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Navigation: SOS Sisson > Life Ethics Blog
Jack Sisson's Life Ethics Blog
We must find new ways through many ethical issues, especially regarding bioethics, medical ethics, and criminal justice. Jack Sisson's 'Life Ethics' blog focuses on numerous areas of concern, including the philosophical and ethical dilemmas surrounding stem-cell research, abortion, medical research, and health care.
Thursday, August 30, 2007
The Onion on Abortion-Rights Extremism
You probably know of the satirical "publication" The Onion, one of my favorite sites. If so, you probably think of its point of view -- understandably -- as leftist, for the most part. (Among the featured headlines for this week: "Heartbroken Bush Runs After Departing Rove's Car.")
But to its credit, The Onion isn't reluctant to poke fun at extremists on the other side of the aisle. This week's edition contains one such article, reducting ad absurdum a certain fringe belief of abortion-rights subscribers: the belief that pregnancies (and babies) are obstacles to a woman's happiness.
Headlined "Woman Overjoyed by Giant Uterine Parasite," the article's tone is one of head-scratching disbelief that the (fictitious) mother-to-be profiled might actually be happy with her future. Excerpts:
"I'm so happy!" Crowley said of the golf ball–sized, nutrient-sapping organism embedded deep in the wall of her uterus. "I was beginning to think this would never happen to me."(Read the whole thing, if you'd like.)
For the record, other stories in this issue also bear (albeit less directly) on the importance of human life:
Sunday, August 26, 2007
What's Happening with Stem Cell Research in Canada?
TORONTO STAR, Aug 25, 2007 --
Clashes between the high-tech and the holy are looming anew as political changes force stem-cell research back onto the public agenda, raising a host of new bioethical concerns for doctors and patients. And a Toronto physician is going to have his say about where this all leads.Keep reading.
TORONTO, August 23, 2007 (LifeSiteNews.com) - An official response from the Canadian Diabetes Association indicates the funding organization is in complete support of using human embryos in destructive research.Complete article here.
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Beginning of Human Life -- A Mormon Perspective
Came across this lively blog discussion from about 1-1/2 years ago. The blog, "Times & Seasons," is apparently written by a group of Mormons on a rotating basis, with the occasional guest writer tossed into the mix. Since the title of this particular blog entry is "The Beginning of Human Life," it naturally caught my attention. Here's an excerpt:
When does a human person first come into being?Read the article and discussion here.
Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Gotcha Politics (Mitt Romney Edition)
It's almost impossible for someone to (a) run for any public office in the United States and (b) avoid stepping on the toes of every single one of the people upon whom he or she depends for success; (a) and (b) are mutually exclusive activities. Raise the stakes by running for a statewide or national office, and the odds against you approach infinity.
The latest warrior in the political trenches to fall upon his own sword is Republican Mitt Romney, former governor of Massachusetts and currently a candidate for the GOP 2008 presidential nomination. The sword in question? His stance on embryonic stem cell research.
Here's how Wikipedia describes that stance:
Mitt Romney believes research using human embryos created during fertility treatments is ethical but opposes using federal funds to support it. He opposes research using cloned embryos created by implanting human DNA into donated eggs.(If you'd rather not see the Wikipedia article, all of those duplicate bracketed links eventually take you to this Boston Globe story from February.)
Okay, so -- for whatever reasons, opportunistic politics or sincere change of heart -- Romney appears to have reversed his position of five years ago.
It's not quite that clear-cut, by the way. Romney's campaign now claims -- indeed, a careful reading of the Wikipedia quote avers -- that his earlier support for embryonic stem cell research is, well, philosophical. He agrees that the need for the research exists. However, he does not agree that this research should be conducted using public monies.
Whether this hair-splitting will sit well with voters at any portion of the spectrum will become obvious only over time. Still, it has led Romney into one uncomfortable corner. According to a Boston Herald article published today:
Despite his “pro-life” campaign pitch, former Gov. Mitt Romney owns stock in two companies involved in embryonic stem cell research, a controversial field of study he previously cited as the reason for his rightward shift on abortion.Whoops!
