Can you believe a year has come and gone since I last told you what would happen, before it happened, in bioethics? Maybe it’s my increasing age, but time is passing too fast!
So, how did I do? Not as well as in years past, but still an A-. Let’s take a look:
The Affordable Care Act
The Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, has been the biggest story in bioethics for several years now—including 2013. Accordingly, I made several predictions about the ACA—and achieved prophetic excellence:
I predicted that the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, would fill court dockets across the country. The issue? Freedom of religion and freedom of business owners to operate their enterprises consistent with their religious beliefs. RIGHT! Lawsuits were filed and litigated in the federal courts throughout the country.
More specifically, I predicted the issue would be accepted for resolution by the Supreme Court of the United States. RIGHT! The case will be heard in the spring and decided by the end of June.
In a separate, but somewhat related issue, I also predicted the Obama Administration "will not give significant relief from the Free Birth Control Rule to (non-church) religious organizations." RIGHT. The government delayed the effective date of that requirement, and played a game of political slight-of-hand, but it did not provide significant relief from the rule. So, unless a court intervenes, nuns that operate an elementary school (say), or a Catholic hospital will be required to provide their employees free contraception even though it violates their Church’s teaching.
I predicted that the year would be very active in assisted suicide/euthanasia news internationally. RIGHT.
But what about the specifics?
I predicted: “The practice of Belgian euthanasia will grow increasingly extreme.” RIGHT! We have seen disabled twins euthanized in Belgium, the joint euthanasia deaths of elderly couples, and a despairing transsexual patient euthanized because of botched sex change surgery, among other monstrosities. (For more details, hit this link.) And now, the Parliament is on the verge of legalizing child euthanasia.
I predicted: “The Netherlands will permit euthanasia for the elderly ‘tired of life,’ and doctors will increasingly be willing to euthanize those with mental illnesses (already legal there):” RIGHT. Euthanasia for the elderly is ramping up. So too, medicalized killing of the mentally ill.
I predicted: “The United Kingdom’s Parliament will not legalize assisted suicide, despite widespread agitation to permit it. Neither will Australia.” RIGHT, but not for lack of advocates trying!
I predicted: “Several U.S. state legislatures will see intense assisted suicide legalization efforts. All will fail, with the possible exception of Vermont. Assisted suicide advocates will file litigation in at least one state claiming that assisted suicide is a state right.” Mostly RIGHT. Vermont did legalize assisted suicide. A lawsuit is ongoing in New Mexico seeking a judicial ruling that physician-assisted suicide of the terminally ill is not “suicide” and hence, is not outlawed by the state’s proscription of assisted suicide.
I predicted: “The highest court British Columbia will rule that there is a constitutional right to assisted suicide, forcing Canada’s Supreme Court to take up the case. The ultimate decision will not come until 2014: Happily, WRONG! The court of BC overruled the trial judge, finding no right to assisted suicide. The case may be appealed.
I predicted: “A concerted effort will be mounted in at least one state to outlaw human cloning. It will fail because of heated opposition by scientists, universities, biotech business lobbying groups, and the media” WRONG. To the best of my knowledge, no state attempted to outlaw human cloning.
“Induced pluripotent stem cell research will continue to move forward at a very fast pace:” RIGHT. Advances have been exponential in this field. The first human trial using IPSCs has now commenced.
“Geron’s defunct embryonic stem cell program will be purchased by another company and the human trials it started recommenced:” RIGHT, although the suspended human trials have not yet recommenced.
“Another breakthrough toward learning how to engage in full human SCNT cloning will be announced.” RIGHT. Four cloned embryos were successfully manufactured and brought to the blastocyst stage, and embryonic stem cells derived.
“Adult stem cell successes will continue in human trials, and still be generally underreported in the media.” RIGHT, but that one was easy.
“State attempts to restrict funding of Planned Parenthood will ultimately fail in the courts:” RIGHT. Per several court rulings, state Medicaid payments must continue to Planned Parenthood despite laws in some states prohibiting money to be paid to clinics for health care services that also provide abortion.
“Gestational surrogacy for pay will continue to be a growth industry, especially in developing countries.” RIGHT. The problem is particularly acute in India.
Finally, I predicted: An issue will arise in 2013 in bioethics that no one expected. Even I, your humble expert prognosticator will be surprised.
RIGHT! Several candidates present themselves, but I was most surprised by a law in Texas outlawing abortion after 20 weeks and requiring that abortionists have hospital privileges within 30 miles of the clinic. The bill not only passed, but was allowed to remain in effect pending litigation. As a consequence, Planned Parenthood closed 13 offices around the state—proving the lie to their claim to be mostly about providing basic health care for poor women. Now that surprised me!
Next month, I’ll tell you what will happen in bioethics in 2014. Wait, yes, I can see it now: Oh my gosh!
Wesley J. Smith is a senior fellow at the Discovery Institute’s Center on Human Exceptionalism and a consultant to the Patients Rights Council.