozygotic twins that have fused - did one twin die? We start out with Bob, the zygote, then Bob splits into two zygotes, perhaps more...is Bob now Bob, Billy and Bart? What if they all merge again? Have Billy and Bart died? Or did Bob and and Billy die, But Bart is alive? But they all have identical DNA, so when did their *individual* lives begin..and end? At conception? At twinning, a few days after conception? Or at merging?

secularprolife.org said...

Yeah so, did the chimera kill the other twin?

secularprolife.org said...

The zygote's homeostasis is maintained by its host until birth.


Yeah, if the ZEF was capable of independent homeostasis, wouldn't it be able to grow itself in a petri dish, with no help from the woman's organs?

secularprolife.org said...

Logic does not work on the obsessed. But I appreciate it intensely.

secularprolife.org said...

**Abortion always takes the life of someone who cannot consent**


I notice that you are carefully not mentioning that the question of 'consent' here is irrelevent for a number of reasons.


Firstly, since the REASON why the embryo - NOT the 'SOMEONE' - cannot consent is that it has no functioning brain, the entire question of consent or non-consent does not and cannot apply to it, any more than it can apply to a rock.


Secondly, the embryo, not the 'someone' has no right to another person's body. If someone is attached to your body and feeding on it, you do not need to ask their 'consent', nor do they need to be able to give it, before you remove them from your body. No, not even if they have a cute head, or need it for their 'very life'.

secularprolife.org said...

the term 'innocence' is irrelevent. To claim that an embryo is 'innocent' has as much philosophical meaning as claiming a rock is 'innocent'. Also, even if it did have meaning, innocence does not grant the right to another person's body.


And, btw, I think there is a duty not to rape and extort innocent human beings. Why don't you take that up with Myintx?

secularprolife.org said...

**Your nebulous and unscientific assertion of when life begins is astounding.**


In other words, you're trying to claim that the egg doesn't exist in our universe, or else isn't alive, until a split moment before the sperm arrives, at which point it suddenly either pops into existence from the twilight zone, or else suddenly a dead cell becomes 'alive'.

**The fact that the fetus is human, living, growing and has it's own DNA tells me that it's someONE long before birth.**

By which definition, cancer and HELA cells would be 'someone'.

secularprolife.org said...

**This is just bad biology. There's a difference between an organism, even a very young and dependent one, and a body part.**

If it can't live disconnected from the rest of the body, then it is a body part, no matter how many sad feelies you have about it.

secularprolife.org said...

**This is NOT true for the embryo, who does not need a brain any more developed than the one he has in order to function together as a whole organism.**


Oh... really?


So, if we remove the part of the mother's brain that controls her heart and lungs, causing those organs to stop in the mother, the embryo will be just fine?


Or does the embryo NEED a brain, the MOTHER'S BRAIN to survive?

secularprolife.org said...

** NO living thing can maintain homeostasis unless it is able to obtain and effectually use sufficient nutrients, oxygen, energy, etc. (If that weren't the case, everything would be immortal.)**



So, basically what you are claiming here is that cannibalism should be legal... as it allows the cannibal to maintain homeostasis by obtaining nutrients, energy, etc, that he needs for his 'very life'. Or does the fetus have special rights to maintain homoestasis by using another person's body that nobody else has?

secularprolife.org said...

The so-called "duty to die" is a concept that is being elaborated upon in the medical ethical literature. It's not a figment of the conservative politicians' collective imagination. It's a real philosophical ideal that is actively being shaped in academic literature.

secularprolife.org said...

I don't mean to sound condescending, but I think only people who do not understand biology claim that the unborn are not living. All cells are alive; that's a true but uninteresting assertion. The question is whether the unborn child warrants moral regard. The burden of proof is on the one who claims that it doesn't, because the claim is so great - we should be allowed to kill this creature that will ultimately be a fully grown human adult if natural development takes it course? That's a significant claim.

secularprolife.org said...

What constitutes a human being?

secularprolife.org said...

Sorry, didn't complete my thought:

However, to pursue PAS without even acknowledging the possibility of pursuing palliative care might actually be a mistake and she'll be short-changing herself.

secularprolife.org said...

Thanks for sharing! What a powerful excerpt:


"Once a person is given the choice between life and death, he will rightly be perceived as the agent of his own survival. Whereas his existence is ordinarily viewed as a given for him - as a fixed condition with which he must cope - formally offering him the option of euthanasia will cause his existence thereafter to be viewed as his doing.