The Romney campaign's backing-and-filling on this latest news involves pointing out that the stock ownership is in a blind trust. Wikipedia again:
A blind trust is a trust in which the executors or those who have been given power of attorney have full discretion over the assets, and the trust beneficiaries have no knowledge of the holdings of the trust. Blind trusts are generally used when a trustor wishes to keep the beneficiary unaware of the specific assets in the trust, such as to avoid conflict of interest between the beneficiary and the investments. Politicians often place their personal assets (including investment income) into blind trusts, to avoid public scrutiny and accusations of conflicts of interest when they direct government funds to the private sector.CNN quotes Romney:
My investments have been held in a blind trust, which means I have not directed where they invest nor do I know where they invest... The trustee of the blind trust has said publicly that he will endeavor to make my investments conform with my positions, and I am confident that he will.Translated, this roughly works out to I have no knowledge or control over where my money is invested. However, in this case, I now know where my money is invested and am exercising control over it. Um, okay...
In appraising the former governor's handling of this situation, the Washington Post went back to Romney's public statements on blind trust and dug up this gem (from his 1994 run for the Senate against Ted Kennedy):
"The blind trust is an age-old ruse," Romney was quoted as saying back then. "You give a blind trust rules. You can say to a blind trust, don't invest in properties which would be in conflict of interest or where the seller might think they're going to get an advantage from me."The politics of "Gotcha!" really is no basis upon which to assess a candidate's honesty; there are simply too many issues, too many nuanced positions to hold on them, and too many interest groups to whom the candidate must attend. But when candidates run for office, as Donald Rumsfeld might say, they must go with the political realities they have. And when philosophy conflicts with reality -- so long as CNN's got its lens trained on you, and the press is plumbing your public statements -- reality always wins.
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
The So-called "Dark Door" of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Came across this "editorial" (courtesy of Google) on a site called opinioneditorials.com, a branch of something called "Frontiers of Freedom." FoF appears to be a conservative site, hyping the usual conservative issues. This particular editorial is so rife with mis-statements and weak arguments that it's tempting to deconstruct it one argument at at time. But I'll leave that exercise to someone else. I just want to give you a few examples, and then you can visit the site and read the column in its entirety. (Caveat: I didn't spend a lot of time at opinioneditorials.com, so I have no idea if they ever publish anything from a more liberal (or at least "less conservative") point of view.
Kevin Roeten, August 14, 2007--Recently Bush vetoed federal monies for Embryonic Stem Cell Research(ESCR). From the response, one would believe that he dumped all hopes for curing diseases down the commode. But this demonstrates just how misinformation can provoke a visceral emotional reaction that almost borders on irrationality. With nothing to gain except eternal life, Bush seems to have demonstrated courage under fire...
There's lots more. Why don't you check it out for yourself. And if, by chance, you agree with Kevin Roeten, please take just a minute to leave a comment and tell us why. Or if you disagree with him, let us know that, too.
Sunday, August 12, 2007
Michigan Governor Sued for Online Stem Cell Petition
FREE PRESS LANSING BUREAU
August 9, 2007 --
A Christian activist organization charges in a federal lawsuit that [Michigan] Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s online petition to promote embryonic stem cell research discriminates against those opposed to it.
No question on whose side the writers for this blog line up. Why can't a Governor promote her own agenda on the state Web site? It's ludicrous to think Gov. Granholm would have no preference on any issue. And it's beyond ludicrous to suggest that she should post opposing views in the interest of Democratic fairness. People, she was not elected because she sat on a fence. She was elected because she espoused a particular platform with definite opinions. Her opinion is that the state should lift restrictions on embryonic stem cell research. More power to her for her advocacy on an issue she obviously cares about. You go, Governor!
Read it here.
Emphasizing Right to Life over Quality of Life
The Associated Press, via USA Today, reports on recent "international numbers provided by the Census Bureau and domestic numbers from the National Center for Health Statistics":
Americans are living longer than ever, but not as long as people in 41 other countries.Now yes, it's true what Mark Twain said about statistics as the third sort of lie, after plain lies and damn lies. It's also true that for a baby born in the US in 1980 (roughly the "two decades earlier" mentioned in this passage), the life expectancy is 73.7 years -- so the expectancy within the country has indeed gone up by over four years.
