Category : Life Ethics

(Wash Post) In Oregon, pushing for assisted suicide for patients with degenerative diseases

Relatively modest drives are afoot in Washington state and California, where organizations have launched education campaigns on how people can fill out instructions for future caregivers to withhold food and drink, thereby carrying out an option that is legal to anybody: death by starvation and dehydration. (It is often referred to as the “voluntarily stopping eating and drinking” method.)

The boldest bid is taking place in Quebec. Prompted by a 2017 murder case involving the apparent “mercy killing” of a 60-year-old woman with Alzheimer’s by her husband — who smothered her with a pillow — the provincial government is studying the possibility of legalizing euthanasia for Alzheimer’s patients. Unlike medically assisted suicide, a medical doctor would administer the fatal dose via injection. A survey in September found that 91 percent of the Canadian province’s medical caregivers support the idea.

“The process that could lead to [legislative] changes has already begun,” said Marie-Claude Lacasse, a spokeswoman for the Quebec Ministry of Health and Social Services.

Somewhere between these points is Oregon, where several lawmakers are trying to push the right-to-die envelope.

Under the current law, eligible patients can obtain prescriptions for lethal barbiturates. Qualified patients must be diagnosed with a terminal illness, have a prognosis of six or fewer months to live, and self-ingest the drug. The vast majority — more than 70 percent, according to the Oregon Health Authority — have cancer; most others have either heart disease or amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

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Posted in Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Theology

(WSJ) DeSanctis Alexandra–Notre Dame Becomes a Bit Less Catholic

The University of Notre Dame caved in. It will partly obey the Obama Care mandate requiring employer health-care plans to cover the cost of contraceptives and abortifacient drugs. Rejecting the Trump administration’s religious exemption, Notre Dame announced last month that it will provide “simple contraceptives” to students and employees through its insurance program.

Notre Dame’s president, the Rev. John Jenkins, deserves praise for discontinuing coverage of abortifacients. Yet he justified the birth-control decision by saying, in part, that Catholic tradition requires respect for “the conscientious decisions of members of our community.” Of course, Notre Dame community members can exercise their consciences without receiving university-provided contraception. And there is also the serious possibility that Notre Dame abused the legal process when it sued the Obama administration for relief. If the university had standing on religious-freedom grounds, how can it now explain its decision to facilitate coverage of birth control?

While these issues are concerning, as a graduate of Our Lady’s university, I take the recent news personally. I chose to attend Notre Dame because its essential Catholicism makes​it different from other outstanding American universities. Serious young Catholics may no longer look at Notre Dame the way I did, and with good reason.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Education, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic

(CT) America’s Surrogacy Bump: Is Fertility a Blessing to Be Shared?

[Meg] Watwood is part of America’s rapidly growing surrogacy movement. The number of babies born through surrogacy in the United States, though still relatively small, has quadrupled in just over a decade. And despite ethical questions surrounding the practice, demand isn’t slowing.

According to the American Society for Reproductive Medicine, surrogates gave birth to 2,807 babies in 2015, up from 738 in 2004. Nearly all were conceived by IVF and carried by women with no genetic connection, a process called “gestational surrogacy.” (In “traditional surrogacy,” the only option prior to IVF but one rarely used today, the carrier would also be the genetic mother of the baby.)

IVF and surrogacy are becoming more normalized in the US just as other countries have shut down foreign surrogacy enterprises, dual trends that have made the US a top surrogacy destination. High demand for surrogates, who typically earn more than $20,000 per birth, has attracted many evangelical women, who often fit the profile of the “ideal” surrogate and are drawn to the idea of using their fertility to bless others.

But laws and ethical discussions surrounding surrogacy haven’t kept up with the industry’s growth, and pastors and churches appear largely ill-equipped to guide women and couples through the high-stakes decisions involved in third-party reproduction.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

(Anglican Taonga) New Zealand Anglican leaders speak out against a proposed euthanasia Bill

Eight Anglican bishops have called for a halt to the End of Life Choice Bill, which proposes legalising medically-assisted suicide and euthanasia in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In their submission to the Justice Select Committee on David Seymour’s End of Life Choice Bill this week, the bishops recommended no change to existing laws, and called for more funding of palliative care and counselling support for patients and their whanau.

