This Week in Bioethics

by Jennifer Lahl, CBC President on May 6, 2016

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1. Welcome News from New York on Assisted Suicide

The New York State Appellate Division has just issued a 36-page report stating there is no constitutional right to physician assisted suicide. In 1994, the New York State Task Force on Law and Life issued a report titled, “When Death Is Sought: Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia in the Medical Context.” That report stated,

legalizing the practices [of assisted suicide and euthanasia] would be profoundly dangerous for many patients who are ill and vulnerable, especially in light of the widespread failure of American medicine to treat pain adequately or to diagnose and treat depression.

Now, the decision has been made that no compelling evidence has been presented to suggest that “Penal Law has an implicit carve-out for aid-in-dying.” We live at a time when the argument keeps advancing that we have a “right to die,” so thank you New York for your leadership.

2. Transhumanists Demand New Right

Speaking of a right to “fill-in-the-blank,” transhumanist enthusiasts say their rights are the new civil rights of the 21st century. Transhumanists reject the limits of body and biology, and seek to gain immortality and/or become an entirely new species through technology. They assert, “We need morphological freedom—the right to do with your body whatever you want, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone . . . We need real policies of justice that serve everyone and do not discriminate against new ideas.”

3. Truth Needed on Death Certificates

A new study in the U.S. shows that medical errors are the third leading cause of death! When a medical error is the cause of death, it is often caught when doing data analysis on leading diseases that cause death since there is no International Classification of Disease (ICD) code listed on the death certificate. While our nation debates assisted suicide laws, the obfuscation of the truth continues with death certificates in cases where physician assisted suicide by lethal drug dose is the cause of death. In California, for example, the attending physician must list the underlying disease as the cause of death. Death certificates should accurately list the cause of death, whether by lethal drug dose or by error. Confidence in the medical profession depends on doctors not killing us on purpose or by accident.

4. Human Embryos Grown in the Lab: Created, Studied, Destroyed

Nature reports that human embryos have been grown in the lab longer than ever before. The previous record of nine days has been broken; researchers have now grown embryos in the lab for 13 days. The article reports on all the gains this will allow by making it possible to study the early embryo longer: learning more about early embryo development, understanding pathologies in embryos that lead to failed pregnancy, increasing knowledge of basic human biology at the earliest stages. However, ethics are far more important than such knowledge. Creating, studying, manipulating, and destroying early human life is indefensible. The ends do not justify the means.

5. Regulating Surrogacy Will NOT Make It Ethical

When something is inherently, intrinsically, or plainly wrong you can’t regulate it and thereby make it ethical. Consider murder, slavery, or human trafficking. It would be foolish to hear someone advance an argument that regulation will make any of these morally acceptable. And the same goes for any and all kinds of surrogacy—paid or unpaid, for total strangers or for friends and family, “traditional” or “gestational.” As this article states, surrogacy is exploitation and no amount of regulation will make it anything else. The right position to take is a full global opposition to such contract conception arrangements. #StopSurrogacyNow
(See Also: Great News from Down Under!)

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