And finally, it's true that the heading of this post is deliberately provocative. I know that just because someone opposes abortion and embryonic stem cell research, it cannot be concluded that they care little about quality-of-life issues like poverty and medical care.
But the world of public attention -- and thus how a democratic society allocates it resources -- is measured not by what's in someone's heart, but by how much light and heat and noise is generated by what's in there. By any reasonable standard, the clamor on the part of social conservatives in this country about quality-of-life issues is far out-shouted by their clamor about the evils of abortion and embryonic stem cell research. That Roe v. Wade continues to be the law of the land may or may not be a national shame, as these social conservatives maintain, and history may or may not condemn our society on that basis. But shoddy health care, poverty, widespread nutritional deficiencies, racial and economic injustice, desperately superficial education, a poisonous natural environment -- our attention to those, and to matters like them, are the true reasons why we should fear Judgment Day... and the long memories of our children and grandchildren.
Monday, August 06, 2007
Doctors as the State's Flacks
Adam Liptak writes a column called "Sidebar" for the New York Times, about legal matters in the news. Unfortunately, the column is stuck behind the Times's "TimeSelect" wall, where many people can't see it.
On the off-chance that you can get to it, though, today's column, entitled "Putting the Government's Words in the Doctor's Mouth," is especially interesting for readers of this blog. The topic under consideration is a cluster of court opinions -- and counter-opinions -- about a disputed South Dakota law, the 2005 "Women's Health and Human Life Protection Act."
Women's health and human life: Who could be against protecting such things?, you might wonder. And then you might reconsider your confusion, having thought separately about the two halves of the act's name. Does "women's health" serve as a common code phrase for anything else? No? How about "human life"?
What the South Dakota law will require is that doctors there "tell women seeking abortions that they 'will terminate the life of a whole, separate, unique, living human being.'" (Note: That's a quotation from Liptak's column, not from the text of the Act itself.)
From the "Sidebar" piece:
But there is, according to the federal courts that have so far blocked the South Dakota law, a constitutional flaw in how the state seeks to go about informing women of its views. The problem with the law, the courts said, is that it would hijack the doctor-patient relationship.If you don't see a problem with South Dakota's initiative (or Pennsylvania's for that matter), imagine a completely different situation for a moment: Let's say the state in question isn't South Dakota, but California, or Vermont -- one of those places, y'know, where hippies continue to flourish even in the halls of the Statehouse. Imagine that the legislature there establishes a new law requiring that recruiters for the military (including the National Guard) lay out for potential recruits all the ghastly things that might happen to them in combat. Furthermore, if young men and women insist knowing the reasons to enlist anyway, the recruiters must answer these questions in writing. Recruiters who fail to do so can face criminal punishment.
Or heck, why not force newspaper publishers to notify all readers, "Some of the things you read herein will turn out not to be true." Or force clergymen to point out that none of the assertions which their congregations may hear in church may, in the end, have any bearing on reality. Or...
Okay, okay. Sarcasm off.
Sunday, August 05, 2007
Ethical or Naziesque? Inquiring Minds....
An opinion piece by a guest columnist was published yesterday in our hometown newspaper, The Tallahassee Democrat:
There is a huge debate going on in our country regarding stem-cell research. Both sides of this debate have backers based strictly on philosophical grounds. But it is the tangible implications in real life which validate or invalidate the philosophy, and these implications are already being played out.Well, no effort at meaningful dialogue here. Either we believe what the author does, or we're Nazis. What's wrong with this picture? The column's next to the last paragraph continues this reasoned approach:
But if, as many Christians believe, life does begin at conception, then the act of destroying an embryo to harvest stem cells becomes an act of murder and is no different than the human experimentation done in the Nazi death camps. It is the exact same issue which fuels the abortion debate.Now tell me, how do you debate this person? This is an excellent example of why we remain so divided on this issue (and abortion, as the writer points out), and why civil, reasoned dialogue is still so rare.
Read the column.
Roe v. Wade
Stem Cell Fight!
Bush the hypocrite
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