Rather than introducing assisted dying as proposed in the Bill, the bishops believe our government should ensure New Zealanders have access to the best quality palliative and psycho-social care when faced with terminal illness.

They cite Australian doctor Karen Hitchcock who in her 12 years of work in large public hospitals has often heard patients express a wish to die, but says the cause of that desire is seldom physical pain,

“[It] is often because of despair, loneliness, grief, the feeling of worthlessness, meaninglessness or being a burden. I have never seen a patient whose physical suffering was untreatable,” she said.

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Posted in Anglican Church in Aotearoa, New Zealand and Polynesia, Anthropology, Death / Burial / Funerals, Eschatology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics

(Psephizo) Ian Paul–Are people with Down’s syndrome truly valued?

On the second point, I had to ask myself why we are so timid in being clear about what we believe? Martyn Taylor’s proposed amendment was very modest, simply asking that the affirmation at point a. referring to people with Down’s Syndrome ‘before and after birth’. In doing this, Martyn was proposing that we simply use the language found in the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of a Child:

Whereas the child, by reason of his physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care, including appropriate legal protection, before as well as after birth… (in the Preamble).

James Newcombe’s objection here was that saying this would make it harder for Government and GMC to listen to the request made in the motion. But the request came in point d, not in point a. And it is difficult to see why aligning with the UN Declaration would appear to be so unpalatable. But there is a wider point which this hints at: in our discussions with other bodies, and in our making reasonable requests, why are we so shy at being open for our reasons for doing so? If we did make the Church attitude to abortion clear, and if that is at odds with the views of professional bodies, why would that disqualify our request? Do we have to look like these bodies before we can speak to them? Are they so closed to reasonable requests from people with different views, values and outlooks? And does the Church of England have to, chameleon-like, changes its colours to match its surroundings before speaking into a particular context? (Before anyone points it out, I know that chameleons don’t in fact do this.) American theologian Stanley Hauerwas urges that our main priority for living in a post-Christendom world should be to ditch our obsessions with relevance, and simply be the Church we are called to be. And we are not called to be chameleon.

On this issue, it might not in the end make much practical difference. But I am saddened that, in rejecting these amendments, we held back from saying the thing that I think most disabled people want to hear: that we not only value them, but we are prepared to confront those who would see them eliminated. If we cannot do that, can we really say that we value them without qualification?

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Theology

Church of England General Synod affirms dignity and humanity of people with Down’s Syndrome

The Church of England’s General Synod has given unanimous backing to a call for people with Down’s Syndrome to be welcomed, celebrated and treated with dignity and respect.
A motion affirming the dignity and full humanity of people with Down’s Syndrome was passed after a debate at the General Synod meeting in London.

It comes as a new form of prenatal screening, Non-Invasive Prenatal Testing (NIPT), is set to be rolled out in the NHS to women deemed to be at ˜high-risk’ of having a child with Down’s syndrome.

The motion welcomes medical advances and calls for the Government and health professionals to ensure that women who have been told that their unborn child has Down’s Syndrome are given comprehensive, unbiased information on the condition.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church of England (CoE), Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

(Christian Post) Why Does Christianity Exalt the Human Body and Secularism Seek to Destroy It?: Nancy Pearcey

Arguably no subject divides Americans more passionately than what it means to be a human being, especially when it comes to sexuality, identity, and the body.

What lies beneath the bitter cultural squabbles over physician assisted suicide, abortion, same-sex marriage, and transgenderism is a secularist ideology that wages war against the human body, argues Nancy Pearcey, a former agnostic who teaches at Houston Baptist University in her book, Love Thy Body: Answering Hard Questions About Life and Sexuality, which was released last month.

“We live in a moral wasteland where human beings are desperately seeking answers to hard questions about life and sexuality, “Pearcey, who The Economist describes as “America’s pre-eminent evangelical Protestant female intellectual,” stresses in the book’s Introduction.

“But there is hope. In the wasteland we can cultivate a garden. We can discover a reality-based morality that expresses a positive, life-affirming view of the human person — one that is more inspiring, more appealing, and more liberating than the secular worldview.”

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Pastoral Theology, Religion & Culture, Sexuality, Theology: Scripture

(WSJ) China, Unhampered by Rules, Races Ahead in Gene-Editing Trials

In a hospital west of Shanghai, Wu Shixiu since March has been trying to treat cancer patients using a promising new gene-editing tool.