The problem with this perception is that if others regard you as choosing a state of affairs, they will hold you responsible for it; and if they hold you responsible for a state of affairs, they can ask you to justify it. Hence if people ever come to regard you as existing by choice, they may expect you to justify your continued existence. If your daily arrival in the office is interpreted as meaning that you have once again declined to kill yourself, you may feel obliged to arrive with an answer to the question 'Why not?'"

secularprolife.org said...

I agree, suicide is not euthanasia. But in the case of Brittany Maynard, I believe she moved to a state where euthanasia is legal, in order to carry out her planned death, that she's characterising her death as euthanasia rather than suicide; and that she's campaigning for the legalisation of euthanasia. Please correct me if I have this wrong, but if not, it takes what she's doing far beyond the realms of 'personal choice'.

secularprolife.org said...

Wikipedia has a long and interesting article on the relationship between euthanasia and assisted suicide. It is too intricate to summarize it here.
Assisted suicide is legal in the American states of Oregon (via the Oregon Death with Dignity Act),[59] Washington(Washington Death with Dignity Act), Vermont (Patient Choice and Control at End of Life Act), and New Mexico. In Montana(through the 2009 trial court ruling Baxter v. Montana), the court found no public policy against assisting suicide, so consent may be raised as a defense at trial. Oregon and Washington specify some restrictions.

secularprolife.org said...

It is not inside the body of its host.

secularprolife.org said...

The ZEF is alive but it is not a human being. It does not have the right to life at the cost of my happiness, health, and life.

The burden of proof needs to be on the ones who claim that the pregnant woman is nothing but an incubator because they want to strip hr of her basic human rights.

secularprolife.org said...

How long before we're obligated to care about human beings different from ourselves in order to be minimally decent members of society?? Where will it end???

secularprolife.org said...

You seem to be under the impression that there are two, and only two, categories: organisms that can live entirely independent of other organisms, and body parts. That's factually incorrect. And you should know that mocking other people for not sharing your uninformed, incorrect views is a bad look.

secularprolife.org said...

Parents do have duties to their children.

secularprolife.org said...

What makes a human being?

"The burden of proof needs to be on the ones who claim that the pregnant woman is nothing but an incubator because they want to strip hr of her basic human rights."



I'm not making that claim.

secularprolife.org said...

Ad hominem isn't likely to get you anywhere. Why are you here? To convince others of your view, or to just stir the pot?


We do have a right to life. However, rights can be forfeited, particularly in criminal circumstances. This is why those who commit crimes can be detained (e.g., loss of the right to liberty). Committing a crime causes you to forfeit certain rights; you maintain others (e.g., the right to an attorney and fair trial). Carrying on with that argument, it's also why some can be executed; they forfeit their right to life.

secularprolife.org said...

Well, on the first point, I'm pretty much willing to accept that "this is a good reason why PAS is not likely to be a benefit to society for the forseeable future", and on the second point, I'm not a moral relativist. I do believe that human equality is a positive moral principle that is superior to pure utilitarianism.

secularprolife.org said...

Every cancer patient is brave. Whether they choose to fight until the end, or have assisted suicide, or enter hospice, that is THEIR CHOICE to make. Their choice doesn't reflect upon bravery. There is nothing more brave than facing your own mortality. As a nurse, I have seen that scenario play out many times, in many situations, with many differences in the way people choose to handle a terminal diagnosis and I can say without equivocation that they were ALL brave. Therefore, your opening premise is a non-sequitur. People don't fear dying as much as they fear loss of control and dying in pain. How they handle that is their business, and they do not need, or want your "protection." Mind your own business. All adults have a human right to accept or refuse any medical treatment, whether you approve or not.

secularprolife.org said...

Her choice.

secularprolife.org said...

They can ask you to justify it. You owe them ZERO justifications. It's your right to handle your affairs according to your wishes.

secularprolife.org said...

Um... what is "adultism?" Honest question here, as my understanding of the legal landscape says that an adult is entitled to make his own decisions about medical treatment.

secularprolife.org said...

Slippery slope fallacy. A competent adult is free to accept or refuse any medical treatment, and has always been free to do so. This hasn't led to any "duty" to either accept or refuse any medical treatment. I have no reason to believe that will change because of the introduction of a new option in handling a terminal diagnosis.

secularprolife.org said...

