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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.

'Broken Society,' copyright 2006 by eliteds3 (
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.

For decades, the United States has been slipping in international rankings of life expectancy, as other countries improve health care, nutrition and lifestyles.

Countries that surpass the U.S. include Japan and most of Europe, as well as Jordan, Guam and the Cayman Islands.

"Something's wrong here when one of the richest countries in the world, the one that spends the most on health care, is not able to keep up with other countries," said Dr. Christopher Murray, head of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington.

A baby born in the United States in 2004 will live an average of 77.9 years. That life expectancy ranks 42nd, down from 11th two decades earlier...

Andorra, a tiny country in the Pyrenees mountains between France and Spain, had the longest life expectancy, at 83.5 years, according to the Census Bureau. It was followed by Japan, Maucau, San Marino and Singapore.
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.

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