U.S. scientists helped devise the tool, known as Crispr-Cas9, which has captured global attention since a 2012 report said it can be used to edit DNA. Doctors haven’t been allowed to use it in human trials in America. That isn’t the case for Dr. Wu and others in China.

In a quirk of the globalized technology arena, Dr. Wu can forge ahead with the tool because he faces few regulatory hurdles to testing it on humans. His hospital’s review board took just an afternoon to sign off on his trial. He didn’t need national regulators’ approval and has few reporting requirements.

Dr. Wu’s team at Hangzhou Cancer Hospital has been drawing blood from esophageal-cancer patients, shipping it by high-speed rail to a lab that modifies disease-fighting cells using Crispr-Cas9 by deleting a gene that interferes with the immune system’s ability to fight cancer. His team then infuses the cells back into the patients, hoping the reprogrammed DNA will destroy the disease.

In contrast, what’s expected to be the first human Crispr trial outside China has yet to begin….

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, China, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology, Theology

(1st Things) Wesley Smith–The Deadly Legacy of Eugenics

Here’s an example. Many people believe that German crimes in the medical context were Hitler’s idea, or were purely a product of Nazi ideology. Not true. The doctors who committed these crimes had embraced the eugenicist ideology that views some lives as of lower “quality” and, hence, lower value than others. The support among German medical, legal, and academic intelligentsia for euthanasia and terminating the disabled long predated Hitler’s rise to power.

Medical historian Robert Jay Lifton has identified the 1920 book Permitting the Destruction of Life Not Worthy of Life (Die Freigabe der Vernichtung Lebensunwerten Lebens), written by law professor Karl Binding and physician Alfred Hoche, as “the crucial work” promoting the agenda of death. Permitting the Destruction of Life profoundly influenced the values of the general public and the ethics of the German medical and legal communities—to the point that a 1925 poll of the parents of disabled children reported that 74 percent of them would agree to the painless killing of their own children!

The book is a truly chilling read, not only because of its crass advocacy for killing the defenseless, but also because of the ways in which it mirrors many concepts propounded by bioethicists and euthanasia advocates today. Binding and Hoche believed that some lives are so degraded that they constitute “life not worthy of life.” Who were these unfortunates?

  1. Terminally ill or mortally wounded individuals who “have been irretrievably lost as a result of illness or injury, who fully understand their situation, possess and have somehow expressed an urgent wish for release.” This view is virtually identical to the euthanasia and assisted suicide policies urged upon us today.
  2. Binding and Hoche believed it was permissible to euthanize “incurable idiots,” whose lives they denigrated as “pointless” and “valueless.” They were deemed an economic and emotional “burden on society and their families.” Today’s advocates do not depict the developmentally disabled as “idiots,” nor do most go as far as Hoche and Binding did in calling for non-voluntary killing. However, the economic cost of caring for those labeled as having a low quality of life is frequently noted by euthanasia advocates and asserted as grounds for healthcare rationing and the withdrawal of wanted life support.
  3. The “unconscious,” who “if they ever again were roused from their comatose state, would waken to nameless suffering.” The United States and other Western nations already allow terminating such individuals by withholding tube-supplied sustenance—as vividly exposed in the legal and cultural conflagration over the court-ordered dehydration death of Terri Schiavo.

More explicit eugenics advocacy of the era is also analogous to culture-of-death arguments made today.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Science & Technology

(Atlantic) Science Is Giving the Pro-Life Movement a Boost

The first time Ashley McGuire had a baby, she and her husband had to wait 20 weeks to learn its sex. By her third, they found out at 10 weeks with a blood test. Technology has defined her pregnancies, she told me, from the apps that track weekly development to the ultrasounds that show the growing child. “My generation has grown up under an entirely different world of science and technology than the Roe generation,” she said. “We’re in a culture that is science-obsessed.”

Activists like McGuire believe it makes perfect sense to be pro-science and pro-life. While she opposes abortion on moral grounds, she believes studies of fetal development, improved medical techniques, and other advances anchor the movement’s arguments in scientific fact. “The pro-life message has been, for the last 40-something years, that the fetus … is a life, and it is a human life worthy of all the rights the rest of us have,” she said. “That’s been more of an abstract concept until the last decade or so.” But, she added, “when you’re seeing a baby sucking its thumb at 18 weeks, smiling, clapping,” it becomes “harder to square the idea that that 20-week-old, that unborn baby or fetus, is discardable.”