Only if they accept those duties. The truth is, they don't even have to take the baby home from the hospital unless they want to. If they don't, their rights will be terminated, and the child placed for adoption.

secularprolife.org said...

Innocent, shminocent. That concept doesn't fit, and even if it did, is irrelevant.

secularprolife.org said...

I disagree that killing is always wrong. Because that just isn't true, legally or morally.

secularprolife.org said...

The zef is alive like my hand is alive. It's alive because it's attached to a living organism from whom it receives resources. Remove either one from it's life-support, and see how long it lives.

secularprolife.org said...

You are if you claim that women, and ONLY women, are obliged to allow drilling into her bloodstream for the benefit of someone not herself.

secularprolife.org said...

No we don't have a "right to life." No one here gets out alive. We have laws that punish unjust killing.

secularprolife.org said...

It's always been an abstract thought experiment among academics. The reality is that the long-standing right to accept or refuse treatment has never evolved into a "duty" to refuse treatment (and that's another abstract for academics to sit around and think about, because that's what academics do). I have ZERO reason to believe that the introduction of a different medical choice in handling a terminal diagnosis will lead to any future "duty" either.

secularprolife.org said...

Irrelevant. It's not the decision of the doctor. It's the decision of the patient. And I don't CARE what motivates the patient. He has a right to have his reasons be his own, and to have them respected.

secularprolife.org said...

What motivates the patient is 1) irrelevant, and 2) none of your business, unless he wants to tell you and ask your opinion.

secularprolife.org said...

We're all going to die, JoAnna. If a terminally ill patient wants to stop treatment and enter hospice, fight until the end, or choose for himself the manner and time of his death, what earthly business is that of YOURS? As I had to explain to my sister, when our mom entered hospice care... THIS ISN'T ABOUT YOU.

secularprolife.org said...

The ability to exist as an independent organism.

secularprolife.org said...

Actually you are correct since in some cases killing is justified, such as self defense.

secularprolife.org said...

I hope if I am in a terminal state, without reasonable hope of recovery, that my children won't hesitate to pull the plug. YOU get to MYOFB. In fact, I'm counting on them to do so. They know I wouldn't want to live that way.

secularprolife.org said...

If you are against abortion you are.

secularprolife.org said...

Adultism as in the systematic overvaluing of adults, casting adult existence as 'default', denying children ordinary human rights, etc. etc., not the other way around.

secularprolife.org said...

Like how ableism is a system that privileges nondisabled people, heterosexism privileges heterosexual people, etc.

secularprolife.org said...

**You seem to be under the impression that there are two, and only two, categories: organisms that can live entirely independent of other organisms, and body parts. That's factually incorrect.**


Gee, you think? I thought that forced gestationers claimed the embryo wasn't a *parasite*.


And, btw, you're engaging in special pleading for the embryo again, by admitting that it can't live independent of the body of OTHERS, yet claiming it is entitled to the OTHERS body without their consent.

secularprolife.org said...

**If your argument is that the developing fetus isn't developed enough to matter according to your philosophy, then say that.**


It's 'development' is irrelevent. Nothing without a functioning brain has rights, and even something WITH a functioning brain does not have a special right to the body of other people.

secularprolife.org said...

Oh. Well, adults are appropriately privileged over children and naturally have greater rights and responsibilities. That includes the right to accept or reject any medical treatment, whether you like it or not. Minors have limited rights because of their legal infancy.

secularprolife.org said...

No, I don't think so. Being able to live BIOLOGICALLY independently of another is very important. Anyone can care for a born child. That doesn't require the bloodstream and organs of a *specific* person. Adults rightfully enjoy the right to make decisions for their children. It doesn't matter whether you approve of that or not. I'm not going to get into the circumcision argument with you, other than to say there are risks and benefits. It IS the religious right of Jewish and Muslims to have this done. I don't see it as an issue.

secularprolife.org said...

Human beings are not mere blueprints.

secularprolife.org said...

I reject the idea that I should be OK with people being pressured to end their own lives even if it's not what they really want to do.

secularprolife.org said...

Three questions:

Do you believe that children are less valuable people than adults?

What is your rationale for the idea that adults have the right to make decisions for their own children, but not others' children?

Are you arguing that having the genitals of an intersex child mutilated is a parent's right?

secularprolife.org said...

