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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.

...does it follow that there's a baby inside? Must your doctor tell you so?

By the time you read this humble little blog post, you'll almost certainly have read or heard about this week's ruling by the New Jersey Supreme Court, regarding abortion but -- more importantly over the long run -- also regarding the issue of when a human life can be said to be a human life. From the New York Times:
Because there is no consensus on the issue of when life begins, a doctor does not have to tell a woman considering an abortion that the procedure would result in "killing an existing human being," the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday, rejecting a woman’s arguments in a medical malpractice suit.
In its unanimous decision, the New Jersey court ruled that, contrary to what the woman’s lawyer had argued, her doctor had "no legal duty" to tell her that her six-to-eight-week-old embryo was "a complete, separate, unique and irreplaceable human being."
(Read the official summary and complete opinion here (71.4KB PDF).

The plaintiff, one Rose Acuna, had sued her doctor, one Sheldon C. Turkish, for malpractice, wrongful death, and emotional distress. The suit stemmed from an abortion which she underwent in 1996. Ms. Acuna claimed that Dr. Turkish had counseled her, in response to her question "if it was the baby in there," "Don't be stupid, it's only blood."

Responses from both sides of the issue have been fairly predictable. Brigitte Amiri, an ACLU attorney, said:
We are pleased that the court dismissed this frivolous lawsuit, which had no basis in law or medicine... This case was nothing more than an underhanded attempt to turn doctors into ideological mouthpieces and subject women to non-medical moral judgments.
Fr. Frank Pavone, National Director of Priests for Life, countered:
This court has placed itself embarrassingly behind the times by failing to hold doctors accountable for telling patients what grade school children already know about when a human life begins. Moreover, abortionists are tearing arms and legs off of children in the womb, not destroying some unidentified mass of tissue whose species scientists don’t know how to figure out.
I know it's a foolish leap of imagination on my part, but I'd kinda hoped the decision would be welcomed with relief by both sides -- along the lines of, Thank GOD the issue is now formally out of the hands of the instruments of the state and we can return to being human and making painful decisions about our privates lives on our own. Silly rabbit.

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