Scientific progress is remaking the debate around abortion. When the U.S. Supreme Court decided Roe v. Wade, the case that led the way to legal abortion, it pegged most fetuses’ chance of viable life outside the womb at 28 weeks; after that point, it ruled, states could reasonably restrict women’s access to the procedure. Now, with new medical techniques, doctors are debating whether that threshold should be closer to 22 weeks. Like McGuire, today’s prospective moms and dads can learn more about their baby earlier into a pregnancy than their parents or grandparents. And like McGuire, when they see their fetus on an ultrasound, they may see humanizing qualities like smiles or claps, even if most scientists see random muscle movements.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology, Theology

(Wash Post) Michael Gerson–Abortion rights go against the spirit of civil rights

Why does this issue refuse to fade from our politics? One reason concerns Roe itself, which was (as Justice Byron White put it in his dissent) “an exercise in raw judicial power.” Blackmun’s ruling does not hold up well on rereading. His system of trimesters and viability was (and is) arbitrary and medically rootless, a fig leaf covering an almost limitless abortion right. Blackmun’s weak argument largely substituted for the democratic process in 50 states. Fiat replaced deliberation and democratic legitimacy. This was a recipe for resentment and reaction.

But judicial fiat can’t be a sufficient explanation. The Obergefell decision legalizing same-sex marriage in every state was also sweeping. It has produced almost no political reaction. The contrast to Roe could hardly be starker. And the explanation is rather simple: All the great civil rights movements have been movements of inclusion. The first modern civil rights campaign — militating for the end of the British slave trade — set the pattern with its slogan: “Am I not a man and a brother?” Susan B. Anthony asked: “Are women persons?” In the most rapidly successful civil rights movement of our time, gays and lesbians came out to show their communities that LGBT people were their friends and family members. All these efforts expanded the circle of social welcome and protection.

The abortion rights movement, in contrast, is a movement of autonomy. Its primary appeal is to individual choice, not social inclusion. And the choice it elevates seems (to some people) in tension with the principle of inclusion. A fetus is genetically distinct from the mother, is biologically human and has the inherent capacity to develop into a child. This makes it different from a hangnail or a tumor. At what point does this developing human life deserve our sympathy and protection? When neurological activity develops? When the fetus can feel pain? When a child is born? When an infant can think and reason? All these “achievements” are, in fact, scientifically and ethically arbitrary. They don’t mark the start of a new life, just the development of an existing life.

It is the antiabortion movement that appeals to inclusion. It argues for a more expansive definition of the human community. It opposes ending or exploiting one human life for the benefit of another. There are heart-rending stories that prevent the simplistic application of this approach. But most of the antiabortion men and women I know have the genuine and selfless motivation of trying to save innocent lives.

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Posted in America/U.S.A., Anthropology, Children, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Science & Technology, Sexuality, Theology

(1st Things) Richard John Neuhaus: on behalf of the unborn, We shall not Weary, We shall not rest

The following address, described by Robert P. George as “the greatest pro-life speech ever given,” was delivered by Richard John Neuhaus at the close of the 2008 convention of the National Right to Life Committee. —[1st Things] Ed.

We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every unborn child is protected in law and welcomed in life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until all the elderly who have run life’s course are protected against despair and abandonment, protected by the rule of law and the bonds of love. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, until every young woman is given the help she needs to recognize the problem of pregnancy as the gift of life. We shall not weary, we shall not rest, as we stand guard at the entrance gates and the exit gates of life, and at every step along the way of life, bearing witness in word and deed to the dignity of the human person—of every human person.

Against the encroaching shadows of the culture of death, against forces commanding immense power and wealth, against the perverse doctrine that a woman’s dignity depends upon her right to destroy her child, against what St. Paul calls the principalities and powers of the present time, this convention renews our resolve that we shall not weary, we shall not rest, until the culture of life is reflected in the rule of law and lived in the law of love.

It has been a long journey, and there are still miles and miles to go. Some say it started with the notorious Roe v. Wade decision of 1973 when, by what Justice Byron White called an act of raw judicial power, the Supreme Court wiped from the books of all fifty states every law protecting the unborn child. But it goes back long before that. Some say it started with the agitation for “liberalized abortion law” in the 1960s when the novel doctrine was proposed that a woman cannot be fulfilled unless she has the right to destroy her child. But it goes back long before that. It goes back to the movements for eugenics and racial and ideological cleansing of the last century.

