This Week in Bioethics

by Christopher White, Ramsey Institute Project Director on February 20, 2015

1. Irish Minister for Health Defends Rights of Children and Opposes Commercial Surrogacy

Minister Leo Varadkar has promised that commercial surrogacy will remain illegal in Ireland and that children conceived through donor gamete donation will have access to a register offering them essential information to their medical histories. Speaking on new legislation currently being debated, he reminded his fellow citizens, “The Children and Family Relationship Bill, and the bill on Assisted Human Reproduction and Surrogacy isn’t about gay people or lesbian people, it’s about children in the main and all people.” We couldn’t agree more.

2. California Physician-Assisted Suicide Bill Would Force Doctors to Lie

Our friend Wesley J. Smith exposes a dirty little secret behind the physician assisted suicide proposal in California. According to the draft legislation, the administering physician would sign the death certificate and “the cause of death listed on an individual’s death certificate . . . shall be the underlying terminal illness.” As Wesley rightly points out, the actual cause of death would be suicide! First, the bill engages doctors in doing harm to their patients. And now it also gives them cover for lying, too.

3. Biohacking on the Rise

A Swedish group, BioNyfiken, is currently crowd funding a new microchip that could be implanted into one’s skin and serve as a one’s credit card, smart phone, car keys, and a host of other promised features. In promoting the new device, its makers compared it to pacemakers, insulin pumps, and other medical implants. Unfortunately, they fail to recognize that these other devices use technology in an effort to heal or treat an illness, not simply to add convenience to one’s life. Increasingly, the lines between medicine’s aim of healing and the pursuit of personal projects to simply satisfy one’s desires are being blurred. Those of us interested in upholding the integrity of the medical profession will need to remain ever vigilant.

4. Twenty Six States to Take on Physician Suicide Legislation This Year

Earlier this week the Wall Street Journal reported that at least 26 states will take on physician assisted suicide legislation. As I urged CBC supporters earlier this week, the time for resistance is now. Is your state one of those states? Please join the fight against such efforts by writing letters to your local newspaper editor, calling your local legislators, speaking with your friends and colleagues about the harms of physician assisted suicide, and educating your local church and civic groups on the realities of the practice.

5. Reflections on Terminal Illness

In this week’s New York Times, Oliver Sacks, a professor of neurology at the New York University School of Medicine, reflects on his recent diagnosis of terminal cancer. Rather than using the occasion to push for physician assisted suicide, he takes time to highlight the many gifts of life that he’s experienced in his 81 years: “I cannot pretend I am without fear. But my predominant feeling is one of gratitude. I have loved and been loved; I have been given much and I have given something in return.” We applaud him for this courage and offering a true example of what dying with dignity truly means.

This Week in Bioethics Archive

Image by losmininos via flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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