**We do have a right to life.**


The 'right to life', even in real people who have actual brains, does not and cannot be synonymous with the 'right to whatever is 'needed' to sustain that life without the consent of the owner.

secularprolife.org said...

Oh, by an "intersex child" do you mean a child born with ambiguous genitalia? I'm going to go ahead an assume that's what you mean, and that by "mutilation" you mean *gender assignment surgery.* And I'm going to say OF COURSE parents have the right to have that done, after genetic counseling, and consultation with a physician. No I do NOT think children have less "value" than adults. I think that children do not have the maturity and experience to make adult decisions. For example, if the doctor said my child had acute appendicitis, I wouldn't ask the child if he wanted an appendectomy. What is he supposed to say? He doesn't understand the situation, the risks and the expected benefit. I wouldn't allow a child to make ANY decisions for me, either. When it's time to leave for school, I don't ask if he's ready to go yet. That's immaterial. And what is my rationale for adults making decisions for their own children, but not the children of others, that isn't even factual. The person who is the child's legal guardian is the one who makes decisions. That's usually the parents, but not always. The reasons parents or other guardians make decisions for children or wards are many. First of all, that's their responsibility or duty. Second of all, someone must have ultimate authority for the well-being of the child. This will usually be the parents. Thirdly, parents have the right to raise their children as they see fit. Someone else's children, if you are not the legal guardian, are none of your business. You are not responsible for them. You are not paying the child's bills. You aren't taking care of another person's child, and you do not know them. You CANNOT make decisions for kids not under your legal authority. PERIOD.

secularprolife.org said...

Wow, the pretending the human brain has absolutely no value is particularly disgusting in you.

secularprolife.org said...

It doesn't matter if you're "ok" with it or not. It's not your call to make. There is no such thing as a terminally ill person who ISN'T under some kind of pressure. But I WILL tell you that the most common form of "pressure" exerted by others is being pressured by doctors to undergo endless and often futile medical treatment. This is because of how doctors are conditioned. They go through all this training to prolong lives, and (particularly younger doctors) don't cope well with those who decide to let nature take it's course. I saw this with my own mother when she was in the terminal stage of COPD. I saw and heard her pulmonologist trying to guilt her into going to a LTC facility on a respirator even to the point of bringing his Christian faith into it. My mother, on the other hand, only wanted to leave the hospital, go home and never go back. She was tired of her entire life being limited to an area no longer than her oxygen tubing. My dad and I respected her wishes, and she came home and entered hospice. We discontinued most of her medicine. We kept her comfortable with morphine and anti-anxiety drugs to help her breathing. All the grandchildren came from other states to say goodbye. Soon she didn't have the energy to get up and use the potty, so the hospice nurse and I put in an indwelling catheter. She stopped eating and became comatose, and then with the blessing of the hospice nurse, he shut off her oxygen compressor because it was no longer helping her. She passed away peacefully within a minute. That's all she wanted. To die in peace, at home, with dad and me at her side. We made sure HER wishes were honored, and I've never regretted that.

secularprolife.org said...

"How they handle that is their business, and they do not need, or want your "protection." Mind your own business."


I doubt disagree that adults with decision-making capacity can refuse whatever medical treatment they want. But they cannot demand whatever they want. In a very real way, their business is our business. We live in community. Our healthcare costs demonstrate that. I should not be allowed to walk into a hospital and demand whatever healthcare I deem necessary; a physician should work with me to determine what is medically necessary.


But there are many things that medicine CAN do. We need some sort of moral compass to determine what we SHOULD do. What you've done is resorted to an emotional appeal (your response to my comment below: "her choice") without interacting in any serious way with the moral dilemma posed by physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia.

secularprolife.org said...

Your response doesn't interact in any significant way with the moral dilemma posed by PAS/euthanasia. What if one were to answer in this way to other moral dilemmas?


"ISIS just cut off the head of another innocent person." "Their choice."


"A mother of three just killed her children." "Her choice."


"A soldier just deserted the Army." "His choice."


"This physician is participating in state executions." "Her choice."


I could go on with the list. Whether or not it's "her choice" doesn't have any real bearing on whether certain choices should be permissible, or whether they're good choices. Of course it's her choice; that tells us very little of moral relevance.