Whether led by enlightened liberals, such as Margaret Sanger, or brutal totalitarians, whose names live in infamy, the doctrine and the practice was that some people stood in the way of progress and were therefore non-persons, living, as it was said, “lives unworthy of life.” But it goes back even before that. It goes back to the institution of slavery in which human beings were declared to be chattel property to be bought and sold and used and discarded at the whim of their masters. It goes way on back.

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Posted in Anthropology, Children, Church History, Ethics / Moral Theology, Evangelicals, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture, Roman Catholic, Science & Technology

(NR) David French–The Dangerous Supreme Court Case, National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) v. Becerra, nobody Is Talking About

The NIFLA case, however, is unquestionably about compelled speech. The state of California has enacted a law, the so-called FACT Act, that requires pro-life crisis-pregnancy centers to prominently place a notice informing clients that California offers low-cost and even free abortions to women who qualify and providing them a phone number that grants quick access to abortion clinics.

In other words, California is requiring pro-life professionals — people who’ve dedicated their lives to protecting the unborn by offering pregnant mothers alternatives to abortion — to advertise state-sponsored abortions. California is making this demand even though it has ample opportunity to advertise state services without forcing pro-life citizens to do so. The state can rent billboard space on the very streets where crisis-pregnancy centers are located. It can hand out leaflets on the sidewalk. It can advertise on television and the radio. It can advertise on the Internet or social media. But rather than using its own voice, it is co-opting the voices of its pro-life citizens, forcing them to join its pro-abortion crusade.

And the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals held that the FACT Act is constitutional. To validate California’s oppressive act, its decision carved out a dangerous First Amendment exception for what it deemed “professional speech” — “speech that occurs between professionals and their clients in the context of their professional relationship” — and ruled that the state had much greater leeway in regulating, for example, doctor/patient communication.

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Posted in Anthropology, Ethics / Moral Theology, History, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Religion & Culture, Supreme Court

(Globe and Mail) A new generation of prenatal testing raises ethical questions

For about $800, an American lab would analyze the fetal DNA circulating in Ms. Owens’s blood and tell her as early as 10 weeks into her pregnancy if she was carrying a baby with the chromosomal anomalies that cause Down syndrome and a few other, less common, conditions.

“Once I found out about this test,” Ms. Owens said, “I refused to wait until I was in my second trimester. I had to know right away.”

The desire of women like Ms. Owens to know as much as possible about their pregnancies as early as possible is behind a quiet revolution in prenatal screening in Canada and other developed countries.

A new generation of simple blood tests is allowing would-be parents to learn about the sex and potential genetic anomalies of their babies in the first trimester, a stage of the pregnancy when it’s relatively easy to get an abortion in Canada.

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Posted in Anthropology, Canada, Ethics / Moral Theology, Health & Medicine, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Science & Technology

(CEN) Bp Michael Nazir-Ali–There Must be no retreat from the public square by Christians

I have worked for a number of years with persecuted Christians and those of other faiths, especially in the Middle East and South Asia.Sometimes I am asked about those who feel they are ‘persecuted’ nearer home, in the UK. At one level the comparison is only superficial; Christian faith in the UK does not usually mean putting your life or liberty at risk.


I find, though, that persecution begins with exclusion and discrimination. What is being dismissed from your post for your Christian views on marriage if not persecution? Or being refused as an applicant for adopting or fostering children if not persecution? Or being suspended as a teacher because of your Christian beliefs? Or losing your job for praying with a patient, if not persecution? So many examples can be given.

The family has been under sustained attack in this country for the last 50years. The family is the basis of a stable society.Yet our country has just abandoned the biblical teaching of marriage in public law.These attacks will not stop there.

First, divorce is becoming ever easier with further proposals for no-fault divorce. Marriage is no longer a covenant or contract.There is no accountability for people who abandon a marriage for no good reason.Family patterns are being reinvented and we are being told that fathers are not necessary. Yet all the research shows that fathers are very important for the proper maturing of children.

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Posted in Church of England (CoE), CoE Bishops, England / UK, Ethics / Moral Theology, Law & Legal Issues, Life Ethics, Marriage & Family, Religion & Culture