It appears that it's settled in your own mind, for unclear reasons, that PAS/euthanasia are morally acceptable acts. This is not the case for the rest of us, nor for the rest of the US. If you want to try to convince people that you're right, you need to do more than given an assertion. You need to give an argument that stands on more than an emotional appeal. Indeed, you need to give some sort of argument at all ("her choice" is just a two word assertion).

secularprolife.org said...

Why do you owe them "zero" justifications? If something is your responsibility, you may owe other people a justification.

For example, if I'm responsible for a task at work, I should give a justification to others that I'm competent to perform the task.

Or do you not think we can be responsible for things?

secularprolife.org said...

But human rights exist? If so, what provides the basis for them?

secularprolife.org said...

Why must someone be living biologically independently, and not by any other arbitrary criterion (e.g., financially, medically (e.g., dialysis), or in regards to food production, clothing production, being able to build a home, etc?). What makes biologic independence special that doesn't apply to those other things?

secularprolife.org said...

Unfortunately, the frustrations of trying to convince a moral relativist (examples of which are scattered throughout the comment section here) of your points is a Herculean task.

secularprolife.org said...

Sorry, I meant to write: "I don't disagree that adults..."

secularprolife.org said...

You can say the same about patients on dialysis, too. A person with ESRD can be expected to live about a week (although there are exceptions, longer and shorter) if they stop undergoing dialysis.


Your comment doesn't provide a clear explanation as to why the unborn child does not warrant moral regard.

secularprolife.org said...

Assertions won't get you far in convincing others that you're on the right side of the debate.


What makes a human being?

secularprolife.org said...

Parents own their children now? Or at what point in development does a parent NOT own its child?

secularprolife.org said...

"It's always been an abstract thought experiment among academics."

As a physician, I can tell you that this is not an abstract concept. Patients who are chronically or terminally ill frequently tell me they don't want to be a "burden" to their families. That reveals some aspect of a "duty to die," that is, they have a duty to not carry on and be a burden to those that love them. They may not articulate it as a duty, but they're living out that duty.

"The reality is that the long-standing right to accept or refuse treatment has never evolved into a "duty" to refuse treatment"

Because it hasn't happened before, it won't ever happen?

"I have ZERO reason to believe that the introduction of a different medical choice in handling a terminal diagnosis will lead to any future "duty" either."



Well, you haven't interacted substantially with any real argument in favor of a duty to die to demonstrate that it's an insufficiently convincing argument.

secularprolife.org said...

"choose for himself the manner and time of his death, what earthly business is that of YOURS?"


Do you support the suicidal choice of a depressed person?

secularprolife.org said...

Person rights exist.

secularprolife.org said...

Well first of all it is not requiring the attachment to a host to sustain its life for one...

secularprolife.org said...

hahahahahahahaha

secularprolife.org said...

Well I guess today we learned that you're anti-intersex and support the structures that lead to child abuse. I'm done here.

secularprolife.org said...

The truth is, people are denied human rights based on the inability to live "independently" in those other ways, too. That's also adultism and ableism. And I would be hard-pressed to say lady_black is against that kind of discrimination, either.

secularprolife.org said...

Dying 5 year olds in need of bone marrow are being denied their human rights because bone marrow donation is not mandatory.

secularprolife.org said...

"If so, what provides the basis for them?"

secularprolife.org said...

So that rules out folks on dialysis and ventilators then?


Why are you defining a human being negatively? What qualities make a human being, and why are they worthy of moral regard?

secularprolife.org said...

I wasn't aware that only ONE ventilator and dialysis could be used. I thought any one could be used...

secularprolife.org said...

I don't define humans negatively I just don't believe in gestational slavery.

secularprolife.org said...

People on dialysis and ventilators are not "under construction". A prenate is intrinsically incomplete and unformed - every single organ is incapable of sustaining biologist life independently, and may NEVER be capable of doing so.

secularprolife.org said...

You said that a human being is, first of all (indicating also some sort of primacy in this characteristic) "not requiring the attachment to a host to sustain life." That's a negative definition; that is, you're defining something by what it is NOT rather than by what it IS.


I don't know what "gestational slavery" has to do with what you believe to be constitutes a human being.


What qualities make a human being, and why are they worthy of moral regard?

secularprolife.org said...

Cooperation. Even animals have their own basic morality.

secularprolife.org said...

"A prenate is intrinsically incomplete and unformed"

So are toddlers and adolescents. At what stage of development are we "complete and formed?" And in what ways? Physically, mentally/intellectually, emotionally...?

"every single organ is incapable of sustaining biologist life independently"

I've taken care of patients in the ICU setting like that...

"and may NEVER be capable of doing so."



Why is this possibility a matter of moral relevance? I care about what is or is not; what may occur should not be the deciding factor in whether we should be permitted to kill this being or not.

secularprolife.org said...

Toddlers, heck, even newborns, have every organ that they will ever have, and those organs are capable of sustaining life independently.

I sincerely doubt that you have had patients in the ICU whose every single bodily organ is non functional.

secularprolife.org said...

So, essentially a social contract creates the circumstances that allow for the existence of human rights? We both agree human rights (which are X, Y, and Z) are good things, and since we both agree, they exist in a contractual format. Is that an accurate elaboration upon your point?

If so, then what happens if no one agrees to your interpretation of the social contract? What if, for example, Hitler had won WW2 and we lived in a world where people who were different from some set standard were routinely executed? Not only that, but everyone else except for you was on board with this totalitarian regime? To what might you appeal in such a system?

secularprolife.org said...

It is not negative- it is the truth. Sorry you can't see that.
A ZEF is not a human being and it is not worthy of anything.

secularprolife.org said...

Hitler would be clearly denying person class beings their rights. Denying that they can think, feel suffer.

How do you dehumanize DNA?

secularprolife.org said...

So having the appropriate number of organs is important to being worthy of moral regard? Why is the independent functioning of those organs morally relevant?


Regarding the care of patients in the ICU: multi-organ failure occurs. I've cared for patients who have had every single organ fail. Let me briefly list the ways:


- Brain failure: delirium or comatose, requiring various medications to attempt to improve mental status
- Heart failure: requiring intra-aortic balloon pumps, medications
- Pulmonary failure: requiring a ventilator, medications
- GI failure: requiring total parenteral nutrition (TPN; nutrition through the vein)
- Liver failure: no good interventions here except for transplant
- Renal failure: requiring RRT (renal replacement therapy; often continuously in the ICU, rather than intermittently like outpatients)
- Hematologic failure: immune dysfunction, coagulopathies


It's not rare for all of these to occur in patients in the ICU, particularly near the end of life; although, rarely, some recover.

secularprolife.org said...

Yeah, near the end of life. Exactly.


Potential does not override actual. Sperm + egg does not = insta baby.

secularprolife.org said...

"Yeah, near the end of life. Exactly."

What point are you making there? That people at the end of their lives are not worth moral regard either?

You might note that I ask the same questions again. It's because it's not clear to me that you answered or addressed them in your response.

So having the appropriate number of organs is important to being worthy of moral regard? Why is the independent functioning of those organs morally relevant?

secularprolife.org said...

If every single one of your organs is incapable of independently sustaining biological life, if you cannot survive as a separate, autonomous individual, you are not really, truly, alive. And such potential 'life' should not take precedence over actual life.

secularprolife.org said...

Really? Do I "support" it?? It doesn't NEED my "support." It is what it is, no matter how strenuously you might object to it. What do you plan to do about it, other than grumbling online? Shall we jail those who attempt suicide, but don't get it right? It's NOT about YOU, Joshua. The topic, by the way, is assisted suicide by the terminally ill. People with a terminal diagnosis choose how they wish to handle that information. YOU get no say. It's not your body. It's not your diagnosis. It isn't YOUR LIFE. Therefore, YOU get to shut up and mind your own business.

secularprolife.org said...

To the contrary, I'm a nurse. Have been a nurse for 28 years. I've cared for many terminally ill patients, including my own grandmother and mother. NOBODY "wants to die." But the mature viewpoint is that we are all going to die. Not wanting to be a burden is a valid viewpoint, shared by many, and indicates nothing close to a "duty to die." I see it as a facing of one's own mortality. You, as a physician, are bound to respect that. And THAT, sir, is the bottom line. I already stared down the likes of you in the form of a mean-spirited pulmonologist who tried to bully Mom into a nursing home, tied to a ventilator and separated from her loving family. We don't have to accept your medical tortures when we desire to only be kept comfortable, and allow nature to take it's course. Nature always wins in the end. You aren't getting out of here alive, either. How you choose to face your own end is your OWN business.

secularprolife.org said...

If a person with ESRD had to depend upon a person with kidneys, rather than a sophisticated machine to filter their wastes, they would be sh*t out of luck. Wouldn't they? I am NOT a freaking MACHINE. I am a human being. I'm not obligated to open my bloodstream and organs to anyone. Not to you. Not to my born children. And not to a fetus either.

secularprolife.org said...

Because machines and people are different. People have rights. Machines DON'T have rights. Food doesn't have rights. Clothing doesn't have rights, and housing doesn't have rights.

secularprolife.org said...

So, again, you're defining what constitutes a human being negatively, by saying what a human being is not, rather than what it is. What is a human being, and why are those qualities morally relevant?

"if you cannot survive as a separate, autonomous individual"



Very few of us are truly autonomous. Do you grow your own food and make your own clothing? Did you build the home in which you live and the computer on which you're typing? Why are you defining "separate" and "autonomous" so rigidly so as to include yourself but exclude others?


On the other hand, very many of us are very dependent. Those on dialysis, for example, are definitely not "separate" or "autonomous." The same goes for those on ventilators. They're not truly alive?

secularprolife.org said...

"Really? Do I "support" it?? It doesn't NEED my "support."'

You're obviously posting here for a reason; to support some ideal you think is good. Do you agree that a person with depression should be permitted to kill themselves?

"What do you plan to do about it, other than grumbling online?"

I'm a psychiatry resident. I routinely involuntarily commit people who try to kill themselves. Do you think that's wrong?

"YOU get no say. It's not your body. It's not your diagnosis. It isn't YOUR LIFE. Therefore, YOU get to shut up and mind your own business."



I think the morality of anyone's actions is the business of the community. Whether or not it's right to torture dogs, smoke cigarettes, throw apples at the neighbor's house, kill the disabled, spy on someone online, or overindulge in chocolate cake are all matters of moral concern, and are up for philosophical debate. Why? First, how we form our beliefs about these actions impacts what we ourselves do. Will I kill myself at the end of my life? Will you? Second, how our children form their beliefs is impacted by society's beliefs as a whole; I care about what my child believes. Third, how society functions currently and how it grows on precedent setting is impacted by discussions like these.


So while I'm not going to walk into this woman's room as she's about to take her lethal dose of medication and knock it out of her hand, I do think this topic (i.e., physician-assisted suicide and euthanasia) is fair game for discussion.

secularprolife.org said...

So, the unborn child lacks moral regard because it depends on another person for survival?

secularprolife.org said...

What gives us rights?

secularprolife.org said...

The thing is, doctor, you don't get to force anyone to not smoke cigarettes, or not eat chocolate cake. That means YOU don't do those things. The other things you mentioned are crimes. Someone else's morals are none of your business, so long as what they are doing isn't illegal. You commit people who are mentally ill. Not people who are dying. I believe a person has a right to choose how they die, given a terminal diagnosis. I'm also a huge fan of hospice care, rather than assisted suicide. You may see that as a passive form of suicide. I don't. You can choose not to be their doctor. That's your only choice. When YOU'RE the terminal patient, you get to choose.

secularprolife.org said...

"The thing is, doctor, you don't get to force anyone to not smoke cigarettes"

Sure we do. We make laws keeping 17 year olds from smoking. We also have laws keeping 20 year olds from drinking. And laws from keeping anyone from abusing heroin. That doesn't mean they won't do it; but as a society, our law condemns those things.

"You commit people who are mentally ill. Not people who are dying."

Patients with depression who are suicidal can be terminally ill. Those with mental illness may suffer just as much as those with physical illness; why should we discriminate against the mentally ill and keep them from killing themselves should they so desire?

"I'm also a huge fan of hospice care, rather than assisted suicide. You may see that as a passive form of suicide. I don't."

I support aggressive palliative care, including hospice.

"When YOU'RE the terminal patient, you get to choose."



Why is terminal illness morally relevant? Why can't anyone kill themselves if they so desire?

secularprolife.org said...

>> I'm very skeptical that it's possible. And until someone shows me
differently, I have to err on the side of protecting those who want to
live every last day.

Valid concern.

At least for patients who are not in a coma, I don't see the day being too far away where biometrics and brain reading technology can be utilized to create a living will where the person, while in a clear state of mind, authorizes euthenasia. Brain readings already allow us to control prosthetics, and we can reconstruct rudimentary visual images a person is seeing by surface EEG readings. I don't see the day when nearly fool-proof lie detectors can be built.

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